Branden - The Impact of L.I.F.E. for young adults with disabilities

The Impact of L.I.F.E. – Branden

Branden - The Impact of L.I.F.E. for young adults with disabilities

When Branden joined the Learning Independence for Future Empowerment (L.I.F.E.) Mississauga Program, he wanted to learn how to take the MiWay Transit buses independently. Although he was comfortable using TransHelp buses and booking his rides by himself, he desired a method of transportation that did not require a booking process so that he can be more spontaneous and flexible in his outings. His goal was to take the MiWay Transit buses to get to the program instead of using TransHelp. He also wanted to expand his social circle and be more familiar with various places in the community.

L.I.F.E. Program Instructors determined that Branden could work on this goal by participating in the Transit Training component of the L.I.F.E. Program since he wanted to familiarize himself with the public transit system and learn how to plan trips using Google Maps. It was also determined that he would be a good candidate for social outings days as it would give him an opportunity to explore the community by attending various events with the program and spending time with other participants in social settings.

Branden Taking Miway - LIFE M
Branden taking a MiWay Transit bus

During Transit Training, Branden was the first to search directions to the destinations. His attendance was excellent as well. He attended Transit Training for one session and is now comfortable taking MiWay Transit buses independently. He also learned many new routes to his house from the program, as well as directions to various recreational sites in his community. Additionally, he reported having an easier time running errands and going out with friends ever since using the MiWay buses. Branden has been very comfortable using conventional transit to the point that he was able to use the Brampton Züm buses to attend an event on his own!

I learned how to take the bus by myself. I met a new friend Siu Fan…He is my new bestie. I am excited to look for and get a job.

– Branden

Branden reported he has expanded his social circle as he met new friends at the program. He shared that he goes out with those friends outside of program hours especially on the weekends, visiting shopping malls like Square One and watching movies together at the theatre or at one of their houses.

Branden at Sqaure One - LIFE M
Branden at Square One shopping mall in Mississauga

Overall, Branden has increased his community engagement by learning to navigate the public transit system, which allows him to explore his community, and he has met new friends at the program. Branden has also been selected as a candidate for the March of Dimes pre-employment program (PEP), and he will begin attending it in November. There he will begin to work on another area of independence.

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Our goal for Giving Tuesday this year is to raise funds to expand our L.I.F.E. Pilot Program in Calgary so that it runs longer than 2 weeks. It’s the first step towards our overarching goal of bringing the L.I.F.E. Program to empower other young adults with disabilities in other communities across the country! We’ve teamed up with Eric Howk from the band, Portugal. The Man, and Savaria to spread the word. Savaria will also be matching every donation dollar for dollar until Giving Tuesday on November 28. This means your donation will be worth twice as much! Please see our crowdfunding pages below:

If you’d like to donate in CAD ($), please visit: http://bit.ly/IGGLIFE

For our international donors, please visit: http://bit.ly/MODCLIFE17

Speechless, "L.I.F.E. Toronto's Thoughts on the Show!"

Speechless // L.I.F.E. Toronto Thoughts!

Speechless, "L.I.F.E. Toronto's Thoughts on the Show!"

During the last couple of sessions of our Learning Independence for Future Empowerment (L.I.F.E.) Program in Toronto, the group was introduced to a new TV show called Speechless. The show follows the DiMeo family as they go through life and the challenges associated with moving to a new town and starting at a new school.

We’re shown the experiences of every member of the family; Maya the overprotective, sometimes meddling mom, Jimmy the carefree dad, JJ the oldest son with a great sense of humor, Ray the brainiac, and Dylan the athletic daughter.

Speechless Cast
Speechless Cast

It’s heartfelt, funny, and quite realistic as many of the L.I.F.E. participants are able to recount similar experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. This show brings Cerebal Palsy into the mainstream in a big way! It also addresses a number of assumptions about disability in order to educate its viewers in a humorous way.

