Ontario Track 3 Ski Association


People with disabilities that love the outdoors, especially in the winter can enjoy skiing and snowboarding. The Ontario Track 3 Ski Association gives people with disabilities across Ontario the chance to learn and participate in skiing and snowboarding.

Ontario Track 3 Ski Association

The Ontario Track 3 Ski Association teaches people with disabilities how to ski or snowboard. It began as a small organization in Collingwood where youth amputees learned to ski. These skiers use one ski and two outriggers, so that they make three tracks in the snow as they travel down a hill.

The organization has expanded and now serves people with a wide variety of disabilities across Ontario. For instance, the cities of London and Waterloo have their own regional affiliate organizations. In addition to amputees, programs also serve skiers and snowboarders with:

  • Physical disabilities, including wheelchair users
  • Visual disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities

Training and Equipment

The organization trains volunteer instructors who work with each skier or snowboarder individually. Instructors receive training on how best to teach skiers or snowboarders with particular disabilities. When athletes are first learning to ski or snowboard, they are tethered to their instructors for additional support. As the students gain skill, they no longer need the tethers.

Athletes who are wheelchair users ski using sit-skis, which they steer with their upper bodies. Athletes who are blind ski ahead of their instructors, who tell them when they need to turn or slow down. They often use two-way radio headsets to communicate over the noise of wind and snow.

Some skiers and snowboarders have their own equipment, but if athletes do not have their own equipment, the organization provides:

  • Skis
  • Sit-skis
  • Boots
  • Poles
  • Snowboards
  • Two-way radio headsets

However, all athletes must bring their own helmets.

The Ontario Track 3 Ski Association gives people the chance to learn new sports in a safe but challenging environment. Every athlete learns to use their abilities, has fun, and stays active within their communities.



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Artistic Swimming for Athletes with Disabilities


Artistic swimming, formerly called synchronized swimming, is a dynamic sport that requires not only physical fitness but also grace, poise, and confidence. This unique sport has team, duet, and solo events, allowing athletes of all abilities to take part. In this article, we feature a Toronto club that offers programs for athletes with disabilities. The Toronto Synchro Athletes with Disabilities Program gives swimmers with disabilities the chance to discover artistic swimming and develop their skill in the sport.

Artistic Swimming for Athletes with Disabilities

Toronto Synchronized Swimming Club: Athletes with Disabilities Program

Toronto Synchro, also called the Toronto Synchronized Swimming Club, offers programs at pools across the city for beginning, recreational, and competitive synchronized swimmers. Among these opportunities are programs for swimmers with physical and intellectual disabilities at all levels.

Coaching and Training

Coach training programs ensure that coaches can support athletes in small groups. In addition, coaches can offer one-on-one support for athletes who need it. Moreover, coaches work closely with each new swimmer to determine what kinds of support they will need and what level of program they should choose.

Programs

Toronto Synchro has programming for novice, or beginner, swimmers who meet once a week during the fall, winter, and spring. They learn basic swimming and synchro techniques and perform routines at water shows. Programming for recreational swimmers is similar, although swimmers register for fall, winter, and spring programs separately. Novice swimmers can also compete at the beginner level if they choose to do so. Both novice and recreational swimmers can work to achieve various synchro swim levels of expertise.

Competitive artistic swimmers meet from two to four times per week. The season lasts throughout the fall to spring. Swimmers in this program hone more advanced skills and compete in four to six meets a season with their teams.

Toronto Synchro’s Athletes with Disabilities Program gives swimmers with physical and intellectual disabilities the opportunity to enjoy artistic swimming. The club introduces artistic swimming to new swimmers, supports swimmers who want to enjoy the sport while maintaining an active lifestyle, and provides opportunities for more advanced athletes to compete. 

Click here to find an artistic swimming club near you.



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The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation for Para Cycling Athletes


The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation helps Ontarians with disabilities stay active in their communities through para cycling.

The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation

The foundation is named for its honorary chairperson, Paralympic athlete Shelley Gautier. Gautier, a globally renowned Para cyclist, competed in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic games. Her foundation gives people with disabilities across and beyond Ontario the chance to be involved in recreational sports. Participants can enjoy a healthy lifestyle, travel around their communities, and meet new people while they learn a new sport or rediscover an old one.

