Access the Central Okanagan – Participate in Art

Participating in the Arts has many positive effects. It promotes mental wellbeing by exploring the creative side. It brings people together in social settings for common, positive outcomes. It exercises parts of the body, increasing manual dexterity. Most important, it’s good fun!

Seeing an advertisement for an art class I was interested in, I contacted the New Arts Collective. I’m in a wheelchair, so I mentioned it. The space is on the second floor of a heritage building that is not wheelchair accessible. While this could be a commentary on building codes, business licenses and accessibility issues with heritage buildings, it isn’t. Instead, it is an exploration of the availability of accessible arts classes.

As mentioned, the New Arts Collective isn’t wheelchair accessible. However, what is very accessible is their attitude! They go out of their way to link up anyone who is unable to access their classes with places that offer the same class in an accessible venue or put people in touch with the artist directly. This means that they are setting up with customers with other art organizations, so that they are losing much needed funds. They recognize their lack of physical accessibility, but make up for it in an upfront, open attitude.

From the New Arts Collective, I moved on to the Kelowna Art Gallery. Not only is gallery accessible, but classes are offered in an accessible classroom.

Many classes can also be found in the City of Kelowna Recreation Guide, but given the wide number of venues used, it’s important to check out the accessibility of each venue.

The Rotary Centre for the Arts also has opportunities for disabled artists. One of the most well-known and well established is the Cool Arts Society, which believes that “everyone should have equal opportunities to express themselves through art” It certainly lives this believe with the exciting classes, projects and exhibitions that it puts on, and a board of directors that includes disabled artists.

Do you know about more art opportunities that are particularly accessible, either in their physical space or their attitude? Let us know at

Spotlight on TaxAid – a great new program based in Kelowna

An exciting new program has come to Kelowna. TaxAid originated in Vancouver, with Disability Alliance BC, but is now in the Interior too – and based in Kelowna, at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society.

TaxAid assists people who are receiving the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) benefit or the Persons with Persistent and Multiple Barriers (PPMB) benefit with simple income tax filings and information/referrals – and it’s free.

If you haven’t filed for taxes for a number of years – don’t worry! These are the people to help you. And there are many benefits to filing for taxes, from GST/HST Credit to BC Low Income Climate Action Tax Credit to PST Credit to Working Income Tax Benefit to Canada Child Tax Benefit to Registered Disability Savings Plan Grants and Bonds. Read more about all of these benefits on the TaxAid website.

The Kelowna office, run by Rob Roy, opened in May 2018 and began working with clients in late June. Since then, they’ve met with 76 clients, and assisted with not only tax returns, but also with PWD applications, DTC applications and many other related questions and issues.

How successful is the program? From 47 tax returns, $85, 000 has been returned to clients – clients who are homeless, in and out of housing or on very tight budgets – all money that was rightfully theirs if only they had had the support to apply for it. As Rob says, “this money will absolutely go a long way to improving their lives.”

Does this situation apply to you? Do you know someone who could benefit from the services of TaxAid? If so, get in touch with Rob at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, 442 Leon Ave, Kelowna or by phone: 250-763-4905 ext.215

Rise Up! Inclusion BC’s conference comes to Kelowna, May 24 to 26

Inclusion BC’s annual conference is BC’s premier learning event on intellectual disability, inclusion and human rights – and is in Kelowna, from May 24 to 26th. This year’s event will welcome over 600 attendees and host over 45 diverse sessions and workshops focusing on timely and relevant issues facing people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Workshops, speakers and our annual general meeting will address timely issues such as employment, housing, education, community inclusion and more. Attendees include people with intellectual disabilities, family members, service providers and community allies committed to inclusion.

“We’re thrilled to host this year’s event in Kelowna. Our co-host and long-time member, Pathways Abilities Society, has been supporting people with intellectual disabilities for 65 years. Their commitment and efforts will help make this one of the best conferences yet. Conference attendees will celebrate and learn from local, provincial and international initiatives that are making a difference in the lives of individuals and the health and vitality of communities” says Danielle Kelliher, Director of Communications for Inclusion BC

More about the Conference:

Communities across BC are changing, as our schools, workplaces and public spaces reflect and respond to the needs of our increasingly diverse society. Inclusion is now a core principle in our public schools, in the places where we live and work and in the social bonds that support and strengthen us as communities.

