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Life’s a beach for more people now at Lakeside Park

by Lorraine Nadeau

Access to the beach has taken on a new dimension at Lakeside Park in St. Catharines thanks to the addition of a Mobi Mat. A Mobi Mat is a portable walkway that sits on top the sand and creates an accessible path down to the water. While Lakeside Park is a regular destination for P.E.T. outings, this past trip was highlighted by the fact that our consumers using wheelchairs and with limited mobility were able to stroll out onto the beach and sit at the water’s edge.

P.E.T. Consumers Liane Roberts and Sarah Hamlin on the Mobi Mat

 

Pictured here are Liane Roberts and Sarah Hamlin, two P.E.T. consumers who have never been able to go out onto the beach before.  They were all smiles and enjoyed being able to easily wheel out onto the beach for the first time.  While we were there, it was clear we weren’t the only ones enjoying the beach’s new feature. The accessible pathway was also actively being used by other beach goers including seniors, children and moms with strollers, all of whom were just as pleased with the ease of access.

P.E.T. Consumers Liane Roberts and Sarah Hamlin on the Mobi Mat enjoying the water at Lakeside Park

A first for the region, the city wants to add other Mobi Mats to its beaches, and is looking for community partners to help support some of the costs. In addition to the Mobi Mat, the City of St. Catharines is stated to renovate the out-dated washrooms with increased accessibility and build a new pavilion so our future visits will be even more enjoyable.

The Personal Effectiveness Training Program (P.E.T.) is a therapeutic day activity program designed to enhance the quality of life of adults with disabilities and/or acquired brain injuries.  The program provides structured activities that promote the development of social, cognitive, physical and emotional skills that will lead to increased independence and community integration. The program is delivered in partnership by March of Dimes Canada and Brain Injury Community Re-Entry. For more information visit: http://bit.ly/MODCPET

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“I’m The Lucky One”

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Bob Hallett (Great Big Sea) and Valdy have joined 13 singers from Spectra Talent Contest to record “I’m the Lucky One” – a charity single in support of March of Dimes Canada, Easter Seals Canada, and the Spectra Talent Contest (a non-profit organization that celebrates diversity in music).

“I’m the Lucky One” is a song about finding your soulmate, a rare and transformative experience.  Written from the perspective of an able-bodied person who falls madly in love with someone with a disability, this powerful love song addresses ableism and accessibility issues.


According to Ralph Hamelmann, RACA Executive Director and song co-writer, the inspiration for “I’m the Lucky One” came several years ago.  “At the time, I was a part-time Independent Living Assistant at Tobias House and had invited a couple of their Consumers to my home for a Christmas Eve gathering. When another guest found out I had invited people with disabilities, they said ‘Oh! They’re so lucky to know you!’  To this, I replied, ‘Not at all. I’m the lucky one!'”

Hamelmann adds, “From my experience, a fair number of people with disabilities experience isolation, which can lead to low self-esteem. I wanted to write a song that celebrates the beauty and authenticity I’ve witnessed firsthand in this community.”

This song is part of Spectra’s social media campaign #AllAbilitiesAreSexy, which aims to end the stigma around disabilities and is supported by Margaret Trudeau. See more about this and you can also purchase “I’m The Lucky One” here: http://thelucky1.ca/

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” ‘You will dance again..’ rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.” – Len Boser, Stroke Survivor

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Stroke Survivor Stories: Len Boser
Written by Len Boser.

Fifteen years ago, I woke up to find the course of my life had changed forever. The day before, I was a physically active, healthy person leading the normal life of a father of two young sons, 7 and 10 years old. Overnight, I had a severe brain stem stroke that left me unable to walk, to talk and completely paralyzed on my right side.

After one and a half years in the hospital, I felt frustrated and hopeless despite the care of doctors and many trained healthcare practitioners. Despite their care, I did not know how to get my life back.

But, luckily, the inspiration and support from a fellow stroke survivor helped motivate me. His story about his recovery and even being able to dance again got me working on my rehabilitation and interested in helping others on their recovery as well. “You will dance again..” rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.

Encouragement, support from my peers…and my motto…“Never Give Up!”

