Monday, February 26, 2024
February 26, 2024

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities we can make Salt Spring more inclusive

By BARBARA CASEY

Executive Director, GIFTS

In 1992, the United Nations declared Dec. 3 the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In our small community, Gulf Islands Families Together Society (GIFTS) is one of several organizations that works with adults with disabilities.

Stephen Hawking said “disability need not be an obstacle to success.” But if you ask any person with a disability if their world is full of obstacles, they will surely say yes. But they’ll also tell you, that like Stephen Hawking, they charge ahead.

There are 11 adults with developmental disabilities who charge ahead with the help of GIFTS. The society was started in 2001 by families to make sure their sons and daughters were able to fully participate in our community. We are blessed with wonderful staff and a dedicated board of directors and parents who go above and beyond. Our vision is to create opportunities, foster independence and inclusion. Funding is provided through Community Living BC and the generosity of individuals and local foundations.

Support workers help our participants engage in the activities they choose. That might be swimming and golf in the Special Olympics. It might be working at Country Grocer or Thrifty’s. And then there are the dances, the art classes, the sing-alongs and courses at UVic.

Al Etmanski is a well-known parent activist for disability rights and a recipient of the Order of Canada. He encourages all of us to make our world more inclusive for anyone with a disability. On Dec. 3, let’s pause and ask how inclusive is our community? How easy is it get around Ganges in a wheelchair? If you had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, could you find employment at a living wage? Would there be supportive housing for your child, when you could no longer provide care?

On Dec. 3, let’s all of us do one small thing. Make a donation! Write a letter advocating for accessible sidewalks and supportive housing. Volunteer! And remember that every small action is a step toward a more inclusive Salt Spring Island.

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