VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – James Sanders saw his world change in an instant.
He was just 20 when, as a young theatre student, he broke his neck; that injury would set the course for the rest of life.
“I knew that it wasn’t just a matter of an injury happening and then rebounding or ‘coming back.’ It’s really a life-long commitment to live with a differently-abled body,” he tells us.
“The award is called the ‘Courage To Come Back,’ but I look at my own experience as really… it’s the courage to continue.”
But he soon saw a change in the attitudes of those around him.
“My teachers, when I went back to school, gave me scenes for disabled characters, and they apologized, saying ‘This is all I could find for you.’ The penny dropped [and I got to] thinking, this isn’t what I had in mind; I’m still James Sanders, I’m still the person that [feels] I could play any role.”
That’s when he got the idea to start his own company. “The attitudes in the theatre world, in the film and television industry, really pigeon-hole people with disabilities. So, at that point, I discovered, well, I have to change this.”
Today, Real Wheels Theatre tells stories with disabled actors playing characters who aren’t defined by their disabilities.
“So, when people come to see our shows, they leave the theatre with a deeper understanding of what it’s like to have a disability… hopefully even have some sort of personal connection.”
“If the general public heard these stories coming from the perspective of a person with a disability, it would just make the world a better place,” he feels.
For Sanders, who only became a father in his forties, winning this award not only recognizes what he’s been through, but also helps show his son the kind of man he was.
“I know that I’m not going to be there for him in his later years and so I hope that I can leave with him a legacy. That’s where I want to be the best possible father I can be.”