Spring Issue #51 Newsletter Cover Story

Think people with disabilities don’t have much fun? Meet Narkeez Carlton. The 22-year-old’s nickname says it all: “Trouble on Wheels!”

Adopted from Russia at age 5, Narkeez was born with cerebral palsy, “which, thanks to me winning the jackpot, left me unable to walk, speak or hear very well,” he explained. Recently, he moved into a fully accessible apartment. “I love having my own custom place,” he said. “But I don’t like sitting at home with nothing to do and no one to hang out with.”

A year ago, Narkeez’s case worker introduced him to St. Ann Center’s adult day care program. “This place is a godsend to me and others like me,” he said. “Besides helping with the basics, they have cool activities like swimming, crafts and music. I’ve made some incredible connections.” One of them is with music therapist Hannah Goodness.

When he was younger, Narkeez played the drums, saxophone, piano and guitar. Slowly, his hand function worsened, leaving him with limited dexterity. “My favorite way to cope with the world’s stress is playing music—and to lose that was devastating,” he said. “The first time Hannah met me, she gave me a T-shaped drum mallet to try, and I jammed out a solo!”

While he has some difficulty speaking, Narkeez is a master communicator. He can converse in Russian and English and is fluent in American Sign Language, which he happily teaches to St. Ann Center staff. He also uses a Dynavox computer with a synthesized voice that “talks” as he types on his touch screen.

It comes in handy when he’s telling friends in the Stein Campus young adult unit about his many pastimes. Combining his love for computers and music, Narkeez does audio engineering for local bands. A natural athlete, he’s tried everything from rock climbing to trampolining, and is thinking of having a go at frame football—a type of soccer where players use wheeled walkers.

Narkeez credits his early years in an orphanage for inspiring his love for freedom and adventure. “I live life to the fullest,” he said, sharing his philosophy, “If life gives you a wheelchair…do a wheelie!”

You give Narkeez and clients like him the freedom to try new things.

 

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