Meet the Jeans with a Secret Identity – Sweatpants from ABL Denim

Meet the Jeans with a Secret Identity - Sweapants from ABLDenim - Words I Wheel By

“How do you put your pants on?”

To this day, that remains one of the strangest questions I’ve ever been asked. The question in and of itself isn’t strange, but the context of it made the moment pretty weird. I was in high school and I had stayed late that day for a club meeting. While we were waiting for our adviser, a guy (who I actually might have thought was cute) just spat out the question as though it was perfectly normal conversation.

I was taken aback, but I decided to sass him a bit. “Just like everyone else. Why? Want a demonstration?” He could tell I wasn’t amused, so he dropped it.

Truth be told, though, I doubt I put on pants just like everyone else. Pants are kind of a pain. But due to the minor fact that I’m required to be fully dressed in public, I do a little seated left-right-wiggle-shimmy-shake dance routine and make it happen.

Because of this, I’m constantly on a mission to find a pair of pants that makes the perfect dance partner. Recently, ABL Denim jeans gave me the opportunity to choose a pair of their pants for review, and promptly swept me off my wheels.

ABL Denim makes jeans specifically to accommodate people with various disabilities, including wheelchair users and people who have certain sensory preferences. I originally chose to try their A Jean Premium, but I found the denim material to be a bit too stiff for me. Certainly, this won’t be the case for everyone and the A Jean is incredibly well made. I just happen to struggle with even the slightest stiffness in fabric. So, I asked ABL Denim if I could try their Denim Sweatpant instead and they happily obliged.

Seriously, how have I lived without these pants for so long? I know I sound like I’m being overdramatic, but the ABL Denim sweatpants are so comfortable and easy to get on that I can’t stop wearing them.

The fabric is soft and breathable, just like an old, broken-in pair of sweats, but they look exactly like any other classic pair of jeans you’d buy as a wardrobe staple. No one has detected that they have a secret identity.

Wearing the ABLDenim Sweatpant

I opted for the pants to be straight-leg rather than cuffed with elastic at the end, so it makes it even easier to get them on and off. The pants also have an elastic waist with a sturdy drawstring that makes it less of an ordeal to pull them up. I actually happen to prefer pants that don’t have zippers or buttons, because when you sit down all day, these can start to dig into the bottom of your stomach. And the drawstring is a great alternative for people like me, because I have dexterity issues at times and would consider myself a bit button-challenged.

One thing that’s really important to note about the denim sweatpants is that you may need to get them hemmed. I’m short, and definitely had to have the pants resized. I decided to bring them to a local tailor, but if you’re good with getting accurate measurements or know someone who is, you can send your measurements along with your order and ABL Denim provides the additional service of hemming the pants prior to delivery.

After putting my pants to the test, I’m in love. Although they’re considered “adaptive” clothing, they’re completely wearable for people of any ability level, wheelchair-user or not. They’re absolutely worth the investment, comparable in price and quality to other major brands of jeans. And if you’re a jeans-and-cute-shirt kind of girl like me, they’ll become your go-to pair of pants.

If you’ve decided you must have your own pair of jeans from ABL Denim right this second, just visit And because it’s your lucky day, you can use the discount code WordsIWheelBy10 while placing your order and get 10% off! Once you have the chance to try them out, let me know if you love your pair as much as I do! If you’re feeling in the mood to channel your inner-model, tweet a picture of you wearing your new jeans to @emily_ladau and to @abldenim. We’d love to see you showing off!

Wearing the ABLDenim Sweatpant

Disclosure: The ABL Denim Sweatpant was provided to me free of charge for review. All opinions are my own. If you use the discount code WordsIWheelBy10 to make a purchase from the ABL Denim website, I will receive a small commission from the sale. Thank you!

ABL Denim Discount Code

Charge Your Cell Phone with a…Wheelchair?

You know the feeling when your cell phone is about to take its last breath and you still have most of your day ahead of you? If you’re anything like me, it’s probably a mix of slight panic with a bit of frustration. Of course, you can carry around your charger, but that requires you to drop everything and find a place to plug it in. You could also carry around a backup battery pack, but those are about as useful as a doorstop if you don’t remember to charge it before you leave your house.

