Kansas Health Institute Article

Making use of technological advances

Sept. 2013

At 19, Kevin Olson of Chanute was an All-State basketball player who lived an active life. On July 15, 1991, Olson dove off a dock into a lake he’d long swam in. This time he hit something underwater, paralyzing him from the neck down.

Now, 22 years later, technology is enabling Olson to work and play in ways he couldn’t imagine soon after the accident. (View a photo of Kevin shortly before the accident.)

kevin-olson-learning-to-live-with-it_t600At the expo, he demonstrated a rig for his wheelchair that allows him to hunt with his friends. By operating a joystick with his chin, he can aim a gun or crossbow using a scope outfitted with a mini-LCD screen. Then, by sucking on a tube, he can fire. So far, he’s shot three deer and a turkey.

“Before, I was always just a spectator off on the side. Now I’m participating in a sport for the first time since high school,” Olson said.

Assistive technology also allows Olson to work. He uses voice-activated software and a device that allows him to type to design websites from home.

Just last week, Olson published an autobiography, “Learning to Live With It.” As he writes, “my 3-year-old brother’s response to a bird pooping on my shoulder challenged me to not only accept my paralysis, but really learn to ‘live with it.'”

Olson also travels around the state as a motivational speaker.

“If it wasn’t for equipment and technology, people out there who are trying to figure out ways that we can do things, our quality of life would be way different,” Olson said. “Some of the things just allow us to have fun, and some of them allow us to be gainfully employed. These things open windows, and that gives a person a sense of self worth.”

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