“Wheels That Work,” Ensign, July 1997, 71
“I teach people that it’s OK to be in a wheelchair,” says Michael Schlappi, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a shooting accident as a 14-year-old. “You can still live a good life.”
Brother Schlappi is indeed living a good life. As a cocaptain of the U.S. wheelchair basketball team that competed at the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, he helped bring home a bronze medal. He also played on the undefeated wheelchair basketball team at the Barcelona Paralympics in 1992 and on the gold-winning team in Seoul in 1988. In addition, he is an accomplished wheelchair tennis player with two national championships.
But Brother Schlappi sees himself as more than an athlete. He earned a master’s degree in business administration and health care from Arizona State University and works as manager of disability services at a large health care provider. As part of his job, he helps establish community programs such as the Wheelchair Sports Foundation. He regularly speaks to school and business groups about how to prevent accidents such as his. He emphasizes four lifesaving tips: always wear a seat belt in vehicles; always wear a helmet when skateboarding, bicycling, or in-line skating; never play with guns, even when you think them to be unloaded; and learn to like yourself, because feelings of low self-worth are a serious disability.
Brother Schlappi and his wife, Susan, have three children and live in the Hidden Oaks Ward, Sandy Utah Lone Peak Stake. Brother Schlappi is secretary in the ward Young Men presidency and often teaches Aaronic Priesthood lessons.