The courage to make mistakes – and to learn from them
Whether surfing on the ocean or climbing the Sugar Loaf Mountain – Johnny Grasser loves a challenge. The fact that not everything always goes smoothly is part of his success. Because you learn from your mistakes. That's why the 34-year-old would like us all to have the courage to make mistakes. How assistive devices could be designed better and how he rolls otherwise, he tells us on REHACARE.com.
Name: Johnny Grasser Age: 34 City: Cologne, Germany Occupation: Sports science student and freelance speaker Disability: Leg-accentuated tetraspasticity following treatment errors in premature birth
Johnny Grasser: Generally speaking, every day starts as a good day for me, that's how I try to approach it. My day is particularly good when my three to four hours of training every day goes well, which I need in order to be mobile at all, I meet nice and open people and I don't get bored.
Which auxiliary means or daily living aids are indispensable for you?
Johnny Grasser: My assistants are definitely indispensable to me. Without them, I wouldn't be able to manage my everyday life and my training. For longer distances and to get from A to B faster, I also need my wheelchair and 4-point walking sticks.
What would you like to see from society and your fellow people in dealing with people with disabilities?
Johnny Grasser: Very simple: I would like all people, regardless of disability, gender, origin, whatever, to treat each other honestly and normally and allow their counterparts to make mistakes. Then we wouldn't need this strange word "inclusion".
Which assistive device would urgently need to be invented and/or improved?
Johnny Grasser: Basically, all auxiliary means could be improved. And in such a way that they look innovative and stylish, because a lot depends on the public image.
Which assistive devices urgently need to be invented? That's a good question. I would be in favor of designing an electric wheelchair that doesn't look like an electric wheelchair, but like a racing car. Without needing a 20-kilogram battery or five people to dismantle it and get it into the car.
Wherever he can, Johnny Grasser looks for new challenges – here he surfs on a surfboard that he designed for himself.
What has been your biggest challenge so far that you have mastered – and what has helped you?
Johnny Grasser: A difficult question, because I have had to overcome many challenges. I think my most difficult challenge was actually trying to find a job and failing on the job market after 900 applications – despite Bundesliga and international experience as well as three degrees.
From a sporting point of view, designing a surfboard that would allow me to surf standing up was also a big challenge. My biggest project was climbing Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro in October 2022, which required sponsors, the right equipment and a team of partners to help me.
What can the assistive technology industry learn from the Corona pandemic to make life easier and/or better for people with disabilities in the future?
Johnny Grasser: Generally speaking, you can learn from the pandemic that technical solutions alone do not make life better or more beautiful. A lot has to do with the mental state and I think that even people who don't have a disability have realized during corona what it means to live with a disability. You often live in isolation, even though you don't want to be.
The assistive technology industry needs to start finding solutions that are simple and really enable people with disabilities to take part in everyday life, but that also make it easier for people without disabilities to interact with people with disabilities.
If nothing was impossible: Who would you like to meet one day and why?
Johnny Grasser: Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, because together we could achieve a lot.
What was your best REHACARE experience?
Johnny Grasser: Not an experience, but an appeal: I would like REHACARE and the manufacturers to take a leading role in taking more risks in order to become more innovative and attractive, not only for people with disabilities, but also for the industry and politics.
What I wanted to say...
Johnny Grasser: Everyone should become more relaxed and dare to think more "out of the box", allow mistakes to happen and sometimes fall flat on their face. There are many people who have other ideas and opinions that may ultimately be significantly better than what I or we think is the best solution.