The latest updates on the programs at the Rick Hansen Foundation for Fall and Winter 2020.
A Message from the CEO
It’s my pleasure to share our Fall newsletter with you. As we look back on 2020, and the significant impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, I take heart in the tremendous efforts of individuals and communities that have come together to help each other. The collaboration and support that each of us has extended one another in this time of need speaks volumes about the inspiring heart of our community. Our broad disability community rallied quickly to lobby for people of all abilities, and many grassroots efforts grew organically to connect people who were feeling increasingly isolated. Stories that stand out for me include hearing about people checking on their neighbours who have mobility limitations, setting up groups to get food and supplies to those in need and masking up to keep our communities safer, including the design of clear masks to accommodate the lip-reading needs of Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons.
It’s uplifting to see the way we are all doing our best to adapt our lives, care for our families, and commit to our work to remain as connective and supportive as possible, even when we are physically forced apart.
Your generous support of our work, which is so very meaningful in this difficult time, is reflected in this newsletter – celebrations and challenges alike – all of which we share as a community. I am hopeful that our emphasis on empathy and compassion continues through the remainder of this extraordinary year and well beyond.
Thank you for your ongoing support. Stay safe and stay well.
Chief Executive Officer Rick Hansen Foundation
In This Issue
Creating an Accessible Space for Mobility and Communication Needs
Mom Demonstrates Desperate Need for Accessible Housing
Difference Makers of the Year
Learning Goes Remote
Advancing Spinal Cord Injury Treatment and Rehabilitation
Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility has provided services to residents of the Vancouver, BC area who are Deaf, DeafBlind and hard of hearing since the 1930s. Having outgrown their space in a deteriorating 1960s-era building, they were thrilled to plan their big move into a brand-new head office in False Creek in Vancouver. The dream was to comfortably accommodate guests with hearing loss as well as those who have limited vision and mobility.
“As the leading provider of services that break down barriers to communication for people who are Deaf, DeafBlind, hard of hearing and hearing, we wanted to build an inclusive environment that showcased the best in universal design for our clients, employees and community,” says Christopher Sutton, Wavefront Centre’s CEO.
Wavefront Centre reached out to the experts at the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) as they planned their new space. “That’s how we were connected with Jenny,” says Grace Shyng, Wavefront’s Head of Audiology, of Jenny Blome, RHF’s Manager of Strategic Projects and RHFAC Professional. “As soon as we had a floorplan created, she walked us through what would make each room accessible to those with disabilities.”
“Wavefront Centre serves a specific community, but they had the appetite to learn about what would help all disability groups,” says Jenny. “They embraced and implemented all of our recommendations, and really enhanced the improvements for all of their stakeholders. What was beautiful about this project was that we both learned so much from each other!”
“When people think about accessibility, they think about mobility first,” says Yat Li, Wavefront Centre’s Head of Marketing and Communications. “So we were happy to engage in this conversation with RHF and share our knowledge about communication accessibility. We’re so excited to welcome people of all abilities into our space!”
We’re thrilled to share that in October Wavefront Centre achieved the highest rating in the RHF Accessibility Certification program to date – a Gold rating of 96%.
Wavefront’s state-of-the-art communication accessibility features:
- Lighting and contrast - To ensure signage is visible and to facilitate ASL communication, the space was designed to have an abundance of natural light, and outfitted with bright indoor lighting. Materials were chosen to ensure high-colour contrast between walls and floors.
- Acoustic baffles - Because the building is in an industrial zone, the atrium needed a double- height vaulted ceiling. Since this design can create reverberation, acoustic baffles were installed. Acoustic door seals were installed throughout the building to reduce sound transfer.
- Elevator navigation - The standard accessibility requirement for elevators is to have a voice-over to announce floors, and for people who are Deaf, DeafBlind or hard of hearing, this can cause alarm and confusion. Wavefront’s elevator needed a “ding” that could be heard at general volume and the car needed to be well-lit.
- Outfitting rental spaces for guests with all kinds of communications needs - Wavefront has hearing devices available for guests at its front desk and in the conference room, which is outfitted to the highest communication accessibility standards and available for groups to rent.
- Sighted layout for mobility and communication accessibility - In an office, people who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing need to be able to see the door when people come in. Wavefront worked with their RHFAC Professional to facilitate that sight line while accommodating the radius of a wheelchair.
Photos courtesy of Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility. To learn more about Wavefront or to take a virtual tour, visit their website at wavefrontcentre.ca.
Looking for affordable housing is a daunting task for anyone - Kyla McCaig faces the additional challenge of finding a home in an accessible community that is suitable for her family of soon- to-be six. Kyla is blind, and it has proven difficult for her to find adequate housing, including a landlord willing to accept her guide dog as an essential part of her life.
Many listings for homes with three or four bedrooms have unworkable stipulations such as “adults only” or infrequent access to laundry facilities – an unimaginable situation with two children under five and twins on the way.
“Having affordable housing in an accessible neighbourhood is really important because otherwise we’re left isolated and relying on other people which doesn’t feel great.”
Then, Kyla and her husband found the ideal home. While it was in a different community from where they currently live, it was close to neighbourhood shops, schools, the community centre, and transit, so Kyla could still commute to where she works as a registered massage therapist. But then the landlord refused to rent it to Kyla’s family because of her guide dog.
While service dogs cannot be discriminated against under the Canadian Landlord Tenant Act, McCaig felt that fighting discrimination isn’t the way to begin a new relationship with a landlord who could possibly create further stress. “I get angry but really you don’t want to be dealing with that person as a landlord if they’re going to be like that anyway,” she said.
