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The Canadian Adaptive Network society thank the sponsors and attendees for making the Disability Awareness Night so wonderful.

CAN's objective was to generate awareness about who and what we are, and to raise money for our coming project. The goal of our coming project is to generate reliable information and increase awareness in order to produce improvements in accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in the Elk Valley. Read more here.

For those of you who couldn't attend here is the agenda from the evening:


Welcome and Introduction by Scott Courtemanche

“Yes I Can” Video

CAN Introduction by Stella Swanson

“Ascend” Video

Presenting & Q and A by Tanelle Bolt

“Rob Engil” Video

“I’mPossible” Introduction by Scott Courtemanche

“I’mPossible” video

Presenting & Q and A by Grace Brulotte

Supporter and Volunteer Thanks by Dan Savage

We thank the following individuals and businesses for their generosity:

Angela Morgan
Beyond the Summit
Big Bang Bagels
Canyon Rafting Company
Claris Media
Columbia Basin Trust
Elevation Showcase
Fernie Alpine Resort - Summit Fund
Fernie Brewing Company
Fernie Fix
Fernie RV Resort
Fernie Wilderness Adventures
GearHub Sports
Giv’er Shirtworks
Healing Hollow
John Poirier
Kyle Hamilton and Colleen Gentemann for the film “I’mPossible”
Kyle Hamilton Photography
Logan Bonwell for the film “Rob Engil”
Park Place Lodge
Polar Peak Books
Savage Marketing
Simon Perkins for the film “Ascend”
Ski Base
Spa 901
Swanson Environmental Strategies
Tanelle Bolt
Rooftop Coffee Roasters
The Royal

The Canadian Adaptive Network is hosting the second annual Fernie Disability Awareness Night. This exciting evening will be held at the Max Restaurant in the Park Place Lodge on June 2nd starting at 6:00pm.

“The debut of Disability Awareness Night last year was hugely successful”, said Grace Brulotte, event organizer. “It supported Project Heli and Fernie Adaptive Snow Program, bringing in over $6000 in funds raised. The Canadian Adaptive Network is honoured to take on the event this year, which promises to be just as inspiring and engaging.”

The greatly anticipated community premiere of “I’mPossible”, a documentary of the first female tandem sit skier to heliski in Canada, starring Grace Brulotte and Scott Courtemanche will be shown. Also to be featured are the inspirational short films “Ascend” and “Rob Enigl”. Special guest speakers include Tanelle Bolt of the RAD Adapted Society, Grace Brulotte, and Stella Swanson of the Canadian Adaptive Network.

Grace Brulotte is a smiley 22 year old, born and raised in Fernie BC. She has a condition called Arthrogryposis, which stiffens the joints of the body, and relies on a power wheelchair to maintain her busy lifestyle. When Grace was 14 years old, she was introduced to inclusive sports through sit skiing, which she fell in love with at every turn. This new discovery ultimately brought her to founding FIRE, the first adaptive skiing program to operate at Fernie Alpine Resort, of which she has been the president and program manager for six years. Always eager to face new challenges, in April 2017 Grace became the first female tandem sit skier to heliski in Canada. "I'mPossible", a film starring Grace and her ski partner Scott Courtemanche, was created to document this adventure. Grace is very passionate about adaptive adventure, and has since then pursued activities such as stand up paddle boarding and mountain biking. Grace's hope is to continue promoting inclusion for those with disabilities through the Canadian Adaptive Network. Grace's words to live by come from the late Stephen Hawking, “There should be no boundaries to human endeavour. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope.”

Stella Swanson is a Fernie resident who feels privileged to live in a beautiful place that has a strong sense of community. Stella’s career has included the facilitation of diverse groups of people united around specific issues and that is how she originally joined the CAN team – she facilitated our Visioning Workshop last December. Stella’s background in environmental science provides experience in project design and management. We hope to put Stella’s project experience to good use as we start implementing the first phase of a program aimed at creating greater understanding and awareness of barriers to participation in community life by people with disabilities and to identify opportunities for greater inclusion through social and physical accessibility improvements. Stella is also a senior citizen, so she brings personal experience of the challenges and barriers we face as we age.

