Accessible Adventures!


Accessible adventures

Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.

~Paulo Coelho

I had the pleasure of meeting John Williams several years ago and was not just delighted, but unexpectedly surprised to see him in a wheelchair! John was a Portland radio personality who’s voice was ubiquitous. He was the background sound-track to many days in the Pacific Northwest. The fact that his medium was sound and not visual, I had no idea he had polio as a child and wheeled around! John is a fun and yes, inspiring guy, with a mission to extend boundaries and quality of life for others. Here’s his story in brief:

John Williams

I grew up in a typical, small town USA kind of place.  I was born in the early 50’s, the second of three boys.  At three months of age, I contracted polio.  The illness lasted about a month, but there were life altering effects, a weakened left arm and leg, years of doctors, leg braces, and crutches, long hospital stays were normal.

But I was one of the fortunate ones.  I had two wonderful parents who treated me just like my two brothers.  We played sandlot football, baseball, rode go-carts, bicycles and anything with wheels.  Not once did my brothers and parents treat me differently than anyone else.  In fact, I may not have even noticed I had a so-called disability until first grade came around.  In fact, I hate the word disability, I like to say we all have different abilities, but that subject is a whole story in itself.  Remember, it was the 50’s and things were a lot different.

Before my first year of school started, my first-grade teacher and the principal called my parents in for a meeting on how to “handle” their handicapped child.  My folks promptly told them, “please treat him just like all the other kids!”  The afternoon of my first day of school, my teacher called mom, to say that her fears were gone after that first day.  It seems at recess time, when she looked out the window to see me leading a group of about ten kids, all limping along just like me, she knew what to expect from then on.  I think I can safely say, that’s the feeling most people with disabilities have, we just want to be treated like everyone else!

I admit, I have gone through life with a chip on my shoulder, and that’s not a bad thing.  Let me explain.  I have always had the attitude of “I dare you to tell me I can’t do something!”  Once, in about the 7th or 8th grade, I turned out on the first day of football season.  The coach, who was a good customer at my dad’s auto shop, said John, what in the heck do you think you’re doing here?  I said I’m going to play football!  He promptly told me, NO, “the first time you get hit your brace will bend up like a pretzel!”  Of course, he was right, but I was not to let my athletic prowess (lol) go to waste.  I became the youngest wheelchair basketball player on the Tacoma Wheelers wheelchair basketball team.  For the next 35 years, I was a pretty fair wheelchair basketball player.  I won on two silver medals in the Paralympics trials in New York in 1969 in swimming competition.  To move on to the Paralympics Games, it was necessary to win gold, but what a thrill to get to go The Big Apple to compete and enjoy the camaraderie with athletes from all over the country!

I have drag raced cars, obtained my private pilot’s license, have been scuba diving, rode motorcycles (till I came to my senses) rode horses and dune buggy’s.  Like I said, I dare you to tell me I can’t do something.

Recently, while researching a remote area in Washington State for Wheelchair Destinations, we decided to check out the Big Four Ice Caves in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The trail, which is supposed to be accessible, started out paved, took us over a beautiful river on an expansion bridge, over a boardwalk crossing a wet land, onto a compact dirt trail that started to climb.  The climb became steeper and steeper, so steep that Marla, my wife, had to push my wheelchair from behind, while I pumped the wheels as hard as I could possibly push.  After nearly two miles and at the top, we met a young couple coming down the trail, the young man said: “Pardon my language, but how the hell did you get up here?”  We all laughed, and Marla said, “try to tell him no!”  When we returned to the parking lot, this note was on our windshield:




(spelling as found on note-not edited here ;))

I was touched.  I continue to be blessed in this life, married for 45 years, two adult children, and three wonderful grandchildren.  Like I said, I dare you to tell me I can’t do something!  I hope in some small way, our story will inspire you to, GIVE IT A TRY!  


Living Life to the Fullest!

Accessible Adventures

Wheel Chair Destinations

Editor’s note: Thank you, John for writing this life-affirming post. You’re part of the solution…And a NEW Ally for Aging in Place and Beyond–waaaaaaay beyond!

~Patrick Roden

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