More harm than good

By terriblepalsy

I’ve discussed this issue before.

On the news tonight was a story promoting spinal cord injury awareness. The program is aimed at high school students and given by persons with paraplegia and quadriplegia resulting from spinal cord injuries. The message is – don’t do stupid things – otherwise you will end up in a wheelchair. And the implication is that life in a wheelchair sucks.

Here’s a quote from a web-site who promotes the program (I didn’t link it as it is down the page a fair bit and doesn’t have a direct link):-

Valuable spinal injury prevention messages have been shared with more than 1.1 million children throughout Queensland over the past two decades.The Spinal Education Awareness Team (SEAT) is an innovative injury prevention program that celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2007.A team of passionate and dedicated volunteers, who all have paraplegia or quadriplegia, share insight and information about the consequences of life in a wheelchair after a spinal cord injury.

They convey powerful injury prevention and safety messages.School students are in – or are fast approaching – the highest risk age group for the majority of all spinal cord injuries: between the ages of 15 and 30.

To further reach out to the students, the presenters reveal their own personal stories about how they sustained their injury – and encourage interaction with the students to foster greater disability awareness and understanding.

Speaking to an average 50,000 students each year, the presenters use an interactive, multi-media presentation that has accreditation approved by Education Queensland and is written to the school curriculum.The primary school presentation includes fun animation, video footage, colourful graphics and text, as well as games such as Simon Says to illustrate the important link between the brain and the spinal cord. At high schools, a powerful DVD called Consequences shares the stories of two teenagers who sustained permanent spinal cord injuries following road accidents – the number one cause of all such injuries.

With a variety of presentations targeted to different grades, the program focuses on lifestyle challenges after a spinal cord injury, the anatomy and physiology of the spine, and important safety messages. Key messages include the importance of wearing a helmet, checking water depth before diving, using seat belts and playing sport safely and according to the rules.

The SEAT program, which is supported by Disability Services Queensland, Queensland Transport, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, the Motor Accident Insurance Commission and BHP Billiton’s Cannington Mine, aims to reach out to 70,000 students in 2007 at pre-schools, primary schools and high schools around the state.The primary objective of SEAT is to reduce the incidence of spinal cord injury in Queensland.Currently a $1 fee per child is charged, however plans are underway to offer the program free of charge to all students in Queensland in the future.

To make a booking, phone 3391 2044 or email

So I know that this is probably the unpopular view – but – I think this type of program does more harm than good. It doesn’t seem to have taken into consideration the bigger picture; the flow on effect that it has for people with disabilities; that disabilities arise from the disabling attitude of the community – not the individual.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for education about the spine, how injuries occur and preventative actions.

What do you think?



Filed under terriblepalsy

5 responses to “More harm than good

  1. activevoice1

    Because I am a glutton for punishment I queried the NSW version at primary school. Clearly, prevention is good and education helps. But I did ask what steps the presenters (in wheelchairs) took to not suggest that life using a wheelchair was the end of life as we/they know it, and had they thought about the implications of their message for people who used wheelchairs who didn’t have injuries due to stupid actions/accidents but were merely born with/acquired a brain injury. They just stuck to the party line, can’t step outside the box because of their sponsors. Which is a load of guff, and entirely expected. Mr Speedy does a better job selling the benefits of wheelchairs, he took over a Year 8 footy game yesterday and kids charged all over the field hanging off his wheelchair till some teacher intervened.

  2. Mary Lou Carter

    This story again reinforces the negativity of having a disability. There are so many positive things that happen for families provided the person with a disability is truly included and supported and valued. Such negativity is so counter-productive. Of course young people should be encouraged to be careful and to avoid taking stupid risks but invincibility is the province of the young. People should be confident that they will be cared for should an accident of birth or of life befall them.

    Incredible that people with a disability should present such negativity.

  3. OK, how do I word this without offending someone? I am the mother of a little girl with Spastic Diplegic CP who totally loves life and is totally supported and welcomed and wanted, however she herself says quite regulalry that she wishes she could walk. Now, I agree that walking is not the be all and end all and just because you were wheelchair bound it does nOT mean that your life won’t be a happy one…but would she choose to be this way if she could choose? The answer is quite obviously no. Is that because the problem is with others not accepting her? No. The reason is because she simply wants to walk. She wants to be able to run in fact.

    My cousin was made a quadraplegic while playing rugby when he was 16 years old and he has since won many awards and even become a Rhodes scholar but he says that he would give it all back just for the accident not to have happened. Is this because he is treated unfairly by others or is it because he wants to be independent? I’d say the main reason was the latter.

    Yes, there is no doubt that those with disabilities are discriminated against but to suggest that we should not educate others on prevention is not the answer either in my opinion.

  4. Education can be done without putting people down. There is a better way of doing it. Does your cousin think that having experienced this type of education, it would have made a difference to the outcome? And I know many older people who have CP who say that having CP is part of who they are and they wouldn’t change it – ever.

  5. activevoice1

    The words are important. When the wheeled messengers presented their talk to year 5, they warned the kids not to do dumb things or they could be “stuck in a wheelchair and have a boring life”. That’s a shameful thing to say in front of my son who uses a wheelchair because he has a physical disability due to congenital brain injury, is not “stuck” and has a boring life only if he’s not included in regular kid activities. And he doesn’t want to walk either, he wants to run. Thank God his wheelchair goes fast.

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