Wheelchair hoops game boosts awareness on barriers

Major (Maj) Patrick Levis. Photo supplied.

Major (Maj) Patrick Levis. Photo supplied.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

Military personnel and civilian employees from CFB Esquimalt took part in a wheelchair basketball lesson and game on Dec. 2 in recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).

The recreational, non-competitive game organizers hoped it would shed light on the barriers facing people living with a disability and create a broader understanding of this pervasive issue.

“When able-bodied people first jump into a wheelchair and see how difficult it is to control the ball, let alone play a game of basketball, they may consider how difficult it is to live in a wheelchair every day,” said Major (Maj) Patrick Levis, Military Co-Chair for the MARPAC Defence Advisory Group for Persons With Disabilities (DAGPWD) and the Deputy Commanding Officer of the Canadian Scottish Regiment.

The game occurred in the gymnasium at the Naden Athletic Centre, where Maj Levis said everyone had great fun learning a new sport. 

“The wheelchair basketball game was intended to be a fun and engaging event,” Maj Levis said. “But, we also hoped it would help educate about both visible and invisible barriers for people with disabilities.”

Maj Levis knows first-hand about barriers and adjusting to life in a wheelchair. In 2019, he underwent cancer surgery which left him paralyzed in his right leg and quadriceps. Still, his paralysis hasn’t kept him from being an athlete.

In April 2021, he represented Canada at the Invictus Games at The Hague. He competed in wheelchair racing, indoor rowing, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and wheelchair rugby. He also competed in the Canadian National Rowing Championship and Canadian National Wheelchair Tennis Championship in more recent months. Next spring, Maj Levis hopes to begin the qualification process for the World Para Rowing Championships in Italy and then – the 2024 Paralympic Games.

He said the barriers he and other people with disabilities face can include anything physical or technological or result from a policy or a practice.

He said he is hopeful the Government of Canada Accessible Canada Act, which set a target of 2040 to achieve a barrier-free Canada for persons with disabilities, will continue to push things forward.

Maj Levis wants to engage with community members about their thoughts on the subject.  He noted the MARPAC Defence Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities (DAGPWD) is always looking for more members to improve accessibility and disability inclusion in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“This is part of an effort for us to work together and help improve our organization and make it more accessible,” he said.

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