This week is the first National AccessAbility Week in Canada. Today, people with disabilities still face many barriers to participation in a multitude of areas. Whether it’s a child wanting to play a sport, a teenager who wants to be accepted by their peers at school or an adult looking for employment, having a disability should not dictate how someone has to live their life. While this is a larger societal problem, we can do a lot by empowering youth with disabilities from a young age by showing them they are capable of anything they set their mind to. It might take some creativity or outside-the-box thinking, but nothing is impossible and by teaching kids to have self-confidence and a sense of independence we are providing them the tools to carry forward confidently throughout their lives.
That is the ultimate goal at camp – give kids with disabilities a safe space to embrace their abilities and discover their skills and interests so that they have the supports in place to live a full, inclusive life. When campers leave camp, we want them to leave with a greater confidence and a bigger support network of people to remind them they can persevere when things are hard.
The following was written by a camp counsellor last year about her experience with a camper named Bronson who felt limited by being in a wheelchair:
One of my most magical camp moments came from an awesome little dude named Bronson. It was his first year at camp and he couldn’t hide the nervousness that he was feeling. During a dance party on day 3, I noticed that Bronson was looking pretty sad on the side of the dance floor. I went over to see what was up and he said he couldn’t dance because he was in a wheelchair. I say something along the lines of, “yeaaah riiiiight,” and proceeded to show him the best hand dancing and grooving that I could muster, while pointing out the other kids in chairs that were dancing up a storm out there. Bronson wasn’t buying it. He was looking at the kids that were breakdancing with envy.
3 days later at the final banquet there was a dance party. I noticed again that Bronson was closing off from the group and looking down at the ground sadly. I went over and sat next to him. I eventually ask him if he wants to dance with me and he explains that he can’t dance because of his chair. “YEAAAAH RIIIIGHT,” I say, and ask him if he’ll get on my back for the next song. I started soaring around the hut with Bronson on my back and he’s laughing and laughing. I told him to stretch out his arms so we could fly higher and we did! Counselors and campers were coming by and giving him props or high-fives as they soared around us. “I’m daaaannnnncing!” he says. I barely hear him over the music, but tears start streaming down my face. “Bronson, you’re not JUST dancing,” I say, “you’re FLYING too!”