Posts Tagged "local"

21May

People affected by ALS applaud provincial funding to support local clinical trials, research centre | CBC News

by admin

For the first time in nearly a decade, B.C. residents living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, can look forward to the resumption of clinical trials in their home province.

The provincial government has announced it is providing an additional $2 million to increase access to clinical trials, conduct more research and further support patients living with ALS in B.C. Last year, the province also gave $1 million to the ALS Society in the summer of 2020 to support its Project Hope fundraising efforts, which now totals $5.3 million. 

The money will establish an ALS research fellowship at the University of British Columbia.

The research clinician will work out of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH) at UBC and scientists will also work on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research, which will provide an opportunity for collaboration between these three neurodegenerative diseases. 

400 people in B.C. live with ALS

“Clinical trials are essential to drug development and confirming that treatments work to get them approved,” said Dr. Hannah Briemberg, medical director of the ALS clinic at the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver. “But also when you have a disease where you are realistically facing losses virtually every day, the ability to be proactive and be involved in something positive that is aiming to try to arrest the process, or slow the process, is I think, phenomenally therapeutic for people.”

It’s welcome news for the 400 people living with ALS in B.C., and for their families, who’ve had to access potentially life-changing treatments and therapies far from home — even in the midst of this pandemic year. Being able to access a clinic close to home would lessen the health and safety issues associated with travel, especially now.

For North Vancouver lawyer and dad Greg Gowe, the process has been overwhelming.

Gowe was diagnosed with ALS two years ago, at the age of 48. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

“Two years ago, I was a practising lawyer, and a baseball coach, and really active in the lives of my two kids, ” Gowe said. “That all changed with my ALS diagnosis at the age of 48. It was devastating.”

Equally crushing was the realization that clinical trials weren’t available in B.C.

Gowe turned to Google, and found an article online about Dr. Angela Genge at the Montreal Neurological Hospital, who was offering clinical trials, and hope.

“I emailed her on a Friday night and she replied the next day, asking how soon I could get to Montreal,” Gowe recalled. “My wife Adrienne and I flew out the following week.”

‘I’m living on borrowed time’

Over the past two years, he’s flown back and forth to Montreal 17 times. And recently Edmonton was added to the itinerary for another clinical trial.

“I’m done with travelling,” he said.

Gowe wants the provincial government and UBC to act swiftly to hire a research clinician and start up clinical trials within months, not years. Time, he noted, is something people living with ALS don’t have.

“We’re not living with our disability, we’re dying with our disability,” he said. “I’m living on borrowed time, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“If the government, UBC and other stakeholders apply a COVID mentality to ALS, there’s the possibility that we can start saving lives.”

20May

Poverty reduction grants addressing local needs in Kamloops

by admin

Vulnerable and low-income people in Kamloops will be better supported thanks to $25,000 in government funding for local poverty reduction strategies.

“Local governments are crucial in our efforts to reduce poverty in B.C. because the impacts of poverty are felt most keenly at the local level,” said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “By supporting local governments in the development of their own poverty reduction plans and projects, we’re ensuring they have the tools and resources to make a difference. As B.C. continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we know people still need extra support, and these grants do just that.”

These projects are from the second intake of the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program, administered by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). UBCM supports local government plans and projects designed to reduce poverty at a local level, as well as the Province’s poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC.

Kamloops will develop a post-emergency support services plan with the funding. Emergencies and disasters, such as floods or wildfires, can cause and exacerbate financial hardships, especially for people already experiencing poverty. This project will create a local action plan on how to best support people in the community in the aftermath of an emergency.

All projects will involve key community partners, such as community-based poverty reduction organizations, people with lived experience of poverty, businesses, local First Nations or Indigenous organizations.

“Local governments have called for a deeper provincial commitment to poverty reduction for many years now,” said Brian Frenkel, president, UBCM. “Our members also recognize that poverty is contextual and that our collective response needs to reflect the unique conditions and challenges in B.C.’s communities. We appreciate the support this program is providing for the development of local strategies and approaches.”

