By Shannon Redd, ERC Consultant
“Always live life like an adventure, whatever happens along the way… JUST ROLL WITH IT!”- Zach Anner
On December 12, 2011, Oprah Winfrey premiered a new show on her OWN network entitled “Rollin with Zach”. On the show, Zach Anner travels the country exploring everything that America truly has to offer. He climbs rocks, goes surfing, tries different types of food and visits famous landmarks all while entertaining us with his incredible sense of humor and extremely positive attitude. While at first you would consider this show no different than anything you would catch on the Travel Network or TLC, you soon realize that Zach’s seemingly ordinary travels really give a completely new perspective on the idea of access for people with disabilities in America. Zach Anner is a young, funny, adventurous man who happens to suffer from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.
When I first saw the trailer for this new show, I wondered how others would perceive Zach in his pursuit to travel the country in a wheelchair. I was nervous that the show would prompt a string of comedy skits on Saturday Night Live or MadTV making fun of a person with a disability traveling the world. I found myself thinking “why would Oprah do this?” and feared that a member of the disability community was being showcased as some kind of spectacle as a joke or with a sense of pity. As I continued to watch, however, the trailer showed portions of Zach’s travels and displayed his comedic talent.
I became intrigued by his personality and adventures, instead of concerned about any limitations because of his disability. Soon I stopped noticing that he was in a wheelchair, except when he would make light hearted jokes about having a disability. While I was sitting on my couch feeling sorry for possible reactions to Zach’s disability, Zach was out in the world living the life I always dreamed. A life filled with fun, adventure, and new experiences without being confined to the restrictions of your circumstances. Zach took elements of his life which I considered shortcomings and turned them into a basis for living life to the fullest. Over the course of the 3 minute trailer, I realized exactly why it was so important for Oprah to include this show on her network. Rollin with Zach is not about a person with a disability traveling across America, it is about living life without boundaries, inspiring people to see that your circumstance does not define your character and that accessibility to the world is all about how you view your limitations. I believe Rollin with Zach will serve as an inspiration to both people with disabilities and able-bodied people to step outside of their limitations and live their dreams.