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

Summer 2012

AFRICA:

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LIFECHANGING JOURNEY Publications Mail Agreement #40011327


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Summer 2012 Volume 27 Number 3

DEPARTMENTS

COVER STORY

16 A Life-Changing Journey

4 Editorial 6

In the News

9

Meet the Staff

10 CPA (Alberta) Advocacy Feature 13 Emergency Preparedness 15 Diversity: A Rainbow of Colours Opinion 19 From My Perspective

Editor............................ Betty MacIsaac Assistant Editors..........Chris Brainerd/ Zachary Weeks Layout/Design.............Kyle Thompson

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

Health 22 New Chair in SCI Research 24 Sexuality and Self-Advocacy Fitzone 26 Alberta in the Summer Vahen King’s memorable experiences in Uganda. FEATURE STORY

14 Gone Fishin’

Community 28 The Three Ps 29 Do Your Homework Accessibility 30 Universal Design at UBC 32 Beyond the Building Code Regional News 34 What’s New in Alberta Travel 36 The Better of Two Worlds

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.

Library 38 No One’s Perfect

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

Kar y Wright goe s f i shing in Northern Alberta.

ISSN 1195-5767 Spinal Columns

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editorial

What Happened to the Rick Hansen Community Living Attendant Training Program?

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any of our members and c om mu n it y c ont a c t s across the province have been asking this question, as they anticipated that a set of tools would be released by now to deliver an inexpensive and effective training method to better prepare those hired to work as care attendants by persons with physical disabilities. A set of training tools developed by content experts (Albertans who have been self-managers of their own attendants for 10-20 years) was prepared and were to be tested in a two-phase pilot. Once final enhancements were made to the curriculum, training tools were to be released to communities to self-organize and deliver training opportunities. Unfortunately the pilot testing of the materials was postponed because of an intellectual property dispute between an out-of-province organization and CPA (Alberta) and other collaborators in the development of a provincial spinal cord injury (SCI) strategy. A focus group was hosted in January 2012, updating community stakeholders about the delay and seeking their recommendations for possible future action. There was strong support from participants to see the attendant care strategy fully implemented. Here is a summary of events related to the development of the Community Living Attendant Training Program for Alberta: Stakeholder consultations took place in 2006/07 to renew a strategic plan. Six new strategic priorities outside CPA (Alberta)’s usual focus were identified, including improving access to attendant care for those who require support in activities of daily living within their home. (CPA (Alberta) - Strategic Plan 2007-2012 - www.cpa-ab.org/publications/strategicplan). In 2009, extensive stakeholder consultation took place to determine a framework focused on actionable items with well-defined and achievable outcomes. “On a Roll and on the Right Track – The Alberta Spinal Cord Injury Action Strategy” identifies the second unmet priority as Attendant Care/ Home Care. The Action Plan to address this priority included creating a Community Living Attendant Training Program (CLAT) that would enhance the capacity of communities in Alberta to address the unmet needs of persons using the self-managed care option of home care. Research was conducted into a wide range of publications that could inform an Alberta attendant care program. There were two phases to this research. The first phase was the development of an Inventory Bibliography, completed in November 2009. A comprehensive review of training programs and materials was conducted in 2010. Through this research, it was identified that a number of disability organizations in Europe, Australia, USA and Canada had developed programs and/or tools to assist persons with developmental or physical disabilities, or their family members, to manage or train their caregivers. Several Alberta disability organizations and private citizens with disabilities had also developed specific tools/materials relevant to the Alberta SCI Strategy. It was identified that an out-of-province organization had an attendant training program and contact was made to determine if that program could be adopted for Alberta.

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Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) Toll Free: 1-888-654-5444 www.cpa-ab.org Find us on Facebook and become a fan! Watch videos on our Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/cpaalberta HEAD OFFICE #305, 11010 - 101 Street Edmonton, Alberta T5H 4B9 Telephone: (780) 424-6312 Fax: (780) 424-6313 E-mail: edmonton@cpa-ab.org 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: calgary@cpa-ab.org RED DEER OFFICE #103, 4719 - 48th Avenue Red Deer, Alberta T4N 3T1 Telephone: (403) 341-5060 Fax: (403) 343-1630 E-mail: reddeer@cpa-ab.org GRANDE PRAIRIE OFFICE 10 Knowledge Way Grande Prairie, Alberta, T8W 2V9 Telephone: (780) 532-3305 Fax: (780) 539-3567 E-mail: grandeprairie@cpa-ab.org LETHBRIDGE OFFICE 1274 3 Avenue South Lethbridge, Alberta T1J 0J9 Telephone: (403) 327-7577 Fax: (403) 320-0269 E-mail: lethbridge@cpa-ab.org MEDICINE HAT OFFICE 26-419 3rd Street SE Medicine Hat, Alberta T1A 0G9 Telephone: (403) 504-4001 Fax: (403) 504-5172 E-mail: medicinehat@cpa-ab.org ST. PAUL OFFICE Box 653 St. Paul, AB T0A 3A0 Telephone: (780) 645-5116 Fax: (780) 645-5141 E-mail: stpaul@cpa-ab.org LLOYDMINSTER OFFICE 4419 52 Avenue, Lloydminster, AB T9V 0Y8 Tel & Fax: (780) 875-1046 E-mail: lloydminster@cpa-ab.org FORT McMURRAY Gregoire Park Centre 194 Grenfell Crescent Fort McMurray, AB T9H 2M6 Tel: (780) 743-0307 Fax: (780) 743-4563 E-mail: fortmcmurray@cpa-ab.org WEST-CENTRAL OFFICE PO Box 128 Wabamun, AB T0E 2K0 Tel: (780) 892-3431 Fax: (780) 892-3431 E-mail: westcentral@cpa-ab.org CPA (Alberta) BOARD OF DIRECTORS Dale Williams, Chair Scott Sankey, Treasurer Pamela Bennett Maxwell Brunette Lisa Crown Harvey J. DeCock Kent Hehr Timothy Hill Ron Jewitt Ray Royer Souheil Saab Ned Shillington Eleanor Sugarman


editorial An evaluation workshop took place in January 2011 between representatives of the out-of-province organization and a small representative group of Alberta stakeholders. A high-level overview of their process for delivering training was presented. There was nothing unique or distinct about their presentations that didn’t look similar to many programs we had reviewed in the early phases of research. No training materials were shared. We were made aware that roll-out of a training program to Alberta communities would require their involvement and that we would need to pay a fee for service for the roll-out in each location. This fee exceeded the budget for the attendant training strategy. The out-of-province organization would not consider negotiating for purchase of “train the trainer” and student materials, or an affordable program licensing structure. A debrief was held with the participants of the evaluation workshop and the opinion was expressed that the goals for the other organization appeared to be different from the Alberta strategy. Because we hadn’t found an affordable product to purchase from this organization, we reverted to our original plan of creating tools to build community capacity. A consultant was contracted to help build a project management plan for creating a curriculum including facilitator guide, student workbook, power points and examinations. The goal was to test the materials through a pilot training project in Edmonton. After final revisions, we planned to release the tools to the community. We were commencing the process of recruiting volunteers to help with the pilot when we were notified that the out-of-province organization was claiming we had copied its program. The pilot was temporarily suspended while the issue was resolved through legal measures. The claim by the out-of-province program was ruled against. In spite of the fact that a lot of time and effort was lost because of the legal issue, we are very pleased to inform you that we can now move forward with the pilot, although not until late 2012. For more information, call 780-424-6312 or email teren. clarke@cpa-ab.org.

Teren Clarke Executive Director

CPA (ALBERTA) MISSION STATEMENT To assist persons with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities to achieve independence, self-reliance and full community participation.

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inthenews

IN THE

NEWS

Mobility Choices Training Program

ETS Travel Training, through its Mobility Choices Travel Training Program, is a customized program designed to meet the needs of the individual or group that participates, and ranges from introductory sessions on accessing information on the transit system (how to read route schedules, get information from their Call Centre, or access information through their website), to vehicle demonstrations (home visits with a chartered bus to help with familiarization of bus use and how to use the accessible features, with or without mobility aids), safety and security information (including the bus driver as Safe Stranger, Stop Request program, and transit property safety features ), and trip planning and practical travel (including companioned bus travel and shadowed bus travel). ETS provides the program to seniors and persons with mobility challenges (physical, cognitive, developmental, emotional), as well as newcomers (immigrants, etc.) training as well. Materials and customer tools are also provided, as needed, free of charge. They also offer training and information sessions to representatives of senior, newcomer, and disability-serving organizations, as well as to caregivers and advocates. This free program is available any day of the week, and more information or bookings can be obtained through the Travel Training office at 780-496-3000, or at ETSTraveltraining@edmonton.ca.

Cushions Donated Thanks to the generosity of MEDIchair (Edmonton location) CPA (Alberta) has received a donation of nearly 100 cushions! Thanks as well to FI Canada for its assistance with storage of these cushions. All cushions are new or previously trialed and there are a variety of brands and sizes available; would make a great second cushion. CPA (Alberta) neither endorses nor guarantees any of these products and recommends that, in order to prevent any complications that may result from the use of any of these cushions, that you contact your medical service provider or seating specialist. Steve Saoberg from MEDIchair, Edmonton location (780-437-3300) may be able to provide assistance with any technical questions. CPA (Alberta) members can ‘purchase’ one cushion at a cost of $75/cushion to cover shipping and handling. Brand-new, these cushions range in price from $250-$600. For more information on how to obtain a cushion, contact your local CPA (Alberta) Client Services Coordinator.