Throughout B.C., 10 projects spanning 12 local governments will receive a total of almost $350,000 from this intake. To qualify, projects, plans and strategies must focus on one or more of TogetherBC’s priority-action areas, which include families, children and youth, education and training, housing, employment income and social supports.

Quick Facts:

  • In 2019, the B.C. government provided $5 million to the UBCM to fund the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program.
  • In 2020, 63 local governments received a total of $1.6 million for 34 poverty reduction plans and projects.
  • The program includes two streams of funding:
    • up to $25,000 to develop or update poverty reduction assessments or plans; and
    • up to $50,000 to undertake local poverty reduction projects.
  • Municipalities and regional districts can partner and apply with other local governments for regional grants.
    • For regional applications, the funding maximum for both streams is $150,000.

Learn More:

TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/initiatives-plansstrategies/poverty-reduction-strategy/togetherbc.pdf

Learn more about the UBCM Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program grants: https://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/funding/lgps/poverty-reduction.html

20May

Poverty reduction grants addressing local needs in the Lower Mainland

by admin

Vulnerable and low-income people in Delta, Langley and Vancouver will be better supported thanks to $150,000 in government funding for local poverty reduction strategies.

“Local governments are crucial in our efforts to reduce poverty in B.C., because the impacts of poverty are felt most keenly at the local level,” said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “By supporting local governments in the development of their own poverty reduction plans and projects, we’re ensuring they have the tools and resources to make a difference. As B.C. continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we know people still need extra support, and these grants do just that.”

These projects are from the second intake of the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program, administered by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). UBCM supports local government plans and projects designed to reduce poverty at a local level, as well as the Province’s poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC.

The City of Langley and the Township of Langley will each receive $25,000 to create poverty reduction plans. These plans will be used to inform regional transportation planning and parks and recreation plans. The City of Delta will also receive $25,000 to create a poverty reduction plan that will focus on service needs in the community.

A collaborative project between The District of West Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver will receive $75,000. This project will develop a poverty reduction plan that will be created with public input.

“Everyone’s experience of poverty is unique, just as every community’s needs are unique,” said Susie Chant, MLA for North Vancouver. “This funding ensures that local governments can create plans specific to their communities, so we can recover and rebuild in a way that will ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Here in North Vancouver, we’ll be teaming up with our neighbours and taking the time to listen to people with lived experience and others to really understand what’s needed.”

All projects will involve key community partners, such as community-based poverty reduction organizations, people with lived experience of poverty, businesses, local First Nations or Indigenous organizations.

“Local governments have called for a deeper provincial commitment to poverty reduction for many years now,” said Brian Frenkel, president, UBCM. “Our members also recognize that poverty is contextual and that our collective response needs to reflect the unique conditions and challenges in B.C.’s communities. We appreciate the support this program is providing for the development of local strategies and approaches.”

Throughout B.C., 10 projects spanning 12 local governments will receive a total of almost $350,000 from this intake. To qualify, projects, plans and strategies must focus on one or more of TogetherBC’s priority-action areas, which include families, children and youth, education and training, housing, employment income and social supports.

Quick Facts:

  • In 2019, the B.C. government provided $5 million to the UBCM to fund the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program.
  • In 2020, 63 local governments received a total of $1.6 million for 34 poverty reduction plans and projects.
  • The program includes two streams of funding:
    • up to $25,000 to develop or update poverty reduction assessments or plans; and
    • up to $50,000 to undertake local poverty reduction projects.
  • Municipalities and regional districts can partner and apply with other local governments for regional grants.
    • For regional applications, the funding maximum for both streams is $150,000.

Learn More:

TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/initiatives-plansstrategies/poverty-reduction-strategy/togetherbc.pdf

Learn more about the UBCM Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program grants: https://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/funding/lgps/poverty-reduction.html

20May

Poverty reduction grants addressing local needs in northern communities

by admin

Vulnerable and low-income people in Houston, Kitimat and Smithers will be better supported thanks to almost $75,000 in government funding for local poverty reduction strategies.

“Local governments are crucial in our efforts to reduce poverty in B.C. because the impacts of poverty are felt most keenly at the local level,” said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “By supporting local governments in the development of their own poverty reduction plans and projects, we’re ensuring they have the tools and resources to make a difference. As B.C. continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we know people still need extra support, and these grants do just that.”

