Spinal Cord Injury BC http://sci-bc.ca Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:10:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 How Accessible Is Your Hotel? http://sci-bc.ca/accessible-travel/accessible-hotel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accessible-hotel http://sci-bc.ca/accessible-travel/accessible-hotel/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:14:40 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=10443 Can your hotel provide accurate information on the specifics of its accessible rooms? Make booking easier by avoiding these "accessible hotel" mistakes.

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This summer I have answered numerous InfoLine requests for information about accessible hotels in various parts of BC. While there are a number of hotel options on our database for visitors to larger cities, the choices become few and far between for some smaller communities.

Although the Internet is an excellent resource for many things, it can be very difficult to find trustworthy and reliable information on the specifics of accessible rooms. In many cases I could not find what the caller needed, so I resorted to calling individual hotels. I came up with some amusing but very unhelpful responses, which are probably familiar to most of our members:

retroman

  • “Yes, the elevator is accessible but we don’t have any handicap rooms.”
  • “The hotel entrance is accessible…accessible bathrooms? Well, each room has a bathroom but a wheelchair couldn’t get in.”
  • “How wide are the doors? Wide enough.”
  • “Yes, we have an accessible room. It’s just up three steps.”

 

And my personal favourite inappropriate response (I have no idea what this hotel thought I was asking about!):

  • “Wheelchair access, what, in the bathroom? Well, there’s a hair dryer.”

You can imagine my delight when I talked to someone who actually knew how many inches wide the doorways are, or who knew what a wheel-in shower is and whether or not the hotel has one. These are the places I suggested the callers contact for more specifics to see if they could book a stay. Unfortunately, people who use wheelchairs and looking to travel don’t have as many options for places to stay as everyone else does and the accessible rooms may be booked up in advance.

There are several problems, I think. The first is that there aren’t many accessible rooms to start with and some of the ones that do exist may not be very functional due to misunderstandings about the layout or design. An inexperienced able-bodied person can easily overlook something that is crucial in the way of access, which can render an apparently accessible room unusable for some people.

Just as importantly, it is very difficult, as I’ve learned, to find information about the accessibility features that do exist. While some hotel websites do a great job outlining what accessible features they have, and some even include measurements, many websites bury the information or list it so vaguely that it isn’t very useful. And, some hotel websites do not have this information at all. Calling the hotel directly may not solve the problem either. I’ve found that the people answering the hotel phones often aren’t very knowledgeable about accessibility issues, hence the sometimes strange responses I have gotten.

accessible bathroomUnfortunately, when the information is this hard to find, people get frustrated and may even choose not to travel. Certainly, people are less likely to travel to a location where the accessibility is an unknown quantity unless there is no option. This is a shame because we know that traveling, getting involved in recreation activities, and visiting friends is not only beneficial but is also entirely possible for people with SCI. It just takes a bit more pre-planning and flexibility.

When I talk to our callers about booking hotel stays, I give them a list of suggestions about what to ask to help ensure the booking goes smoothly and the accessible room promised will actually meet their needs. I’ve posted these suggestions before, and they can be viewed here.

However, in the interests of finding larger-scale accessibility solutions for everyone, here are my suggestions to hotels:

  • Include accessibility features, with measurements or even floor plans, in a prominent place on the website.
  • Educate staff about the features and make sure those answering the phones have a fact sheet at their fingertips with all the accessibility specifications a person might ask about.
  • Keep in mind that people with disabilities have money to spend and will go elsewhere to find a hotel that meets their needs. They will take family members and friends with them, so there is a cost to not providing good information on accessibility.
  • Talk to travelers with disabilities directly about what features are needed so that the people using the rooms have functional access.
  • Ensure that what is promised during the reservation process is actually provided. One of our staff members recently did everything possible to ensure the room would be appropriate, only to arrive and find that it was nowhere near what had been promised. This can, of course, happen to any traveler, but it’s more problematic when it involves basic access to the bathroom, as just one example.

I also encourage our members to have discussions with hotels (and any other relevant business) to help spread the word about what proper accessibility actually means to people who need to use the services. Emphasizing that good planning and design actually benefits everyone during some stage of the lifespan is one way to help businesses understand the benefits of better accessibility. It also helps to show people that disability access, when done right, can be aesthetically pleasing to everyone.

