The WHY Behind WHAT We Do
was born and raised in San Diego, California. After earning his Associates degree in Communications at Santa Barbara College, Ian soon discovered that biology was really his passion and area of interest. He ultimately enrolled at Cabrillo College and for the following few years, he attended science classes before transferring to the University of California, Santa Cruz. Fortunately, Ian could bike to school and only occasionally needed a car since he lived close to campus. Cycling was one of his preferred hobbies as well as table tennis, craft beer, nature photography, and bluegrass music. There was a wonderful bike path that went up the large hill to campus and one of his greatest joys was riding down that path daily after school. On June 4, 2008 when he was 26 years old everything changed.
Ian was coming home from a study group and as he did every day, he was going fast down the bike path enjoying the wind in his hair. He didn't realize that there was some sand on one of the path's twists, which led him to slip out and lose control. Fortunately, Ian was wearing a helmet, which most likely saved his life when he fell headfirst into a tree. Ian learned that he had sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) close to the C2 vertebra. Ian was now a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. Ian spent three months there learning how to survive as a ventilator dependent quad. He was fitted with a power wheelchair that was controlled using a Sip and Puff, which is a straw that is sensitive to air pressure and can send signals to his chair.
Following his release from the hospital, Port Angeles, Washington, ended up being home for Ian. He regained enough diaphragm mobility to breathe without a ventilator just over a year after the accident. This was a huge victory for Ian and was the start of his decision to adapt to his paralysis. He met fellow SCI survivors who were a tremendous help. About four years after the accident, Ian revived his love of the great outdoors. He lived only a few short blocks from the Olympic Discovery Trail, a fantastic cycling trail, and quickly found himself pushing his chair 10, 15, or 20 miles every day on this trail. All of this made him want to go on a lengthy wheelchair ride and perhaps help out a good cause while doing it.
The nonprofit organization, Ian's Ride was founded in 2016 when Ian embarked on a wheelchair journey across the state of Washington. The long ride was designed to test if cross-country travel in a power wheelchair was feasible. A large number of other wheelchair users and cyclists joined the ride. Strangers reached out from far and wide with their stories of disability and their desire to get more active outdoors. What started as a long ride became a media frenzy and education opportunity on active transportation. Following the 2016 Ride, Ian gave numerous talks and received numerous awards. With the encouragement of supporters, he realized he needed to continue his outreach.
On June 22nd, 2022, Ian broke the Guinness World Record for the most miles traveled using a mouth-controlled power wheelchair within 24-hours. Ian broke the previously held record by ten miles, ultimately reaching the 184.4-mile mark. His most recent statewide journey, The Great American Rail Trail – Eastern Leg, was just completed. The journey started in Washington DC, and ended in Elyria, Ohio, home of Invacare’s headquarters! The ride lasted nearly two-weeks and our fellow employees at Invacare were beyond excited to congratulate Ian. Ian's everyday wheelchair is an Invacare® TDX® SP2 power wheelchair
, the same chair he used to break the Guinness World Record and travel his nationwide rides. He uses this chair paired with his ASL Sip and Puff
, which gives Ian control of the movement of his chair with while sipping, puffing, or moving his head left or right.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5-10 years?
Mainly, I want to make sure people have the equipment they need moving forward to be able to live their fullest life - and not just wheelchair equipment, but that people have equal access to technology. Another big one is making sure that outdoor access continues to improve.
Are there any books or movies that have made a direct impact on your life?
'The Untouchables', which is a French film based on a true story about a quad and his friendship with his caregiver, and early on, that film certainly had an influence on my life. When I was in rehab, my family would read to me anything that has to do with nature. It helped me escape and find peace of mind which lead to me finding success in my true love and passion of the outdoors.
If you could give a one sentence message to the world, what would it be?
Follow your hearts and your passions, don’t be afraid to ask for help, community is everything, and nature is the best medicine.
Which musician would you choose if you could obtain free meet-and-greet tickets to a concert?
Guy Clark. He’s a Texas Country singers and I’ve always loved his music. One song in particular called ‘The Cape’ has always been motivating to me. The song encapsulates that keep going attitude and knowing that life is just a leap of faith and to always trust your cape.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
I love puzzles and riddles, it’s certainly something I enjoy. I’m a real big craft beer drinker. Whether it's movies or beers, rating stuff is my obsession. Every night I drink a different beer and I try to rate and describe it. And of course, spending time with my girlfriend, Celina.
What can instantly make your day better?
I start every day by riding a mile in my wheelchair, which instantly makes me happier. This gives me the opportunity to get some fresh air and see a neighbor, wildlife, or birds - I'm a big bird person and have been for a long time! Because my girlfriend lives in Seattle, we get to see each other on weekends, and when we're together, I'm at my happiest
A Personal Message from Ian to the Invacare Family
Ian's arrival in Elryia, Ohio, following the Great American Rail Trail Ian beaming with happiness while scaling the path of a mountain range
Left to Right (Ian Mackay, Kelly Hanlin, Addison Delp)
Ian ventures through the mountains during one of his ride events Ian riding in his Invacare TDX SP2 power wheelchair alongside his team
Learn More about Ian Mackay