New ADAPTED Fitness Equipment The Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Centre Society (SCITCS) of Northern Alberta is excited to announce the purchase of two state-of-the-art Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) exercise machines. The machines have been installed within the fitness centre at the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton.

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FES is a technique by which electrical currents are applied to paralyzed or weakened muscles eliciting a contraction for the purpose of functional movements. In 1991 SCITCS purchased the first FES rehabilitation exercise system in Western Canada, which was given to The Steadward Centre (TSC) at the University of Alberta, as a means for those with spinal injuries to exercise. Over the years, SCITCS has provided approximately $350,000 in support for the FES equipment and its program. Its success was such that the program rapidly reached capacity, resulting in a two to three year waiting list for those wishing to use the system for regular exercise. In March 2010, a committee was struck by SCITCS to explore the possibility of expanding the FES exercise program to provide more exercise options for those with spinal cord injuries. The result is a collaboration between TSC, SCITCS and the Saville Community Sports Centre. New FES equipment has been purchased by SCITCS for $49,000. Two stationary cycles (RT 300) allows individuals with disabilities the ability to wheel up to the equipment, and without transferring, to strap on electrodes and move their legs. The RT 200, a first in Canada, provides its users the opportunity to exercise both the arms and legs at the same time. Nowhere in North America is there a facility and program like the FES, giving those with spinal cord injuries the freedom to exercise in a public venue when they wish and with whom they wish. SCITCS has also provided $25,000 towards the salary of an additional employee at the Saville Community Sports Centre to train individuals on the use of the equipment. SCITCS covers costs for assessment, electrodes and membership for one year for persons with SCI exercising at the Saville Community Sports Centre. For more information about SCITCS’s involvement in this project, call SCITCS President, Louise Miller at 780-436-5606. To be assessed as to suitability for FES exercise, call Bobbi-Jo Atchison at 780-492-9389.

IN MEMORIAM Herb Anderson Dave Mclean Harry Peebles Gordon Richmond Vicki Shactay Sue McLean David Stables

Unknown Calgary Calgary Turner Valley Innisfail Edmonton Cochrane

After a struggle with cancer Sue McLean passed away on June 5, 2012 at the still young age of 52. Her passion for interpreting and her commitment to both the Deaf and Interpreting communities was relentless. Sue was in attendance at many events involving individuals with disabilities for many years and, just recently, provided her assistance at the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. She will be deeply missed by her colleagues and friends throughout the disability community.


Advance Plus™

Touch Free Intermittent Catheter System

Confidence. Pure and Simple. Hollister Advance Plus Intermittent Catheter features Touch Free technology enabling users to catheterize with confidence—anytime, anywhere—supporting user mobility and independence.

A unique Touch Free protective introducer tip helps reduce the risk of carrying bacteria up into the urinary system. The Advance Plus Touch Free collection bag shields the sterile catheter from possible environmental contamination. Ultra-smooth catheter eyelets, together with a patented user-regulated gel reservoir, help ensure trouble-free insertion and withdrawal for enhanced user convenience and comfort.

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Calgary’s first ever accessible showhome. Come visit us at Copperfield in Calgary’s Southeast to view our latest showhome. We are able to adapt our Cromwell floorplan to include the options listed below. While our showhome does not include all of these features, we are able to adapt and customize your home, so it fits your needs best.

Open, Galley style Kitchen • 5’-0” wide turning radius allowance for wheelchairs • Lowered sinks & cabinets for ease of access • Specially designed appliances for ease of access • Designs include space for roll under areas

FLoor-to-FLoor optionS • Stair lift for access to basement • Stair lift for access to garage • Space for Elevator in Mud room • Up to three levels • Ability to open on both sides of the wall • Main living space of home can be made zero-level • Zero-entry level access doorway to deck

BEDrooM AnD BAthrooM • 5’-0” wide turning radius allowance for wheelchairs • 5’-0” wide zero-level entry shower • 3’-0” wide doorway • Grab bars are easily added • heated floors are easily added • tracks added on bedroom and bathroom ceilings for ease of maneuverability

Our passion’s been building since ‘56

Accessible plans are available in all areas that Stepper Custom homes builds in. Visit us online for directions and details: stepperhomes.com 8 Spinal Columns


meetthestaff

Staff Profiles

Karen Hansen joined CPA (Alberta)’s St Paul office, as Community Access Coordinator, in February 2010. Originally from Bonnyville, Karen moved to Edmonton in 2004 to attend university, with the intention of becoming a registered nurse. After completing nearly two years of schooling, Karen became sick and was unable to continue; her illness was finally diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis in 2010. Karen feels CPA (Alberta) is a perfect fit for her because she has always wanted to work in the health field and also because CPA (Alberta) is very understanding when it comes to persons with disabilities. Karen’s future plans include her upcoming wedding in September 2012 and starting a family shortly thereafter.

Breeann McConkey joined the Edmonton office as Events Coordinator in January 2012. Prior to this, she worked as a summer student in 2011, planning the 50th Anniversary Charity Golf Tournament. After joining the team full-time, Breeann worked on the 2012 Red Carpet Affair and is currently planning and coordinating this summer’s Edmonton golf tournament. Breeann was born and raised in Grande Prairie, moving to Edmonton in 2009 to attend the University of Alberta where she graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Commerce Cooperative Education, with a major in Marketing. Breeann enjoys working at CPA (Alberta) because she feels it is very rewarding to have a job that focuses on creating events that help bring people together, to not only raise money for people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities, but also have a great time while doing so. When she is not working, Breeann enjoys travelling, Maui, HI being her favourite place in the world. She also enjoys fashion, Zumba classes, and golfing (she played on the 2010-2012 U of A Pandas Golf Team). And something you may not know about Breeann? She is bilingual; she speaks French!

Susan Nelson joined CPA (Alberta)’s Edmonton office as a Client Services Coordinator in August 2011. She graduated as a Rehabilitation Practitioner in 2003 and has spent her entire career enhancing the status, quality of life and independence of individuals with disabilities, working in various non-profit organizations. What Susan likes best about working at CPA (Alberta) is working with her clients. She enjoys hearing their stories and being able to assist them, in whatever way she can, to meet their needs and challenges. She also appreciates being able to turn to her coworkers when she has questions or is in need of information. Susan’s future plans are to continue working with persons with disabilities in whatever capacity she can. When she is not working, Susan enjoys camping, hiking, playing the piano, and volunteering in her community. Spinal Columns

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onyourbehalf

ADVOCACY VISITABLE HOUSING CPA (Alberta) is continuing to collaborate with community groups to promote and encourage the development of visitable housing. Various articles have been written and placed in trade magazines, combined with displays at conventions/conferences. We are also developing long-range plans to promote this philosophy with builders and developers. One of the goals is to research organizations that would be willing to have an adapted home as a raffle prize. We feel strongly that accessibility can be attractive, sellable and can be promoted as a ‘living in place’ benefit.

ACCESSIBLE HOUSING WITH ON-SITE CARE CPA (Alberta) is encouraging developers of affordable housing to include more adaptive housing that has an on-site care component. These projects would be for individuals under the age of 65.

ACCESSIBLE LODGE QUESTIONNAIRE CPA (Alberta) is working with the Ability Lodges Society of Alberta in preparing an internet-based questionnaire that will attempt to determine the need for a William Watson Lodge development in north central Alberta. The questionnaire is designed to determine desired features and location for such a project.

Global SCI Conference a Success Bill Barrable, CEO of the Rick Hansen Institute provided an update on the Global SCI Conference in his June 2012 Update. To find out more about the conference and to view the findings of a select number of RHI Clinical Research Network affiliated presentations, go to www.rickhanseninstitute.org/en/publications-and-resources/news-archive/337-ceo-update-june-2012.

CHAIR-LEADERS: ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL CPA (Alberta) has made tremendous strides since its inaugural Chair-Leaders “Enabling Access” event in Edmonton in 2010. That event consisted of nine community leaders, all from different sectors: public, private, media and government. The following year, momentum continued as community leaders embraced this unique opportunity to spend a day in a wheelchair to raise awareness of accessibility issues. Support from community leaders was phenomenal! Community leaders recognized that this issue goes far beyond accommodating the needs of citizens utilizing mobility aids; they realized that it will affect them in the near future as baby boomers begin to retire. Chair-Leaders “Enabling Access” suddenly expanded to five locations: Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Red Deer and Fort McMurray.

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13-year-old Joshua was a Chair-Leader in Edmonton. We are proud of the progress made with this unique event that primarily focuses on awareness, but also encourages fundraising. Our third year was by far the most successful, expanding to include three more locations: Jasper, Drayton Valley and Leduc. We were also able to shatter our fundraising goal! Over the past four years, through the support of over 100 ChairLeaders, we have raised over $22,000. CPA (Alberta) is setting the foundation for something special, one leader at a time. “As with any major effort to establish change, in this case accessibility for all with a vision towards a barrier free Alberta, there were days when I questioned if we were truly making a change,” said Zachary Weeks, CPA (Alberta) Community Development Coordinator. “It isn’t easy trying to demonstrate how one must adapt to a world primarily constructed to meet the needs of able-bodied individuals. This changed quickly one afternoon when a mother called asking if her 13-year-old son, Joshua, could participate. Joshua wanted to reassure himself as well as his peers about how fortunate life really was. He wanted to make a change by leading by example. This was a pivotal moment for me. It gave me that additional encouragement to keep pushing forward with my passion for the Chair-Leaders “Enabling Access” event.” With inspirational young leaders like Joshua, the future for universal inclusion looks promising. And for our general and aging population, as well as individuals who use mobility aids, the future can only get better!


