CNA grads join first Team Canada at Abilympics

7/15/2011 8:13:09 AM

When Skills Canada sends its first-ever team to the International Abilympics this fall, two of the competitors representing Newfoundland and Labrador will be College of the North Atlantic (CNA) Engineering Technology graduates. Justin Mercer and Paul Thorne, who both have cerebral palsy, will compete in Seoul, South Korea in September.

Mercer graduated from Architectural Engineering Technology this spring and will compete in Computer Aided Design. He says he’s looking forward to demonstrating his philosophy that disability doesn’t mean inability.

“The whole purpose of the International Abilympics, in my opinion, is to showcase the talents and abilities of people with disabilities,” he says. “I hope to do well in my competition. I certainly hope to bring back the gold of course, we’d all like to do that, but it will be a learning experience for me regardless.”

Paul Thorne is a graduate of CNA’s Safety Engineering Technology program. He’ll be demonstrating his graphic design skills in Seoul.

Thorne echoes Mercer’s expectation that the Abilympics will be an opportunity to gain perspective on the cross-cultural challenges faced by people with disabilities.

“I want to learn about other disabilities out there and how they’re impacting other people’s lives,” he says. “Maybe from my own experiences I can help someone else, and vice versa, maybe they can help me.”

As they prepare for the competition, both Mercer and Thorne are brushing up on their skills with the help of CNA instructors.

The team is sponsored by Skills Canada Newfoundland and Labrador. Marketing and Communications Coordinator Melissa Halford says competing on the international stage will be both a thrill and an honour for the participants.

“Regardless of what your background is, you’re representing your country, you’re going up against the best of the best,” she says. “You have this opportunity to take in what everyone else is doing in your field.”

Halford adds that sending a team to the competition is a way to expand the reach of the skills movement, by demonstrating the contributions that people with disabilities can make in the workforce.

Mercer points out that those contributions are made possible when institutions like College of the North Atlantic are responsive to the accessibility needs of students with disabilities.

“The campus needed many upgrades… and I put in a request for these changes to be made,” he says. “When I started the program in September all these changes had been put in place. I really applaud the college for doing that.”

College of the North Atlantic offers a range of engineering programs, at a number of campuses.

For more information about CNA’s School of Engineering Technology, visit

For information about Skills Canada Newfoundland and Labrador, visit


Media Contact:
Gina MacArthur
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic
Ph: 709-643-7928