Canadians urged to rethink their view of kids with disabilities
Wesley Magee-Saxton is a busy teenager.
The 16-year-old aspiring actor is already preparing for university, while juggling his varied hobbies: taekwondo, archery and sailing.
He also has cerebral palsy and was shocked by the results of a recent survey which found that 45 per cent of Canadians believe kids with disabilities lead less fulfilling lives.
The national survey conducted by the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto shows that “we need to shift our thinking about what makes for a rich and full life,” according to a news release.
The survey was conducted as part of the hospital’s Baking Good campaign, which aims to challenge disability stereotypes and misconceptions.
Magee-Saxton, who has a red belt in taekwondo, said disabilities should not be equated with a lack of opportunities or fulfillment.
“Every disability, even if it’s technically called the same thing, is different,” the teen told CTV Toronto. “Every case is different. So you can never know what somebody is capable of or incapable of doing.”
His mom, Jan Magee, said other people’s attitudes can often be the main limitation for young people with disabilities.
“People think the challenges are perhaps just the disability itself, whereas sometimes it’s the barriers that (kids) have to face,” Magee told CTV Toronto. “If we can change that … then that will make a big difference to their quality of life.”
Tom Chau, vice-president of research at Holland Bloorview, said the rehab hospital focuses on helping children and teens with disabilities join other kids in physical activities, playing music and video games and acquiring the life skills necessary for independent living.
The hospital provides clinical care and specialized programs for kids and youth with different types of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, muscular dystrophy, amputation, spina bifida, arthritis, and autism.
Chau said helping young patients reach post-secondary education and employment is a key goal.
Magee-Saxton is currently deciding which universities to apply to and is enjoying his last year of high school.
“I go to high school dances and I’m planning on going to prom this year,” he said, adding with a smile: “Don’t know who with yet.”
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Pauline Chan