What else have you done when booking hotels? What would be helpful for you to know during this process? Please share your stories so that we can learn from each other to help make things easier the next time.

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Ridiculous Challenges & Racing Chairs: The 2014 Bus Stop Hop http://sci-bc.ca/news/bus-stop-hop-2014/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bus-stop-hop-2014 http://sci-bc.ca/news/bus-stop-hop-2014/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:28:18 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=10377 Sometimes the road to rehabilitation includes hilarious quests around the city, awkward photos with strangers, and some quality time with public transit (which, despite an unfortunate snag here or there, really can be your friend.)

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Three and a half months ago, Ian Brown was crushed by a tree and broke his back, both shoulders, and multiple ribs. He was pretty beat up. But, as his wife Helen reports below, sometimes the road to rehabilitation includes hilarious quests around the city, awkward photos with strangers, and some quality time with public transit (which, despite an unfortunate snag here or there, really can be your friend.)

BSH112 days since Ian’s injury. 41 days in rehab. And home (hopefully) in 49 days… But today, we have a different mission.

Recently, SCI BC staff at GF recruited Ian and me for the Bus Stop Hop, Vancouver’s only wheelchair accessible scavenger hunt. We’re taking a leap of faith by agreeing to spend the day out of the hospital and embark on a weird, time-sensitive journey with a group of strangers.

“Bus Stop Hop”: it sounds innocent, fun, sort of makes you think “hop, hop, furry little bunny” and ” what a nice way to spend a day.” But first, you have to get to the Athlete’s Village starting line. GF Strong to Cambie is about four blocks away: straight along King Edward to the Sky Train station on the corner. Easy peasy. In Ian and I go, and figure out how to purchase our tickets (it’s been just a few years since my train days). We head down the elevator and along comes a train.

After the mass exodus of disembarkers, Ian goes in. And halfway in…he stalls! I don’t know if his wheels are stuck or if it’s just an awkward angle, but there he is: half in, half out. And now the alarms begin to sound…PANIC… his chair won’t move. Finally, three burly sorts grab hold and shove him into the train. And now, his chair has no power. No lights, bells or whistles! We probably should have tried the hazard lights—the only instance they would be of use.

groupBSHAs I bend over to look at the back of the chair, we see a dangling wire harness. Yipee! I find the appropriate hole, shove it in and…voila! Power ON.

BP levels go down a bit—for both of us—and before you know it, we’re at our stop. Off we get and I turn on the map app. I’m sure we should follow the blue arrow to the Athlete’s Village. We do a block before we realize we’re going the wrong way. Damn arrow (guess it needed to re-calculate.)

Back on track, we finally get there— in the end we find the Athlete’s Village by following other guys in chairs. Let the game begin! Scavenger hunt extraordinaire! We open the Goose Chase app, which contains all of our team missions, and away we go. We have to complete a shitload of challenges. When you take a photo of the challenge it is uploaded, and scores are kept current as people finish quests.

Some of these quests, of course, are almost too easy: “take a selfie of the team”; “find two black cars side by side.” But then they get tougher! On the SeaBus: “get at least eight people to do the Macarena.” Sounds easy, huh? You try it! Sometimes, Vancouverites do not have a sense of humour. Or “have the entire team walk a stranger’s dog.” Our team—now dog-walking crew—consists of Ian, me, Isaac (also in a chair,) his wife Vilumene and her sister Mary.

“Get at least eight people to do the Macarena.” Sounds easy, huh? You try it!
selfieBSHAt Lonsdale Quay: try to find a mother willing to let her under 10 year old feed ice cream to a strange man in a wheelchair! Then we’re off again, all the way to YVR, to take a picture of a current world event in a newspaper! We hit the River Rock Casino—old pros that we are, we easily give Isaac and girls directions here—to snap a shot of us blowing on a pair of fuzzy dice.

There are so many other fun and bizarre quests. (I get a young hottie—male, approximately 26 years old or so—to take off his shirt on the SkyTrain!) There must be 40 things to find and we nail some of the really tough ones: find a set of identical twins, and someone celebrating a birthday. We end up in 2nd or 3rd place—we can’t quite hear the announcement but win tickets to two different Canadian games in August!

moustacheThe day has been a very long one. We arrive home (ugh) around 8pm, so are of course suitably exhausted. (The next morning, I sleep in until 8:30am—total treat.)

