Making it accessible

By Aaron Jahn

In light of the U.N. International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Essex County Accessibility Committee and Western Secondary hosted a wheel chair basketball game between County Councilors’ and Western Students and staff.

ECAC member John Boyko was on hand to promote awareness and referee the game, he said that these types of events are designed to open eyes and minds.

“Today it’s going to open some peoples’ eyes that people with disabilities do have a spot in the community and that’s the whole idea of the awareness day,” said Boyko.   “Western has a lot of kids with disabilities and we had a little tour before and you know what, their programs are top notch. So kids with maybe a learning disability, or any disability there’s a program here for them.”

 

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Ron Surherland tries to pass the ball to a teammate.Western Secondary Staff and students took on Essex County Councillours in an intense game of Wheel Chair basketball to raise awareness about acessibility issues people with disabilities face.

Boyko also had high praise for the schools programs and how they are designed to prepare students with all manner of capabilities for the workforce.

“It’s tremendous, now they’re working in programs that will get them out into the workforce just like everybody else.  I think that’s most important because that’s what kids want  if you have a disability of some sort. You do want to be out in the community,” Boyko said. “I know a couple of the kids here, they’re now going to grade twelve and I’ve known them since grade 9 and their confidence is a thousand per cent better and they’re gaining skills.”

He says he also believes that when the councilors go back to their home communities, they’ll have a human face on the difficulties people have with accessibility every day.

“What it’s doing, is it’s no longer about the number of how many people there are with disabilities there are in the community, now they’re actually seeing what they go through, it brings it down to the human level.”

As well as raising awareness and having fun, the students of Western were also fundraising for their school’s breakfast program, which for a dollar a day focuses on healthy meals for students that need it.  Parent Advisory Committee chair Mary McLaughlin says that over the course of the year, student participation rate is 100 per cent in the program.  They raised $563.80.

“I think it’s fantastic that the kids can put all this together and the councilors showed up and it’s also the breakfast program fundraiser.   I haven’t seen it before (wheelchair basketball) but I hear it’s quite exciting,” said McLaughlin.  “It’s a healthy breakfast because they start school so early they’re on the bus for a good hour before several of the kids even get here.  By the time another hour of class is done, they’re ready to eat.  The kids in are the ones who make the breakfast, it’s all done through the culinary program.”

Head of the Phys. Ed department Brent Webster was the primary contact for the school in getting the game put on and says he enjoys the equal footing everybody is on when playing in a wheelchair.

“The nice part about this is that everyone’s on an equal footing, very few of our students have had the opportunity to be in a wheelchair and participate in sports, so it gives them a chance to be on par with the rest of the community in terms of participation in the athletic event,” said Webster.  “That’s the nice part of it, nobody’s good, nobody’s bad everybody’s just going to get a chance to take part.”

He has had Boyko in many times to speak with his students, so when Boyko called about having the game at Western, he was happy to help organize.

“Mr. Boyko contacted me when they were looking for a venue and asked if we’d be interested, and there’s a natural connection when you’re talking about disabilities.  Not necessarily always physical disabilities, there are some mental disabilities, learning disabilities that we wanted to highlight with this event as well,” Webster said.  “We asked our students if they wanted to participate with this activity if they could make a donation to our breakfast program we could piggy back on top of raising awareness for disabilities and also do a lot of good for the school.”

The game itself was a thriller, with the councilors edging the students by a score of 20-19.

 

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