Community Para Cycling

The foundation loans para cycling equipment to communities around Ontario, so that those communities can create para cycling programs. Currently, there are programs in Brantford, Kitchener-Waterloo, Whitby, and the Niagara region of Ontario, as well as in Bromont, Quebec.

People who participate in the programs may ride handcycles or tandem bicycles. Handcycles usually have three wheels, two small ones at the back and one large one at the front for steering. Riders with physical disabilities move and steer using hand controls. Tandem bicycles have two seats and two sets of peddles. A rider with a visual impairment peddles from the rear seat, while a sighted rider steers and peddles at the front.

The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation works with its partnership communities to create programs. It helps to train coaches and volunteers who steer tandem bikes and support participants as they ride. Some participants may be riding for the first time. Others may have ridden standard bikes before and are now learning to ride adaptive bikes. Others may have handcycled or tandem-biked before and can now enjoy doing so on a long-term basis, through regular access to equipment. Some riders may choose to seek out further training and consider entering athletic competitions which might eventually lead to the Paralympics. Other riders choose to remain at the recreational level and enjoy being active within their communities.



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Rowing for Athletes with Disabilities


Para Rowing gives athletes with disabilities the chance to enjoy the sport of rowing. Here we feature a club in Toronto, the Argonaut Rowing Club (ARC), where athletes can participate recreationally or competitively.

What is Para Rowing?

Rowing is the act of propelling a boat through the water with the use of oars. Para rowing is an adaptive form of rowing. In para rowing, some athletes perform full rowing strokes using their arms, trunks, and legs. Others row using their trunks and arms while sitting on a fixed seat. Another class of rowers use their shoulders and arms while seated with support for their backs.

Argonaut Rowing Club

The Argonaut Rowing Club offers programs for rowers of all abilities and all skill levels. Programs serve rowers with disabilities, such as:

  • Blindness or visual impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome
  • Physical disabilities, such as:
    • Paraplegia
    • Quadriplegia
    • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Spina bifida
    • Amputations

Programs

The club offers a learn to row program for new rowers on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, with the option for extra private lessons when coaches and equipment are available. When athletes have learned the basics, they can form rowing crews with other athletes at the club and continue the sport recreationally. A recreational coordinator helps to arrange crews. This arrangement makes it possible for club members to row with athletes who have similar levels of skill. Crews who row recreationally often include athletes both with and without disabilities.

Moreover, the club also trains rowers for provincial, national, and international competitions. Coaches bring athletes together to form crews who train for regattas, series of races. Crews are often made up of athletes who have different disabilities.

The Argonaut Rowing Club creates opportunities for Torontonians of all abilities to discover the sport of rowing. Athletes who develop a love for the sport can row for fun or enter competitions at various levels. Rowers can form teams with other rowers who have disabilities or can form integrated crews that include athletes of all abilities.



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Baseball for Athletes with Disabilities: Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball


The Challenger Baseball program gives players of all abilities across Canada the chance to learn the sport of baseball. Players enjoy being part of a team while gaining individual skills. Here, we highlight a league in London, Ontario, the Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball program.

Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball

The Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball program is a league for players with physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities in London, Ontario. Six teams play at the Byron Optimist Sports Complex on Sunday evenings from mid-May until the end of July every year. Players range in age from six-year-olds to adults. A non-disabled “buddy”, often a friend or family member, accompanies each player onto the field.

Equipment

The league provides most of the equipment players need, including:

  • Traditional baseballs
  • Beeping baseballs
  • Bats
  • Helmets for players up to bat
  • Team shirts and baseball caps

However, players and buddies bring their own baseball gloves. In addition, players may choose to bring their own bats and helmets.

The Game

Pitchers quickly learn about each player’s abilities and batting style at the beginning of each season. Some players hit a traditional baseball while others hit a large baseball that beeps so that players can hear where it is. Some players wheel themselves around the bases while their buddies run beside them. Others run with their buddies, who provide sighted guide. Players and buddies stand together in the outfield. Buddies catch balls when players cannot reach or hear them, then toss them to the players. Players call out to tell each other where to aim the ball or let each other know that the ball is coming toward them.

