Linda McGowan models the way showing what is possible with the right attitude.
As an MS patient, she hasn’t walked in 25 years, and in that 25 years, she’s travelled on every continent, more than 160 countries! In 2008, she climbed Everest, 2500 feet above base camp in a TrailRider. “Travelling the world was my biggest dream before I had MS and I couldn’t walk, and I thought how will I do it? I’ll do it in a wheelchair!”
Linda believes that one can always find a way to make things work. “People say aren’t you afraid? And I say, sometimes you just feel the fear, and do it anyway! Because when you have a disability you really have two choices, you can stay at home, and moan and groan and complain that life is not fair and let the disability be the most important part of your life or you can take what you have and do the best you can with it.”
Over the years she’s shared her positive attitude with people with disabilities as a motivational speaker, Ambassador for MS Society of Canada, BC & Yukon Division, Consumer Advocate for HandyDART and board member of Seniors Services Society in New Westminster. She’s also active in our network of affiliated Societies, as long time ConnecTra member and sits on the Board of Directors for British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society (BCMOS) And no matter how busy she gets, Linda says she always makes sure to attend our ConnecTra workshops because “education is a lifelong event, and there is often something new to learn at ConnecTra!”
The first time she had heard about ConnecTra was back in 1999, when she was on the first Access Challenge in Manning Park with Sam Sullivan and four others. She laughs and remembers, “There were 6 of us who went to the hike, expected it to be sunny and warm, but it rained and snowed!” At the end, since 4 of the hikers dropped off, it was only her and Sam Sullivan who made it to the top. “When I was up there Sam said when are you going sailing? I said I’ve never sailed, and he said it is time to start! Also he said if you are going on sailing you should also go to ConnecTra!”
“The ConnecTra sessions are always a value to myself and to the people that I work with.” she says. “The first thing that I find very helpful would be networking. And a lot of the presentations are very informative. She adds, “Presentations at ConnecTra are very useful in terms of finding information about events in the city and organizations in the city that serves people with disabilities that you might not know about otherwise.” She adds that she thinks the questions from people in the audience shed light on gaps in the community that need to be addressed. “This information can be shared with community organizations who may have programs which could assist.”
So how does she do it all? Her attitude about accessibility says it all: “Accessibility, I always say is not wide doorways and automatic doors. Accessibility requires participation, choice and attitude. Unless you have a decent attitude and are willing to put energy into participating, you wouldn’t have accessibility,” And adds “I always say I live my life; MS just tags along.”
Thank you, Linda for showing that participating in different activities can open a whole new world of experiences!