Emily Tate

Emily in her wheelchair

Getting people talking about disability

Emily Tate, a Primary student from Enfield District School in Nova Scotia, took on the challenge of spending a day in a wheelchair to raise awareness and gain a better understanding of what life is like for people with disabilities.

Understanding what people in wheelchairs do on a daily basis

Emily's grandfather, Earl, was diagnosed with polio at the age of 6 and now uses a wheelchair. As part of an awareness building and fund development campaign, Emily's mother decided to spend a day in a wheelchair. It was this that sparked Emily's desire to do the same, in order to try to understand what her grandfather and others in a wheelchair do on a daily basis.

Emily decided she would awake as her grandfather did and no longer use her legs for one whole day. Her mother helped her get dressed, and then carried her downstairs where she was placed in a wheelchair for the day. Emily carried on her normal daily routine, including going to school.

Creating conversations at school

Enfield District School does not currently have a student in a wheelchair full-time, so Emily created a new conversation among students and particularly her classmates about what life was like with a disability. With each challenge that was presented, her teacher and classmates worked out how they could overcome obstacles to include Emily, for example adapting the height of Emily's desk using clipboards. They also discussed the feelings that she had throughout the day, for example when she could not play on the gravel area of the playground with other students.

"It was definitely a useful thing for my class and the school as it sparked many conversations and was eye opening for a lot of the students," says Sherri Hartt, Emily's teacher. "Emily definitely got everyone thinking about disability."

Creating awareness

The end of day school assembly was attended by Global TV in addition to the local newspaper, the Weekly Press. Both publicized Emily's endeavour to raise awareness for persons with disabilities and a fundraiser called Chair Leaders run by the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Nova Scotia).

The Rick Hansen Difference Maker Award

In recognition of her kindness and enthusiasm to help people understand how we can make society more inclusive for all persons, Emily was recognized by her school through a Rick Hansen Difference Maker award. "Emily is an amazing girl" says Sherri. "She is extremely compassionate and caring with everyone. It is great for her to be recognized for doing this for all the right reasons."

Emily has already decided that she would like to spend more time in a wheelchair to continue to raise awareness and funds for people in Nova Scotia with disabilities. She is planning to do a day in a wheelchair again next year.

We congratulate Emily on valuing the differences in others and helping to create a more inclusive world for everyone.

The Rick Hansen Difference Maker Program empowers young people to make positive change in their communities. Click here to find out more.

Take a look at more stories of inspirational young Difference Makers here.