Players cheer for their teammates and gather for a team cheer at the end of every game. They also cheer for the other team and shake hands with that team’s players. The league does not keep score.

The Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball Program allows every player to enjoy learning the sport and be physically active with friends.



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Wheelchair Tennis


Wimbledon, one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments, is running from June 24th until July 14th. Talented men and women from all around the world are playing for the Championship Trophy. An exciting tournament draws attention from people of all abilities. Athletes with disabilities may be interested in playing tennis and not sure how to get involved. There are a few cities within Ontario that offer lessons, clinics, and leagues for wheelchair users. Here, we highlight a club in the Ottawa region, The National Capital Wheelchair Tennis Association (NCWTA). The NCWTA gives athletes in the Ottawa-Carlton region the chance to play and compete in the sports of wheelchair tennis and table tennis.

National Capital Wheelchair Tennis Association

The National Capital Wheelchair Tennis Association offers programs for athletes of all ages with mobility disabilities at the recreational and competitive levels. Professional tennis instructors offer weekly tennis lessons and practice sessions for athletes during the fall, winter, and spring terms. Sessions for beginner and advanced players take place at the Ottawa Athletic Club. In addition, weekly table tennis lessons and practice take place year-round at different venues around the city.

The Game

Wheelchair tennis largely follows the same rules as non-disabled tennis. However, a ball is allowed to bounce twice, and the second bounce can take place either inside or outside the court. Program participants do not need to be full-time wheelchair users, but they play using sport wheelchairs. Moreover, competitive players must have a mobility disability. However, recreational athletes can play against non-disabled players, or partner with non-disabled players in an up/down doubles format.

Likewise, Para table tennis also follows the same rules as non-disabled table tennis. Program participants can play from a sitting or standing position. There are a few rule modifications for sitting athletes. In Paralympic competition, players must have a physical or intellectual disability. However, recreationally or in integrated competitions, athletes with and without disabilities can play together.

Equipment

Players may use their own rackets and sport wheelchairs, or borrow equipment from the NCWTA.

Competition Opportunities

Competitions for both sports are divided into classes based on players’ different levels of mobility.

Ottawa hosts a yearly three-day international tournament in August, called the OAC Capital City Classic. Players of all levels can compete in different divisions. Furthermore, the NCWTA also provides support for athletes involved in local, regional, provincial, national, and international competitions.

The National Capital Wheelchair Tennis Association gives athletes the skills to play tennis or table tennis at all levels, in the Ottawa community and beyond.



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Wheelchair Basketball Great Lakes Conference League


The recent NBA finals and the victory of the Toronto Raptors has Ontarians beyond excited about basketball. People of all ages and abilities across the province and the country stood behind the Raptors to watch them win #6ixin6, their first ever NBA Championship. Since the NBA Championship, more people might decide to try playing the game. The Wheelchair Basketball Great Lakes Conference League makes play possible for people of all abilities, ages, and skill levels. Players in clubs across Ontario have opportunities to compete or simply to enjoy playing a sport the country loves.

Wheelchair Basketball Great Lakes Conference League

The Wheelchair Basketball Great Lakes Conference League arranges games and skill development programming for three divisions. Therefore, athletes of all ages, abilities, and skill levels can play. Divisions 1 and 2 feature competitive teams while teams in Division 3 play recreationally. Teams of all ages can include female and male players, and players with a disability as well as non-disabled players. Players must be part of the Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association (OWSA) in order to participate in league events.

The league hosts monthly tournaments from October to March for competitive players. Recreational players can also participate in monthly events. Some of these events are tournaments, while others are workshops where players can improve their skills. OWSA basketball coaches run the workshops. In addition, the league makes sport wheelchairs available for players who do not have them.

The Game

Wheelchair basketball largely follows the same rules as non-disabled basketball. However, the “double dribble” rule does not apply. Moreover, once a player has the ball, they can only push themselves twice before they need to dribble, pass, or shoot it.

Wheelchair basketball players can have different kinds of disability. Some players are full- or part-time wheelchair users, while others only use wheelchairs when they practice or play. Athletes who use their lower bodies during games receive fouls. Contact between wheelchairs is considered player-to-player contact.

