Saturday, November 5, 2011



I have been a member of the selection board for this wonderful hall since it began in 1993.
But for the first time I have had a bitter taste of the hurdles faced by the 82 members.
When the board met this year to make its choices, I had to send mine in by telephone since at the time I was trapped in Runnymede Health Care Centre, unable to get out of bed or to walk or even stand.
Many of our inductees over the years know exactly what I faced. Except I got over it and they don't.
I learned what their struggles were all about to improve access to public buildings for the disabled, to change the look in a stranger's eyes to understanding rather than a baffled ignorance.
At the induction lunch at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, an unfortunate choice I thought as I laboured up 39 steps from the street, we heard great speeches from David Crombie, a song bird among mayors, David Onley, our lieutenant-governor who towers above his wheelchair, and Rick Hansen, the man in motion who has muscled his wheelchair through many lands to, as the program said, move the world to action.
Members of the hall, which used to be called the Terry Fox Hall of Fame until Terry's mother raised constant cranky objections, have transformed this country, founding the CNIB, being leaders in the Paralympics, skiiing their chair to the North Pole, and the list goes on, humbling the rest of us who haven't had to grope or stumble through life.
The latest inductees included Archie Allison, the popular stalwart at Variety Village, a cause dear to the heart of my friend, Doug Creighton, the founder of the Toronto Sun.
 Then there was Benoit Huot, born with a club foot, who failed at hockey and baseball but not as a swimmer, winning eight gold medals, four silver and four bronze in three successive trips to the Paralympics Summer Games. He shrugs it off. "All I've done for 20 years is to look at the bottom of a pool for eight hours a day."
And the McKeever brothers, Brian and Robin. With Robin as his guide, the legally blind Brian has won seven paralympic gold medals, and astounded the world in Vancouver when he also made Canada's Olympic cross-country ski team. He didn't get to race, however, but the brothers handled that with their fine sense of humour. Robin quips that his brother is always following in his footsteps. And Brian says he has learned to meet challenges head on, which occasionally are trees.
However, the best line was delivered by Rick Hansen. He did a bungee jump for Rick Mercer's CBC TV show and said later when he was asked how he felt: "I can't feel my legs."
The luncheon audience roared at that. No doubt everyone returned to their offices and told everyone how awed they had been to learn of the feats of the inductees. As one said, life is not a destination, it's a journey. And they never let disability run them into the ditch.

No comments: