Samuel Marie imagined a very different future. The industrial climber worked on acrobatic jobs day in and day out. In addition, he also earned extra money as a skiing teacher. After suffering a six meter fall, Sam suddenly no longer knew whether he would ever be able to live an independent life again. The diagnosis: paraplegia. For four years he suffered through numerous operations and gruelling rehabilitation until he was finally able to live at home again. Yet Sam refused to lose hope. The South African extreme athlete, Mike Horn, eventually opened his eyes with his book “Latitude zero: around the world on the equator”. Sam ultimately realised that he had to pursue his dreams no matter the obstacles life put in his way.
“My life is anything but normal”, admits Sam openly. “But I have succeeded in achieving a little independence once again.” Before his accident, Sam travelled throughout the world – but this was anything but a matter of course in a wheelchair. In Bali, he realised that most foreign hotels were anything but barrier free. This often made things difficult for him. But his routes are not determined by barrier freedom but rather exclusively by his own wishes and ideas about travelling. When searching for an opportunity to travel independently, Sam discovered the Sprinter 4×4.
It was ahead of its time and the Sprinter 4×4 was the only van on the market which offered both an automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. A number of adaptations were required to enable Sam to drive the Sprinter himself. Firstly, the vehicle needed to be made accessible for wheelchair users. A lifting platform, an electric bed and a special shower were installed. But this did not solve the driving problem. Because he could not climb out of his wheelchair and into the seat for every journey, the driver’s seat had to be removed and anchoring for the wheelchair installed. Thanks to the V6 engine, Sam can now reach locations that once would have been a distant dream for wheelchair users. He is also especially happy with the customised tank with a capacity of 180 litres. “This makes me independent.”
His case has become well-known among many rehabilitation centres and research facilities. This also made him more renowned and more and more organisations, schools, students and companies began to support him. The fruit of this collaboration is the project “Sam fait rouler”, a wordplay from “Ça me fait rouler” (“This moves me forward”). In the scope of the project, Sam travels the world in the Sprinter 4×4 and reports on methods and opportunities for people with disabilities. Sam has travelled through North America, Europe and Asia where he has met many people to share his story and learn from the fates of others with disabilities. Above all else, his goal is to show that despite the restrictions of disabilities, anything in life is possible.
I want to show that you can achieve a lot if you truly work on making your dreams come true.
On his travels, many doors have opened to Sam that once seemed closed: “The Sprinter 4×4 has given me a lot of freedom and independence.” The story of “Sam fait rouler” has even reached the French President, Emmanuel Macron. The president asked him to accompany him on his state visit to the USA. However, his greatest highlight was crossing through Mongolia, which gave him a feeling of absolute freedom. Many places are extremely difficult to reach in a wheelchair. That is why Sam’s Sprinter is the only means of meeting people. Behind the wheel, his disability disappears and he can easily search for the encounters, he explains. If he were to give other people with disabilities one piece of advice, it would be this: “The disability gives us the chance to decide whether we accept it or not.”
Even though Sam has travelled a lot and has seen so much of the world, he would like to continue travelling in future. At the end of the year, he will finally commence his plan to tour South America. Sam’s life is not without challenges but he remains focused on the future. His motto: Even if some cities are not optimally designed for paraplegics, as a person with disabilities you should not hide, but show that you exist and set out on new adventures.
To enable people with physical disabilities to enjoy automotive freedom and individual mobility, Mercedes-Benz offers not only comprehensive driver assistance systems, but also a wide range of ex-factory driving aids for various handicaps:
In addition to ex-factory driving aids, certified Mercedes-Benz Vans partners can also provide information on tailor-made body solutions: