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Alberta’s Health & Lifestyle Magazine for People with Spinal Cord Injuries & Other Physical Disabilities

Spring 2011

SETTING SAIL Join Ryan Yeardon’s journey across the oceans in a sport anyone can enjoy

Publications Mail Agreement #40011327


Spring 2011 Volume 26 Number 2



18 Taking to the Sea


Editorial Rick Hansen’s 25th Anniversary Relay

5 Inbox

Executive Editor.........................Larry Pempeit Assistant Editor.........................Betty MacIsaac Layout/Design....................................Aaron Yeo

Spinal Columns is published four times a year by the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta). Advertising rates available upon request. Ideas, submissions, requests, suggestions and letters are always welcome. Address them to: The Editor, Spinal Columns Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) #305, 11010 - 101 Street Edmonton, Alberta T5H 4B9 (780) 424-6312

Ryan Yeardon’s sailing adventures have led him to training with the paralympic team for a chance to compete in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. FEATURE STORY

24 Spread Your Wings and Fly Away

Material printed in Spinal Columns may not be reproduced without written permission from the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta). We neither endorse nor guarantee any of the products or services advertised within Spinal Columns. Readers are strongly urged to thoroughly investigate products/companies before purchase. Spinal Columns is available in alternate formats by contacting our office as listed above.

ISSN 1195-5767

Meet the Staff CPA (Alberta) Staff Profiles


In your Community In the News


On Your Behalf CPA (Alberta) Advocacy Surfing for Solutions

Innovations 10 Can You Build It? 11 5 Simple Things FitZone 12 Exploring the Countryside Memoriam 13 A G reat Loss for Student s with SCI Features 14 Universal Office Design 16 Home Improvements 22 The Hotchkiss Brain Institute Thanks 26 The Red Carpet Affair Aboriginal 28 A Mother in Transition Opinion 29 From My Perspective` Service 30 Tr a n s l a t i o n a l R e s e a r c h i n Alberta

Publications Mail Agreement #40011327 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) #305, 11010 - 101 Street Edmonton, AB T5H 4B9 E-Mail:


Regions 32 What’s New in Alberta

Kar y Wright takes advantage of the spring beauty and explores the skies in a glider.

Service 34 SCI Alberta Strategy Update 36 Barrier-Free Medical Services 37 LifeFit in Grande Prairie Travel 38 An RV for Everyone PSA Summer Camps Spinal Columns




ongratulations to Rick Hansen! The 25th Anniversary of Hansen’s Man in Motion World Tour comes to Alberta in the form of a relay to start off this fall. Twenty-five years ago, inspired to make a difference in the lives of others with spinal cord injuries, Hansen set out on his legendary Man in Motion World Tour. For two years, from 1985-1987, Rick wheeled more than 40,000 kilometres through 34 countries, raising over $26 million to help those with SCI. In the years since, the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Rick Hansen Institute have worked with government agencies, researchers, health care professionals, community service providers, such as the Canadian Paraplegic Association, and wheelchair sport organizations, to create remarkable advances in care and opportunities for individuals with SCI. The Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay will be an exciting and inspiring journey that begins on August 24th, 2011, in Cape Spear, near St. John’s, N.L. The relay will travel west across Canada for nine months before its conclusion in Vancouver, B.C. on May 22, 2012, retracing the Canadian portion of the original Man in Motion World Tour. With participants either walking or wheeling, over 7,000 Canadians will pass the singular Rick Hansen Medal to each other, as they weave their way across the country. The Rick Hansen Medal created by the Royal Canadian Mint is a symbol of its namesake and his inspiring story of courage, determination and call to action for each of us to make a difference in our communities. Relay participants will embody the values of determination and excellence and be selected to participate through a national public contest. These difference makers will carry the Rick Hansen Medal across the country, and their stories will showcase the difference they have made in their communities, and remind us that we can all become powerful champions of change, by working together, building a stronger country and world. Each relay day will conclude with an End of Day Celebration in select communities. These celebrations will provide the opportunity for communities to come together, recognize local difference makers, raise awareness about accessibility, celebrate progress that has been made, and inspire a new generation to take action. The relay will reach southeast Alberta in mid-February, continue to Calgary, head north to Edmonton, and then exit the province in mid-March via Highway 16 in Jasper. Many members of CPA (Alberta) demonstrate the attributes of difference makers every day, and so I encourage you to get involved by applying to be a medal carrier—celebrating your accomplishments, or by participating in the End of Day Celebrations. CPA (Alberta) will be actively participating in each of the events associated with the relay in Alberta. We look forward to your enthusiasm and support. Please let us know if you wish to get involved as a volunteer at the local level. Let’s make this relay truly memorable for all! Teren Clarke

Executive Director CPA (Alberta)

4sSpinal Columns

Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) Toll Free: 1-888-654-5444 Find us on Facebook and become a fan! Watch videos on our Youtube channel: HEAD OFFICE #305, 11010 - 101 Street Edmonton, Alberta T5H 4B9 Telephone: (780) 424-6312 Fax: (780) 424-6313 E-mail: Executive Director: Teren Clarke SOUTHERN DISTRICT OFFICE 5211 4 Street NE Calgary, AB T2K 6J5 Telephone: (403) 228-3001 Fax: (403) 229-4271 E-mail: RED DEER OFFICE #103, 4719 - 48th Avenue Red Deer, Alberta T4N 3T1 Telephone: (403) 341-5060 Fax: (403) 343-1630 E-mail: GRANDE PRAIRIE OFFICE #104, 9715 - 105 Street Grande Prairie, Alberta T8V 7X7 Telephone: (780) 532-3305 Fax: (780) 539-3567 E-mail: LETHBRIDGE OFFICE #360, 515 - 7th Street South Lethbridge, Alberta T1J 2G8 Telephone: (403) 327-7577 Fax: (403) 320-0269 E-mail: MEDICINE HAT OFFICE 26-419 3rd Street SE Medicine Hat, Alberta T1A 0G9 Telephone: (403) 504-4001 Fax: (403) 504-5172 E-mail: ST. PAUL OFFICE Box 653 St. Paul, AB T0A 3A0 Telephone: (780) 645-7147 Fax: (780) 645-5141 E-mail: LLOYDMINSTER OFFICE 4419 52 Avenue, Lloydminster, AB T9V 0Y8 Tel & Fax: (780) 875-1046 E-mail: FORT McMURRAY Gregoire Park Centre 194 Grenfell Crescent Fort McMurray, AB T9H 2M6 Tel: (780) 743-0307 Fax: (780) 743-4563 E-mail: CPA (Alberta) BOARD OF DIRECTORS Dale Williams, Chair Aaron Miller, Vice Chair Martin Purvis, Past Chair Scott Sankey, Treasurer Maxwell Brunette Lisa Crown Harvey J. DeCock Kent Hehr Bill Hendsbee Timothy Hill Ray Royer Ned Shillington Eleanor Sugarman


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Hello Friends, Well if you think that things can’t get worse in my life, it did. In the last few months I’ve tried to hire Canadian caregivers. Disaster! After three thorough interviews and three training and orientation sessions, two caregivers left. Last week the third caregiver got sick and had other complications in her life. As a result, she left me stranded. She didn’t show up for her shift nor did she call. I didn’t know what to do. My other caregiver was on her honeymoon but came back to help me. Now that’s dedication! I’m on a program under Alberta Health and Wellness called Self-Managed Care. There is no emergency backup pool of workers for people on this program. The advocacy community has tried for years to have this initiated but they’ve had no luck. I was fortunate to have a friend who was able to help me. I even had to ask my ex to help me. He did, which was a very awkward yet humbling situation for me. I am writing this letter hoping that someone would know of a caregiver to fill this position. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Anonymous

Dear Editor: In response to the article “Far from the Best Seats in the House” in the winter issue, I agree that seating in both facilities is limited, and it is a pain in the butt to have to call Ticketmaster and wait for an operator to place your ticket order. But when describing Rexall Place you should have mentioned that there are absolutely no infringements on your view of the ice or the stage and that if you ask, nine times out of 10, one or two extra people are allowed to join you and your attendant, though they have to stand behind you to watch the ice or the stage. In my last 13 years attending Rexall Place I have found it to be extremely accessible, complete with a separate accessible washroom and courteous and knowledgeable staff. Thank you, Anonymous Have something on your mind you’d like to talk about? Need to let people know something important? Want to give us feedback on a specific article, or Spinal Columns as a whole? Send us your comments to and we may publish it in an upcoming issue! Spinal Columns





Toby Redfern has worked with CPA (Alberta) for five years as Aboriginal Services Coordinator. Within that time Toby has built strong relations with Treaty 7 membership—more than 100 clients—as well as health professionals and stakeholders alike. In September 2010 Toby was appointed interim team leader for the Calgary office and hit the ground running. As he balances workload both as Team Leader and Aboriginal Services Coordinator, the prospects for the Calgary office are bright. With a new resource room, active living facility, and state-of-the-art wait area being developed for the Calgary office, 2011 is shaping up to be a great year. In his spare time, Toby is active with his music and philanthropy. With an exciting new 12-track album on its way, as well as a mini-tour of Canada, the excitement is beginning to build around his music endeavors. Toby has been waiting for his two children, Mason and Brody, as well his wife, Tara, to reach a point in their lives where they fully understand the impact of living with a musician.



The Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) will be holding its Annual General Meeting and Regional Recognition Awards Luncheon on June 11, 2011 at the Best Western Port O’Call Hotel, 1935 McKnight Boulevard NE, Calgary. The Awards Lunch will be held at 11:30 a.m. and the Annual General Meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. With respect to the Annual General Meeting and nominations to the Board of Directors of CPA (Alberta), please forward your nomination(s) to the Chair of the Nominating Committee, c/o CPA (Alberta) at the Edmonton office. Nominations must be in writing and signed by five members of the association at large, contain the nominee’s written consent, and be received at the Edmonton office 48 hours prior to the start of the Annual General Meeting. If you would like to attend, please RSVP by May 30, 2011 to Corina Voogd at (780) 424-6312, ext. 2223 or via e-mail at


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Shirley Jago is one of our Sunny South Girls! She started working with CPA (Alberta) in Medicine Hat in the fall of 2008 as Community Development Coordinator. She moved to “the Hat” in 1997 after living in remote communities in northern Alberta for 12 years. Advocating inclusion for persons with disabilities through various non-profit organizations and volunteer positions is Shirley’s passion. Shirley is also a Life Skills Coach who practises what she preaches in her work at the Canadian Mental Health Association, Medicine Hat College, and Community Employment Services. She is also a talented registered massage therapist and knows this is the real reason Doug and Sue hired her! Shirley is the proud mother of Sydney, a Grade 11 student who has already launched on her life’s journey. Shirley and Sydney are involved in 4-H and enjoy many other volunteer opportunities, and try not to let their quiet reserve get in the way of having a little fun.

CAREGIVER GROUPS If you are interested in joining a Caregiver Group, contact Lori Simon of the Alberta Caregivers Association at (780) 453-5088 or for groups outside of Edmonton, or if you’d like to start your own.


Edgar Jackson has been a Client Services Coordinator since 2005 in the Edmonton office and a volunteer five years prior to that. Edgar is very involved in the disability community taking part in many events, such as the planning committee for the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion. Edgar has participated in studies at the University of Alberta that have allowed him to walk short distances with a cane and longer distances with Lofstrand crutches. A dedicated speaker for the United Way of the Capital Regionfor over six years, Edgar won the Kathleen Huber Outstanding Speaker award and was a finalist four times. Returning to the University of Alberta, Edgar completed Occupational Health and Safety, and then received certification as an external auditor from Enform and started his own business, called Safety One 2001, Inc. He was appointed by ministerial order to the Safety Codes Council as a member of the barrier-free subcouncil and is now in his third and final term. “I was privileged to be part of the team that initiated having the CPA contact clients at both the University of Alberta and Royal Alexandra hospitals as soon as they are ready prior to entering the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. We have a good working relationship with both hospitals and are able to share our expertise with clients much sooner and encourage them to embrace life after a spinal cord injury,” Edgar said.

Dylan Adkins has been working with the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) since June 2009 as a Client Services Coordinator in Lethbridge and says he has been enjoying every minute of it. Working with CPA (Alberta) has given Dylan the opportunity to meet many different people who want to help make a difference in their respective communities. Dylan also enjoys working with members and clients, as he says they are all great people. His favourite part of the job is that there is always something new to learn and try, which really keeps things interesting. Dylan has a degree in anthropology and a degree in social work and says CPA (Alberta) has provided him the opportunity to use the skills he learned while in school. An admitted sports junkie, Dylan enjoys playing softball in his spare time, and has been coaching since he was 14. He attributes much of his success to his father, who taught Dylan many of the things he knows. An avid adventurer, Dylan also loves being outside, and in the last few years has started kayaking in the summer. He likes rowing on lakes, but finds it’s the rivers that really provide the adrenaline rush. On a special note, this year Dylan is getting married to his fiancée, Shana McNab of Lethbridge, Alberta.

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CPA (Alberta) recently became a member of the Home for Life Committee, a Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and City of Edmonton committee whose objective is to increase accessible and affordable housing for Edmonton’s senior population. Many of the committee’s objectives are in line with those of CPA (Alberta) with respect to the development of barrier-free and adaptable housing. The committee is currently developing a classification system to promote development of barrier-free housing. The Boyle Renaissance project that will provide 30 new wheelchair-adapted apartments for people of aboriginal descent is almost at the request-for-proposals stage. It is anticipated that a development contract will be signed by the end of summer. CPA (Alberta) is seeking prospective tenants to live in the building which will be located at 95 St. and 104 Ave., Edmonton. If you are interested in this project, contact Larry Pempeit at the Edmonton office at (780) 424-6312 or larry. CPA (Alberta) is working with three task teams created by the Alberta Spinal Cord Injury Solutions Alliance. One of these teams is the Housing Task Team which is developing a Builders Award program to recognize developers who build housing that exceeds the building code in terms of universal design and accessibility.

S urfing

Planning a trip or your next adventure and need some inspiration or advice? Look no further than! Abilitytrip is a centralized resource for accessible travel information—a travel guide—for disabled travelers and their companions. Started by a quadriplegic and his wife in 1993, Abilitytrip was launched so that people with disabilities could share travel information. Even if you don’t have an exotic trip in your future, you might enjoy checking out some of the numerous trip reports provided on this website.

Operated jointly by the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) and the United Spinal Association, Spinal Cord Central is a web-based resource for people with spinal cord injury as well their friends and families. The website has a large selection of ”knowledge books” covering everything


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CPA (Alberta) is an active member of the City of Edmonton Accessibility Committee that recommends accessibility changes to City of Edmonton buildings. Most of these buildings are recreational in nature. Last year the City of Edmonton made improvements to numerous recreational facilities. CPA (Alberta) is a member of the Edmonton International Airport Accessibility Committee. The Edmonton International Airport is now well into expanding their airport terminal. Current plans are to double the existing size of the airport. CPA (Alberta) is working with this committee to ensure all areas meet universal design standards.


A major addition is underway for the CPA (Alberta) website. Thanks to funding through the Alberta Spinal Cord Injury Solutions Alliance, an online database of community resources is being developed which will include information for three key areas: technical resources and aids, attendant care, and housing. It is hoped that the site will be launched by mid-to-late September. This year marks the 50th anniversary for CPA (Alber ta). In commemoration of this impor tant date in our history, we will be hosting a number of events, and plans are underway to publish a commemorative issue of Spinal Columns.





S olutions

from locating a good doctor to starting a career.


Started in 2003, this is a fun and informative website to promote disability awareness using apparel featuring spinal cord injury humour. The site has since grown organically into something larger, and now covers SCI anatomy, a discussion forum, and research, as well as a spinal-cord-orientated links directory. While this website is based in the UK, there is a lot of information that may be useful to you, no matter where you live.


This website offers information about different types of wheelchairs (manual, electric, travel, sports), athletes, and articles relating to each of these areas of focus. It is updated quite often with articles and news stories.

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i nnovations

Can You Build It?


Lending a Helping Hand

ike Otto, a mechanical engineer-in-training, and Kristi Gurski, an occupational therapy student at the University of Alberta, are determined to develop a successful Edmonton chapter of the Tetra Society of North America. Otto, a graduate from the U of A engineering program, explained his interest in the society. “It’s a great way for engineers to use their creative design talents to help people with disabilities,” he said. Gurski said that she “is excited to be involved in projects that will enable people to participate in activities they find meaningful.” The Tetra Society of North America is a non-profit organization that recruits skilled volunteers to create customized assistive devices for people with physical disabilities - devices that cannot be met through commercial items. Their volunteer base includes engineers, technicians, and healthcare professionals, including occupational and physical therapists. Tetra volunteers create unique items that are tailored to the needs of each individual. The cost for materials of assistive devices is generally covered by clients. Mike Otto and Kristi Gurki help build assistive devices. In a recent issue of the Tetra newsletter Gizmo, a few projects were highlighted. One individual who uses a power wheelchair for mobility had a Tetra volunteer develop an LED light system that attaches to the back and sides of his wheelchair to increase visibility when crossing the street at night. This individual had previously been hit when the driver of a vehicle didn’t see him. In another project, volunteers developed a meditation bench that could be used to support an individual who had severe arthritis. The bench offered her the opportunity to transfer in a safe manner. There have been many other devices such as these developed over the past few years. The Tetra Society was founded in 1987 in Vancouver by Sam Sullivan, an individual who is quadriplegic. After his accident he was frustrated by some of the difficulties of everyday activities. After Sullivan wrote a letter to the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia, professional engineer Paul Cermak responded and helped solve a great number of his problems. The design skills of an engineer are a great fit for the specialized problems frequently encountered by those with disabilities. Otto said that the Edmonton chapter of the Tetra Society was started in late 2010 and that they’re currently looking for both volunteers and clients. For more information about the Tetra Society, if you are interested in volunteering, or would like to request assistance, you can visit their website at, or contact the Edmonton chapter coordinator, Mike Otto at


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i nnovations

5 Simple Thingsthat I can’t live without by Barry Lindemann


If you are quadriplegic and can’t open prescription bottles yourself and yet you still want to take medication on your own, look no further than the lowly Tic Tac box for an easy and low-cost solution. Dump out the Tic Tacs, pour in your pills or medication, and you’re all set! A bonus is that you’ll probably even have fresher breath with all the extra Tic Tacs lying around.