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Len Boser

A key to the quality of recovery is support from fellow stroke survivors and their
caregivers…the people who have first-hand experience. This peer support was instrumental for me. And that is what March of Dimes Canada’s Stroke Recovery Canada® is all about…reaching out to other stroke survivors and giving them understanding, knowledge and hope.

 

For more information on Stroke Recovery Canada®, please visit: http://bit.ly/ModcSRC

 

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LIFE Toronto reviews Apple Store’s iPad Workshop

Written by Amy Kostash

Last Friday, the LIFE Toronto group did a social outing to the Apple Store at the Eaton Centre for an iPad workshop. The experience was fantastic! The employees of the Apple Store were wonderful, they clapped us into the store, ensured there were no obstacles in our way, and really made an effort to get to know each and every person attending.

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Amy and Tyler snapping a pic on the iPad

Prior to the workshop, the Apple Store staff checked in with us to find out what it was we were interested in learning. They catered the workshop entirely to our needs and interests! First, we learned about some accessibility features the iPad has, and everyone got to try it on their own. There were enough staff to assist if anyone needed it. Next, we learned about the different ways to take photos and videos like square, panoramas, and time-lapse videos. Sraddha’s personal favourite was when we learned about airdrop! It was so easy to send photos to the other iPads in the workshop, and it was especially fun to see the expressions on their faces when they received our silly photos. Tyler was particularly interested in learning how to print photos from his iPad at home. The staff were eager to explain and demonstrate airprint for him.

 

Jess was very impressed with the Apple Store employees and appreciated how they spoke directly to her, rather than only speaking with the LIFE Toronto staff. She says, “they were very accommodating of our needs.” After the workshop, Jess wanted to make a purchase and more than one of the Apple employees was eager to help her out, even bringing the items right to her so she didn’t need to fight the crowds!

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Danielle and Jess taking a selfie with the iPad!

All in all, out LIFE Toronto group left the Apple Store with a collection of funny photos, new information regarding accessibility features of the iPad, and Apple USB bracelets!

The LIFE Toronto group encourages everyone to check out workshops at the Apple Store! They have a variety of topics, and they are very helpful and accommodating. The LIFE Toronto group is looking forward to going back for an iMovie workshop when they reach the editing stage of a project they’ve been working on.

LIFE Toronto participant, Sraddha on Subway

LIFE weighs in on recent TTC “Stay Focused. Stay Safe.” awareness campaign

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written by Amy Kostash and Danielle Hepburn

One component of our Learning Independence for Future Empowerment (LIFE) Toronto program is transit training. This allows participants to get one-on-one assistance using the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to get to a destination of their choice; usually back home from our national office. During our transit training sessions, we cover everything there is to know about the TTC from safe use procedures to its accessibility and planning our route. For the individuals in the LIFE Toronto program, this transit training provides an alternative to Wheel Trans should they feel comfortable enough taking it on their own.

Recently, the TTC published a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of focus in order to stay safe. These posters can be seen on subway platforms, subway trains, and buses. We asked the participants of our LIFE Toronto program their thoughts on these new posters.

Stay Focused Graphics

The first poster shows a woman in a wheelchair using the deployed ramp of a bus while a pedestrian is running past, unaware of the ramp. The message this poster aims to spread is that pedestrians need to be more aware of ramps and the potential they could be deployed at any time, and may cause a tripping hazard. The second poster shows a gentleman in a power wheelchair waiting for the bus while pedestrians hurry past him. The message this poster aims to send is that persons with a disability and/or mobility devices are to be the first to board the bus and the last to disembark.

First, we asked the LIFE Toronto group if any of them had experienced being cut off by pedestrians while waiting for, or getting on their Wheel Trans rides. 4 of the 5 participants say they have been cut off while the ramp of their Wheel Trans ride was deployed. Tyler says “these signs are necessary because people cut us off and don’t know that I have the right of way when getting on a bus.” Jess added that “these posters may not work, the buses already beep and drivers will yell at people, so I’m not sure that a visual poster will necessarily help.”

Another concern that the group had was the use of the selected images on the posters. Both depict the wrong way of doing things! Instead, our group thinks it would be much more effective if the posters showed pedestrians correctly using the TTC and allowing persons with disabilities the right of way. If people don’t take the time to read the message on the poster, there is a chance they could just end up adopting the wrong behaviour after all.

