Spider's tragic accident paves the way for disability awareness

January 8, 2021

Spider Pride

We’ve previously written about the inspiring story of Cole Sydnor, a 2017 UR grad, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a swimming accident in the James River. After his rehabilitation from the accident, Sydnor, a lifelong athlete, found new ways to adapt and overcome his challenges. He coached a wheelchair basketball team and returned to the river as part of an adaptive rowing program

While he lost the use of his arms and legs in the accident, Sydnor has some function in his wrists, biceps, and forearms, and he derives power for a range of activity from his shoulders. In 2017, he was working out at Sheltering Arms, a physical rehabilitation center in Richmond, when he caught the eye of Charisma Jamison, who at the time was working at the facility as a rehab technician. 

The two were recently featured in a New York Times story about their wedding in Richmond and how the interabled couple met.

Sydnor and Jamison produce a popular YouTube series, Roll with Cole & Charisma, where an audience of more than half a million follow videos about their lives. In the series, the two often discuss accessibility and answer questions from viewers about how they make their relationship work. 

“People want to see that there's love out there,” Sydnor said. “They want to experience it. Because there doesn't seem to be a lot of that in the media. Our motto is to stay positive, no matter what your circumstances are, because especially in a time like we're in right now, it's very easy to just let those negative emotions take hold.”

The couple’s series addresses issues like disability awareness, spinal cord injury research, and public policy for accessibility. But Sydnor says the aim is to raise the issues in an engaging way, by offering a snapshot into their lives.

“We just do our thing,” he says. “We show people how we live, and how we have a great life, despite the obstacles, and then people also just naturally gain awareness along the way.”


Photo credit: Ashley Petersen