Saheed Alawiye, a 2022 graduate of WH Croxford Secondary School, is one of 14 people this year to receive a National Difference Maker Award from the Rick Hansen Foundation.
Established in 1988, the Rick Hansen Foundation works to create an inclusive world for everyone, including those who face accessibility challenges.
The Foundation’s School Program Difference Maker of the Year Award is presented to selected K-12 students, as well as educators across Canada who are community leaders in promoting the accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. The award also comes with a $500 scholarship.
“Anyone can create change and it’s inspiring to see positive stories of difference makers,” Kill Wurflinger, school program director for the Rick Hansen Foundation, said in a press release.
This year, 14 people across Canada were recognized by their peers for the Difference Maker Award and Alawiye was one of the chosen few.
“I was really happy,” said Alawiye, when he learned he had been shortlisted for the award. “I told my mom and she screamed.”
Alawiye, 18, is a board member of Calgary Adapted Hub (CAH), an organization that champions inclusion and accessibility in Calgary. Funds raised by the organization support infrastructure improvements in public buildings to make them more accessible and welcoming for people with mobility issues.
After hearing about the organization from his mother, Alawiye, who uses a wheelchair, started attending meetings and was soon asked to become a manager – a position he intends to keep while studying. universities next fall.
“The Calgary Adaptive Centre, within this organization, we always have different plans on how to change things and make it more accessible for different wheelchair users,” Alawiye said.
Together with CAH, Alawiye is an advocate for suitable sports and recreation programs for children and youth by identifying current gaps in sports programs, according to a press release.
He also led a student-teacher wheelchair basketball game at WH Croxford this year, as part of a phys. Education and leadership unit that taught students about alternative sports.
A competitive athlete himself, Alawiye believes that being in a wheelchair shouldn’t limit the activities he can participate in. Her team recently competed in the Canadian Junior Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, where they placed fourth.
As a recent high school graduate, Alawiye aims to make all buildings accessible through her advocacy work through CAH.
“When you go to some places they may not have a ramp or there may be stairs, so if there is an elevator it makes it easier for me to get around” , Alawiye said.
He added that visiting buildings with no lift means he has to be carried up the stairs, which makes it difficult for him to be independent.
One of CAH’s current projects is to add accessible infrastructure to public restrooms so that wheelchair users can more easily use these public spaces independently.
In the fall, Alawiye plans to go to college to earn a degree in business administration, using the $500 Difference Maker Prize to fund her education. His long-term goal is to become a real estate agent and build homes that are accessible to everyone.
According to Alawiye, to become more inclusive, communities can start with small improvements and then evolve to do everything fairly for everyone.
“Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I should be excluded from activities,” Alawyie said. “I want to participate in it.”