In The News

Bowling, bonding
Paralyzed father takes son to hospital event

SPINAL COLUMN
The Magazine of Shepherd Center
Winter 2007
Dan Sadowsky

Bill Miller“We’re on a mission to get wheelchair users back in the game of life!”

Bill Miller and Bruce Howerton don’t know each other, but they share a lot in common. Both suffered life-altering accidents. Both are now quadriplegics. And both have invented products to help keep them active in their wheelchairs. In the process, they’ve helped improve the quality of life for others with spinal cord injuries. “To me it’s not about inventing things,” says Miller. “It’s about overcoming obstacles.”

Bill Miller’s path to invention began one night in 1997. He tripped over some weight equipment in his college dorm room, dislocating two vertebrae in his neck and bruising his spinal cord. The accident left him a C-1-2, ventilator-dependent quadriplegic. After spending two months at Shepherd Center, Miller returned to his native Florida. He was looking for an activity – something he could physically do – besides operating a computer with voice software. Eager to help, Miller’s stepmother, Donna Miller, mentioned her stepson’s lack of physical opportunities to a friend, Claude Giguere, a retired General Motors engineer.

“There were no real activities or sports I could actively participate in, so we set out to invent a way, literally, for me to go bowling,” recalls Miller, who had bowled recreationally before his accident. “Then we realized that all wheelchair users should also be able to bowl, so we decided we wanted to share the opportunity.”

Over two years of what Miller describes as “a lot of trial, error and perfecting,” he and Giguere developed a ramp-like device that attaches to wheelchairs. They named the device the IKAN Bowler®. How it works is remarkably simple: An able-bodied person attaches the IKAN to a wheelchair and places the bowling ball on top. The bowler wheels forward and stops at the line. The force of momentum that follows the stopping action propels the ball forward, down the ramp and toward the pins.

“People are often amazed at how well I bowl,” says Miller. “Instead of being a spectator, people in wheelchairs – even high quads like me – can participate and compete.” Miller and Giguere teamed up with businessman Vincent Tifer and formed MGT Corporation to produce and distribute the IKAN Bowler®, which is now available online for $719 at IKANBowler.com.

“We have a great mount, and it can be adapted for multiple sports,” says Miller, adding that they’ve developed the IKAN Soccer Guard so that wheelchair athletes can play Power Soccer. They also plan to add a Boccia device, giving wheelchair users three sports that can be played.

“It’s a real quality of life improvement,” says Miller, “and we’re on a mission to get wheelchair users back in the game of life!”