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feature

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS ARE YOU READY? by Chris Brainerd With the summer upon us, it is important that we all think of being prepared for emergencies, especially those of us with disabilities. Having a plan can mean the difference between life and death. An emergency plan and survival kit is the simplest and most economical way to ensure you are prepared when disaster strikes. It is natural to panic during an emergency. Being prepared ahead of time can ensure a disaster does not become a tragedy.

Essential Items Whether you have a disability or not, everyone should have the following items in a bag, in case of emergency: • Flashlight and batteries • Radio and batteries or crank radio • First-aid kit • Cellular phone • Candles and matches/lighter • Spare car keys and cash in small bills • Change for pay phones • Important papers, including identification • Spare clothing • Blankets • Toiletries • Medication • Backpack or duffle bag • Whistle or alarm to attract attention • Non-perishable food and water • Manual can opener People with mobility challenges should also consider having the following items in case of emergency: • Tire patch kit • Can of seal-in air product to repair tires on wheelchair • Extra inner tubes • Heavy gloves to protect your hands • Latex-free gloves for those providing personal care • Spare battery for electric wheelchair or scooter • Lightweight manual chair as backup to electric wheelchair or scooter (if possible) • Spare catheters and any other supplies you require • Medic Alert bracelet or list of medical concerns • List of medications, including dosages, doctor names, and reason for medications • List of food and drug allergies

Shelter In case of an emergency such as a tornado, it is very important that you have a safe place to wait out the storm. The room you choose should be the sturdiest in your home, with no windows. This could be a bathroom or even a closet, deep in your

Creative Commons photo by Dave Morris. home, with as many walls between you and the outside wall as possible. If you live in a high-rise and there is a fire, it may be safer to stay where you are. High-rises are designed to be more fire-safe than other buildings or homes. They are constructed with fireresistant materials. If you do need to leave your unit or office and you are unable to evacuate, you will be safest if you enter the stairwell and close the door behind you. Stay at the top of the stairs until firefighters come to evacuate you. It is also advisable that you get to know your neighbors and ask that one of them check on you in the event of a fire. The City of Edmonton Fire Department keeps a database of persons with disabilities living in high-rise buildings. You must add yourself to the database; caregivers and guardians must use official letterhead when adding persons in their care. Names in the database must be renewed yearly or they will be removed. To add yourself to this database, contact Diane Folkins at 780496-3824 or diane.folkins@edmonton.ca. If you live outside Edmonton, call your local fire department (non-emergency line) or city/town information line to see if they have a database as well. For more information, you can google the following PDFs: “Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities/Special Needs” (Government of Ontario) ”Personal Preparedness Tips for People with Disabilities” (Emergency Management BC) Or see the CPA (National) publication, “Fire Safety for People with Disabilities” available from CPA (Alberta) or www.cpa-ab. org/publications/sci_reference_manual. Spinal Columns

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feature

Gone Fishin’ by Kary Wright

Kary lands a northern pike. It’s noon on a warm September day in 2011. The sun is nice and high. A gentle breeze is blowing. Temperature is in the high 20s. I’ve finished all my inside work, and it’s way too nice to be indoors. If only I could find someone interested in going fishing on short notice—before some ‘work’ comes up. Hmmm. I call my friend Dale Baden. “Wuddya want?” Dale hollers as he answers the phone. Ya gotta love it when a friend has call display and isn’t afraid to use it. “I wanna go fishing,” I reply gruffly. “When?” “In about 5 minutes,” I say. There is nothing like giving your friend advance warning! “Where? How far?” he asks, sounding a little suspicious. “I don’t know; nothing we’ve tried lately has worked. You think the fish died through the harsh winter?” I ask. “Nah, I don’t think so. What kind of fish do you want to catch?” asks Dale. “How about we fish on the bottom with smelts, and let’s go somewhere where there’s a variety of types. How about over by Forestberg, it’s close enough to get to within a half an hour,” I reply. “Sounds good, get over here right away!” says Baden, dropping whatever plans he may have had. My wife fills my cup with coffee, tosses my fishing equipment into the back of the van and off I go to grab Dale. One quick stop at the local meat-market to pick up smelts for bait and we’re away before the phone has a chance to ring! Battle River has a variety of fish… northern pike, walleye, bourbot, suckers, and I hear there are even perch. By this point in the year we aren’t fussy. I figured if we fished with minnows on the bottom, there are so many varieties of fish in the water that something would have to bite. Also with us fishing on the bottom, I don’t have to reel-in as often and we’d have lots of time to enjoy the scenery and just relax while sipping coffee. We arrive at a good spot (for us wheelchair users) in the early afternoon. Within about 10 minutes Dale finally (lol) has the fishing rod strapped to my arm with the special cuff, my hook baited and cast out into the river. Time to sit back, relax, and watch the birds. “Hey, look over there, there’s an eagle!” I say, looking over towards the east. “WOW, if you didn’t know where we are, you would think we’re way up north at someplace remote!” replies

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Dale. “My line is tightening up Dale. There must be something biting!” I say. I watch the line slowly move out and take up all the slack. I brace myself, ready to ‘sink the hook’ by pulling sharply up on the rod. My heart starts to race. Just as the slack is taken up in the line I sharply raise the rod and the line suddenly tightens with a thud, as if tied to something solid. The rod bends, and the fish realizes he’s hooked. There is an explosion of power as the rod gets pulled down, almost straightening my arm out! The reel starts to scream as line is being peeled off! Whatever has bitten must be a fair size! The line keeps stripping out until the fish is nearly across the river, then it breaks the surface in a huge splash! I use all of my strength to try to raise the rod, but have to wait until the fish is finished its run. I’m not very strong at winding the reel, so the technique I have to use is to lift up on the rod to pull the fish closer to me, and then reel in fairly quickly as I’m dropping the rod to take up the slack. By using this pumping action, I’ve been able to land some pretty big fish over the years, even with the little strength I have. “Can you get the camera going?” I ask Dale. “No problem, just give me a second,” Dale replies as he’s getting the camera out of the bag to film the action. One of my hobbies is making videos. Over the winter I like to go through videos of fishing and other outdoor activities and edit them. It makes me think about spring again, and it helps to inspire more adventures! Dale gets the camera going and starts filming. “Kary was just saying how he’d rather be at home working on the computer right now,” Dale says sarcastically into the microphone as he’s filming the fight. I chuckle as I hear this, knowing full well that it is the furthest thing from the truth. That afternoon we landed several northern pike in the 30” range, an amazing day with some incredible scenery in a most unexpected location close to home! I am so fortunate to have people like Dale who will put up with my ‘spur-of-the-momentitis’ and help me to get outside and do the things that I like to do. Check out Kary’s blog at stilloutdoors.blogspot.ca.


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Diversity

A Rainbow of Colors

by Elaine Lee

Elaine Lee was asked to speak on the subject of diversity at a CMHC Conference in Calgary, to tell her story and how she came to work for the CMHC. Elaine’s speech touched the hearts of many.

On February 15, 1979, a little girl is born, bones brittle and broken, with Osteogenesis Imperfecta. Life expectancy – two years. That was then and this is me now! One of the smallest women in the world with a Certificate of Liberal Arts from Simon Fraser University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr. And, the tiniest employee of CMHC, Administrative Assistant in Calgary’s Default Real Estate Management Department. And all this time you probably wondered: Who is that child working here? Is she real? Can she? How will she? Impossible! I hate to disappoint you but it is true and it is possible. Now consider the word Disability. How does society really view this concept? Wheelchair, immobility, hearing loss, blindness, autism, Down Syndrome, dependency, illness, dumb, alien (and yes, I have been called this before), incapable, incapacitated, outcast, paralysis (but is it paralysis of the mind?). Dis-ability? Dis means Not, while Ability refers to the act of being able. Dis+ability automatically implies that the individual is Not Able. Am I not? This is where I tell you that diversity comes in all shapes, sizes, a rainbow of colors, age, gender, talents and abilities – and the list goes on. It is about adopting and embracing these qualities and always remembering that we are in this together! Consider your five senses and how they function, for a moment. Sight affects Perception; Hearing affects Interpretation; Tasting affects Preference; Smelling affects Respiration, Touching affects Efficiency, Gestures, Postures and Positions. Everything matters – and we can learn so much from each other. Just be Aware, Accept and Accommodate and I guarantee, you will achieve something that is worthy of every second of your time, no matter how frustrating, vague or uncertain it may seem at the time. When I joined CMHC, I don’t think anyone could anticipate what to expect. Fear, uncertainty and wonder crossed everyone’s minds, with valid questions like: How will Elaine get to work? How will she weave her way between the cubicles? Can Elaine reach the desk? Can she hold a pen? Can she turn on the computer? Can she send a fax? Will she actually be able to keep up with the pace and demands of her position? Will she understand? How does someone with Elaine’s condition function? And, how will you get through your own day? Well, it’s easy! Just take my example and apply it to your own circumstances. Let it remind you that we are all human beings – people of imperfections, and we all have our own methods, lifestyle, personal habits, priorities and circumstances that affect our performance, and for every aspect of the human condition, there is Cause and Effect.

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Elaine Lee. Maybe you got up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe you had road rage trying to get to work this morning. Maybe a family crisis is going on. Maybe you just got divorced. Maybe this and maybe that, but every person reacts to a situation differently, and it is up to us to be able to handle it in the most professional and discreet manner that integrates every aspect with the condition one faces. As an artist outside of work, I am here to tell you that whether you scribble or paint like Van Gogh, we are all artists, here to paint the masterpiece of our lives and at CMHC, we are here to uphold our masterpiece and reputation as being one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers, just as we held this title in 2011! So now I invite you to step into my shoes, continue on with your days ahead and keep in mind that we are all people of diversity.

