SCIO Community Magazine
Rolling Through Barriers Champions

Rolling Through Barriers Champions

Pandemics betray our ideas around equality. They shine a light on the deep deficiencies and chronic ruptures that exist in society, often impacting the most vulnerable and marginalized in our communities. They urge us – demand of us – to collectively imagine a better world.

For Jake Aitcheson and Dana Parsons, the past 18 months have reminded them of the urgency in which they want to build that world – a world free from barriers, where people with disabilities have what they need to live full, meaningful lives.  

Last year, when all our fundraising events were cancelled, Jake asked us, “How can I help?” Alongside his good friend John, they helped imagine the Rolling Through Barriers campaign. And when Dana heard about that campaign, she jumped on immediately as our first top sponsor. Together, they wanted to celebrate the strength of our clients while shedding a light on the barriers that still exist.

Their vision and commitment is a constant source of inspiration. 

I had the pleasure to interview Jake and Dana on how they got involved with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario and why they are working with such great determination to help us roll through barriers. 

While reading their thoughtful responses, I was reminded how profoundly lucky we are to have such a kind and caring community of volunteers and partners by our side.


Jake AitchesonJake Aitcheson: Partner, Lerners

QPlease tell me how you first got involved with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario?

Approximately 4 years ago, a colleague invited me to SCIO’s Roll and Bowl in London.  As a passionate – but terrible – bowler, I happily attended.  I met several representatives of SCIO and learned about the organization.  Having represented clients struggling with spinal cord injury following accidents, I had an understanding of the barriers they confronted in everyday life and I was impressed with SCIO’s creative initiatives to ensure the best support, service, and advocacy for those with a spinal cord injury.  I was hooked. After that first event, I organized a team for SCIO’s Wheelchair Relay, attended several SCIO Peer Connection lunches at Parkwood Hospital hosted by my firm, Lerners LLP, and diligently attended every Roll and Bowl thereafter.  In 2020, I had the great opportunity to work with an incredible team at SCIO to help organize, implement, and present the inaugural Rolling Through Barriers campaign across Ontario.

QWhat would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities? Why is Rolling through Barriers so 
important to you and Lerners?

Limits to accessibility are the product of ignorance and naiveté.  Our communities have the means to reduce barriers faced by those with disabilities. Indifference and inaction is a choice. By continuing to disseminate this simple truth, I hope it will compel our communities to be better and to do better in the future. Further, while everyone can make valuable contributions, those with disabilities should be the ones that are leading and shaping the discussion.  The Rolling Through Barriers campaign was so important to me personally because it provided an opportunity to drive this message across Ontario.

QWhat has surprised you most about yourself working with SCIO and the London Chapter?

While working closely with the amazing team at SCIO to organize and implement the Rolling Through Barriers campaign, I was reminded of how much I loved working closely with creative and passionate people. It was a truly unique and unforgettable experience to help create something from scratch, which touched so many people, and raised thousands of dollars for accessibility programs and services across the province.

QWhat do you find most rewarding about volunteering and/or giving?

Simply put, it’s the building of relationships with the people at SCIO and those who similarly volunteer with the organization.  I’m extraordinarily fortunate to volunteer and work alongside individuals who share my values and passions, but also challenge my perspective and beliefs, making me a better advocate in my legal practice for my clients.

QWhat do you wish other people knew about people with disabilities?

Through my work representing individuals struggling with physical, emotional and cognitive impairments, I’ve observed (and been in awe of) the strength and resiliency they demonstrate in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Undoubtedly, if others had an opportunity to witness what I do on a daily basis, it would change the perception and improve the public discourse and treatment of those with disabilities.

QWhat would you tell someone who is thinking about Rolling through Barriers for SCIO?

Jump in with both feet! Reflect on the barriers in your own community, make a guarantee to yourself to be a part of the solution, and help educate those around you that a more accessible community is a more equitable and inclusive community.


Dana ParsonsDana Parsons: Wright Rehab

QPlease tell me how you first got involved with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario?

Wright Rehab has worked with clients of SCIO for the past 20 years and have sponsored several events. Our first involvement directly with staff at SCIO was at a Wright Rehab associates appreciation day, several years ago. We asked SCIO to host a Wheelchair Relay with our team. What an eye opener to be in a wheelchair for a few minutes and only try to imagine what it must be like to navigate a deeply inaccessible society with all of the barriers that exist in the built environment. This brought great perspective to me.

QWhat would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities? Why is Rolling through Barriers so important to you and Wright Rehab?

At Wright Rehab we believe in accessibility and inclusion for everyone.  Wright Rehab witnesses first-hand the barriers that individuals with SCI deal with on a daily basis.  We are committed to doing our part in donating and helping fundraising efforts with events like Rolling through Barriers in order to promote awareness and effect change.

QWhat has surprised you most about yourself working with SCIO and/or people with an SCI?

I think what has surprised me the most is the realization that a lot of work still needs to be done.  Working with SCIO has shown me the dedication of the staff and the number of volunteers that are willing to donate their time to help individuals with SCI and to advocate for change.

QWhat do you find most rewarding about volunteering and/or giving?

The opportunity to support change and give back to the community.  For me, this creates a greater sense of community and belonging and connectedness. I have always had a strong belief that no matter where you are in life, helping others is at the core of my values. It has also been fun and in a way, a bit of a stress reliever to participate in these exciting fundraising activities, meeting people!

QWhat do you wish other people knew about people with disabilities?

I feel blessed to have met so many people with disabilities to get a better understanding of their challenges and I wish others knew that people with disabilities are the same as anyone else.  They are not defined by the wheelchair.

QWhat would you tell someone who is thinking about Rolling through Barriers for SCIO?

I would say “Jump on board and work with a great organization so that together we make a difference for people with SCI”

By: Spinal Cord Injury Ontario | Summer 2021

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