For Robert Coombs, a C4-5 quad, the world turned upside-down — literally — when he broke his neck in 2009 doing a double back flip on a trampoline. An athlete since a child, he was also born with an artistic streak and was studying photography, in addition to gymnastics, at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Mich., at the time of his injury. “I started as a graphic design major, but after taking a few photography classes, I switched majors to photography and never looked back.”
After his injury, Coombs, a lifelong resident of Grand Rapids, took a year to contemplate his next move. “My old art teacher, Shelly Danielson, asked me if I would help her out with her multimedia classes. So I jumped at the chance. After helping, I knew that there were many options for me as an artist to pursue my dreams,” he says. Realizing he could still fully take part in his passions, Coombs, 24, went back to school to work on his master of fine arts degree using Phase One (www.phaseone.com) to control his camera through his computer.
Since his injury, he has delved into a new project exploring disability and sexuality. “My most recent goal is to create a concise body of work that shows people with many types of disabilities and their sexuality. What I mean by sexuality is how people define themselves as sexual beings, and their difficulties with their sex life, being disabled.” He has taken a series of black and white portraits of individuals with disabilities, including himself, showing them in a raw, exposed light.
Coombs is considering a career as a professor, art director or creating a job that lets him use creative solutions to ensure maximum accessibility for products or businesses.
The Flattest Lap
It’s no secret getting simple tasks done in a wheelchair can be challenging, so why not make use of what you have — the under-utilized lap. The My4Hands does just that. An essentially free-standing portable lap tray made from polyethylene (so it doesn’t conduct heat) and a PVC coating, the My4Hands can be used when you need it and gives you a sturdy place that comes in handy for a myriad of things.
Invented by a T5 para, the My4Hands can be used in the kitchen and is great for setting down utensils without having to worry about them falling. It’s also ideal for shopping — giving you extra space for your items; dining out when you can’t get under the table; or whenever you need things to really stay on your lap. The My4Hands measures 12 by 18.5 inches and costs $37.95.
Three $1,000 scholarships for students with spinal cord injuries are being given by 180 Medical, a medical supply company. To be eligible, you must be attending or planning to attend a two- or four-year school and be signed up for at least 12 credit hours a semester. Learn more at www.180medical.com/scholarships.
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