Campaign for Accessible Fitness Equipment Sparks Conversation about Disability

Arif Jaffer, Carleton Disability Awareness Centre (CDAC) co-ordinator, hopes the centre’s fundraising efforts encourage more people – with or without disabilities – to become “allies for advocacy.” (Chris Roussakis Photo)

What started as a crowdfunding campaign to purchase accessible gym equipment at Carleton is turning into a broader awareness-raising initiative about disability.

In March, the Carleton Disability Awareness Centre (CDAC) launched a FutureFunder campaign to raise $6,500 for an accessible chest press for Carleton’s fitness centre. While it fell short of its goal this June, closing at $4,500, the centre will continue fundraising efforts this year through a series of events that cover an even wider scope of disability issues – from mobility to disability and sexuality, and mental health.

“That’s always been our intent at CDAC when it comes to disability awareness, is to start a conversation,” says Arif Jaffer, administrative co-ordinator. Although he still wants to see accessible fitness equipment on campus, he says reducing the stigma around disability through campus-wide conversation is equally as important.

“We only hit $4,500, but our goal is to keep going back and …to keep fundraising and keep raising awareness and keep that conversation going.”

The fundraising project began when first-year student and Paralympic athlete Brett Babcock approached Jaffer and CDAC programming co-ordinator Nathan Bragg about his difficulty training on campus without accessible equipment.

“That got Nate and I thinking, Brett can’t be alone on this,” Jaffer says. “There have to be other students out there who want to use these facilities that we have to pay for, but they don’t have the ability to.”

Jaffer and Bragg decided to create the Accessible Fitness Fund and hosted events like wheelchair rugby and a comedy night featuring comedians with disabilities to raise money for an accessible chest press.

Going into the school year, the pair will continue to raise funds and awareness through a wheelchair basketball event, a goalball demonstration, as well as a discussion about sexuality and disability. They are teaming up with other services like the Womyn’s Centre and CUSA Food Centre.

Jaffer, who is able-bodied, says the centre is trying to broaden its scope so people with or without disabilities feel encouraged to join the conversation and become “allies for advocacy.” He wants people to know the centre’s doors are open and that there are resources available to help them navigate disability issues.

“There’s this big stigma if a person with a disability can’t do x, y and z,” Jaffer says. “This is where someone like Nathan (is a) huge inspiration.”

Bragg, a third-year journalism student with cerebral palsy, plays wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and has been an active voice for accessibility issues on campus.

“He let nothing stop him and he’s never really seen it from another perspective,” Jaffer says. “He’s never really understood why people are slowing down and saying we can’t do it when there is a way.”

Going forward, Jaffer hopes CDAC’s initiative will broaden the conversation at Carleton into something larger.

“What we’re trying to do is widen the spectrum…giving everyone a person they can be inspired by,” he says. “And that’s kind of how we’re approaching the year.”

This entry was written by Kirsten Fenn and posted in the issue. Bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media: http://carletonnow.carleton.ca/?p=13025

Kirsten Fenn

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