Take a Turn in Santa’s Shoes

With the holidays just around the corner, the pressure is on to find the perfect gifts for your friends and family. So this year, why not do something different?

Throughout the year, there are always children and families in need. What better time to help someone than the season of giving?

The Jackson Sun recently published an article about the Reid family in Kentucky who are asking for help this holiday season. They adopted their daughter Jasmine when she was 12 years old. Now 20, Jasmine has cerebral palsy and scoliosis and suffers seizures. She uses a wheelchair and needs oxygen. The family cannot afford a vehicle that accommodates a wheelchair so Jasmine is limited to walks around her neighborhood.

We all have families like the Reids in our communities. This holiday season, explore the options. Giving back can mean donating toys and gifts to those in need, volunteering with your family for an afternoon, or making a monetary donation to a charity in lieu of exchanging gifts.

We did some research and found a few charities to get you started. But there are so many wonderful organizations out there. Have a look and find one that you are interested in and shares your passion for a cause.

The Sunshine Foundation is a national charity in Canada that helps children with severe physical disabilities. After losing his teenage son to muscular dystrophy, an Ontario police office created The Sunshine Foundation of Canada to brighten the lives of other children and families by fulfilling dreams.

Variety – The Children’s Charity is a philanthropic organization with locations throughout the United States. Variety’s National Mobility Program started in 2009 and provides assistance to children with mobility concerns. Children want to be active in their communities but they need access. Variety provides equipment such as adapted bicycles and medical equipment to children in need.

And in recent local news (for us here in Brampton, Ontario), singer John McDermott brings Christmas cheer to veterans during the annual Christmas concert at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre. McDermott has raised more than $1 million for McDermott House Canada, a registered charity dedicated to serving those who serve. Their first project is to create an innovative and warm, home-like environment for Canadian veterans, military, first responders and community patients in the Palliative care Unit at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre in Toronto.

Thank you to these organizations for all that they do. Happy holidays to all!

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How Accessible is the College Campus?

Savaria wheelchair lift at McMaster University

Imagine going to school only to be limited by building access. How might a lecture be different for you as a person with a disability?

Statistics show that about 4.4 million Canadians and 49.7 million Americans identified themselves as a person with a disability. For the potential students in that group, accessibility could be a major factor in choosing a post-secondary school.

A good but fairly basic menu of services and accommodations offered by today’s colleges and universities might include accessible classrooms and furniture, adaptive equipment, disability resource office, testing and curriculum modifications, mobility assistance, notetakers, paratransit service, parking accommodations, priority or online registration, and referrals for personal assistance services. A great example of an accessible school is University of Toronto, offering all of the above as well as a Wheelchair Access Fund Committee that researches, proposes, and oversees wheelchair accessibility projects across the three campuses.

After researching accessibility provisions in Canadian and American post-secondary institutions, here are some unique programs being offered:

University of Illinois is a school of firsts. They were the first school to offer post-secondary education for persons with disabilities. They were the first to create an independent living centre for those dependent on personal care, as well as a formal overseas program for students with disabilities. They were also the first school with accessible buses and wheelchair basketball teams for both men and women. This school is paving the way for persons with disabilities and can act as a model for other institutions looking to expand their services.

Another interesting school is University of California, Berkeley. The university’s Disabled Students’ Residence Program is nationally recognized due to its overwhelming focus on student empowerment, with a two-semester training period designed for freshman and transfer students that teaches and facilitates independent living.

Lastly, University of British Columbia is a school that offers a strong combination of basics, as well as unique programs and events on the ground. Their Access and Diversity blog features articles as well as programs such as the “Making Invisible Visible” poster campaign to raise awareness about disability; The Positive Graffiti Project to enforce positive thinking; and Think Equity, a publication on social issues featuring art, poetry, stories, etc.

Accessibility is about inclusion. It is about planning and being prepared. Campus policy should go beyond accommodating students when they arrive. Every student wants to have an amazing experience – they just need the opportunity to do so.

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