Michael Carter was always into fitness. After receiving an ataxia diagnosis that affected his mobility, Carter wanted to transform his experience with disability — and his love of fitness and nutrition — into something empowering. In 2014, Carter created Disability Don’t Mean Can’t (DDMC), a fitness and motivational resource, with a powerful comic book superhero to match.
Ataxia is a degenerative nervous system condition often described as seeming like you’re intoxicated — slurred speech, stumbling or falling, and a lack of coordination. Depending on the type of ataxia, it can also impact your ability to swallow, fine motor skills, eye movement and heart. Carter was diagnosed with a genetic form of the condition in his early 20s and wanted to redefine the limits doctors gave him.
“Before my diagnosis, I was extremely active but after my diagnosis, I was told I ‘can’t’ do stuff,” Carter told The Mighty via email. He added:
I made it my mission to do what they were said I could not. (Ex. A nationally recognized bodybuilding show.) Professionals in the field took notice of my hard work and suggested I spread my experiences on a larger scale. So I started DDMC but realized ‘it’s not just about me and my experiences’ so I created DDMCman to be a disability advocate.
Carter created the first DDMCman comic in partnership with illustrator John David Thompson. DDMCman, along with his service dog, Trusty Sidekick, swoops in to show that people with disabilities can be strong too, even if, in the case of DDMCman, you’re prone to bumping into tables or lamps.
For the second in the DDMCman comic series, Carter partnered with the University of Kentucky. The Project CHEER episode of DDMCman, titled “Busting Down Barriers!,” also features other comic characters based on real people with disabilities. The third in the DDMCman series, “Permit Required,” was released in September 2018. Carter hopes to create additional DDMCman comics that take him even further.
“My ideas will take DDMCman and his service dog sidekick Trusty towards accessibility & other issues disabled individuals face,” Carter said, adding:
In addition to spreading the word about DDMCman & the adventures of the superhero team, on a personal level, I tried to make the comic marketable to organizations, bigger than myself (so that means pretty much anyone), that also have a goal of spreading disability awareness through fun, fitness, health and motivation.
You can purchase copies of DDMCman comics for $9 by contacting Carter directly.