Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
Top: Ralph Cole, center, participated in a disabilities awareness fair in Redwood City yesterday. Bottom left: The fair offered activities to show what it is like to perform everyday tasks such as making a sandwich while blindfolded. Bottom right: Members of the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program, a Berkeley-based nonprofit agency, put on a basketball demonstration with their sporty wheelchairs.
San Mateo resident Ralph Cole broke his back in a horrible motorcycle accident in 1980 and has lived his life in a wheelchair ever since.
Cole, 67, spends much of his time volunteering at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula and is an avid public transportation advocate.
Yesterday, he took a SamTrans bus to Redwood City to participate in the county's disability awareness fair and shared his philosophy on life with friends and strangers alike.
"You can't sit around and watch TV all day,” he said about living an active lifestyle. "When you got wheels, you might as well roll.”
The fair, at the County Government Center plaza, featured a wheelchair obstacle course and basketball game with the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program — featuring Paralympian Trooper Johnson, a 15-time member of the U.S. National Wheelchair Basketball team.
Johnson and a few others from BORP, a Berkeley-based nonprofit agency, put on a basketball demonstration yesterday with their sporty wheelchairs.
The chairs are made not to tip over but "we tip them over anyway,” said wheelchair athlete Tony Lai. BORP provides recreational services such as skiing, rock climbing and sled hockey for people with physical and visual impairments. It has a youth basketball team that travels the country to compete, Johnson said.
"We are here to provide opportunities for independence,” said Scott Sinor, the incoming president for the San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities, which put yesterday's fair together with help from the county Board of Supervisors.
Sinor even participated in some activities to show what it is like to perform everyday tasks such as making a sandwich while blindfolded or buttoning a shirt while wearing socks on his hands.
"It's not easy,” he said after making a peanut butter sandwich.
The fair featured service dog demonstrations, an accessible SamTrans bus display, emergency preparedness information and resource tables from local agencies that serve people with disabilities, including PARCA; Health Plan of San Mateo; Center for Independence of the Disabled; Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Community Gatepath, among many others. The Foster City Lions Club provided the food.
There are 140,000 San Mateo County residents living with disabilities, according to the county.
Susy Castoria, the outgoing president of the Commission on Disabilities, hopes to create a stronger network of service providers, public and private, to continue outreach for those living with disabilities and to make county-owned buildings and parks more accessible.
The fair also celebrated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and had a voter registration table and a disabled voting machine on display.
"We need more disabled people to vote. It's about improving your quality of life and finding out what services and opportunities are available to you,” Sinor said about yesterday's fair.
The San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities currently has seven vacancies on the 21-member board, Sinor said.
To learn more or to apply for a commission seat visit www.co.sanmateo.ca.us and click on "boards and commissions” on the left of the page.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.