The vision is strong and there are some great things are happening. But for too many people with intellectual disabilities, the reality is still exclusion and isolation.

Collectively, we have the answers and the power to rise up and change this. People across BC are making real progress at a grassroots level, contributing to the global inclusion movement. Join us in Kelowna, BC as we identify challenges and solutions together. Learn from the innovators, the storytellers, and from each other.

Find out all about the conference here, at Rise Up! in Kelowna, at the Delta Grand, from May 24 to 26th.



About Inclusion BC: 

Inclusion BC is a provincial federation whose members include people with intellectual disabilities, families and community agencies. Together we have led the movement away from institutions since 1955. We are dedicated to advancing rights, promoting abilities and building awareness as we work to support full citizenship for all.


BC Budget 2018

The first NDP budget for 17 years was just announced – and no surprises that it’s a spending budget! Here’s some of the items that impact people with disabilities

  • There are no increases to the disability allowance, but last year saw a total of $150 of raises. It’s still not enough, and it would be better if it was indexed linked to inflation, so we will keep hoping for the future.
  • Poverty reduction is a big focus for this government. The plans aren’t ready for this budget, so hopefully they will come soon.
  • MSP premiums will be gone by January 2020, and there have been changes to Fair Pharmacare to make prescription drugs more affordable for those with the lowest levels of income.
  • Affordable housing is a priority. People with disabilities are not mentioned as a group in need of support, but hopefully accessible housing will be included in the new builds.
  • Plans are being put in place to improve care, with an injection of money over 3 years. The report only mentions seniors, however. The needs of people with disabilities under the age of 65 are both similar and different, and it’s important that the government hears that message.
  • There have been some tweaks to the Caregiver’s tax credit. It seems bizarre that this is index linked, while the disability allowance isn’t, and it would be more of a benefit for all if it was a refundable tax credit, but it’s a start.

So the budget shows promise in many areas of spending, but really, there’s not enough directly targeted to people with disabilities – the one minority group that everyone could join, at any time.

Full details of the budget can be found at BC Budget 2018.

City of Kelowna Accessibility Audit

The Community for All: Parks and Buildings Assessment was an action item of City of Kelowna’s recently adopted Community for All Ages Action Plan. In working towards becoming a city that is healthy, safe, active, and inclusive for seniors, children, and those with diverse abilities, the Community for All: Parks and Buildings Assessment measured all public parks and buildings in relation to age and ability friendliness.

This project included the creation of checklist, one for both parks and buildings, that were used by staff to properly assess each site. The checklists were created by referencing the following information: design standards applied in other municipalities; the BC Building Code’s Access Design Standards; World Health Organization’s ‘Checklist of Essential Feature of Age-friendly Cities; best practices of environmental design; and stakeholder engagement feedback.

Prior to completing the assessments, staff went through a training exercise that included lectures on Environmental Design for Dementia and Alzheimer’s, a study of the various guidelines listed previously, and on-site training through lived experience. In the lived experience training, members of the stakeholder group provided a real time version of their experience visiting City Park and City Hall. This helped the assessors understand the depth of challenges faced by those with varying physical and mental abilities.

With the data now collected, which consists of a completed assessment checklist and site photographs for each park and building site, staff are working on preparing a final report which will identify areas for improvement as well as areas in which we are succeeding. This report will be used to guide staff in planning infrastructure improvements across the portfolio of parks and buildings.

Lindsay Clement, MBCSLA, CSLA
Park and Landscape Planner | City of Kelowna

Two people, one being instructed on the use of a white cane by the other

Group of people, some in wheelchair, some with white canes, outside public washroom

More on the proposed Federal Legislation

This spring, the federal government is expected to table Canada’s first legislation aimed at accessibility and inclusion for disabled people. Minister Hehr is staying tight-lipped about what it might contain, which only increases the speculation!

Read some thoughts on the legislation in the Toronto Star.

Federal Consultation on Transportation Accessibility

In Spring 2018, the federal government is expected to table Canada’s first federal disability legislation, aimed at improving accessibility and inclusion for the 17% of Canadians who are disabled.

