For an afternoon, 13-year-old Cole Smith got to go for a ride on a bicycle — something he’s never been able to do.
Smith, a Grade 7 student at Qualicum Beach Elementary School, got to test out an adaptable accessible bike with QBES principal John Williams. The two took the accessible bike for a test ride around the school late last month. The Huka Duet tandem bike arrived in Parksville Qualicum Beach in late 2017 after nearly a year of fundraising for two accessible bikes.
Dianne Webster, Smith’s mom, said he was born with the rare genetic disorder Emanuel syndrome: it’s the translocation of chromosomes 11 and 22 which can lead to anomalies such as the child having special needs. She said Smith has been in a wheelchair since he was about two or three years old.
Webster said when she brought Smith to the school that morning, she showed him the bike and the seat he would be sitting in.
“I think he likes it, judging by the way he was laughing as they were going around the circle. I don’t think he liked the fitting part; he was looking a little unimpressed.”
The adaptable bike will be rotating throughout the region, with local schools and care facilities having some of the first opportunities to try out the bike.
Universal Access Qualicum Beach, a group under the umbrella of Qualicum Community Education and Wellness Society, is hoping to create community partnerships and establish an accessible exercise facility with specialized equipment, said UAQB co-chair Holly Carnegie Letcher.
“This (accessible bike) is part of a project from Universal Access Qualicum Beach and we’re looking at creating an accessible gym facility for folks that can’t access the regular gyms in our community. We’re looking to support physical and mental health,” Carnegie Letcher said. “It is very much a slow start as we test the waters here and share this opportunity.”
Carnegie Letcher said bringing the bike out into the community has been several months in the making.
“We’re very excited that we finally have the bike on the road and now we’ll be able to share it within the community,” she said.
Webster said having an accessible bike like this in the community allows Smith to do what other kids can do, specifically going on bike rides in the community.
“It’s more access to do things like I said that other kids get to do like going around and bike riding with their families. That’s something that we’ve never been able to do.”
UAQB is still fundraising for a second tandem bike that would allow side-by-side cycling. The group is also fundraising for at least five other pieces of specialized gym equipment, as well as looking for a permanent location for the facility.
For more information, or to help, contact UAQB via firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is also a GoFundMe account which can be found at www.gofundme.com/universal-access-gym-oceanside