The Agur Lake Camp Society held their Visitor/Learn to Fish Day last Saturday and Keith Dixon was shown how to cast a line into the waters of Agur Lake.
Dixon has been a volunteer with the organization for the past seven years and up until last year, served on the board.
One of only a few people involved with the society that actually had a physical disability, he has been able to act as a spokesperson in terms of how to design the camp for persons with disabilities and how to interact appropriately with them.
He recently offered the board of directors a manual, which he and Amanda Lewis had drafted some years ago, on how staff can help their clients. He and the other board members also engaged in some role playing exercises.
Dixon said there are two common complaints that people with disabilities have.
One is when others rush in to help them, without first asking or without any understanding of what help may be needed. The other is when someone in a wheelchair is accompanied by a companion and they enter a business or an office. Often, whoever is behind the desk, will ignore the person in the wheelchair and talk instead to the person standing with them. The assumption is made, that because they are sitting in a wheelchair, they also must have a low IQ.
Another important insight Dixon offered is that people who have a disability do not want to be pitied or reminded of that disability.
“I got polio when I was 15 and I was in the hospital for 12 months,” he explained. “Anyone who has acquired a disability after being normal goes through a shock period and then they become adjusted to it and it’s in the past. I changed my attitude drastically from that year because I adapted. I don’t want to be treated like it just happened.”
Dixon not only adapted but he excelled and challenged himself.
After completing high school in Kamsack, Saskatchewan, he went on to university, getting a B.A. in Arts and Science. He decided to study theology and became an ordained clergyman with the United Church.
He had married while in university and over the course of their 17-year marriage, he and his wife had two boys and a girl.
After five years at his job with a parish in the Niagara Peninsula, Dixon became disillusioned with being a minister and resigned. He took a job with the Children’s Aid Society as a Social Worker, retiring from there 28 years later.
“One of the most challenging things I’ve done in my life was to get a pilot’s licence,” explained Dixon.
He had heard of, tracked down and purchased hand controls for a Cessna 172 plane. He took the controls to the flying club and asked them for lessons. The mechanic installed the controls into the plane each time he flew.
The year he got his pilot’s licence, he received a trophy for Rookie Pilot of the Year from the St. Catharines Flying Club.
After visiting his daughter and son-in-law here in Summerland eight years ago, Dixon decided to move here also. He was attracted by the small town atmosphere and the friendliness of the people.
At this point in his life Dixon says he mostly enjoys his writing and photography.
The first book he wrote was on the history of the Children’s Aid Society of Ontario and it was published.
He prefers to write fiction and poetry and belongs to a local writing group called the Summerland Scribes.
Excited about a novel that he started earlier this year, Dixon explained,
“I work intuitively and I don’t know where the novel will end up. I start with my characters and they become real in the sense that they tell me where this is going.”
At the age of 12, Dixon got his first camera and has been “heavily into photography” his whole life.
On Saturday, he was taking pictures for the Agur Lake Camp Society, as well as for himself.
“They tried to teach me how to cast a line, but it didn’t work,” said Dixon. “Totally fishless, I went back to taking photos.”