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21 Photographers + 21 People with Spinal Cord Injury = 21 Photo Stories about ABILITY

The Reinventing the Wheel project was developed in 2013 by BACKBONES, a spinal cord injury peer-support and advocacy group, in collaboration with the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Chicago. The inspiration for the project came from BACKBONES founder, Reveca Torres, after she conducted an online “disability” image search; the search generated mostly somber, sad, and hopeless imagery that perpetuated stereotypes and failed to reflect the real lives of individuals with disabilities. Contrary to popular beliefs, and like all other members of society, people with disabilities can live happy and successful lives, are active members of their communities, and make important contributions to society.

This collection of visual storytelling highlights REAL lives, starts conversations, changes attitudes and empowers many to shift views leading to better access to housing, employment, education and recreation for people with disabilities.

Reinventing the Wheel was first exhibited at the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago in 2013. Due to the digital nature of the exhibit space, Reinventing the Wheel may still available to view at one of the Backbones traveling exhibit locations. Since 2013, the traveling version of the exhibit has been shown in New York City, Portland (Oregon) and Vancouver (Washington).

Now, NMHM Chicago has compiled the full exhibit into an online-accessible version. Participant's stories and images are collected here in digital scrapbooks. Please select from the menu above to view the photo essay and biography of each participant.