Opening Notes: A Vision of Independence
As SCIO celebrates 75 years of consistently moving closer to that vision of independence for Ontarians with SCI, I am struck by how closely SCIO’s current goals match those of our founders. Not to say there hasn’t been huge advancements in all aspects of SCI these last 75 years, because there has: quality medical care; supports for independent living; increased levels of accessibility; legislation mandating equity; societal attitudes; and impressive technology in mobility devices and other equipment. Despite the improved landscape, we are still tasked with advancing the most basic aspects of living with SCI and other disabilities, 75 years on.
It’s because of our determined and skilled community that we can both celebrate how far we’ve come, with gratitude and empathy for those who’ve struggled to get us here, while we resolve to get where we need to be, today and for the next generation. When young Danielle Kane was shot on the Danforth in Toronto two years ago, she received excellent medical care, and had all the support she needed to recover and start her new independent life. But there was no place for her to go. “Despite all the assistance I received,” said Danielle, “They did not prepare me for the world outside the rehab centre, where there is a never-ending set of challenges for someone like me.” She could not return to her basement apartment and she found there was not a single wheelchair-accessible apartment available in Toronto. Only through media attention and Go Fund Me donations was she able to buy and renovate a home in Oshawa. “But not all folks living with a disability are so fortunate as to be a headline,” says Danielle.
So how can our founders’ vision of independence be realized if there’s no accessible housing? If catheters cost way too much? If the best wheelchairs are out of our range, and repair times render us immobile? If there are places we can’t visit? If we can’t find a physician closeby who understands SCI? If disability funding doesn’t cover our basic expenses? If employment opportunities are dismal? If we’re seen to be ‘less than’ because of mobility issues?
The answer is us. Not only SCIO staff or volunteers or clients or donors or family members or government partners or scientists. But all of us.
Collectively, this powerful SCI community, who knows what it’s like to move through immense challenges, will continue to do what our founders did – envision and build an equitable world in Ontario and across the country. It’s because of the founding of the Canadian Paraplegic Association 75 years ago that Canada has a federation of SCI organizations, including SCIO. We’re here to listen to our communities and realize that vision, finally. So we can get on with living the life we choose.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Community magazine, where we take a look back at our rich heritage and beyond to our strong future.