Inclusion is all about belonging; being a welcome participant in community recreation programs and activities. It is giving children with special needs the same rights and privileges as peers. It is providing opportunity, which allows children to follow their dreams and achieve their potential.
The journey of inclusion starts in the home with being part of a loving family where parents have the same expectations as they would for siblings. The norm now is for children to enjoy preschool activities, attend the same community school, participate in recreation and leisure activities of interest to them, and belong to church and cultural groups. The end result is a competent young adult who looks forward to post-secondary school and/or job training. Ultimately, the dream is to live independently and have a great job.
Sports, recreation, culture and leisure activities are where children find their passion, discover their talent, and learn how to socialize with others. Like their peers, they learn how to make choices, be a friend, follow rules and perform as a team. They are signed up to be learners and the goals are the same, just adapted to their own unique needs.
Children love being with same age peers and they are capable of learning to play by the rules. Inclusion is not about treating everyone the same. It is giving individuals what they need to excel. All children will come with unique personalities, strengths and needs.
The key to successful inclusion in any activity is setting consistent expectations for everyone in the group. It is common for instructors to lower the bar rather than raise the bar for children with special needs. When that happens, the participant is really not a member of the group because he or she is allowed to act out, check out, or sit out.
It is not enough for the child to just be present. Instructors set the bar for success by:
• Asking parents for information and strategies - communication is job #1
• Knowing the child’s needs and limitations – information is knowledge, knowledge is power
• Making the appropriate accommodations – modifying equipment and activities
• Expecting full participation - I believe you belong!
Inclusion benefits all participants. Children learn that being different is okay and they are better people when they learn through experience how to:
• Look past disability and discover the ability in peers
• Create friendships with people who are different from you
• Best support and advocate for peers with disabilities
Research proves that physical literacy is a fundamental basis for developing participation in society with life-long benefits to each individual’s self-esteem, physical and mental health, and happiness. Children become self advocates when “I believe I belong”.
Excerpted from the Community Inclusion booklet, authored by PREP.
On April 1, 2016 the Amnesty International Annual General Meeting and Human Rights Conference will begin. The theme of this year’s conference is Change Our World. This three day event will highlight various Human Rights issues around the world. One area of interest this year is “Defending Sexual and Reproductive Rights”.
What are Sexual and Reproductive Rights, you may ask? We all have the right to make decisions about our own health, body, sexuality and reproductive life, without fear, coercion, violence or discrimination. But all over the world, people's freedom to make these decisions is sometimes controlled by the state, medical professionals, even their own families. Criminal law and punitive sanctions are frequently used to control such choices. In the end, many people are prevented from making any choice at all.
Sexual and reproductive rights mean you have the right to:
• Make decisions about our own health, body, sexual life and identity without fear of coercion or criminalization
• Seek and receive information about sexuality and reproduction and access related health services and contraception
• Have access to comprehensive education on human sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, human rights and gender equality
• Decide whether and when to have children, and how many to have
• Access safe abortion services in cases of rape, incest, when the life or health of the pregnant woman is at risk, or when there is severe or fatal fetal impairment
• Choose our intimate partner, whether and when to marry and what type of family to create
• Live free from discrimination, coercion and violence, including rape and other sexual violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilization and forced marriage
What are your thoughts on this topic?
Over the summer, Canada's human rights record went under the microscope by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. It was the first major review since Stephen Harper took office as Canada's Prime Minister in 2006.
The review, held in Geneva, took place over three days and included many advocacy groups dedicated to the cause of improving human rights across Canada. There was talk of some advocacy groups being at risk of losing their charitable status because of their political activity within Canada.
Under the subtitle “Freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” the United Nation report specifically addresses charity audits, and states concerns over the “level of apprehension within a broad sector of civil society" about the Conservatives' policies on political, social and human rights advocacy.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern on Canada of failing to take effective action regarding a range of issues, including missing and murdered aboriginal women, political audits of charities, and the federal government's anti-terror legislation.
