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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.

In March 1985, Rick Hansen set out on the Man in Motion World Tour which set the stage for his life’s work – a journey that opened the eyes of the world to the potential of people with disabilities. The Rick Hansen Foundation was established as a Canadian charity in 1988 and has since been dedicated to Rick’s life-long goal of creating an inclusive world where people with disabilities are living to their full potential.

For three decades, the Foundation has raised awareness, changed attitudes, and removed barriers for people with disabilities, as well as fund spinal cord injury research and care. While they’ve made great strides towards creating an accessible and inclusive world, there’s still more work to be done.

The vision is an inclusive world where people with disabilities are living to their full potential.

Their mission is to inspire leaders, influencers, and the public to join Rick Hansen in creating a global movement to remove barriers in the built environment and thereby liberate the potential of people living with disabilities.

They develop programs and initiatives that raise awareness, change attitudes and remove barriers for people with disabilities in the built environment. Learn more about their awareness and accessibility programs and initiatives.

At CAN we plan to work closely with the Rick Hansen Foundation to help Elk Valley Residents gain access to their communities and being accessible is good for business. Here’s why.

We want the freedom to move easily and safely through our own communities. We want to work, shop, play, and learn wherever we call home. Essentially, we want to get to where we need to go, and accomplish what we need to do.

When people with disabilities are unable to enter or make their way through a building, whether it’s a business, an office, or a community centre, we lose their potential. As a valued employee. A loyal customer. An active participant. Even if it’s unintentional, the message they receive is that their needs are different and, for whatever reason, can’t be met.

Canada prides itself on being a country that champions diversity and cares for its people. Improving accessibility is one more way to do that. It naturally encourages inclusion. And it makes our communities stronger and more sustainable.

“It isn’t negotiable,” Rick Hansen said in a CBC interview in 2016, on the issue of improved access. “We’re not just saying [to people with disabilities], ‘You’re lucky to get in the building.’ You’re a Canadian – you get in the building.”

With one in five Canadian adults expected to have a disability by 2036, due in part to our aging population, it’s critical we rethink how we access and use all our spaces.

The bottom line: Improving access is the right thing to do.

But did you know there’s another bottom line to consider? It’s a big one. Improving the accessibility of our business and institutions will have a huge economic impact, adding billions of dollars to our economy every year.

Information About CAN
The Canadian Adaptive Network is a registered Society based in the Elk Valley.

CAN is a catalyst for creation of an inclusive society where people with functional limitations have equal opportunity to participate in activities of their choosing and be defined by who they are, rather than by what they can or cannot do.

Build a collaborative network for the coordination of services, creation of effective communication, reinforcement of existing organizations, and provision of a gateway for information regarding best practices, standards for adaptive design, and flexible and diverse programs and facilities aimed at achieving readily recognizable and measurable change.
The purposes of CAN include:
• Fostering awareness of the needs of persons with functional limitations;
• Improving the quality of life for all persons, including persons with functional limitations;
• Increasing awareness of social issues, particularly for those persons with functional limitations;
• Engaging in educational activities to change perceptions of persons with functional limitations and to provide informational resources to persons with functional limitations; and,
• Providing networking opportunities for other organizations and individuals with similar purposes.

CAN: Everyone wants access.

Functional limitations are defined as any way, mentally or physically, in which a person’s condition affects their ability to function on a day to day basis.
Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives (International Classification of Function - World Health Organization).

Debate continues regarding the use of the term “disability”; however, because of its broad definition as well as its widespread use in everyday language, CAN uses both “functional limitations” and “disability” in its communications.

Project Background
This application is for Phase 1 of a broader, multi-year, multi-community project. The goal of the broader 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 and, eventually, the rest of the East Kootenays and beyond.

Project Goals and Objectives
The goals of Phase 1 are to achieve 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. The objectives of Phase 1 are: (1) Assess and distribute information on the quality, accessibility and affordability of existing facilities and services in Fernie and nearby RDEK Area A locations against national and global standards; (2) Collect and evaluate information on how persons with disabilities or functional limitations participate in meaningful activities in Fernie, Area A RDEK, Elkford and Sparwood (3) increase awareness among school students, teachers and parents; and, (4) identify accessibility gaps to be filled. Objective (4) will include identification of economic and social benefits of specific accessibility and inclusion projects.

Phase 1 Outcomes
• Three CAN members will become Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification professionals
• Project team members will learn and apply mapping skills for production of on-line map products
• Fernie and RDEK personnel will learn from the CAN deliverables about compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards
• Fernie and RDEK planning and construction personnel will learn from the CAN deliverables about planning, designing, and constructing the social and physical environment from the perspective of people with disabilities.