In 2017 Michelle was invited to take part in the in-depth consultation on transportation. There were 4 people interviewed specifically relating to air travel for those who use mobility equipment. Interviews also took place for other disabilities, but we don’t have access to them . There were two parts to the constellation – an in-depth questionnaire and a phone interview that took off from where the written submission had finished. In December, 2017, Michelle received a copy of the results of this process. We invite you to read them at this link and we will see if the recommendations make it into the legislation.

Spotlight on Hands In Service

Hands in Service logo with saying love gives back

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong. I’ll be your friend; I’ll help you carry on…” Every individual deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Every person has needs that require assistance. Everyone wants to have connection with someone who cares. Value individuals. Meet needs. Build Relationships.

Our agency is unique in our community for provision of free volunteer support to adult community members who find themselves, for whatever reason, without finance, without social support, without mobility, without health, without physical or mental capacity to cope with day to day living, and often without hope. What if that was you? What if you were once fully engaged in life and now you are alone, often in pain, trying to access enough food and manage household cleaning to maintain your tenancy without causing yourself additional physical harm and emotional grief.

Hands in Service:

  • Provides free, compassionate and relational non-medical home care, referral services and food security assistance to vulnerable adults struggling with health and mobility; financial and social limitations.
  • Builds community through volunteerism, community partnership and multiplicationIn 2002 home supports were cut from health care services in BC. In 2012 Statistics Canada reported that there were 685,970 Canadians 16 – 64 years that could be our clients. Hands in Service provides a unique, valuable service, organizational experience and well-defined programs to meet this identified service gap. “We have a huge lack of government funded programs to provide all the services needed in our community and truly need volunteer services to help our clients.” Carrie Pettit RN BSN Interior Health Authority

    For our clients, there is nowhere else to go for the help Hands in Service provides.

  • Energetic Hands – a service of four hours a month facilitated as an ongoing assignment with specific volunteer (s), maintaining basic housekeeping, laundry and/or simple food preparation to an assigned client.
  • Blitz – a service of several hours of major cleaning by a team of volunteers to provide relief from an
    overwhelming housekeeping situation with the intent of establishing a base line from which regular cleaning can be maintained.
  • Food hamper delivery for Central Okanagan Community Food Bank clients
  • Living Salads – the concept of community gardens provided with 15” indoor/outdoor full of renewable greens and tomatoes for harvest during the growing season.
  • Resource Line –help clients find resources such as help to move, legal aid, affordable cleaning services, tenancy issues, optional food resources, visitation, emotional support, medical supports and other community services.In 2016 we were thrilled to add new partnerships that have rocked our world and significantly impacted direct benefits to vulnerable “at risk” and complex care clients in our community.

Youth Action Teams
Combine four high school classes, practice and theory with real life problems and training. Kelowna Christian School Social Justice 12 student teams partnered with Hands in Service adult mentors to provide bi weekly in home service, meal preparation and delivery to clients.

“I’m extremely impressed with the youth from the school who were eager to jump in and help…my client…in a respectful and timely fashion.” Carrie Pettit RN BSN Interior Health Authority

This project built on the Social Justice Class concepts and acquired knowledge to allow students to recognize and understand the causes of injustice, develop an understanding of what it means to act in a socially just manner, become responsible agents of change and make positive contributions toward a socially just world. Students gained first-hand knowledge of the financial and physical limitations challenging our most vulnerable community members, providing students with a broader perspective of the value of volunteering, its social impact and of their community.

Team leaders mentored students and engaged clients; creating some ongoing, inter-generational and diverse community and continuity as they cooked and provided frozen meals, and with set teams served every week, twice a week, with alternating clients to provide food security and basic housekeeping services. We are excited about engaging and shaping our future leaders to carry on Canadian altruistic values. “They (Hands in Service) are actively engaging in passing along the values of volunteering to the next generation.” Client Jonathon

The introduction of this program has revolutionized our capacity and provided a sustainable model creating massive benefits in 2016 and for the future, for our clients, volunteers and the community.

