SD73 Acknowledges the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Posted On Friday December 01, 2023

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated every year on December 3rd. 

“This day is about highlighting the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at every level of society and development,” shared Board Chair Heather Grieve. “It is also about recognizing what the barriers are as we talk to people who navigate challenging physical and social contexts in their daily lives.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) joins the United Nations (UN) in observing this day each year, reinforcing the importance of securing the rights of people with disabilities, so they can participate fully, equally, and effectively in society with others, and face no barriers in all aspects of their lives. At its headquarters in Geneva, WHO organizes an annual IDPD event to educate the public, raise awareness, advocate for political will and resources, and celebrate WHO’s achievements.

District Commitment to Improving Accessibility

“The District’s Accessibility Committee has met multiple times and developed a survey through the leadership of Assistant Superintendent Mochikas,” stated Superintendent Dr. Rhonda Nixon. “Our next step is to review feedback which will point us into the action-based priorities for 2024-2025.”

Virtual inclusive sport conversations. To participate in this focus on improving accessibility for all students, staff, and volunteers in our district, classes are encouraged to register for a virtual inclusive sport conversation with paralympians to celebrate and recognize International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Classes are encouraged to join Paralympians Marissa Papaconstantinou (track) and Jolan Wong (sitting volleyball) as they prepare for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. The Rick Hansen Foundation School Program is hosting this conversation where youth will learn about different perspectives on disability, inclusion, and accessibility in sport and physical activity. Teachers can register for the December 5th presentation at 10:00 am here.

Haldane Elementary School. In addition to teachers attending these sessions, SD73 is proud of SD73 graduate, Greg Stewart, who won the gold medal and set a new world record in shot put at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. He will be speaking to students at Haldane Elementary and Chase Secondary on Friday, December 8th. Ms. Jacobsen shared, “I am excited to announce that World Champion Greg Stewart will be speaking to students throughout the District this year to talk about his lived experience around having a disability and how it does not define him. He reiterates that each of us is different and similar in many ways, which creates a unique, beautiful community. He is a positive role model for each of us and focuses his talks around the importance of well-being.”

In SD73, Sabrina Jacobsen, a grade 5-6 teacher at Haldane Elementary taught accessibility through experiential learning that involved students taking turns trying to access different parts of their school by using a wheelchair and identifying things that were difficult to do. They took a field trip to experience two parks in Kamloops, using the wheelchair. Students then created accessible plans for areas throughout their school. The class is fundraising through creating and selling hot chocolate kits to purchase accessible equipment for the playground. In the pictures, Emery, Weston and Evan show their project designs to make schools more accessible. The principal shared, “I am so impressed with Mrs. Jacobsen and how her teaching brought relevant learning alive, fostered students’ empathy and their desire to focus on making improvements that would allow everyone to participate independently and access what they need and have a sense of belonging in their school.

Our grade 5 and grade 6, are working on a year long accessibility project. We have had many discussions on the importance of schools meeting the needs of all students. Accessibility and Inclusion are needed.

Students then took a wheelchair and they were asked to do everyday tasks independently. Students were surprised as to how inaccessible schools were if they needed to use a wheelchair. Tasks such as opening heavy doors, reaching books in the library, using the washroom stalls and even putting things into their lockers were difficult and frustrating. The one area that made a big impact was their inability to navigate the wheelchair to our playground. The slight incline and pea gravel made it impossible. The actual playground does not offer any wheelchair accessible equipment either.

After experiencing the disappointment of not being able to use our playground while using a wheelchair, we decided to take the wheelchair to two Kamloops Parks. We went to Riverside Park and MacPark. Both parks have many options for all users. Students took notes and decided what they would like to see at our school.

Our District will continue to profile and expand projects like Ms. Jacobsen’s accessibility project.

Thank you to every staff member, student, and parent who took part in acknowledging the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Thank you to Mrs. Jacobsen for sharing her story of creating learning environments to be accessible and to support every student to thrive (District Mission).

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