Out of retirement and into the classroom

Encouraged by Rick Hansen, grad uses extensive experience and new designation to help improve accessibility in Nova Scotia

Out of retirement and into the  classroom

Ross Sampson, 58, four-time NSCC graduate. Most recently from the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Assessor Training Course.

“It’s been a great joy to know my friend Ross over the last four decades. Thanks to Ross and thousands of champions like him, we’re one step closer to creating an accessible and inclusive Canada, and a world with “Many in Motion”. ~ Rick Hansen

Fast Fact

At the 1983 Canada Games, Ross won gold medals on the track in the 400m, 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m wheelchair races.

Ross Sampson, 58, isn’t interested in being a poster boy. He doesn’t see himself as a role model or even someone worthy of having his story told, but he does want to make a difference.

“Accessibility has come a long way over my years being aware of it,” says Ross, who sustained a T10 spinal cord injury in the days between prom and graduation from the former Dartmouth Vocational School. “Thirty years ago, slapping a ramp on the side of a building and widening a door was enough. At least you could get into the bathroom. Today though, largely because of the tireless efforts of Rick Hansen, that's just not enough.”

It’s why the four-time NSCC grad, father of 4, grandfather of six and multi-award-winning national and international athlete came out of retirement and enrolled in the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification TM (RHFAC) Accessibility Assessor Training Course. It certainly helped that his long-time friend, Team Canada teammate and Paralympic training partner, Rick Hansen, said he should.

More than 30 years of experience

"Being retired, I have some time on my hands,” says Ross. “I was talking to Rick one day and he told me about his course. He thought that my experience, background, education and attitude would bring something to the program.”

With diplomas in Heavy Duty Equipment Repair (‘80), Mechanical Engineering Technology (‘83), Computer-Aided Design & Computer-Aided Manufacturing (‘86), three decades of experience working on Pratt & Whitney’s gas turbine engines, and countless medals in wheelchair track and field events from around the world — including the 1984 Paralympics, Ross was well equipped to succeed.

“I wasn’t sure. I’ve tried to set an example by just being me: a person, not a person in a chair. I just live my life — I go fishing, visit my grandkids and I’m part of the Kinsmen Club in my community. In doing that, I think I'm educating people.”

He adds, “it takes nerves sometimes — being out there. There's some apprehension. People can be…well. Rick has given so much to this fight and he's done so much for me, directly and indirectly. So, I thought, ‘well, maybe I could do some good. I could help.’ So, I signed up."

Back to class

As it was, Ross returned to NSCC’s Institute of Technology Campus for his training — a facility he’d already graduated from twice. “I know this place well,” says Ross. “I’ve spent a lot of time here over the years.”

As he looked around the class, Ross says he was struck by the diversity of people in the room. “There were building inspectors, planners, architects and individuals from the disability community. We were all talking, giving our points of view and learning about a key set of criteria that could tell someone ‘yes, you're accessible’ or ‘no, you're not.’ It’s just beautiful. Now, we just have to do it."

Ross remains hopeful.

“The tide is changing,” says Ross. “In a perfect world, we wouldn't be making buildings that aren't accessible. These are things that should already be done; but it is required, and that's why I've come out of retirement.”

He adds, “To hear our governing bodies say that by 2030 we will be accessible, I say, ‘right on!’ What we need now are people to push it and make sure it happens. The attitudes are at a point now, if we put the effort in, it will be rewarded. So, I'm in – I want to help.”

06/02/19

“It’s been a great joy to know my friend Ross over the last four decades. Thanks to Ross and thousands of champions like him, we’re one step closer to creating an accessible and inclusive Canada, and a world with “Many in Motion”. ~ Rick Hansen

Fast Fact

At the 1983 Canada Games, Ross won gold medals on the track in the 400m, 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m wheelchair races.

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