Players are given classifications based on their level of physical function. For instance, players with more limited functioning are classified as 1 or 2, while players who can use most or all of their upper bodies during play have classifications of 4 or 4.5. Five-player teams must have total classifications of below 14.

The Wheelchair Basketball Great Lakes Conference League gives players throughout Ontario the chance to compete and develop their skill in the game and aspire to be like their new heroes, the Raptors.



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Accessible Sports Venues


Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. This article will outline features that accessible sports venues, such as arenas and stadiums, should have. Accessible sports venues allow fans of all abilities to enjoy different kinds of sports together.

Accessible Sports Venues

Venues show their welcome for fans using assistive devices when they have accessible structural features. For instance, some accessible structural features that venues might have are:

  • Accessible Parking
  • Ramped or level entrances
  • Automatic doors and wide doorways
  • Lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
  • Accessible public washrooms
  • Accessible change rooms for athletes or performers
  • Wide aisles and paths of travel
  • Visual fire alarms
  • Line areas and service counters that accommodate fans using mobility devices

Other features can also help venues become more accessible. For instance, good lighting will help fans who are Deaf communicate visually. Lighting is also important for fans who are visually impaired. Moreover, additional seating may benefit some fans with invisible physical disabilities who cannot stand in long lines.

Tickets and Other Purchases

Moreover, accessible sports venues should allow fans to purchase tickets in multiple ways, such as:

  • By phone or teletypewriter (TTY)
  • In person
  • Online

If a fan finds one way of buying tickets inaccessible, they should be able to buy in another way. In addition, staff should be available to assist fans purchasing from concessions or gift-shops.

Accessible Seating

Venues should also have accessible seating at multiple levels. An “accessible seat” can mean different things to different people. For instance, it can mean a seat:

  • Someone can reach without climbing stairs
  • Near the front so that someone can see or hear clearly
  • On one side of the arena or stadium, for someone with sight in one eye or hearing in one ear

Advertising

Fans with disabilities, as well as their loved ones, will want to watch games together. Therefore, accessible arenas and stadiums should make the public aware of all the accessibility features and services they offer. For instance, venues can make fans aware:

  • On signs
  • In person
  • Through their websites
  • Remotely, through messages on their automated phone-answering systems

Moreover, websites can explain how to access features, equipment, or services. For example:

  • Where accessible parking, entrances, and washrooms are
  • Which seats are wheelchair accessible
  • Whether fans need to book accessible seats or parking in advance, and how to do so

Contact Information

In addition, accessible sports venues should provide multiple contact methods for fans to get in touch with them, including:

  • Phone and teletypewriter (TTY) numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Accessible websites, including performance listings, ticket purchase, and contact forms

Our next article will cover accessible information in sports venues.



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Accessible Amusement Parks


Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. This article will outline accessible customer service for amusement parks. Accessible amusement park attractions ensure that guests of all abilities have a fun and exciting visit.

Accessible Amusement Parks

Parks can welcome guests with assistive devices, like wheelchairs and scooters, when they have accessible structural features. For instance, parks can have:

  • Accessible Parking
  • Ramped or level entrances
  • Automatic doors and wide doorways
  • Lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
  • Accessible public washrooms and change rooms
  • Wide aisles and paths of travel
  • Visual fire alarms
  • Service counters and line areas that accommodate customers using mobility devices

Furthermore, park restaurants should make their menus and services accessible to all guests. In addition, good lighting will help guests who are Deaf communicate visually. Lighting is also important for guests who are visually impaired. Moreover, additional seating may benefit guests with invisible physical disabilities who cannot stand while waiting in long lines or while being served.

Tickets and Other Purchases

Accessible amusement parks should allow guests to purchase tickets in multiple ways, such as:

  • By phone or teletypewriter (TTY)
  • In person
  • Online

If a guest finds one way of buying tickets inaccessible, they should be able to buy in another way. In addition, staff should be available to assist guests purchasing from concessions or gift-shops.

Accessible Attractions

Many of the guidelines for buildings also apply to rides. Whenever possible, they should have wide entrances and pathways, ramps, and good lighting. Parks should also have procedures in place so that guests who cannot stand in line to wait for rides and shows can enjoy attractions without lines. For instance, parks can create systems for guests to arrive at attractions at pre-scheduled times. In this way, all guests wait their turns, but guests who cannot wait in lines can wait elsewhere.

