By Dan Plouffe
In conjunction with the Abilities Centre Ottawa and Ausome Ottawa, the Ottawa Sport Council will host its sixth Ottawa Sport Summit on Apr. 21 at the Nepean Sailing Club.
Titled “Sport For All in Ottawa: Creating a Culture of Inclusion,” the Summit will seek to promote greater opportunities for athletes with disabilities locally.
“What we really want to focus on for this Summit is how that traditional sport organization that might not have thought about inclusiveness could incorporate this into their programming,” signals Sport Council executive director Marci Morris.
Alongside the rise of the Paralympic and parasport movement, accessible programming has gradually become a priority topic in community sport. Many local sports organizations that have started up programs to serve all abilities have exploded in popularity, as word quickly spreads amongst a community thirsty for the opportunity to participate in a sport setting that can accommodate their needs.
“There is a huge latent demand out there for kids who haven’t had the opportunity to participate,” underlines Morris, whose organization recently helped fund an Ottawa Titans water polo program for children with autism.
The Summit will include panels featuring groups that have successfully launched programs for people with physical or mental disabilities, such as the Dovercourt Recreation Association, the Ottawa River Canoe Club and the Ottawa Rowing Club. Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities will also highlight the funding it has available to support the creation of inclusive programs.
The lessons and principles shared at the Summit will also be applicable to other types of inclusiveness (like financial, cultural), Morris adds.
“This Summit is focusing on inclusion of people with disabilities, but that’s kind of the starting point,” she explains. “It’s an area we’re definitely going to be providing more education on.”
An inclusive environment is especially valuable and crucial in sport, Morris highlights, since it can provide important life lessons such as cooperation, team-building, leadership and mentorship, and help shape children’s views.
“At the end of the day, we’re all people, and everyone brings their strengths to the table,” Morris notes. “If we want a society that values everybody, then we need to be doing that in sport as well. We need to be providing an environment in which everyone can excel.”
“That’s what community sport is all about. It’s a place for everybody to play and participate.”