Written by Laurel Crosby
Dean Mellway was born in New Brunswick and contracted polio at the age of two and a half, during the last polio epidemic to hit Canada. He grew up playing a lot of pool, which is very similar to the game of snooker. Therefore, when he began to play snooker as a wheelchair athlete, it was an easy and successful transition. During the 70’s, the expectation of wheelchair athletes, to achieve success both nationally and internationally, was for them to participate and compete in multiple sports. Dean was no exception and competed in track, table tennis, snooker, slalom and wheelchair basketball. In 1974 he began playing wheelchair basketball with the Ontario team. His first games at the International level were at the 1976 Toronto Olympiad, where he won a gold medal in snooker. In 1977 he medaled in slalom at the games in Stoke Mandeville.
Dean became more involved in wheelchair basketball in the administrative side to help the sport grow and was instrumental in getting funding to Ontario Wheelchair Sports in the late 70’s. He continued as a player and was a member of the Gold Cup Wheelchair Basketball team that competed in Florida in 1979.
In 1981, Dean became the Executive Director of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, where he remained in this position until 1989. Around this time Dean turned his interest to playing wheelchair tennis and becoming involved with the growing sport of sledge hockey. He won the Canadian Championship in tennis in 1989 and shared doubles with Paul Novak.
Dean helped to grow the sport of sledge hockey, organizing teams in Ottawa, which grew throughout the 1980’s. An annual winter league was held and would bring in teams from across Canada to compete, eventually also including international teams. In 1991, the first unofficial Sledge Hockey World Cup was held, which Canada won. In 1994 at the Paralympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, sledge hockey appeared on the Paralympic program. Dean was a member of the Canadian team that brought home a bronze medal that year. In 1996, Dean was the captain of the Canadian Sledge Hockey team attending the first official IPC sponsored World Cup Sledge Hockey tournament in Nynashamn, Sweden. Dean saw these games as the highlight of his athletic career, scoring 10 of the 20 Canadian goals in one tournament. Dean’s final major sledge hockey competition was at the 1998 Winter Paralympic Games in Nagano, where the Canadian team brought home a silver medal.
Another of the highlights of Dean’s career was that over a span of 10 years as Executive Director of CWSA, he and his team made significant gains in the budget of the CWSA, going from a $200,000 budget when he first started in 1981 to a $2,000,000 budget by the time he left in 1990.
Dean left CWSA in 1990 to take a position at Carleton University, first as the coordinator of the Paul Menton Centre (Centre for Students with Disabilities) for ten years, then in a variety of roles in the alumni, career and registrar offices. While there, he noticed that Carleton was well ahead of the curve in terms of accessibility, and he, along with other senior associates, saw an opportunity to grow upon that. In 2012, they established the Research Education Accessibility and Design (READ). Dean has been the Acting Director since its inception. The idea behind READ is “Let’s not just let accessibility happen, let’s make it a priority”. It is a project that furthers Carleton’s engagement with the disability/accessibility field, looking for new ways to support research and solution-based projects on accessibility in all disciplines. It also engages students and faculty in Carleton with people with disabilities in the broader community, offering interactive learning opportunities for students and support and solutions for the community.
Dean officially “retired” in January 2016, but went back to work the very next day. He now works three days a week and is still as passionate as ever.