BARBERTON, OH (WOIO) - A disabled person is 50 percent more likely to be a victim of a crime than an able-bodied person. A disabled woman is 80 percent more likely to be the victim of a sex crime.
Paul Brailer has been on crutches or in a wheelchair since birth, due to spina bifida. After watching two friends die young and two others with cerebral palsy get mugged, he decided to get fit and defend himself through martial arts. Now, Brailer is showing others how to do the same.
"Two teenage kids pushed him down and took his money from him. One of them, my other friend, is in a wheelchair. They just grabbed his phone from him and ran," Brailer said.
Brailer founded Criptaedo because he did not want to become a victim. He says he was sheltered and suffered from low self esteem most of his life.
But an invitation to the Art of Karate studio in Barberton changed his life.
Now he works with his instructors to modify equipment and techniques to accommodate the disabled.
"So when I do a board break and I have to punch... technically put my hips into it... I learned that I have to turn my torso," said Brailer.
He posts videos online to share the lessons with a population that can't necessarily get out to a class or a gym.
His friend, Phil Leidy, is already starting to feel empowered by the skills he's picking up.
"In the past, I wouldn't really be sure what to do. But now that Paul has brought a little bit of light to me, I feel a little bit more confident in being able to defend myself," said Leidy.
Brailer says it's not just about martial arts or self defense. It's about fitness and being healthy enough to be independent.
"I don't want people to believe the lie that I believed for 35 years...I can't, or you can't," said Brailer.
Click here to learn more about Criptaedo and Brailer's mission