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William Le Plante

William Le Plante
William Le Plante wheels himself around in an upright wheelchair as part of the MOVE program. Seeing the world from a greater height is a new experience for him.

Stern and focused, Billy Le Plante slowly wheels himself around the room. Rather than sitting in a chair, however, he's standing upright. Wheelchair-bound and mentally retarded since birth, the 40-year-old Billy has seen the world only from seated or prone positions--until now. This higher vantage point is a new experience Billy has found in the Mobility Opportunity Via Education program (MOVE) at Agnews.

"Bill looks forward to class because it gives him the freedom of movement," says Paul Hasselbach, a teacher for the program. "He is much more alert since MOVE ... he is very active."

Mentally retarded and suffering from cerebral palsy, Billy has been at Agnews since 1979. Billy's mom, Jackie Le Plante, says that community-care workers often approach her about possible homes for Billy, but she is content to keep her son at Agnews. After their children are 18, parents can get legal conservatorship and have a say in their children's placements. "The system did what it wanted until we became conservators," Le Plante says.

"You worry about your own. ... All that I can hope for Bill is that he's well taken care of, ... which he is in this facility. ... The quality of life here is better than at any community-care housing. The staff are enlightened, compassionate and well-trained."

Billy is silent, but his eyes are alert and purposeful as he checks out the room. After a while, Hasselbach takes him to the administration building so he can exercise on a different style of upright walker--one that lets him use his legs. The administration hall floors are perfect for this device. Although he is tired, he still inches up the hall. Administrative staff come and go about their business, hurriedly scurrying down the halls, a blur of motion compared to Bill.

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From the April 24-30, 1997 issue of Metro

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Copyright © 1997 Metro Publishing, Inc.

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