In addition, park websites should list all the attractions, including rides and shows, that are accessible to guests who use mobility devices. For example, websites should state which attractions guests can access:

  • While seated in personal or rented wheelchairs or scooters
  • While seated in wheelchairs stored at the attraction for guests’ use
  • By transferring from their personal or rented devices to attraction seats
  • By transferring into wheelchairs stored at the attraction, and then transferring into attraction seats

Moreover, websites should list rides that are accessible for riders with:

Parks should also inform guests about any attractions featuring flashing lights or loud noises.

Equipment

Furthermore, parks can offer equipment for guests to use or borrow on-site. For example:

  • Assistive listening systems
  • Teletypewriters (TTYs) at pay-phone locations
  • Wheelchairs
  • Scooters

Park websites should also provide detailed information about how to access this equipment. For instance, websites should explain:

  • Whether equipment is first-come-first-serve
  • Whether guests can book equipment in advance
  • Whom to contact
  • Whether a deposit is needed, and how much it is
  • Where guests can pick up the equipment

Emergencies

Parks should have policies describing how they will arrange to accommodate guests who need assistance evacuating during emergencies.

Contact Information

Finally, parks should provide multiple contact methods for guests to get in touch with them, including:

  • Phone and teletypewriter (TTY) numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Accessible websites, including contact forms and methods for booking visits

In addition, park websites should provide detailed descriptions and pictures of all their amenities and accessible features. These details will help potential guests find out if a park’s rides or events will be accessible for them.

Our next article will cover accessible information in amusement parks.



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Providing Accessible Service in Offices


Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Our last article outlined accessible information in offices. In this article, we cover best practices for accessible service in offices. In particular, we look at how staff can find ways to make their premises welcoming to clients who need accessible features that an office does not have yet.

Providing Accessible Service in Offices

Service Animals and Assistive Devices

Offices must welcome all clients who enter with assistive devices, service animals, or support persons. Service animals are legally permitted in all areas open to the public, with a few exceptions related to food production. Some clients might bring a support person to help them move through a building, communicate with staff, fill in forms, or attend to medical or daily living needs. However, offices should not require that a client has a support person with them.

Structural Features

If office buildings have any accessible structural features, staff should know what and where they are. For example, staff should know where clients can find elevators and accessible washrooms. Moreover, if buildings lack the features a client needs, staff should be prepared to find ways to meet the client’s needs. For instance, staff could:

  • Assist a client to enter and move through the building
  • Serve a client away from high counters
  • Make a house call

Staff Assistance

Furthermore, offices must train their staff to interact with clients who have disabilities. Staff should understand how to communicate with clients, both in person and remotely.

In addition, staff members should be available to greet clients and ask if they need any assistance. In this way, they can make clients aware that they are willing to provide services if their offices lack certain materials. For instance, when offices do not have signs or forms in the formats a client needs, a staff member can offer to guide a client through the office or read and fill in forms.

Accessible Format Awareness

When offices offer accessible versions of hard-copy print, such as forms, pamphlets, or other documents, staff need to be aware of:

  • What information is available in what format(s)
  • Where hard copies are kept 
  • Whether hard-copy Braille or large print versions can be created upon request
  • How clients can find web versions
  • Whether alternate-format versions are up-to-date

Staff should know the differences between a current printed version of a document and the version a client can read. For example, staff can keep a printed list of the differences clipped to the Braille version of a document. They can then let the client know what the differences are.

If a document is not available in any of the formats a client can use, staff should read the document to the client. If it is a form, staff should fill it in according to the client’s directions.

Accessible Communication Support Awareness

Similarly, when offices offer communication supports for appointments or other interactions, staff should know:

  • What supports are available for what kinds of interaction
  • Where on-site communication devices are stored, and best practices for serving clients using them
  • Whether plain-language versions of documents are available and how to access them
  • How to arrange Sign language interpretation
  • How far in advance arrangements should be made

Accessible service in offices ensures that all clients have the opportunity to benefit from services available in their communities.



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