With my limited hand function I get really tired of dropping things, like my phone and my remote controls, and having to wait for someone to come by and help me pick them up. One thing I found that really helps me to pick up, move, and use smaller items is to attach a short loop of string to the back of the item, allowing me to grab the item by hooking a finger, stick, or reacher through the loop.


These are another unsung hero of the disability world— imagine the frustration when it comes time to pull a zipper or grab a set of keys when your hands are not cooperating. Just throw a semi-large steel keyring through the little hole that every zipper or key has and then any finger can usually do the trick when a helping hand isn’t around. A bonus is that if your keys hit the ground, a magnet can help you get them back as well.

productive day and it’s hello to independence. It might sound funny but I take it as a personal challenge to try to pick up as many items off the floor as I can by myself, even though it can be pretty frustrating. And while I never was much of a fisherman before I was hurt—trying to get what I need picked up or “on the hook” can sometimes be a little fun too.


Now I know this item is the one on my list that you’ll probably scratch your head about, but when my aunt gave me my first one, it changed my life. A yoga bolster is just a round firm pillow about two feet long. I use it when I go to sleep at night to keep my feet up and get the swelling to go down in my legs and ankles. What’s even better is that during the day when I need a little rest and don’t want to have someone transfer me to bed, I just rest one end on my knees, the other end under my chin to take the weight off my neck and shoulders, and voilà, instant relaxation! I just shut my eyes and 15 minutes later I’m a rested new man! Trust me, you’ll love it too! Know of a new or innovative product that you think other Spinal Columns readers would like to hear about? Send us a description and company contact information to and we may publish a profile in an upcoming issue!


Look no further than your local dry cleaner for this next handy little helper. The best thing about wire coat hangers is that you can bend them into any shape you need to help you get those (sometimes desperately needed) extra few inches of reach. Give me a wire coat hanger and throw a loop of string or a steel ring on a lot of the everyday items that I need to get through a Spinal Columns



Exploring the Countryside by Amy MacKinnon


ust... a little bit... more. She reaches the top of the hill, and prepares to coast along the smooth asphalt as fast as she can down the other side. She tries to make it at least halfway up the next hill before she has to expend effort again. Just long enough to catch her breath while she whizzes past the most gorgeous part of the ride; where the sun shines on the water, lighting up the whole river valley, showcasing the vibrant colours of summer in the trees and on the river bank. The best part of her week is the day she meets with her friends and other active-minded people to hand cycle on the trails. Don’t look down, don’t...look...down, he tells himself as he reaches for the home stretch. He’s almost at the top, where he can then ring the bell; “Down, please!” Using a chair, he never thought he’d ever be this high without it, but once he swallows the lump in his throat and looks down, he can see little people looking up at him, the rope he’s attached to, and a little, unoccupied chair off to the side. He’s breathing hard and his arms are tired, but he has improved so much since the first day of the rock climbing program he signed up for a few weeks ago. Challenge. Friends. Laughter. Sunshine. You will find all of this when you choose to participate in all the great outdoors has to offer. Most of us in Alberta have had more winter than we care for, and are just itching to get out of the house for a good ol’ dose of vitamin D. While you’re at it, why not abandon the concrete jungles in favour of a real one? Experience nature the way it was meant to be experienced: by getting yourself right in the thick of it. Go on an adventure in a trailrider, or kayak, canoe, hand cycle, or rock climb. I can rock climb? Yes, you can. Opportunities to participate in a variety of outdoor activities are popping up all over Alberta, a place known around the world for just that, as well as for beautiful scenery, only to be enjoyed by those who venture outside. The Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) in Edmonton, in conjunction with many other organizations, is pleased to introduce the Outdoor Adventures program, de-


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veloped for anyone with a physical disability. The program was introduced at the Limelight Film Festival in Edmonton where three films featuring individuals participating in a variety of outdoor activities were showcased. Tony Flores, a member of the national para-kayak team, was there to introduce a film in which he is featured, showing his journey from his first time in a kayak to competing at an international level. Information about what the program has to offer: Hand cycle clinic and weekly rides: starting late May Trailrider excursions: weekly starting in May Trailrider excursions racing series: runners serve as sherpas, and teams will enter a variety of trail races in and around Edmonton. Weekly training starting in May. Indoor rock climbing skill building program: weekly starting early June. Mark Wellman coming to Edmonton: author, filmmaker, paralympian, motivational speaker and avid outdoorsman will talk about his experiences participating in outdoor adventures as a paraplegic. End of May. Outtrips: in all the above activities, planned for late July to August. Other events that give you the opportunity to participate in some of the above activities include: The Adaptive Kananaskis Challenge: August 6-7, 2011. The Adaptive Parkland Challenge, Eagle Point Provincial Park and Blue Rapids Provincial Recreation Area: August 20-21, 2011. Please visit for more information on these two events. Whichever way you like, get out there and take advantage of living in one of the most beautiful nature areas in the world! Happy Adventuring! Please contact Amy MacKinnon at (780) 424-6312 ext. 2231 or via e-mail at for more information.


A Great Loss for Students with SCI

Do You Suffer From “Drop Foot?”

by Kuen Tang


met Marion Vosahlo (née Nicely) nine years ago when I decided to return to the University of Alberta in Edmonton to finish my education degree after a motor vehicle collision which left me quadriplegic. I remember the first time I wheeled into Specialized Support and Disability Services (SSDS). I was greeted by laughter from Marion as she and Pat Sears bounced ideas back and forth about how to help students with disabilities. At that moment my fears and worries disappeared—I had a feeling these two passionate individuals would take good care of my educational needs. Pat became my counselor (followed by Joanne Yardley) throughout my years at the University...with very close support from Marion. When I became the first quadriplegic female to earn an elementary education degree in 2006, SSDS and Marion were there to cheer me on. I credit my success in part to the services provided by SSDS and wonderful supporters such as Marion, Pat, Joanne, and many others. They took away some of the stress of having a disability and took care of the how-to’s, by arranging adaptive equipment, exam accommodations, and funding applications, allowing me to focus on my education. I am but one of the many students with disabilities who graduated from the U of A in large part because of the support from Marion and SSDS over the past 30 years. Marion will be sadly missed. Prior to her retirement in September 2010 as SSDS director, Marion was one of the longest serving members of University Student Services, having been appointed as the Coordinator of Services for Disabled Students in the Office of Student Affairs in July, 1981. Marion passed away on March 24 at the University of Alberta Hospital.

One of the newest treatment options available for foot drop is the WalkAide System. The WalkAide utilizes electrical stimulation which restores specific muscle function. More than simply bracing the foot, WalkAide uses advanced sensor technology to analyze the movement of your leg and foot. It then sends electrical signals to your peroneal nerve, which controls movement in your ankle and foot. These gentle, electrical pulses prompt the muscles to raise your foot at the appropriate time, producing a much more natural and efficient pattern of walking. Although highly advanced, WalkAide is surprisingly small and discreet, and quite easy to use. To inquire if the WalkAide is appropriate for you please call our office.

10733-124th Street Edmonton, AB T5M 0H2 Local : 780-452-5771 Toll-Free: 1-800-387-5053 Web:

The help you want when you need it the most. Pipella Law Serious Personal Injury Lawyers Edward S. Pipella, Q.C., leads a legal team with over 70 years combined experience practicing exclusively in the area of serious personal injury law. Hemiplegia Permanent Disabilities Brain Injury Quadriplegia Paraplegia Multiple Trauma

IN MEMORIAM The Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) would like to recognize the following individuals who have recently passed on. Wauneta Campbell Calgary Gordon Chapman Calgary Mike Dalton Wainwright Chuck Love Medicine Hat Will Smith Calgary Audrey Stechynsky Edmonton Marion Vosahlo Edmonton If you would like to make an In Memoriam donation, see page 15.

