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Halifax elementary students get first-hand look at challenges people with disabilities face

N.S. elementary students learn to see ‘abilities, not disabilities’ through new interactive pilot project
WATCH: A new pilot project aims to introduce Nova Scotia children to people living with disabilities, such as blindness, in hopes of them developing an ‘understanding and compassion’ for the challenges they may face.

Elementary school students in Halifax had the opportunity to get an ‘inside look’ into the daily challenges people living with disabilities face.

‘Read.Ability’ is a pilot project that brings together volunteers and students in an environment that focuses on how people overcome their daily challenges.

“I think it’s really important that children can normalize everybody, no matter what kind of person they are, or what their disability, or how they may look,” Judy Bonnell said, a retired teacher who helped lead a session on Thursday.

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“The long-term goal is to spread this around the province with volunteers and the next program will probably be with the deaf and to teach kids some sign language,” said Gerry Post, a mobility advocate and one of the people who helped ‘brainstorm’ the idea for the program.

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Bonnell has a degenerative eye disease that’s left her with partial vision but she says she ‘doesn’t focus on what she can’t see’ and hopes that the children take away the value that lies within a positive mindset.

“They [people with disabilities] still are people inside and the earlier we can get that message across, the more comfortable children are with that kind of thing,” she said.

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Pushing the limits of education
Pushing the limits of education

With decades of teaching under her belt, she adds that introducing children to a wide range of disabilities at a young age will help integrate students of all backgrounds.

“Now we have a lot of children with special needs who are in the regular classroom, so children are exposed to these things at a very young age and it’s trying to teach those children with special needs so that they meet goals and they feel successful in the classroom along with everybody else,” Bonnell said.