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Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

Voices Blog

The Creators Behind SCIO’s 2022 Gift Basket

2022 is quickly wrapping up. Ice and snow are hitting Ontario roads and people everywhere are preparing for a time of rest and celebration with loved ones over the holidays. At SCIO, things are no different. As we reflect on another year of striving for a better world for everyone, we are delighted to be able to hand deliver a gift basket to all of Lyndhust’s inpatients who are currently undergoing rehabilitation. We recognize that being away from family and spending time at a hospital has felt especially overwhelming and isolating over the last three years and we are committed to making the holidays a little bit more joyful.

Each basket features unique products designed by and for people with a spinal cord injury, in the hope of making everyday tasks easier. We strongly believe in the power of peer connection and are pleased to bring the creations of entrepreneurs with disabilities to people learning how to transition to living with an SCI.

This year, we had three contributors that helped make the SCIO Holiday GIft Basket a reality.

Get to know the creators behind each product:

Chris Stigas

Man in power wheelchair with hat and sunglasses holding cup holder

Chis Stigas is an active member of the SCIO community who helps bring many of its visions to life. After sustaining an SCI in 2014, he underwent five months of rehab at Lyndhurst and while venturing out one day, he realized he was dehydrated to the point where paramedics had to come to his rescue and ice him down. That was his first burst of inspiration for his creation.

The product: Chris created the HandiCup, a portable cup holder that clips to wheelchairs and makes it easier for people with disabilities to stay hydrated and carry a beverage without spills.

“At the time when I created it, something as simple as drinking enough water was a game changer. I thought ‘How can I get this to others in the same situation?’ so I reached out to SCIO and we created a gift basket.'”

The impact: “I see so much of myself in others in my early days of injury, searching for hope that things will get better. To be able to give people some hope that things will improve down the line is fantastic.” Chris shares that SCI is about managing your injury and ensuring that your quality of life will get better. He hopes to demonstrate to others that there are possibilities after injury, even if it doesn’t feel immediately within reach.

Advice to others with an SCI: “Surround yourself with people who care. Ask questions of others who have an SCI and will be your source of knowledge. Work as hard as you can at rehab – the early days of rehab are paramount to getting function back – you have my personal guarantee that things will get better.”

Quinto Zimmerman

Man using wheelchair by harbour frontQuinto Zimmerman is a crafty problem solver from downtown Toronto. He sustained an injury twelve years ago and uses a wheelchair full time. He runs a small business from home with his sewing machine that he impressively adapted on his own after learning computer programming – he now uses his sewing machine with a joy stick . “When I first got the sewing machine, I didn’t realize I can’t use it because you need to use your foot. But I now have a custom adapted sewing machine and I’m happy,” he shares. Quinto began sewing cloth face masks during the pandemic, and after creating a product for a friend with limited hand dexterity, he realized there was an opportunity to help others with disabilities.

The product: Quinto created the Zed Cuff, a product that helps people with limited hand function to hold onto things like forks and pens. While Quinto shares that there are various similar products on the market, his lived experience with disability and dedication to making all his cuffs by hand make it unique. “It’s a very simple item with some nylon and velcro, but it can make a tremendous difference to someone with a disability and that’s important for me,” he shares.Cuff in hand to help person sign name with pen

The impact: Quinto’s Zed Cuff makes it easier for people with disabilities to do daily tasks like feed themselves independently, hold their phone or even sign their name on a document. The simple tool helps people who recently lost their function to regain independence and confidence. For Quinto, having the product in SCIO’s gift basket is especially impactful to him because he went through a non-traumatic SCI and spent time in a senior’s rehab instead of an SCI specific program. “I think about how much it would have meant to me to see others post-injury many years later, running a business or doing something great and fulfilling. It seems pretty far at the start, but it’s an uplifting thing to see. I think there are aspects of what I do that speak to the problem solving capabilities that people with disabilities have,” says Quinto.

Goals for the future: Quinto strives to continuously grow as a person and uplift his community by putting a product on the market that helps people unlock their potential.

Tony Awad

Man in wheelchair and man standing; waving at camera; hanging out outdoors.

Tony is a father and husband who is passionate about robotics and accessibility. After an accident in 2006 that led to an incomplete SCI, he was inspired to take a robotics course to learn about ways he can enhance everyday tasks for people with disabilities. After much contemplation about the built environment and its limitations, he gathered his thoughts about key challenges people face and created the T-Pull.

The product: The T-Pull Door Closer is a product designed to help people close doors behind them without having to strain their bodies. It sticks onto a door and allows people to easily pull it shut without having to lean forward from their wheelchairs and risk injury or strain. “Doors are a huge challenge for people with mobility issues and this makes everyday life easier,” shares Tony.

Man in wheelchair pulling door closed with T-Pull.

The impact: Tony experiences genuine joy when he hears from customers who express how much his product is making an impact on their daily lives. “If my product solves any little barrier, that’s a win for me,” he says. He is honoured to have the T-Pull Door Closer included in the SCIO Gift Basket and hopes that it provides some hope and positivity for people adjusting to new challenges. He touches on the fact that apart from helping people with disabilities, the T–Pull can be convenient for anyone, including those with steps leading up to a door. “The T-Pull can save you time because you don’t have to go up the steps to close your door. You can simply pull it shut from a distance.” Indeed, the product seems promising for navigating doors and can make life easier for people with disabilities, seniors, people with strollers or your everyday person who has lots of doors to shut behind them.

Goals for the future: Tony shares that his creation has surpassed his expectations in many ways and he is now at work making an aluminum version and varying colours to suit people’s individuality. He hopes to make life more accessible for everyone over the coming years while continuing to contribute to disability organizations.

Advice for others with an SCI: Disability is an opportunity. I wouldn’t be where I am without the challenges I experienced as a result of my accident. Things have changed and I have had to adapt, but disability is not the end. It’s simply a new path.

SCIO is thrilled to take part in this initiative and hopes to continue the tradition of spreading some holiday cheer by expanding the program into more rehab facilities across Ontario and highlighting the unique creations of entrepreneurs with disabilities.

We are grateful to the following people who helped make the gift basket a reality:

Group of staff and community members at Lyndhurst, waving in santa hats beside Christmas tree with gift baskets

Angelo Tsebelis
Joe Itri
Mike Mueller -Toronto Electrical Experts
Claudio, Laura, Jimmy Sciacca – JCL Group
Sulana Perelman
George Koutsos
Panagiota Panagakos
Christina Mouskos
Steve Kriaris – Kolonaki Group
Ralph Severino
Shanu Jandoo – Pineapple Financial Inc.
Peter Athanasopoulos
Ari Wahl
Sandra Mills

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