Join Rick Hansen’s Greatest Journey
You may know Rick Hansen and his story.
At the age of 15, he sustained a spinal cord injury that left him a paraplegic.
Since then, Rick has challenged every barrier put in his path. In 1985, Rick decided to face the ultimate barrier. He began the Man In Motion World Tour, circumnavigating the world in his wheelchair to prove that anything is possible.
Many said it couldn’t be done. But as Rick wheeled over, around or through physical barriers, he also began to remove another kind of barrier: the attitudes we hold about people with disabilities.
He succeeded in his journey and inspired millions of people like you with his vision. Rick continues to show the world that each of us has the power to remove barriers!
Ellen Eaton is another example of vision and perseverance. Like Rick Hansen, Ellen is removing barriers. Here’s her story.
In 1990, Ellen was living a vibrant and full life. She loved her career as an IT Manager and business analyst. She was active with friends and family. Then at the age of 30, Ellen learned she had multiple sclerosis.
The diagnosis came as a shock. But what made her situation more challenging were the negative attitudes that came along with it. Her doctors told her repeatedly not to tell anyone at work about her diagnosis.
As Ellen says, “I think they felt that there would be repercussions at work and that my career progression would be hindered by the diagnosis.”
But as her symptoms progressed, the truth came out.
At 53, Ellen says “the symptoms of MS really hit.” She needed to take time from her career to focus on her health.
“I wasn’t prepared for the physical impact. Standing and walking for long distances became problematic. I was constantly compensating for the loss of strength in my legs.”
As she learned to manage MS, Ellen discovered that getting back to work was going to be fraught with new challenges. The visible symptoms of her disease had changed the way some people reacted to her, in every aspect of her life.
“I began to experience the social impact of the disease — the attitudinal barriers. I learned firsthand how society judges a person to be less than whole when he or she has a physical issue.”
“(Career) recruiters told me it was going to be hard for me to find a job because I was out of the market for two years and use a walker. There was little encouragement for me to get back into the working world.”
Ellen is now a member of the Accessibility Team at the Rick Hansen Foundation, working on a pilot project that employs talented people, who happen to have disabilities. “Working here has given me the confidence to pursue passions and dreams again. Using a walker or cane does not diminish the intelligence, pride, experience and skillsets I gained over a 25-year career.”
As Ellen has learned, “Once you change (a person’s) attitude toward people with disabilities, then you can change the work culture and environment. We can’t be passive about this. We need to make this decision as a community. We need the skills, expertise and perspectives of people with disabilities. We need to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities to contribute and live a full life.”