In this month’s Permobil Portrait, we explore the life experiences of Chanda Hagen, a remarkable individual who has navigated the highs and lows with resilience and determination. From her childhood in sunny California to her passion for disability education, Chanda's story is one of strength and a refusal to be defined by challenges.
Growing up as an only child in Santa Barbara, California, I immersed myself in diverse interests. From training dogs and horses to dancing ballet, my fascination with anything on wheels—roller skates, roller blades, bikes, and cars—defined my vibrant childhood.
Life after high school
After high school I enrolled in the University of Findlay in Ohio to study Equine Science. During my first semester, I became significantly disabled to the point where I could not longer walk. This was a completely new experience for me which led to me dropping out of college. Looking back, I had no idea that I could have used a mobility aid to assist me with participating in activities, including getting to and from class.
Once I made the decision to leave school, I knew my career path would look different than what I had envisioned. I held various jobs in my early years including a car detailer and a veterinary technician. Eventually I ended up running a vineyard and made wine for many years.
My current focus lies in what I call “Disability Education”, where I educate businesses on how to interact with people with all types of disabilities, how to handle service dogs coming in, etc. Through my Instagram account (@chanda.kestrel), I encourage people with disabilities to get out there in the world to beat the inaccessibility cycle, the theme is “Let’s be seen.” I aim to break the stigma surrounding disabilities and encourage others to embrace their uniqueness.
I have been a service dog handler for 20 years and my current mobility/medical response dog is Kestrel, a female black English Labrador who is just turning 7-years-old. My pet dog is Peregrine, who is a 9-year-old Italian Greyhound.
In addition to disability education, my husband and I love to take Kestrel on a long-paved trail alongside a stream that leads all the way to the beach and going to local businesses and checking out their accessibility. But my favorite thing is watching tv with Kestrel piled on my lap.
Passions & Proud Moments
I have a strong passion for normalizing what society deems ordinary, such as disability. I believe that my parents' generation, which often concealed such aspects, did a disservice to the world. Disability is a natural part of life, and discussing it openly is crucial. It's time to break the silence and recognize that having health conditions is a normal aspect of the human experience.
One of my proudest moments is the ability to venture into the world with my wheelchair and service dog, bringing smiles wherever we go. My dog is irresistibly cute and friendly, while my wheelchair's bright colors and light-up casters never fail to elicit smiles from both kids and adults. I take pride in being a wheelchair user, showcasing that I am just like everyone else. My tagline succinctly captures this sentiment: 'Don't be weird; I'm just sitting down.'
Rapid fire questions:
My favorite place to eat is the California classic In-N-Out burgers.
What season do you like best and why?
My favorite season is Spring, it’s the only time our coastal desert is green and I love it when things are green and lush.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Jerry Garcia, the music of the Grateful Dead changed my life in so many ways, and I feel like he would be easy to talk to!
What is your favorite movie of all time?
Oh gosh, I can only pick one? I am going to say Real Genius. I love the odd and intelligent!
What was the first concert you went to?
The Grateful Dead at Madison Square Garden, NY.
Angie Kiger, M.Ed., CTRS, ATP/SMS
Portfolio Marketing Manager
Angie Kiger, M.Ed., CTRS, ATP/SMS earned a Master of Education degree in Assistive Technology from George Mason University. She is an Assistive Technology Professional (ATP), Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS), and a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). Angie has over 20 years of experience working in the field of assistive technology serving infants, children, and adults in inpatient, outpatient, school, and community settings with a variety of diagnoses. In addition to working as a clinician, Angie has served as an adjunct instructor at George Mason University and presented hundreds of clinical education trainings both in-person and virtually for global audiences. She has written articles for trade publications and been involved in clinical research. Angie is a member of and serves on the executive board for the nationwide advocacy group The Clinician Task Force. She joined Permobil Americas in mid-2022.