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AFRICA

A life-changing journey by Vahen King

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feature

Vahen King travelled to Africa to share her story.

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tached to the front of my chair to make it easier to clear bumps. s a high school student, I dreamed of becoming a misAs I tried it for the first time, even with my husband cheering sionary in Africa! As so often happens, this dream me on, I lost control and toppled over. Once I got the hang of it, faded into the mist. How was I to know that 20 years however, the “freewheel” made it possible to navigate terrain later, I would journey to Africa, not as a missionary that would otherwise have been impossible! but to share my testimony as a person with disability. In May To my surprise, I found that parts of Africa were more “ac1999, Transverse Myelitis, presumed to be caused by a viral incessible” than I expected. I couldn’t go for a stroll in the villages fection, left me with a spinal cord injury (SCI) and a life that was and accessibility was not up to Canadian standards, but in the dramatically changed! Since then, I have been able to overcome cities there were a few malls and shopping areas that actually many of the challenges placed in my path. The decision to travel had ramps and big washrooms. One thing I learned quickly to Africa, however, was probably one of the biggest challenges though, was to have hand sanitizer and some form of “toilet I’ve ever “willingly” faced. In May of this year, after months of paper” with me at all times. planning, my husband and I, along with his missionary father, Traveling to Africa would not have been possible had I not set out on our journey. For me, it was not only a journey, but a had the support of my husband Vaughan. However, a great inlife-changing experience! terpreter also came in handy, especially All the planning in the world could My first attempt at when it came to spending money, benot have prepared me for the challenges cause there was always a much higher or culture shock that we encountered! a shower was an price for Muzungu (white people). AnWe discovered a world where bugs are experience. We were other invaluable asset was a skilled plentiful, and mosquito nets are your given a five litre jug of taxi driver who could navigate through best friend. People live in poverty, yet the chaos of the city. I lucked out with they are truly happy and love without water and a mug! a great support team, thanks to the borders. help of my father-in-law who had been there before and knew One of the first things I was told before going to Africa was the ropes. that the potholes in the roads were more like death traps, and I knew this adventure would affect me, not only emotionally you needed road maps to navigate them—that would of course but also physically. Three days into the trip, I had not yet built imply that there actually were roads! Many times we drove on up the nerve to go to the bathroom for anything other than a surfaces that were more like training areas for motor cross exquick pee. It seemed that each time I tried, there were more and treme sports. Going outside for a stroll around the block seemed more bugs and flies circling and I wasn’t ready to make friends an impossibility, but I attempted it with my newly-acquired “freewith them. On the one night when I finally said, “I have to be wheel.” Purchased specifically for this trip, the “freewheel” at-

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feature

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Vahen and her all-terrain freewheel.

Vahen gets her hair braided.

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strong and do this”, the electricity went out in the village, so yet another night went by without relief. Finally my husband decided we would go to a hotel. It was our anniversary weekend, and this was the perfect present; a bathroom and a hot shower, with “relatively” no bugs. Oh the simple joys of life that we take for granted! My first attempt at a shower was an experience like no other. We were given a five litre jug of warm water, and a mug! Once again, bugs and mosquitoes were rampant, and I wasn’t enamored with the idea of sitting on the bottom of the bathtub. So my ingenious husband took the nearest bucket, turned it upside down, and placed a cloth on top. And there I sat, perched precariously, while my husband, Vaughan, helped me bathe. Not my idea of a romantic shower, but it worked! Being in Africa was a crazy reality and one that I originally didn’t see as a possibility, especially as a wheelchair user. From the first day to the last, however, we experienced the warm hospitality of the African people who made us feel like royalty. Ladies and young children would kneel before us and take our hands, oftentimes followed by “loud luluing”, signifying excitement. They seemed captivated by everything we had to say— that was just the most amazing feeling! I didn’t understand why I was worthy of such “recognition”. Somehow these people had the power to make my struggles seem insignificant or, at the very least, help me forget them for a while. You never really know the impact you may have on someone’s life. The more I came to know these people and their culture, the more I began to see that I did have something to offer. And this is not because of me, but because of the strength God has given me to live life to the fullest, in spite of adversity. Many people in Africa feel that if you have a disability, you may have done something to bring it upon yourself, so what indeed is there to be happy about? I came to the realization that they just couldn’t understand how I could be happy living with my disability. Sharing my story was an amazing experience. God used me as an example of happiness through circumstances. Had it not been for my life experiences to date, I would not have had the power to encourage and connect in the way that I did. I will never view things the same again. A lady afflicted with an autoimmune disorder, said, “I just had to come meet you, I’ve heard your story, but I needed to see for myself, I wanted to see your smile and see God’s strength in you. You are such an encouragement to me.” A pastor, who met us at the airport, was overwhelmed by my cheerfulness. As I later found out, he was filled with emotion because he couldn’t understand what he was seeing. Everywhere we went, the big question was, “When will you be back?” and, “When will I be able to read your book?” As difficult as some of the journey was, I was constantly reassured that this was where I was supposed to be at this time, and only God knows what the future holds. I would like to say a special thank you to my husband, my father-in-law and our interpreter, as well as to the rest of my family and friends, and those who gave me financial and prayer support, because without them, this would not have been possible. I will be forever grateful for this amazing opportunity.


opinion

FROM MY PERSPECTIVE by Larry Pempeit

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’ve been getting lots of practice lately, going through various obstacle courses that provide me with many challenges, and the opportunity to problem solve. I don’t need to go very far to find a challenging course in order to practice my wheeling skills. I just have to go to the nearest department store! Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been going to the malls and big-box stores to…well, waste some time and, unfortunately, spend some money. Last week I went to The Bay. I remember this store being one of the easier ones to navigate in a wheelchair. Not anymore. It seemed every aisle had clothes racks or display tables with barely enough room to get by. Most display tables are covered with table cloths—which can sometimes get caught in a wheel. Suddenly, you’re dragging a display of jewelry behind your chair—and getting lots of attention! Later, I headed off to Canadian Tire. Never the greatest store to navigate but this time, I noticed they even exceeded my expectations. I had to go almost halfway through the store before I could get through the walking lane to another row. Oftentimes they left a path of travel, but only wide enough for someone who is able-bodied. More than once my chair nudged things off the shelves and left a trail of merchandise behind me. I’m sure they weren’t happy with me, but I wasn’t exactly happy with them either.

Even food stores seem to be getting into the act. Safeway, which once provided fairly unobstructed paths between shelves, now stacks display cases with various cans, produce, etc. More than once I had to backtrack down one aisle, up the other and then back to the place where I originally started in order to get what I wanted. Save-On Foods isn’t much better, as their placement of display cases in the aisles makes it difficult to get by. Big-box stores like Home Depot and Rona also seem to have grown out of the space they require to display their hardware. Display cases in the center of aisles are not the exception here; they seem to be the norm. Many of the small stores don’t get my business at all, because once I get in the store, I need to back out of their aisles, with store clerks hovering over me saying, “Careful you’re going to hit that display” and followed up by, “Sorry about the cramped space.” I’m not sure how to make stores realize they need to keep aisles clear for people who have mobility problems. Discontinuing to shop there is not always, and shouldn’t be, an option. And I don’t think they’d even realize that they’re missing out on business. Maybe what would help is if each time we see an inconvenience, like a display case in the middle of an aisle, we politely bring it to the attention of store management. Maybe that way they’ll realize it’s an issue for more than one person. One thing I am sure of is that at next year’s Chair-Leaders event we won’t have to build an obstacle course—we just have to send people to one of the big-box stores for an hour!

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health

NEW CHAIR IN SCI RESEARCH by Sue McCoy

Creative Commons photo by Darren Kirby.

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standing innovation in the field of rehabilitation. here is a long tradition of excellence at the University With new funding and equipment, the group is developing of Alberta of combining cutting-edge research in basic more sophisticated devices that can provide enhanced ability neuroscience and innovative applications to the field of to walk and perform other activities. Generally, these devices rehabilitation. The Rehabilitation Neuroscience Group require surgical implantation, rather than surface stimulation. is a multidisciplinary group that was established more than 20 There is currently no neurosurgeon specialized in spinal cord years ago and has grown to include faculty members from varisurgery in Alberta. This same absence hinders implantation ous departments and several faculties at the university. of stem cells or other surgical approaches to cure spinal cord In recent years, these researchers have attracted a $4.3 milinjury. The reason for this is that the caseload for a population lion Canadian Foundation for Innovation grant, entitled “Project such as Alberta’s remains too small to employ a full-time perto Restore Movement,” for infrastructure, including new space son. However, the clinical load could and equipment in the Katz Group be combined with a strong research Centre for Pharmacy and Health ReThere is currently no program in spinal cord injury. search. In addition, a $5 million grant neurosurgeon in Alberta We have established a Chair in was awarded by the Alberta Heritage Spinal Cord Injury Research at the Foundation for Medical Research for specializing in spinal University of Alberta. Priority for an interdisciplinary team grant in the cord injury. the Chair would be given to a neuroarea of Smart Neural Prostheses to surgeon with a specialization and strong research interests in restore motor and sensory function. Smart Neural Prostheses spinal cord injury. Internationally-known neurosurgeons with are devices that use sensory feedback to control stimulation outstanding research programs have expressed an interest in of muscles that can no longer be activated because of central such a Chair. nervous system disorders such as spinal cord injury. In fact, the Through the generosity of various community supporters, team in Edmonton is arguably one of two leading groups in the the endowed fund is currently at $2 million. The goal for the world in this field. endowed Chair is $3 million, therefore we require additional An example of a smart neural prosthesis is a device known support. as the WalkAide, developed in the Rehabilitation Neuroscience Your endorsement and support of this project would clearly Group and now sold world-wide. The WalkAide assists people be recognition of the great research being conducted at the who have the condition of foot drop, arising from disorders such University of Alberta. For more information about the Chair in as incomplete spinal cord injury. The WalkAide is just one of Spinal Cord Injury, please contact Sue McCoy at (780) 407-2140 the devices developed in the Rehabilitation Neuroscience Group. or by e-mail at smccoy@ualberta.ca. Two devices have won the prestigious daVinci Award for out-

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health

Sexuality and Self-Advocacy Your right to a healthy sexual self-identity begins with asserting yourself by Margaret Conquest and Mark Holitzki Creative Commons photo by Gavin Clarke.

