Programming Connection

Sexual Health Information Project (SHIP) 

Griffin Centre Mental Health Services
Ontario
2012

Challenges

  • Developing accessible approaches to community development and sexual health promotion
    • Like many people, youth labelled with intellectual disabilities can find too much task-based work uninteresting. While all project work includes tasks and details, the team needs to decide which elements of a project are better suited to collaboration and which pieces should be accomplished by staff alone. Consulting and collaborating with the youth in ways that place their experience at the centre and acknowledge differences is key.
    • Working across disabilities—meaning with individuals labelled with a variety of disabilities—requires that all activities are accessible for a diversity of people who may have a range of cognitive skills and abilities. It is important to take this into account when planning roles for volunteers, peer educators and Consultants. By having clear ideas about what needs to be accomplished, staff can tailor the roles of each team member to suit the skills and abilities of that person. In this way, everyone does not have to do the same work, but each person does work that is a good fit for them and that contributes to the project.
    • Designing workshop activities that take into account a range of abilities is critical. reachOUT has found that arts-based activities such as visual arts and theatre can be one way of creating more inclusive workshop environments that accommodate differences in verbal and nonverbal communication and understanding.
    • A barrier to participating in activities can relate to participants’ financial constraints. reachOUT observed a drop in participation when they were not able to subsidize participants’ travel costs.  
  • Truly collaborating with people labeled with intellectual disabilities takes more time than traditional ways of working. Collaboration requires team members to build in additional time for preparation, consultation, review of materials and the development of more accessible approaches and documentation. If team members do not shift their timelines, this can lead to frustration and shortcuts, with a real impact on the participation levels of people labeled with intellectual disabilities.
  • Ensuring that appropriate supports are in place for participants, who often experience multiple and intersecting oppressions, can be a challenge. Many participants have experienced extreme forms of oppression. It is important to recognize how this may impact group dynamics and participation and to ensure that staff is able to provide support and additional referrals when needed.

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