‘It Is Just Freedom’: How Users Of Wheelchair Are Setting Sail

The Disabled Sailing Association of Ontario (DSAO) is using a special fleet of companion volunteers and boats to help its members to experience the joy of being in the water and talking to it. Under the setting sun, the skipper eyed a marker floating in the harbor of Toronto and judged if his compact sailboat could get past on its present course.

It is too tight, he decided, and then he took a quick turn, exchanging the burgeoning skyline of city vista for the bucolic green of its harbor islands. After a few moments, he turned the boat again, squeak past the marker and they began running with the wind on the last leg of the race.

From the distance, this would have looked like a traditional scene in the inner harbor of Toronto. But, when one sees at the boats closely in this race, then it shows some major differences. In these boats, the skipper is positioned low in the hull; the steering is there with a joystick. The ropes have been kept out as the boat of five-meter could be handled by one person in the boat, who is not needed to change his/her position. At the dock from where, the boats were launched, a crowd of wheelchairs seen waiting for the skippers to return.

Rick Watters, who is 56 years old and he is quadriplegic after a diving incident when he was at the age of 16 said, “It is just the freedom, liberating getting out there on my own.,” Presently, his limb functions partially and he has been sailing this type of boat since 2000. “This is an opportunity for him to get out of his wheelchair and perform something that makes him feel more normal and like everybody else.”