By her own admission, Vicky Levack’s main purpose in life started out as a selfish desire. “I wanted things done for me,” she says. “And then I realized there’s lots of other people who need the same stuff. So not only does it help me; it helps everybody else who needs it.”
The “it” that Levack refers to is accessibility and equality. Levack, 25, was born with cerebral palsy. She goes everywhere in a motorized wheelchair that she controls with her right hand. She cannot use her legs and has limited use of her arms. But that doesn’t stop her from being active – Levack is involved in whatever lets her help people.
She is the current vice president of the Dalhousie Gender and Women’s Studies Society, after serving as the president last year. She hosts a radio show on CKDU, the community radio station, called “Disability Debunked” (although they are currently on hiatus and searching for a producer). She even started an advocacy group called Independence Now Nova Scotia (INNS), which she hopes to grow into an advocacy group at some point.
On top of her advocacy work, Levack is also a self-published author. She has written one novel, a vampire erotica called Blood Lust, and hopes to write another. At the moment, however, she doesn’t have the time. She is currently working with INNS to focus on long-term care for young adults with disabilities. According to Levack, the provincial government recognizes young adults as anyone between ages 18 and 64. Yes, 64. “My father is a young adult,” she says.
Levack and INNS want to lower the upper bound of that age limit to the modest age of 50. They had a meeting with the provincial government to talk about the needs of disabled young adults. Levack says it’s important to distinguish between the different types of long-term care that people require. “The needs of someone with an intellectual disability are different from the needs of someone with a physical disability,” she says. “ And the needs of someone in their 20s are different from someone in their 60s. Not to mention their desires and goals,” she adds.
Levack is 25 and lives in the Arbourstone assisted care facility, which she says is a fancy name for a nursing home. She is the youngest resident by about three decades. People who move into Arbourstone are generally older adults at the end of their lives and long retired. Levack is young and healthy and just starting her career.
She wants to work as an advocate and speech-giver for people with disabilities and focus on sexuality, or work with abused women and children, or both. To that end she is completing a degree in Gender and Women’s studies at Dal.
Levack has helped the Gender and Women’s Studies Society organize many events: last year she co-hosted a panel on sex and disability, and held a bake sale that featured penis-shaped cookies covered in pink frosting and sprinkles. This year the society hopes to organize a panel with women from different countries who can talk about the experience of being a woman in their cultures.
Levack has not had the easiest path through life. Instead of letting that get her down, she uses it as an opportunity to help make other people’s lives better in whatever way she can.