Award from CPABC helps disabled chess player to create social capital and a worldwide community

Online chess playing is opening the doors to social connection and global competition for a Penticton man who lives with cerebral palsy, thanks to the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC. Robin Selby recently received a specialized keyboard which helps him communicate with the people around him, play chess, and connect to people all over the wold. The keyboard was funded through the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC’s Equipment and Assistive Devices Program, which greatly helps people with cerebral palsy live a Life Without Limits.

While helping Robin to fill out the application to receive funding, it became apparent that Ron has a very interesting life story that he was willing to share.

Robin was born in 1954 in Nottingham England and diagnosed with atheiod cerebral palsy. (Athoeid cerebral palsy is characterized by involuntary movement or tremors.) His father was in the air force so the family had to move every four years to places like Germany, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, Edmonton and Victoria. At a young age, Robin’s doctors advised him and his family to move to Canada as they would receive better medical support. He remembers going to South Hampton, England and then taking a boat to Quebec City.

Growing up, Ron loved to ride his bike and play street hockey where he was the goalie. He has a very supportive family – his parents, brother and sister. Even though his family offered endless encouragement, Robin was often bullied by kids and pushed off his bike. Despite attending a school for kids with disabilities, Robin often could not participate in many school activities or games because his turned-in feet caused him to trip during sports.

During childhood, Robin had the opportunity to deliver newspapers to his community. By doing this, he was able to improve his speech and build relationships and tease people on his route. Robin delivered papers for 38 years and one fond memory he has is of one customer who would always answer the door in his underwear and send his dog to get the paper.

Robin knew from a very young age that he would be unable to work. He would like to take courses, but due to lack of funding and the fact that he would need unlimited time to complete the course work, he is unable to go to school and get a job. Ron states that even though, “I do things a lot slower, my mind is overly active.”

With the keyboard that the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC funded, Robin can talk to people from all over the world. The keyboard also helps Robin stay engaged with the world around him. Without the keyboard, he wouldn’t be able to write and would be very socially isolated.

The Canadian National Seniors Council reports a strong correlation between chronic health conditions and increased vulnerability to social isolation. By definition, social isolation restricts connectedness with others, resulting in fewer resources, lower social support, risky health behaviours and less access to health care systems, all of which result in poorer health outcomes and lower levels of healthy aging.

Robin says: “I use the keyboard to talk to other people and have been playing chess by correspondence since 1974. The game does seem to take the social isolation away and reading helps pass the day”.

Robin also enjoys playing chess as it stimulates his mind. He started playing in Montreal at the age of 12. He played for the Correspondence Chess League of America and his team won the World’s Championships. With the use of his new keyboard, he creates a power point slides containing all his desired moves that he would make during a game of chess which he then sends to the office administrator. “Without the expanded keyboard, I couldn’t write,” he says.

His advice to other people with disabilities is to just try your best, and if you can’t do something, try doing it a different way.

If you would like more information about the Equipment Assistive Devices Program, please visit or contact Carrie at



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