Diverse Abilities

Gina Martin

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Youth aDAPT 
Disability Awareness Program & Training for Youth

Gina, holding a plaque with the accessible wheelchair symbol.  She is standing in front of the class with props behind her to teach the students what disabilities are and what they are not.I have been delivering a disability awareness program to youth in Greater Victoria schools, grades Kindergarten through 8, since 2019. As of February 2023, I have proudly presented to over 100 classes! I teach based on my 30 years of lived experience with disabilities as I promote dignity, respect, equality, understanding, and kindness. I provide a safe, comfortable, and non-judgmental environment for students to express their curiosity, have a positive experience and ask any question they may have. Youth in attendance learn valuable and helpful lessons on disabilities that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives when communicating with, interacting with, and assisting people living with disabilities. This includes learning practical ways to be supportive of their classmates who have a disability.

This introduction to disability awareness teaches youth what a disability is, and how the diagnosis affects each individual person differently. They learn what the word disability means, but most of all, they learn what it does not mean. We discuss that disability can affect any person through an accident, an illness. or the natural process of aging. 

I present material about disabilities to the students in an age-appropriate manner that fosters empathy, compassion, and Gina standing at front of a room filled with students during a school presentation. She is holding up her hand, teaching the students how to form the letter F in sign language, using their hands.understanding toward people living with disabilities. Students get to experiment with accomplishing tasks as a person with a disability would need to. It’s an experience that demonstrates how difficult some daily tasks are for people whose body or brain works differently from the mainstream. From this experience and the questions I ask following the experience, we have meaningful discussions on how they felt while doing the task. We then have a discussion of things they could have done that would make that task easier, and how they could help someone who is unable to do tasks the same way as most. Students are shown some tools and devices that people with disabilities may use to assist themselves to accomplish everyday activities. This demonstrates to the students that people living with disabilities can do things the able-bodied community can do, only we adapt and do them a bit differently. 

Language is one of the most powerful tools we have. We can lift each other up with our words or knock each other down. Youth in attendance learn to be mindful of the words they choose to use when speaking about themselves or others. Additionally, aDAPT for Youth teaches attendees the preferred language to use and the language to avoid. This use of language promotes respect, dignity, and kindness toward all. I emphasize that it is not difficult to be nice, so just be kind.

Youth adapt table display. Props and material are displayed on a table with a covering saying.aDAPT There is a sign language and braille poster behind the table that is part of the program teaching.

Most disabilities are non-apparent. Students learn how to recognize this and how to be supportive of their classmates and others who may have either a non-apparent or an apparent disability, and need to do things differently to accomplish a task. Students learn new ways to problem solve and how to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. 

Accessibility is more than a parking spot, ramp, or a bathroom. They learn that accessibility applies to websites and everyday use products, and the reality of people being excluded from buying or using a product because it lacks necessary accessible features. Students have brilliant minds and some may put this information to use in the future to develop products and tools with accessibility in mind!

Every person is deserving of dignity and respect, and every student deserves to have their best experience in school. The feedback I’ve received from teachers and students who have attended my class demonstrates that learning directly from people with lived experiences around disability is an impactful experience.  It also demonstrates the wonderful ability of children to grasp and embrace new information, to want very much to understand the world around them, and to have a positive impact on others.

This is not a funded program, at this time. Pricing for this program is $150 per session. Schools / youth groups that book multiple presentations at the same location for the same day, receive a 20% discount.

If you would like to contribute financially for those who cannot afford a Youth aDAPT presentation, please email me your requested designation for your donation. You may donate through e- transfer here on our website and the funds will be used to provide presentations at no cost to the school or organization that books it. Your donation will be posted on my Business Google Review Page once used. Your privacy will be respected if you prefer to remain anonymous, and only the amount of the donation and what it was used for will be identified.  
Use this email to send eTransfer:  [email protected] 
Thank You.