Small Ideas: $10,000


Vecova’s Community Access program supports persons with disabilities to make connections in the community and increase their social, physical and mental wellbeing. In this program, persons with disabilities are able to explore their interest areas and create new experiences through many aspects of community life, such as:
• Leisure and recreation activities
• Volunteerism
• Pursuing education interests
• Developing meaningful relationships

Through this program, Vecova has come up with the Explore, Experience, Decide (EED) initiative, where participants will have the opportunity to engage in community-based activities that they would typically not do. The idea is to encourage Vecova’s participants to explore a new interest area through a community activity or event, and decide if they want to continue that experience or explore another interest.

Vecova’s Community Access team will work with the program participants to find activities that will allow them to explore their interests and interact with the community. Activities will be chosen to align with each individual’s service plan goals or areas of interest. For example, if participants have identified cooking as one of their goals and interests, the EED initiative would allow them to attend a cooking class and improve their skills.

The EED initiative will also emphasize the importance of community engagement, and include activities that encourage Vecova’s participants to interact with members of the community. To facilitate this, Vecova will plan activities in a way that encourages participants to talk to others in the activity, not just other Vecova participants or staff. If a group of participants are all attending a theatre show, seats will be purchased in separate areas of the theatre, so participants will be able to meet new people and engage with other audience members.

This year, Vecova has been able to test this program for the first time on a small scale. Activities were determined earlier in the year and scheduled from April to December. Community Access participants have been able to experience a variety of activities in the community, including theatre shows, cooking classes, local attractions and events like the Calgary Stampede. While some of the activities have yet to be completed, the feedback from Vecova’s program participants and staff has been overwhelmingly positive. The most common response from the feedback gathered was the opportunity participants had to interact with the people around them.

At a cooking class, Vecova’s participants were able to meet with the chef and staff at the venue, and mingle with other guests who shared their cooking station. We didn’t create a class just for Vecova - we participated in a regular class so the participants could experience the public interactions like anybody else. Five participants also had the opportunity to attend the Calgary Comic Expo, where they enjoyed meeting fellow attendees and talking to guests about their creative costumes.

Vecova hopes to make the community “better together” by providing an opportunity for our program participants to experience new activities with their fellow community members. These new activities serve as an opportunity for greater interactions, which educate the public that persons with disabilities are able to participate in society just like anybody else. With the support of the Aviva Community Fund, Vecova will be able to make the EED initiative a permanent part of the Community Access Program. In this way, Vecova will be able to support 97 participants as they explore interests and create connections that will benefit many other individuals in the wider community. If funding is received, Vecova will use it to effectively and efficiently plan activities for 2019.

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Vecova Centre for Disability Services and Research

Location: Calgary