Byline: BY RENATO GANDIA, TODAY
injured his spinal cord while diving in Skiff Lake, N.B., five years ago. He was
told he would need a power wheelchair because he wouldn't be able to wheel it
He was also
expected to stay in the hospital for six weeks; within two weeks he was out of
the hospital and into rehabilitation. While in recovery, he was told yet again
he would need a power wheelchair.
Two weeks into
rehab, he was wheeling his own chair.
And on Friday he
was in Fort McMurray to act as a living testament that people with disabilities can lead a normal life.
But the general
population need to be educated about disabilities, he said.
"People are not
ignorant; they're just not educated about disabilities and I wasn't either till I
was put in this situation," said Keenan, who plans to move to Fort McMurray soon
to realize that what people who are disabled -- I have a disability myself -- wish to have is to
be accommodated within society," Austin Mardon, a member of the Premier's
Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities, told Today.
"I think it's a
universal cry from people who are disabled to be part of community, to be
part of the fabric of society in whatever way," he said.
One major step
for the disabled community in
Alberta is the recent participation of Gary McPherson in the Tory leadership
race, Mardon said.
"He didn't run as
a disabled candidate. He ran as
a candidate and he received equal air time, equal prominence in the newspapers.
That's what people with disability wanted," he said.
recognition and accommodation shouldn't come solely from the government or the
media, but from society at large, Mardon said.
people who are disabled can and
want to get married, want to have friends, and they should be accommodated, he
time, society's perception of people who are disabled will improve. It has improved
over the last generation."
The Fort McMurray
Association for Community Living hosted the International Day of Disabled Persons 2006 at Keyano College
"What this day is
about is recognizing the disabled community within Alberta,"
Allison Pardy, a spokeswoman said. This day was established in 1992 by the
United Nations to acknowledge the disabled community.
There are more
than 330,000 disabled people
over the age of 16 in the province, she said.
"We're trying to
create that awareness within Alberta and especially Fort McMurray to show that
there are a lot of disabled
people in the community. And because they are disabled they don't have the same strong
voice that abled people do," Pardy said.
"We want to
acknowledge and recognize and let people be aware that they are here. They are
very active members of the society and we should acknowledge that they are
here," she said.
Keenan had been
planning to move to Fort McMurray even before he was injured, and he still wants
to come to the Oilsands City.
"I have no idea
what I'm going to do for work. But I've been looking to get out of the east
coast and come west. There are great job opportunities here," he said.
He said he sees himself looking for a position in sales
or marketing. Before he got injured he
was a power lineman apprentice. He still works for the same company but moved
into the office as operations co-ordinator.
Austin Mardon, CM
Post Office Box 1223, Main Post Office,
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA,
Web site: www.austinmardon.org