The reason for the title being Speechless is because the main character, JJ, has Cerebral Palsy and uses a communication device in order to speak. It begins with the family moving to a new town and finding a new aide for JJ. Throughout the episodes, there are humorous story lines that really humanize the experience of having a disability for its viewers, who may have no understanding of disability.

The L.I.F.E. Toronto group got together to think of anecdotes they’ve experienced that are similar to those shown in Speechless.

Speechless scene.

In the first episode, JJ walks into his new classroom only to be bombarded with classmates clapping and cheering for him and nominating him for Class President. Participants in the L.I.F.E. program have experienced similar reactions from people in the public when we are out on social outings, “people come up to us and congratulate us on being out and doing activities.”

In another episode, Maya calls JJ over and over again because he failed to show up for his physiotherapist. The group can empathize with JJ on this one and share their similar experiences; Marissa says that she often ignores calls when she is driving her chair because she is staying safe and attentive – whilst also recognizing that not answering her phone may cause people to worry about her.

In the first season, JJ meets Claire, an avid gymnast who is in a wheelchair while she recovers from a gymnastics injury. They become close and JJ decides to tell Claire that he has feelings for her, despite his fear of being rejected. The L.I.F.E. participants can relate to the fear of rejection; rejection from schools, sports teams, programs, and jobs. Jess told the group about her college experience. She made a few good friends throughout the program, but they stopped talking to her near the end of the school year. Jess felt like she had been taken advantage of, she felt they had been her friends to look good for the teacher. The experience caused feelings of rejection for Jess as she left college feeling as though she’d been used.

Jess and Marrisa, participants of our L.I.F.E. Program in Toronto.
Jess and Marissa

We thoroughly enjoyed the Speechless episode called HERO. This episode talks about “inspiration porn.” When Kenneth asks what that is, Ray explains, “it’s a portrayal of people with disabilities as one-dimensional things to only exist to warm the hearts and open the minds of able-bodied people.”

In this episode there is a speech competition and a student who hardly knows JJ decides to write a speech regarding how JJ is his hero.

The L.I.F.E. Toronto group has had similar experiences where people have treated them as if they are “inspirational”. Jess has had some interesting experiences where new PSWs show up at her house and talk to her as if she is a baby. Once they see her college diploma, their tone immediately changes to, “Wow, you went to college!”

Another participant had an acquaintance say to her, “my husband and I could learn some things from you. We think that we have problems and are depressed but then I look at you and realize we don’t have it so hard and shouldn’t complain.” This comment really hurt the participant.

“[inspiration porn] is a portrayal of people with disabilities as one-dimensional things to only exist to warm the hearts and open the minds of able-bodied people.”

Evan shared an experience where his PSW called the attendants at his old apartment “angels”.  L.I.F.E. Toronto staff have also had strangers approach them during outings to compliment them on what a great job they are doing. These types of compliments are quite silly, as the staff are just doing their job. Complimenting staff for no reason can also send the negative message that you assume that people with disabilities are somehow exceptionally difficult to work with.

LIFEToronto_TorontoIslandOuting_RidingFerry_Aug17-2016(5)_EvanCropped
Evan

In another Speechless episode called CHEATER, Maya and Jimmy learn that JJ has been cheating on his exams and that most of JJ’s teachers have been knowingly letting him off the hook. The L.I.F.E. group can relate to this, as some of them have had similar experiences where they forgot to pay their fare on the TTC but did not get questioned or reminded to pay by TTC drivers and fare inspectors.

The L.I.F.E. Toronto group has really enjoyed watching the first season of Speechless. The participants and staff all agree that the show has done a great job in portraying the experiences of persons with disabilities and their families, while dispelling disability-related stereotypes in an empathetic and often hilarious way. The group is eager to continue watching Speechless as soon as the next season becomes available.

Want to learn more about some of the important, fun, social, & general life skills we aim to provide young adults with disabilities who are transitioning to adulthood? Check it out here: http://bit.ly/modcLIFE

Madison. ".. it wasn't long before she was able to start standing on her own." - New Community Blog Post!