So, what’s a power wheelchair user to do? You can either spend your day phone-less and worrying, or you can get yourself a USB charger that plugs right into your chair.

Yes, you read that right. You can actually charge your cell phone by plugging it right into the part of your powerchair where you usually plug in your chair charger.

Cripple Concepts USB Charger plugged into my powerchair joystick

I was as excited as a kid let loose in a toy store when I discovered something like this exists. I learned about it from a chance meeting with a lovely wheelchair user named Josh, the creator of the chargers and owner of a company called Cripple Concepts. “Love it or hate it,” he told me, “people remember the name.”

I found myself drawn to the charger immediately. I wanted to try it out, but had a few concerns. Would I be stuck and unable to drive my chair around while I charged my phone? Would it drain my powerchair battery or damage the chair somehow? Luckily, the answers to these questions is no. I plugged my USB cable into the charger, inserted the plug into my phone, and plugged the charging device into my chair. My phone battery immediately started to charge. Then, I turned my chair on and started to ride around. The charger doesn’t affect the ability to drive your chair, and it has an internal fuse to protect the wheelchair electronics.

If this sounds too good to be true, it’s not. Josh was kind enough to give me a charger to keep and review, and I’ve put it to the test several times to make sure it truly works before sharing it with all of you. And, it definitely does work! Now, whenever I spend a long day out and notice my cell phone battery dying, I simply connect the USB charger and continue about my day. It has become a mainstay in my purse and it’s a total godsend.

Cripple Concepts USB Charger plugged into my powerchair joystick

Having a way to keep my cell charged makes me feel much safer, in case something might happen while I’m out and about.

For those curious about the more technical aspects of the chargers, here are the key specs Josh provided:

  • 24V input
  • 2.1A and 1.0A USB ports for charging and powering most phones and tablets, as well as USB powered lights, fans, etc
  • Measures approximately 3″ x 2.5″
  • Connector positioned to point ports in direction requested by customer
  • 3-D printed ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) housing

Remember, you must have a USB cable to connect your phone to the charging device, but this is pretty simple because you can just use the one that comes with your phone.

If you’re a powerchair user or know someone who is, I can’t recommend the Cripple Concepts USB charger enough. It’s a total must have for me and it’s by far one of my favorite adaptive items. If you want one of your own, you can buy it on the Cripple Concepts website.

Do you have one already? Or are you planning on getting one now? I’d love to hear how it works out for you!

Disclosure: The USB charger was provided to me free of charge for review. All opinions are my own.

Online Activism Works…and I Have Proof!

Online Activism Works...And I Have Proof - Words I Wheel By

Far too often, using social media to advocate is negatively perceived as being nothing more than “slacktivism.” Well, guess what?! Something HUGE happened, and it’s all thanks to online activism that so many of you were part of!

A friend of mine first called my attention to an osteoporosis prevention campaign called “Beware the Chair” a few days ago. When I finally watched the video, I knew I couldn’t stay silent. I wrote an article for Huffington Post Impact about why we must Beware the Scare Tactics and put an end to negative portrayals of disability in advertising and public service announcements.

But here’s the important part: people started talking. People started posting, tweeting, emailing, and sticking up for the disability community. The protest against Beware the Chair took on a life of its own through social media. I was so incredibly inspired by the conversations happening on social media that I knew I couldn’t let it rest. I received the contact information for the creative director of FCB Health, the agency behind the campaign, and sent him this email:

“I’ve learned that FCB is the agency behind the #BewareTheChair campaign, and as a wheelchair user and disability rights advocate, I will absolutely not tolerate such stigmatizing use of wheelchairs as a prop in your PSA. I would like to know what, if any, research was conducted to determine if such a campaign would be culturally and socially appropriate? Did you communicate with members of the disability community? Were there focus groups with wheelchairs users? It seems no steps were taken of this kind.

I have written a public response to the campaign on The Huffington Post and I will remain firmly by it in the hopes that perhaps FCB will realize just how egregious this PSA actually is, followed by putting an end to it, publicly apologizing, or perhaps even completely changing the messaging.

Fighting osteoporosis is a noble cause, but not in this manner. It appears that not even NOF and NBHA support this campaign anymore. As they tweeted to me directly:

You can view my post here: Beware the Scare Tactics: Stop Negative Portrayals of Disability in PSAs.

