By Tim Kelly
Wheeler Randy McNeil won’t back down from a fight.
The Vaughan man makes it his business to stand up to anybody who doesn’t follow accessibility rules and laws. And he makes no bones about how he feels about those who don’t know or care about the law.
McNeil he much prefers the term “wheeler” to wheelchair-bound can often be seen and heard on Twitter, TV and in print telling off a politician or business type for not moving fast enough, or worse, not at all, on accessibility.
It’s important to McNeil, who has been in a wheelchair for more than a decade since multiple sclerosis robbed him of the ability to walk. He’s determined to make sure Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) regulations are followed and upheld. For him and others who face barriers to accessible walkways, lifts, washrooms or other locales, accessibility makes all the difference,
“You can’t lay down and take it, if you do it’s never going to change. Other people like myself need to get out there, start making noise,” McNeil said in a recent interview in his no-nonsense, gruff style.
And make noise he does.
When a GO Transit bathroom in Newmarket several years ago was not wheelchair-accessible McNeil complained until the problem was fixed.
And in Vaughan, he has demanded changes to ensure an entrance to his local mall become accessible. Change is in the works.
“There are three types of people in this world: Those that make it happen, those that watch it happen and those who are trying to figure out what happened. I’ve always been the make-it-happen type,” he said.
When he’s not stirring it up on accessibility, McNeil likes to cut loose on the dance floor.
How, you ask?
“I’ve got a classier alternative than to sweat it out in the gym, I sweat it out on the dance floor,” said McNeil who gave wheelchair basketball and sledge hockey a shot before going for wheeldancing instead.
McNeil takes to the floor with his partner and they spin around the floor. He said the experience is exhilarating and one he encourages other wheelers to try.
“We haven’t got enough people coming out in their wheelchairs to be dancing … we’ve got more volunteers willing to be partners for people in wheelchairs than we have people who need them,” he said.
“I’m shocked more haven’t tried it, but they seem to be sitting on the sidelines.”
He said he used to dance with his wife when they first met, but was sidelined from the dance floor for a number of years once MS struck.
But he’s now back with a vengeance.
“It was out of boredom that I tried this (wheeldancing), but trusting someone with your hand is just huge. It’s just such a blast, man.”
Tim Kelly is a reporter with the King Connection and the Vaughan Citizen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .