The Canadian Adaptive Network (CAN) based in the Elk Valley became a registered non-profit in January, 2018. This society developed from individuals personal experiences with functional limitation and its purpose is to increase awareness of the needs of such persons and engage in educational activities to change perception and improve informational resources, accessibility and inclusion. Functional limitations and disabilities are defined as any way, mentally or physically, in which a person’s condition affects their ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

Disability is a complicated occurrence, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives (International Classification of Function – World Health Organization). Discussion continues regarding the use of the term “disability”; however, because of its wide definition as well as its widespread use in everyday language, CAN uses both “functional limitations” and “disability” in its communications. Disability can be created by barriers, for instance for a senior with strength and balance problems, a set of stairs that you can see through the gaps between the steps or without rails can make you disoriented and “disabled”.

One in seven Canadians have a disability and that number is said to rise to one in five by 2036. According to population it could mean over a couple of thousand citizens of this area have a disability of some type. The Elk Valley is a great place to live but CAN believes it can make life even better by creating opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in activities of their choosing and be defined by who they are rather than what they can or can’t do.

CAN believes by achieving this the Elk Valley could become known for its accessibility and creation of an environment where everyone can live to their full potential. This would mean young people with functional limitation can find jobs and participate in community life, seniors could safely get out and participate even during winter and visitors with functional limitation and their families would be attracted to the Valley not only because of the recreational opportunities available but because there are choices of places to stay, eat and socialize.

CAN’s mission is to build a network for coordination of services, communication regarding best practices, standards for adaptive design and flexible and diverse programs and facilities aimed at attaining for everyone the opportunity to participate fully in community life. As well as the usual physical accessibility features there is consideration to people with autism or sensory process disorder who have needs in an environment, for instance complex interior design patterns, glare and noise.

Stella Swanson, Chair of CAN, said that “After a Covid-related pause, CAN is up and running again and working on regaining our momentum. We want to be sure we are being effective and relevant as we work on creating a more inclusive community. We are very fortunate to have had the benefit of connections with professionals who provide care and assistance to people with disabilities. One of those professionals is Dr. Mary Culshaw. Mary is an Occupational Therapist and a professor at Moravian College in Pennsylvania. Thanks to our connection with Mary, we have been given the opportunity to be included in a summer course for graduate students.

After discussions with Mary and her students, we agreed that CAN would greatly benefit from hearing directly from people in Fernie regarding the needs of people with disabilities and how best to address those needs. The students designed a questionnaire with the overall objective of learning more about what it is like to live with a disability in Fernie. We can then use what we have learned to prioritize actions to improve accessibility and inclusivity in Fernie.”

Here is the full report submitted by the students: Needs Assessment Assignment 8_8

By Mary Giuliano

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