June 19, 2013
From Enabled Kids
Although one in seven Ontarians are live with an impairment – a number that is expected to increase over the next twenty years as the population ages – accessibility remains an obstacle which prevents them from fully participating in society. The exclusion of children due to accessibility issues is especially detrimental to their social development. When a child feels like they are not full-fledged members of society, normal activities of childhood become intimidating obstacles.
Most people look back on their childhood with a kind of nostalgia, but the social exclusion which sometimes comes with living with an impairment can make these fond memories forever negative. While Legal measures such as the “Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act” passed in 2005 have established mandatory standards to make all aspects of daily life universally accessible, concrete action only began to take place over seven years later.
Childhood is one of the shortest periods in a person’s life, but the experiences a person has as a child can negatively or positively affect the rest of their lives. If your child is already beginning to feel like an outsider, the time for action is now. Rather than waiting endlessly for the government implementation of accessibility standards, here are some tips for making everyday life for your child more physically and socially accessible.
There’s no arguing about the importance of technology in today’s world. Tablet computers are being used in elementary school classrooms, and many children are more skilled in typing than they are writing. While the number of technological options available for your child can be overwhelming, your best bet is to go with the companies that offer assistive technologies as their standard features. Before buying a product, do your research on whether these features are offered or can be added to it. A wide range of standard options are available that prevents your child from feeling discouraged using these products.
Creating a Community
Children tend to identify with others who share similar interests. Whether it’s a sport, a favourite TV shows, or even an impairment: creating a supportive network of likeminded individuals will help to make your child feel more included. Get your child involved in extra curricular activities, and not necessarily those that are exclusively meant for impaired children. Based on your child’s individual abilities, there will be some activities that will be more physically ideal than others. Finding an activity that suits your child’s abilities and plays on their strengths will only help make them stronger overall. When children who share similar interests interact with one another, this common bond helps to eliminate the stigma surrounding their impairment. Having your child interact with all kinds of children teaches them to recognize and accept the similarities and differences they have with others.
Despite current efforts by the Provincial government to make Ontario more accessible, you and your child are bound to run into some obstacles during this slow transition. For some children, feeling like they are living in a world that was not made for them can be incredibly discouraging and contribute to those unfortunate feelings of exclusion. Explaining to your child that it is not their fault is a good first step. Perhaps the most discouraging events are encountering these obstacles on special occasions or family outings where your child is looking forward to having fun. During these special times, it’s important to do your research to make sure the environment complies with your child’s particular needs. If you have the opportunity, visit the location beforehand. If you are unable to do so, try to contact other parents who have been to this location and has a child with similar conditions as your own. Reading reviews, forums, or blogs online are also great options. Take precautions, and ensure that everyday life and special occasions will be joyful moments of your child’s life – rather than obstacles that make them feel like a hopeless outsider .
About the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005
Integrated Accessibility Standards: General Requirements