A skydiving accident left Chris Colwell in a wheelchair. Instead of forever reliving his tragedy in private, he decided to make it public by posting a video of the accident on YouTube.
In April 2003, Colwell, at the time a skydiving instructor in Florida, went on a jump with a student. He had a camera attached to the left side of his head. His student fell too quickly; Colwell tried to speed up to catch him, but his head struck the student in the chest. Colwell’s neck snapped instantly. As he fell down to earth, he stayed conscious; his emergency parachute automatically opened and saved his life. But from the moment of the collision on, he has lived life as a paraplegic.
Video courtesy of Chris Colwell
Since first posting this video to YouTube, Colwell has gained a large base of fans that loyally follows his frequent video posts. Some of his videos illustrate the difficulties of going through his daily routine; others are video diaries in which he shares his thoughts on life and answers viewers’ questions. His videos are intimate, often funny, and always candid.
Video courtesy of Chris Colwell

"The first thing I posted was the video of my accident ... just to let it go"

Colwell, now 40, recently pursued an old dream and moved to Dubai. He has been selected to tell his story during the TEDx Dubai speakers’ forum in October 2011.
I started posting videos to YouTube about a year and a half after I became paralysed. The first thing I posted was the video of my accident. I did it sort of selfishly, just to let go of it. But then I started receiving questions from all sorts of people. The most interesting ones were from people asking me how I was able to put something so personal online.
Typing responses tired me out, so I decided to reply through videos. And I just kept posting. Putting my life out there for the world to see, without worrying about people's judgments, turned into a lifeline for other people who were hiding, whether they suffered from a disability or other problems. In my videos I try to get people to see that we need to be alive now, and be willing to change.
I believe I was one of the first paraplegics to put my life up online for all to see, but many others have followed suit. Guys like Doug and Mac, who I have followed closely and are now friends, have really grown a lot by showing the reality of their lives through videos.
Helping people made me feel like I still had a reason to be here. I also started meeting new friends through my videos; strangers came out to visit me in Florida, where I lived until recently. Being indoors most of the time, and being limited as far as getting around, the Internet really helped me stay connected with others.”
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Gaelle Faure.