112 days since Ian’s injury, 41 days in rehab, and what did we accomplish today? Let your imaginations run wild. We got strangers to do a sing-along, a whole crowd to do “the wave,” we arm wrestled with a stranger, scouted out a guy with an impressive mustache, and so much more! I really hope to come back next year. And to really kick some butt. And, who are we kidding, to go for the top spot. (The way the challenges are set up, it’s really anybody’s game.)

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“Incomplete” article is complete and timely http://sci-bc.ca/news-and-blog/incomplete-article-complete-timely/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=incomplete-article-complete-timely http://sci-bc.ca/news-and-blog/incomplete-article-complete-timely/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:49:45 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=10228 The latest issue of The Spin hit home for many British Columbians living with an incomplete injury. Our InfoLine specialist examines readers' reactions.

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I had a strong emotional reaction to the articles in our latest Spin magazine about incomplete injuries. I kept thinking that finally someone has written about the issues I have been hearing about on InfoLine from people with incomplete injuries and their family members.

incomplete_injuryWhen I first started working at the BC Paraplegic Association in 2010 I was familiar with many aspects of spinal cord injury but was not knowledgeable about incomplete injuries. Since then I have made a point of learning about them, especially the issues that people who are able to walk post-injury may face. This learning, both from academic sources and most importantly, from people with SCI, has given me an appreciation of the unique and often misunderstood challenges people may face.

I often hear people say that they feel alone in their situation or feel like they shouldn’t complain because at least they can walk when so many cannot. We know that members of the public often don’t understand the secondary complications of SCI, and when someone does not need to use a wheelchair, it is even harder for others to understand what the person might be experiencing. When I read the Spin articles I felt like cheering because the issues are explained so well by people who have been there. This is exactly the sort of resource that I have wanted to give to people who are newly injured or who feel isolated in their experience.

I have already forwarded the articles to a number of people who have contacted me over the past few months, in hopes that knowing others have been through similar experiences will ease their own journey a little bit. This has been met with very enthusiastic and appreciative responses.

InfoLine has had a number of other positive messages as well, more than we normally get for a Spin issue. Comments include:

  • “I didn’t know others were dealing with that.”
  • “I’m not the only one?!”
  • “I can readily identify with the problems discussed.”

When people call InfoLine for information, I sometimes hear hesitation when disclosing an incomplete injury, especially for those who say they “look normal” to the casual observer. I think people wonder whether they belong in our organization if they can walk post-injury. The reality is that our members represent every possible outcome of spinal cord injury and related physical disabilities. Everyone is welcome because everyone has something to gain and to give. Many of our articles and event photos feature people who use wheelchairs, and for good reason; however, the message that injury looks different for some of our members is an important one for us to send out. Our members, and the public, need this forum to better understand the challenges and opportunities for those with incomplete injuries.

Please encourage everyone you know to read these articles and learn about incomplete injuries, along with all aspects of SCI, to increase awareness and help make things just a bit easier for our members. In the meantime, we hope that anyone struggling after injury will connect with both our Peer and InfoLine programs.

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Taking Public Transit: Is It Really That Bad? http://sci-bc.ca/sci-bc-event/taking-transit-really-bad/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taking-transit-really-bad http://sci-bc.ca/sci-bc-event/taking-transit-really-bad/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 18:56:04 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=10098 When a small-town girl tries to navigate the big city, a new injury, and the Vancouver transit system, things take an unexpected (and utterly hilarious) turn.

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When a small-town girl tries to navigate the big city, a new injury, and the Vancouver transit system, things take an unexpected (and utterly hilarious) turn.

I come from a small town of 1,000 people spread between three communities. We have dirt roads, and no traffic lights. It’s a place where everyone knows everyone and can get around by either walking, biking, or quadding, or by using a car or a truck.

