FORT NELSON, B.C. – Local Tanner Whidden wants inclusion for all people at Liard Hot Springs and has created a petition to create safe access for all.
Whidden became wheelchair bound in July 2017 after two 10 hour surgeries to remove tumours off of his spinal cord and following up with 28 rounds of radiation.
Born and raised in Fort Nelson, Whidden spent many summers on the Alaska Hwy with his father who worked on road construction and therefore spent a lot of time at Liard Hot Springs.
Whidden admits it was not until his injury that his perspective changed regarding access to the therapeutic benefits of Liard as he shares that he does not have safe access to the springs. Whidden goes on to share wheelchair users have sore tight muscles due to sitting in their chairs all day, up to 10 – 12 hours and the benefits of the natural mineral springs cannot be utilized if you cannot get to them.
Lack of inclusion to Liard gave birth to creating a petition to see that access for all people to the hot springs would be a reality. As stairs are a means of entry for abled bodied persons, a ramp enables inclusivity for all people. In 2015 an upgrade to the springs never included access for all persons by way of a ramp.
Perspective and inclusion became the highlights of conversation as Whidden described how his perspective changed from being an able-bodied person to a person that relies on a wheelchair and how inclusion can be based on opportunity through access.
Being fully apart of the experience and being able to engage and create memories are some of the benefits to inclusion, being unable to move independently can happen from injury and affect anyone. To be sat on the sidelines and not be able to participate with the family such as getting into the water on a family vacation is disappointing and isolating.
Whidden’s goal is for Liard to be universally assessable so all people can get in and out of the water easily and safely. He shares he is not interested in taking no for an answer and that it is not an option as he is passionate about this.
The petition that is posted online has received over 2,000 signatures, Whidden also intends on making hard copies of the petition to place at campgrounds in the area. He understands this is an isolated area yet it is also a Provincial Park where people with disabilities are given free access.
“We can do better,” said Whidden, “I will be the first one to tell you before my injury when I was an able-bodied person I didn’t look at the fact there was no ramp at the hot springs, I had a different perspective at the time. Now that has changed and now as a person in a wheelchair this is how I perceive things and now does my family and people close to me and they see it. Unless it has affected your life it does not bother most people.”
Whidden wants to bring light to inclusion in a positive and responsible way, by creating conversation and inspiring people to make small changes around your life to create inclusion for all people that live in communities.
To view and sign the petition; CLICK HERE