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A Community Life For All: Q&A (Episode 9)

During the DPSS team’s training week in March 2021, we received a lot of questions at the end of each session. While we were able to answer some of the questions, we couldn’t get to them all. In this episode, Sophie-Anne and Bethany answer some of the questions that were asked during the session “Inclusion: A Community Life For All”, which you can hear or watch by checking out Episode 8 of the DPSS Podcast.

Some of the questions they address are:

  1. What can be done about existing inaccessible homes on territory?
  2. If the costs are similar, why aren’t buildings built in an inaccessible fashion?
  3. How can we include an Autistic adult in a community that is not built with them in mind?
  4. How can we get recommendations for adaptations?
  5. What can be done to help adults and elders get out of their comfort zone and be more willing to participate in community events?

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This podcast is produced with the support of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay and Jordan’s Principle.

 “NISHIIYUU AND ME” by artists from Whapmagoostui and the N’We Jinan project. Permission to use the music was generously provided by David Hodges/N’We Jinan. You can listen to the track on SoudCloud here or buy/stream it on Apple Music .

“Forever” by DJ Arrow. Permission to use the music was generously provided by Jason Swallow. You can listen to the track on SoundCloud here.

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TRANSCRIPT: A Community Life For All: Q&A (Episode 9)

Bethany Hartropp

Waatchiyaa, my name is Bethany Hartropp and I’m an occupational therapist and clinical advisor with the disability programs.

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

Waatchiyaa, my name is Sophie-Anne Scherrer, and and I am an occupational therapist and a clinical advisor for the Disability Programs Specialized Services.

Bethany Hartropp

Thank you for listening in. Wherever you are and whenever you are joining us. In March this year, in 2021, during the Disability Programs Specialized Services info sessions, we talked about community and inclusion. And in the last 30 minutes of that session we received and answered several related questions and we really enjoyed answering people’s questions and interacting in this way. But we were not able to answer all the questions that we received, and there were also some questions that we felt needed some additional exploration and time. So today we’re answering these questions to dive in a bit more into this topic that we both value a lot: inclusion of all people in the community. This is the second recording in the series, and please visit our Disability Programs website to listen to the first episode for all the original information.

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

All right, so Bethany, let’s start. One of the questions that we received during that info session was about home accessibility in Eeyou Istchee. So someone asked us because we were talking about the importance of building new houses that would be accessible from the get go. So someone asked “Yes, okay, building new houses to be accessible is definitely needed. But what about the hundreds of inaccessible houses on territory? What do we do about those houses?”

Bethany Hartropp

Right. So this question is specifically talking about physical accessibility and that is being able to physically use a space. So for houses that we can adapt afterwards. So that would involve implementing things like a ramp or moving furniture around so that people can move in a home easily if they’re in a wheelchair or if they use a walker. And there’s a bit more space and less clutter. There are different ways to adapt a home after if a person needs it. But it would still be important to consider building homes with general accessibility and ease of use in mind for everyone, regardless of age, regardless of condition and health condition. So that would involve things like fewer or no steps, a shower room instead of a bathtub counters at different heights. And Sophie-Anne I think you had some ideas and thoughts too, along those lines.

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

Yes. And by the way, and you can have more information if you go on our website, but there are specific guidelines on how to build houses that are accessible or on or on how to renovate houses. So, yes, it’s possible to renovate houses that are already existing to make them better fit the needs of people who are living in the house. However, it’s really important to keep in mind that when building new houses, no, if you have new houses to build in your community, if you build them to be accessible from the start, it’s estimated to cost between 0 to 2% more than the regular house. That’s a lot less than renovating an existing house. So that’s why in our podcast we were talking about new houses. When you build them, think about making them accessible from the start because it’s much easier it when you build it from the start and it’s not that much more expensive and it answers the needs of a lot more people in the community.

Bethany Hartropp

Right. Sophie-Anne another question that we had received was if the costs are similar, why are so many buildings not built in an accessible fashion?

