BURNABY, B.C. – Daryl Rock was devastated when he first learned he was paralyzed at age 19, but credits a mentor early on for helping him take charge of his own destiny.
Daryl, chair of the Global Accessibility Initiative, shared his personal journey and key learnings that helped him succeed at the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion’s (BACI’s) annual general meeting (AGM) Sept 27.
According to Daryl, it was his first rehab councillor, who was also in a wheelchair, that helped him realize he was a person first, who had a disability. The councillor also inspired Daryl to create goals for his own life, and not depend on the system to take care of him.
“I have to tell you the role of a mentor in my life was instrumental,” he recounts to the more than 30 people in attendance, adding being confronted with a sudden disability was life-changing.
“I encourage you all to recognize that yes there are major challenges in life, there are obstacles out there at every corner, physical barriers, employment barriers and systemic barriers, but the reality is our biggest barrier is our own attitude,” says Daryl.
Understanding our own responsibility is the first step, followed by setting goals that are consistent with one’s values and identity.
For Daryl that entailed going to university, and travelling whenever he could to meet new people. He recalls how far the disability movement has come when remembering his days at university. When he first started a degree in political science at Carlton University nearly 20 years ago, the school wasn’t wheelchair accessible.
Now, almost everywhere Darryl goes he finds accessible options, not only in Canada, but across the globe.
“Last year I climbed the Great Wall of China, which was wheelchair accessible, not so 25 years ago,” says Daryl.
“I was in Chile and Argentina, everywhere I went there were curb cuts, accessible buses and most buildings where wheelchair accessible.
“If I can go to the furthest point in South America and I can find an accessible hotel and bus, accessible cruise ship, and I couldn’t 30 years ago, I can say we’ve come a long way.”
While great strides have been made — Daryl notes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a significant achievement in Canada — he also cautions the disability movement in getting comfortable. He says rights can be taken away, and there is still much work to be done to remove barriers.
“Work with others to achieve your common goal, but don’t just sit back,” Daryl tells the audience.
“Let’s work together to make Vancouver the best place in the world to live.”
To learn more about Daryl and his work, click here.
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