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Heart to Heart

The Value of CRT

AGT’s Ben Waites weighs in on why CRT matters: independence, opportunity and hope

Singer Ben Waites, known for his 2022 appearance on season 17 of “America’s Got Talent,” recently spoke at NSM’s annual symposium. Sharing heartwarming stories from his life as well as songs, Waites talked about the value of the Complex Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) industry and those who work in it. Here’s a little of what he had to say. 

CRT offers greater independence.

Born with arthrogryposis, Waites has used mobility equipment for most of his life. He vividly remembers getting his first power chair when he was about five years old. 

“We went in and did all the assessment stuff, and they got me a chair,” Waites recalls. “It had this big box for the leg part and it didn’t lift up or down, so my legs had to stay fully up. The first time I got in it, I told them, ‘I want fast! I want fast!’ so the speed was cranked all the way—and the first thing I did was ram the wall.” 

Waites soon mastered driving the power chair (as fast as possible), but says the chair provided more than mobility. It also nurtured a growing sense of independence. 

“As a kid, it was really interesting and amazing to have that wheelchair,” he says. “Before, I was still so small that people would just carry me everywhere, but suddenly I was able to go places and do things on my own.”

CRT helps create opportunities.

Growing up, Waites’ grandparents played a pivotal role in his life. “They were primary forces in my life,” he says. After becoming a Christian at age 10, Waites says he felt called to sing and recalls telling his grandfather, a Southern Gospel singer in his own right, about that calling. 

“I told my PawPaw, and he said, ‘Let’s see if you can sing,’’ Waites remembers. “So he went to the piano and he’d hit a note [and see if I could match the pitch.] It was awful.”

Eventually Waites learned to match pitch after recognizing that he had chromesthesia, a condition that creates “a mental video of color” whenever he hears music. By the time he was 11, Waites was traveling with the Pine Ridge Quartet, a Southern Gospel group, and traveling to performances each weekend. 

“We were doing over 75 concerts a year, and it was a lot of traveling,” Waites recalls. “I’d get home from school on Friday and we’d pack everything up, load up and hit the road. We’d sing Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night, then I’d go to school on Monday morning and start all over again when that Friday came.”

But none of that was possible, Waites says, without mobility equipment. 

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