“Level the playing field, Guinness World Records”: Unofficial world record holders for half-marathon wheelchair tandem team calls for fairness and inclusivity for people with disabilities
June 27 – Local boys Jason Cole and Rand Surbey smashed the Guinness World Record for fastest half marathon pushing a wheelchair at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon and Charity Challenge on Sunday, but were denied the official record due to a policy they say doesn’t reflect the realities of living with a disability.
Contenders Jason and Rand use a home-made racing wheelchair made with scrap parts and covered in colourful Sesame Street costumes to hide the duct tape. Rand lives with cerebral palsy and, at 150 pounds, requires a reinforced front wheel to bear his weight. Guinness World Record policy states that they must use an un-modified, commercially available chair to be considered for a record.
The Guinness World Record currently stands at 1:54. On Sunday, the team stopped a few metres short of the finish line at 1:35, then sauntered across the line at 1:53. By leaving a gap, they symbolically created space for the next contenders and gave a big “thumbs up” to DIY values and recognized that each person with a disability has their own unique needs.
Jason says, “I’m standing on my principles by not getting an expensive commercial chair for this race. They just don’t get it that it doesn’t matter whether I build it at home or have someone build it for me, you can still build whatever you want until they come up with specific guidelines as to the technical specs of the chair.”
By focusing on commercial availability, rather than technical specifications, GWR is promoting an impossible standard of uniformity for people with disabilities, instead of eliminating an unfair technical advantage.
The policy also assumes a certain level of financial means that is beyond the range of most people living with disabilities. Specialized racing chairs can cost upwards of $10,000. People with disabilities have lower incomes and higher risk of poverty than people without disabilities in Canada.
Jason and Rand’s record-smashing race helped raise over $16,000 for the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia (CPABC). CPABC Executive Director Feri Dehdar says, “What Jason and Rand do is outstanding and we thank them for that. Not only do they raise necessary funds for our programs and services, they highlight gaps in funding and financial supports for people with disabilities. Everyone is unique, and people with disabilities are no different.”
The tandem team is working with an equipment partner to assess their chair and develop fair, universal technical specifications that recognize the differing needs of people with disabilities.
Jason and Rand are available for interviews.
Feri Dehdar, Executive Director
Cerebral Palsy Association of BC
(604) 408-9484, 1-800-663-0004
The Cerebral Palsy Association of BC was started in 1954 by a group of parents who wanted to assist their children living with CP to reach their maximum poteial within society. We provide support, education, and information throughout BC. Our Mission is: To raise awareness of Cerebral Palsy in the community; To assist those living with Cerebral Palsy to reach their maximum potential; and To work to see those living with Cerebral Palsy recognize their place as equals in a diverse society.