The report was the first substantive review of the country’s human rights record under Canada’s Conservative government.
“This should be seen as a wake-up call by governments and courts in Canada that increasingly serious violations of civil and political rights in Canada can no longer be tolerated,” said a representative of the group
“Canada Without Poverty”.
With the election of a new Liberal government in Canada, let’s see if there will be a change in how advocacy groups are handled and how Canada’s reputation on human rights evolves.
Summer is upon us and my adventures continue on our extensive pathways in Calgary. I chose a beautiful hot day to explore Griffith Woods Park in the Discovery Ridge neighbourhood. There is a series of paved pathways that ramble into different ecosystems. There are also some gravel pathways that lead to interesting areas, but I found out it really drains the battery on my scooter which shortened my time for exploring the area. These gravel trails are somewhat packed, but there are spots where there is extra gravel due to washouts or lower areas. I think these would be the perfect paths for the Park Explorer since it runs on human power. I know I will always get back to the parking lot.
For today’s adventure, I started off from the parking lot on the main paved path going straight west. There is a fork right at the beginning, the other path leading to the left goes east. I’ll talk about that a little later. I started to see flowers right away. With that I knew it was going to be a meandering day because I wanted to find as many plants as possible. Many blooms are small, so it takes a little to find them. A person can’t go screaming past and expect to see them. The photos you see at the beginning are the flowers and blooming shrubs that were right along the pathway. I can only imagine what I could have found off the track. Some of the plants included a wild violet, blue eyed grass, twining honeysuckle vine, wild strawberries, and horsetail.
The best surprise today was finding blue eyed grass. It instantly brought up happy memories of my childhood growing up in Northern Alberta, and being at home strolling through the untouched meadows. In remembering this fond memory, I had to stop so that I could take a photo of this delicate native, and some horsetail next to it. The horsetail (common name for Equisetum sp. - as I am not sure of the species) is a segmented rush (round, not flat like grass) that likes to be in moist to bog-like or disturbed soils. The First Nations people of this area used it as a medicinal remedy. So, as I was taking a picture, a friendly woman with two children approached me and I told them the story of these two plants. The little one was at once intrigued by the horsetail and my story of pulling it apart in segments when I was a child. The mother and I both interjected that it was not in a Provincial park because you should never pick flowers or plants in a park.
I continued on my way, stopping frequently to look and photograph vegetation. There were many families and people walking their dogs. I chatted with a few passers-by and kept going along the west path until I came to the next parking lot signaling me to head back the way I came. As I mentioned previously, I took a little detour on the gravel path, but found I was losing battery power fast. No one else was around, so I became a little nervous I wouldn’t make it back to the paved path. Luckily, I made it and got back to the beginning of my tour.
I had a little time and a little battery left so I took that path I mentioned earlier to the East. It leads to a mainly grass lined path with homes on the north of it and the river to the south of it. There were many people on this hot day wading in the river and sunning on the sand bars. Dogs were running and jumping in the cool refreshing water and exploring all the driftwood that they grabbed and threw in the water. I sat and watched people floating on rafts or tire tubes in the slow flowing stream. I decided I better head back toward the parking lot where Access Calgary would pick me up, I wasn’t sure how long the battery would hold out. I found a nice shady spot and watched people come and go. Then I heard the music. I thought, “What a great way to end a hot day! I get to have an ice cream!” An ice cream truck chimed into the parking lot and people streamed towards it like it was a life saver thrown to them in a stormy sea. I was so content sitting having my chocolate covered ice cream bar and looking at all the photos I took of the beautiful flowers right along the pathway in our backyard. As I was sitting eating and reflecting on my day, it struck me that even though all these people were out in this beautiful park, many did not see what was around them. They were enjoying themselves, but not really seeing the natural wonders. I realized that people have their individual ways of enjoying the outdoors. One is not better than the other. I just hope that even a few of them would realize that by stopping and seeing the supposed insignificance, they would understand the importance of the things they may have otherwise missed. I guess that could be a lesson in life in general. I urge you to stop and observe what you have not seen before and you may find a new truth.