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

So yeah, it’s actually it’s lack of knowledge of this, of that fact that it’s approximately the same price. Building a house or a building to be accessible is approximately the same price as building a house or a building that is not accessible. People don’t know about that. The perceptions that people have are that building an accessible house is a lot more expensive and that it’s a lot more work, that it’s trouble. And the other misperception there is, is that it would only help a minority of people, which is actually a really big misperception, because when you build an accessible and inclusive environment, it benefits everyone. And so, yes, someone in a wheelchair then would be able to access their house, get in and out and visitors to the it’s important if you only adopt one house, then the person who’s living there is stuck there. They cannot visit their family members, their friends. So you need to adapt a lot, as many houses as possible. And then when you adapt, yes, it helps someone, for example, in their wheelchair or using a walker, but it’s going to help elders in general who might start having more difficulty moving around. If there is a pregnant woman, she’s going to have more difficulty using stairs. She might need a little bit more stability around the bathroom, getting in the shower. If you have parents with small children going around with strollers, using stairs is a lot of work. It’s also going to help having wider doors, having no stairs is going to help people who are moving furniture or carrying heavy loads. That could be anything. And if someone suddenly breaks their leg has an accident, even if it’s temporary, if they live in their house that is accessible, their life is going to be much easier. So it benefits a lot of people. It’s not just for a minority of people in the community. It’s for everyone who might have, at one time in their life difficulty moving around. And it’s it’s the majority of us will have at one point, could be permanent or temporary, will have some challenges with that. So it’s thinking about the whole community, actually. And the misperception that I mentioned before about the fact that building a house is yes, we already clarify that it’s not more expensive. It’s also not that much more trouble. There are guidelines that exist that are quite, quite clear to follow and you can get help. There are people around if you are working at the Band office and you’re looking for that. There are occupational therapists that can help you. There are architects that are aware of universal accessibility. You just need to find people to help you out with this. But these people exist and the knowledge exists and it’s not that complicated to find. We have some documents we can help with that. And there are other people who can help as well.

Bethany Hartropp

Okay.

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

Let’s move on to another topic , Bethany. There was a question more specific to autism. We had the question saying “How can we include an adult with autism in a community that is not built with them in mind? What steps can be taken to make the community more inclusive for him and what adjustments can be made with him to include him in activities such as activities of daily living?”

So know everything that we do to where to to eat to where, to clean, to self-care, and also what we call instrumental activities of daily living. So no going to get the groceries, cleaning up the house, cooking. So all the activities that are necessary in our daily life, how can we help someone with autism being included in such activities and in the community in general?

Bethany Hartropp

So this is a great question, and I’m going to start by answering with going over with what inclusion is and inclusion is making sure that everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires. This is a this is a great question. It’s also a really big question because everyone who has autism is different.

And if anybody listened to the podcast on autism, they’ll know that autism spectrum disorder is a spectrum, which means that everybody who is autistic has a different experience of of what it’s like to be autistic. So we cannot hear in this recording, give suggestions for what might work with a specific person. But what we can suggest is that as a community, we be aware that in the community there are people with autism and that autistic people will be involved in planning events that families be involved in planning events and in community services as well.

For general strategies we can suggest visual communication for providing the, to provide the schedule in advance and also having a quiet space available for people to just chill out and and relax in if they need. And if there’s any other info, for any other information on autism, then you can check out the autism podcasts that are on the Disability Programs Specialized Services website. Those are available. And that was also the Q&A that was recorded as well.

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

Good. Thank you, Bethany. And actually, maybe from the recommendations you mentioned, the visual communication. I think we have some information on our website regarding visual communication as well. And we’re talking about this and about providing the schedule ahead of time and having some quiet space because being in an event with other people can create a little bit more stress for someone who’s autistic compared to someone who is not autistic.

So knowing what’s going to happen in advance helps prepare and make sure that the person has what they need to feel at ease during the event. It helps decrease the fear that could be related to new or unknown situations by getting information about these. And then this can help relieve some stress.

Bethany Hartropp

Sophie And I think I would add too to that is for any questions about what works for a specific person. Best thing to do is to ask, ask the person, ask the family, just ask and and they’ll tell you what, what would work.

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

And that applies to anyone with any challenge or disability. It applies to involve people in what you’re planning. Ask them. They know what they need.

Bethany Hartropp

Sophie-Anne, another question that we got was “How do we get adaptive recommendations?”

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

Okay, so that question, it depends on what type of adaptive recommendations you need. Of course, there are different ways of adapting. Are we talking? We could be talking about physical accessibility, like the first question we answered in this recording. If you might be looking for home adaptations for you to get around your house better, or you might be looking for adaptive recommendations in the services you’re receiving, let’s say, for a child at school or for your work environment or for activities that you want to participate in.

Could be hockey, could be sports or leisure, could be anything. So there are different ways to go about it, depending on what you’re looking for. But in general, in almost each community, you have an occupational therapist there. So that person has knowledge on adaptive recommendations. They might be able to help you out to get services from an occupational therapist. In communities, you need to start by going to the clinic, to your local clinic, and mention to the nurse or the doctor what what you feel you need. And then they’ll see how they can help you. They might make a reference to a referral. Sorry, to the occupational therapists. That’s one way. Then, depending on what you need and you might already know what you need, let’s say you just, you know, you want you need an access ramp to your house and that’s clear for you. Maybe you can discuss it with your Band office directly if the Band office is the owner of your house. And that’s another thing that complicates situations. It depends on who’s owning your house. So it’s always best to ask to your Band office or to your social services or to the occupational therapists in your community. They will know and they will be able to help you figure out who can help you with those adaptations. If we’re talking about home adaptations and how to get funding, and it depends on who’s owning your house. So I won’t get into too many details in this now, but it’s in your community. You’re going to be able to figure it out. If you have someone at Social Services helping you out, if you have a community worker working with you, that’s another key person to talk to. If you’re looking for adaptive recommendations, they might be able to help you out with this to get you the right people in the community, to support you with those adaptations and to figure out what’s needed. So multiple options depending on what you need, but it’s in your community that you will find those answers.