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OFFICE DESIGN by Ron Wickman


he office space for the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities is located on the 11th floor of the HSBC Building in downtown Edmonton. Meeting rooms and offices of varying sizes, support spaces, and an accessible washroom are all designed to accommodate as many people as possible in the best way. The office space, completed in 2005, was also designed to accommodate staff members who use wheelchairs and/or who are blind. Upon entering the office space, the most immediate feature is the tremendous spaciousness. The waiting area is extensive, highlighted by light from the west over a low, curving wall and on the north by a wide, open reception area. To the east, directly off the foyer, a main feature that amplifies the spaciousness is a universally designed toilet room in a circular shape. Meeting rooms, offices, and cubicles are comfortably roomy, but secondary to the spaciousness that surround them. The design of wayfinding, or how people orient themselves in a space, is what truly makes the office unique, and creative. The most important feature is the use of one-and-ahalf-meter-wide squares cut into the existing carpet at points where people would need to make a decision to change direction in their path of travel. The squares are made of Marmoleum, a greener, more sustainable variety of linoleum, and provide a colour and texture contrast to assist people with visual disabilities to make positive and purposeful choices in movement. In fact, for people who are blind, the squares allow them to move about completely independently, without the use of a cane or a guide dog. Access to cubicles is reinforced with three-ring grooves cut into the circumference of a wooden handrail, indicating the locations of adjacent cubicles. The handrail detail is unique to this office space, and users would need to be told the purpose of the grooves. A problem that we encountered during construction was the relocation of one of the openings into a cubicle office space. One of the tactile groove sections in the handrail no longer lined up with the cubicle opening.


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Ron Wickman’s design for the office for the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities features many universal design ideas. I find it interesting that in a world of design, architects focus so much on just the visual aesthetics of a detail, which, when completed with great effect or not, generally matters only to the designer and his peers. A universal design detail, however, must not only have beauty but it must work functionally for all users. When a universal design detail is completed incorrectly it will look dumb to everyone. I especially enjoyed working with Diane Bergeron on the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities office project. Bergeron, a staff member who is also blind, gave me great insight into the way persons with visual limitations move about. I found that during the design meetings I had to be describe verbally the layout of the office. I found that I could identify the sequence of spaces in a way that she could understand. I also found that everyone else could better understand my more detailed verbal description of the design as well. Two other positive results of working to make the space easier to use for persons with visual limitations were a tactile floor plan and a view window for Bergeron’s guide dog, Max.

feature The tactile floor plan with raised indicators can be mounted on a wall in the foyer, so visitors can approach it and feel the outlines of the entire office space. One can also feel the texture contrast from the carpet to the Marmoleum squares. Bergeron created Braille labels identifying the various rooms and mounted them on the floor plan. The fact that most of the labels are straight and centered is very impressive to me. The window for Max was relocated from the top of the cubicle partition wall to the bottom so that Max can see people moving by and let Bergeron know when someone is near. The design of the universally designed washroom has an interesting history. The old office was located on the ninth floor of the same building. The universal washroom located on this floor is certainly big enough, but is poorly designed. This is an institutional-looking room; everything is white with no colour contrast. The grab bar beside the toilet is installed incorrectly. It is a poorly conceived space, and I was told at our first meeting to not repeat this mistake. The universal washroom that I designed is a focal feature in the overall design of the office space. Glass blocks allow for natural light to enter the washroom. The door kickplate is organically shaped and uses the same Marmoleum that is used for the flooring contrast pieces. Colour contrast is also used inside the toilet room where the floor meets the wall. In this way, people with low vision can identify the boundaries of the space. Ultimately, this space is a positive blend of function and beauty; the fact that the space is so functional is what makes it so beautiful. Ultimately, the mandate that I was given to design the new Premier’s Council space was to be the best example of “good design,� and not just good universal design. In this way the focus moves away from just designing to accommodate persons with disabilities but designing to accommodating everyone.

If you would like to make an In Memoriam donation to the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta), fill out the form below and mail it to our offices. For other donation options, see page 29 for more information.

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Home Improvements Modifications to a home can make all the difference


n 1971 at the age of 17, Colleen Koch lost control of her truck on a gravel country road, causing her to swerve and suddenly flip. Upside down and unable to move, Koch was with a friend who was able to pull her out through the driver’s window. “Not many people usually go down this road,” Koch said. “So I was there saying to myself ‘Please, let someone come along, and call an ambulance.’” “I stayed awake because I was afraid if I went unconscious I’d die.” Fortunately, a couple soon found her overturned vehicle, and Koch was transported to hospital and then eventually went through months of rehab...learning to live with a spinal cord injury. “I was never depressed about being in a wheelchair,” she said. “I was more concerned, as a quad, about using my hands. I found a doctor in Edmonton who did hand surgery and he transferred some tendons on each hand which was successful in giving me a better grip and pinch.” Koch was soon back to doing the things she loved, such as flower gardening, picking cherries from her tree, and baking and cooking in the kitchen. For Koch, it was important that everything in her home be designed so that she could have maximum independ-


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ence, and like many others before her, she was faced with inaccessible house after inaccessible house. Koch decided there was only one thing to do: custom build. Koch’s first wheelchair accessible home was built on an acreage in Calahoo. After deciding to move to Edmonton, Koch and her husband used their experiences with the Calahoo house to build another wheelchair accessible home about eight years ago. “It’s nice to not have so much yard work to do,” Koch pointed out. “It is a little different in the city, with the space you have.” While her Edmonton home is somewhat smaller than the one she had in Calahoo, one thing it has that she didn’t have previously, is a basement—Koch wasn’t sure what to do with it at first, but eventually she had a stair lift installed. “We never had a basement in Calahoo, so it never really occurred to me that I’d use it,” she said. “But it’s really great, now that I have another living space to use.” Koch loves to bake and cook so she spends much of her time in the kitchen. One major modification was the toe kick, the space between the bottom of the cupboards and the floor, which had been raised to accommodate her feet, letting her get just that inch or two closer to the counter. “They’re set for me at eight inches, but for someone else, it might be different,” she said. It also keeps the cupboards from getting scratched by the footrests on the wheelchair. There is open access underneath the kitchen sink so she can roll right in, and the countertop stove has easy-to-use touch controls. It’s important to note that all the modifications can be claimed as medical expenses for tax purposes. Cutting boards are built into the cabinets, which can slide out when she needs it, and sometimes doubles as a small table for her breakfast. Power outlets are placed conveniently at the edge of the counter, instead of deep inside on the wall. “If I need to put anything on it like my food processor, I can just plug it in there and it’s nice and close. I don’t have to lean across the countertop to plug it in.” Another innovation could be seen in her pantry doors, which swing wide open, as opposed to traditional folding doors. “With bi-fold doors you can never quite reach everything inside,” she said. “All the shelves slide out, too. It’s very handy, I really like it.” With the microwave oven and mixmaster set on shelves in the pantry, Koch is able to pull them out so she does not need to lean forward to reach. It also serves as a safety feature because of balance issues as a quadriplegic. Her oven’s door opens sideways, with a sliding shelf similar to a large cutting board directly underneath, which gives her a quick-and-easy place to place things as she takes them out. Like the sink and pantry shelves, there’s space underneath for Koch to roll in and out. In the bedroom, little changes were made to help with the housework as well. Initially they had carpets in the bedroom, which

feature proved to be an obstacle when making the bed. Not only were they harder to traverse, but her wheelchair often left tire marks and dirt. They eventually chose high-quality laminate over hardwood, making it easier to both wheel on and clean. Apart from the bed and nightstands, the bedroom has no furniture, leaving plenty of space. Patio doors also smartly serve as an emergency exit onto a deck that extends around the back side of the house to the other end. In the bathroom and laundry room, sliding doors were chosen for easier handling. “This way I don’t need to lean so far forward to close the doors,” Koch said. All the other doors have lever handles which make it easier for someone with hand grip to use. For more security, at the front of the house is a tele-doorbell system. Koch is especially proud of it, especially after an incident in Calahoo. “We were broken into while I was at home, laying on the bed. And I couldn’t let anyone know that there was someone home.” With this system, she can answer the door by using the telephone and let people know there’s someone home and even use it to let the visitor in. “It’s a really good safety feature, and I like it a lot,” she said. While these may seem like the big game-changers, there are also many little things that make Koch’s house more comfortable. In addition to power outlets built at a higher height (23 inches), light switches and thermostats at a lower height (39 inches), her house features a few more small alterations that make life easier. For example, the slightly raised, front-loading washer and dryer allows her to easier access for doing laundry, and a fold-up ironing board saves space whenever possible. In the bathroom, shelves replace cupboards, and the special faucet is detachable. “It’s the faucet itself that pulls up,” she demonstrated. “Then I

can use it to wash my hair. Also, the plumbing is set far back so I don’t burn my legs on hot pipes. It’s the same at the kitchen sink.” The modifications didn’t happen overnight, but Koch’s openmindedness helped her, her husband, and contractors get the job done the way they wanted. She says she’s always wanted to help design someone else’s house, but in the meantime she’s proud of what she does. “A lot of times I read about people who are lawyers, or something, you know, they’re doing really important things and they’re in wheelchairs, and I’ll look at myself and say, well, ‘I’m just a housewife,’ but you know, I’m a quad housewife. For what I can do, I do really well.” “When I read things about other people, they’re really out there doing things, I’ve got to remind myself that I’m not doing anything that’s not of help to someone. I’m of help to my husband. I’m of help to myself. And I enjoy it.”

