Recently Toronto lost a beloved journalist and activist for persons with disabilities. In 1983, Barbara Turnbull was shot while working at a convenience store. She was shot in the throat and the bullet shattered her fourth vertebrae. As a result Barbara was a quadriplegic.
This did not stop her from living her life to the fullest. She learned how to use devices using a mouth device. She eventually became a writer for the Toronto Star. At first her colleagues had to help her transcribe her notes and with other tasks. Former Star managing editor, who hired Barbara said “Over time of course, with technology she could write about as quickly as anyone else, and she was a beautiful writer.”
She would go on to support issues of accessibility, as well as the use of medical marijuana. Barbara admitted in a speech in 2006 that for many years she was reluctant to consider herself an activist, but she eventually embraced the role. She then said, “The circumstances of my life provided not only an opportunity, but an obligation to make a difference.”
Barbara Turnbull started working with renowned fashion designer Izzy Camilleri eight years ago and explained to Izzy the problems people in wheelchairs face when it comes to clothing. This was the first time Izzy had worked with someone in a wheelchair. “I didn’t realize that there were any differences in terms of clothing between someone who’s able bodied and someone who’s not. Barb opened my eyes to the issues that she had, and I just started becoming a sponge and listening to all her clothing problems,” Camilleri said.
Yes, Barbara Turnbull led a hard life. However she did not let this stop her from accomplishing what she wanted in life. She is a true inspiration and a wonderful role model for those who knew her, and for those who just knew about her through her writing or her life story. Rest in Peace Barbara!