These projects are from the second intake of the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program, administered by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). UBCM supports local government plans and projects designed to reduce poverty at a local level, as well as the Province’s poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC.

Houston, Kitimat and Smithers will each receive approximately $25,000 to create poverty reduction plans for their communities. As part of the project, the municipalities will aim to understand how their specific industries, resources and rural location impacts people’s experience of poverty in their communities.

“The needs of people in northern communities are unique,” said Nathan Cullen, MLA for Stikine. “We don’t always have the same services as other communities, which can impact how people experience poverty. That’s why these grants, which allow communities to make poverty reduction plans at the local level, are so important. Everyone in our region deserves the opportunity to succeed, and this funding will help them do that.”

All projects will involve key community partners, such as community-based poverty reduction organizations, people with lived experience of poverty, businesses, local First Nations or Indigenous organizations.

“Local governments have called for a deeper provincial commitment to poverty reduction for many years now,” said Brian Frenkel, president, UBCM. “Our members also recognize that poverty is contextual and that our collective response needs to reflect the unique conditions and challenges in B.C.’s communities. We appreciate the support this program is providing for the development of local strategies and approaches.”

Throughout B.C., 10 projects spanning 12 local governments will receive a total of almost $350,000 from this intake. To qualify, projects, plans and strategies must focus on one or more of TogetherBC’s priority-action areas, which include families, children and youth, education and training, housing, employment income and social supports.

Quick Facts:

  • In 2019, the B.C. government provided $5 million to UBCM to fund the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program.
  • In 2020, 63 local governments received a total of $1.6 million for 34 poverty reduction plans and projects.
  • The program includes two streams of funding:
    • up to $25,000 to develop or update poverty reduction assessments or plans; and
    • up to $50,000 to undertake local poverty reduction projects.
  • Municipalities and regional districts can partner and apply with other local governments for regional grants.
    • For regional applications, the funding maximum for both streams is $150,000.

Learn More:

TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/initiatives-plansstrategies/poverty-reduction-strategy/togetherbc.pdf

Learn more about the UBCM Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program grants:
https://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/funding/lgps/poverty-reduction.html

20May

Poverty reduction grants addressing local needs in the Cariboo |BC Gov News

by admin

Vulnerable and low-income people in Quesnel and Williams Lake will be better supported thanks to $100,000 in government funding for local poverty reduction strategies.

“Local governments are crucial in our efforts to reduce poverty in B.C., because the impacts of poverty are felt most keenly at the local level,” said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “By supporting local governments in the development of their own poverty reduction plans and projects, we’re ensuring they have the tools and resources to make a difference. As B.C. continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we know people still need extra support, and these grants do just that.”

These projects are from the second intake of the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program, administered by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). UBCM supports local government plans and projects designed to reduce poverty at a local level, as well as the Province’s poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC.

Quesnel will receive $50,000 for a food redistribution pilot project that will create community connections with food providers and organizations that can accept and distribute food to those in need. The project will also evaluate whether a sustainable food redistribution model can be developed long term.

Williams Lake will also receive $50,000 for its Every Door the Right Door project. This community social service project will be comprised of many initiatives, including a digital literacy program and the development of a social enterprise program to provide opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment.

“The City of Quesnel was happy to partner with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) to bring the Food Redistribution Network to the implementation stage,” said Bob Simpson, mayor, City of Quesnel. “This Food Redistribution Network will increase local food security and will help shift the community away from an emergency-based charity model to one that is empowering, community driven and sustainable; all while reducing food waste. It was apparent after the CMHA conducted the Quesnel Community Food System Assessment that the community is in need of this project.”

All projects will involve key community partners, such as community-based poverty reduction organizations, people with lived experience of poverty, businesses, local First Nations or Indigenous organizations.

“Local governments have called for a deeper provincial commitment to poverty reduction for many years now,” said Brian Frenkel, president, UBCM. “Our members also recognize that poverty is contextual and that our collective response needs to reflect the unique conditions and challenges in B.C.’s communities. We appreciate the support this program is providing for the development of local strategies and approaches.”

