Accessible Airplane Travel

Did you know that you can sit in your wheelchair on a bus, in an accessible van, and on some trains, but not on an airplane? So, if you require a wheelchair to get about in the world, and you must go a long distance, how do you get there? This is a problem Astonished! Core Member, Kennen Dorgan, and All Wheels Up are trying to resolve. All Wheels Up is a United States of America (USA) based organization that is testing the safety of wheelchairs in airplanes and petitioning the USA government (and now the Canadian government) for the creation of wheelchair accessible spaces on planes. Kennen Dorgan is organizing a letter writing campaign to the Canadian government.

This is the first paragraph of Kennen’s letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

My name is Kennen Dorgan.  My dream is to fly to Alaska to visit my sister. I have a complex physical disAbility and I use a wheelchair for mobility. I cannot sit independently from my wheelchair and airplanes do not have designated wheelchair spots. Every summer I spend at least 108 hours of challenging and exhausting driving time to visit with my sister in Alaska. A flight would take 15 to 20 hours.

Kennen and Astonished! are asking you to become part of her letter writing campaign. To learn more about what you can do please click here…

Photo: Altn-Yildiz Bekirova. Kennen Dorgan, Tanya Korpoetsky

Light Painting

What are some of your dreams, the things you want to make manifest in your life? For A! Student Researcher Kennen Dorgan, photographing light in the dark is a dream. As part of her spring semester PATH (planning alternative tomorrows with hope) she enlisted her sister Tanys, of Tanys Rae Photography , and her dad Dean Dorgan, to help her manifest her dream. Kennen invited some A! Student Researchers and others to join her on April 10, 2018. They were her models and assistants. It was crazy fun.

To check out the light creations ………             To see the team having fun ………

PHOTO:
Back- Elisa, Tanys, Julia
Front- Katherine, Kaitlyn, Hannah, Rebekah, Shannon, Kennen

 

Welcome Landon Sawden

Landon Sawden is the newest A! Student Researcher. Landon started at the A! Teaching and Learning Centre in September and he is actively pursuing his goals. Each Student Researcher works with a group, of their choosing, to identify their Strengths, Dreams, and Needs. Landon recently met with his group and identified two big goals: 1-To move out of his family home into age appropriate housing that supports his specific needs. 2- To succeed as a degree student at the University of Regina.

For most 25-year old’s these can be big goals, but if you add in the need for accessible housing, support with some personal care, accessible transportation, someone to take notes in class, and a low fixed income, the barriers to achieving these goals can seem insurmountable.

Landon is identifying what he is looking for in housing and researching the housing options in Regina. He is learning about the enormous cost of some locations, the long wait lists, and the wide range in quality of housing and supports. We will all benefit from Landon’s research because there are many in our community who want to know about accessible affordable housing, what is available, and how the system works to access such housing.

Landon is registered as a degree student at the University of Regina. Prior to this Landon was part of the U of R Campus for All Program where he audited classes and had the support of a buddy for things like note-taking and getting familiar with the campus. This semester Landon is taking Psychology 101, his first class toward his degree. He was able to receive a U of R Accessibility Grant to help with some of the costs, and he now has a volunteer note-taker, but this is a time-consuming process for Landon and he has some great suggestions on how to make it more efficient for everyone.

Landon is trying to juggle class time, study time, A! Teaching and Learning Centre time, travel time (via ParaTransit), researching housing options, and occasionally getting enough sleep. He is up and in his chair for more that 50% of every day and he wants and needs more down time. The good news is Landon is a man on a mission and he has a wonderful team in his court. Welcome Landon.

 

Checking Out the City of Regina Low Floor Buses

Low floor buses are on all Regina bus routes and allow for easy access on and off the bus since low floor buses have ·  No stairs to climb ·  The ability to ‘kneel’ to get close to curb level ·  A low-angle ramp that unfolds to allow people with wheelchairs, scooters, baby carriages, or carts to board the bus.

A! Student Researchers Kennen Dorgan, Kaitlyn Hoar, and Sean Davis took their first rides on City of Regina public buses in October.

