SCI Superstar: Monika Kuszyńska

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By: Tiffiny | March 23rd, 2015 @ 11:10 pm | SCI Superstars |


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A lead singer of a popular polish band in the early 2000′s who went on to forge her own successful solo career, Monika Kuszyńska is a woman with a spinal cord injury you may not know…but not for long.

The funny thing, she’s been living loudly in her native Poland but echoes of her awesomeness have yet to trickle to the States, which is why we’re excited to bring her story to our readers. Very rarely do you see a paralyzed woman rock out like she does and at her elite level.

A soulful artist poised to perform in one of the world’s biggest singing contests – Eurovision 2015 – this is the unforgettable Monika Kuszyńska.

Why she’s fearless

Growing up in Poland, Monika knew that music was her destiny. She was aware of her talents at a young age and threw herself into singing at an early age. It wasn’t until the year 2001 however when she was 20 years old when she finally had a chance to enter the Polish music scene.

It was Polish pop rock band Varius Manx (named after the breed of cat), a hit band formed in 1989, that gave Monika her chance at stardom. Formed by composer named Robert Janson, Varius Max had a sound Polish director’s loved, using their songs in several films, and when Monika joined the band in 2001, she was the third lead female singer.

Monika performed with Varius Manx able-bodied until 2006, when the band’s founder Robert along with Monika were injured in a serious car accident that included the entire band. Unfortunately, Monika was the only one to sustain any permanent injuries, suffering a T6 injury in the accident and becoming a paraplegic. But the good news – she hasn’t let it stop her.

After her injury, she performed for four more years with the band until 2010 when she was replaced by a new singer. Strangely however in those four years post-injury while performing with Various Manx, she never performed live in her wheelchair. It wasn’t until she left Varius Manx and began her solo career when she began performing in her wheelchair.

What’s next?

In June of 2010, just a few months after leaving Varius Manx, Monika performed in her wheelchair on a TV show called Dzien Dobry TVN, which was undoubtedly a huge moment for her. A couple of years later, she agreed to be a vocal coach on the Polish version of Clash of the Choirs, with her team placing fifth. Soon, her fears of singing in public while in a wheelchair soon washed away.

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She’s performed all over Poland since 2010, becoming more and more comfortable in her wheelchair. And this year one of the biggest boons to her career occurred – she was chosen to represent Poland in the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 with the song, a power ballad, called “In the Name of Love.” The song was co-written by her husband, Kuba Raczyński, who also drums with Monika whenever she performs.

This year the Eurovision Song Contest, a contest in which each European country sends their best singer and song to compete, has a great inclusion-inspired theme titled – Building Bridges – which is why the association of Polish broadcasters who choose who goes to Eurovision from Poland chose Monika, who will be the first ever person with paralysis to perform in Eurovision.

The contest will occur on May 23rd and a live streaming broadcast will be available.  You should also check out her official music video for the song. She performs in a beautiful gold dress on the floor, no wheelchair in sight (watch), and wow does her pretty alto voice sound great (make sure to check out her other videos of her below; two show her in her wheelchair).

Good luck Monika and congratulations on helping bring two worlds – the able-bodied world and the disabled world – together! You truly are making your dream a reality.

Are you a Monika Kuszyńska fan?

- Visit her site: MonikaKuszynska

Watch the videos!

- Monika Kuszyńska – In The Name Of Love [Official Music Video]

- Monika Kuszyńska. Geyer music Factory 2011

- Fragment koncertu kolęd – Monika Kuszyńska – Zabrze

SCI Superstar: Michael Graves

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By: Tiffiny | March 15th, 2015 @ 7:12 pm | SCI Superstars |


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You may have heard of Michael Graves’ before, especially if you shop at Target for kitchen gadgets. A man who had been paralyzed for only 11 years but designed both memorable buildings and high-style health products (and teaching design at Princeton along the way), Michael’s goal in architecture was to always be about making functional things more beautiful. And boy did he succeed.

Michael is the mind behind hundreds of stunning buildings all around world, including Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, California. He was a powerhouse architect since the ’80s and continued designing until the day of his death. A few health setbacks never turned off Michael Graves’ desire to design, it only fueled his desire to design.

His disability inspired him to start thinking about redesigning everything in the healthcare world too, from patient rooms to wheelchairs, and he’s come up with some beautiful stuff. Read on for the backstory of one of America’s greatest architects, Michael Graves.

Why he’s fearless

Growing up in Indiana, Michael loved to draw; loved it. So much so that after high school, he went on to get his bachelor’s in drawing. Afterwards receiving his BA, he went to Harvard to get his masters degree in architecture.

He also went to art school in Italy to further foster his love of drawing, and drawing remained one of his favorite activities his entire life. The architect and art school student witth natural talent eventually graduated, and he went to work right away.

Michael founded his architecture firm in 1964, Graves & Associates, and soon began designing many of the now-iconic buildings he is known for; nearly 300 in total and all different types from business headquarters and hotels to government buildings and individual residences. Trophy buildings if you will that have been lauded by presidents, including President Clinton who gave him the National Medal of Arts in 2001.

The buildings Graves and his design team can be credited for are vast. Here’s just a sampling: The Swan and Dolphin resorts in Walt Disney World, the Denver Public Library, the Tajima Office Building in Tokyo, Japan, the Crown American Building in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the Engineering Center for the University of Cincinnati, the scaffolding for the renovation of the Washington monument, the Miramar Resort in Egypt and the Impala building in NYC.

Michael also dabbled in product design before the onset of his disability, designing watches as well as high-style kitchen gadgets for JC Penney, Alessi and Target, with a sleek teapot with a bird near the spout for JC Penney, driving in record sales. His teapot remains one of his favorite designs.

A mysterious sinus infection however in 2003 changed Michael Graves’ world. Doctors till this day are still unsure of the actual virus that caused his paralysis, however it did try to reoccur and make Michael even more paralyzed. Fortunately, doctors at the Miami Project were able to stop the infection and preserve his movement from the waist up.

What’s next?

Realizing the disability he now had was likely permanent, Michael began to cast a critical eye on everything he was encountering in the healthcare world in regards to design (and absolutely hating the “lazy” Velcr0 solution for so much), from the patient’s room and wheelchair to the gadgets they use; “unnecessarily ugly” he says, Michael wants to redesign it all.

In 2009 he teamed up with Styker, a wheelchair and medical product manufacturer, to redesign many of their products such as bedside and overbed tables. In 2014, one of his last products, Graves redesigned their patient transport chair, the Styker Prime TC, and he gave it a one-time central brake, more ergonomic push handles and swing away footrests. Check out his designs

Universal design is another area Michael has been putting his creative energies into and he worked with the Wounded Warriors Home Project to develop three amazing accessible homes for injured veterans in Ft. Belvoir, VA. He is all about creating completely realistic design that’s functional.

Sadly, last week the renowned architect passed away quietly in his sleep at the age of 80 at his home in Priceton, NJ. The world is a more beautiful place because of Michael Graves, and the disability world has become more beautiful because of him. We will miss him greatly.

- Visit his site: Michaelgraves.com

- Read more from the Washington Post: Michael Graves, innovative architect and designer, dies at 80

- Listen to NPR’s tribute to Michael Graves

What are your favorite Michael Graves designs?

Watch the videos!

- Michael Graves at TEDMED 2011

- Adaptability: Universal Design and the Story Michael Graves

- Michael Graves: A Case for Humanistic Solutions in Healthcare Design