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take on the world and brandish your sword of sexual-self-advoo, this is not an article on how to meet someone and cacy, right? Only on infomercials are problems so easily fixed! It get “lucky.” However, have you ever been in a situacan be difficult in the most benign situations to assert yourself tion where you’ve been made to feel as though your after someone has discounted you, and the anxiety that goes along sexuality, safety, or sexual health concerns are not with asserting yourself in regards to your sexuality can darn important or even not real? Think about whether or not you’ve near kill you! However, there are ways that you can ask quesbeen in these sorts of situations: tions, have your concerns addressed, and do it with less anxiety • You ask your doctor about birth control, and his or her rethen you may think. sponse is, “There really are very few good choices for you. First, write down your experience or situation, and any quesCondoms and abstaining are your only choices.” tions and concerns you have. If they seem jumbled and confused, • Your para-transit driver constantly makes suggestive comjust look at the piece of paper. Look for words that recur or themes ments about your body, and the last time he picked you that may help you organize your thoughts and concerns. Then up, you are sure that he intentionally touched your breast prioritize based on the issues you are most concerned about and when he was helping you tie your chair down in the van. need answers to most urgently. Having your story, concerns, or You told a friend, and they responded, “Don’t say anything. questions written down on paper can be very helpful in reducing You are just going to get yourself into trouble and it will be anxiety when you’re trying to make someone understand what his word against yours. Is it worth the grief?” you need, and it can be easier to ask questions if you’re reading • You and your wife are ready to have children. You’ve gone them off a list. You will also appear more credible, more prepared, to your doctor and talked about your fertility, and the and more difficult to “brush-off” if you have your thoughts and likelihood of you fathering a child. Your doctor runs a few questions organized and appear to have taken ownership of the tests, and then indicates that you have few viable sperm, issue you are bringing to the table. and that you should just keep trying and hope for the best. Second, try to get access to serInformation. Choice and convice providers who are the most likely trol. Living life by taking calcuJust because you have to be able to address your concerns. If lated risks. Protecting yourself. a disability does not you live in a major urban center, your These are basic human rights that mean mainstream service local rehabilitation hospital will have have all been violated in the above situations. In addition to having providers cannot help you. some sort of sexual health service provider. Sexual health service proan inborn right to these things, viders are typically not “sex therapists”, but are made up of several you also have an inalienable right to your sexuality. Whether health providers who have an interest and a specialty in sexual you walk or wheel, you are sexual from birth to death, and have health. For example, it is not uncommon for a sexual health serevery right to voice concerns and learn more about your sexuality. vice to have such professionals as social workers, psychologists, Now that you’ve been given a brief pep talk, you’re ready to

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health occupational therapists, and nurses on staff. You can begin the process by phoning the main switchboard at the local rehabilitation hospital and asking to speak to someone in the department of psychology, occupational therapy, nursing, or social work. These professionals will be more than willing to assist you, or refer you to the proper person. If you live outside of an urban center, you can often access a sexual health service by telephone. If this is not possible, many smaller community health centers have someone on staff who is a sexual health educator. They may not have the specific knowledge or information you are looking for, but they tend to not be surprised or embarrassed about talking about sexuality. Furthermore, they also have an understanding of sexuality in such a way that it can be easier for them to know where to go to get the answers to your questions. Just because you have a disability, does not mean mainstream service providers cannot help you. For instance, places like Planned Parenthood, Sexual Assault Centers, and STD Clinics are often prepared to assist individuals with disabilities, and often even have an operating philosophy that makes them more aware that people have very individual, and different needs. You just need to be prepared to educate them a little bit along the way as well. Third, become the expert. Don’t expect the service provider to have all of the answers to all of your questions. Scour the literature on your area of interest, surf the internet, and ask your close friends about their experiences and opinions. At most rehabilitation hospitals, there is a patient library, which is often full of very useful information written in everyday language. If you find this information too basic, you should be able to easily access your local municipal, college, and/or university health library. There are literally thousands of academic journal articles that may be useful to you. Start by looking at the databases on the computers at the library. If this seems like a daunting task, ask the librarian to teach you how to use the system. It’s usually quite easy to learn. If you learn to use the system and still find you’re not coming up with good information, again ask the librarian to assist you in searching on your specific topic. Whether you are at the library or on the Internet, it can be useful to use the following terms in your search: sexuality, disability, spinal cord injury, relationships, sexual health, sexual functioning, risk prevention, fertility, pregnancy, dysfunction. Finally, be patient and persistent. It may not be easy to find the information that you need. It may be incredibly difficult for you to respond to questions and challenges from others if you feel you’ve been victimized. However, it is almost always the case that you’re not the first. Presenting yourself as credible, determined, prepared, and calm is the surest way to get the results you desire. If you are not getting satisfactory answers to your questions or concerns, escalate your concerns to the next appropriate person in the “administrative food chain”. Be systematic, as well as diplomatic whenever possible. Give people a chance to address your needs or make amends if they have made a mistake. As the old saying goes, it really is easier to catch flies with honey rather than vinegar. However, if the honey doesn’t work, write letters and request meetings with the people who have the ability to impact the service or activities of the person you are dissatisfied with. Remember, you have an absolute right to make informed choices and to live an enlightened, safe, and full life. You deserve the best, and you are good stuff. Don’t forget it.

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fitzone

ALBERTA IN THE SUMMER by Amy Harris

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lberta has many great indoor and outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy, but it can be difficult to find activities that are accessible for the whole family. Here is a list of enjoyable events and activities for every budget.

Up to $25 per person Calgary Zoo: If you’re an animal lover, the Calgary Zoo offers a wide range of exhibits, including animals from Africa, South America, Eurasia, as well as numerous other areas of the world. With the opportunity to get up close and personal with the penguins in the new Penguin Plunge Exhibit, this is sure to make it an enjoyable experience for people of all ages. The zoo offers fully accessible washrooms as well as wide, paved paths making it very accessible. Adults $21, Youth $13. www.calgaryzoo.org Drumheller: If creepy crawlers are more your thing, then Drumheller is the place to visit, with numerous dinosaur and reptile experiences. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is fully accessible and offers a fun and educational experience for all ages and abilities. Adults $11, Youth $6. www.tyrrellmuseum.com There is an accessible tour bus that will take you to old excavation sites and natural preserves where you can hunt for your own dinosaur bones. Adult $12, Youth $8. www.albertaparks.ca/dinosaur/activities-events/interpretivevisitor-programs If reptiles don’t interest you, check out Reptile World, Canada’s biggest live reptile museum. The accessible washrooms and spacious museum make this a great choice. Adults $8.50, Youth $5.50. www.reptileworld.net Festivals: There are many amazing festivals happening throughout Alberta, including numerous music festivals, the Edmonton Folk Festival, Calgary Folk Festival, Calgary Stampede, Street Performers and more - ranges in price. www.festivalseekers.com/edmontonfestivals www.visitcalgary.com/things-to-do/festivals Banff and Jasper: Are you an outdoorsy person, or do you just love the view of the mountains? Banff and Jasper offer many paved and accessible trails for all members of the family - a great way to get some exercise and take in beautiful mountain

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Creative Commons photo by Evan Leeson. scenery. After a day of hiking or just checking out the sights, hit the Upper Banff Hot Springs or Miette Hot Springs. They both have ramp entry into the pool as well as a water chair making it a perfect way to relax at any point in the day. Adults $7.30, Youth $6.30. www.hotsprings.ca

$25-$85 per person Raft Tours: If you have a little extra money, there are some fun and exciting activities that are great to try! In Banff there is a raft tours company that offers floating trips. This is for the more adventurous as you will need to be transferred in and out of the raft (there is assistance available). You can enjoy a scenic tour where you may see wildlife, mountains and beautiful scenery, depending on which tour you take. Tours last from 1-2.5 hrs. Adults $45-85, Youth $20-40. www.banffrafttours.com Canmore Dinner Theatre: Canmore has a dinner theatre playing the performance O’ Canada Eh? This musical comedy has been running for 11 years and encompasses everything that’s Canadian. Along with an amazing performance, you are served a home-style four-course dinner in a spacious dining area. Adults $75, under 16 free with adult. www.atthecorner.ca/venue/oh-canada-eh.html

$95 or more per person Alberta Prairie Railway Steam Train: Although this is a high-cost experience, it’s an activity I couldn’t leave out. This is a 5-6 hour activity that includes a train ride to Big Valley, dinner and in-car entertainment, as well as a chance to witness a mock train robbery! The train is accessible with a lift and spaces to secure your wheelchair in the train car. Adults $95+, Youth $70, Child $40. www.absteamtrain.com Some of these events require that you call ahead or buy tickets in advance. Be sure to do your own research before attending an event or activity to make sure it’s right for you. This will also give you the opportunity to effectively plan ahead to ensure a positive experience. All of the above activities are wheelchair accessible – however, individual needs may be different and it’s always best to get first-hand information from the activity provider. Have a happy and adventurous summer!


