Warren Rupnarain is a big soccer fan but he couldn’t always get into the bars to watch the World Cup recently. It’s not that he’s too young, it’s that sometimes his motorized wheelchair wouldn’t go through the front door.
Rupnarain has cerebral palsy yet he’s quite able to speak his mind — and does so often. The 23-year-old graduate from Ryerson University’s social work program has launched his own website and blog called Warren’s World (www.warrensworld.ca), which he uses to bring attention to the accessibility of public places.
“What motivates me is my desire to make change,” he says. “I want to show the world that just because a person has a disability, it doesn’t mean that they cannot have a meaningful and productive life, and most importantly that people with disabilities are people — period.”
Warren’s World also wants to send a message that catering to those with physical challenges could mean big business to entrepreneurs. The website quotes Social Development Canada’s assertion that one in eight Canadians have a disability, or about 3.9 million people.
Warren’s World was launched during the 2006 Canadian federal election campaign, as Rupnarain visited every election campaign office in Toronto to determine which ones had wheelchair accessibility. He also asked the party candidates to define their platform on disability issues. A student crew from Sheridan College videotaped his adventures and posted them on the website. He also blogged his experiences.
The initiative received media attention locally, nationally and throughout the world.
Rupnarain works full time for the Ontario March of Dimes and is involved in advocacy and government relations as well as lobbying the government on disability issues. In fact, he did his fourth-year university placement in the agency’s government relations department, where he collaborated with its coordinator to launch Warren’s World, helping educate politicians and the public about making Canada more accessible for disabled people.
Rupnarain’s future goal is to continue to be involved in advocacy. And for those who are dissatisfied with their lot in life, Rupnarain has some words of advice: “You have the power to make change in this world but it is up to you to use it.”