On the campus of the College of San Mateo, you’ll probably catch a glimpse of student Sarah Funes rolling by on her Segway. Though some may see the transportation as the splurging of a rich kid who is too lazy to walk, others know the real reason behind Funes’ unusual mode of transportation.
At the age of 10, Funes barely survived a brain tumor and in 2003 she had the tumor removed but complications with the tumor left her hemi-paraplegic. The condition means she is unable to have full use of her left limbs and has no peripheral vision in her left eye. Doctors said that Funes was lucky to be alive and she would almost certainly concur.
To date the only major use of Segway’s has been through city police departments and not many people know that these devices are also used to help those with disabilities. Funes wanted a traditional power chair but she couldn’t find one that would be covered by her insurance. The portable and electric Segway was her next choice and now she can get around easily without the need of a support van or medical personnel.
Because of the lack of assistance and the untraditional method Funes uses to transport herself many are unaware of her disability but Funes doesn’t concern herself with those that don’t understand, “Movement means the ability to be independent and to be as free as anyone else,” she told the Skyline View, “Look at the Segway like a wheelchair. I don’t do it to be obnoxious. I do it to be able to move around.”
When we attended the Abilities Expo in San Jose last year we had the pleasure of meeting Funes. As a student she couldn’t afford one of our distinctive carryall bags but she was fortunate enough to win one in our drawing and now uses it on her Segway as she moves forward with her life (see the picture at right). And that life has plenty more to come. “I’m never going to have a normal life, or a simple life,” she says, “I wasn’t put here by accident. There’ something I’m meant to do and I feel like it’s no coincidence I’m here.”