“Every day is a challenge when you are in a wheelchair,” says Rick Mason, a member of the Power Cord program at the Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being.
It is DIS/ABILITY Awareness Week at Brock.
To help increase understanding of this important student-led initiative, members of the Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being who participate in the Power Cord Exercise Program, share some of their day-to-day accessibility challenges and misconceptions about people with disabilities.
Power Cord is a wheelchair accessible program that customizes exercise specific to individuals with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and amputations.
Mason says as soon as he leaves the house, there are barriers. Three of the major accessibility issues he faces on a regular basis are at businesses that don’t have parking for accessibility vans, an accessible entrance or handicap washroom facilities.
“Many people in Niagara do not realize when they park on or too close to the yellow lines beside a handicap parking space; they could be preventing someone from getting in or out of their vehicle. Often, I’ve had to wait for the person next to me to finish their shopping and move their car before I can get my ramp down to get back in my vehicle. It is very frustrating.”
Mason’s wife Jackie says there are also misunderstandings among business owners about what a barrier-free washroom is. She says many believe having a larger stall is enough. What every business should have, that would be more helpful, is a companion washroom, where a caregiver can go in and assist.
“There are times when my husband (Rick) has gone into a public washroom and either, not been able to close the door or has gotten stuck in the stall and I’ve had to go into the men’s room to help him.”
The Power Cord members agree there appears to be a lack of patience in Niagara for individuals who require aids for movement.
Several Power Cord members feel there is a general lack of understanding about disability issues. For example, not every person with a disability is in a chair or uses a walker at all times.
Power Cord member Jasmine Rees says multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most misunderstood diseases.
“I have MS, some days are good and I can walk upright and other days, I can’t even feed myself because I cannot get out of bed. I’ve had people accuse me of ‘faking’ sick because I don’t look like what they think a disabled person should look like. My MS symptoms can change from day to day. Just because I am having a good day today, tomorrow is no guarantee,” says Rees.
When asked how being diagnosed with MS has changed her life, Rees says, initially it impacted her sense of value as a person.
“MS has changed my life in a lot of ways, I’ve had to sell my house and I’ve lost a lot of friends, not only because I had to cancel on so many social opportunities, but also because it was hard for them to see me change. Today, I may ‘look’ more able-bodied than some other Power Cord members, but multiple sclerosis is unpredictable.”
To learn more about physical and invisible dis/abilities and student experiences on campus, all are welcome to attend ABLE’s Accessibility Forum on Thursday, March 3, from 1-2 p.m. in WH207. Child and Youth Studies Professor John McNamara will help set the tone by presenting on some key issues.
Please RSVP at via Facebook at A B L E Awareness Breaks Limits For Equality. Twitter: @ABLE4Equality #ABLEBrockU #NoDISinABILITY