Bethany Hartropp

Okay. Thank you.

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

And let’s move on to the last question we wanted to address today. So we had a question regarding activities in general. Someone was asking us what can we do for adults or elders to get them out of their comfort zone? So let’s say they’re home and more willing to attend or participate in community events.

Bethany Hartropp

Right. So another good question. Loved all the questions that we got from our question and answer session. It’s hard to start something new. So if somebody hasn’t been doing something for a long time or has been home for a long time, getting out can be quite intimidating and it can be quite overwhelming. So it’s a lot, lot less challenging if it’s something that they want to do. So again, going back to that idea of asking what the person is interested in, what they like to do, it’s going to be a lot easier, something that they used to do before with people that they know. All of those things that make it a lot easier, that’ll be that’ll be very helpful for them. Getting people that they know on board as well and helping, asking if they would be able to to help out if the person agrees as well for for you to communicate with them going to events that they like to go to makes makes a big difference. Recognizing the time of the activity can make a difference too. I I’ve talked with you, Sophie-Anne about an event that I was involved in organizing before, and it was for elders and it was being organized for the evening and the elders just said they weren’t going to go. And it was being like… But they had said that they were interested in the event but they were not going to go. And so when we explored it explored with them why they just said, “Well, we don’t want to go out at night.” this particular group. We said, “Well, if you want to, what if we change the time” and you know, till like in around lunchtime or in the afternoon, they all would love to go. So just the time of day, sometimes knowing the person and the event, that can make a difference too. So that’s something to be aware of. And really just encouraging people to participate in social and meaningful activities, trying new things because staying at home with not much stimulation, if people are a bit more isolated, it really it risks deconditioning and losing skills that we have. We are social creatures, humans. And so it’s it’s good for us to be to be around people and and to be out. So the more we can encourage that, the better it is.

Sophie-Anne Scherrer

Right. And we are recording these questions and answers after a bit more than a year of pandemic where people had to stay at home a lot more than usual. So it’s important to talk about what you just mentioned, that you need deconditioning and the concept of deconditioning, is it just so everyone understands what we’re talking about, is when we are less active, we lose some abilities to do these activities and that’s no we can take it. And the example that’s physical is if you’re sick and you’re staying in bed for a few days, once you get out of bed, everything seems more difficult. Even cleaning out your house, just walking around, everything is more difficult because your muscles and your body has not been as active, has not been used as much as usual. So it needs a little bit more training to get back to the regular activities so that deconditioning can happen on the body, as I just mentioned in this example, but it can also happen in the mind. So when we’re not using our mind as much, when we’re not interacting with people because interaction with others and doing that takes us to places where we wouldn’t go in there in our own mind, on their own, when if we’re staying alone all the time, we, we receive more information from others. We have discussions using our mind to, to do some activities, thinking of what we’re doing, how we’re going to do we do it, plan. So these are all things that really are really important. So deconditioning can happen in the mind, can happen in ther body. Socially, we lose some abilities to interact. I know I’m an introverted person and after a year of pandemic, I know it’s going to be harder to get back into group activities and have all those conversations. I’m going to need a bit more practice. I’ve lost some of the skills I developed over time, so that happens to all of us. But when people are a bit older, it takes more time to be able to get back these abilities when we haven’t used them for a long time. It’s more difficult. The body and the mind doesn’t adapt as quickly to new demands. So that’s why it’s important. It’s really important to stay active as much as possible to avoid losing those abilities. And if, like everyone else, we’ve all been a bit less active during that pandemic and some people had even less chances to be active. It’s important to get back into activities as much as possible, and that also has a big effect on our emotional wellbeing. When we’re not that active, we can start feeling a bit more down, less energy, less motivation. So this is also part of deconditioning and so everything that Bethany mentioned, making sure that these are activities that are interesting for the person are the key thing and also going gradual. Remember that the person might have not been as active in the past few months or year, and it’s difficult to get back into activities that we haven’t done for a while. So gradual is a key word. Don’t ask someone to go from not doing much and staying at home all the time to being outside all the time. It’s too much. And maybe the key to get that person, to help that person being a bit more active is to start at home even before they get out. Maybe it’s to bring activities at their home to get them a bit more active in their comfort zone, and then gradually helping them go out and do more activities outside. That could be an option.

Bethany Hartropp

Thank you for listening today. Meegwetch, chiniskumitin. Our thanks to the DPSS team. Sophine-Anne, thank you and thank you to all the listeners and to everyone who asked questions.

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