Rick Hayden, president of the Southern California Chapter of United Spinal Association and wheelchair user, will be attending Roll on Capitol HillRick Hayden, 62, a sales and marketing consultant, president of the Southern California Chapter of United Spinal Association and wheelchair user, will be attending Roll on Capitol Hill along with other prominent disability advocates. He will urge his representatives to provide people living with spinal cord injuries and disorders in California greater access to complex rehab technology.

“We have come so close to getting a complex rehabilitation bill passed and now, post-election, we seem farther away,” said Hayden, who was spinal cord injured while riding his motorcycle in 1976.

“This affects not only me, but thousands of people who require custom mobility and or seating to maximize their function, independence and potential,” he added.

After his injury, Hayden spent three weeks in the ICU and then three months in rehab.

Hayden made the choice to go to a local rehab instead of one 90 miles away because he didn’t want family and friends making that commute every day. However, the rehab selected was not accustomed or familiar with spinal cord injuries, his being the third they had ever seen.

“I didn’t learn some of the necessary life skills until after I had been discharged,” said Hayden.

The person that was most influential in his recovery was Larry Lojoie, a peer counselor he met while visiting the Stavros Center for Independent Living in Amherst, Massachusetts. Lajoie would become Hayden’s best friend.

“Through his mentorship, Larry Lojoie inspired me to become a peer counselor so that I could help others as he had helped me,” explained Hayden.

Hayden, who received a BA Business Marketing from Westfield State College and BS in Physical Education from Springfield College in Massachusetts, hopes to continue his advocacy work and one day write a book to help other people with disabilities live healthy and active lifestyles.

Roll on Capitol Hill has been a life-changing event for Hayden, empowering him to take his advocacy to the next level. Now entering its 6th year, the Roll has become a valuable platform for United Spinal member advocates to lead the charge to protect disability rights.

“Roll on Capitol Hill gave me an entirely different perspective on the political process. I developed new relationships and I share what I’ve learned with my local chapter to develop a stronger voice within California,” said Hayden.

Beyond complex rehab technology, Hayden is concerned with the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal.

“I know the ACA was not by any means perfect, but it was a start and with proper leadership would have evolved. Repealing the act is not the solution and will end up with too many people uninsured,” he said.

One important perspective he’d like to share with others is to learn to look at someone with a disability as a person, not as a person with a disability.

Hayden, a sports fanatic and recently retired recreational soccer and basketball coach, has been married to his wife Karen for 29 years. They have five children — Rick, Richelle, Jenna, Aimee and Kyle — and four grand kids — Isabella, Lucas, Reese and Parker.