Stephanie Myrick is continuing with her efforts to change the way people think about disabilities.
As Regional Program Coordinator for Spinal Cord Injury Alberta, she’s organizing the 6th annual Chair-Leaders event in Fort McMurray. The program allows able-bodied community leaders to live a day in a wheelchair, to get a sense of what it’s like for those who live their lives in one.
“It’s just to show them that it’s not as easy to get around as people think it is,” Myrick said. “Everybody is like ‘oh it’s a wheelchair, it’s fun, I get to sit down all day.’ But at the end of the day your arms hurt, your butt hurts, everything hurts.”
This year’s event will run over the course of May 16-20, with participants being challenged to go about their day-to-day activities while using a wheelchair that SCI Alberta provides. Myrick drops off the wheelchair off the evening before the designated day, to allow the participant time to get used to how a wheelchair moves and turns. She also gives them a list of tasks to complete throughout the day, like going through a Tim Horton’s line or going to the park with their children.
“I’m all about changing the way people view disability,” she said. “I don’t want them to look at a wheelchair and think it’s an issue. That’s how they have to get around, it’s really their independence.”
Participants are given one cheat, which is that they are able to drive to their destinations, but once they exit the vehicle they must return to the wheelchair.
Community leaders like Councillor Phil Meagher, Cruz 100.5’s Mark Armstrong, and Mix News reporter Shauna Mackinnon have completed the challenge in the past. Myrick noted that everyone comes away with a similar response.
“Everybody’s just like ‘wow, I didn’t realize how difficult it was,'” she said. “The people who do it really take something away from it.”
There are still 13 spots available for this year’s event. Those who are interested are invited to contact Myrick by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at 587-410-2603.