20 The Chronicle February 13 - 19, 2018 chronicle.durhamcollege.ca Community Photograph by Alex Clelland Marshall Hohmann found his voice even though he cannot speak, determined to make change regarding accessibility in Oshawa. Young activist is determined to make Oshawa accessible This is one story in a series profiling people who have made an impact in Durham Marshall Hohmann presents his idea of inclusion to schools in Durham Alex Clelland The Chronicle Marshall Hohmann is a 25-year old activist in Durham Region who has a voice in his community, even though he cannot speak. Hohmann has quadriplegic, non-verbal cerebral palsy. He communicates with family and friends through a DynaVox – a voice machine that attaches to his electric wheelchair and cycles through common phrases for Hohmann to construct speech. He remembers the first time he was able to speak, and was finally Disabled doesn't mean you can't do something. able to tell his mother he loved her. He says he recalls his mom crying the first time he was able to create a sentence. Although he lives with a disability, Hohmann says he lives his life to the fullest by participating in sports and using his voice as an activist in his community. “Disabled doesn’t mean you can’t do something,” Hohmann says. “It just means you do things differently. You can do anything you put your mind to.” After realizing at a young age that he had much to say, but no physical ability to do so, Hohmann discovered the technology that gave him the means to communicate with the world around him. He is a firm believer that through hard work and perseverance, anyone can be successful and live a happy life, regardless of the challenges they face through disabilities. To that end, he began his organization Marshall Talks. His goal is to teach young students in Durham that a person’s ability – not their disability – defines who they are. He is an advocate for accessibility and inclusiveness, the two biggest challenges he faces on a daily basis. For example, he noticed many downtown areas in Durham Region have steps at their storefronts and are not accessible via wheelchair. Hohmann frequently meets with city councils across Durham to discuss ways to improve Durham Region and make it an easier place to live. This means changing the way the Durham embraces disabilities to make the community wheelchair-friendly and make classrooms more accepting of those who face similar challenges. Hohmann travels to schools across Durham Region, including UOIT, to deliver presentations about awareness, inclusivity, and accessibility. He seeks to give people of Durham a deeper understanding about the challenges he and others like him face. He prepares PowerPoint presentations for his audiences, and educates classrooms about how to approach people with similar disabilities. Students at UOIT also frequently study Hohmann’s advanced equipment and study ways to further improve technology for people like him. Hohmann says his success is all thanks to his family. “My mother always told me I could do anything and here I am today,” he says. He lives by the belief that communication is what makes people human beings and through accessibility and communicative devices, Hohmann’s life had been changed forever. He hopes to grow his organization into a worldwide company that spreads his message to people across the globe, improving inclusivity and awareness for people with all disabilities.
Community chronicle.durhamcollege.ca February 13 - 19, 2018 The Chronicle 21 Photo illustration by Cassidy McMullen Hisham Mohammad, a biomedical engineering student at McMaster University and wheelchair basketball player. Basketball transformed his life. Now he’s trying to transform others. This is one story in a series profiling people who have made an impact in Durham Success on court and off: How Hisham Mohammad follows through in life Claudia Latino The Chronicle The turning point in Hisham Mohammad’s life happened when he shot a basketball for the first time – from a wheelchair. Hisham Mohammad, 22, was born in Saudi Arabia with a condition called spinal atrophy. In 2002, he and his family moved to Canada, where they could all live a substantial life. “In Saudi Arabia, there wasn’t much infrastructure for people with disabilities to have a quality life,” he said. Within a year, Mohammad attended Holland Bloorview, a rehab hospital for children where he was introduced to three different sports: sledge hockey, wheelchair racing, and basketball. Mohammad discovered basketball was the sport he enjoyed the most. “It’s strategic, aggressive, and super competitive, which I loved about it,” he said. As he gained more experience, he started to take basketball more seriously. He practiced on the court after school and joined a junior competitive club team at Variety Village. The coach instructed the Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team and gave Mohammed, then in high school, the opportunity to play professionally. “Playing for my country was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was beyond proud of myself,” he said. His team became his second family. He said sharing the common lifestyle of being in a wheelchair made all of them understand one another. Mohammad says he has been empowered by the experience. He knew he could contribute to the sport equally as any other athlete. “Basketball exposed me to a whole new world of ability, not disability,” he said. He said losing motivates him to give him time to improve his skills as a pro basketball player. He said the first step to succeed is to fail. “You need to have something personal driving you forward: an incident, a loss or a gain,” he said. “Once you reflect that on your Basketball exposed me to a whole new world of ability, not disability. own, you get this motivation that the sky is the limit.” Mohammad hopes to reassure people they can go for their dreams no matter what condition they have. He wants to show his audience through basketball anything in life is possible if a person dedicates themselves to accomplish their goals. His enthusiasm for basketball was driven through the support of his family. The move from Saudi Arabia to Canada allowed him to play basketball and taught him to understand he has what it takes to be good at something. Mohammad is in his third year of biomedical engineering at Mc- Master University in Hamilton. In his third year, he got a chance to do a two-week field placement related to his studies. He wanted to intern at Holland Bloorview to help kids learn how to play wheelchair basketball. He applied before the start of the school year and later received a call to confirm his placement. “It was a very exciting moment for me,” said Mohammed. The placement helps him reminisce about his eight-year-old self the age where he first saw basketball on television. “I want to learn how to play,” he said. And he did.