Throughout B.C., 10 projects spanning 12 local governments will receive a total of almost $350,000 from this intake. To qualify, projects, plans and strategies must focus on one or more of TogetherBC’s priority-action areas, which include families, children and youth, education and training, housing, employment income and social supports.

Quick Facts:

  • In 2019, the B.C. government provided $5 million to the UBCM to fund the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program.
  • In 2020, 63 local governments received a total of $1.6 million for 34 poverty reduction plans and projects.
  • The program includes two streams of funding:
    • up to $25,000 to develop or update poverty reduction assessments or plans; and
    • up to $50,000 to undertake local poverty reduction projects.
  • Municipalities and regional districts can partner and apply with other local governments for regional grants.
    • For regional applications, the funding maximum for both streams is $150,000.

Learn More:

TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/initiatives-plansstrategies/poverty-reduction-strategy/togetherbc.pdf

Learn more about the UBCM Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program grants:
https://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/funding/lgps/poverty-reduction.html

18Sep

Woman awarded $35,000 after condo building refuses to accommodate wheelchair

by admin

A Nanaimo woman who uses a wheelchair has been awarded $35,000 in damages after the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found her condo board’s refusal to make the building accessible made her a “prisoner in her own home.”

In a Sept. 11 decision, the tribunal found that 76-year-old Ada Jacobsen was discriminated against because of her disability. The tribunal ordered the Eagle Point Bayview complex in Nanaimo to begin the process of making the building wheelchair-accessible and to give financial compensation to Jacobsen for injury to her dignity, feelings and self respect.

“Ms. Jacobsen has essentially been a prisoner in her own home,” wrote tribunal member Grace Chen. “Her sense of independence has been significantly reduced. Her enjoyment of life has been significantly impacted. Each time Ms. Jacobsen wants to go somewhere, she has to plan ahead with one of her friends so they can assist her.”

Jacobsen did not have mobility issues when she moved into the building in 2003, but as her health declined, she started using a wheelchair in 2016.

Because of three steps in the hallway leading from her second-floor suite to the elevator, Jacobsen was only able to leave or enter her suite if two friends helped her out of the wheelchair, supported her while she slowly walked up or down the steps and retrieved the wheelchair.

She said a platform from the front door to the parking lot is too steep and she has previously lost control on the way down, rolling into the car of a friend who was waiting to pick her up.

Jacobsen started asking the strata for accommodation of her mobility issues in 2014, before she used a wheelchair. She requested a small portable ramp that could help her navigate the stairs independently.

In December 2016, the property manager told Jacobsen that a ramp was not feasible because it would restrict access in the hallway. In February 2018, the property manager told Jacobsen in an email that the strata had contacted three contractors, who said a wheelchair ramp or lift could not be built. Jacobsen testified that the property manager told her to “just move.”

Testifying on behalf of the strata, Melissa Austin told the tribunal that out of 32 units in the building, only three residents have mobility issues.

That perspective is problematic, because it suggests accommodation should be assessed against the number of people who need accommodation, Chen wrote. “The duty to accommodate is not focused on what is best for the majority.”

Jacobsen also testified that in May 2018, after she filed her complaint, the strata voted to spend $110,000 from its contingency fund for a major renovation project that included new carpets, tiles, paint, lighting, door trim and hardware, and signs. Jacobsen said some of that money could be spent accommodating her disability.

Chen found that while the strata did make some changes, such as installing handrails on both sides of the hallway — albeit after an unreasonable period of delay — it did not take all reasonable steps to remove the disability related barriers. The tribunal ordered the strata to obtain architectural drawings to install a lift or external elevator in the hallway.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

© Copyright Times Colonist

23Jun

Buying local, buying fresh flourishing in Cowichan Valley

by admin

People in the Cowichan Valley and Victoria will have better, safer access to fresh home-delivered, locally grown produce and products, thanks to a Job Creation Partnership project funded by the provincial government.

