Students embark on a trip to aid awareness of a barrier-free world

York University students Corrine Humphreys and Denise Williams had an opportunity to accompany a child with a disability and his parents to Japan’s Expo. The pair joined the family for a nine-day journey to help raise awareness internationally for a barrier-free world and to promote cross-cultural exchanges between Canadian and Japanese students. The trip was arranged by Manulife Life Insurance Company in Japan as part of its sponsorship of the Canadian Pavilion at the 2005 Aichi Expo and in cooperation with the Ontario March of Dimes. The group toured the expo on June 25.

“We are extremely proud of Corrine and Denise,” said Lorna R. Marsden, York’s president and vice-chancellor. “They represent the kind of caring students who typify the York community and we will be very interested to find out what they learned upon their return.”

Left: The Canada Pavilion at the 2005 Aichi Expo in Japan

“Through this event we wish to strengthen the ties between Canadian and Japanese young people and support our communities in Japan,” said Manulife Life Insurance Company president and CEO Geoff Crickmay. “We are very pleased to be able to work together with York University to welcome York students to participate.”

Humphreys, who is studying for her masters in critical disability studies, suffers from chronic pain as the result of a motorcycle accident and hopes to become a psychotherapist. Williams will enter her fourth year as a kinesiology and health sciences student in the fall. Both students were nominated by York faculty and their travel and lodging expenses were paid for by the York University Alumni Association and an anonymous benefactor.

Paul Manieri (right) was selected by Ontario March of Dimes to make the trip to Japan, along with his family. Manieri was born with cerebral palsy, spastic diplegia and uses splints, a bugsy walker for school and outdoors, and a wheelchair for distances. Manieri is the 2005 Ontario Easter Seals Ambassador.

The Ontario March of Dimes Conductive Education Program has helped Paul build his self-confidence and achieve his potential beyond what he thought he could achieve. “We’ve seen our son Paul become stronger and more independent with his walking and everyday tasks after he joined the program,” says Paul’s mom, Anna Maria Manieri.

Humphreys, Williams, Manieri and his family, as well as children with a disability from Japan and able-bodied students from Japan, toured the Expo together on June 25. The theme of the day was twofold: an international exchange between the child from Canada and the Japanese children, and an opportunity for children who are not disabled to learn more about barrier-free issues.

“I was nominated because I have previous work and volunteer experience with kids with a disability.” says Williams. “Being a kinesiology major, I love sports and working with kids. I hope to learn more about how to integrate special need populations into the sporting environment to inspire other parts of the world to think like Canada.”

“As a person with a disability myself,” says Humphreys, “I want to open people’s eyes to the possibilities for inclusion. York is the most accessible of all universities in Canada and I am so thankful for this opportunity to go to Japan to support, learn, experience and to educate people about the positive aspects of living with disabilities.”