These posters allowed for some interesting discussion in our LIFE Toronto workshops. The group came to the conclusion that it is too early to tell if these ads are working. It will be interesting to see if the attitudes of people change based on the presence of these posters. Also, the group thought it might be interesting to create a poster or image with the same message but from the perspective of an individual in a wheelchair that shows the implications of pedestrians failing to give them the right of way.

Angie Burke’s Story – Stroke Survivor & Peers Fostering Hope Stroke Mentor

Written by Angie Burke.
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Angie Burke, Stroke Survivor & Peers Fostering Hope Stroke Mentor

I was 46years old and it was a normal evening until my husband heard a crash and found me having a seizure.  I was completely flaccid on the left side and my face was drooping.  I was trying to speak but could not. He called 911 as he recognized the symptoms and knew that I was having a stroke.

The next 2 weeks were terrifying. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.

If I did survive I didn’t know what my life was going to be like? Would I walk again?  Would I talk clearly again?  Would I be able to see clearly again? Dress myself? Feed myself? Would I be able to take care of myself and my family again??

Initially I was unable to walk. I had no use of my left side, I could see nothing on my left side, could not recognize people’s faces – I only knew my husband because of the shirt he was wearing, I could not tell time, I could not write, and the list goes on…

While in the hospital, I had help getting washed, help getting dressed, my meals were brought to me.  This was not the case at home.  The first time that I attempted to dress myself, it took me over an hour.  I remember bursting into tears.  Here I was a grown woman and I couldn’t even put on a shirt myself.  I either had it on backwards or inside out.  The same struggle happened when I tried to cook for the first time.  I couldn’t read, so how was I supposed to follow a recipe? I was extremely weak and still couldn’t see objects on my left side.  I fell and crashed into things constantly.  To make matters worse, I was on blood thinners.  I was always covered in bruises.  Everything was a struggle; from the time I got out of bed until the time I crawled back in again.  I often became so frustrated that I would just scream.  I felt defeated as I needed help with everything.  I felt like I was a burden to my family and completely worthless.  I was terrified that this was what my life was going to be like from now on.

I now have a seizure disorder. I take medication to control them.

I ended up suffering through a depression –oh the depths. The darkness. The hopelessness. The feeling of worthlessness. The loneliness. The despair. The loss of my will to keep fighting. The grief for all that I lost- my career and income, many friends, my freedom (as my driver’s license was suspended), my confidence, my entire identity, my self-worth. The horrible judgments that I passed on myself were devastating. After several months I finally started receiving the treatment, both chemical and therapeutic that helped me to start climbing out of that dark hole and gave me back my will to fight.

Fear in the beginning was crippling. It was my constant companion.  I have learned to overcome fear and have come to the point now, where I can say that I refuse to live in fear. I live in gratitude for the day, today.

I have ongoing memory issues, specifically short-term, but have developed strategies to cope with it.

I faced and overcame all of it; I now work with stroke patients as a Stroke Mentor in the Peers Fostering Hope Program; it is such a wonderful feeling to use my journey to help other stroke survivors that are just beginning their own journey.

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I am an artist; I walk with friends; I walk my dog; I ride my bicycle; I lift weights; When I first started, over a year ago, I could only complete my arm lifts with 2.5 pounds. I was so weak and had lost so much weight.  I gradually increased the amount that I was lifting, and currently I am up to 25 pounds, even with my affected arm.  I run 5k on my treadmill every 3rd day and hope to run a 5k this coming summer, I lawn bowl. I smile and laugh.  I tell jokes.  I enjoy my life.   I am a wife; I am a mother; I am a friend. I am an award winner.  I recently won the award for Extraordinary Women of Kawartha Lakes in the determination category.  Most importantly, I take care of myself and my family!! I have faced the nightmare and I have wakened stronger and more whole than I could ever have imagined.

My message to everyone: Life will throw you curve balls, Life will knock you down, but you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and overcome.  I’m NOT telling you it’s going to be easy, but I AM telling you it’s going to be worth it.

Angie also took up drawing after her stroke after a relative suggested she try it. She has used some inspirational quotes as part of her subject. Click on each thumbnail to increase image sizes.

 

For more information on the Peers Fostering Hope program and other support groups, please visit: http://bit.ly/MODCSRS

 

To volunteer with peer visits, please call the Stroke Recovery Warmline® at 1-888-540-6666.

Megan’s Story

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Megan was only 20-years-old when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Over time, the disease has progressed to the point that she has limited circulation in her legs causing severe swelling and she can no longer walk. Megan’s occupational therapist recommended a power wheelchair with a tilted seat to give her mobility and relieve the pressure on her legs. But at a total cost of $18,730, the chair was out of reach for her financially. After receiving funding from the Ministry of Health’s Assistive Devices Program and the MS Society, Megan applied to March of Dimes Canada’s Assistive Devices Program for the remaining $2,700.

March of Dimes Canada was able to fund the remaining amount to help Megan purchase the wheelchair, and she is amazed at the difference it has made. Megan has become more mobile and much more comfortable.

It’s a godsend,” says Megan of her chair. “It’s very helpful. For years I’ve had massive swelling in my legs and since I’ve gotten my chair I now have knee caps and shape to my legs… I feel very blessed to have been able to access this resource.”

Megan is very grateful to all the generous donors who contributed to her power wheelchair.

Thanks to your support over the last year, we have been able to provide 282 assistive devices to 119 consumers just in the Ottawa region alone! We were able to turn every dollar donated into $5.44 worth of equipment – purchasing in total $204,231 worth of assistive devices.

You are making a difference in your community!

You can now be part of our Door-to-door campaign without having to leave the couch! Sign up as an online canvasser and use the power of the Internet to help raise money to support Canadians with #disabilities: http://bit.ly/D2DOnline

 

 

“Why I Canvass” – Wayne Eastabrook

Door-To-Door-Wayne-EastabrookPeterborough resident Wayne Eastabrook has been canvassing his neighbourhood in support of March of Dimes Canada’s Door-to-Door Campaign for over a decade. He was first driven to support the Campaign after the organization provided financial assistance to his daughter Kate that allowed her to move into her own apartment.

“I don’t believe that Kate would be able to be as independent and live on her own without the support of March of Dimes Canada,” says Wayne. “It made the transition from our home into a supported apartment so much easier, and our whole family is very grateful for this.”

He started canvassing his neighbours and is able to raise $300 -$400 each year. His community members know he’s coming, and are prepared with a small donation when Wayne comes to their door.

“I like to canvass in January, because how can anybody turn away a man in the cold,” jokes Wayne. “But really, I like to remind my neighbours that this a good cause, helping people in their community, and that every bit counts” he says.

Wayne believes in paying it forward, in addition to supporting March of Dimes Canada, he is also the Board President of Community Living Peterborough.

“I know that there are needs in the community, and somehow, we have to help,” says Wayne.

Want to be part of our Door-to-door campaign but are unable to physically go door-to-door? This is an easy fix! You can now sign up as an online canvasser – here’s the link: http://bit.ly/D2DOnline Help us support Canadians living with disabilities!

Jamie’s thoughts on the Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability

On Tuesday, September 29th, one of our L.I.F.E. Mississauga Instructors, Jamie Hutchins was able to attend the Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability. Below are his thoughts on how the forum went:

“Yesterday, there was a forum concerning issues of accessibility and disability. Federal election candidates from various Toronto ridings were present to discuss their party’s platform regarding disability and accessibility.

Mike Sullivan represented the NDP, Arnold Chan. the Liberal Party and Sharon Danley, the Green Party. The conservative party was contacted, but no member volunteered to come and speak to those issues.

 

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A snapshot of the crowd at the forum on Accessibility and Disability
As for the discussion itself, there were several key points that I found intriguing. Primarily, all parties insisted that the largest adversary to the disability/accessibility movement is the Conservative government. Each federal representative said that the largest obstacle to adhering to the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been the Conservative government.

 

All parties, except the Conservatives, have vowed to fulfill its international (and ethical) commitments. Furthermore, the NDP and Green party explicitly stated that they intend to create a national policy on accessibility and disability (Canadian Disabilities Act). Although Arnold Chan also expressed a desire to legislate such an act, he was not able to comment whether it was on the executive’s (Trudeau and his potential cabinet) agenda.