  • Engaging students twice a week has effectively doubled service hours in one year
  • Adult team leader partnerships contributed to a total of 4680 mentoring hours
  • To facilitate the 150 new volunteers we adapted our orientation to include things like: What’s the right way to wash the dishes?; Why wear gloves?; What order do you clean things in the bathroom? Because these are things we need to know!
  • Almost eliminated our wait list for the first time in at least 10 years
  • Added bi-weekly service to 60 new clientsDevelopment and implementation of our Youth Action Teams (YAT) has consumed most of 2016 but we did manage to squeeze in some Other Highlights
  • Open House for new offices – hosting friends from about 40 organization – facilitating increased capacity; boy did we!
  • Attendance at Living on the Edge Poverty Simulation
  • Planting Edibles at the Greater Westside Board of Trade #JointheFoodMovement– collaboration with Central Okanagan Food Bank, Kelowna Christian School, Incredible Edibles, Hands in Service and other community partners for “a continuum of food security”.
  • Living Salads – largest distribution ever and incorporation of multi generations in assembly and delivery
  • Awareness and fundraising events – Magical Night of Laughter, Love·Gives·Back Campaign- Walk & Roll Walker-thon; highest percentage of clients in attendance!

    – Touch of Christmas Fair

  • Educating for the future with UBCO and Okanagan College students providing training opportunities and partnership to promote Hands in Service, producing our first commercial and facilitating two annual events.
  • Advocating for our community with – Lake Country Health Planning- United Way
    – Volunteer Opportunities Fair
    – Kelowna Community Food Assessment
    – Central Okanagan Handydart Action Coalition
    – The Scotiabank Centre for Non-Profit Excellence
  • Impacting our community with combined efforts of diverse organizations to address local needs and contribute to a high caliber of health and food security services through Volinspire, Kelowna Community Resource, Interior Health Community Care, Central Okanagan Food Bank, United Way Days of Caring with Bank of Montreal and Days of Difference with Interior Savings and Credit Union, Telus, Central Okanagan Foundation, Karis Society, Pathways Abilities and a range of about 60 different organizations.
  • And finally, we have embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, expressing 7 of the 17 Goals.and with less than 3 full time equivalent staff and our wonderful volunteers, in 2016 Hands in Service has delivered:
  • Almost 10,500 volunteer hours – an increase of 98% in direct client service hours
  • 4,680 mentoring hours – almost double last year
  • 607 in home visits averaging 2 hours each – an increase of 43%
  • 502 active volunteers representing more than 60 organizations and churches – an increase of 38%
  • Trained 150 new volunteers using our new and adapted online orientation
  • 2,213 individual services – an increase of 23%
  • A 16% reduction in administrative volunteer hours as we redirected to meet client service needs
  • 964 food hampers delivered – another consistent increase this year of 10%
  • 100`s of information and phone referrals
  • 304 Living Salads delivered – this program has increased every year since inception with another 15% this year
  • Costs to facilitate the basic housekeeping and other services through hired maids and other professionals could cost as much as $310,000.00 and would have none of the social benefits.
  • In kind donations of overhead costs, professional services and other in kind donations to assist Hands in Service and clients would easily account for another $50,000.00.“It’s heartwarming to know that we have such wonderful volunteer services available to help support some of our most vulnerable clients in our community.” Carrie Pettit RN BSN Interior Health Authority

    Never in our history have we doubled our service hours in a year. Love · Gives · Back is our privilege and honor as we contribute all we can to build a sustainable, supportive and caring community for now and as a legacy for the future.


Take Part!

Take Part logo - take that written in a speech bubbleI’ve never be afraid to give my opinion – whether you ask for it or not! Luckily, asking for opinions is becoming more common as different parts of our government seek to involve the public in decision making.

For disabled people, it’s crucial that we take part in these opportunities, whether they are aimed at just our community or, perhaps more importantly, opportunities that are aimed at everyone, so that the ideas of disabled people are included.

In Kelowna, the city has a page for citizens to “Get Involved” . On here, a wide variety of projects can be found – and taking part is as easy as sending in a question or completing a survey, or perhaps you could volunteer for a working group or a committee. For example, I completed a survey about street furniture for Downtown Kelowna. For me, it was important to say that the furniture should be constructed in such a way that I can drive up to them and be part of the group that are sat there. Some furniture layouts mean I can’t get close to Ian when he’s sitting there! Another area I took part in was to ask if the project to pilot a off leash dog beach would include wheelchair mats – because if it doesn’t, I can’t walk my dogs there. Hence, it’s important to get disabled people’s issues included in wider conversations.

