Friday Jun 03, 2022

DDA Talks to Nathan Shipley During National AccessAbility Week

Nathan Shipley was born with Cerebral Palsy. Today he is a public speaker and does not see himself as disabled. DDA reached out to him during National AccessAbility Week to talk about his life and what it means to build accessible communities.



Evan Kelly  0:05  
Welcome to the Developmental Disabilities Association's Encouraging Abilities podcast. Here we are on national accessibility week in Canada and we're connecting with people in the disability community chatting about their experiences, maybe what's working, what's not, and what we can all do better to promote accessibility and inclusion and hoping to raise a little awareness for the disability community. Joining me today is Nathan Shipley, a self advocate who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to navigate the world. He has a website called Thanks for joining us, Nathan. I'm happy you could be here.

Nathan Shipley  0:40  
No problem at all. My pleasure. Yeah.

Evan Kelly  0:43  
So what do public awareness events, like the national accessibility week mean to you?

Nathan Shipley  0:50  
Um, good question. Thank you. I would say, always it's really good because it always raises awareness. It's always good to raise awareness. Especially to make places accessible is always important. And we're making good progress. But always having awareness weeks like this is always important.

Evan Kelly  1:24  
So do you believe that weeks like this are helpful in generating public awareness?

Nathan Shipley  1:29  
So yeah, I believe they're helpful in changing the narrative, however, like I was joking with my support aid earlier,  it should get to a point where there shouldn't have to be a national accessibility week. I mean, those, those are important and cool, all that stuff. But it should be, it should be just something that people should be aware of eventually, and most people are, fortunately, but it's always good, you know, always room to improve. Nothing, unfortunately, in the world is ever gonna be perfect. I don't think. As much as we try, right?

Evan Kelly  2:17  
Yeah. Yeah. And you're in your 20s. Now. So, you know, obviously, you've been dealing with cerebral palsy your entire life, you've been in a wheelchair for that, for that time. Do you feel like things are getting better for the disability community?

Nathan Shipley  2:33  
Of course, I would say in the last four or five years, there's a lot more awareness around, you know, building buildings. So they're not just... accessible is good. Being accessible is really good. But what they need to think about, and we will talk about this, is, making places accessible are good. But when they actually build the building, building it, so it's something called universal design, universally designed, and it's really acceptable, because accessible is good, but if you build it universally designed, it would save you money in the long run, because you won't have to renovate, you know, all the features will already be there. And that's a place where we're already going. So that is good. I would say the city of Surrey is a is a good example of that. They made a proclaim, they proclaimed last year, or this past year, I don't know when it was, that all civic buildings will be built to the gold standard, the ranking of the Rick Hansen Foundation meaning that there'll be no barriers to access, which is good. Does that make sense?

Evan Kelly  4:04  
Yeah, that's, that's a really, really nice concept. I mean, for you know, for decades, since, you know, we've been around that whole idea of accessibility was was sort of, you know, good enough, I guess. And so when you enter something like that, where you have this concept, and it is a concept, there's this, this, this idea of universal design, in everything we do, is really maybe just a bigger, global perspective for the community at large. I really like that.

Nathan Shipley  4:34  
Yeah, I mean, that's the whole goal of the Rick Hansen Foundation, is to instill that universal design principle, so that when they build buildings, they already think about that. They don't have to go in and, and spend like 200, 300, 500,000 dollars in the future, to build, you know, renovate. I was at a workshop yesterday for national accessibility week, they were saying 80% of the buildings that are built now will still be around twenty years from now. So it's not just now it's building for the future.

Evan Kelly  5:17  
Yeah, so right now, from your perspective, what are the biggest issues you see, when it comes to accessibility?

Nathan Shipley  5:24  
I would say that, it's not just, accessibility is good, but there's a lot of issues, you know, around housing, it's good, you know, building these houses, but, I mean, building these buildings that we were just talking about, but if you don't build, you know accessible, housing, that's affordable, and decent, then there's is no point, because where are all of us gonna live? You know, but I would say, the other main thing is the awareness.

