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.

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