December 14, 2018

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Locked-out-of-life stunt sheds light on disabilities

Tyson Sylvester plans to enter a jail cell in Old Market Square during noon hour Thursday to show the public what life is like in private for the 22-year-old with a physical disability.

“When you’re in a fight like ours, sometimes, you feel hopeless,” Sylvester told the Free Press last year.

With today’s “locked out of life” publicity stunt, Sylvester hopes to raise awareness of the plight of Manitobans with physical disabilities who lose many services and supports when they graduate from high school.

Sylvester, who has cerebral palsy and is visually impaired, and another Manitoban in her 20s filed a human rights complaint in 2016, saying they were discriminated against on the basis of disability and age when receiving services.

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Tyson Sylvester plans to enter a jail cell in Old Market Square during noon hour Thursday to show the public what life is like in private for the 22-year-old with a physical disability.

"When you’re in a fight like ours, sometimes, you feel hopeless," Sylvester told the Free Press last year.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files</p><p>Tyson Sylvester (left, with mom Claresa) is staging a protest Thursday.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Tyson Sylvester (left, with mom Claresa) is staging a protest Thursday.

With today’s "locked out of life" publicity stunt, Sylvester hopes to raise awareness of the plight of Manitobans with physical disabilities who lose many services and supports when they graduate from high school.

Sylvester, who has cerebral palsy and is visually impaired, and another Manitoban in her 20s filed a human rights complaint in 2016, saying they were discriminated against on the basis of disability and age when receiving services.

Sylvester, who graduated in 2015 from Transcona Collegiate Institute, and Amy Hampton, who graduated in 2011 from Maples Collegiate, say they became ineligible for services and programs that helped them learn, thrive and gain some independence when they reached adulthood and left school.

Those under 18 with lifelong physical disabilities qualify for comprehensive assistance.

Hampton, who is dealing with cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia and scoliosis, received one-on-one support, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, orthotics, care at a spasticity clinic, medical supplies and equipment. The services ended when she turned 18.

The complaint is still working its way through the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

In a Free Press interview last year, the tech-savvy Sylvester talked about his dreams of studying computer science and developing software for the visually impaired. In his reality, he is trapped collecting welfare and sitting in front of his computer at an assisted-living facility.

He said at the time he’s eligible for 50 hours a week of home care, but that is barely enough help for him getting dressed, going to bed, eating and going to the bathroom. There is no support for him to continue his education or have any kind of social life, he told the Free Press.

Sylvester’s effort to publicize the isolation he experiences is part of a campaign being launched by the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba.

"We did it for a reason," executive director David Kron said Wednesday. "That is to shake people up a little bit and to bring attention to Tyson’s story and Amy’s story.

"We put a lot of thought into it," he said. "We’re trying to be very careful in walking that line so people understand that it’s not the disability locking him out of life, it’s the systemic barriers that lots of folks face."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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