One consultation that’s still open, until November 12th, relates to downtown parking. If that is something that concerns you, take part at this link.

Provincially, the NDP government wants to reinstate the BC Human Rights Commission. A quick primer: Each province has Human Rights act, and a mechanism to hear complaints against the act. In BC in 2002, the BC Liberal government removed the Human Rights Commission and replaced it with a Human Rights Tribunal – making BC the only province in Canada without a commission. But what’s the difference? A human rights tribunal simply hears individual complaints and rules on them, acting after the fact, whereas a human rights commission works proactively to educate to prevent discrimination from taking place as well as supporting those with complaints.

Consultation for this is taking place now! It’s important for you to give your views. Join the conversations!

The Federal government has taken steps to deliver on its goal of ‘open government’ by using its website to describe its aims.. By following the link to ‘open dialogue’ , you can see all the projects that the Federal government is currently asking for your views on. A  currently available discussion asks for your views on how open government will function from 2018 to 2020. It is important for the views of disabled people to be included in the plan going forward.

Disabled people are often invisible. Spaces are not designed for us, physically or socially, and we often feel unwelcome and therefore stop participating. Giving input and reminding those who are in positions of power that our views matter is not only easy to do, but crucial to creating actual change going forward.

Blogspot – Thud, Thud, Thud!

Blog logo Thud, thud, thud.

That’s the sound of years of disability rights activists banging their head against the wall as they work tirelessly, trying to achieve substantive change for disabled people.

Compared to some of the people I know, I’m a newbie at this ‘game’, and I’m still shocked, disappointed and angry. It feels like disabled people are so far behind in trying to achieve equity that they’re running a marathon while everyone else is doing the 100 metres.

Here’s my latest example, all around booking hotel rooms.

First, I need a hotel room for an MS Society conference. I’m travelling with an assistant so I need a room with two beds. None of the accessible rooms at the hotel where there conference is, have two beds. If a non-disabled person books a hotel room, they have a full range of choices of room type. Disabled people usually have one choice of room, and a choice that probably meets no-one’s needs by trying to find some sort of average level of accessibility.

So what are my choices? I can have a regular room with two beds, but I definitely won’t be able to use the bath or the shower, and I probably don’t fit in the bathroom. And getting around in the room will be very difficult – presuming I fit through the door! So now we try to see if there is a connecting room. Because it’s the MS Society, and a conference, there’s a good chance that a connecting room may be available for free, but if I was booking this as an individual? No chance.

I also have to travel again, two weeks later, for a DABC board meeting, again needing 2 beds in a room, in a different part of Kelowna. If a non-disabled person wants to book a hotel room, I’m guessing that you go on a website – like Expedia, or, or something – to see what’s the best rate you can get? For me, it’s phone calls and emails to see what the rooms are like, to see what accessible features the rooms actually have. Using websites like Expedia don’t work, because often the accessible rooms aren’t on there, or the description of the features isn’t detailed enough. The cost of the room is the final link in the chain. No special deals for us!

So what’s the solution? For me, there’s two things happening right now that need to come into play, as this is bigger than individuals trying to make changes happen one hotel chain at a time.  Hotels are provincially regulated, so while the new Federal Accessibility and Inclusion Legislation – or whatever it ends up being called – will help to raise the expectations on standards, it won’t help with this. The two things that need to happen are a proactive BC Human Rights Commission and robust BC Disabilities Act.

The BC Human Rights Commission was disbanded in 2002, but is being brought back by the new NDP government. Consultations are currently underway, and it is hoped that it will be running in 2018. However, it must be proactive and it must demonstrate by its action that it believes in the lived experience of disabled people.

Equally, BC needs a disability law. Once the federal law is in place, we will be left with a patchwork of coverage, based on what falls under federal or provincial legislation. It’s too confusing and leaves too many loopholes. This isn’t part of the NDP mandate, even though they have said they are interested in the past. Pressure is now needed to make it happen.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep emailing around, to try to find the magical combination of availability and accessibility.