Kyla’s situation demonstrates the vital need for accessible and affordable housing that meets the needs of those with disabilities. Thanks to your support, the Rick Hansen Foundation is working toward a solution for people like Kyla and her family.
By working with CSA Group to develop standards for accessible homes, and by creating the RHF Accessibility Certification program, together we can help take the overwhelming challenges away when it comes to finding an accessible and affordable home.
The Rick Hansen Foundation presents Difference Maker of the Year awards to students and educators who make a positive impact in the lives of their peers and communities. With COVID-19 creating new challenges, promoting inclusion and demonstrating compassion has never been more important. Meet three of the 2020 winners below.
Alexis Folk –
Alexis Folk was instrumental in creating opportunities to experience nature for students with disabilities at her elementary school. When her nominator asked for help organizing Project Adventure for students with vision loss, Alexis requested the program be open to students with all kinds of disabilities. Through fundraising efforts that included organizing a bake sale and writing letters to all of the Creston Valley clubs to request financial support for the program Alexis, who has cerebral palsy and uses a walker for mobility support, was the driving force in raising $2,500 for the adventure.
“People with disabilities often don’t get to experience the same things as people without disabilities, field trips are just one example.” Alexis says.
Chris Mieske –
Grade 6 teacher Chris Mieske saw an opportunity to teach his class about how prioritizing inclusion and accessibility could expand their horizons. One of Chris’ students, Todd, was born with a rare neurological condition that affects his mobility and creates spasticity in his limbs. Todd uses a wheelchair to travel around his school and requires a full-time educational assistant for support.
With a guiding principle for the class of “leave no one behind,” Chris challenged his students to find a way to help Todd participate in their upcoming winter survival skills activity. The students rose
to the challenge. They consulted medical and building experts to guide the construction of a special sled, and asked Todd questions about his condition to devise the perfect strategy for getting him out in the woods with the rest of the class.
“It was amazing to see the compassion the students all developed as a result of the project,” says Chris. The successful adventure was turned into a documentary called “Operation Leave No One Behind” which can be viewed on Chris’ YouTube channel.
Brody Moore –
At just six years old, Brody Moore has demonstrated a passion for inclusion beyond his years. He developed an interest in parasport after attending a wheelchair basketball game as a toddler. Though he doesn’t have a disability, he is an avid participant in parasports and the Let’s Play program. Brody stepped into a leadership role, showing not only his kindergarten class but other children at his school how to use wheelchairs. He also organized a visit from the BC Wheelchair Basketball Association (BCWBA), which brought its fleet of sport wheelchairs for his schoolmates to see.
“All my friends should be able to play,” Brody says, “so I like to help people get the right stuff (equipment) or ask Let’s Play to help. I help teach wheelchair basketball because I’m really fast and I can show my friends how to go fast and spin.”
Meet all 2020 RHF Difference Makers of the Year at RickHansen.com/Schools
Many kids have been out of the physical classroom since March, but thanks to your support, the RHF School Program was able to educate and inspire them at home!
Little Big Lessons
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the reality of how education is now being delivered, the RHF School Program team developed home- based resources for educators and youth, and a brand-new audience of parents and caregivers supporting their children’s education. Bite- sized lessons with big impact, Little Big Lessons engage youth from kindergarten to Grade 12 on the big themes of accessibility, inclusion and the importance of being difference makers in our communities. These resources are now some of the most popular lessons on our website.
Bringing the Man In Motion World Tour to Life
One of the most exciting interactive resources developed this past year was in partnership with the online learning platform GHM Academy. In addition to interactive versions of the newly developed Little Big Lessons, the platform hosts an interactive map of Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion World Tour with supporting lessons and quizzes on geography, weather and math.
Students learn about Rick’s Tour in an engaging, interactive environment and educators are supported with the opportunity to set-up virtual classrooms and have quiz results sent directly to their inboxes.
To learn more and download your free resources, visit RickHansen.com/LittleBigLessons
Advancing SCI Research
Foundation-supported doctor honoured with $1-million prize
To support advancements in spinal cord injury (SCI) research, the Rick Hansen Foundation provides funding to the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD). We’re thrilled that Dr. Brian K. Kwon, an orthopedic spine surgeon and researcher with ICORD, was recently honoured with a $1 million prize from the Craig H. Nielsen Foundation for his immense contributions to SCI treatment and rehabilitation.
The Neilsen Foundation lauds Dr. Kwon and his fellow honourees, the first group to receive this new prize, as “exemplary individuals who are not afraid to take bold risks, foster collaboration, and advocate for new ideas. They are dedicated to a future where individuals with SCI live full and productive lives as active participants in their communities.”
“I feel that it really is a recognition of the remarkable people that I have had the opportunity to work with through the years – amazing mentors, brilliant collaborators, great partners and organizational partnerships – all striving to make a difference for people living with SCI.
As a professor in the Department of Orthopedics at UBC, one of the most notable advancements Dr. Kwon has witnessed in his field is a deeper understanding of the surgical management of patients with spinal cord injuries. “I think we now understand, which we didn’t necessarily understand, say, 20 years ago, the importance of having patients with spinal cord injuries transferred immediately to a specialized spinal cord injury centre, where they can have surgery to decompress and stabilize the spinal cord as soon as possible,” he told The Globe and Mail.
Thanks to your generous support, Dr. Kwon and his team are making incredible advancements in the field of SCI. A huge congratulations to Dr. Kwon - it is an honour to support your work.