2.04.2007

wheels in motion

hansen fletcher harper


Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that his government will contribute $30 million over five years to a national network that will focus on spinal cord injury research and rehabilitation.

The funding commitment will mostly go to Rick Hansen's Foundation for Spinal Cord Injury Translational Research Network, a Canadian team that speeds the link between research discoveries and practical applications in the field of spinal cord injury - something that is badly needed.

Harper also announced that some funds will go towards rehab, mobility and improved independence for people currently living with spinal cord injury.

Cure can be a controversial subject in the disability community. Too much focus on "fixing" disabilities and not enough on living with them, and making the world more livable for them, is bound to meet with disappointment and protest. If there is a cure one day - if paralysis from spinal cord injury is eliminated - it would change the world on the scale of eradicating polio or smallpox. But people living with SCI can never give up the daily battle to be integrated into mainstream life.

In the photo above, Harper is standing between Rick Hansen and Steven Fletcher.

Hansen, former Olympic and Paralympic athlete, who has raised millions of dollars and immeasureable oceans of awareness through his foundation and the Man In Motion tour. I have a soft spot for Rick Hansen - and did before I even realized he was Canadian - because he competed in the 1984 Olympics, the first Olympics to feature wheelchair racing as an exhibition sport. I have interviewed dozens of athletes with disabilities who name Rick Hansen as their original hope that life could go on after their injury.

Fletcher is a Conservative MP in Winnipeg, the first quadriplegic to be elected to the House of Commons. I'm slated to write about him this year for New Mobility magazine. How will I write about a member of Stephen Harper's government? We shall see.

4 comments:

lucie said...

Oh I've wanted to tell you something but I forgot until I read this post. I've spent more than 10 years in different states in the US (walking with crutches) and now that I've moved to Canada, I am very sad to realize that legislations and concerns regarding accessibility are almost non-existant in Canada! Whereas in the US I felt that everyone wanted to make my life easier (and did a great job at it), here in Canada, I feel that the bare minimum is done and no one cares about doing more. Toronto is the most unaccessible (or inaccessible?) city I've been to since Paris, France! I am glad Mr. Harper is at least acknowledging that disabled people exist and need help...

L-girl said...

Wow, Lucie. Your experience contradicts that of all the wheelchair-users in Canada that I've interviewed or read about - which is a lot of people, I've been at it for a long time.

Canada's disability rights laws pre-date the US's ADA by decades. Disability is included in the Charter. There are laws governing accessibility in every province and municipality in Canada.

I'm so sorry your experience has been so different. (Although the laws are definitely there.)

impudent strumpet said...

You're writing about Steven Fletcher?? There's one thing I've always want to know about him. This sounds rude-ish and is the sort of thing you can't really ask a person, but I am genuinely curious: when it comes time to rise and vote in Commons, what does he do? Obviously there must be some kind of accomodation, but I've never been able to find out what it is.

L-girl said...

You're writing about Steven Fletcher??

I'm slated to later this year.

There's one thing I've always want to know about him. This sounds rude-ish and is the sort of thing you can't really ask a person, but I am genuinely curious: when it comes time to rise and vote in Commons, what does he do?

You know, that's a great question! I can definitely ask him that, and I wouldn't have thought of it myself. Since votes in the US Congress aren't done that way, I wouldn't have thought of it (even though I theoretically know it's done that way in the HoC). Thanks for that!