The Cowichan Valley Co-Operative Marketplace (Cow-op), a non-profit farmer and food processor co-operative, will receive nearly $100,000 to develop a contactless home delivery system while supporting farmers and processors in the region. Two local eligible job seekers will have the opportunity to build transferable skills in logistics, operations and community engagement until May 2021.

“The past few months have highlighted the importance of food security, as well as adaptability to deliver food from farm to table during COVID-19,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Looking forward, Cow-op’s innovative contactless home delivery system will provide training and work experience for two local individuals, while developing a safe way to deliver fresh, healthy food to buyers and supporting farmers to grow and sell their products sustainably.”

Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, said: “I’m pleased to see that the Cow-op marketplace will continue to build on their model of providing fresh local food from field to front door. This service directly supports the health and well-being of families in the agriculture business and those who enjoy their products, and helps build food security and resiliency in Cowichan.”

The Cow-op is an initiative of the Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace in partnership with Cowichan Green Community. It has been providing an online marketplace for locally grown and harvested food since 2014.

“When the main sales avenues for local farmers disappeared during the pandemic, the Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace and its online farmers market, Cow-op.ca, became a lifeline for them,” said Derrick Pawlowski, executive director, Cow-op.ca. “We are thrilled to provide a wide range of experiences to participants and hopefully will inspire more passionate work in the sectors of food security, natural resources and agriculture, and sales and services.”

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction is providing the funding to Cow-op through the Job Creation Partnership stream of WorkBC’s Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP).

Quick Facts:

  • Over $19 million was invested in CEP projects around B.C. in 2019-20.
  • CEP’s goal is to increase employment and work experience opportunities in communities throughout B.C.

Learn More:

Learn more about how WorkBC can help find British Columbians jobs that are right for them: www.workbc.ca/rightforyou

Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace: https://cow-op.ca/

2Jun

Local governments to develop poverty reduction action plans

by admin

Community-based supports for vulnerable and low-income people throughout B.C. are being boosted through a series of local government poverty reduction initiatives.

With grants from the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program, 54 local governments throughout the province, through 29 projects, will develop poverty reduction plans and projects that directly support people in their communities.

“Poverty is a complex issue without a singular solution. It requires the co-ordination and partnership of all levels of government, organizations, businesses, communities and individuals,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “These projects will empower local governments to create on-the-ground solutions for poverty that are tailored to the needs of their communities.”

The 29 projects are receiving $1.4 million, which is from a $5-million provincial grant to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM). The grant is part of the Province’s commitment to partner with local governments and communities in poverty reduction initiatives, as part of TogetherBC, B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy.

“The dynamics of poverty change from community to community. This provincial funding program supports local governments as they work with partners to develop strategies that address the unique dynamics of poverty in local communities,” said Maja Tait, president of UBCM. “The strong response to this program from all corners of the province demonstrates the need for community-based strategies that address the needs of low-income residents.” 

The funded projects include plans to develop local poverty reduction strategies, resources and related initiatives, including projects to improve food security, develop affordable housing and increase access to public transportation. The successful proposals involve key sectors of the community, including people with lived experience, poverty reduction organizations, businesses and local First Nations and Indigenous organizations. The initiatives in the first round of applications are anticipated to be completed within one year and a second intake is expected to be announced later in 2020.

“Receiving this grant will provide several vital benefits to the community of Stewart. As we partner with UBCM and various community stakeholders, this unified approach will improve the social, nutritional and academic well-being of vulnerable families,” said Gina McKay, mayor, District of Stewart. “The funding received will assist to provide essential resources to people presently in need and will also enable training, education and support to empower sustainable healthy lifestyles in the future.”

Delivering on the Poverty Reduction Strategy is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

A backgrounder follows.

13Feb

Helping communities better understand local homelessness

by admin

To better understand local issues to help municipalities and local organizations best support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, government is conducting a second provincial homeless count.

The Province is partnering with the Homelessness Services Association of BC (HSABC) and BC Housing to complete 16 community counts throughout the province in March and April. Government has provided $900,000 to support the community counts, pilot an extended count in two communities and support additional research on homelessness among Indigenous peoples.

Data from the counts will provide a better understanding of homelessness in British Columbia. This information will be used to improve supports and services, measure progress in addressing homelessness and increase public awareness.