I also urge you to look at a sampling of the conversations happening on social media: Conversation 1
Conversation 2

And this response as well by Dominick Evans: My Wheelchair is Not Limiting – It Is My Freedom.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter, and I welcome a conversation with you to discuss further. Please stop contributing to the stigma of disability. Scare tactics like this are not the way to help people or prevent osteoporosis.

Thank you,
Emily Ladau”

And this was the response I received this afternoon:

“We are addressing immediately. Thank you.”

And you know what?! They did! The reply was short, but they got the message of advocates around social media loud and clear. They’ve ended the Beware the Chair campaign and posted a message on the website to make it official. I am appreciative of how swiftly and respectfully FCB Health responded.

So many people have thanked me for writing the HuffPost article, and for that, I am so incredibly grateful. But the real victory here is not mine. It is all of ours who took to social media to speak up and make our voices heard. Online activism DOES work, and technology is the fuel for the fires of change!

Photo credit: Marcie Casas / Source / CC BY

25 Ways the Americans with Disabilities Act Sparked Positive Change in the United States

25 Ways the Americans with Disabilities Act Sparked Positive Change in the United States...and a call to share YOUR story of how the ADA has positively affected your life!

With the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) fast approaching, plans for celebrations are launching into high gear. I love any reason to join a party, so I’m obviously pretty excited.

But let’s get serious – ADA 25 is an awe-inspiring, momentous occasion that deserves the highest honor. On July 26, 1990, the world-changing disability rights movement leaders who fought so hard for the U.S. government to ensure the rights of the disability community finally achieved victory when President Bush, Sr. signed the ADA into law. They are some of my biggest heroes, these activists who put themselves on the front-lines to spark change for generations to come.

And now, the time is here for people of all abilities to honor the legacy of the ADA and its rich history. New York City has huge festivities in store in the coming months, and through the Youth Council of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), I’ve had the opportunity to join my friends and peers who have grown up with the ADA as part of our lives in spreading disability pride far and wide.

To learn more about what’s happening in the upcoming months, MOPD has created an ADA25NYC website that I’d recommend bookmarking right away for reference. There will be cultural events, lectures, general merriment, and even a Disability Pride Parade. If you’re hosting an event in or around NYC, you can submit it to MOPD’s central ADA25NYC calendar so people will know! And don’t forget to keep up with what’s going on through the #ADA25NYC hashtag! Basically, I don’t plan on being home for most of July. As the calendar fills up, I might try setting a record for most disability-related events attended in one month.

But while we wait for the celebrations to get going, how about we begin with a little celebrating of our own?

I’m a big fan of lists, so what better way to show a little love to the ADA than to share a list of all of the important ways the ADA has brought change to the United States? After you check out my list, it’s your turn! Tell me what you would add to this list.

25 Ways the Americans with Disabilities Act Sparked Positive Change in the United States

1) Curb cuts

2) More equal opportunities for people with all types of disabilities to receive a public education

3) Increased accessible public transportation

4) Service animals are more accepted in public

5) Reasonable accommodations

6) Greater social involvement among the disability community in all areas of society

7) More civic engagement, i.e. voting

8) Expanded employment opportunities for disabled people

9) Gives a stronger voice to the world’s largest minority

10) Provides a platform of civil rights for the disability community

11) Disabled athletes can thrive in adaptive sports

12) Support systems exist for people with all types of disabilities

13) Misconceptions and prejudices can be more easily debunked

14) There is a bigger presence of disability in the media

15) Adaptive products are more widely available.

16) There is a bigger focus on studying disability in academia

17) Paved the way for further legislative policy advancement for disability rights

18) Serves as a common bond for all people with disabilities in the United States

19) Provides a legal basis to maintain momentum in pursuing accessibility and justice

20) Automatic door openers have become much more common in public places

21) Helps prevent discriminatory actions or retaliation

22) Social recognition of disabled people as full, contributing citizens

23) Acts as a symbol of disability pride and culture

24) Serves as a reminder of the positive potential of bipartisanship

25) Created a legacy for current and future generations of young activists as we carry the torch forward

Within this list, decades of progress are reflected. Yet, I know the work of disability rights advocates is far from finished. I know that on days when we, as disabled people, face discrimination or access barriers, we may find ourselves forgetting the battles that have already been fought. We must remember, though, the immense passion and dedication of the activists whose ADA victory was hard-won. We must never take for granted the progress society has made in the past 25 years, and in the next 25 years, the disability community and non-disabled allies alike must continue to work to honor the legacy of generations before us by continuing to roll forward the wheels of progress and change.

