Why Change the Conversation on Disabilities to Abilities? | Lifemoves

Why Change the Conversation on Disabilities to Abilities?

Senior Wheelchair Facing Stairs

The topic of disabilities and inclusiveness has been important to me since I worked at a home for adults with cognitive disabilities after graduating from university. This passion grew further in 2000 when I participated in an "Adapted Physical Activities" course at the University of British Columbia that was part of non-degree work post graduating from Human Kinetics at the University of Guelph. 

During this class, we were tasked with volunteering with a person or group with disabilities.  John and I met during this practicum. He was a psychologist who had been thrown over the front end of horse. The result was quadriplegia.  My role was to help him retain and regain strength and mobility using the fitness centre at a community centre.

By 2030, over 9 million Canadians will have a disability.

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I was appalled at the lack of facilities, equipment and programs available for him and others to use.  The hallways and space between gym equipment was barely enough for him to move his wheelchair around.  We adapted a cable system and I had to physically assist John to lift, push or pull the pulleys so that he could improve his functional abilities because the cable loads were too much.  My creativity was stretched during my sessions with him.  During the community centre strike, we made due with elastics attached to his electric bed.  John became my first paying client and the inspiration for Lifemoves.

Changing How We Speak About Disabilities

"Normal is cycle on a washing machine." Vancouver 2010 Olympic Volunteer Training

There are many types of physical and cognitive disabilities.  These include mobility restrictions as well as impairments to vision and hearing.  How do you speak about disabilities? Are you still using the term "handicap?" My preference is to focus on an individuals' abilities.

During a recent Angus Reid poll, Canadians reported that they don’t like to use the word “disability” when describing their own health challenges. Instead, we prefer phrases like “I have a mobility challenge” or “I have problems with my eyesight” – to name a few. That’s because our society has long-held negative attitudes and assumptions about disability. And many of us connect disability with a limited quality of life.

Rick Hansen Blog, Sept 30 2015

Choosing Accessible Fitness Equipment

At this time, clients need to be able to climb stairs to access our facility.  It is my goal to find a space that is fully accessible.

I'm also focused on creating a space where people are comfortable expressing themselves and where we are able to build on their current strengths.

Making Our Communities More Accessible

The Rick Hansen Foundation is changing the conversation around disability.  They've put together a team of people with disabilities to go around to businesses and public facilities to evaluate how accessible they are.  It is not about placing shame or blame, but about opening a conversation about how to make our communities more accessible.

Continuing the Discussion on Universal Design

I was introduced to a concept known as universal design while studying ergonomics class through my Diploma in Disability and Rehabilitation. What are we doing to design buildings, cities, products and technology to be accessible for all?  Can we create so that everything is usuable by everyone? Perhaps it is a utopian concept, but it was really nice to see it being discussed in a public forum on theZoomer recently.

Architectural guidelines and city by-laws need to reflect the needs of those 8 to 80 and those of all abilities. 

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While there has been significant progress since 1999, we still have many more barriers to remove for people to participate in society whether at work or in recreation.   The Rick Hansen initiative is a good step in the right direction towards more inclusive communities. Architectural guidelines and city by-laws need to reflect the needs of people 8 to 80 and those of all abilities.  Making these changes will improve everyone's quality of life!

Last Updated on April 13, 2017 by

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Alfred Ball

Practicing Kinesiologist | Certified Fascia Stretch Therapist | Clinical Pilates Instructor. Alfred has been a Kinesiologist since 1999. He started Lifemoves in 2007 to provide exercise therapy and fitness programs for people with injuries, chronic diseases and disabilities. His focus as a Kinesiologist is to empower and to guide people to learn to move with more strength, confidence and ease. He is an avid Lego and Star Wars fan. His other hobbires include writing, playing board games and being active outdoors.

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