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It takes just one meeting with Michael “Shorty” Powers to forget he’s permanently bound to a wheelchair “An annoying inconvenience, that’s what it is,” says Powers, fluidly negotiating his way through the lunchtime bustle of his favorite Mexican restaurant. If Powers could walk, he’d swagger. Ruddy and powerfully built from countless hours of wheelchair basketball and tennis, he exudes a nothingcan’t-do attitude.

Powers is the founder of POINT (Paraplegics On Independent Nature Trips), an Outward Bound-type of wilderness adventure group that strives to renew a handicapped individual’s sense of bodily independence through formidable outdoor challenges. The thirty-five-year-old Powers established POINT seven years ago with one goal: to impart to other disabled persons his sense of self-fulfillment through vigorous activity. The group’s efforts have garnered much media exposure, which Powers welcomes while questioning its purpose.

“POINT doesn’t want condescending attention,” says Powers. “Pictorials on our mountain-climbing trips in “Westward” [the former Dallas Times Herald Sunday magazine] and Sports ’N Spokes [a national magazine for the handicapped] won awards for photographic excellence. Were the pictures moving, or was it fun to see a poor handicap conquer a mountain? People think handicaps can’t do anything, so they’re amazed.”

Powers was a sportaholic, campus idol, and “into girls” when a freak car accident in 1969 left the MacArthur High School junior paralyzed from the waist down. Undaunted, Powers funneled his energies into promoting wheelchair sports in the Metro-plex. With the help of members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and the formation of a six-member, all-handicapped board, Powers launched POINT. Now its mailing roster boasts more than 1,000 individuals and rehabilitative institutions. With Powers as mentor, instructor, and spirited guide, POINT offers lengthy canoeing, kayaking, and white-water rafting excursions, wheelchair basketball and tennis, hunting, and even an annual bass fishing tournament (one of Shorty’s pet projects).

“Folks really like Shorty,” says Steve Zuckerman, managing editor of the Dallas Business Courier, who wrote of Point’s recent activities in Hands Across America. “He’s somebody who maximizes his strengths, rather than capitalizing on his weaknesses.”

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