Breaking Barriers: Opportunities for the disabled

The first in a weekly series on living with a disability in a community like Cranbrook

My name is Raux and I have a disability. This piece is the first in a weekly series on living with a disability in a community like Cranbrook.

Like everyone else, though my body may not function with same fluidity, pace or range of motion as a non-disabled person, it is still my machine and the structure of my physical house.

To maintain physical and mental strength you have to stay positive and exercise…

Part I – Exercise

Gym: There is equipment out there made to accommodate wheelchairs, I’ve seen some in person at the Kimberley Conference & Athlete Training Centre. This was really cool to see; however, you don’t necessarily need specialized equipment to get a good workout. There are several pieces of equipment located at most gyms that you can use to suit your needs.

Swimming: Both Cranbrook and Kimberley offer therapy swim sessions—this is one of my personal goals for this year—the buoyancy of the water takes the stress of gravity off your joints and allows you focus on flexing and increasing range of motion while using the gentle resistance of the water to your advantage.

Trails/Hiking: The NorthStar Rails to Trails, though not so much a physical workout from my electric wheelchair; however, this is an excellent mental workout and gets the endorphins up. I liken it to running or jogging: fresh air, sunshine, social interaction with the other trail-blazers—the best part for me is clearing my mind from all life’s challenges and just being in the moment, at home with nature.

Last year I let the reports of bear sightings scare me off the trail for most of the summer. Upon further exploration I’ve learned that the 6 Mile Crossing/Shadow Mountain area is a common corridor for wildlife. Within peak user times, the chances of seeing, much less running into a bear are low. The best I can do to be safe is to be informed about bear safety and announce myself so they can avoid me if they are around — I like to play some music. I’m not going to let the fear of “what if” scare me away this summer.

The gift the Rails to Trails has given me is priceless. I don’t drive, so being able to drive to my parents’ house — my childhood home in Wycliffe — within a few “blocks” of a trail access point or even all the way to Kimberley is an amazing sense of freedom and independence. I appreciate all the efforts to establish and maintain this trail system, it is a true jewel of community connectivity and I look forward to many more wonderful afternoons traveling along the river, within the mountain and a new vista around every corner. I would love to see a trail system along the Mission Rd one day; that also has a gorgeous scenic route.

Exercising is a physical and social activity; surrounding yourself with like-minded people while doing something you enjoy. Be friendly and smile, a smile can have a ripple effect, perhaps a new friend could be sitting right beside you.