Let’s Talk About: Madison!

Madison. ".. it wasn't long before she was able to start standing on her own." - New Community Blog Post!

Last summer, we met little Madison. In just one short year, she has opened the doors to a world of independence with hard work, and your commitment to help!

Madison’s family found March of Dimes Canada’s Conductive Education® (CE) Program after discovering that Madison wasn’t meeting her developmental milestones as a baby. Her parents worried that she would be facing a lifetime of frustration and challenges. But, because CE is one of the only programs available to very young children in Canada, it was a perfect opportunity for her to start facing those challenges with a supportive team right beside her.

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In her first CE session, she learned to sit independently! It wasn’t long before she was able to start standing on her own, and learning to walk with her walker.

Now, a full year later, Madison is a girl on the move! She’s a bright and confident child who loves learning how to jump and how to use her quad canes. She is working on stamina, core strength and balance, controlled breathing and purposeful movements of her body. She is able to figure out for herself how to change positions and stand independently. Most importantly, she has found her voice – she advocates for herself, she makes sure she is heard!

Check out this video explaining our Conductive Education Program, which also features Madison!

She swims! She plays with her friends! She rides her horse! She can conquer ANYTHING that life puts in front of her. Today, she takes charge of her world like the little fighter she is! Way to go Madison!

CE® is also one of our donor funded programs, partly funded by our Door-to-Door Program, which runs from November to late March. If you’re interested in volunteering as a canvasser for this year or the following, please email us at info@marchofdimes.ca with “Door-2-Door Volunteer” in the subject header!

 

LIFE weighs in on recent TTC “Stay Focused. Stay Safe.” awareness campaign

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written by Amy Kostash and Danielle Hepburn

One component of our Learning Independence for Future Empowerment (LIFE) Toronto program is transit training. This allows participants to get one-on-one assistance using the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to get to a destination of their choice; usually back home from our national office. During our transit training sessions, we cover everything there is to know about the TTC from safe use procedures to its accessibility and planning our route. For the individuals in the LIFE Toronto program, this transit training provides an alternative to Wheel Trans should they feel comfortable enough taking it on their own.

Recently, the TTC published a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of focus in order to stay safe. These posters can be seen on subway platforms, subway trains, and buses. We asked the participants of our LIFE Toronto program their thoughts on these new posters.

Stay Focused Graphics

The first poster shows a woman in a wheelchair using the deployed ramp of a bus while a pedestrian is running past, unaware of the ramp. The message this poster aims to spread is that pedestrians need to be more aware of ramps and the potential they could be deployed at any time, and may cause a tripping hazard. The second poster shows a gentleman in a power wheelchair waiting for the bus while pedestrians hurry past him. The message this poster aims to send is that persons with a disability and/or mobility devices are to be the first to board the bus and the last to disembark.

First, we asked the LIFE Toronto group if any of them had experienced being cut off by pedestrians while waiting for, or getting on their Wheel Trans rides. 4 of the 5 participants say they have been cut off while the ramp of their Wheel Trans ride was deployed. Tyler says “these signs are necessary because people cut us off and don’t know that I have the right of way when getting on a bus.” Jess added that “these posters may not work, the buses already beep and drivers will yell at people, so I’m not sure that a visual poster will necessarily help.”

Another concern that the group had was the use of the selected images on the posters. Both depict the wrong way of doing things! Instead, our group thinks it would be much more effective if the posters showed pedestrians correctly using the TTC and allowing persons with disabilities the right of way. If people don’t take the time to read the message on the poster, there is a chance they could just end up adopting the wrong behaviour after all.

These posters allowed for some interesting discussion in our LIFE Toronto workshops. The group came to the conclusion that it is too early to tell if these ads are working. It will be interesting to see if the attitudes of people change based on the presence of these posters. Also, the group thought it might be interesting to create a poster or image with the same message but from the perspective of an individual in a wheelchair that shows the implications of pedestrians failing to give them the right of way.