A Year of Firsts: The newest program, L.I.F.E. Greater Toronto Area, combines classroom learning, programming with Outward Bound, urban exploration and Conductive Education. This program was recently a recipient of the Toronto Community Foundation’s Vital Signs Award and received support from two additional family foundations.
Interest in this program is growing and MODC is exploring opportunities to open additional programs in communities within other provinces.
Peer Support Services help stroke and polio survivors and their families by providing emotional support and encouragement as well as information and educational programs, with the goal of promoting active community living. In 2013-2014, the program supported 71 chapters and affiliated peer support groups, served over 1,100 participants, held over two dozen conferences and events such as Living With a Disability, Breaking Barriers, Living with Chronic Conditions, Wellness Retreats, Aphasia Camps, as well as, coordinating social activities and travel programs for its members.
Volunteer Support Services supports and coordinates volunteer-run direct services, including DesignAbility®, which pairs professional designers with consumers who require a design modification on a device or facility for greater independence; BeFriending®, which pairs people with a disability with a volunteer sharing common interests for social and recreational purposes; and the Hospital Visitation Programs, using volunteer stroke survivors to meet with new stroke survivors and their families to provide hope, information and encouragement. This year, DesignAbility experienced a 10% increase in volunteers and a 15% increase in projects while volunteer and consumer hours increased by 60% in BeFriending programs.
A Year of Firsts: Peers Fostering Hope, the Toronto Hospital Visitation Program, with funding support from the Dr. Ed and Bobby Yielding Fund for Stroke Recovery, provided its first full year of volunteer support to outpatients at ten Greater Toronto Area hospitals and rehabilitation centres.
This program provides increased community participation and quality of life through the provision of recreation and travel opportunities to people with disabilities. It includes the Geneva Park- based Summer Holiday Program which provides a six-day residential holiday at an integrated resort; ModMobility®, an accessible bus service offers social outings for groups in the Greater Toronto Area; and Accessible Travel, a service providing accessible multi-day domestic and international trips.
Overall, this program met its financial and service goals. However, the harsh winter and ice storm in 2013-2014 forced the cancellation of many trips, and the ModMobility service fell short of its ridership target.
A Year of Firsts: Despite the harsh winter, ModMobility operated for its first full year, delivering more than 9,000 rides. CE partnered with Accessible Travel to offer the first Conductive Education at sea program as part of a cruise.
INFORMATION AND ADVOCACY SERVICES
A key goal for the Government Relations and Advocacy Department has been to become part of the disability dialogue in provinces across Canada. To date, we have been active in all provinces, and have made representation on legislation, policy and budget priorities. This has been a good tactic to introduce MODC and our services, increase our intelligence about the priority issues for each government, and identify potential opportunities for service development. We appreciate the reception we have received. MODC has identified a select number of universal issues that affect people with disabilities in all provinces. We have initiated dialogue in the Toronto Declaration on Bridging Aging and Disability, legislating accessibility, and employment; all issues that coincide with the priorities of policy-makers across Canada.
Examples of MODC’s contributions provincially include the British Columbia Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility, the Alberta Social Policy Framework, Saskatchewan’s Disability Strategy, Manitoba’s Accessibility Act, Nova Scotia’s “Putting People First” paper and the development of commitments to accessibility laws, New Brunswick’s Employment and Disability consultations and Newfoundland’s Disability Dialogue. At the federal level, MODC has made submissions to parliamentary committees on employment and disability, youth employment, aging and disability, and the Fair Elections Act.
We have been especially active on employment related issues over the past year, speaking federally to the Human Resource Development Standing Committee on Employment, and our local Member of Parliament and in Ontario on social assistance reform and employment issues to the Premier, the Minister of Finance, Minister of Community and Social Services, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and the Standing Committee on Economic Development. In addition to employment, all levels of government are interested in the aging population and services required as this demographic grows. MODC will continue to partner with service providers, researchers and policy-makers to address the needs of people aging with and into a disability.
This department has also contributed to Information Services through the production of the newsletter, The Advocate, and the creation of March of Dimes Minutes on YouTube which convey important information to consumers and their families.
Information Services continues to build our social media program, as well as support MODC’s web site content and functionality. All Ontario March of Dimes programs and information are being rebranded as MODC, and the department develops all program materials to market to consumers.
A Year of Firsts: National expansion has created many firsts for our Government Relations program: the first parliamentary appearances in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, and outreach to the governments of Newfoundland and Saskatchewan. Internationally, MODC is now an accredited delegate to the United Nations Conference on States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.