Welcome to these active living stories, that Canadians with disabilities and physical activity leaders have experienced. Share in the recreation, sport and active living stories that others have made their passion in their own lives. Developing a repertoire of physical literacy skills will guide you through fitness and attitudinal changes in your life. Embrace it!
The vision of the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with Disabilities is a society where all Canadians lead active and healthy lives. When physical activity is in your life, health and wellness benefits are exhibited. The Active Living Alliance connects people with disabilities to local inclusive active living opportunities. We reach out to schools and community organizations in promoting awareness that people of all abilities can be active.
Looking forward, it will be important to ensure Canadians are active. Our reality right now is there is a high incidence of obesity and inactivity, related health problems and aging demographics. We need to get moving and what a better motivator than to hear what others are participating in across the country. Let’s change our behaviour together and embrace an active lifestyle.
What is stopping you? GO FOR IT! Share your story and be inspired by others.
Principle #1: Quality of Life
My name is Marco Giovanni Pasqua and I was born on July 4, 1985 in Vancouver, British Columbia. This date was the beginning of my fight for a “normal” life. I only weighed 2 lbs 10 oz at birth and was 3 months premature. My parents would later find out that I was also born with Cerebral Palsy (Spastic Diplegia).
As I grew, the backward thinking around the participation of people with visual impairments in physical activity changed. In 1990, I joined the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s aerobics program. I was hooked! Unfortunately our instructor moved away and the class was discontinued.
I don’t think I could imagine my life without wakeboarding and canoeing, cross-country skiing and running. Physical activity has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started swimming at the age of two and playing badminton when I was six. At school I had an amazing elementary gym teacher who offered morning games before school and running club at lunch time.
Just like Terry Fox, I lost my leg to cancer as a young person. Things could have been worse, my parents were told. It was thought that since I was not “into sports” that the loss would be less severe for me because I would not miss playing outside and doing physical activity.
I compete in cross country skiing for athletes with disabilities - also known as Para-Nordic Skiing. I have competed at all levels of the sport from locally to internationally. In 2010, I got to realize my greatest dream of competing at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games. I also compete in road running races in the summer. Every year, I try to improve on my personal best times for 10 kilometer and half-marathon distances.
In May of 2004 while riding with some friends and my girlfriend on mount 7 here in Golden, I decided not to use the brakes when I probably should have. The result was a horrific Nasser style crash, end over end and round and round, that left me laying on the ground with a spinal cord injury at CO-5. Kind of ironic I've been told.
Principle #2: Empowerment
I am a C 6/7 quadriplegic and I have always been afraid of heights, but I have “jumped” at the challenge that our Peer Event Coordinator, Brian, has given to me. All my friends think I am crazy, but, yes, I have agreed to go skydiving!
Having a disability does not mean you are unable to do things like play hockey, ride a bike, sail a boat, snow board, or have a teen business cutting grass or blowing snow. It just means that there needs to be an openness to trying and doing things differently. As an active person with a physical disability, I have learned through experience that a lot of my ability happens when I am able to bridge gaps in my mind’s eye.
As a kid, I was always active; playing games, recreational and organized sports like skiing, hockey, soccer, racing dirt bikes, football, you name it, I played it. I loved to be outdoors, either having fun or doing physically demanding labour jobs. Being active was central to my lifestyle. Without it, I went a little stir crazy.
I have been totally blind since birth. Before I came along, my family was very active in sports. My dad played hockey, football, ran track and road races, skated, skied, and curled. My mom walked, rode a bike, skated, and cross country skied. My brother was growing to love swimming and skiing. When I arrived, the family did not change their lifestyle and just expected me to do what everyone did.
In December 2012, a friend gave me some good advice. In an email he wrote that even though the future held uncertainty, I could be sure of one thing: running is forever. At the time, my wife Colleen had just begun dialysis treatments, having first learned she had kidney disease in 2008. I was undergoing tests to determine if I could donate one of my kidneys to her.
I was born in Vienna, Austria in 1981 and grew up in Calgary, Alberta. Shortly after my seventeenth birthday, while on an exchange program in France, I broke my neck diving off rocks with friends. After months of rehabilitation and therapy, I decided to get back to school, now as a C 5 quadriplegic with limited shoulder movement and weak biceps.
