FL SAND's Hall Helps Self-Advocates Expedite Life Outdoors
Past FL SAND President Eddie Hall was able to combine his love of advocacy with his love of the outdoors after completing a national self-advocacy Fellowship.
Hall, who is already a powerful advocate in Florida, was given a unique opportunity when he received a grant from the Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center, or as it is commonly known, SARTAC, as part of a Fellowship to help solve problems related to disability.
Eddie took full advantage of the fellowship, not only to further pursue his own interest in recreation, but at the same time, to further his lifelong passion to make the outdoors accessible for all. Eddie was able to use the SARTAC grant, in conjunction with Expedite Life, a nonprofit he founded in 2021, to purchase two Action Trackchairs, wheelchairs specially designed for the outdoors.
According to actiontrackchair.com, these chairs are designed to be the ultimate all-terrain wheelchair. There are currently nine models that potential customers can choose from. Any of these nine models can be customized with “30+ sizes, 21 color choices, and 40+ accessories to customize to your lifestyle.” To date, Eddie has taken full advantage of the two Trackchars that have been purchased. He has held a series of outdoor hunts and gatherings on the beach. Later this fall he plans on hosting more hunting-related activities. He has also been able to get self-advocates in Polk County out on the water and plans to hold more boating trips.
I have known Eddie for several years now. We are both very involved in disability advocacy. Although I thought I knew Eddie I learned a great deal, not only about his advocacy, but on a deeper level I learned about what drives his passion for disability-related issues during the interview I conducted for this piece. At the beginning of the interview, Eddie explained why he became a disability advocate. He was thrust into the disability world when he became a paraplegic at the age of eight after an automobile accident. While others may have let an accident like this derail their life completely, he would use it to become a lifelong champion for people with disabilities. Soon after his accident, Eddie would go on to be one of the first students with a disability to graduate from Polk County schools in Florida. His advocacy efforts were not just limited to the classroom. He would go on to get a job at Publix and become a vital member of a grassroots disability organization known as Florida Self-Advocates Network’D (FL-SAND).
During Eddie’s time with FL SAND, he would hold many positions including president and vice-president and be a member the first cohort of FL SAND Fellows. The skills he acquired during his tenure with FL SAND and the FL SAND Fellows would allow him to take his advocacy efforts to even greater heights. According to its website, FL SAND.org, “FL SAND is an independent 501(c)(3) organization formed to expand the self-advocacy movement in Florida. It works through the support of local grassroots efforts, and legislative platforms, networking with local business and civic leaders, raising awareness, and promoting inclusion for all. FL SAND provides a united voice on statewide issues and topics that are important to self-advocates and all persons with developmental disabilities throughout the state.” Currently, there are 15 active local self-advocacy groups that make up the organization. Eddie is the current vice president of FL SAND’s grassroots group in his community, Polk County Self-Advocates Alliance.
In closing, now that you have read this entire article I hope you see Eddie Hall the way I do; he is a clear example of the idea that disability is just a mindset, not a diagnosis one has to live by.