By Dan Chalcraft
Working with the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia (CPABC) has been the most rewarding aspect of Ron Wyant’s long and exemplary life lived to the fullest. Now a senior, he feels he has gained acceptance both for himself and from society – an important achievement for someone living with cerebral palsy.
CPABC strives to help people living with cerebral palsy realize their dreams and be accepted and contributing members of society. Through adapted yoga, dance without limits, healthy eating-healthy life events, expressive arts, educational bursaries and campership subsidies, members are supported to enjoy life to the fullest and to maximize their potential.
Ron Wyant, an active CPABC member, started out life in Little Fork in the BC Interior. At the age of seven, he moved with his mom to Armstrong and stayed there till he was 20. Finding that the medical resources were limited there, he moved to Vancouver to find employment. In 1973, he started at the Niagara Hotel as a bell hop/elevator operator, moving up to the desk clerk position where he stayed til 1996. He then moved on to being an insurance agent for two years at Steve Slaney Insurance, before his retirement.
Ron hasn’t let his condition stop him from travelling the world, including a month-long trip while he was at the Niagara Hotel. He has been to Europe, Africa, Asia and New Zealand. For Wyant, the highlights of his travels have been walking on the Great Wall of China, experiencing stunning geothermal areas in New Zealand in 1975, and camping out on game reserves in Kenya. “It was interesting to see parts of the reserve that nobody else saw. Baboons would come around and they sounded very human,” he says.
Wyant feels fortunate to live the life he has. He acknowledges that he has issues with coordination but, “I never thought of myself as disabled,” he says. “In some ways, [having CP] is good as you have to learn to deal with your limitations [early on] and sometimes it is harder on people with normal bodies as they have to learn how to deal with their limitations later in life. They say CP doesn’t change, but aging does, and as you get older you wouldn’t be able to do the things that you could do when you were younger.” He doesn’t have the balance that he used to, and his main challenge now is to understand the things that he could do before but can’t do now.
Despite having cerebral palsy and getting older, he believes that it is his father who has made him the person that he is today because he was honest and worked hard; these are qualities which he lives by too. Wyant stated that he has met most of his goals in life. He had a quadruple bypass three years ago so his goal is to live one day at a time. He is doing just that as keeps active in the community by volunteering at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House doing office work, participating in yoga and dance programs offered by the CPABC, and watching soccer, baseball and football on his computer.
“I was a volunteer at the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC for 10 years, and the most rewarding experience was at the Association because I enjoy it and help out in the office doing whatever like the accounts receivables,” said Wyant. He started working at the CPABC when the office was in New Westminster, and his involvement has given him an outlet on how to express himself.
“In the last three years the Cerebral Palsy Association has reached out to do things for people with CP like the Community Kitchen, Dance Without Limits, Yoga and Expressive Arts,” said Wyant. “I think the CP Association (of BC) is going in the right direction.” He feels certainly accepted by the people he interacts with, and for the people that don’t know him it doesn’t matter. “You can’t please all the people all the time”.
He believes that society to an extent have become more accepting of people with disabilities, but people don’t like to see others who are different as it can make them feel uncomfortable. A young girl looked at us while we were conducting the interview at the Take Five Coffee Shop and whispered into her Dad’s ear.
That being said, society has taken steps to become more inclusive. “A lot of schools have become more accommodating to people with disabilities such as having ramps for wheelchair access since it’s the law and toilets have to have access too; they didn’t have that 10 or 20 years ago,” said Wyant. “It just isn’t for people with disabilities, it’s accommodating the aging population too. It is getting better but everything could be improved.”
He believes that if you cease to be active, you’ll lose it, and feel his greatest accomplishment is to live as long as he has and be comfortable with who he is which took a long time. Wyant stated that he doesn’t have any expectations anymore as he has met all his goals in life. CPABC is happy that he has chosen to be a part of our family and to exemplify a life without limits.
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