University of Calgary

Health care providers spend a day in wheelchairs to raise awareness

Posted May 9, 2011

Several health care providers from the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine and Alberta Health Services, spent the day in wheelchairs for the 2nd annual CHAIR-LEADERS ‘Enabling Access' Event.

Presented by the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta), the event was designed to teach participants about the specific challenges of wheelchair-bound individuals -- challenges faced by people living with spinal cord injury and other physical disabilities every day.

Dr. Chester Ho, a physiatrist and Division Head for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, led the Foothills Medical Centre (FMC) team.

"As part of my medical school training at Cambridge University in England, we were required to spend the day in a wheelchair. It was an incredibly eye-opening and educational experience for me to realize how many daily activities I took for granted," says Dr. Ho. "Tasks such as getting to work, running errands, using public transportation and even crossing the street - everything became much more difficult than I'd imagined."

Everyone who spent the day in a wheelchair attended meetings and performed clinical and administrative activities as usual.

Currently, over two-thirds of individuals returning home with spinal cord injury are treated at the Foothills Medical Centre. As Manager of the Rehabilitation Program, Jason Knox hopes that participation in today's event will help him gain an even better understanding of challenges faced by his patients every day.

"As a team, we work together to help our patients deal with mobility issues after a devastating injuries such as spinal cord injury," says Knox. "More than anything, we hope to ensure that they'll be able to enjoy life and participate in their communities again. In order to do so we need to do our part in raising awareness together with our community partners."

"By spending a day in a wheelchair, respected community leaders will be visible and credible advocates for persons with mobility disabilities throughout the city," says Cal Schuler, Community Development Leader for the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta). "Involvement from Dr. Ho and his team will help shape Calgary's future in becoming barrier free, by making our communities more accessible to persons who use mobility aids."

"Our team is committed to providing the highest quality of care possible for patients and families with spinal cord and other injuries," says Cathy Edmond, Executive Director for Clinical Neurosciences and Emergency and Trauma Services, AHS Calgary. "Understanding patient experience and promoting awareness is key to that goal."

Funds collected during the event will be used to help the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) continue to expand services to clients in our communities.

In addition to Dr. Ho, seven colleagues from a variety of different health care backgrounds in Tertiary Neuro-rehabilitation (Unit 58 of the Foothills Medical Centre) took part in the event, including: Jason Knox, a physiotherapist and Manager of the Unit, Paul Wright, Supervisor and nurse, Josh Bashow, Supervisor for Allied Health, Raj Parmar, Clinical Nurse Specialist for the Spinal Cord Injury Clinic, Jackie Kilgour, Physiotherapist, Sue Weatherhead, Nurse Clinician, and Meghan Maiani, an occupational therapist on the Unit.