Content created by Russel

My name is Russell Owen Winkelaar. I am an accessibility advocate, a dreamer, a lover, an explorer, an actor, and an artist.

It was two weeks before my fourth birthday, March 1986, when I became a T-6 paraplegic. My family and I were driving home after an evening at a friend's place when we were struck head on by a drunk driver.

I grew up on a farm and learned to see the beauty in small things around me. I like to think that I have always been pretty good at seeing the silver lining in any situation. I relish being able to spot something beautiful and amazing in a place where others might have not seen it.

I usually gravitate towards the path that is less travelled. When I was 21, instead of continuing with my university degree, I packed my van up and drove for three months across the whole country up to the Yukon and back. Ever since that first experience of being alone in new parts of the world I have been drawn back to travel, time and time again. Getting to know myself on the road and abroad, in different and sometimes unexpected situations has served me very well in my own self-discovery. I’ve gained immense self-confidence and faith in my own powers to make it through bumpy situations that tend to arise on the road.

Ever since I was 4 and met Rick Hansen on his wheel around the world, I have known It was going to be up to me some day to do my small part in advancing awareness of disability in the public consciousness. Growing up I never really saw many, if any, disabled actors in movies and on TV and it started to really annoy me. So at a certain point I figured I'd better stop being mad at non-disabled actors portraying "me" poorly, and at least try and do a better job myself. Maybe I'll inspire someone else to follow me one day.

I have acted in the webseries, My Gimpy Life, and in Out With Dad. I was lead actor in the short film Eligible. I was also in an episode of the CBC show You Can't Ask That.

I was also one of nine cast members in an original play entitled, BORNE (2014), produced by RARE Theatre Company in association with Soulpepper. The entire cast is made up of people who have a spinal cord injury. It focused on our own personal experiences of life in a wheelchair. I am co creator and co performer in "15-Minute Phantom" (2022) a comedic parody of the classic musical Phantom of the Opera.

I have been dancing with Propeller Dance since 2019. Performing on stage at Harbourfront in early 2020 for Flesh and Spokes and Spasticus!).

I am a disability and accessibility awareness advocate. Speaking about sexuality and disability as well as inclusion. I have been a board member with StopGap since 2018.

It is important for society to see and understand the great divide that exists in our world today between disabled and non-disabled people, and how much better the world would be if we were equal members of society.


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