An unfortunate situation can turn into a valuable life lesson for students. When a snow day closed Averill’s small schoolhouse in rural Quebec, it meant postponing a presentation by an RHF Ambassador. Ambassadors are people with disabilities across Canada who provide students aged kindergarten to grade 12 with an opportunity to learn more about how they overcome barriers to accessibility and inclusion every day. Presentations are held either in person or online.
Averill had noticed her students were having difficulty showing compassion for each other in the classroom, and felt an online RHF Ambassador presentation could help. When the presentation didn’t happen on the scheduled day, it opened up a conversation among students about how obstacles like snow might impact people with mobility disabilities.
Students were challenged to think about how much more difficult it is to move around in the snow using a wheelchair. They considered how some people with paralysis have diminished sensation to the cold. They talked about designated parking spaces for the first time. One student later shared how after learning about accessibility, she now insists her father no longer use parking spots meant for people with disabilities.
When the presentation by Ambassador Marjories Aunos finally took place, it enriched the students’ conversation by adding a first-hand perspective. Marjorie has paraplegia and is a mother. Students were surprised to learn she travels and can drive a car. Because of her disability, Marjorie shared how her son is actively aware of barriers she might face. For example, when travelling together through a park, her son will look ahead and clear away any obstacles, making it easier for her to get around.
“It was so helpful because we are so rural and don’t have many opportunities for speakers,” says Averill. “I thought it was really neat that a school as small as ours could have an Ambassador present and make the same impact as a school in the city. Having someone from far away visit our classroom online and teach them to see a different part of the world from a different point of view was hugely valuable.”