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community

THE THREE Ps

Purpose Passion Persistence

The Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference by Zachary Weeks

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his past June, I had the honour of being the first CPA (Alberta) staff member to attend the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (GGCLC) in Eastern Canada. I was surprised to learn I was the youngest to attend this year’s conference. It goes without saying that I was somewhat intimidated going into the conference, knowing this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while, at the same time, trying to keep my head above water with leaders sometimes twice my age, often with very prestigious titles. Ian Anderson, Executive Director of the conference commented that, “The Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference is our country’s most prestigious development program for emerging leaders. It brings together young men and women from all walks of life for two weeks of intense discussion, debate and travel. Only one in ten applicants is accepted as a conference member – and the competition has grown tougher with each conference. Selecting Canadians who are differently-abled is a priority for the conference. While we seek to develop their leadership skills, sophistication and confidence, it is equally true the conference benefits enormously from the perspective they bring to social and economic issues as individuals who also are differently-abled. The richness of the conference experience is in its diversity, and the willingness of everyone to express their views passionately while also developing a passionate ear.” The experience began right from the get-go as we were handed leadership jackets, name tags, and most importantly, a binder that, for all intents and purpose, would serve as our bible for the remainder of the conference. It contained our congratulatory letters, itineraries, and bios of all 231 participants. After a quick bite, we attended the opening ceremonies where we were

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Photo courtesy of Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference greeted by the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston. I was the first to greet His Excellency as he made his way into the convention hall—total coincidence and a little dumb luck. Another surprise I will never forget! As the Governor General spoke, I learned that if you want to be a leader, you have to drop your ego at the door; genuine and authentic leaders don’t take credit for their own achievements, but recognize those who are behind the scenes, playing supportive roles. After hearing numerous keynote speakers who have made profound contributions to their sectors (private, public or nonprofit), we began our first debrief meeting. This consisted of 15 leaders from across the country delegated to tour eastern Ontario. This meeting began at about 10:45 p.m. and ended at midnight—the shortest debriefing of the whole trip! Our schedule was the most rigorous I’ve ever had to follow. At the same time, I discovered a whole new appreciation for leaders for whom waking at 4:00 a.m. can be the norm. Was this truly what a Canadian leader’s schedule was like? Conference organizers emphasized that it would be a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity, while at the same time reiterating the need to pace myself and to take time off to rest if needed. While I appreciated their concern, I responded with mostly the same words: “Thanks for your concern, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which I will never have the chance to do again. I am just as able as the rest of the participants and plan to make the most of this wonderful opportunity.” After about the fifth day, they stopped reminding me to go at my own pace. Attending the GGCLC gave me the opportunity to learn things from others in the private, public and nonprofit sectors;


community things I had never thought about before. I believe it would be fair to say that this was the case for other individuals in my group as, I too, was able to better educate them from the perspective of a person with a disability, which often resulted in them keeping an eye out for things such as curb cuts, elevators, and ramps; this is a challenge at the best of times but was even more so with our rigorous schedule. It also provided me with an opportunity to learn more about my country. As a result, I am a much prouder Canadian. Words can’t explain everything I learned from the amazing speakers, experiences, and others in my group and I’d be lying if I told you that I understood everything that was talked about. I know, however, that these nuggets of wisdom will show up as my career progresses. Dr. Gary McPherson, a very inspirational man who I, unfortunately, never had the opportunity to meet, once said, “If you meet someone and after ten minutes, they still believe you are disabled, you are simply not doing your job.” Fifteen conference participants (from my group) met for the first time and, over the next two weeks, worked alongside an individual with a disability. Although they were all very respectful upon meeting me, I could see the uneasiness in their eyes as they thought about how to interact with me. This was most definitely not the case when packing our belongings and saying goodbye. We were no longer strangers. We left with a feeling of family. I had the great fortune to see some of the good, the bad, and the ugly of our country—and I am still very optimistic about the future! I believe this is a special group of people who will ensure that Canada continues to thrive. In summary, I would like to leave you with something that resonated with me through the entire 15 days I traveled eastern Ontario—the “Three Ps”: Purpose, Passion, and Persistence. Find a Purpose; find the Passion to carry out your vision; be Persistent, as not everyone will agree with you. Although sometimes difficult and daunting, you will need to persist and, more than likely, persist some more. I believe the “Three Ps” struck so close to home because they can be applied to anyone, including those who are able-bodied and those who are differently-abled. My advice would be to identify your “Three Ps” and run with them until you accomplish what you have set out to do. I can guarantee you that I have identified mine. Zachary Weeks is the Community Development/Communications Coordinator with CPA (Alberta) and can be reached at 780-424-6312 or zachary.weeks@cpa-ab.org.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK! by Bryan Smith There are many pros and cons when an individual is looking to import a wheelchair accessible vehicle from the United States. There are some issues that should be researched before importing, such as: cost, warranty and vehicle modification. Cost: What may initially look like a good financial deal includes hidden costs, such as paying a non-refundable $195 + tax at the border to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV). GST is based on the price that you paid for the vehicle. And you will need to have an RIV inspection as well as an out of province inspection in order to be registered in Alberta. Warranty: Many vehicles may still have a significant amount of warranty remaining but you have to ensure that the warranty transfers from the U.S. to Canada. It is best to make sure that the vehicle you would like to purchase has a warranty transfer policy. This website gives you information on vehicles that have warranties, which are transferable and what steps you need to take: www.apa.ca/CanadianWarrantyinformationonnewcarsboughtintheUS.asp. Modifications: Having modifications done to your wheelchair accessible vehicle and the warranty of those modifications might also not be transferable from the U.S. to Canada. Make sure you find a company that is knowledgeable about vehicle modifications and is willing to service your vehicle after it has been modified in the U.S. I have never imported a modified vehicle, but I have had a few vehicles modified locally. Kevin Bennett and his team at Shopper’s Home Health Care in Calgary have assisted me with my vehicle modifications and have done a fantastic job. They stand behind their work and know what they’re doing in terms of vehicle modifications. The most important thing to remember if you’re thinking of importing a wheelchair accessible vehicle from the U.S. is to do your homework beforehand. Some informative websites are: www.riv.ca/Home.aspx (Registrar of Imported Vehicles), www. sparrowhawk.ca (Shoppers Home Health Care).

Personal Injury Lawyers 403.255.2636 www.vogel-llp.ca

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accessibility

&

UNIVERSAL DESIGN

ACCOMMODATING

AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE

by Ron Wickman

O

ne of my favorite buildings in the world is the Museum of Anthropology located at the University of British Columbia. On one of my visits, I took a series of photographs of a journey to the entrance and through the building to the main hall housing a number of wonderful totem poles. This journey followed the path from the perspective of me being in a wheelchair.

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1 This photograph shows the downward sloping accessible route as identified by the line and wheelchair symbol painted on the asphalt ground surface. The pathway will lead the visitor around a 180 degree turn back towards the museum’s main entrance.

4 I was a student at UBC for one year. On Mondays, I would study in the museum as admission was free. On a visit more than ten years later, with my digital camera, I took a series of photographs following the accessible route. This image shows the exterior stairs leading to the main entrance and a sign identifying museum hours and accessible route with a wheelchair symbol and an arrow pointing to the left.

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This is the 180 degree turn in the accessible route back towards the main entrance. A wooden sandwich board is placed right in the middle of the accessible route, making it difficult for a user in a wheelchair to get around. Clearly, not everyone is aware that this is a pathway used by people with disabilities.

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This photo shows the same accessible sign from the perspective of where the accessible route arrow is pointing away from the entrance. The gently sloping concrete pathway here is the accessible route.

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Here we can see the bottom landing area where the stairs and sloping accessible route meet. It makes me wonder if the stairs are even needed.


accessibility

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This is the main entrance’s glass double doors. There are no markings on the glass to help those users with low vision identify they are doors. To the right, away from the doors is a post with a push button to trigger the power door operator. This is a good location as it is outside the swing of the doors.

There is an interior sloping pathway leading to the grand hall space. The pathway is steeper than required by code. I imagine visitors in wheelchairs would view the exhibits quickly as they move down the pathway, taking more time as they move up.

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This is the grand hall space housing the totem poles that can be approached by the sloping path. It is one of the most wonderful spaces I have ever experienced.

There is no question that this museum is striking. But would I feel the same about the building if I were in a wheelchair?

