Hurry Hard on Ac­cess

Fort McMurray Today - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA BEAMISH To­day Staff [email protected]­media.com

Ryan Van Keulen, tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of Wheel­chair Sports Al­berta, (right) teaches Ayo Olawuyi to curl at the Paras­port de­mon­stra­tion at St. Gabriel’s in Fort Mcmur­ray, Alta on Dec. 1, 2018. Wheel­chair Sports Al­berta demon­strated sev­eral wheel­chair sports to the com­mu­nity dur­ing a visit to Fort Mcmur­ray to pro­mote ac­cess­abil­ity in sports.

Cas­san­dra Davis Olawuyi’s son, Ayo, is eight years old and is chal­lenged ev­ery day by his wheel­chair. That in­cludes find­ing ways to play.

So on Satur­day, she brought him to a Paras­ports de­mon­stra­tion at St. Gabriel’s school, hop­ing to show him there are no lim­i­ta­tions to what he can do if given the chance.

“There are peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties that may not be able to do all the things that some­body walk­ing is able to do,” she said. “If they can just open up a lit­tle space… some­thing that they can en­joy just as any two legged per­son, that would be great.”

The event was hosted by Wheel­chair Sports Al­berta to help bring aware­ness to the com­mu­nity. Through­out Satur­day af­ter­noon, peo­ple could ex­pe­ri­ence how bas­ket­ball, soc­cer and curl­ing were played by peo­ple in wheel­chairs.

Ryan Van Keulen, tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of Wheel­chair Sports Al­berta, said there are a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to bridge the gap, in­clud­ing im­prov­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity in­fra­struc­ture and so­cial pro­grams.

“Right now they don’t cur­rently have any sport pro­gram­ming up here, so we want to cre­ate some pro­gram­ming, draw some in­ter­est,” said Van Keulen. “We’re us­ing to­day to fig­ure out what sports the com­mu­nity is in­ter­ested in play­ing.”

Van Keulen notes that just be­cause it is a Paras­port, able­bod­ied peo­ple can also par­tic­i­pate.

“It is a very in­clu­sive way to get every­one in the com­mu­nity in­volved,” he said.

Over the years Olawuyi has seen chal­lenges liv­ing in Fort Mcmur­ray. Like many other ru­ral ar­eas, wheel­chair ac­ces­si­bil­ity can be a big­ger prob­lem com­pared to cities.

How­ever, she wishes there would be more in­clu­siv­ity when plan­ning things.

“If you go to Macis­land, lets say, what are the op­tions for him to do?” she said. “If you go to a hockey game and you’re on the ris­ers, there’s ac­tu­ally no way to bring his wheel­chair to the top, but if I was in some­where like Toronto or even Cal­gary, there’s op­tions there.”

Stephanie Myrick, re­gional pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor for Spinal Cord In­jury Al­berta, said there are cur­rently at least 100 res­i­dents in the re­gion in a wheel­chair.

“Ac­ces­si­bil­ity is an is­sue, es­pe­cially in the win­ter – snow cov­ered ramps, snow cov­ered curb cuts com­ing from the street, doors not work­ing when it gets too cold,” said Myrick. “Gen­er­ally it’s lack of ac­ces­si­bil­ity and lack of pro­grams for them to take part in.”

Myrick said that to see im­prove­ment, ren­o­vated build­ings need to adapt for ac­ces­si­bil­ity, not just make sure they are up to code.

“It’s not go­ing to be an easy fix, but peo­ple are work­ing on it,” she said.

De­spite the chal­lenges, Olawuyi said peo­ple in Fort Mcmur­ray have been ac­com­mo­dat­ing.

Ayo has been go­ing to Tim­ber­lea Pub­lic School since he was three. Olawuyi said she keeps her son at that school be­cause he feels ac­cepted.

“I never want him sit­ting around feel­ing sorry for him­self and when he’s at Tim­ber­lea Pub­lic School, he doesn’t have that op­por­tu­nity to do that be­cause he feels like one of the kids,” she said. “Even if it’s just one child. One child needs to feel in­cluded too, no mat­ter what their dis­abil­i­ties are.”

LAURA BEAMISH/FORT MCMUR­RAY TO­DAY

LAURA BEAMISH/FORT MCMUR­RAY TO­DAY/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Ryan Van Keulen, tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of Wheel­chair Sports Al­berta, (right) teaches Ayo Olawuyi to curl at the Paras­port de­mon­stra­tion at St. Gabriel’s in Fort Mcmur­ray, Alta on Dec. 1, 2018.

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