U of R professor championing inclusion
author: alexa lawlor| staff writer
Associate dean Doug Cripps brings wheelchairs to campus
This week, I got to chat with Doug Cripps, the Associate Dean of Kinesiology here at the University of Regina about his previous work with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, as well as bringing sport wheelchairs onto campus.
Can you tell me a little bit about your previous work with the Canadian Paralympic Committee?
Well, I worked with the Canadian Paralympic Committee for approximately seven years. I was the provincial coordinator of what was referred to as the “Changing Minds, Changing Lives” initiative, and that was an initiative created by CPC in 2005 with the focus of educating and informing key actors in communities about the benefits of regular physical activity and sport participation for people with disabilities.
Initially, our work targeted healthcare providers, so those individuals who had worked with children, youth, or adults with disabilities, whether they have congenital disabilities, which means that they were born with it, or whether they acquired a disability. For example, a spinal cord injury because of a car accident. So, our focus was working with physical therapists, rehab physicians, occupational therapists and recreational therapists to educate them about the benefits of sport and physical activity, so that they’re working with their patients, and these individuals who are receiving their services are made aware of those opportunities.
We quickly recognized that it’s not just the healthcare environment that needs that support, so we expanded into schools, we expanded into post-secondary environments, I brought many “Changing Minds, Changing Lives” presentations to the University of Regina, and we’ve delivered them in our courses: our therapeutic recreation courses, and our adapted physical activity courses. I think we’ve been able to influence hundreds of students’ lives about the benefits of regular sport, physical activity, and wellness for people with disabilities.
You were an important part in bringing wheelchairs onto campus for students to use, right? Why was this important to you?
Well, I was one of the players in that process, we’ve got another colleague of mine, Dr. Brenda Rossow-Kimball and Dr. Kerri Staples as well, they both teach and work in the disability area. We recognized a need to expand our collection of equipment for our classes, particularly in the adapted physical activity, therapeutic recreation, and the disability-sport area[s], and recognized that having sport wheelchairs was an important thing for campus that we simply didn’t have. We also purchased other equipment as well, accessible equipment: adult bikes, three-wheeled bikes, some with power and motor assists for those that may not necessarily have the strength to pedal themselves. There’s a power-assist that can help them in riding a bike.
It’s important to me. I’ve worked in the field, and volunteered in the field since I’ve been in high school. It’s always been a passion and an interest area of mine and I guess the focus that I have is regardless of who an individual is, they should have the opportunity for regular or daily physical activity, recreation, and leisure. Some face more challenges than others, experiencing that, and because of that, I think it’s important, whether it’s a post-secondary institution or a municipality sort of non-profit organization, to be able to provide these opportunities for people with disabilities.
For those that aren’t aware, what is the purpose of these wheelchairs?
The purpose of the wheelchairs really is to add in and aid our learning environment, and what the opportunities are that we can provide our students. So these chairs aren’t reserved for kinesiology and health studies courses. In fact, we’ve had faculty members from the Faculty of Education include the use of them in their EPE courses, and we’ve also had faculty from MAP [Faculty of Media Art and Performance], include them in their dance and their movement performance courses as well.
So it’s university equipment; we simply store the chairs in our space. But I want to see them used widely across campus in all different types of courses and learning opportunities for students because I think it creates an awareness, creates some understanding, so that when our students graduate they may look at those types of opportunities or those experiences on campus and think, “How can I implement those types of experiences in my movement classes, in my fitness classes, in my workplace, in my theatre performance or my dance movement company?” So those chairs, they’re referred to as an all-sport wheelchair, they’re, for the most part, an all-movement type of wheelchair.
Why is it crucial to have the university become more inclusive?
We’ve got great examples on campus with Dr. Timmons and the leadership she’s providing with the Campus for All program, this is simply another opportunity for those who may face some movement challenges, movement barriers to experience movement in sport or physical activity and recreation; whether that be in our faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, whether that be through physical education and experience for students in the faculty of Education, whether that be through dance or theatre in the faculty of MAP. I think it’s critical that, whether an individual has a disability or not, to create some awareness and understanding about them, because we need to respond to the needs of our students, and some of our students have disabilities, some of our students have issues or barriers with respective movement and we need to be able to respond to that. But again, I think it creates a more inclusive opportunity. I think there are great opportunities for physical education teachers from our Faculty of Education and the joint degree students from – we have a five year program of Physical Education and Kinesiology – because those teachers will inevitably go to schools where there will be children with disabilities in their classrooms and they need to be able to respond to the needs of those students, as they need to respond to the needs of any student.