EDMONTON

CHECKLIST FOR ACCESSIBILITY & UNIVERSAL DESIGN IN ARCHITECTURE WA S H R O O M S Single door entrance is optimal Washroom door is wide,easy to approach,and open (not recessed in a narrow hallway) For washrooms without entrance door,there is only one turn with clear corner so persons who are blind do not become disoriented Proper signage located outside entrance and cubicle door Sinks, garbage cans, etc. located around perimeter rather than in the centre of the room Accessible sink (minimum knee space of 735 mm) with soap and towel dispenser close to sink at preferred height of 1200 mm (to wash and dry hands prior to wheeling); include low mounted or tilt mirror

Y/N N/A

CHECKLIST FOR ACCESSIBILITY & UNIVERSAL DESIGN IN ARCHITECTURE

ACCESSIBLE CUBICLE: - minimum 1700 mm x 1500 mm - door that swings outward so person in wheelchair can close it independently - equipped with door pull handle, coat hook, grab bars at appropriate height and placement - can be locked from the inside with a large,sliding latch (not thumb-turning) - toilet paper reachable without leaning too far off toilet - accessible toilet height between 400 mm - 460 mm Self-contained,unisex/family washroom available,with proper signage provided in an accessible location (allows for any individual requiring assistance to be accompanied by a companion or attendant)

I N T E R I O R BU I L D I N G E L E M E N T S Public and emergency phones mounted at an accessible height TTY (built in typewriter) phone for users who are Deaf or hard of hearing At least one drinking fountain at accessible height (610 mm from ground preferred) spout located near front,controls either automatic or easily operated, cane detectable. Proper knee space below One accessible section of counter in all areas that serve the public Shelving, coat hooks and light switches at an accessible height Space for persons using wheelchairs to sit/park in all public seating areas, including companion (without blocking walk through areas) Level wheelchair seating area (in theatres, lecture halls, sports arenas etc), to also include companion seating Glass doors or partitions include a contrasting strip of color across at eye-level

The City of Edmonton Advisory Board on Services for Persons with Disabilities has created this checklist to promote the concepts of Universal Design. The BarrierFree Design Guide provides only a minimum standard for accessibility. With an aging population and increased independence and involvement of persons with disabilities in the community, there is a need to exceed

minimum standards for accessibility where possible. For example, many scooters today require a 10-foot turning radius instead of the standard five feet. Strollers for children are larger and require more room for maneuverability. Good design should incorporate principles of Universal Design, offering solutions as to how spaces can be designed and developed to meet the needs

of all users. The following checklist draws attention to several areas where accessibility can be improved by good design. For additional information or alternate formats, please contact the Advisory Board office. Phone (780) 496-5822 TTY (780) 944-5555 Transfer Code: DISBOARD Fax (780) 577-3525 www.edmonton.ca/disability

THE ADVISORY BOARD MISSION: “To promote recognition of the entitlements and service needs of Edmontonians with disabilities through awareness, advocacy and facilitating changes in City policy and practice.”

ALARM SYSTEMS/ EMERGENCY EXITS All alarm systems to include an audible and visual signal (e.g., flashing light)

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accessibility

BEYOND THE BUILDING CODE by Kuen Tang I have had the privilege of being a frequent traveler over the past few years. As an individual who is a C6/7 quadriplegic, oftentimes I need to travel with an aide. Traveling is not always easy; however the most difficult challenge for me is the lack of accessibility in wheelchair accessible hotel rooms. My first trip after my accident was to Baltimore, Maryland. The journey was definitely not easy and I learned a lot about what not to do for my next trip. On that trip I couldn’t get into the bathroom in my ‘wheelchair accessible room’ and I had to use the lobby bathroom. On my next trip, to Banff, I could get into the bathroom but couldn’t get close enough to the bed to transfer. On a trip to Saskatchewan, I had to call hotel security and ask if they could lift me into the bed because it was incredibly high. I could go on for days about hotel access stories. Each time I brought these concerns to hotel management, the answer was almost always, “we apologize but we did comply with the building code”. I was beginning to lose hope of ever finding a truly accessible hotel, until I went to Hinton and found, what was to me, a perfect room at the Holiday Inn Express. I was blown away by how thoughtfully the room was designed for a wheelchair user.

The biggest and most important feature in this room was bed height. The height of the bed was close to that of my wheelchair, which made transferring a breeze. For the first time in a long while, I was able to independently transfer in and out of a hotel bed. What a great feeling! The room also had wide space on both sides of the beds. This may not be a significant feature to some, but for me, being able to angle my wheelchair to the bed makes it easy to transfer. Another advantage of the wide space is that it gives caregivers ample room to move around. The bathroom was fabulous with plenty of space in front of the toilet to maneuver a commode chair; toilet height and size just right; and wheel-in shower and removable, height adjustable shower chair. There were a few extra little features as well, such as: a compact kitchen unit in the room with a sink, fridge, microwave etc.; quad hand-friendly curtain rods; lowered thermostat, and much more. I was wowed by this ‘truly’ wheelchair accessible room and would definitely book it again when I visit the Hinton area. The Holiday Inn Express went beyond the building code in making its hotel accessible to all. Ensuring that accommodations are accessible is beneficial for everyone, not just individuals with disabilities. With our aging population increasing rapidly, we have a “white tsunami” on the way. Included in this group are individuals who are active, living longer and traveling more. If the travel industry and its customers are to reap the rewards, it makes good economic sense to ensure that all facilities are accessible. If you would like more information about making your facility accessible, call your nearest CPA (Alberta) office.

Moving up has never been easier. RAM Manufacturing Ltd. is a North American leader in the design and manufacture of vertical elevating products for residential and commercial buildings. We proudly manufacture the Trus-T-Lift and the UNI-VERS Crystal Elevator right here in Alberta. Trus-T-Lift’s smooth and quiet performance makes this light weight, dependable and versatile unit perfect for any residential or commercial application. The UNI-VERS Crystal Elevator can be installed in various two and three story homes and commercial buildings, such as schools, churches, apartments and senior citizens centres. Our lifts and elevators can be customized to accommodate new or existing buildings with little or no modification. Independent mobility is your connection to the rest of the world. It allows you to remain active, improving your quality of life. Here at RAM Manufacturing Ltd., we take your independence seriously, giving you choice and quality at an affordable price. CALL TOLL-FREE:

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It is with great pleasure that after many years we are able to announce the creation of the Percy Wickman Accessibility Fund! Mission Statement To assist anyone interested in research and education related to making the built environment easier to use for all persons, especially those with disabilities. About the Fund It is all about CHOICE. All persons deserve the same choice to access the built environment, housing, public transportation, education, and employment. This lofty statement is especially focused on persons with disabilities. The Percy Wickman Accessibility Fund is focused on research and advocacy and through the award of grants, hopes to accomplish the following: • Assist persons with disabilities become more engaged in creating a more inclusive environment. • Assist persons who do not have access to any other source of funding. • Give persons a second chance to gain access to education. In education we empower our lives and the lives of others. • Create an army of advocates who can access funding to attend international conferences, host local workshops, complete research papers, write letters, take photographs, and produce videos. • Create a website where people can add their own stories. • Use our newly gained knowledge to inform Governments, Architects, Developers, Builders, Advocates, and the General Public about the value in creating a more inclusive environment. About the Grants On June 10th (Percy’s birthday) of each year, the Fund will award up to five (5) thousand dollars ($5,000.00) in grants to deserving individuals or groups to use for accessibility advocacy related purposes. As additional funds are raised in future years, they will be distributed in innovative ways and potentially in a greater number of grants. Anyone interested in advocating for a more inclusive environment for all citizens, especially those with disabilities, can apply. This could include: • Individuals conducting workshops • Students doing research projects • Persons with disabilities furthering their education • Individuals starting a business • Persons working on a new development with technology Interested in volunteering? Contact Ron Wickman at 780-430-9935 or rwickman@shaw.ca If you have a special story to share about Percy Wickman, we would like to know about it. Please email Ron Wickman with a story whether it is three (3) sentences or three (3) pages. To Raise Money The Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD) will be administrating the fund and donations can be sent to their address at 106 – 10423 – 178 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta, T5S 1R5. Just write your cheque out to ACCD and reference the Percy Wickman Accessibility Fund. Spinal Columns

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what’s new in

Alberta CALGARY Calgary Chair-Leaders On Friday, May 4th, 2012, the Calgary office of CPA (Alberta), in partnership with the Calgary Health Trust and the Tertiary Neuro Rehabilitation Program at Foothills Medical Centre, hosted its second annual “Chair-Leaders – Enabling Access” event. With the weather cooperating, eighteen participants enjoyed a day of activities which included an orientation and an obstacle course to demonstrate some of the challenges and obstacles faced by individuals with physical and other related mobility impairments. Participants conducted their daily business from a wheelchair, including taking HandiBus from Calgary Rotary Challenger Park to their places of business. From feedback we received, participants enjoyed the day, seeing it as a real eye-opener to the barriers within their places of business. We understand there were more than a few blisters, sore shoulders and yes, obstacles. To everyone’s credit, they all stayed in their chairs rather than just getting up to solve the problem. In addition, individuals and companies have indicated they would like to be more involved with participating in and supporting next year’s event. One of the many quotes on the day is from George Penny with Calgary HandiBus: “I was excited to take on the challenge for the Chair-Leaders event. As the CEO of Calgary HandiBus Association I witness firsthand how difficult it is to get around using a wheelchair; however, actually experiencing a working day was an eye opener! I believed our facility was fully wheelchair accessible; ramps and lifts, bathrooms and automatic doors are all great but when you actually have to maneuver around (and not cheat) in a wheelchair, it brought things into perspective for me and my team. It is an experience that everybody should take on – I just wish I had gone to the gym and worked on my upper strength. Overall, a great day and I will be encouraging more of my team to take part next year.”

EDMONTON CPA (Alberta) Provincial Awards CPA (Alberta) was honoured to recognize volunteers and supporters at a recognition luncheon held on June 9, 2012. The Ambassador Award is a provincial award presented to an individual in recognition of his or her long-time support of the CPA (Alberta) in the area of fund development. This person has contributed to the financial well-being of the organization and has contributed much to his or her own legacy. The Ambassador Award was presented to Pamela Bennett, in particular because

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Dale Williams presents an award to Charlotte Watkins of her involvement in the success of the Red Carpet Affairs over the past several years. Regional Volunteer Recognition Awards were presented in recognition of individuals who, through their volunteer efforts on behalf of the CPA (Alberta), have contributed to improving the lives of those with spinal cord injuries or other physical disabilities. Award winners were: Martha Schuur-Fort McMurray, Charlotte Watkins-Calgary, Mel and Cate Gunson-Grande Prairie, Christina Boese-Lethbridge. The Corporate Recognition Award provincial award is presented to an outstanding corporate supporter of the CPA (Alberta) through ongoing and long-term financial support and contributions of personnel, expertise, ideas and enthusiasm. The Corporate Recognition Award was presented to Eurasia Automotive, in particular because of their support of the Red Carpet Affair, the association’s biggest fundraising event. Blue Sky Award CPA (Alberta) was the recipient of the grand prize 2nd annual Blue Sky Award, presented by the Manasc Isaac architectural firm, known for its innovative sustainable designs. The award grants a local non-profit organization with $10,000 worth of free consulting time. The firm received 27 architectural proposals from different non-profit groups and made the selection based on the submitting group’s vision.

