Removing barriers

Aethne Hinchliffe
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Last week Rick Hansen kicked off the 25th Anniversary Man in Motion World Tour in Cape Spear on Aug. 24.

Mr. Hansen began the Canadian segment of his original tour in Cape Spear on March 21, 1985. He was 27 when he wheeled more than 40,000 kilometres through 34 countries to raise awareness about removing barriers for people who have disabilities.

When Mr. Hansen was 15, he and his friend were in an automobile accident that left Mr. Hansen paralyzed from the waist down.

This tour will be a little bigger than the last – at least in terms of number people. Seven thousand medal bearers will run, walk or wheel a section of the relay.

For approximately six years, I worked for the City of Ottawa at a camp with people who have disabilities. Mobility could be a problem for the majority of our clients.

Since the day I learned to walk, getting around has been a piece of cake. I can walk, run, bike, swim, climb and drive. Like many people, I don’t have to think twice about ramps or elevators or the width of doorways.

Although I’ve always been somewhat aware of disabilities, I didn’t truly comprehend how able bodied centric much of our planet is. I didn’t realize until I began working with disabled clients.

Mr. Hanson’s tour has made realize how essential it is to remove barriers. For those who face them, barriers can cause frustration and isolation.

A few years ago, I was doing a placement in a high school special education classroom. One of our students was in a wheelchair and had to take a lift to get from the third floor to the main floor of the building.

The lift wasn’t widely used. (She might have been the only one who used it.) It would occasionally get stuck. Other times, the student would have to wait at the bottom for someone to help her off the lift.

I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve never even broken a bone. As the relay tours Canada this year, I’ll be reminded of how simple it is for people who don’t have difficulty getting around. It’s an important thing to remember because, after all, many of us are only able for so long.

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada

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