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Accessibility shouldn’t be a pandemic exclusive

Wheel Cares: Inclusion Foothills weary of going back to ‘normal’
Inclusion Foothills board president Ben Bruce receives a donation for the organization's family support programs from the High River Legion Branch 71 in October.

Inclusion Foothills is working to make sure the community is accessible post-pandemic.  

“Disability has and will always been here and inclusion is something that we as a community should strive for,” said Ben Bruce, president of the Inclusion Foothills board and a community support worker.  

Inclusion is a non-profit organization that advocates for individuals with disabilities. The group runs various programs to support people with a range of concerns, including anxiety and depression, autism, physical limitations and more.  

As the world continues to grasp for some resemblance of normalcy and a return to pre-pandemic activities, Bruce explained that for individuals with disabilities, the return to 'normal' isn’t exactly beneficial.  

“It’s a bit of a shame that as we go back to normal, we’re losing a lot of accessibility that we suddenly were able to provide,” he said.  

Bruce said that measures readily available to the general public during the pandemic were something that people with disabilities benefited from and are now losing, as the need to be widely-accessible – and safe – is diminishing.  Funding for individuals with disabilities and employment for support workers is also becoming less and less, he said. 

This includes services like online grocery shopping and contactless pick-up, working from home and virtual and telephone appointments.  

He added that most people don’t think about accessibility on a day-to-day basis, and this informs a number of decisions that especially impact individuals with disabilities.  

“The community is looking to go back to normal, but this pandemic has definitely shown our lack of accessibility that we’ve always had,” said Bruce.  

Even before the pandemic, Inclusion Foothills was actively engaging in work to make all avenues of life accessible – services like medical care, transit, grocery shopping, work and play – and are still working to expand accessibility on all avenues.  

Popular programs ran by Inclusion include the Junior Giants Summer Tutoring and Leadership Program, Sibshop – which works with the siblings of individuals with disabilities, and H.I.R.E, which stands for having inclusive rewarding employment.  

They also offer family support and one-on-one support, and assistance with Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD) and Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) applications. Additionally, the organization works to support families in advocating for inclusive education and medical care. 

Inclusion Foothills is one of seven charities that will benefit from the 2021 Western Wheel Cares campaign, alongside the Foothills Advocacy in Motion Society, Foothills Country Hospice, Okotoks Food Bank, Pound Rescue, Rowan House Society and Sheep River Health Trust. 

Bruce said that funds donated through the campaign will be used to fund the group’s programs, specifically the Sibshop and Junior Giants programs, as well as the connections registry and the family support network.  

“The community, the impact they provide, is that [they allow] disabled individuals not only to get to be part of the community, but they get to see themselves grow,” he said.  

The 2020 campaign raised a record $71,379.65, bringing the total raised over the nine years to $414,282. 

This year’s campaign runs Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. 

To donate to Western Wheel Cares: mail cheques to Box 150, Okotoks, Ab. T1S 2A2 or click here for a PayPal donation link. 

As well, you can drop by to the Wheel office at 9 McRae St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch.) 

Lauryn Heintz

About the Author: Lauryn Heintz

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