 

Secondly, I was astounded at the depth of the questions. To be clear, this discussion was specifically designed to appeal to persons with disabilities. Some of the questions designed covered topics including a Canadian Disabilities Act (CDA), physician-assisted suicide, a national housing strategy, disability representation in the HoC, adherence to the UN conventions and an increased pressure on provincial governments to administer better services.

 

Each speaker outlined his/her party’s policy concerning the aforementioned issues. Many candidates repeated old adages of “equality of service”, “reducing poverty”, “more consultation with community agencies and persons with disabilities”, “more adaptive equipment” and “an attitudinal shift”. However, both Sullivan and Danley offered more substantive policy changes should their parties be elected. Sullivan expressed his party’s commitment to enact the CDA within a year. Furthermore, the NDP is the only party to have a committee set up to constantly critique the party’s direction. The committee’s job is to meet with community agencies, listen to their advisement and consequently “hold the party’s feet to the fire”, if they alienate stakeholder rights. Alternatively, the Green Party has advocated to design a national equipment fund so that people with disabilities can exercise their right to live independently.

 

Thirdly, I was impressed by the turnout and audience participation. Peoples with disabilities were very well-represented and their questions were very specific to their disability. It was exciting to see such human agency from the group. Such a high attendance of persons with disabilities helped solidified the rights and equality rhetoric that accompanied most of the discussion. There was a wide representation of the disability community including persons who are blind, deaf, using mobility devices, having episodic disabilities, cognitive disabilities, learning disabilities, etc. This stressed upon me the importance to try to remedy the current situation regarding persons with disabilities. As a political party looking to get elected, it not only makes sense to move forward because it is proper (and moral) to have disability rights enshrined in legislation, but also because persons with disabilities represent such a large portion of the vote.

 

Lastly, Ryerson did an excellent job hosting. The adaptive devices allowed for all members of the crowd to participate. In conjunction with the captioning service provided, there were multiple people using both SLQ and ASL to communicate effectively with the deaf audience members. Student volunteers were constantly in the right place to help those with blindness find their seats. There was also one large aisle that allowed mobility devices to go back and forth. Also, I was impressed with the live tweeting of the discussion as this allowed questions to flurry in from Alberta.”

 

Volunteer Profiles: Bill Blodgett

Written By:  Brendan Hair

Despite suffering a stroke in 2003 Bill Blodgett is peddling a path he hopes stroke survivors will follow.

While the road to recovery seems daunting Bill feels there is no reason to give up based on his experience.  From his progression the Peterborough resident advises survivors to remain positive. He believes there’s always ways to persevere if you want something bad enough.

“There is always hope – Don’t give up. There is always a way to do something. It takes me a little bit longer but there is nothing that stops me from doing what I want to do,” said Bill.

One example of Bill’s perseverance comes from his source of transportation. While Bill’s comfortable with the bus he would not be satisfied without a chance to use his bicycle. With the support of adult stabilizer wheels he’s continued riding his bike for leisure and to attend the two March of Dimes of Canada programs that he volunteers with: the Aphasia and Communication Disabilities Program, and Life After Stroke, a Stroke Recovery Canada chapter in Peterborough.

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Bill Blodgett and his love of cycling

Along with his cycling passion Bill began setting his sights on regaining his driver’s license. He’s optimistic after seeing a fellow Life After Stroke volunteer driving a modified car.

For Bill, being a part of his local stroke support chapter has also had a positive impact in his recreational time.  Another member of Life After Stroke introduced him to a swimming program at the YMCA. Bill now attends the YMCA three times a week.  

Despite always being on a tight schedule Bill recalls never missing the weekly Aphasia program, which he started volunteering for in 2011.   He was also named a guest speaker at the York-Durham’s Aphasia’s Centre’s 25th anniversary in 2014.

As a volunteer Bill compliments March of Dimes Canada as an organization full of great ideas and inspirations.

“I would never have dreamt that they would be so innovative.”

To learn more about the March of Dimes Canada programs that Bill participates in, visit:  Aphasia and Communication Disabilities Program and Stroke Recovery Canada.