SCIO Community Magazine
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Spring 2022

Magazine cover of SCIO community member riding his scooter.

“The Value of Independence”

Stuart Howe
Dr. Stuart Howe | CEO, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

Independence is a simple concept. At its core, it means having autonomy over your own life. It is the foundation of adulthood, the ability to determine our own actions and make our own decisions. However, the obstacles posed by the lack of accessibility or mobility can challenge this concept, especially when assistance is needed to perform daily tasks.

A person’s desire to remain independent is, at times, threatened by their capabilities. When a person is living life with a disability some activities that they executed and perhaps enjoyed previously may be difficult to carry out, or even imagine, as their mobility is impacted. However, with the right supports, including adaptive aids and mobility devices, this need not be the case. From mundane household chores to artistic expressions to extreme sports, the ability to embrace one’s independence may be accomplished with access to the right supports.

At SCIO, we’ve recognized how having access to the right tools and supports can impact a person’s ability to live as independently as possible since the earliest days when our founders obtained access to 15,000 wheelchairs for returning WWII veterans. While there have been many improvements to accessibility and societal mindsets about living with a disability since then, the challenges to accessing mobility devices continues. Funding shortfalls or lack of coverage for certain mobility aids can keep people with mobility disabilities from living the life they choose. Our advocacy work on public funding for mobility devices continues to highlight the needs for coverage of such items as therapeutic surfaces and lifts to address the basic needs of safeguarding against pressure wounds and even getting out of bed. Discussions continue but people need help now.

Our Equipment for Independence Program has been aiding people whose needs are falling through the cracks in the system. From assisting with funding shortfalls to securing equipment that is not covered under other programs, the program has helped many realize new or restored levels of independence. What our community can achieve with their independence is what we celebrate daily in our work and in the stories we share. In this edition of Community Magazine, you will see stories of people exploring their independence to carry out daily tasks, express their love of dancing, go mountain bike racing, make a harrowing journey to a new home, and enter new phases of their life.

Many a battle has been fought in the name of independence and many have risked or given their lives for it. Independence is freedom to make your own choices and live your life. Herbert Hoover said, “Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity”. The value of freedom and independence is priceless because it is life itself.

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