I used to have a standard car. But then I was in a motor vehicle accident a year ago, and had to move from the small town and into the big city for the first time in my life. As if that wasn’t change enough, let’s add a spinal cord injury at the T-10 level, and throw in some paralysis while we’re at it!

transit-blogWell, it’s been a year, and I’m not quite comfortable enough to be in the driver’s seat. I know I can use hand controls but not using my legs to push the pedals is something that, for me, will take some time to get used to. That doesn’t mean I’m never going to go for my license again—I’m just not comfortable yet. So what do I do to get around this ginormous city I moved to? Well, I take transit…

I decided that if I’m going to live in a city I know nothing about, and not rely on the GF Strong Rehabilitation Center anymore, I’m going to need to find my own way to my doctor, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy appointments, as well as to other important meetings that help me live the new “wheelchair life.” So, I started taking transit.

Now, the first time I took transit was quite interesting because I had never taken a city bus before—let alone been on a city bus in a chair. With my luck, my chair was an inch or two too big, so I would literally get stuck on the ramp going up. I could hear the bus driver telling my occupational therapist, “His chair is too big, he won’t fit on the bus.” (This bothered me, but I didn’t say anything…yet!) Of course, on the way down we also had a bit of an issue, this time with my push rings getting stuck on the outside of the ramp. On top of all of the chair commotion, I had short hair, with a baggy t-shirt and jogging pants on, hence the driver mistaking me for a boy.

Well that did it for me—he said I was “too big” and he called me a “he”?!
As I was leaving the bus, the bus driver commented again: “He’s too big to come on the bus, he needs a smaller chair.” Well that did it for me—he said I was “too big” and he called me a “he”?! I decided to half-jokingly, half-seriously yell to the driver: “I’M A GIRL!!! CANT YOU SEE MY BOOBS?!” Well, the entire bus exploded with laughter, because they all knew I was female, not male. Then the bus driver apologized. I too got a laugh out of it, and continued on my way.

(Since that day, I have lost enough weight so that my chair goes on and off the ramp with no problems. And, I even got a smaller chair! But that’s besides the point.)

radarHere I was in the city, for the first time, and I didn’t know how to get around to go out and do things. Then my friend told me about the Transit app, and the Radar app that you can get on your smartphone: you enter in your address, and where you wanna go, and bam! The easiest bus routes are found! Plus, the radar app lets you know when the bus will be coming to the specific stop you are at. PERFECT! Now I’m a lot more comfortable with getting on and off the bus and Skytrain in the city.

So, for everyone that is new to the “chair life” or even new to the city or transit system, it has its ups and downs—just like everything else in this crazy thing we call life. But once you get on the bus the first time—whether your experience is a good or bad one—it does get easier! You won’t always have that one grumpy bus driver because he hates the morning traffic and you won’t always have to sit by that one person who forgot to put some deodorant on in the morning. When it comes down to the just of it, the beautiful city of Vancouver has some seriously accessible transit systems, and it can only get better from here!

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Accessibility 2024: A Step Forward, But Is It Enough? http://sci-bc.ca/news-and-blog/accessibility-2024-step-forward-enough/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accessibility-2024-step-forward-enough http://sci-bc.ca/news-and-blog/accessibility-2024-step-forward-enough/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 22:13:42 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=10079 The Disability White Paper process aimed to make BC the most progressive jurisdiction for people living with disabilities in Canada. Now, the final document and recommendations are out.

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Over the last several months British Columbians were encouraged to participate in the Disability White Paper process with a goal to develop a strategy for making BC “the most progressive jurisdiction for people living with disabilities in Canada.” Community participation was an essential part of the process consistent with the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by Canada in 2010.

In the process of 23 in-person sessions across 15 communities people voiced their opinions on a variety of topics relevant to individuals with disabilities. Other ways people could contribute included emails, regular mail, phone calls, and organizational submissions. Care was taken to address one of the primary concerns that people had regarding the whole process which was whether, and how, the suggestions will be converted into actions.

In May of 2014, the BC Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation issued the “Disability Consultation Report: Moving Toward an Accessible B.C” The topics included were the ones considered the most prevalent in the consultation process—Inclusive Government, Accessible Service Delivery, Accessible Internet, Accessible Built Environment, Accessible Housing, Accessible Transportation, Income Support, Employment, Financial Security, Inclusive Communities, Emergency Preparedness, and Consumer Experience.

Accessibility2024coverSpinal Cord Injury BC also participated in the process and submitted its recommendations based on the priority needs of our membership. We emphasized the importance of the continuity of disability-related government services to reduce a piecemeal approach to disability. We raised the issue of personal supports in their broadest sense. We suggested thinking of employment in the context of the environments in which work is possible. We also couldn’t avoid the issue of accessible housing and its critical shortage. We brought up the importance of recognizing the role of social networks in the lives of individuals with disabilities. Finally, we called for greater flexibility of the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

There was a lot of anticipation preceding the summit. The final document—Accessibility 2024—is an attempt to incorporate the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and reflect the needs of people with disabilities in BC. The importance of making government and its services truly accessible as well as working towards inclusive communities cannot be overestimated. However, as much as it is impossible to commit to solving an exhaustive list of the problems that people with disabilities face, it does not mean we should not try to be inclusive in our policy priorities.

We take words like “disability” and “accessibility” for granted and assume there is a tacit agreement on what we mean when we use them. However, considering the complexity of disability not only in terms of distinction between the types of impairments but also in terms of individual perceptions of disability, and lived experiences, the assumption that we can apply one definition to everyone is simply wrong. The effect of such over-generalized definitions is a lack of substance and commitments, and a dominance of relatively “safe” issues. For instance, unfortunately, mental health has not been addressed in this report.

We take words like “disability” and “accessibility” for granted and assume there is a tacit agreement on what we mean when we use them.
As a person with mobility impairment and an ally of people with spinal cord injuries through Spinal Cord Injury BC, I applaud the government’s efforts to address the issues of physical barriers which, despite of significant progress, are still relevant. But is it that everything there is to accessibility?

The consultation managed to build momentum but the likelihood of maintaining it over the 10 years that the action plan will span is very small—as is the case with any other long-term policy initiatives.

Pat_AlfiyaCommitment is one of the major predictors of successful policy. Accessible housing has been identified as one of the most pressing issues for our members but if all we do in this direction is “continuing to explore options for a registry of accessibility housing in BC,” we will not achieve much within 10 years.

Each goal is accompanied by the measurement tools that seem one-sided and reductive considering the complexity of the issues. If, in order to measure the success of the disability assistance system, we compare BC’s income supports, asset limits and earnings exemptions to other provinces, are we really capturing the difference that we want to capture? Numbers don’t tell the whole story, especially when it comes to the quality of life of people with disabilities.

The BC Government has a very ambitious goal in mind—to make BC the most progressive place in Canada for people with disabilities. Developing a roadmap is a step in the right direction but it’s equally important to remember that any roadmap should be open to further changes and improvements along the way…

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Accessible Summer Travel http://sci-bc.ca/accessible-travel/accessible-summer-travel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accessible-summer-travel http://sci-bc.ca/accessible-travel/accessible-summer-travel/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 21:02:50 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=10047 When the weather starts to warm up, InfoLine sees an increase in calls about accessible travel, recreation opportunities, and transportation. Check out these handy tips and tricks.

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Craving a summer getaway? You’re not alone! Check out these handy tips and tricks from our Infoline Specialist.

When the weather starts to warm up, InfoLine sees an increase in calls about accessible travel, recreation opportunities, and transportation. These topics seem to lie more or less dormant in the winter, coming to life again as the trees leaf out and the flowers start to bloom.

accessible-summer-travelNot surprisingly, people who find it difficult to get out in the winter want to make the most of activities outside of the home when the weather is good. There are plenty of fun things to choose from but consider the logistics of the trip first.

One of the more frequent calls at this time of year is from people planning trips to BC and inquiring about renting a van with a lift. Unfortunately, there are very few companies that rent out accessible vans and those that do are usually booked in advance. This can obviously have a serious impact on the vacations that people can consider, so it’s important to plan the logistics of the trip well in advance.

We also get calls about accessible hotels and outdoor activities. The answers to these questions depend on the region people are living in or want to visit. There are a lot of great places across BC to explore and accessibility is becoming better over time. That said, it’s still important to do your homework to ensure that a place that is listed as accessible will actually meet your individual needs. Since most members of the public are not as familiar with accessibility features as we would like, asking specific questions can help to elicit the information you need.

