With determination and courage, Rick Hansen overcame a devastating car accident to become a Paralympic medalist and international advocate for people with disabilities. Today, Douglas College named him Honorary Fellow, the highest honour presented by the College.
“Rick’s contributions to improving the lives of those with spinal cord injuries and removing barriers for people with physical disabilities reflect the values that Douglas College strives to promote in our students. His pursuit of a world that is more inclusive is an aspiration we should all share,” said Dr. Kathy Denton, President of Douglas College.
At age 15, Hansen was paralyzed from the waist down after being thrown from the back of a pickup truck and injuring his spinal cord. Despite this drastic life change, he attended UBC and was the first person with a disability to earn a Bachelor of Physical Education. After graduation, he became a successful athlete: 19-time wheelchair marathon winner, three-time world champion in wheelchair racing, nine-time Pan Am gold medalist and six-time Paralympic medalist.
In 1985, Hansen started out on his Man in Motion World Tour, a 26-month, 40,000-kilometre journey around the world in his wheelchair, which aimed to fundraise for – and change attitudes about – people with disabilities.
After completing the tour, he established the Rick Hansen Foundation and raised over $360 million over the past three decades to help remove barriers and improve lives for people with disabilities.
“Rick’s influence on inclusion and accessibility in Canada and around the world has been significant,” said Douglas College Faculty Emeritus Tim Frick, who nominated Hansen for Honorary Fellow. “He’s done so much for the community and my hope in nominating him was to recognize his contributions and encourage our students to become difference makers in breaking down barriers for themselves and others.”
Douglas College Honorary Fellow is the latest among many honours Hansen has received. He was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy for Outstanding Athlete of the Year, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, named Honourary Colonel of the Joint Personnel Unit of the Canadian Armed Forces and inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. He was also a torchbearer for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games and Ambassador of the 2017 Invictus Games.
“Douglas College has a tremendous sentimental connection to my personal journey. In our early training days, Douglas College was a host to our wheelchair basketball team. The College has always ensured accessibility and inclusion are a priority on campus and I’m encouraged to see it is continuing to improve accessibility infrastructure,” says Hansen. “I’m so proud to be named Honorary Fellow of Douglas College, an institution that is contributing to the Canada we all want to be a part of.”