• Officials and the public will better understand the current accessibility situation in Fernie and nearby locations in RDEK Area A
• School students, teachers and parents in Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford will have increased awareness regarding the need to create inclusive and accessible communities
• Officials and the public will learn about the social and economic benefits of increased accessibility
• The online accessibility tool can become a tool for continuous improvement

• Increased awareness will influence officials and business owners and lead them to incorporate social and physical accessibility into their plans
• Increased public awareness will elevate the issue of accessibility and inclusion in public discourse and the political process
• increased public awareness will improve the quality of social interactions for people with disabilities due to changes in the public’s attitude

Phase 1 Deliverables

1. Accessibility database and map for the City of Fernie and nearby areas of RDEK Area A
2. Documentary film showings with discussions at Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford schools; the film features a CAN board member, Grace Brulotte, as she heli-skis – illustrating what people with disabilities can do. Questions from students as well as their reactions will be noted and reported.
3. Literature review of inclusive communities, social and physical accessibility and definitions and standards resource list.
4. Research Report - “How do persons with disabilities or functional limitations participate in meaningful activities in Fernie, Area A RDEK, Elkford and Sparwood?”
5. A report which presents accessibility gaps and opportunities for improvement in the City of Fernie and nearby areas of RDEK Area A.

Measures of Success
• Several other organizations collaborate with CAN
• Funding for Phase 1 is obtained from additional sources
• Acceptance of the findings of Phase 1 by health care professionals and by individuals with functional limitations
• Fernie and RDEK Area A decision-makers accept and apply the findings of Phase 1
• The online accessibility resource is widely used and people provide input to the resource for continuous improvement
• The project leads to completed accessibility and inclusion projects in Fernie and RDEK Area A
• Future funding for the next phase of the overall project is obtained

Project Methods

Accessibility Assessment

CAN personnel who have obtained their Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification will conduct the assessment of accessibility in the City of Fernie and nearby locations in RDEK Area A (e.g., Fernie Alpine Resort, Island Lake Lodge, Mount Fernie Provincial Park). Public buildings and spaces and commercial buildings will be the focus of the assessment. Information will be captured in real time using portable electronic devices such as tablets and transferred to a standardized database. The database format will be chosen from among readily available, practical, and flexible database frameworks available free or at low cost. Information from the database will be transferred to on-line resource tools which can be accessed from mobile phones, tablets, and computers.

Literature Review and Interviews
The research component of Phase 1 will consist of a literature review and key informant interviews.
The research question is “How do persons with disabilities or functional limitations participate in meaningful activities in the Elk Valley?”

Relevant literature will be reviewed to obtain standard accessibility guidelines to determine how other communities (globally) have developed an inclusive society. The review will consider the economic and social benefits of inclusion using a social model of disability and a rights-based approach as theoretical frameworks.
Twenty key informant interviews will be conducted with key stakeholders selected from a stakeholder map of the study area. The stakeholder map will include health care professionals, people with disabilities, and family members. A questionnaire will be developed using accepted qualitative research methods. The questionnaire will generate information on how persons with disabilities and functional limitations participate, or do not participate in the community.

Interview results will be analysed to identify emerging and recurring themes of participation and barriers to participation by using thematic content analysis. Thematic content analysis interprets qualitative data by counting how many times a recurring theme appears in the narratives from interviews. It is also sensitive to outlier narratives that can often unlock hidden ideas.
The analysis of interview results will be the basis of recommendations to strengthen local policy and fill policy gaps. Theories about participation that can be transferred to other communities in the Elk Valley will also be developed.

“Film Screenings of “I’mpossible”at Schools

“I’mpossible” demonstrates how perspective can be the catalyst in reaching new heights. From moving metaphorical mountains to challenging the Southern BC Rocky and Purcell Mountain Ranges, Grace Brulotte shows us that disability is just a variation of the human experience. Follow an inspirational journey, captured through the lens of Laundromat Studios, as Grace becomes the first female tandem sit skier to Heli ski in Canada.” Kyle Hamilton is the cinematographer and the production received great support from the community of Fernie. The film features Fernie Alpine Resort, Fernie Wilderness Adventures, and Purcell Heliskiing.
The objective of the film screenings is to shift attitudes towards people with disabilities, and show they can do anything they set their minds to, just like anyone else. The film is not just about heliskiing and making history, it is about showing that those with disabilities are able to achieve a full life, however they see it. “I’mpossible” is about the struggle, the challenges faced and conquered, and the goals achieved that people said were unattainable. The film screening will be followed by games that simulate different disabilities. Students will be “given” autism, a spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, a visual impairment, etc. The experience will centre around perspective, and how inclusion and acceptance begin when perspective changes and people view each other as humans. Grace Brulotte will give a motivational speech followed, if time permits, by a Q and A session. Schools we’d like to include are Isabella Dicken Elementary School, Fernie Secondary School, Max Turyk (French School), College of the Rockies, The Fernie Academy, Frank J Mitchell Elementary School, Sparwood Secondary School, Rocky Mountain Elementary School, Elkford Secondary School, and Jaffray Elementary/Jr Secondary School. Feedback received during the screenings will be documented.

Additional Potential Funding Sources
CAN has not yet approached other funding sources; however, we intend to do so. Potential funders identified to date are:
• Columbia Basin Trust Social Grants
• Teck
• BC Hydro
• Vancouver Foundation
• East Kootenay Credit Union

Zach Anner's quest to get a rainbow bagel in Brooklyn sheds light on accessibility issues. New York City is a an accessible city by today's standards however illustrates the accessibility issues millions face every day. It shouldn't be this hard.

The Canadian Adaptive Network will be working towards creating accessibility awareness and solutions.

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