Whitehorse students see what life is like in a wheelchair

Some Whitehorse students recently got a glimpse of what life is like for one of their classmates, by spending a day in a wheelchair.

'Really they are not getting the full perspective. Like a little sliver,' says Lucas Yuill

Whitehorse students get a glimpse of what life is like for one of their classmates, by spending a day in a wheelchair 2:13

Some Whitehorse students recently got a glimpse of what life is like for one of their classmates, by spending a day in a wheelchair.

Lucas Yuill, 12, a student at Holy Family elementary school in Whitehorse, has used a wheelchair most of his life. He was born with cerebral palsy, a lifelong physical disability that affects his movements and posture.

Getting dressed, eating breakfast, and going to school pose challenges for Lucas that his classmates can't always relate to. 

School principal Lina Radziunas said some students in Yuill's class weren't showing empathy.

Lucas Yuill uses a wheelchair to attend class at Holy Family elementary school in Whitehorse. Some classmates recently spent a day in a wheelchair, to learn about some of the challenges he faces. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

"I don't think the students understand, or his classmates that have been with him for seven years now, 
really understand what Lucas's day is like," Radziunas said. 

"We want them to feel what Lucas feels like, when he is constrained or can't get up out of his wheelchair 
to do simple things." 

Last week, students took turns being in a wheelchair for a full day.

Zakala Netro found it was not what she expected. What was fun at first soon became difficult.

'Lucas had just said 'I wish they could try being in a wheelchair one day, just so they know what I feel like,'' said principal Lina Radziunas.

"I got stuck in the snow so many times," Netro said. "The wheelchair actually fell over, and we were not to use our legs so we couldn't get up. We had to get a teacher to help me." 

During the winter months, Yuill stays inside at school while his classmates go outside. It's just too hard to manoeuvre in the snow. 

'Not the full perspective'

Many students said the experience did make them more empathetic toward Yuill. Laura Kos said it opened her eyes and helped her appreciate what she is able to do.

"Really happy that I can walk and that I can just run and that I can participate in everything," Kos said. 

Zakala Netro said being in a wheelchair was not what she expected. 'I thought it was going to be all fun, and then we started doing it and my legs started hurting.'

Yuill said he appreciated his classmates' willingness to take up the challenge for a day, but said it offered just a small sampling of what his days are like. 

"Really, they are not getting the full perspective. Like a little sliver," he said.

"I would actually like to make it so maybe a couple people in the world could see what it would be like to be in a wheelchair, for maybe a week or so. Some of the big stars in movies. I mean, that would be kind of cool."    

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