James Hill Elementary students donned baking mitts to open pill bottles, doctored goggles to try and pour a glass of water, and strained to push themselves in wheelchairs.
The lesson on this day was to see a bit of what it’s like to live with a disability. The school played host to an interactive display called Try On A Disability (TOAD).
About 250 students took part in the session which capped off Diversity and Inclusivity Week in the Langley School District.
“We were looking at different forms of diversity,” explained principal Chris Wejr.
While doing research to try and find a presentation on disabilities, they found out there was an option right in their own community.
TOAD is an initiative by Langley Pos-Abilities Society, and while the program has been offered in past at local community events, Friday will be the first time the program is being taken into a local school, announced founder Zosia Ettenberg.
“James Hill Elementary is the first school who has invited us, and we hope that it will be the first of many,” Ettenberg said.
The new school program includes a short talk called “person first, disability last,” to encourage young people to see the person and not just the challenge or disability, Ettenberg said.
That’s followed by a chance for the kids to try on disabilities, including various forms of sight impairment, arthritis, and stroke.
They also had to manoeuvre a wheelchair in order to position themselves to try and shoot a basketball. Ettenberg explained to the students that although she required a wheelchair, she’s still active. She can be found each week at the Langley Curling Club, on the ice, doing the sport.
“We believe that if you can understand the challenges that people face living with a disability, you can accept and include them in your circle of friends. If you start when you are young it will gradually change our community.”
Pos-Abilitites is a non-profit organization started in town eight years ago to help Langley residents change disabilities into possibilities, she explained. It’s intentions are to help local people living with disabilities by providing quality assistive devices for those who could not otherwise afford them, serve as a liaison with other organizations and programs that can help people further their independence, and focus on public education.
“We are so excited because we are hoping to be visiting all the schools in Langley with this program, as well as businesses, to work with their staff,” she said.
To book a TOAD event or find out more about the local organization, people can go online to www.pos-abilities.org.