Over 30% of Nova Scotians self identify as having a disability, the highest percentage in Canada. Disabled people are the largest minority in Nova Scotia and accessibility is a major priority for our provincial government, with the Access by Design 2030 framework guiding Nova Scotia to be fully accessible by 2030. What that will look like remains a mystery but it necessitates the implementation of innovative and transformative solutions to many areas of our province.
December 3rd marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme this year is “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.”
Innovation has always played an important role in how we make Truro and Colchester more inclusive. Organizations like STEPs on Arthur, Colchester Transportation Cooperative Limited, and Cobequid Special Olympics have been at the forefront of this by taking their many years of experience and using it to build a more inclusive and accessible community for everyone, from employment to recreation to transportation. We see the impact of what innovation and inclusion mean to our community every day.
STEPs on Arthur has undergone significant changes in recent years, expanding their space from one building to two. The renovations done at Delaney House are extensive and they have included innovative solutions for accessibility at the core of their spaces. The building is open and accessible, designed to go well above the current standards for accessibility. They have barrier free access to all cash stations with lowered counters, audio and visual prompts at donation drop off location, sensored door openers, barrier free seating areas in café and on patio, contrasting wall and floor colors and electronic codes available at apartment entrances for ease of access. Several barrier free washrooms and one barrier free change room also included and exterior walkways all have sloped access to entrances.
They offer ten different vocational training programs and most of these share space in Delaney House and Rotary House. As a non-profit, operating two social enterprises, having a more accessible workspace has meant they have more flexibility in how clients participate and customers access the spaces. Clients with a wide variety of skills can work on many different tasks and receive the support they need in space they can use efficiently.
The Special Olympics was founded based on innovation. A Canadian researcher, sports scientist Dr. Frank Hayden from the University of Toronto, found that it was not disability that prevented disabled children from participating in sports and play, it was a lack of opportunity and inclusion. When disabled folks are given the opportunity and support to train and play sports, they readily learn the necessary skills. As with all sporting events, innovation is a key part of progressing the Special Olympics goal of enriching the lives of intellectually disabled people through sport, keeping athletes safe, healthy and having fun.
Cobequid Special Olympics serves a large number of individuals with intellectual disabilities in Colchester and surrounding areas. They offer several sport programs including bocce, athletics, swimming, floor hockey, golf, soccer, basketball, snow shoeing, curling, tennis and would love to offer more. They also host dances, social events and fundraisers throughout the year to help athletes and families connect more and facilitate much needed and appreciated friendships and support networks, they also have a community choir, help with Sobeys and Staples fundraisers, promote healthy athletes and generally sharing joy in the community. Cobequid Special Olympics has had athletes compete in the World Special Olympics Games and Canada Games.
Check out their Facebook page.
Colchester Transportation Cooperative Limited has also been undergoing changes. They have noticed a shift in the way clients use their services and are moving away from larger buses to smaller, 9-passenger vans which will allow them to transport people more effectively and efficiently which is better for the environment and for clients. They will maintain their larger vehicles, using them for larger groups or events. All of their vehicles are wheelchair accessible but are available to anyone who needs this service. To show this, Colchester Transportation Cooperative Ltd. has updated their logo to better illustrate that they are accessible to everyone, with or without limited mobility, offering inclusion and innovation right at your doorstep! To learn more about the services they offer, visit their website.