Raising awareness, changing attitudes and removing barriers for people with disabilities in the built environment

Rick Hansen meets with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss accessibility

Published: June 22 2011

New York, NY – Iconic Canadian Paralympian, philanthropist and world-renowned accessibility advocate Rick Hansen, and members of the Foundation and Institute that bear his name – the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) and the Rick Hansen Institute (RHI) – traveled to New York City today to sign a memorandum of understanding in the field of spinal cord injury (SCI) research with the James J. Peters VA Medical Center (JJPVAMC), Bronx, NY. This collaboration will work specifically with Veterans Affairs (VA) investigators from the Rehabilitation, Research & Development (RR&D) National Center of Excellence for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury.

Prior to leaving New York City, Hansen met United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was re-elected on Tuesday by the UN General Assembly for a second term as Secretary-General. Along with Ambassador John McNee, Canada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Hansen shared the Foundation's ongoing work in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities with Ban. To conclude the meeting, Rick presented Ban with one of the unique Rick Hansen medals, designed by the Royal Canadian Mint, symbolizing 25 years of progress in creating a healthy and inclusive world. The presentation of the medal is to acknowledge the work that the United Nations is doing to support the rights of people with disabilities. Photos of Hansen and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are available in the media room section of www.RickHansen.com.

The United States visit is the concluding stop of the international program for the Rick Hansen Foundation, which is currently celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion World Tour, whereby Hansen wheeled through 34 countries across 25,000 miles from 1985-87 to raise awareness of the potential of people with disabilities. The $26 million raised from the Tour has since been leveraged into $245 million via the Rick Hansen Foundation over the past quarter century. The previous stops for the international program included visits to Jordan, Israel, Australia and China between November 2010 and March 2011.

Imperative to the success of RHF's 25th Anniversary is the global advancement of the Rick Hansen Global Research Platform. The Rick Hansen Institute, which focuses on translational research and best practice implementation, and the JJPVAMC will endeavor to develop collaboration focused on reducing the incidence and severity of permanent paralysis resulting from SCI, increasing the restoration of physical function following SCI and reducing the incidence and severity of secondary complications associated with SCI. More specifically, there will be particular emphasis on the development of collaboration relating to international clinical trials, translational research and implementation of best practices.

“Partnering with world-class research facilities in order to develop collaboration around clinical trials, research and implementation of best practices is a tangible step in accelerating progress towards a cure for paralysis from spinal cord injuries,” said Rick Hansen, President and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation. “The American innovation we have seen today is a testament to the incredible progress being made in SCI research, and we are excited for what the future possibilities that continued U.S.-Canadian collaboration will bring.”

Paramount to the Rick Hansen Institute’s success is international collaborations with top research facilities. The main elements of the collaboration include: shortening the discovery time for new treatment methods; developing a shared data platform and clinical trials network; and identifying best practices. The Rick Hansen Institute has already signed research agreements with facilities in Israel, Australia and China.

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bronx, NY became the first U.S. facility to collaborate with the Rick Hansen Institute. The VA’s National Center of Excellence’s mission is to improve patients’ quality of life, health and well-being and increase their longevity by identifying, intervening, and/or preventing the secondary medical consequences that result from having a spinal cord injury.

“This is a truly exciting opportunity to meet Rick and to begin a productive collaboration between our Department of Veterans Affairs National Center of Excellence and the Rick Hansen Foundation and Institute,” said William A. Bauman, MD, Director, RR&D Center for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury. “I anticipate this partnership to generate an ongoing, concerted effort to share our mutual resources to advance our understanding and to improve the lives of persons with spinal cord injury in the United States and Canada.”

After the signing of the memorandum of understanding on Tuesday, Hansen was given a demonstration of innovative therapeutic and physical training solution, the ReWalk™ device, which allows individuals with severe walking impairment the ability to stand, walk or ascend/descend stairs by wearing the device over their legs and is operated via a small backpack.

Prior to the demonstration, on Monday, Hansen was hosted at a reception at the official residence of John Prato, Consul General of Canada. The delegation from the Rick Hansen Foundation will then travel to Washington, DC on Wednesday where Hansen will meet with Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki. The trip will conclude on Friday in Miami, Florida.

In Miami, RHF and RHI will partner with the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis to enter into the second collaborative agreement with a U.S. research center. Also in its 25th Anniversary, the Miami Project was co-founded in 1985 by NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti after his son, Marc, sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game. The Miami Project’s international team of more than 200 scientists, researchers and clinicians take innovative approaches to the challenge of spinal cord injury.

On the final night of the trip, Hansen will attend a community event featuring adaptive water sport demonstrations hosted by Shake-A-Leg Miami, an organization devoted to providing adaptive and community water sports activities for persons with a disability and at-risk youth.

NOTE TO EDITORS: High-resolution photographs and Broadcast quality B-Roll video clips will be available in the Media Centre on www.RickHansen.com.

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About the Rick Hansen Foundation The Rick Hansen Foundation is a registered charitable organization that provides leadership to create more accessible and inclusive communities for people with a spinal cord injury, and supports the search for a cure. The Foundation achieves its goals by connecting the people and resources that make innovation possible. Please visit www.rickhansen.com for more information.

About the Rick Hansen Foundation’s 25th Anniversary The Rick Hansen Foundation is currently celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion World Tour, and the extraordinary progress that has been made in the fields of accessibility and spinal cord injury advancement since. Over the two year anniversary period (March 21, 2010 – May 22, 2012) a number of programs and events will be unveiled to inspire others to dream big, recognize difference makers, create lasting and sustainable legacies and change the world, one good turn at a time.

About the Rick Hansen Institute The Rick Hansen Institute (RHI) is a Canadian‐based not‐for‐profit organization committed to accelerating the translation of discoveries and best practices into improved treatments for people with spinal cord injuries. It does this by leading the collaboration of researchers, health care professionals and service providers across Canada and internationally. For more information, visit: www.rickhanseninstitute.org.

For more information:

Rick Hansen Foundation Communications

John Gibson (in NY, DC, FL)

Mobile: 1-604-644-0811

Email: jgibson@rickhansen.com

Rick Hansen Foundation Communications

Mary Fraser (in Vancouver)

Mobile: 1-778-788-7631

Email: mfraser@rickhansen.com