Mohammad Sayed is unstoppable. At the age of 19, he is already an inventor and entrepreneur. One half of his business, Rimpower, is providing assistive technologies; the other is a comic book series centered around the hero Wheelchair Man.
“The only difference between me and you is that I’m in a wheelchair and you’re not," Sayed said. "You might give up and I will never give up.”
Sayed’s story is nothing short of extraordinary. When he was 5 years old, he lost his mother to cancer. Days later, a bomb blast at his home in Afghanistan left him with a traumatic spinal cord injury. His father took him to a hospital in Kabul and never came back for him.
“I had to figure out how to survive," he said. "In those times, the two things you need are hope and a strong faith.”
Sayed learned the art of survival while living in a non-governmental organization hospital in the Panjshir Valley for 7 years. At the age of 8, he was earning a living by repairing staffers’ cell phones and taking pictures for photo IDs.
“The only option I had was to hope something better would happen,” he said.
Something better did happen when he met Maria Pia-Sanchez, a public health nurse from the Boston area. Two years after they met, she adopted Sayed in 2009.
“Now I can help so many people whether it's with my story or my inventions.” he said.
In high school, Sayed invented a clasp that can be adapted for use in any wheelchair, stroller, car—you name it. The idea is to empower people in wheelchairs with simple solutions without breaking the bank. He called it the Key 2 Freedom. His invention got him into the White House Science Fair in 2015, and a meeting with President Obama. But Sayed isn’t just interested in selling a product. He wants to change the way people think—with Wheelchair Man, the Afghan-American hero based on his own life. The tagline is “Hope is on the way.”
“Two of Wheelchair Man’s powers are 1: He can make a criminal see the consequence of their crimes before they're commited, and 2: he has the power to not use violence,” Sayed said. “The thing about Wheelchair Man is it's more than just a comic book character. Wheelchair Man is hope, motivation. Wheelchair Man is peace and that is because I've been there.”
Sayed has a small team of dedicated people working with him, including a graphic artist. He’s raising money with the crowd-sourcing website GoFundMe, and he’s determined to finish the first edition of Wheelchair Man before the end of the year.
The goal is to have copies of the comic book in every hospital and rehabilitation center not only here in the U.S., but in developing countries where the disabled are often treated as outcasts .
“So imagine you're in a hospital. You just ended up in a wheelchair, and then all of a sudden, you look up at the TV screen,” Sayed said. “And you see Wheelchair Man. Right there, if you are 6 years old, you say, oh, my life is not over. Here is a superhero.”