Principle #3: Community
Physical activity holds a very special place in my life. If I wasn't physically active, both before and after my spinal cord injury, I would not have met close to the number of people I have been introduced to through going to the gym and playing sports up to the national level. I wouldn't be motivated to set new goals on a weekly basis; nor would I be as mobile or have the strength for independent, everyday living. I would more likely be sitting on the couch not wanting to improve my physical health and well being.
As a child I spent many years socially isolated. These early negative experiences left me fearful and guarded when interacting with people who did not have disabilities. I felt safe in the blind community, with my blind friends, playing sports designed for the blind, and working to support others who were blind. Leaving the security of the blind community I had surrounded myself in was scary.
My son was born first and introduced me to the congenital birth defect called Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. Both of my daughters would be born later. My first daughter would also be born with Spina Bifida, but her condition was significantly milder than her brother's. My youngest tested negative for the condition.
Robin is 24 years old. She has an intellectual disability and albinism. She is also legally blind, but can see enough to follow me closely while ski racing. She is a very keen participant in all aspects of life, including fitness. She’s in great shape and often conducts our team “warm up” exercise sessions before we go skiing.
At a very young age I was encouraged to get into sports. Since then I have been involved in horseback riding, swimming, skiing, sledge hockey, wheelchair basketball, and track and field. You might think I am a sports addict, and you would be right.
Principle #4: Equal Access
Swimming gives me a sense of freedom through not needing anyone else in the water. Last summer, I swam over 1200m non-stop across a lake and back for almost two hours. Afterwards, a woman yelled at my mom, “Isn’t that a bit much??” Another time, a woman tried to “save” me using a noodle, despite my mom repeatedly assuring her I was fine. These incidents show prejudices and assumptions people still have about physical activity and disabilities.
Being active makes me feel good. It energizes me for daily living, and provides me with strength that increases my endurance. I want to share with you my experience of learning the martial art of Tae Kwon Do.
For me, active living has become a part of my lifestyle. Of course, this did not just happen, and I did not expect it to happen at all. Active living, I thought, was something for athletes who played sports. Growing up partially-sighted, I was not highly involved in the sports that were available to me at the time, especially since balls seemed to be invisible until they reached my face (at which point it was too late to avoid being hit).
After six months of hospital and rehab, I re-entered highschool completely focused on my education, and leaving sport behind. I remained active with my friends, but was concerned that because I had no trunk muscles, my balance would be an issue for trying new things.
Growing up and attending school was very hard when it came to participating in any activities. Whether it was just playing in the schoolyard or participating in the gymnasium, adults were hesitant of me getting involved, for fear I would get hurt.
Principle #5: Respect and Dignity
Early in 2004, I got up at 5:30 am to get ready for work as was the norm. When I looked in the mirror, everything was a blur. I could see my skin colour but could not make out any features. I washed and dressed, and my field of vision just wasn't clearing. What to do?
While I was practicing real estate in 1992 and living in Los Angeles, I got the bug to get back in better shape and join a Boxing gym; 4 years later and with many more Amateur bouts under my belt, I decided to take a year off and become dedicated to being a Professional Boxer. I had a few professional boxing matches during that year, winning my first two fights in Calgary and Red Deer; unfortunately, Prince George wasn’t as good to me and I took on an opponent with skills and a record much better than mine. I was knocked unconscious and suffered a severe concussion, and a mild traumatic brain injury.
I have been blind since birth and am from Winnipeg. In the mid 1960's, Manitoba probably had a population equal to less than half the number of people who lived in Toronto. Consequently, the provincial government of the day believed it was more economical to send students with visual disabilities to the W. Ross Macdonald School in Brantford, Ontario than it would have been to educate us locally in our own neighbourhood schools.
About four years ago, I began to feel like dancing again. I belong to a church where dance is very much a part of the worship service. I began dancing with other people who liked to worship through dance. It was during this time that some families approached me to ask me if I might like to teach their children to dance. I had been trained in classical ballet as a young person but did not think I would still be able to teach the art of dance.
Perspective has come to me in many forms, be it from a life lesson or by way of my father's death from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), or in dealing with vision loss. Having discovered I had Retinitis Pigmentosa when I was 4 years old, knowing I would slowly lose my sight, I have lived a life of perspective and appreciation.