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coverstor y

Taking to the Sea by Barry Lindemann


y a n Yeardon has always enjoyed spending time on the water, but it’s just that he thought he needed a motor propelling him to do so. Yeardon grew up in the interior of British Columbia in a town called Merritt where his family was well-established in the community—he still has relatives there today. After being schooled in Prince Rupert on the northern coast of the province, he moved to Vancouver and lived there for seven years where he worked on the waterfront, loading and unloading some of the biggest ships that sail the sea. Looking for a change of scenery, Yeardon moved to Calgary, Alberta, and soon began to enjoy, on his mountain bike, the parks and pathways that the city had to offer. While riding his bike in an inner city park on a beautiful spring day, Yeardon was involved in an accident that left him


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coverstor y of the first guys out on the water and paraplegic at the T4-5 level. before long, after taking classes and Early on in his injury, Yeardon was practicing his sailing techniques, Yearintroduced to the Canadian Paraplegic don decided to challenge the White Sail Association (Alberta). While he was III course—and passed with flying colquite active after being discharged ours. The best thing about passing this from the hospital, Yeardon said his level of sailing courses was that he was interest in sailing started with “an innow able to take other members of the vitation to attend a CPA (Alberta) barcommunity and novice Disabled Sailbecue on the Glenmore reservoir. ing Association members out in boats “I was asked if I wanted to take a by himself. sail on the lake,” Yeardon said. “And Yeardon especially enjoys the Disthat’s when I knew I had found a sport abled Sailing Association (DSA) volI could enjoy and I was definitely unteer program. Last summer he spent interested in learning more.” countless hours takEve n th o u g h i t I fell in love with ing people around was almost midsumsailing in 10 the reservoir as the mer and sailing lesminutes, and I captain of a couple of sons had already differently sized sailstarted for the year, haven’t looked back. boats, often scaring he started going to some of the folks with how fast he could classes that were held a few evenings get the boats to go. He’s learned to love a week to try and learn all that he the sport of sailing and the idea that he could. In that first summer, Yeardon could go almost anywhere in the world learned enough about sailing to become using no fuel. proficient on the water and to pass “I love the challenge and reward his White Sail I and II courses, levels that comes from looking at the sail, of ability measured by the Canadian judging where the wind is coming from, Yachting Association. and making the decision to see how the The next summer Yeardon was one

boat responds,” Yeardon said. He says the DSA boats are very responsive and can be driven just like little go-karts and now he just can’t get enough. As for Yeardon’s future in the sport, he went to his first regatta last year on the open ocean, and finished high among the other competitors. This year he will be heading to Victoria to train and sail with the national disabled sailing team to see if he has what it takes to be a part of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games. Yeardon now sees himself as a sailing ambassador and actively promotes the sport to others. He says he used to be one of the guys who thought sailing was kind of slow and “dumb”; his idea of fun on the water was speeding in motorboats as a youth. Now all that has changed. “I fell in love with sailing in 10 minutes and I haven’t looked back. My only regret is that I wish I had known about it earlier,” he said. “Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you—even if you already have your mind made up that you’re not going to enjoy it.”

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The Hotchkiss Brain Institute by Barry Lindemann


ver since the inception of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) in 2004 at the University of Calgary, training the next generation of neuroscientists has been a focal point. The institute’s activities are centred on enhancing training and opportunities for up and coming researchers. The HBI has played a key role in establishing a number of unique educational neuroscience initiatives in Calgary, which allow young scientists to immerse themselves in brain research from high school right through to post-graduate studies. A key link was established last year, when the first class was enrolled in the University of Calgary’s new undergraduate neuroscience program. The bachelor’s degree program provides enhanced teaching and research activities for a select group of high-achieving students. Students entering the bachelor’s in neuroscience program can now start learning about the brain in their first year of university, with specialized courses, field study experiences, and research lab projects. The HBI is also reaching into high schools in the province to look for the next generation of outstanding students who may have an interest in neuroscience. One way they are accomplishing this is through their participation in and support of the annual Canadian Institute of Health Research National Brain Bee. The Brain Bee is a competition for high school students, fashioned after a traditional spelling bee, except students answer questions about the brain as well as neuroscience research. It is designed to stimulate interest and excitement about brain research. Students study topics on memory, sleep, intelligence, emotion, perception, stress, aging, brain

and the Brain Awareness Week Brain Bee

imaging, neurology, neurotransmitters, genetics, and brain disease (just to list a few) and then they are tested on their knowledge against other students their age, in a fun competition once every year. It’s an exciting opportunity for high school students to learn about the brain and the importance of brain research, as well as meet other students and professors involved in the area who can help them decide if they would like to pursue it further.


The Brain Bee is part of Brain Awareness Week (BAW), which was launched in 1996 by the Society for Neuroscience ( and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (brainweek. Its mission is to increase awareness of neuroscience in the general community. BAW is held every year in March and is celebrated in countries around the world. The Brain Bee, founded by Dr. Norbert Myslinski at the University of Maryland, is focused on the participation of high school students. The Brain Bee is a three-tiered (local, national, and international) competition held around the world. There are 12 other local Brain Bee competitions held across Canada each year and the winners of each of those events (along with Calgary’s Brain Bee Champ) head to McMaster University each May to compete for the right to be called the best Brain Bee competitor in Canada. The first-place champion also gets to represent Canada at the International Brain Bee held every year in the United States, during the annual conference of the American Psychological Association, and is given the opportunity to work as a summer intern in a neuroscience laboratory.

2011 Calgary Brain Bee champion Nathan Lau (center-left) and judges (from left to right) Roger Thompson, Jackie Wamsteeker, and Andy Bulloch.


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Spread Your Wings and Fly Away by Kary Wright


he words “All Out!” are heard from the rear seat. The helper holding the wingtip level swings his free arm in a wide arc, signaling the tow-pilot to apply full throttle. I’m sitting in the front seat of a highperformance two-seat glider, about to experience the ride of a lifetime! You can hear the engine of the Bellanca Scout roar, kicking up grass and dirt as it strains against the rope that attaches it to the glider. In a few seconds we’ve outrun the helper and it’s now up to input from the flight controls to balance our aircraft on a single wheel as it quickly accelerates down the runway. The bumping and banging from the mole hills last a few moments, and then all becomes quiet as the weight of the craft is lifted by the wings, and now we’re flying a few feet above the ground while waiting patiently for the Scout to become airborne. The Scout lifts off and starts a gentle climb straight ahead, with the ground quietly slipping by. John Gruber


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from the rear seat expertly holds the glider in formation directly behind the tow plane, keeping it positioned as if it’s attached by a thread sitting on the horizon ahead of us. The Scout banks gently to the right and we follow suit, and soon we point west and are greeted by a magnificent view of the Rocky Mountains. As we’re towed through rising air currents—thermals—the Scout suddenly balloons up, soon to be followed by us. Other gliders are indicating by radio that they have found good lift in the thermals, which are formed by warm air rising, heated by the ground, and are having no trouble climbing to our limit of 8,000 feet. This is a great sign! At 2,000 feet John pulls the handle to release the towline, and banks hard right, while the Scout rolls left as we separate. Our glider suddenly becomes quiet and peaceful. “OK, do you want control?” asks John from the rear. “Sure do!” I reply while slipping my adapted glove over the stick.