Here are some things to consider when booking a hotel:

  • Is the front entrance a level entry and are there automatic doors?
  • Are elevators large enough to accommodate your wheelchair size?
  • Are all public areas accessible? (you should ask about specifics like a pool area, garden, etc. if you want to be able to use these features)
  • Are rooms/suites totally accessible, with wide bathrooms, grab bars, raised toilets and roll-in showers, light fixtures at appropriate height, easy-to-open doors and cabinets, etc.? Are aids such as bath benches available upon request?
  • Is the hotel contact thoroughly familiar with the kind of room requested? If not, speak to someone who is to avoid any unwanted surprises. Ask for photos.
  • When you arrive, check out the room before you check in.

When choosing outdoor activities, think about what you would like to be able to do and what you would need in order to make that activity possible (such as specialized equipment). Accessible trails, docks, and campsites are available, as are activities like bungee jumping, sailing, sightseeing, and many more. Other people prefer to watch sporting events, go to concerts, or visit family. Whatever you choose to do, it’s always best to ask ahead of time to ensure that you will be able to enjoy the activity on the day of your choice and to avoid frustrating delays or lack of accessibility.

ancient-forest-4

I suggest you read through the other blogs on this site about some of the activities our staff and members have enjoyed over the past few years. Also check out our Accessible Travel section, which provides great information on traveling with a disability, including airplane travel. Our SCI Information Database has lots of information on travel, transportation, and places to visit. You can also contact InfoLine at info@sci-bc.ca or 1 800 689 2477 and we’ll be glad to help.

My personal favourite accessible place to see in BC is the accessible boardwalk at the Ancient Forest east of Prince George. You can see my blog about the site from last summer here.

We’d love to hear your travel experiences, good or bad. Feel free to send us stories from previous years or what you end up choosing to do this summer. In the meantime, enjoy this time of year!

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The Gloves Are Off: Why 5k in a Wheelchair Is Not as Easy as It Looks http://sci-bc.ca/news-and-blog/gloves-5k-wheelchair-race/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gloves-5k-wheelchair-race http://sci-bc.ca/news-and-blog/gloves-5k-wheelchair-race/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 20:04:35 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=10018 At first he mocked the 5k. But sore hands, steep hills, and a laughing wife ensured first-time "roller" Nick Baker really felt the Challenge in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge.

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At first he mocked the 5k. But sore hands, steep hills, and a laughing wife ensured first-time “roller” Nick Baker really felt the Challenge in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge.

As someone who’s completed a couple of marathons in recent years I’d like to think I was ‘reasonably’ fit. Whenever the need arises to run for the bus I can usually make it without breaking into too much of a sweat. So, in that context, just one thought raced through my mind when I was asked to take part in a 5k Scotiabank Charity Challenge to raise money for Spinal Cord Injury BC: “5k? That’s it? No problem!” But I soon learned that this was no ordinary 5k race. Instead of walking, I was challenged to transport myself around the course in a wheelchair. A wheelchair? My confidence quickly evaporated. That was something I’d never operated before.
A wheelchair? My confidence quickly evaporated. That was something I’d never operated before.
But the more I thought about it the more I began to relax. How hard could it really be operating one of those things? I mean, they’ve hardly got square wheels. Plus, modern chairs are well-oiled machines and much less work than running (I was sure of it.) Maybe I would even luck out and get a power chair? My confidence returned and concern disappeared. 5k in a wheelchair? No problem at all. Bring it on! How little did I know my pride was destined to take an almighty fall.

nick-chairFast forward to race day—a beautiful, sunny morning in stunning Stanley Park. I turned up there with my wife and our five-month-old daughter who I’d dragged along for moral support (turned out I would need it—and more!) As a new volunteer, I scanned the crowd to see if I could spot any SCI BC t-shirts and I soon spotted a bunch of people wearing them near a tent. I walked over with an extended arm and was impressed at how many SCI BC participants and supporters had showed up: more than 60 people. But more than that, I was equally impressed at everyone’s energy: warm, positive with an abundance of smiles. Right away, I felt welcomed and part of the team, and that meant a lot to me. There was a great sense of community amongst the group—while someone had baked an energy cake for everyone to share another had brought much-needed drinks. As I grabbed a large slice of cake, I for one certainly appreciated it!

