Five Great Articles By Barry Corbet

Barry Corbet, who survived a 1968 helicopter crash with a T12/L1 spinal cord injury, edited New Mobility magazine from 1991 to 2000. A widely published author and filmmaker, Corbet made a trio of films: Changes, Outside and Survivors – and wrote the book Options: Spinal Cord Injury and the Future. 2023 saw the launch of full circlea documentary that adapted material from Options and linked Corbet’s journey with that of Trevor Kennison, the first sit-down skier to launch into Corbet’s Couloir, the ski slope named after Corbet in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Now full circle The public searches for Corbet’s name and discovers New Mobility.

When Corbet died in 2004, we didn’t realize how difficult it would be to keep his archive of wonderful lyrical writings accessible in the ever-changing world of digital media. We intend to rectify this loss of progress and have begun to restore his original essays and articles in print on our website, a platform we hope will endure. In the meantime, here are five iconic pieces that showcase Corbet’s unmistakable synergy of intelligence, humility, and voice. Enjoy.

“When we give up our beliefs about how life should be, we can learn to love it as it is,” Corbet offers in this excerpt from a speech he gave at Craig Hospital 33 years after his spinal cord injury. We know there will be change and loss, financial stress and exploding stock markets, but with all that, “life is still full and terrifying and tremendously beautiful, and I have as much a part of it as anyone else.”

Gratitude meets courage in this tribute to disability culture on the roof of a rehabilitation center, as veterans and new survivors of the cataclysm celebrate Independence Day together. The old guard shows what is possible. Newbies take it all in. “With all their bad luck – fresh surgical scars, shaved heads, thin legs, pressure hoses, leg bags – they are here to celebrate the unthinkable.”

For an elite mountaineer like Corbet, the inability to explore the true wilderness after his spinal cord injury was crushing. He felt like a tourist, for God’s sake. In a fit of radical acceptance, he tried the role of voyeur and found it wanting, but in the process he discovered that in a kayak he could transport himself back to sacred places. He soon followed a second love affair with nature, until he faced more loss, more acceptance and, finally, peace with what nature provides us in each incarnation.

Nursing homes are every active wheelchair user’s worst nightmare, so why did Corbet sign up for something he’d been avoiding for 35 years? Circumstances conspired when she needed a lot of help after shoulder surgery, so she made the most of it, integrating herself as a journalist among those trying to get out and those waiting to die. A deeply compassionate look at institutional attacks on dignity, freedom, and grace, her story honors the humanity of the residents and leaves no doubt about why we fight to live in our own homes.

More than twenty years after its publication, there is still no better analysis of the issues surrounding physician-assisted dying written from a disability perspective. In some ways, times have changed: several more states now offer a path to PAD; one of the organizations in this article has dissolved and another has changed its name and mission; and some of the outspoken advocates interviewed here have died. But the biggest questions remain the same and should give our community pause. Corbet examines the topic from three perspectives: PAD as personal preference, PAD as a disability issue, and PAD as public policy.

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