feature “Do you see the Blanik to the North?” he says, motioning to a fellow glider. “Head over there, he’s found lift.” “I see him,” I say, as I bank right and head towards the circling glider. John instructs me to circle in the same direction as the Blanik, and always keep him in sight while constantly scanning for other gliders. Our variometer, which measures our rate of climb, starts to beep excitedly as we enter the thermal, indicating lift, and I bank left to stay in the lift while following the Blanik. We continue tight circles, enjoying our elevator ride and the incredible expanding view. “Our height limit is 8,000 feet due to the Calgary control zone, so let’s head west now,” informs John as we hit our ceiling. We roll out level and head towards the mountains, enjoying a smooth glide straight ahead. South of Black Diamond, a town near Okotoks, we encounter more lift. “If we go south of that gas plant on the left we can climb to 10,000,” John says. “OK,” I reply steering south. As if on queue, we feel a huge bump of lift just past the plant, and circle to take advantage of it. While circling we notice a hawk, enjoying the free ride while turning his head in wonder at this strange silent albatross. “OK, 10,000, let’s head towards Longview!” I hear from the back. In a few minutes we’re over Longview, looking into Kananaskis Country from 10,000 feet! What a view! We’re still encountering lift and I have to shove the stick ahead and fly faster to keep us below our limit. On this day it seems that lift is everywhere! We fly from one cumulus cloud to another, circling underneath to gain altitude. We hear later that one club member flew over seven hours to the Montana border and back! After an hour or so, we decide not to hog the aircraft any longer as others are waiting to fly and we head home. The flying field is probably 15 miles away, but we can glide 30 miles or more if we want, as our glide ratio is better than 30 to 1, or 30 feet of horizontal travel for every foot of altitude! “We’ll use runway 14, join downwind at 1,000 feet above ground,” John instructs as we near the airport. We have to make several large circles to bleed off the extra altitude, but we’re in no hurry to end the flight, and we finally join the circuit. “Cu Nim Black Diamond traffic, Lima Tango Yankee is left downwind runway 14,” I hear as John broadcasts our intentions. I notice a glider on the runway, but John is unfazed as precise spot-landings are the norm for these guys. “I’ll have you fly as much of the circuit as possible,” John says. I fly the downwind leg, watching the runway through the left side to gauge when to turn. At about 500 feet I make the

turn onto our final approach, and then turn control of the glider over to John. Using the spoilers to increase our descent rate, John expertly drops us in from a surprisingly steep angle, and rounds out to a perfect gentle touchdown exactly where he planned...amazing! I’m hooked! It was so much fun that words don’t do it justice. The feeling of absolute freedom was overwhelming— there is no room for a wheelchair in a glider! Since this flight we’ve returned for many more. It’s hard to believe that a gliding club in Black Diamond has a glider specifically adapted to be completely controlled by hand, a lift-equipped golf-cart to lift you into the glider, and a great bunch of helpful club members, and that it is all surprisingly affordable! In fact the first flight is paid for by Freedom’s Wings! There is even a campground on site with power! It is a process of trial and error to adapt gloves to hold the joystick and rudder control, but it is progressing and now I’ve even got a couple of landings under my belt. If anybody wants to take up this wonderful sport, or even go for a joyride to see what it’s all about, the folks at Cu Nim Gliding Club will be more than happy to accommodate. The Edmonton Soaring Club is also equipped with a lift to get us into their gliders. They just don’t have a glider with a hand rudder-control stick as of yet but flying without rudder control works fine—it gives your instructor something to do.

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All that Glitters is Gold

Marie Stelmach, Honourary Patron of the Red Carpet Affair, presents the Christopher Reeve Award to James Sanders

“All that glitters is gold” and a glittering night it was on March 18th when the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) celebrated its Golden Anniversary at the 2011 Red Carpet Affair. A capacity crowd of 500 people celebrated and recognized many accomplishments, starting with the new 50th Anniversary video tribute to CPA (Alberta)’s 50 years of providing services to persons with spinal cord injury and other physical disabilities. Our five biggest supporters each sponsored a decade of progress from the 60’s to the first decade of the 21st century and the Red Carpet Affair paid tribute to their progress and growth along with us over the last half century. Honours also included tributes to Dr. Gary McPherson, former Honourary Co-Chair of the Red Carpet Affair Patron’s Council, who passed away last spring, the re-naming of the Lifetime Achievement Award to the Gary McPherson Lifetime Achievement Award, and the presentation of six annual awards to persons and organizations who have made outstanding contributions to their community. The highlight of these honours was this years’ winner of the Christopher Reeve Award, James Sanders, who spoke eloquently about his adjustments and determination to become a professional actor, writer and producer following his spinal cord injury. Returning to the “glitter and gold” of the evening, our dreams to raise money worthy of a golden anniversary certainly came true. Following months of preparation, organization, ticket sales, sponsorship, auction donations, and some very generous bidders, approximatelly $100,000 was raised in 2011 - the highest amount since the inception of the Red Carpet Affair in 2003.

2011 Award Winners

Honourable Lois Hole Community Development Award

Christopher Reeve Award Presented to James Sanders by Mrs. Marie Stelmach

Ambassador Award Presented to Shamel and Sam Elsayed by Margaret Conquest (Shamel Elsayed shown here)

Presented to Travis McNally by Dale Williams

Percy Wickman Accessibility Award

Gary McPherson Lifetime Achievement Award

Presented to the City of Edmonton for the newly renovated Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre by Ceira and Jayden Wickman (Accepting award: Amarjeet Sohi)

Corporate Leadership Award Presented to Workers’ Compensation Board-Alberta by Weslyn Mather (Accepting award: Marcela Matthew)

Presented to Louise Miller by Dr. Robert Steadward

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A Mother in Transition by Linda Welch


oy Holloway is a mother finding her way home following a motor vehicle accident on September 19th, 2010. Paraplegic at the T9 level, Joy has been at the Foothills Hospital for six months, and finds herself at a turning point with more questions than answers. As her peer mentor, I find our visits

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require as much listening as speaking. Joy looks to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation traditions for solace as she contemplates her future. “I’d like to do beading,” she said. “For my son.” She explained the difference between rodeo and pow-wows, and mentions that the costumes for the grass dance need a lot of beading and fringes. Beading is an art form shared by her mother, in everything from dreamcatchers to earrings and costumes. During her stay at the Foothills, Joy turned to other creative art forms to calm her frustrations. She shows her sliding board, embellished with three traditional style emblems; an eagle wing, a turtle, and two feathers. “My son Reichel’s aboriginal name is Eagle Wing, and I chose the turtle because he loves turtles. The two feathers are for guidance.” When the weight of moving forward causes her too much anxiety, Joy heads down to the wood shop, where she can focus on making things to help her stay focused. Joy still has many steps to take on her journey. Currently faced with moving to the transition wing, Joy cannot hide her disappointment. Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) Peer Coordinator Marilyn Erho explained the benefits of the transition wing, and assured her that CPA (Alberta) would work closely with her to help address her housing concerns. Being home with her son is Joy’s ultimate goal. Joy has often expressed her appreciation of the visits with her peer mentors. “My feelings sometimes seem overwhelming, but when you come I feel so much better.” Joy faces many ups and downs during her recovery period, and continues to find things challenging. She asks tough questions, and appreciates the straightforward, informed answers from those who have dealt with similar issues. “I don’t want to always be looking back at what I had,” she said. “I want to look to the future, and do my best.”




aving a disability, I, personally, have found airline travel to be challenging and not that pleasant an experience. With increased security, less airline staff to help you, more regulations, and a host of other inconveniences, I recently found another challenge that is really

getting my goat! In January I booked a return flight on Air Canada to go to Houston, Texas, as part of a vacation/cruise. Normally I book online and then go through the medical desk—because I use a power wheelchair I need to get their permission to fly. I also need to make arrangements through them if I expect my attendant to fly at the discounted rate. When I spoke with staff at the Air Canada medical desk I was asked for the dimensions of my wheelchair: 36” tall, 35” long, and 26” wide. I was then told I couldn’t fly on the jet on which I was booked—an Embraer 190 (E90), a 93-seat, narrow-body plane. I was told the maximum height of my wheelchair had to be 34 inches. When I asked if they could tilt the wheelchair on its back wheels to go through the luggage door, I

was told they would not tilt the wheelchair, lay the wheelchair on its side, or manipulate it in any way. A further explanation given was that they have had too many damage issues with power chairs. I was told I would need to take another flight on a larger plane. The problem with taking another flight was that I would have to transfer in another city which created a greater hardship for me, as well as a substantial time difference. Their solution was completely unsuitable for me. I took my complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency to see if they could help resolve the situation. They did a great job of mediating between me and Air Canada. In the end, I was able to book onto one of Air Canada’s Alliance partners, Continental Airlines, for a direct flight to Houston. In my opinion, I think Air Canada has a responsibility to me and other individuals who have disabilities, to offer the same opportunities to travel with them that they provide to the general public. If they are unable to do so because the aircraft is inadequate or inappropriate, then they should be responsible for finding me alternate transportation. Why should I have to hunt for an alternate airline and possibly pay a premium price? In far too many cases, airlines are providing shoddy treatment to people with disabilities. We’re paying good money like everyone else. It’s time we started to push back. At least that’s my opinion.