What’s your take? How has the ADA positively affected your life? How are you celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ADA?

Photo credit: Sam Howzit / Foter / CC BY

#DearMe – A Letter to My Younger Self in Honor of International Women’s Day 2015

#DearMe, A Letter to My Younger Self in Honor of International Womens Day 2015 - Words I Wheel By

Shortly after my first love and I broke up, I wrote a letter to my younger self. At the time, I intended to bury it away somewhere to be forgotten, as it was just meant to be a private way to help myself heal. But every couple months or so, I’ve found myself pulling up the letter again on my computer, reading it over, adding to it, finding comfort in it.

Then, the other day, I learned about #DearMe, an empowerment campaign in honor of International Women’s Day 2015, encouraging women to write letters sharing advice with their younger selves. I feel it’s time to dust off my own letter again and put it out there into the world.

This letter will never be finished. Each year, as I grow older, I plan to read and reread, write and rewrite, hopefully building on what I want 15-year-old Emily to know. And while this letter is deeply personal to me, and I’m specifically sharing it for International Women’s Day, it is my hope that no matter what age you may be or how you identify, these words will resonate with you, reminding you that you are always enough and never alone.

blue and purple divider line

Dear Me (15-year-old Emily),

I know how your eyes scan the room every time you go somewhere new, wondering if today will be the day your gaze settles upon a guy who just might accept you for who you are. I know how you lay awake at night envisioning what the future might be like, if only a guy could accept your disabled body. I know how you think that day will never come.

But the day will come when someone will accept you. He will tell you that you are the most beautiful girl in the world. He will tell you that you can trust him. He will tell you he loves you.

And he will be a wheelchair user too. I know that’s not an option you’ve been considering, but I promise when you open your mind to him, you will feel like he can relate to you in ways no one has ever understood you before.

Then he will leave you. He will break your heart and break your trust instead of breaking your fall. And it will hurt in ways you never imagined.

Don’t let him be the source of your self-worth. For that matter, don’t let anyone be the source of your self-worth. You’ll face rejection for being disabled and you’ll face rejection for being the girl you are. When you’re met with discrimination or a lack of acceptance, don’t just sit there and take it.

Learn to love yourself for all that you are. Gain strength that will be there to keep you going even when life shoots you down. That cannot come from outside you. It will only come from within.

I know these sound like words in the self-help books that made you roll your eyes and laugh as you pulled them from bookstore shelves. Quit laughing and start listening. It will save you a lot of pain in the years down the road.

Please, don’t give any of yourself away before you accept yourself. Learn to embrace your disability as another part of what makes you, you. Learn that just because you’ve got a body with scars and curves and a wheelchair attached to your butt, does not mean you’re not beautiful just as you are – your brain, your body, every part of you.

I won’t lie to you: Life as a disabled woman will continue challenging you to the core at times. Know that even in the hardest moments, you have so much to offer the world. Stop doubting yourself. More importantly, stop believing that you will only be validated and whole when someone looks at you with romance in his eyes.

Remember the pain of heartbreak is an experience not limited to the disabled world, nor is the joy of reaching your dreams. If there’s a day, a week, or a month when it feels like you just don’t fit and nothing is right and everything is wrong, know that you are far from alone in this world.

Focus on finding joy in who you are, on finding your way to a career path that will both fulfill your dreams and give you the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Remember how capable you are, no matter what message society may send. When it feels like you’ve been left out of nondisabled life, never forget that your life is no less valid.

I promise write to you again in a few years as I work to gain self-worth, self-acceptance, and pride in being a disabled woman that I wish you’d fight harder for now. But in the mean time, hang in there. You’re going to become a strong woman, and you’re going to be alright.

Love you always,
23-year-old Emily