One of my team captains was SCI BC’s Kirsten Sharp and our team the aptly named ‘Walk n’ Rollers.’ Kirsten introduced me to as many people as she could, including teammates like Gary Steeves and his friend Grant, a former athlete. I was in good company. With the pleasantries out the way, Kirsten introduced me to my wheelchair. It looked in good shape but there was just one small problem. Where were the gloves? I asked Kirsten whether she’d brought some and she quickly informed me that it was up to me to bring gloves and they didn’t come with the wheelchair. It was a schoolboy error of the ultimate magnitude: blistered hands were now imminent (much to Gary and Grant’s amusement.)

A few minutes before the race started I jumped into the chair and began wheeling myself (sans gloves) towards the start line. My heart beat faster as I realized it wasn’t as easy wheeling yourself along as it looked, not on grass at any rate. Maybe the concrete road would be easier? In the distance I saw Grant had already wheeled himself to the start line. This was not a good sign and not for the first time that day my wife gave me a push.

Not for the first time that day my wife gave me a push.
As we approached the line, my wife and stroller alongside me, I suddenly got worried. What if I couldn’t finish the race? What if my arms were not up to the task? Do you get disqualified if you took longer than ten hours to complete the distance? In a panic, I asked my wife if she would walk alongside me during the race ‘just in case.’ Thankfully, she obliged. At least I now had my own personal support team on hand if I needed it (boy would I need it.)

nick-wheelingAs the clock wound down to the start of the race I looked around and was amazed at all the smiling faces and positive spirits that stood around me. It was infectious. So many people had turned out to raise money for charity and it made you proud to be a part of it. When the race finally started it took a few minutes to make it over the start line due to the large number of people ahead of me, but it felt good to finally get rolling…slowly. VERY slowly. I soon discovered that even when you are travelling along on concrete, it’s not as easy as others make it look. The reason is due to the gradient of the roads. They’re not even and are designed so they slope downwards from the middle to the side of the road. This means you are constantly being pushed to the left by gravity and can’t effectively wheel yourself along with both arms. I soon found myself being forced to use only my left arm which was my much weaker limb. Already I felt in trouble and I hadn’t even made it past the first 1k marker!  After what seemed like an eternity but was actually only 15 minutes (my wife was my official time keeper) I saw the 1k marker and was elated. I was a fifth of the way there.

The next two kilometres were a little easier, mostly because the course took you along the Stanley Park bike lane which was fairly even with no steep gradients. There were also a couple of downhill sections where I even managed to leave my wife and stroller behind. But it was only temporary as the worst was yet to come. The last two kilometres of the race can only be described as ‘hellish.’ They kicked my butt. Up. Hill. Pretty much all the way. It almost killed me. It was only thanks to the verbal support of my loving wife (“Nick, right now you are going so slow its embarrassing”) that I managed to finish the race, but it was pure torture. Not only have you got the hill to deal with pushing you backwards, you also have the incline/gradient of the road pulling you to the side. In short, you’re being attacked by gravity from two sides and its not pretty. Not on your arms.

“Nick, right now you are going so slow its embarrassing”
When I finally made it back to the SCI BC base camp, Kirsten and co were already relaxing, having finished the race long before me. “How did you get on with no gloves?” asked Grant. (I was sure he was smirking.) “Not too bad,” I replied, looking down at my hands. I wasn’t lying—they were surprisingly healthy considering. It wouldn’t be until the next day that the blisters would show themselves in all their glory. As I laughed and talked amongst my group of teammates everyone was having fun and it was nice to be included in it. This year the Walk ‘n’ Rollers raised a whopping $37,000 plus for SCI BC—incredible. I’ve volunteered for a few different organizations over the years but SCI BC has to be the friendliest and most welcoming. So, if you’re considering becoming a volunteer or taking part in this event yourself next year you won’t be disappointed.

A word of warning though: if you do consider doing the walk in a wheelchair just make sure you remember some gloves!

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TransLink commits $1 million to HandyDART http://sci-bc.ca/news/translink-commits-1-million-handydart/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=translink-commits-1-million-handydart http://sci-bc.ca/news/translink-commits-1-million-handydart/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 20:35:34 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=9987 This past month TransLink made a substantial pledge to the accessible transit service. But is the extra $1 million in funding enough?

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This past month, Translink made a substantial financial pledge to accessible transit.
It’s a promising move forward. But is it too little too late? And is it even enough?