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SCI Alberta:

by Frank Geddes

translational research

that you can be a part of


ver the past few decades, how have solutions been found to problems that are faced by people with spinal cord injury (SCI)? Start with the inspiration and hard work of a lot of dedicated people. Add to that the spirit and tenacity of those with paraplegia and quadriplegia—the enthusiasm with which they embrace the changes in their homes and lifestyles to the perseverance that they demonstrate in their rehabilitation exercises and sports activities. Recognize, as well, the relentless support of key organizations, such as the Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA), the Rick Hansen Institute (RHI), and the Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Centre Society (SCITCS). Resolution of complex SCI issues would be slow and limited, however, if it weren’t for the vital role played by both basic and translational research. Research is the portal through which we peer into the nature of paralysis and related conditions. It holds the key that opens up solutions to common problems—pressure ulcers, spasticity, motion impairment, or the like. Many Alberta researchers have been working in labs to further our understanding of SCI and repair. They often operate behind the scenes, using computer models or animal subjects. For example, a significant discovery at the University of Alberta, recently published in the journal Nature Medicine, shows that in lab rats, neurons below a spinal cord injury maintain spontaneous activity that may lead to motor recovery. That’s good old fashioned basic research, an essential step in our quest to fully understand spinal cord processes. Translational research bridges the gap between basic research and the clinical trials that help develop practical solutions. It’s at this stage that the research involves studies with human participants, such as people with complete or incomplete SCI. Alberta, as it turns out, is a leader in translational SCI research. At the University of Alberta, such research is being conducted in four faculties: the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, and the Faculty of Physical Education. The University of Calgary currently focuses on early-intervention drug and surgery studies. For those efforts to be successful, we need volunteer participants. That’s where you might come in, if you have a complete or incomplete SCI. Sometimes, very little time is required— only one visit to the lab for two or three hours. In other cases, you might be invited to continue using a helpful device for up to two years. How would you like to play computer games at home to help improve hand function? That’s what you might do if you participate in research with a novel neural prosthesis glove. For that study, adults with C5-C6 complete or incomplete SCI are needed. Training is five times a week for an hour each time, over six weeks. And you get to keep the glove at the end of the study! Or how about participating in a study to improve WalkAide


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FES-assisted cycling in arms and legs can improve overground walking to assist with foot drop and other weak muscle groups? If you’re an adult with incomplete SCI who can walk at least 10 meters with a walking aid, such as a cane, walker or crutches, you could use the device regularly at home and keep it for one or two years until a commercial version is available. Not all studies include a piece of equipment that you can take home. In fact, there’s no guarantee that you will benefit directly from a particular study, and in some you definitely won’t. But, you may find that a therapy, apparatus, or drug works or doesn’t work for you. Or you may just contribute information that will help researchers, such as how your nerves or muscles respond to certain drugs. In every case, however, you will know that you have helped contribute to knowledge that may lead to an improvement in the lives of those with SCI. All studies are rigorously reviewed by an independent human ethics review board at the respective university before being allowed to proceed. If you are interested in a study, you will be screened first by telephone and then by an appropriate doctor and, if applicable, a physical therapist to ensure that you can safely participate. Your privacy is always assured, and your participation is voluntary. Usually you receive no pay as a volunteer, but you will be reimbursed for any transportation, parking, and accommodation costs, which means that you don’t have to live in Edmonton or Calgary. Interested? Would you, or someone you know, like to find out more about the research projects and possibilities to participate? Our new website,, has a section just for research participants. There, you can check out current studies and contact the appropriate person if you’d like to participate or merely inquire. Or you can contact the research coordinator, Frank Geddes, by phone at (780) 492-2952 or by e-mail at Let’s build on the inspiration and hard work, the spirit and tenacity, and the relentless support of individuals and organizations by helping to further the excellent translational research in SCI that is being done in Alberta. Be a part of it...let’s keep moving!

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Alberta CALGARY Las Vegas comes to Calgary’s Peer Event On March 5, Calgary’s CPA (Alberta) Peer Program was proud to host a Fun Money Casino and Games night—a great event which would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship of EllisDon Construction. With 80 people in attendance, each guest was given $50,000 in play money and given the green light to win big. They could try their luck at poker, craps, or blackjack. If they wanted to save their money for a sure thing, a live auction took place that only accepted fun money for the items. Donations for the auction were made by The Talisman Centre, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, and Barry’s Las Vegas condo, and prizes were given out for those with the most money at the end of the evening.

EDMONTON Staff Recognition There are lots of activities in the planning stages for the Edmonton Peer Program, such as canoeing, rowing, waterskiing, modified vehicle shows, and more. If you are at all interested, contact Brian McPherson at (780) 424-6312 or at

FORT MCMURRAY Raising Awareness in Winterfest Team Summer Solstice from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Planning and Development Department won the CPA (Alberta) Winter Wheelchair Rally, held as part of Winterfest in Fort McMurray. Sixteen teams of three competed on a cold and windy day to help raise awareness of difficulties faced by people with disabilities during the winter in our community. Wendy Koo, William Czaban, and Sean MacLean finished a gruelling course through ice and snow, up and down ramps, over curbs, along sidewalks, and across streets, with one person in a wheelchair and two assisting. Summer Solstice finished in a time of five minutes and 35 seconds to become Fort McMurray’s first Winter Wheelchair Champions. “It’s vitally important that residents and businesses keep snow and ice off any sidewalks that are beside their property. While we have accessible buses, they aren’t much use if you can’t get to the bus stop,” says Alisha Towsley, Community Development Coordinator for CPA (Alberta). “Everyone should respect accessible parking spots and don’t use them or block them for those who need it. If you tried to get across a parking lot in a wheelchair, you would have a better understanding of the challenge. Celebrate the fact that you can walk a little further and leave the spot for those who can’t.”


While guests were mingling, playing games, or getting food at the buffet table, live entertainment was provided by a threemember band led by CPA (Alberta)’s, Toby Redfern. Excitement and positive energy filled the room throughout the evening. Contact Marilyn Erho at or (403) 228-3001 if you would like more information about the Calgary peer program. Hitmen Game a Big Hit The CPA (Alberta) Peer Program has been given the opportunity to attend two Calgary Hitmen hockey games. Special thanks go to Galleon Energy who supplied our clients with wheelchair accessible seating. Everyone had a great time and appreciate the donation of the tickets.


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Board Chairman, Frank Daskewech of United Way of Grande Prairie & District presents a cheque to the Grande Prairie office of CPA (Alberta). Accepting cheque are Winona Lafreniere and Mieke deGroot.


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n our previous issue, as manager of the Alberta SCI Action Strategy, I provided an update on eight projects that are being undertaken as part of the strategy. One of those projects, designed to introduce a new attendant care training program to the province, has just undergone a significant—and exciting—change of direction. Rather than contracting the Independent Living Resource Centre (ILRC) in Winnipeg to deliver their “PACE” program, stakeholders have decided to develop their own “made in Alberta” model. Following the initial concept workshop with the ILRC, the stakeholders in attendance from various disability communities came to realize that their needs would be better served by developing and implementing an Alberta Attendant Training program rather than utilizing the PACE model. CPA (Alberta) has agreed to take the lead on this program, but the process is very much a collaborative effort. Representatives from Residential Aide Placement Services, Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities, Creekside Support Services, and the Grande Prairie Residential Society are working with consumers and CPA (Alberta) to design and deliver a demonstration project, beginning in late fall, 2011. The group met in March to outline the curriculum content.


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“We’re thrilled to be working on a home-grown solution to such a serious and persistent problem as the shortage of paid caregivers,” said Teren Clarke, Executive Director of CPA (Alberta). “With so many skilled and passionate community partners working together, we’re confident we can create a program that will help fill this gap and provide people on self-managed care with better access to caregivers who understand their needs and are willing to take direction from them.” The willingness and ability to take direction from consumers is at the heart of the independent living philosophy that will drive the new attendant care training program. In addition, the program will be more affordable and shorter in duration than current programs. “We’re intending for the program to appeal to new immigrants, students, stay-at-home moms, people who are semi-retired, and anyone else who is looking for flexible employment or an entry-level position into the health-care field,” said Kristie Coulombe, project coordinator. The curriculum is currently in the design phase, with the first demonstration scheduled for late fall of 2011. For more information, contact Heather Lissel at, or Kristie Coulombe at or over the phone at (780) 424-6312.

