Wheelchair curling ‘funspiel’ about autonomy and accessibility

A day of wheelchair curling for a good cause brought together people with and without disabilities Sunday to learn more about what it’s like living with a brain or spinal cord injury.

It was the first annual wheelchair curling “funspiel” put on by the First Steps Wellness Centre (FSWC) at the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club. Interim president Ray Dupuis said they got they idea from their sister location in Regina.

“We wanted to get a bit of a family community feeling, so people get to know a little bit of what we’re about, and also giving people an opportunity to see what being in a wheelchair is all about,” he said.

The organization was founded in Saskatchewan to help people with spinal cord injuries, and later expanded to also include neuromuscular disorders.

Dupuis said the Regina location had been doing a curling event for a few years. He said it’s all about autonomy and accessibility, “We like to be inclusive … we want to find ways to include everybody in what were doing,” he said.

Jonas Mark is the FSWC site manager. He said wheelchair curling is quite a bit different from normal curling.

“Everybody curls from a chair, so nobody’s standing on their feet … doesn’t matter if you’re impaired or not, were going to get you to sit in the chair and use a push stick. Kind of like shuffleboard a little bit.”

He said there’s no sweeping in wheelchair curling, you simply push your rock as close to centre as you can.

Mark said accessible sport has become a lot more popular in recent years.

“A lot more people that are watching regular Olympics are starting to tune in to Paralympics a little more,” he said.

The event saw a total of 20 teams competing from across Manitoba, with one team from Regina.

“Were really pleased with the turnout, we have a lot of support form the community,” said Mark.

Dupuis said holding events like this is important for those who use wheelchairs.

“It gives them more autonomy, it gives them an opportunity to do something with the rest of the community and enjoy themselves.”

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