From Recreation to Mentorship: Getting Involved with People with Disabilities

From Recreation to Mentorship: Getting Involved with People with Disabilities

By: Jien Hilario
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This story is part of the series, I Am Able: From Art to Advocacy, an Insider's View of Students Living with a Disability by Jien Hilario 

If we want to really get to know a certain group, we have to spend time with that group to fully understand their needs, struggles, and wants. For example, working with people with disabilities can allow you to understand more about their experiences, as well as debunk myths and misconceptions. 

Opportunities to work with people with disabilities are varied, including experiences such as tutoring or mentoring for individuals with learning disabilities, fundraising or advocating for accommodating needs, or assisting others to access activities like outdoor recreation and nature exploration.

Here are some unique and engaging opportunities you can explore.

Paddleboarding is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world, and is reportedly one of the fastest growing sports for people with disabilities. Accessible Paddleboarding has modified paddleboards designed for wheelchair use with a surf chair that locks in place.

The Disabled Sailing Association, located at Jericho Beach in Vancouver, helps people with disabilities to sail. Sailing in specially designed boats has allowed people with physical disabilities a level of freedom, independence and inclusivity, and has allowed them to compete directly against able-bodied participants.

 Another opportunity is to help people with disabilities go hiking with the ‘TrailRider’, a specially designed wilderness access vehicle that can help transport people with disabilities if given assistance by a volunteer. This and more wilderness recreation opportunities can be accessed through the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society. 

There are volunteer opportunities with people with developmental disabilities and neurological disorders, like Minds in Motion. The program blends physical exercise with games and activities for those with “early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia to enjoy with a friend or family member”.

You don’t even have to leave campus to volunteer with those with disabilities. The Autism Mentorship Initiative, run by the Centre for Students with Disabilities, is a program that pairs volunteer mentors with students with Autism. You can help another student succeed in university by increasing their “sense of inclusion in the academic and campus community” while getting to know the experiences of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

There needs to be a better understanding between people with disabilities and nondisabled people, and nondisabled people can realize so many things when they start volunteering for and with people with disabilities. By increasing understanding about disabilities and their effect on peoples’ lives, those with and without disabilities can work together to ensure a fair and just society.

Image Credit: Omar Lopez

about author

Jien HilarioJien Hilario is an SFU alumni with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. She has written multiple articles about volunteerism, rights, abilities and disabilities and is passionate about sharing her story about personal and professional development. Author Bio

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Posted on March 29, 2018