Sean has a network with the Realm Foundation. His network facilitator, Cindy Leggott, suggested he expand his transit options by trying out the regular city buses (Sean also uses the services of ParaTransit). Sean and his teammates Alix Norum and Parker Florell, prepared for their ride by checking transit maps, planning travel time, then Parker and Alix did a test run. This was a clever idea because they got on the wrong bus and saw much of the city over a two-hour period. Sean was happy to miss that experience. On their actual travel day, they went from the University of Regina to the Cornwall Centre and returned to the University. It was smooth sailing, and Parker got a new name. A person standing outside the mall saw Parker and called out, ‘Hey Cowboy Man’ because of his distinctive cowboy hat. You can check out their trip photos here

These are their travel tips: If you have a large power chair take the bigger spot behind the bus driver, there is an accessible stop button beside this space, push the button to alert the driver that you will need the ramp lowered at the next stop, you use the same bus pass as the one for ParaTransit, and if you need someone to assist you on the bus your assistant does not need to pay a bus fare.

The team of Kennen, Kaitlyn, Hannah Merk, and Julia Peters chose the same bus route as Sean’s team. To prepare for their trip they talked to ‘Team Sean’ about their experience, phoned the City Transit Line (306-777-7433) for bus information (very helpful), and learned some things from their bus driver. They all agreed that using public buses was a lot easier than they thought it would be. They stopped for lunch at the mall, did some shopping, and Kaitlyn loved getting her eyebrows  threaded before returning to the University. You can check out their trip photos here.

These are their travel tips: There are two spaces for wheelchairs, with tie-downs for the space behind the driver, and on the opposite side, a device that holds the wheelchair in place.They were all impressed with this device. In the space behind the driver the person in the wheelchair faces the front of the bus, on the opposite side the person in the wheelchair faces the back of the bus.

Additional tip – if you are waiting at a bus stop and not sure when your bus will arrive, text 306-596-6136 and put the bus stop number in the message (the number is at the top right of the bus stop sign). You will get a reply telling you when the next bus should arrive at your stop.

Introducing Amanda and Kelsey

Amanda Mahoney is a graduate of the University of Regina (U of R) with a Degree in Kinesiology with a major in Human Kinetics. She is currently working on her Bachelor of Education (Middle Years) (U of R). Amanda realized she loved teaching kids how to be healthy and work-out, thus her commitment to a second degree. Kelsey Culbert is an Astonished! Student Researcher, and a student in the University of Regina Campus for All. Together they make a great team.

They meet weekly to work on two areas Kelsey has identified need strengthening: her comfort and competence with her new laptop, and her skills driving her power chair.

Kelsey was familiar and comfortable with her previous computer but when she upgraded to a new operating system she found it frustrating (many of us know how that is). Amanda and Kelsey work together to adapt the laptop to Kelsey’s needs, for example creating short-cuts on the desktop for the apps Kelsey uses regularly. Kelsey loves the portability of her laptop because she can now study anywhere.

They also practice wheel-chair driving on the track at the Paul Schwann Centre, University of Regina. Amanda says it is easy to team together because Kelsey is very clear about her needs. For example, Kelsey identified that she has problems staying to the right when she is driving so the track practice is helping her strengthen her driving skills.

Amanda is a volunteer with Astonished! but both Kelsey and Amanda say this is more like friends hanging out. Thanks Amanda and Kelsey.

PHOTO: Amanda Mahoney and Kelsey Culbert

Celebrating the PATHS

I’ve been one of Rebekah’s friends for 14 years, and have been a friend of Astonished! since it was a gleam in Ruth’s eye.  Sometimes I simply witness from my home in Winnipeg (thank goodness for Facebook), other times I’ve been able to join the Student Researchers at the pub after an afternoon’s work, or to come to an Annual Meeting.

Last Thursday Rebekah invited me to the PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope) celebration for Kennen, Kaitlyn, Kelsey, Sean, Avery and herself.  What an eye and heart-opening afternoon! I loved the unique ways in which each of the Student Researchers and their companion or volunteer presented the rich variety of directions in which their unique PATHS had taken them.  They ranged from formal Power Point presentations, to informal questions and answers conversations.  Again and again, the accountability for each step/wheel roll of the PATH was obvious, and the strengths and abilities of each person shone through.  It was clear to me that the PATHS have direction and purpose.  They are leading in a direction determined by the Student Researcher  with the support of Astonished!  team.

I was also struck by the respectful and attentive listening as a presenter was talking.  No-one was waiting for “my turn”.  This was a community – celebrating the achievements of every member with a real sense of pride in each other.

The party afterwards was wonderful too – good food and good company.  Thank you for your invitation, Rebekah.  This was a great way to start my Saskatchewan stay.

