I don’t get it.
In fact, I haven’t got it for 25 years. And as a person with a disability, it offends me. Let me tell you what “it” is: the Canadian Paraplegic Association is having Chair Leaders Friday in Edmonton. Taking a page from the 1970’s — timely, eh? — CPA is asking able-bodied people to spend a day in a wheelchair. The event is to raise awareness about accessibility and people with disabilities.
I think it’s nothing more than a circus.
And I have questions:
*why does CPA hold this event in May, rather than January, when there’s 15 feet of snow, a 87-km wind, a wind chill of minus 38, when wheeling a wheelchair — trust me — is damn hard. If they want to make it a challenge…
*what kind of a message does this send to the people CPA serves — people with spinal cord injuries? Does it signal people with disabilities are not really listened to?
•why can’t CPA promote people with disabilities, doing their own thing, living their daily lives with ease, dignity and creativity — not to mention blood, sweat and tears? Why are they silenced for the day, when their story could be so powerful?
•What tangible legislation for accessibility has been created because of previous years?
•Why not have someone without a disability shadow a CPA client for a day and learn how to help someone in a wheelchair up curbs, down steps, in and out of vehicles, threw crowds? Wouldn’t that be a better method of working together?
•Why is CPA digging into the past for an event rather than having one to reflect 2013?
I could go on and on. I don’t want to rain on the CPA Chair Leaders parade. I just hope it snows in Edmonton Friday.
Facebook comment from Braden Hirsch
Very good comments Cam! It is a big leap to think that awareness and understanding is enhanced by having able bodied persons ride wheelchairs for a period of time during one day. In my opinion it was marginally useful 40 years ago-- so why would it work today? I am also disappointed that CPA is involved with this.
Another comment from Renee Laporte ...
Hear hear! They held this same sort of "event" at MacEwan a few months ago. As an able-bodied person supporting a student who uses a wheelchair there, it made me frustrated to see the participants laughing and having fun wheeling around the campus (though with the best intentions of getting a glimpse of life in a wheelchair) while my student and I struggle to reach the automatic door button placed behind garbage cans and having to walk to the next building to find a washroom we can both enter. Consulting those who are "living it" would be more meaningful and productive.
A Facebook comment from Mel Tauber
here"s my thought: if they really have to put "able bodied people in wheelchairs, why make it so easy for them??? tie one of their hands on their back and make them sit on one of their lower legs (of course opposite one of the tied hand) AND THEN let them wheel down an ice covered ramp ... give them at least ONE of the challenges "disabled" people have to go through every day ... let them set up a DATS pickup, let them ride the ETS all by themselves, let them roam through the streets without a companion who will nicely open every door for them ... to just put someone in a wheelchair for a day in a building with people who will assist them because they know about the event ain't gonna bring change ... try to walk blind for a day or be deaf, or try to come around only with one leg orm arm functioning ... for heavens be creative and give us "able bodied" a challenge and don't cater to us so that we maybe maybe one day would understand, because the majority never will, because most people in our days lack one major thing: COMPASSION AND IMAGINATION!
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