Champion of Accessibility

Stephanie Myrick spends her days advocating for accessibility. She is the Regional Program Coordinator with Spinal Cord Injury Alberta, one of our member agencies. The clients that she advocates for have mobility challenges and getting around the community of Fort McMurray is not always easy when you’re trying to do so from a wheelchair.

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Stephanie is originally from Gander, Newfoundland. Her dad was a mechanic, her mom, a legal aid with the local courthouse. Initially, she had dreams of going to law school. But watching her grandmother cope with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) inspired her to move into the field of seniors care. She took courses in therapeutic recreation before making the big decision to move across the country to join her sister in Fort McMurray. Shortly after, she began working in her current role.

“If you were to give our community a grade when it comes to accessibility, what would it be?” I asked.

“D-minus,” she said.

As a community that has experienced dramatic growth and with a population that skews much younger than other communities, accessibility is not top of mind.

“Unless you’re directly affected by it, or you know someone who is directly affected by it, you are not going to notice a thing,” she said on our IMPACT interview back in February.

“In the winter, how many times do you cross the street and there is piled up snow in the curb cut? You might curse as you step over it, but that would be a major barrier for someone using a walker, pushing a stroller, or in a wheelchair.”

Perspective is everything. When you walk a mile in another person’s shoes, or try to get around in a wheelchair, barriers that were previously unseen become glaringly obvious. One initiative that strives to provide this perspective is Chair Leaders. This is a day when local leaders and celebrities agree to spend a day trying to do their regular routine while using a wheelchair.

“Awareness is key,” she said. Local celebrities like Diana Noble of snapD Wood Buffalo and Councillor Phil Meagher have participated in the initiative and have helped share the story of what they discovered about accessibility challenges.

Stephanie works in The Redpoll Centre at Shell Place. Her ability to be resident with like-minded professional and organizations has made a profound difference in her ability to be effective in making changes.

“Being at The Redpoll Centre is a really good thing, especially for organizations with only one person, like myself,” she said. “The changes are small, but they make a difference.”

Stephanie represents Spinal Cord Injury Alberta on the Regional Inclusive Committee, along with several other tenants in The Redpoll Centre. Meeting once a month, the committee explores a wide range of issues with the goal of advocating for a community that works for all residents, including those you are differently abled.

“It’s easier for us to work together,” she said. “It is better to have multiple voices raising concerns versus one.”

Inspired by a grandmother who struggled with health issues and driven by a passion to help others, Stephanie is making an impact in our community and in the lives of many of our residents.

The listen to the entire IMPACT interview with Stephanie Myrick, please click here.

   

Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online (www.middleagebulge.com) and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.