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Every day a challenge in a wheelchair

By Frank Flegel

12/10/2014

REGINA — “It was tough,” said Campion College president Rev. John Meehan after accepting a Dec. 3 challenge to navigate in a wheelchair the first and second floors of the college.

The challenge was issued by second-year education student Dale Williamson, who is confined to a wheelchair following a single car rollover in 2003. The accident injured his spine and left him unable to walk and with limited use of his arms and hands. He uses a motorized wheelchair with hand controls. The challenge was issued and accepted in recognition of the United Nations’ Day of Persons with Disabilities, Dec. 3.

“Every day is a challenge just being here,” said Williamson during interviews with media prior to the challenge. Double doors to enter the building, heavy doors inside the building, a small elevator with the buttons high and almost out of reach, and even getting a coffee from the dispensers can be a problem, said Williamson.

“It’s little things that you don’t think about when you’re standing. You just take those things for granted.” Meehan started his wheelchair experience by exiting and re-entering the building through the double doors. From there he entered the bathroom, obtained a coffee, used the elevator, retrieved a book from the second-floor library and ended by zipping down a ramp to the main floor Student Centre, then trying to get back up the ramp where he had to grab the handrail to prevent himself from tipping backward.

Wheelchair challenge

“I’ve used muscles I’ve never used before,” said Meehan after the ride. “The heavy doors were the hardest,” he said, and getting a cup of coffee from the elevated dispensers was also a challenge.

“Thank you for encouraging awareness,” Meehan said to Williamson following the challenge. “A lot of people will be helped with what you did today. We have to make the building more accessible. Some things we can do quickly; others will take longer.”

He explained that Campion is in the planning stages of a major renovation which it expects to begin in 2016 with completion in 2017 when the college celebrates its centennial.

College executive director James Gustafson referred to some preliminary plans mounted on easels and explained that the main entrance will change to face the new University of Regina residences under construction just north of the college; the elevator will be replaced and enlarged and classrooms will be more accessible. The project is budgeted at $2.3 million, with funds from previous annual campaigns and from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Advanced Education Strategic, Preventative, Maintenance and Renewal Fund. Four adjustable lecterns with a complete set of IT equipment were recently purchased and placed in classrooms for the use of both teachers and students.

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