Editor’s Note: Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence that women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life. This is the third of 4 weekly stories.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — From some rocking hot wheels to wide wings straight from a sci-fi world, Magic Wheelchair brightens the lives of the children who rely on them.
Christine Getman understands the mission well. From her own experience, Getman — the executive director of Magic Wheelchair — helped create an Oregon law that will help others in their time of need.
“Magic Wheelchair just feels like a catalyst for inclusion,” she told KOIN 6 News. “I just love the mission of self expression and validating young voices.”
Each time Magic Wheelchair unveils a finished piece, the joy is contagious.
“I feel like validating young voices, which I know from personal experience can help create your inner voice of advocacy,” Getman said. “So I’m hoping just by honoring what they’ve hoped to have we can create the next generation of feisty self-advocates,”
As a feisty advocate herself, Getman uses Magic Wheelchair as a platform to elevate children with disabilities.
“The kiddos run the show and each one we’re just here for the wild ride.”
Each design is also a chance for local creators to make a special connection.
“Magic Wheelchair matches kiddos with disabilities, with makers in their community. And those makers can be anyone from home builders and cosplayers to hobbyists build shops, prop shops, maker spaces,” she said.
Getman is a confident example for others by openly embracing the term “disability pride.”
“With my disability pride, I say disabled, like I’m disabled, capital D disabled,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with it because it’s my identity. It’s not something I bring along with me. It’s who I am.”
From an early age she learned to not always take things too seriously.
“Maybe I just have a twisted sense of humor. Maybe that’s who I would be, anyway, with or without disability. Who knows?”
When she was 14 months old, she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 2. She got her first wheelchair when she was 2.5 years old.
“Back then, you know, the textbook told families to love on your kiddos, say your goodbyes. They wouldn’t live past two,” Getman said. “And so that really set the stage for an interesting life and it’s wild now to be in my 30s and to know that that was the narrative in the beginning.”
The challenges are part of her personal story and growth.
Earl and Karen Ming are her grandparents — and they also nominated her to be this year’s Remarkable Woman.
“She just came to mind when that came up on the screen,” Earl told KOIN 6 News. “And I said, Christine, you know, because she’s young, but she’s accomplished so much.”
Karen is inspired by her granddaughter’s problem-solving attitude, especially when she helped shape an Oregon law in 2020.
“It made you realize you can do things,” Karen said. “Don’t just say they need to fix this. You need to fix this. If you have a problem, you fix it.
Christine Getman was a voice for the law that is now in effect.
“When the pandemic started, the onus was on people with disabilities to stay safe, stay well, stay out of the hospital,” she said. “Some folks found themselves hospitalized and I had that experience as well. And so through my experience, I was able to help advocate for the rights of patients with disabilities to have their support persons with them in the hospital.”
Each day, she also works to fight for the rights of people with disabilities through what she said is her dream job.
“I remember when I was in college studying public health and I just thought, oh my gosh, I want to work for OHA one day. And now it’s happening,” she said. “It’s so exciting. Last year I joined the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Unit. We are here to elevate community voice and make sure that folks with disabilities are considered on day one.”
Somehow she finds time to do so much, even seeing that Magic Wheelchair helped achieve its first international creation for a child in the UK. Next, they’ll expand into a new building in downtown Gresham.
“So Magic Wheelchair is about to unlock the next chapter of what we do. And we just signed on a building to open up our own inclusive maker space,” she said.
Christine Getman is a determined woman with a purpose.
“We want to use empowering language and the wheelchairs are freeing. I think we’ve heard people say things like ‘wheelchair bound.’ There’s nothing binding about this. This lets me leave the house and travel and engage with my community. And so I think flipping the narrative of what it means to utilize mobility devices or medical equipment, it brings us to the world.”
It reminds all of us to embrace who we are.
“I think through Magic Wheelchair and through my work, I’m hoping that everyone can learn to make a difference with their own authentic voice and not have to fit and act like others,” she said.
Magic Wheelchair is also an educational program that takes a build and applies it to curriculum in high school and college.
Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence that women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.
Throughout Women’s History Month, KOIN will highlight four local women who inspire, lead and forge the way for other women. It’s not just about one day or one month — it’s about what they do, day-in and day-out.
One woman will be named Oregon’s Woman of the Year and win a $1,000 donation to her charity of choice! From the more than 100 local winners, one woman will be selected and named Nexstar Media Group’s Woman of the Year