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Barrier-Free Health and Medical Services by Travis Grant


hroughout the years, the Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD) has heard people with disabilities express frustration over barriers to health care in Alberta. Some experience physical barriers, others encounter communication barriers, and many feel they are not given enough time with their doctor to have their complex needs met. But this is only a broad description of the barriers. Indeed, the issues are deeper and more complex. In February 2009, ACCD received a grant from the Government of Alberta’s Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund for a project titled Barrier-Free Health and Medical Services in Alberta. ACCD recruited an advisory committee consisting of health and medical professionals, government employees, and stakeholders from the disability community to assist with the project. One key way in which the advisory committee assisted the project was by helping to determine the scope, so that our research would be manageable and the results meaningful. Since that time, we have completed an extensive literature review, distributed surveys to people with disabilities and medical professionals, held community consultations, and conducted site audits. Overall, we found that people with disabilities are happy with their access to the province’s health and medical services. However, our project noted similar barriers occurring throughout the province, in both rural and urban settings.


The biggest transportation barriers were cost, coordination of schedules, and arranging transportation following discharge from emergency rooms. For example, some of the study’s participants talked about the strict pick-up and drop-off schedule of specialized transit systems, such as DATS, and how they do not work with medical appointments that run late. There were also concerns about being dropped off at an emergency room by an ambulance and having to find a way home after being released. Oftentimes, the only option for people who find themselves in this situation is to take a cab, which can be expensive, especially if the person is on income supports.


A lack of communications services is a common barrier. People who are deaf or hard of hearing said their access to health and medical services in the province would improve if interpretive services were available. People felt that written instructions were not good enough, since communication barriers still existed when patients wanted to ask questions of their doctors. Those who are blind or visually impaired said a lack of braille on written materials and signage was a major barrier.


Attitudinal barriers are created and maintained by the low expectations of what people with disabilities can and cannot do.


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People often have perceptions that those who have a disability are burdens, and generally misunderstand what disability is. They perceive people with disabilities as being unable to accomplish various activities, such as seeking employment and pursuing educational opportunities. Health and medical services in Alberta are not entirely free of attitudinal barriers and the result is a negative impact on people with disabilities.


Doctors are not able to spend as much time with patients as they did in the past. Many doctors’ offices have a one-issueper-appointment policy in place, to ensure that the largest possible number of patients can be seen. For some, this might not be problem, but for people with disabilities who have complex health issues, one-issue appointments are not enough. ACCD’s study discovered a need for a greater amount of appointment time for people with disabilities.


With a shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas, getting a doctor is difficult. But for people with disabilities, the problem is even harder, since doctors are not always willing to take on the added work of complex health issues that people with disabilities sometimes have.


Finally, physical barriers often prevent access to health and medical services. ACCD’s study found a variety of barriers, ranging from the design of parking areas, paths of travel, and washrooms, to inaccessible medical equipment, like exam tables that cannot be lowered, and scales that cannot accommodate wheelchairs users. ACCD’s Barrier-Free Health and Medical Services in Alberta project revealed a series of complex barriers that are inextricably linked through policy, infrastructure, and a lack of awareness. Alberta’s health care system is reliant on budgets and human resources, while at the same time, it attempts to meet the needs of the diverse population it serves. In other words, creating a system that is efficient, sustainable, and equitable is no simple task. Based on the project’s findings, ACCD developed a list of recommendations which is included in our final report. We are currently meeting with interested parties – including elected officials, professionals who work in the health system, and various organizations – to discuss the findings and to determine ways in which we can work together to improve access to health and medical services in Alberta. For more information on ACCD’s Barrier-free Health and Medical Services in Alberta project, contact our Edmonton office at (780) 488-9088 or toll free at 1-800-387-2514. You can also reach us by e-mail at You can access the final document on ACCD’s web page at


LIFEFITinGrand Prairie by Winona Lafreniere and Sheila Fincaryk


ifeFit is a new inclusive recreational program currently being offered in Grande Prairie. The goal of LifeFit is to provide individuals with spinal cord injury and other physical disabilities the opportunity to participate in various recreation, sport, fitness, and wellness activities. Through a partnership with the Wolverines Wheelchair Sports Association and the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) in Grande Prairie, the program is offered once a week to local participants free-of-charge. Funding for this two-year program was obtained through a grant from the Alberta SCI Solutions Fund.

Left to right, Sarah Klassen, Allicia Westad, Dale Williams, Cody Shumaker On September 25 and 26, 2010, the Winter Activities Launch was held. It was a two-day event where nineteen people participated in adapted recreational activities. The focus was on introducing new activities that challenged participants to be adventurous and open-minded in their attitudes towards opportunities for active living. When we introduced new activities, some initially reluctant people were very surprised at how much they enjoyed the experience. It was a great weekend filled with fun and interaction. It began at the Wapiti Shooters Club where the participants used shotguns to hit sporting clays. Everyone had multiple chances to shoot from various stations and positions, and a good time was had by all. We had a light lunch before we headed to the Coca-Cola Centre for skating, sledge hockey, and broomball. We had a few more participants join us in the afternoon for the arena sports. Participants, family members, instructors, and staff all enjoyed an afternoon of fun. By offering a wider variety of activities over the course of the day, each individual becomes more passionate and committed to participating on an ongoing basis. Travis McNally, one of the participants, said the event “raised awareness and brought out individuals of all ages to explore a variety of challenging sports, and it was a great workout and a lot of fun.”

The second day events were held in the gyms at the Grande Prairie Composite High School. Participants were exposed to seated yoga, courtesy of guest instructor Dee Bell. Following yoga, Sarah Klassen from Explosion Dance joined us to teach seated dance. They were crumping and spinning and grooving for the hour-long session. While the adults met for the Wolverines’Annual General Meeting, the youth played wheel-

chair basketball. Shani Ray won the door prize, a $250 Future Shop gift card. “Since the program began, it has increased my knowledge of the variety of adaptive sports and improved my health. It has also given me a chance to interact with others facing similar challenges,” said Mildred Sanderson, a participant of the LifeFit program. LifeFit continues to be held on Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m. at the Leisure Centre in Grande Prairie. We welcome new participants with physical disabilities to join us for cardio, strength training, education, fun, and socialization with peers and staff. For more information, contact Sheila of the Wolverines at (780) 402-3331 or e-mail:

Left to right, Cody Shumaker, Dale Williams, Allicia Westad, Winona Lafreniere, and Tyler Horrocks enjoy a game of sledge hockey.

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by Zachary Weeks

ith winter well behind us, it’s almost impossible not to think of the summer months ahead. What comes to mind are warm nights sitting around a campfire relaxing with family and friends and indulging in our favourite snacks, surrounded by nature. This is what I remember from my summers as a young boy. I loved camping. As I grew from a young boy with a physical disability into a young man with a physical disability, this changed. I became taller and heavier, making it more difficult to transfer and harder to get me and my chair into our trailer. Camping simply wasn’t what it used to be. What was supposed to be a nice getaway was now an inconvenience. I am happy to say there are now more options available to individuals with disabilities who want to enjoy the outdoors. At a recent RV show in Red Deer, I stumbled across an article which featured a fully modified RV. Newmar has built an RV from the ground up, specifically focusing on the needs of those with physical disabilities and reduced mobility. The fully wheelchairaccessible motorhome boasts a variety of features, including an on-board wheelchair lift, lower kitchen counters, roll-in shower, easy access to sinks, wide doorways, and extra-wide aisles. The Newmar Allstar 4188 is available from North Trail RV Center. Check out their website at wheelchair_accessible_motorhomes.

PSA Summer Day Camps


re you looking for an exciting summer camp where you can socialize, be active and hang around energetic, silly staff, and great participants all day? Well look no further! The Paralympic Sports Association One-For-All Summer Day Camps are all about meeting friends, going on field trips, trying new things, and participating in physical activities, disguised as fun, in order to promote the campers to be active in a way that does not seem like exercise. Our hope is that participants will try something familiar or something new, realize they enjoy it, and make the social or physical activity a habitual part of their lives. Each day camp will be unique from the next, and every camp is theme-based so you will know which ones are perfect for you! The day camps (8 in total) run each week beginning July 4-August 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. In 2010, we took a road trip to the Reynolds Alberta Museum and made our own set of pilot goggles, created our own relay race courses, tried archery, made Survivor team costumes, swam in the fountain and smashed a piñata at the Legislature! These are just a few examples of what your summer at a PSA camp might look like. Our goal is to create an atmosphere where creativity and participation in fun social and physical activity is applauded and rewarded. Come and join us for a one week adventure, or maybe we’ll see you all summer long—your choice!


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For more information, contact Suzanne Harrison, program coordinator, at, or call (780) 439-8687.

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Edmonton | Red Deer

Calgary | Fort McMurray Spinal Columns


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$5,200,000 - Spinal cord injury (quadriplegia) resulting from


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In addition to Alberta’s leading spinal cord and brain injury settlements (see above) our legal team has established precedents in cases involving brain injury, whiplash, chronic pain, TMJ injury and fibromyalgia.

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Spinal Columns: Spring 2011 Volume 26 Number 2