The announcement to establish the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was made on the 21st anniversary of the signing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The museum contains many “firsts”. It’s the first museum exclusively focused on the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It’s the first national museum in our country to be built in nearly half a century, and last but not least, it’s the first to be built outside of the National Capital Region. The museum, built in Winnipeg, opened its doors in September 2014. The decision to base the museum in Winnipeg was to highlight human rights issues for aboriginal people, as well as to revitalize the city’s downtown core.
The purpose of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is to explore the subject of human rights, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, in order to enhance the public's understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others, and to encourage reflection and dialogue. The museum creates a place where Canadians, and especially young Canadians, can learn about human rights and the importance of protecting these rights. Its aim is to build not only a national hub for human rights learning and discovery, but a new era of global human rights leadership.
It’s hoped that by confronting various human rights issues, the museum will engage Canadians, as well as all foreign visitors, to become a part of an experience that offers both the inspiration and tools to make a difference in the lives of others. Visitors will be partners on a journey to erase barriers and create meaningful, lasting change.
Personally, I have added a visit to the museum to my ongoing “bucket list” of places to see. I remember visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington almost twenty years ago. It was a moving experience and one I think (and hope) I’ll never forget. I’m a firm believer in the adage, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. We need places like these museums as a reminder of what we are capable of doing to one another.
To have freedom from discrimination and be treated equally may be a pipe dream for some. There are countries where these rights are not consistently upheld, and others where it’s a continuous struggle to have these rights consistently upheld. In Canada, we sporadically hear stories on the news or on social media about violations and the long, drawn out court battles that ensue.
One of our rights in Canada is to live free of discrimination. Under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms racial equality, sexual equality, mental disability, and physical disability are included. In addition, Section 15 contains guaranteed equality rights. As part of the Constitution, the section prohibits certain forms of discrimination carried out by the government of Canada. Exceptions do exist such as affirmative action and rights or privileges guaranteed with respect to denominational, separate or dissentient schools (religious education).
Recently in the news, two Grade 9 and 10 students in a non-denominational school, back in 2011, were told their praying—which requires bowing and kneeling—was “too obvious”. The teens continued to hold their prayers in secret in the school or outside, but were refused enrollment for the following school year. The case was brought forth as a Human Rights violation. The families of the students who won damages after a private Calgary school didn't allow them to pray on campus grounds, and wouldn't let them re-enroll, stated feeling that there are “misconceptions” related to the case.
A human rights coordinator from the National Council of Canadian Muslims said there’s a difference between running a non-denominational school and discriminating against individual citizens on the basis of religious beliefs.
The school is a non-denominational setting and the family was not asking for it to hold any type of religious service. They were asking for a place for students to be able to pray without fear of harm or ridicule.
Freedom of religion in Canada is a constitutionally protected right. Finding the balance of when and where, rather than if, one may practice their religious beliefs may be the current challenge. What are your thoughts on finding this balance when it comes to living in a society as diverse as ours?
As a mother of a child with a disability there is always something that I am looking for, whether it is something to further my daughter’s education, physical health, social circle or cultural world. About a year ago I was introduced to CAN (Calgary Ability Network). I have learned so much from the individuals within the network and have been introduced to many new groups and organizations.
A few months ago, the catch phrase “physical literacy” was brought up in our circle. It sounded scholarly. What does this mean? Physical literacy is defined as “Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.” For me this phrase was exciting to the world of children, which includes children with disabilities. How can we then apply this concept to children with disabilities? We discussed how we as a community could involve children with disabilities in recreation. Not just involve them, but also give them the tools to enable the use of recreation throughout their entire lives, for recreation to become part of their everyday life, and eventually having recreation become a basis for physical literacy.
