People are more than their wheelchair’; Speaker shares experiences with school classes

Published: February 2, 2008  |  Source: thepeterboroughexaminer.com
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A group of Grade 8 boys gained a better understanding of life in a wheelchair through a presentation which complemented some of their in-class learning.

Stephanie Bolton, regional service co-ordinator for the Peterborough Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario, spoke to 24 pupils at Highland Heights Public School Thursday about how people need to adapt their lives after a spinal cord injury.

“I call it getting into your groove,” she said. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

The association provides referrals, counselling and often acts as a go between for their clients and government agencies.

“Their needs are just as vast as anybody else,” Bolton said. “We’re a one-stop shop for assisting with the bumps in the road.”

Bolton was accompanied by Melissa Addison-Webster who has been in a wheelchair since a car collision seven years ago.

A focus for the association is raising awareness of Disability and accessibility issues.

“People are more than their wheelchair,” Bolton said.

Addison-Webster told the class about her journey and what also makes her a regular person.

“I can transfer myself and drive,” she said. “I take care of my own personal care.”

The injury to her spine is high up and she’s technically a quadriplegic because her arms are affected but she still has use of them.

She works as a community development worker for the YWCA and leads an active life.

“I’ve gone horseback riding and sailing. I swim,” she said. “I also went camping in the Arctic.”

Before the presentation the class answered a questionnaire about etiquette when dealing with disabilities so the speakers could find out what the pupils think.

The pupils learned that if they see someone with a disability on the street who may need help it’s best to ask first instead of just grabbing onto someone’s chair.

“I always appreciate the offer, even if I don’t need help,” Addison-Webster said.

The boys were taken to look at how her van has been modified so she’s able to get in and out and drive on her own.

The presentation stems from a book they’re reading called “Rebound” by Eric Walters, which teacher Karen Brown said has two main characters who are Grade 8 boys, one of whom is recovering from a spinal cord injury.

The book and presentation makes the boys think about things most people don’t have to, she said.

Bolton pointed out that throughout the presentation everyone shifts in their seats to stay comfortable but someone who has Paraplegia has to remember to shift or else they could get pressure sores.

“We wouldn’t think about bed sores or muscle spasms,” Brown said, adding several pupils thought “why would you have to worry about something that doesn’t work?”

The presentation was also linked to the Wheelchair Relay Challenge taking place today at the Sport and Wellness Centre which will involve teams of five navigating an obstacle course consisting of daily tasks from a wheelchair.

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