Evan Kelly  6:06  
Housing definitely is, you know, is an issue, especially here in the Lower Mainland, where it's so expensive, you know, I mean, we have we have homeshare people here who, you know, who get paid a certain stipend by the government to support and care for people in their home, people who have extra space. And that's for generally for people with cognitive disabilities. And, but it's, it's people make more money just renting their house out to regular renters or even Airbnb. So it'd be the problem becomes even bigger, just because of the cost of living here.

Nathan Shipley  6:44  
Yeah, I mean, I recently, I don't know if you want to discuss this more in depth later. But I will say that, even like me, living in my own house is great, like the house I have now is great. Because I have my own, you know, I'm on my parents medical plan, etc. But even like looking for accessible hotels, because I recently started you know, wanting to go away for a couple of weekends here and there. Finding an accessible hotel is great. And everybody, everybody's definition of accessibility is great. Like everybody's - pardon me - everybody's definition of accessibility is great, like, but I'm in a wheelchair. So my definition of accessibility will not work for a blind person. So there's multiple, like... deafness, what works for a blind person definitely won't work with somebody who's deaf or hard of hearing. So that's important.

Evan Kelly  8:00  
Yeah, I mean, thing things even like, like a round doorknob can be a challenge for somebody, instead of just like a lever, where you can, you know, use a different part of your arm. It's those kinds of things that I think sometimes the general public just, you know, it's not that they're ignorant, they just don't necessarily think about that. And like something accessible could just be as something as small as opening a door that we just seem to take for granted.

Nathan Shipley  8:26  
Right. That is also that's very important.

Evan Kelly  8:30  
Now, in terms of technology, tell me a little bit about the technology that helps you make your life better.

Nathan Shipley  8:38  
Yeah, so I, I have had you know, I had the Tetra Society, build phone holder, and so that my phone can be on my chair for safety. I have a Google Home. Thanks to the Technology for Living, you know, that Google Home that I actually hook up to Google Nest, so that I can see actually, who comes to my door and so all that, you know, minor things, expensive things. Keep in mind that technology is already always expensive. But all these expensive things, they make a huge difference.

Evan Kelly  9:35  
Yeah, like companies like Apple and Microsoft, they're, you know, they're developing apps all the time that become, become assistive and make, you know, independent living possible. Like you say, Google Nest. I mean, iPads are, you know, just changing the world in more ways than just accessing information.

Nathan Shipley  9:55  
I mean, like, I have an iPhone and I can only - I have cerebral palsy. And I only have the use of my left hand so I can use, you know, the button to activate in theory. But then it'll be like, text so-and-so. And it will text, it may come up with some unusual words, or some swear words, but it'll work with practice. But it'll work. But the point is that the technology is there. And I would say, you know, it's not just iPhones, computers, etc, but wheelchairs, like I have a power wheelchair, thankfully that technology was generated years ago, but now they have chairs that, you know, you can, you know, smart homes, they'll be able to control your own home, like your whole entire home, you know, thousands of dollars later, but the technology's there, you know?

Evan Kelly  10:58  
Yeah, exactly. And it's like, in terms of that technology, it's becomes easier to scale, doesn't it? Like you've got, you've got one sort of program, which has a bunch of code and whatever, but then replicating it again, becomes cheaper, so it becomes even more accessible. But I mean, when you look back 10 years ago, how has technology changed your life? Has that been a big part of it for you?

Nathan Shipley  11:23  
Yeah, well, I would say that I was lucky, lucky enough to be born in did be born in the 90s. And I was very fortunate to be born into a world where technology was coming. I mean, back then, there wasn't a lot of technology, but it was coming. It's expensive. It was expensive. But all these things and people don't realize, you know, if you spend a little bit more now, it may be, you know, cheaper in the future.

Evan Kelly  12:02  
Yeah, hopefully. When it comes to all the, you know, the technologies and the phone holders and things like that, that you need to get through your life. How, how much of that, are you out of pocket for? How much of that does social programs cover? How much do medical plans cover?

