Student stories

Inclusion for all: kinesiology student facilitates accessibility in recreation

David Shaw

Recreation Integration Victoria

Kinesiology student David Shaw worked as a recreation inclusion facilitator for Recreation Integration Victoria, where she was responsible for ensuring that children with diverse abilities had meaningful experience at week-long camps. David reflects on his experience below.

Working at Recreation Integration Victoria

Over the summer of 2019 I worked for Recreation Integration Victoria (RIV) as a recreation inclusion facilitator. RIVs mission statement is to facilitate active lifestyles for people with disabilities. They believe that a positive quality of life is a fundamental right and in guaranteed access to all. Their services include promoting socialization and access to community-based leisure and recreation opportunities by matching a person with a disability one-on-one with a volunteer (leisure assistant) who has similar recreation and leisure interests. Other services include training and education for students to learn about inclusive leisure and recreation opportunities for people with disabilities, a leisure assistant pass to assure that people with disabilities should not be required to pay double admission because they require an assistant in order to participate, as well as an equipment loan service and sailing with Disabled Sailing Association of B.C., Victoria branch.

Life as a recreation inclusion facilitator

As a recreation inclusion facilitator, I accompanied children in their chosen week-long camp. I worked with the camp counsellors to assure that my camper was included in the camp activities given their unique abilities. My goal was to make sure that the child I worked for was given the same chances to have fun and participate in events as the other campers. Depending on the child’s unique abilities, my support could be a range of services that span from assisting with eating to helping them work in a team setting as a common mediator between them and their peers.

Among the relationships created this summer and the challenges faced, I have come to realize that the environment is a malleable object to which can be adjusted to fit the needs and special abilities of each person that walks through it. This new-found introspection is a very important concept in the industry of physical health, recreation, and rehabilitation. It is important to create an inclusive and accessible environment for people with special abilities because if they feel comfortable and accepted when participating in leisure activities, they are more likely to continue to live a healthier lifestyle.

Along with a malleable environment, proper communication is key to understanding what a participant needs. Working with children with an array of different abilities means communication is more than just talking. Communication includes gestures, behaviours, eye contact, emotions, and it’s the support worker’s job to understand non-verbal signs in attempt to understand what is being presented. These modes of communication are not always straight forward and can take a lot of trial and error along with creativity, patience, and a positive attitude to be able to communicate effectively.

What I learned from my work term

This job has shown me that therapists, doctors, and support workers can work together with people of all ages to achieve goals in the workplace, school, and everyday life. During my training, there were many physiotherapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs) that spoke about their work with children and opened my eyes to the possibilities those professions have with the younger population. OTs talked about adjusting environments to match the necessities of the children such as levels of stimulation, physical barriers, or fears; however, they also included the importance of techniques that could be used to cope with stressful and difficult situations. These presenters showed me that PTs and OTs have a wider blanket of support than a just a clinical setting.

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