GRANDE PRAIRIE Barrier-Free Access Bylaw Amendment First Reading First reading was given to Bylaw C-1237B, which amends the barrier-free access section in the Municipal Development Plan. It proposes that Council establish a process to identify barriers to equal access and continually improve the accessibility of city services and facilities. A public hearing on Bylaw C-1237B was held on Monday, June 11, 2012. Chair-Leaders A very successful Chair-Leaders event was held on May 15, 2012, with eight participants. Comments included, “It took an hour to get the four blocks to my office because I had to cross the road at the light!” “The brick sidewalks are murder! They are uneven and my wheels got stuck”. “It was scary in the parking


r egions lot and the big truck backing up couldn’t see me.” Also, “Thank you for organizing this day - it sure gives me lots to think about.” Our committee would like to extend an extra big thanks to our sponsors, and to the people at Points West Living who held a bake sale on behalf of the Chair-Leaders Enabling Access event. Operation Traffic Watch Volunteers were invited to join a promotion campaign to encourage parking bylaw enforcement. Seven Sacred Teaching Award

PARTY Program This is our second year of involvement with the PARTY Program (prevent alcohol and risk-related trauma in youth), a program that promotes injury prevention through reality education, enabling youth to recognize risk and make informed choices about activities and behaviours. Days of Caring Project United Way of Fort McMurray matched host agencies to community volunteers to provide a day of caring in the community. CPA in Fort McMurray re-painted a number of accessible parking spaces, improving the look and making them easier to spot when parking. Family Safety Day Participated in this interactive community event that focuses on health, safety and wellness.

RED DEER

Winona Lafreniere of the CPA (Alberta)’s Grande Prairie office CPA (Alberta) Aboriginal Team Leader, Winona Lafreniere was honored with a Seven Sacred Teaching Award on Sunday, June 26, during National Aboriginal Day, at Muskoseepi Park in Grande Prairie. This is a community volunteer award given to seven individuals in Grande Prairie each year. In the award presentation, it was noted that “She truly is a caregiver in our community and is often seen helping out at various events as she believes in the importance of giving back to community, thus creating harmony in honour of “All My Relations”. Winona was recognized for her community involvement, serving on many boards and committees such as the Métis Local 1990, Partners Bridging Native Employment and Grande Prairie Aboriginal Circle of Services, Cultural Advisor for the First Nations, Métis & Inuit Program as well as member of the National Aboriginal Day Celebration. “Winona is a passionate, talented artist and cultural advisor for the Ojibway Nation. She is always willing to share traditional and cultural teachings to educate others of Aboriginal ways. She has a deep appreciation and gratitude for the wealth of cultural knowledge and traditional teachings she has received from Elders and gifted individuals. With great humility and respect Winona passes on these stories and gifts to help create greater understanding and to strengthen future generations. She works closely with Camp Tamarack’s “Touch the Earth Program” where many children of all nations gain greater knowledge of Mother Earth as a result of these teachings.”

Fort mcmurray Bylaw CPA (Alberta) is working with Bylaw to increase awareness during the winter months and an event to showcase the difficulties encountered. Welcome New Staff Former resident of Fort McMurray, Meagan MacKenzie has been hired as Community Development Coordinator for the Fort McMurray office.

Red Deer Chair-Leaders The Red Deer event held on May 24 was a great success with over 12 participants! Great media participation, including local radio stations The River, Kraze and Sunny 94. Thank you to all participants and a special thanks to our 2012 sponsor and host, Motion Specialties and their wonderful staff.

WEST CENTRAL ALBERTA Sailing with Disabilities

Sailing on Lake Wabamun Sincere thanks to everyone who helped with this year’s Sailing with Disabilities event at Lake Wabamun which took place on June 23rd and 24th, 2012. Under sunny skies, sixteen participants joined us on Saturday with each having at least one try at sailing their own boat. On Sunday, six participants attended, most of whom had a chance to sail in spite of windy and cloudy conditions. Even if some attendees didn’t want to sail or weren’t able, it was still a great day on the lake with a fantastic lunch. Both the Wabamun Sailing Club and the Disabled Sailing Association of Alberta expressed an interest in arranging to have boats available for a large portion of the season that would allow participants to book a boat and instructor at a time and day convenient to them. Special thanks to the Wabamun Sailing Club, the Disabled Sailing Association of Alberta and to all who contributed to the success of this event.

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travel

The Caribbean The Better of Two Worlds by Ned Shillington

Ned and Sonia Shillington in St. Thomas, one of the US Virgin Islands. As wheelchair users broaden their travel horizons and begin to travel to more exotic locations, an unwelcome pattern emerges: the less developed the country, the greater the difficulty in getting around in a wheelchair. Travel is easy in North America and Western Europe where facilities to accommodate individuals with disabilities have been an accepted part of the cost of building infrastructure for several decades. As one ventures into the third world, one soon realizes how privileged we are to live in a fully-developed country. Travel in the third world requires enormous planning and entails risks that discourage all but the most determined. My wife, Sonia, and I prefer to travel on cruise ships. For able-bodied people, cruise ships eliminate the inconvenience that comes from moving from hotel to hotel. For a person with a disability, it also eliminates the risk of arriving at a hotel late in the day and finding it inaccessible. Moreover, if a port of call is too challenging, you can enjoy a pleasant day on ship. On our first cruise, we spent some time doing online research of the various cruise lines and chose Princess Cruises. We have never regretted our choice and it is now our favourite. Last November we toured the Caribbean. We chose a tenday tour covering six islands that lie in an arc in the Eastern Caribbean: Princess Cays in the Bahamas, St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, St Kitts, Barbados, Dominica, and Antigua. The U.S. Virgin Islands have been a territory of the United States since 1917. All the rest are former British Colonies. Our tour began in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where, as expected, everything was fully accessible. We were more apprehensive about the islands in the Caribbean. So far as possible, we had researched these islands and they seemed to be reasonably wheelchair-friendly. Still, you are never sure until you actually disembark in a foreign port and try to navigate the city. We were

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pleasantly surprised. Modern cruise ships are enormous. We travelled on the Emerald Princess, a mid-sized ship built in 2005, that was 946 ft. long, 118 ft. wide, with seven decks (floors) of passengers’ rooms and carries 4800 people in relative comfort. Such monsters require large docks. Our first port of call was Princess Cays, on the southern end of the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas. It is a resort wholly owned by Princess Cruises. Paradoxically it was the only port of call that didn’t have an adequate dock so I spent a pleasant day on the ship. Our next two ports of call were St. Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands and St Kitts, in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. The latter proudly proclaims that it is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas with 35,000 citizens. On both islands we were greeted with a pleasant surprise. It has been our experience in different countries around the globe that very few tour buses are accessible. However, in both St Thomas and St Kitts the tour buses were accessible. I was able to join the others in half-day tours enjoying the spectacular beauty of these islands. On successive days, we visited Barbados, Dominica, and Antigua before returning to Fort Lauderdale. Each island had its own unique natural beauty, historical sights and distinctive cuisine. We did not find any more accessible shore tours. However, we didn’t need them. At each island, we landed in the principal city at a modern dock. We were able to go ashore with ease. In conclusion, if you would like to try a vacation that is a bit more adventuresome, consider a cruise in the Caribbean. The language is English. The Caribbean is among the most inexpensive of cruises. Most important, the islands are easily navigated by someone in a wheelchair. If you are in a wheelchair and yearn to stretch your travel horizons, this is the perfect place to get your feet wet as an international tourist.


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library in our library

NO ONE’S PERFECT AUTHOr/Hirotada Ototake by Chris Brainerd

T

his is the inspiring true story of a Japanese boy with a rare condition (congenital tetra-amelia) that resulted in him being born without arms or legs. Hirotada begins by telling the story of his birth. Taken from his mother before she could even see him, his father said he was suffering from jaundice, afraid the shock would be too much for her. When she finally held her son, Hirotada’s mother was just happy that he was alive and healthy. As Hirotada puts it, “At the age of three weeks, I was born at last.” From the time he was very young, Hirotada didn’t see himself as a person with a disability; he was just different. His parents treated him normally, helping him to see himself that way too. Challenges were many: elementary school administrators were reluctant to accept him, thinking he should attend a school for children with disabilities; some children made fun of him; he had trouble finding a college he could attend; most buildings in his city were not wheelchair accessible. Hirotada faced these challenges head-on, excelling in school and even joining the basketball team in junior high; in university he campaigned to raise awareness of the need for wheelchair accessible buildings. This is a book about overcoming adversity. Hirotada faced more challenges than most could imagine and surpassed them each time (his account of learning to swim on pages 70-76 will give you chills). The writing style is simple and it’s a fast read but it’s a book that you will want to go back to again and again. No One’s Perfect was published by Kodansha International in October 2003 and is available online from www.amazon.ca and www.chapters.ca.

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Spinal Columns: Summer 2012 Volume 27 Number 3