STELLARTON – Nearly fifty members of the community and stakeholders involved with those with disabilities gathered at the Museum of Industry in Stellarton on Saturday for a public disabilities forum.
Olga Gladkikh, a professional facilitator with the Coady Institute in Antigonish, facilitated the forum entitled N.S. League for Equal Opportunities.
“This gathering is about providing those who will be talking to politicians with information from those who will be most affected,” said Gladkikh. “Support comes from hearing about what needs to change and acting on it.”
The forum asked participants several questions such as what does an accessible community look like; what are the constraints and challenges to achieving your vision of an accessible community and what needs to change?
Many who came out to the event had disabilities, ranging from physical to intellectual disabilities. Some drove up to two hours to attend the forum.
“I hope that we’ll come out of this with a clear idea of the challenges facing persons with disabilities in rural areas,” said Gladkikh.
Michelle Hebert-Boyd also gave a presentation from the Department of Community Services. The province is unveiling a news strategy and is seeking input from what it calls ‘first voices’, the client or patient and their families.
“We’ll be hosting a few forums across the province,” said Hebert-Boyd. “We want to hear from regional and community workers and disabled persons on how we can improve things.”
Some, like John Cox of Halifax, were skeptical that the province would be able to deliver. He works with People First, an advocacy group for people with intellectual abilities.
“The presentation from the Department of Community Services mentioned the continuum of care. This isn’t a new term and it comes with baggage,” said Cox. “The phrase continuum of care came from the time when policies defined a person’s disability by how much they can work. Cox, who has an intellectual ability said he lost access to certain services once he had started working. “I hope that this forum will talk about a new way of doing business.”
Many came to raise awareness of the services that their particular groups can offer.
Ben Marston, parasport coordinator for Sport Nova Scotia said Pictou County’s sledge hockey team was a bright spot for parasport in the province.
“Right now is a great opportunity for able-bodied sports like curling to be accessible for disabled persons,” said Marston. “The majority of sports are inclusive in some way.”
The forum was held by the Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunity (NSLEO) with the support of Partnership for Access Awareness Nova Scotia (PAANS) with information from Rural transportation Association of Nova Scotia (RTANS).
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn