When 19-time Paralympic medallist Stephanie Dixon was a child growing up with a disability, she sometimes struggled with finding her place. Sport helped her feel included.
Dixon, Canada’s chef de mission for the Lima 2019 Parapan Am Games and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, now sets no limits on herself. The Whitehorse resident may have retired from her swimming career, but she regularly uses the outdoors as her playground whether she is mountain biking, swimming, or cross-country skiing.
Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, a partner of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, is currently celebrating Jumpstart Month to promote access to play for all children and removing barriers kids can face when it comes to sport participation, whether it be financial or physical accessibility.
Dixon knows how important sports can be for children, and to help mark Jumpstart Month, here is what she had to say about accessibility:
What does accessibility mean to you?
"Accessibility is when there are no physical barriers for all kids to play together."
What does access to play for all mean to you?
"Play is such an important way for kids to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities as well as how to interact with others in a fun and respectful way. When all kids have access to play, we are building stronger communities and developing engaged citizens."
What barriers have you faced before?
"I struggled a lot growing up feeling included and valued. I rarely saw anyone who I could identify with fully participating and thriving in life. We all need role models and people to look up to when we are navigating through the world and finding our place within it."
What is an easy way to make something accessible that people may not think about?
"When advertising for activities, program or facilities, if they are promoted using diverse people and pictures then we will attract a more diverse population of participants."
What would be your message to people about making play accessible?
"Accessibility is not a checkmark, it is paving the pathway toward changing someone’s life and developing an inclusive, respectful, and thriving nation."