In an effort to cut down on a troubling increase in trip denials, Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority, Translink, will add $1 million to the accessible HandyDART transit system in 2014.

handydart2The HandyDART community shuttles that pick up and drop off seniors and people with disabilities turned down nearly 40,000 rides last year, leaving an average 100 users per day homebound or stranded, and scrambling for other options. The announced boost in funding, and transfer of several under-used routes to contracted taxis, will cut down service denials by three quarters, providing 30,000 additional trips.

Yet for many HandyDART riders who receive the specialized door-to-door service at public transit rates, the increased capacity is still not enough. Despite TransLink’s million dollar commitment, people with limited mobility will be denied 10,000 rides in the coming year.

Rates of refusal—up from 4,900 times in 2008 and 13,400 times in 2010, to 37,700 times in 2012—reflect the aging population and drastic increase in demand, coupled with system inefficiencies: Passenger absenteeism or last minute cancellations were responsible for more than half of lost seats in the last year alone. The nearly 40,000 refused rides account for 3 percent of a total 1.2 million HandyDART trips in 2012.

Translink’s pledge to HandyDART—and the first funding increase in three years—will come from last year’s nearly $36.8 million operating surplus. The extra funds, and deeper acknowledgment of a deficient accessible transit system, are essential to getting people with limited mobility to medical appointments, work engagements, social gatherings, and any other destination.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is the HandyDART system not quite what it should be? Is TransLink on the right track? Join the conversation in the comment section below.

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SCI BC Issues RFP for Audit Services http://sci-bc.ca/news/sci-bc-issue-rfp-audit-services/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sci-bc-issue-rfp-audit-services http://sci-bc.ca/news/sci-bc-issue-rfp-audit-services/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 17:09:05 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=9928 Special Announcement, June 18, 2014: Audit Services Request for Proposals On behalf of SCI BC’s Board of Directors, SCI BC has issued a request for proposals for audit services covering the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015, with the potential to extend for an additional 4 years. Recognized Chartered Professional Accounting (CPA) member firms with experience in and […]

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Special Announcement, June 18, 2014: Audit Services Request for Proposals

On behalf of SCI BC’s Board of Directors, SCI BC has issued a request for proposals for audit services covering the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015, with the potential to extend for an additional 4 years. Recognized Chartered Professional Accounting (CPA) member firms with experience in and knowledge of the nonprofit sector are invited to submit a proposal  by 5 pm on July 4, 2014 (electronic applications are welcomed).

Download the RFP Package: the request for proposals package can be downloaded by clicking here.

Inquiries and submissions are be directed to: Marion Patsis, Manager of Finance and HR

  • Mail: Spinal Cord Injury BC, 780 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver, BC  V6P 5Y7
  • Phone: 604.324.3611
  • Email: mpatsis@sci-bc.ca

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MixAbility is looking for mixed-ability couples to join its new group http://sci-bc.ca/news/mixability-looking-mixed-ability-couples-join-new-group/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mixability-looking-mixed-ability-couples-join-new-group http://sci-bc.ca/news/mixability-looking-mixed-ability-couples-join-new-group/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 16:48:18 +0000 http://sci-bc.ca/?p=9924 Upstart Facebook group MixAbility is currently looking for other mixed-ability couples to join its ranks. If you are part of a couple consisting of one able-bodied and one disabled partner, this group may be for you. MixAbility was formed in May 2014 by mixed-ability couple Luke and Kayla Melchior from Victoria, Canada. Luke, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and […]

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Mixability facebook group logoUpstart Facebook group MixAbility is currently looking for other mixed-ability couples to join its ranks.

If you are part of a couple consisting of one able-bodied and one disabled partner, this group may be for you.

MixAbility was formed in May 2014 by mixed-ability couple Luke and Kayla Melchior from Victoria, Canada. Luke, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and uses a power wheelchair, met his able-bodied wife through an online dating service in 2004 and they have been together ever since.

Luke jokes, “I was able to see past Kayla’s able-bodiedness right away. I loved her for whom she was, rather than how she moved about!” According to Luke and Kayla, MixAbility is place where couples can share stories, seek advice and support one another. Kayla adds, “Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances that are hard for other couples to relate to when they aren’t living a mixed-ability experience.”

To join the group, visit: http://www.facebook.com/MixAbility

To contact MixAbility c/o Luke Melchior, Co-administrator:

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