“Homelessness in B.C. continues to be a struggle for people, and the barriers that they face vary in different communities,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Our second provincial homeless count is a way that, together, we can get a clearer understanding of what homelessness looks like in order to better support some of the most vulnerable people in B.C.”

The homeless counts give government a better sense of the complex challenges that people are facing. This initiative is part of informing the Province’s actions to tackle homelessness in B.C., as outlined in the Province’s first poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC. The strategy, released in 2019, outlines programs and policies across government that will lift people out of poverty by removing barriers, creating social inclusion and continuing to focus on reconciliation.

The Province will use new and complementary methods in 2020. Two communities, Cranbrook and Port Alberni, will pilot extended, multi-day counts to provide information on people who may be missed in a one-day count. Government will work with Indigenous partners to highlight Indigenous perspectives of homelessness and create effective strategies for addressing and preventing homlessness among Indigenous peoples.

“HSABC is working with our members and partners in participating communities to implement the 2020 homeless counts,” said Stephen D’Souza, executive director, HSABC. “It is the work of these local organizations that ensures the counts are a success. Across the province, there are teams of volunteers helping conduct the count and hosting community events for people to count themselves in.

“We are still seeking volunteers to help with the homeless counts. This is a great opportunity for you to get involved with organizations working to help those in need in your community.”

Addressing poverty and homelessness are shared priorities between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and are part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Quick Facts:

  • Organizations are recruiting volunteers to support local homeless counts.
  • The report from the 2018 homeless count stated that at least 7,655 people were experiencing homelessness.
  • Indigenous peoples and former youth in care are significantly over-represented in the homeless population.

Learn More:

To find out more about volunteering in your community, visit HSABC’s volunteer webpage:
http://hsa-bc.ca/bc-homeless-count/

2018 Report on Homeless Counts in B.C.:
https://www.bchousing.org/research-centre/housing-data/homeless-counts

TogetherBC, B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy

A backgrounder follows.

21Jan

Local performing arts festival strives for greater audience accessibility | CBC News

by admin

Organizers of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival will offer a host of accessibility-related resources and initiatives to ensure people with special needs can still enjoy the performing arts. 

“It basically means that we try to take away some barriers,” Anika Vervecken, PuSh’s accessibility co-ordinator, told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC’s The Early Edition

The theatre, music and multimedia festival kicked off it’s 16th year on Jan. 21. Performances will run until Feb. 9. 

For deaf audience members, certain performances will feature ASL-interpretation, captions and so-called surtitles. For blind attendees, the festival has worked with VocalEye, a Canadian live descriptive arts service, to develop audio descriptions of some visual-heavy shows.

And then there are “Relaxed Performances” intended to cater to the needs of people who might not feel comfortable at a typical theatre or visual performance. 

For instance, some Relaxed Performances will take place with the house lights on to accommodate those who become distressed by sitting in the dark. Other times, artists may be asked to exclude extreme visual simulation, like strobe lights, that could disturb audience members who suffer from sensor sensitivities. 

In some cases, Relaxed Performances may even include spoilers.

“For somebody with autism, just the experience of going into a new space can be so overwhelming,” said Vervecken. “So, we actually give them a visual story that says everything that’s going to happen.”

People living with Tourette’s and verbal tics or folks who struggle to sit still and would prefer not stay in their chair are all welcome, added Vervecken. 

“That’s all OK,” she said. “I always say the only thing that’s not allowed in a Relaxed Performance is shushing. If you want to do that, then please come to an ‘uptight performance.'”

According to the festival, some of the most accessible performances this year include FRONTERA, Cuckoo and Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story.

PuSh Festival is not the first Vancouver performing arts group to promote greater audience accessibility. The Cultch, Bard on the Beach and the Arts Club Theatre Company have all featured VocalEye, Relaxed Performances and other resources.

But how do the artists feel about adjusting their work or accommodating what would typically be seen as unwanted audience disruptions? Vervecken said the response has been positive.

 “One of the shifts that I’m seeing that I’m really happy about is that people are starting to consider [accessibility] earlier and earlier in their process.”

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