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Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan Accepts the Olympic Flag

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From: CBC.CA News

Olympic flag handover inspires, spinal cord advocate says
Last Updated: February 28, 2006 08:26 AM PST

When Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan accepted the Olympic flag in Turin Sunday, it was a symbol of how people with spinal cord injuries are ready and able to take their place in society.

People wondered how Sullivan, a quadriplegic, would be able to take up the Olympic banner for the 2010 Games in Vancouver. The solution was simple: the flag was placed in a special holster on Sullivan's motorized wheelchair at the closing ceremonies.

Alexandre Poce of the Foundation for Spinal Cord Research said such physical limitations don't prevent people from doing a demanding job like being a big-city mayor.
large photo of Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan waving the Olympic Flag
Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan waves the Olympic flag
Photo by Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

"When people see you work and they see that you're able to have a life even though you're paralyzed, they're inspired," said Poce, who was paralyzed from the shoulders down as a result of a hockey accident when he was 19.

Sullivan was also 19 when he suffered the skiing accident that left him confined to a wheelchair.

Poce, who became a lawyer and directs a foundation that raises $300,000 a year, uses his mouth to move a stick to type on a computer or dial a phone.

Poce believes more employers should be willing to hire people with physical handicaps, including those who are quadriplegic, because they're able to work.

"Sometimes it's more work," said Poce. Sometimes they have "more determination, more perseverance [than] another person because we went through something difficult and were able to overcome that difficulty."

Eric le Bouthillier works with people with disabilities to help them take their place in the community and in the workforce. He agrees employers may need to change their attitudes.

"For sure its possible to become a real leader," said le Bouthillier, a kinesiologist at the University of Quebec at Montreal. "But now I'm not sure the society is ready. That's the problem."

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