Nathan Shipley  12:20  
Yeah, so in terms of the ministry only - though, I got to be very careful what I what I talk about here - in terms of wheelchairs, the ministry will only fund, you know, the bare minimum power chair, so I can get my chair and get around, you know. All the rest of it, would come out, you know, luckily, my parents have a very good medical plan. So, any advice out there will be, you know, make sure you're getting a medical plan. But that's a side note, kind of a joke, but seriously, make sure you find a good medical plan. But the chair I'm sitting in right now, was $16,000 so, the government paid for a little bit, and then my parents medical paid for a little bit, but even that, we still had to pay a little bit out of pocket. I just got a phone that I still had to pay, the ministry covered a little bit. And we still had to pay out of pocket a little bit. So it's a little bit complicated, and I don't really know how much you want me to get into, because I could spend hours teaching you about that.

Evan Kelly  13:50  
I'm sure you could. Um, but I guess I guess that's the question. Does BC have room to improve its care for people with disabilities?

Nathan Shipley  14:00  
Yeah, well, I mean, what I would say is that BC is one of the more progressive provinces as it comes to people with sorry, repeat so over that against my apologies, BC is when the more progressive provinces as it relates to, you know, treatment of people with disabilities, care, support, etc. But there's always, there's always room to improve. And, you know, there's all this research now, not so much people with physical disability but more seniors, there's more research that indicates to seniors and not too much people's physical disabilities, but also the same thing as they want people with disabilities and with disabilities and especially aging, to be able to age in place, that aging in place essentially means to be able to stay in their home as much as they can. 

Evan Kelly  15:22  
Yeah definitely, is that a big concern for you? Like, how does your future look to you?

Nathan Shipley  15:28  
Well, I, I will say, going back to the previous question, my apologies. Thankfully, I'm on the CSIL program, which is choice in supports for independent living, the choice in the supports for Independent Living, which is a good program, but I will say, they will only cover medical, like medical needs, aka, you know, going to the washroom, and you know, brushing teeth, and etc. But as you know, and all your listeners will know, and as I know, life isn't always about, you know, showering and all the personal care needs. So, for instance, if I wanted to go swimming, I would need two support workers for safety. But I can't, I can't do that. But swimming is important for my therapies. So I kind of sometimes have to choose, oh, do I have enough funding now to do this? Or do I not, and I'll trim it. We can have a debate about funding, that will be another podcast, that would be another podcast, which we don't have time to do that. We don't have time to do that at the moment. But I would be more than happy to come back and join you again, if you wanted to have a much longer podcast about planning specifics, etc. But that's basically it in a nutshell. But outside of the CSIL funding that because I live in my home, my parents and have to, you know... when my workers leave they take over, which they love doing it, but my mom, she's really good at it, but she is older, and a lot of people with with physical disabilities, their moms end up you know, busting their shoulders, with my mom has a wrecked shoulder, she's got tendinitis, all those things, and migraines and you know, all those things. So that's what I mean is if you, if they provide more funding, which I know is tricky. But it all goes back to what I was saying earlier, is if they provide more now than it would provide more mental and physical wellness, so that it would cause the medical system a lot less in the long run.

Evan Kelly  18:24  
Yeah, that makes sense. Well, let's, let's shift the conversation a little bit here. So tell me a little bit about your business around education and public speaking.

Nathan Shipley  18:33  
Yeah, so the business Rolling With Nathan you mentioned the website off the top. And so what that is, is I originally, prior to COVID to this was 2019, after getting the business going, I wanted to go into elementary and high schools to educate them about, you know, accessibility and people with physical disabilities, all kinds of you know, disabilities, etc. But then COVID hit. So with the advice of my family and support teams, I then pivoted to speaking to medical students like nursing students, people in healthcare assistant programs, nursing, and Doctors, and thankfully, I've been able to do it virtually so not just in BC but all over Canada. And thankfully all the feedback has been very, very positive. And and they often asked me to come back because what I find and I've worked with, and I still work with, a lot of nursing and medical students when they find a job like working with me very important as they go into the medical field. They say "Oh, you know um," people graduated, they tell me, "Oh, I wish you were around when I was in school." Because the thing that I hear is, a lot of people can learn. Like, you can learn a lot of things by a textbook. But until you hear from somebody who actually receives it, and until you actually do the care of a patient? You know, it's totally different.