Barbara Barnett

Kennen’s Dream Trip 2

Vicarious travel is probably second best to the real thing, but for those of us who have never been to Alaska (and even for some who have), it can still be fun. Following Student Researcher, Kennen Dorgan, on her second trip to Alaska is a great way to get to know the geography, the food, the people, and Kennen and her fabulous family. Click here to see what Kennen has been discovering………….

Photo: Lynice,Gaara, Kennen, and Kris

Yoga For Every-Body

It is Wednesday afternoon in a dance studio in the Kinesiology and Health Studies building at the University of Regina. The lights are low, music is softly playing, and occasionally a deep yawn or a sweet laugh can be heard as energy is released. This is the adapted yoga pilot project that is being offered by Rebekah Lindenbach and Ruth Blaser to the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre (A!TLC).

This is what Rebekah wanted to share about the adapted yoga pilot project:

I have been doing stretches, breathing exercises and meditation since I was about 7 years old.  Ruth (my Auntie) has been doing Yoga for a few years, and sometimes a lot of it.  She says it helps her.  I think it does.

Ruth and I were listening to an interview with Bruce Kramer who lived with ALSThe podcast is called Forgiving the Body: Life with ALS. Bruce Kramer talks about feeling connected to his body and to others by doing Yoga, even though he couldn’t move.

Then we read a book by Matthew Sanford who was Bruce Kramer’s Yoga Teacher.  His book is called Waking, A Memoir of Trauma and TranscendenceMatthew Sanford is a Yoga Teacher and he is paralyzed from the chest down.

Ruth and I are learning that Yoga can help everyone no matter how your body moves or doesn’t.  So far we know that yoga is about using the breathe to focus our minds, relaxing, practicing no judgment of what we or others can or can’t do, and being quiet together.

As one of my PATH goals I want to learn and teach others how to practice simple safe Adapted Yoga and see what happens. Ruth is on my learning and teaching team.

Thanks to everyone at A!TLC for being willing to participate in the Adapted Yoga Pilot Project.   
B+W Photo by Jennifer Hunchak

Event Planners

On May 5, 2016, Kennen Dorgan and Silvia Franco, with the help of their families, did a fabulous job as the event planners for the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre Cinco de Mayo party. This was part of Kennen’s PATH plans.

Have you ever looked at a job descriptions for an event planner? Here are some of the requirements:

  • Plan, design and produce events while managing all project delivery elements within time limits
  • Organize facilities and manage all event’s details such as decor, catering, entertainment, transportation, location, invitee list, special guests, equipment, promotional material etc
  • Ensure compliance with insurance, legal, health and safety obligations
  • Specify staff requirements and coordinate their activities
  • Cooperate with marketing and PR to promote and publicize event

Kennen and Silvia did all of this and more. They even helped us with our Spanish pronunciations. If you want a taste of the party check out our Cinco de Mayo photos on Face Book.

You might also want to get a look at what we are calling ‘Piñata therapy‘.

Thanks Kennen and Silvia and your team for this fabulous event.

Photo: Silvia, Heather, Kennen, Carmen

Follow Your Passion

We are often told to follow our passion, but not everyone knows what their passion is. This is not so for Kaitlyn Hoar. Kaitlyn has a passion for and a fascination with India. She is not sure when this began, possibly when she was eight and her grandfather spent several months working in India.

Kaitlyn wanted to share her passion with others at the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre (A!TLC). With the help of her companion Hannah, Kaitlyn interviewed someone from Regina whose original home is India. She also did online research, read articles, and watched a documentary about India. On Thursday April 28th, Kaitlyn and Hanna presented Kaitlyn’s story of India to the A! Student Researchers, staff , and U of R volunteers. We learned some about the history, religious diversity, and cultures of India. Kaitlyn and Hanna told us about safety issues, especially for women travelling on their own. Kaitlyn also brought some of the gifts she has received from her cousin while he was living in India. She showed us a sari that is the traditional garment of women in India, and many feet long .

Kaitlyn paid particular attention to what it would be like to live in India, or visit India, if you have a disAbility. She told us about ADAPT (Able Disabled All People Together), a national resource centre for inclusion. ADAPT is making big changes in the culture and accessibility but overall wheelchair travel and inclusion in India is not easy. But none of this deters Kaitlyn, her passion to visit India remains strong.