My question was “What about the schools?” All children attend school, and all children must participate in gym (as it was called in my day). So what is happening in our schools to allow our children to develop their own physical literacy? I approached my daughter’s physical education leader and asked her about the phrase physical literacy and how it was being used at the CBE. I was not surprised to hear she had not heard of the phrase nor was there any plan for it in the school system. Not to say that gym today is not working to empower our kids and give them a stable foundation of physical literacy, but that particular phrase was not being used.
With this phrase I somehow feel that we have put a huge emphasis on physical education, as we should. It is one of the cornerstones of our growth and development. So… with integration and the knowledge we now have about every individual’s ability to learn in individual ways, we have begun to personalize education and it is time that we introduce this to gym class too. I was VERY fortunate to have approached this particular teacher, as it turned out she was more than interested in the concept and more than eager to get started on a plan. Yeah, an ally!!!
When I remember back to what gym was like when I was a kid it only makes sense that is where our roots of physical literacy come from. We learned how to throw a ball, catch a ball, hit a ball, dodge a ball…we learned how to dance, tumble and jump. I believe that today kids still learn these skills. My question again is how do kids with disabilities get to develop these skills too.
Since that initial meeting , I have been in contact with our phys ed leader and shared ideas as well as contacts from other schools. Schools that specialize in students with disabilities. My daughter has Down syndrome. She is outgoing and active in her own way, but I always feel she doesn’t participate fully in school and especially in gym class. Gym is a busy place. It is a loud place. It is a physically active place. All of these things inhibit my daughter from fully participating. My daughter can be shy, and easily overwhelmed. Yet school is where everyone is introduced to physical literacy, so how is my daughter getting her physical literacy?
Bringing the phrase physical literacy to our gym teacher was empowering for me and for my daughter. A plan is being created. A plan that takes into account all the sensory issues my daughter may have, a plan that enables her to be successful at her attempts and yet still challenge her to work on her own physical literacy, at her own pace, in her own way. I challenge everyone to bring this phrase and concept to your children’s physical education leader and see what their schools are doing for them. The more people who speak out the greater the word becomes. I was thrilled at the response I received. I hope you will be too.
I will report back at the end of the school year to let you know how gym class was for my daughter. I have a feeling I will have wonderful news to report.
Melinda Watson, Mom
Welcome Ability community! My name is Cecile and I would like to take you with me to explore the natural areas and parks around Calgary.
I have always known that there are great places to walk in the city, but have been unable to access them since I am unable to walk for any long distances. For this reason I have never explored the expansive pathway system we have here. Now that I have acquired my scooter and found some adaptive equipment that helps me to go distances, I am excited to see what I can find out there.
As I wait for the signs of spring, I have begun to plan my summer routes. I recently picked up a pathways map showing routes throughout Calgary. Some of the pathways are perfect for a scooter and some would be fun for the Park Explorer. My first trip will be to the Signal Hill area and then to the beautiful park in Discovery Ridge-Griffith Woods. I am eager, but of course I will have wait until the weather warms a little. If you are curious about these two areas I urge you to check out the links I have added below to find where they are in the city.
I mentioned the Park Explorer, a new piece of adaptive equipment, which enables people of different abilities to access nature. Christian Bagg of Alberta Parks created this so that everyone can enjoy the outdoors. It has been used to go back country, but it is just as useful to see the city parks.
Here are some other links to see the Park Explorer.
In the news:
Park Explorer, hand crank version, in action:
I can’t tell you how excited I am to experience the different ecosystems throughout the city. As I find these interesting places I will share them with you in upcoming blogs. I promise to post pictures and describe what I see for those using screen readers. I love plants, so there may be some ramblings about this plant or that. Bare with me if you aren't as interested, and just look at the nice pictures. Who knows what else I will find?
Please come with me on my travels, or if you want to explore for yourself use the pathways map link:
Stay tuned for future posts about my adventures on the pathways.
Several authors contribute to the CAN Blog.