Between Friends – Inclusive Community Activities with No Barriers (I.C.A.N!)

The Cause

Between Friends envisions a community where people with disabilities reach their individual potential and are recognized as valued citizens.

I.C.A.N! is a program that promotes social inclusion by having persons with disabilities participate in community programs or camps with their typically developing peers at partner agencies such as YMCA or Airdrie Genesis. Any private studio (dance, martial arts, art, etc.) can be an I.C.A.N! experience. Inclusive Community Activities with No Barriers is suitable for Between Friends members who would like to explore community recreation. Members participate as independently as they can in community programs. Discovery, participation and social interaction with typically-developing peers are key experiences of I.C.A.N!. How we do this is by training a Recreation Inclusion Facilitator (RIF) who is a staff member in another community agency and by paying their salary for the first year, and then in diminishing amounts over the next three years until the other agency takes on the full cost of the RIF. The main responsibility of the RIF is to facilitate the successful integration of the Between Friends member or any person with a disability who wants to participate into their recreation programs. All efforts are made to overcome any barrier and adapt the programming to be both accessible and inclusive. The RIF takes on the responsibility of training other agency staff on inclusion and managing behaviours with the support of Between Friends staff.

We currently have fifteen I.C.A.N! partners and have seen great progress in realizing our vision. However, we are limited by dollars even though we are getting called upon more and more to provide disability awareness and inclusion training. This grant would allow us to add one more agency and one more RIF trained to build a more inclusive community.

Who Will it Benefit?

Our partnerships have assisted in reducing/eliminating prejudice and financial barriers and created opportunities for acceptance and growth.
Individuals and families benefit:
-Families become stronger because they can take part in activities as families; siblings and relatives without disabilities are welcome to participate as well.
-The quality of life of children, youth and adults with disabilities is greatly enhanced because they reap the positive benefits of being involved and being active.
-Families — and especially siblings of individuals with a disability — can become effective community advocates.
-Perceptions are challenged and changed. What people with disabilities think about their own capabilities expands, helping people overcome fears and be part of activities.
-Parents have access to a network of others who have a keen understanding of the realities of raising children with disabilities.
-Families have respite from care while their child is taking part in an activity (caring for a person with a disability is a lifetime responsibility).
The entire community benefits
-A more compassionate, caring and resilient community is built when the contributions people with disabilities make to the community are recognized, and opportunities to engage in that community offered.
-There is greater acceptance of children, youth and adults with disabilities as a result of more interaction.
-There is better understanding of the issues and challenges faced by people with disabilities.
-The community builds capacity to ensure people with disabilities are part of regular activities, because recreation program leaders learn about how people can be included.
-A new generation of community leaders is motivated and inspired, because young people who are involved in Between Friends as volunteers and program leaders acquire important knowledge and skills.
-There is widespread social and economic benefit because people with disabilities contribute by taking part in the workforce and community.