Evan Kelly  20:27  
Yeah, that definitely would be true. If so, when you when you speak to a group or someone, what are some of the key messages that you want to get across to people?

Nathan Shipley  20:37  
That that's a, that's a good question. Basically, what I want to, what I basically want to do is I want to basically, because they talked about my surgeries, my medical treatments, etc. But what I would say is that I talk about my nursing, medical treatments that I basically want to instill, you know, with this kind of empathy, kind of make them realize, you know, how to communicate with people with disabilities, you know, how we can feel pain a little bit differently than other people, because our pain tolerance might be higher, it's a minor thing, but in a medical setting can be very important. I will say, nursing training today is a lot different than it was like a few years ago, even. So even doing that, and the way the schools train now is a lot different. And I can tell you, that a lot of the young nurses that are just graduating now, they're very, they're very enthusiastic and passionate about what they do. You know, the older generation one, there weren't as much education, you know, around disabilities and you know, pain scale. There was a little bit, but all of it provides better education for them, which in turn, provides better care us. I'm sorry that was a long answer.

Evan Kelly  22:22  
Long answers are good ones. I'm going to finish with one more little question here, sort of a statement that I thought was really powerful. I can't remember where I read it. It's either on your Facebook page or on your website that you don't feel disabled. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Nathan Shipley  22:41  
Right. Yeah, I think what you're referring to is, I don't feel disabled, it's more differently abled. What I mean is that a lot of people nowadays are like, "Oh, poor," well not so much to me now, they think I'm really cool. But the older generation, they haven't seen people with disabilities as much. They used to it being in instituted, like, people with disabilities being instituted, whether physical, cognitive, whatever it is, right. So my theory is that I'm differently abled, yes, I can't walk. But, and I can use my hands, but I have a very, very good, I have, I can use my voice very well. I can, I can do a lot, a lot of things and I told other people, just because I can't walk - I can't walk yes, but like, I can do some things better than, you know, some able bodied people can.

Evan Kelly  23:59  
That's very true. Even just you know, having a really good conversation is difficult for some people. But I think that's all the time I'm going to take up. I really, really appreciate talking to you, Nathan. And really, thanks for joining us today.

Nathan Shipley  24:14  
Oh, yeah, and just before I go. Just before I go, sorry to cut you off. Something very important that my fabulous support worker has shoved some prawns in my face here, to remind me to, in relation to the housing question, I really encourage people to watch a movie on YouTube called Laura's story, uh, Lauren. Sorry it's not Laura, her name is Lauren, and she, I don't know if some of you listeners might be familiar with unity and harmony and all that stuff, but there's a documentary on a lady named Lauren. And it's basically about a housing project for people with intellectual cognitive, I'm not sure about physical disabilities, but they were basically going to build housing for people with disabilities, while also including able bodied people as well. And that project was denied but that documentary is also really good at illustrating the housing shortage. Sorry my pronounciation isn't the greatest today, but I will say that, for all your listeners, it's on YouTube, it premiered at the inclusion BC conference last week, but that is a really good illustration, you know, how the housing shortage is very important not just for able bodied people but for people of all abilities as well.

Evan Kelly  26:16  
And that was called Lauren's story? 

Nathan Shipley  26:18  
Yeah, Lauren's story is on YouTube. It's also, if you guys go on to my Facebook page Rolling With Nathan, if you type that in on Facebook and you scroll down there is a YouTube link, you can watch it there. It's only 20 minutes but it's the best documentary I've seen about housing so I highly recommend that as well.

Evan Kelly  26:49  
Yeah, that sounds really good. And thanks again to Nathan Shipley. We'll definitely go check out that video. You have been listening to Developmental Disabilities Association's Encouraging Abilities podcast, again our speaker - or our guest today rather, has been Nathan Shipley, a young man with cerebral palsy is a staunch self advocate and public speaker bringing messages of hope and inspiration to the world. Thanks for tuning in.


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