Recreating our ways to empower people with disabilities

Posted on February 28, 2022
By Dan Ritchie

For many of us, the conversation around maintaining our health and well-being during periods of social isolation has become increasingly relevant. We all now see the inherent value in going out for a walk with a friend or spending time around the dinner table with our loved ones.

As we collectively explore the value of social connection through recreation (leisure activities), we are looking to explore the ideas of recreation (creating our communities once more).

person-wheelchair-streetCaregivers during a crisis

Recreating how we provide service and enable others is something that Amy MacFarlane, founder and CEO of the Canada-wide social health company Recreational Respite, has dedicated their energy towards.

These conversations around to the best ways to provide recreation for people with disabilities started back in 2008 during the global financial crisis. Amy’s company focused on filling the gap between the number of people with disabilities in need of assistance and the number of people in caregiving roles. In particular, Recreational Respite targeted access to recreational and leisure activities.

Widespread disconnect

Fast forward 13 years as we face another collective test during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are considering the same questions of "How do we stay connected? How do we stay healthy and happy when experiencing social isolation?”

The issue of disconnection is an everyday issue for many people with disabilities but is often overlooked or misunderstood by able-bodied people. With the lockdowns and restrictions required because of the COVID-19, however, this sentiment is now something nearly all of us have experienced to some degree.

"Our people, our customers, are telling us what they need. That's what we're going to pivot around. That's what we're going to reinvent new services to support.”

Lessons learned

Below are some of the lessons learned through Amy’s work:

  1. Socializing, recreation and leisure improve well-being.
  2. Belonging and contributing to a community provides purpose and meaning.
  3. Listening to clients’ needs can help to bridge service gaps.
  4. (Community) Interdependency encourages (personal) autonomy
  5. Resilient systems are adaptive

With an increase demand on our institutions, supporting individuals to become resilient and fulfilled is something that community is best designed to do.

As we explore new ways to recreate our services, we must remember to centre and enable the aspirations and autonomy of those living with disabilities.

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Community Building, Disability, COVID-19, Dan Ritchie, CDC Blogs, Homepage Blog

Dan Ritchie

By Dan Ritchie

Dan has recently joined the Vibrant Communities team as Manager of Cities, Cities Deepening Community. His background ranges from supporting health care, youth leadership and sustainability. With an introduction to community development through not for profits, Dan's formative years were spent running outdoor leadership programs for youth across Nova Scotia. These experiences led to completing a Bachelor in Community Development and Environmental Sustainability from Acadia University. This program involved working directly with grassroots organizations and community groups in Canada and abroad.

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