Don’t miss out on spectacular silent auction items generously donated by local Fernie businesses. Funds raised from this years silent auction will go to the Canadian Adaptive Network. CAN’s goal is to create inclusive opportunities and demonstrate that disability is just a variation of the human experience. To accomplish this, the plan is to undertake a broad, multi-year, multi-community project, which will generate reliable information and increase awareness in order to produce improvements in accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in the Elk Valley. This includes a community assessment of services and accessibility, as well as school tours using “I’mpossible” to promote inclusion.

Tickets for this jam-packed evening of good food, inspirational movies, speeches, and a silent auction can be purchased ONLINE HERE or by visiting Elevation Showcase or GearHub Sports.

Scott Courtemanche and Grace Brulotte downtown Fernie. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press


Of the 113 businesses in Fernie’s downtown core, 48 are not accessible to physically disabled persons. This includes individuals who are elderly or wheelchair bound.

Twenty-one-year-old Grace Brulotte was born in Fernie with a rare condition known as Arthrogryposis. This condition has caused her to be wheelchair-bound since the age of four, as the condition stiffens her joints, giving them only a few degrees of flexibility. It also decreases muscle tone and removes muscle memory. She describes the wheelchair accessibility in Fernie like ‘living in the 60s’.

Despite being born and raised in the mountain town, she has yet to experience many of the things that people do when first arriving.

“I have never seen the inside of city hall,” said Brulotte. “I’ve heard that it’s really pretty but I wouldn’t know.”

“She (Brulotte) is an original Fernieite and she was born here,” said her caretaker, Scott Courtemanche. “So she should have all the same advantages that every other kid growing up here has had, but she hasn’t.”

Brulotte strives to experience life as fully, and as independently as she can.

“When I can’t get into a store, the rejection that I feel is hard to describe… It’s almost like a very subtle form of discrimination that most people just don’t acknowledge because you have to be able to experience it in order to know it,” said Brulotte.

Despite her physical limitations, Brulotte is an avid sit-skier. She was recently sponsored by Elevation Showcase, but could not enter the building. However, the small barrier which prevented her from entering was solved with the creation of a simple wooden ramp which the store now keeps behind their door when not in use.

“Most of the stores downtown; that would be the solution. A really easy wooden ramp which could be pulled out,” she said.

Brulotte recently had a friend visit from the United States, who is also wheelchair-bound. She couldn’t wait to show him many of the iconic spots around town, including La Grande Fromage as well as Big Bang Bagels. However, his aid had to haul him over the steps in his manual chair. This would not be possible in a motorized chair which can weight upwards of 500 pounds on their own. Brulotte said her friend was blown away by the lack of accessibility in Fernie.

Courtemanche also believes a lack of accessibility exists, and says it affects many groups of people. He said that Fernie has an aging population, and believes they are being forgotten about and ignored.

According to Patrick Sorfleet, Manager of Planning with the City of Fernie, barrier-free design is mandatory for all new buildings under the B.C. Building Code. The difference in the downtown core, is when you have pre-existing buildings. It is standard practice in B.C. Building Code, that if an owner builds a house today, and the building code changes in 10 years, they are not required to change their home. Only when an occupancy is changing, is a business required to upgrade to the current code (eg. retail shop to restaurant). Because the B.C. Building Code is a provincially regulated system, it is not something the City can regulate or go above. However, a business can take the initiative to upgrade to a barrier-free entrance of their own free will. Every case is specific, and the City encourages any business interested in looking into this matter to contact the City of Fernie.

Brulotte believes there are many misconceptions surrounding the issue of accessibility.

“People have said to me, ‘well, we don’t see a lot of disabled people around Fernie, you might be one of the only ones.’ And I say yeah, there’s a reason you don’t see people with disabilities downtown.”

According to a 2013 Disability Consultation Report by the Government of British Columbia: Moving Together Toward an Accessibile B.C., about 546,760 people in B.C. identify as having a disability which represents 14. 8 per cent of British Columbians over 15 years of age.

“If things were to change, you would see a lot more of us coming out and being more active in the community.”

She believes an important step in solving this is first of all, recognizing that accessibility is an issue in town, as well as recognizing that it wouldn’t take much to fix it.

Brulotte has remained in Fernie despite these limitations because of her love for the town, its people, and her deep family roots.

The young local was the muscle behind the creation of the Fernie Adaptive Skiing program, of which there are 21 members.

The Fernie Trails Alliance is looking to create an adaptive trail system in the future, which Brulotte believes will attract a whole new demographic of tourists to Fernie. More information on this will be posted as this project progresses.

Source: The Free Press