National Access Awareness Week

 

What Does the Future Hold?

National Access Awareness Week occurs this year from May 27 to June 2, 1996. The
partnership that is NAAW continues to encourage Canadians to share information, and create and support a future with full participation of persons with disabilities.

The expansive network of NAAW has reached hundreds of Canadian communities,
through associations of persons with disabilities, corporate partners, and the Government of Canada working with provincial, territorial and community committees, developing a greater awareness of what it means to live in an accessible environment.

The six main issue areas remain as prevalent today as nine years ago when NAAW was first launched: Transportation, Housing, Employment, Recreation, Education and Communication encompass almost every aspect of Canadian living today. Through the endeavours of NAAW, strengthened by partner, volunteer and individual commitment,changes have been realized, leadership opportunities have been facilitated, and equity programs have been promoted. “Access the Future,” as the focus of ’96, offers a window into the needs of all six of the issue areas.

Here are the National Activities for NAAW 1996:
? Student Award Program – established for students with disabilities to promote economic integration through education;
? Face to Face – a one-day event designed to encourage learning as it offers employers and job seekers an opportunity to change the eway they view employment;
? Poster Calendar – depicting the established NAAW Network and upcoming events; and
? Public Service Announcement – a generic message of awareness intended to encourage Canadians to create and support an accessible environment.

But what is the picture of the future of NAAW? We all know that funding for programs has been significantly reduced at all levels. Unfortunately, the mandate of NAAW does not meet the criteria for the funding that does exist, which is primarily employment focused. Under this new reality, the provincial infrastructures of NAAW have not been able to be consistently maintained. NAAW is being forced to change its operations.

Currently, the support of NAAW’s corporate partners allows for the contract of a National Coordinator, and an elected Management Committee for national coordination. It also made possible the development of resources to be distributed to communities across the country, so a generic campaign style of delivery was developed for 1996. The campaign reaches as many provincial, regional and local levels as possible. But this is still a huge
diversion from the former structure of a provincial committee that facilitated the delivery of information locally.

Even though, in this fiscal climate, NAAW must operate differently in order to survive,the expectations of the masses remain unchanged.

NAAW does not directly advocate, but in fact supplies the vehicle for change, information and increased understanding. NAAW encourages measurement, and tracking of, change. It allows for celebration and recognition of some of the good things that have occurred. The general public tends to require a reason for putting on a event, displaying material,mentioning what they are doing for accessibility, or creating a project or initiative. It is too
easy to “let things ride” unless there is a catalyst encouraging us. NAAW has been that catalyst.

In March of this year, a meeting was held in Ottawa of many of the current NAAW
national organization partners. There was also representation from each province by persons involved in the disability field.

At the meeting, all delegates were in agreement that the main impetus for change happens at the local level. And, in order for progress, information is still necessary. That’s where the expansive network that is NAAW really works. It’s like a chain letter — but everyone has to be working from similar, correct information.

There was some feeling that as soon as the federal dollars are diminished, NAAW cannot, or should not, survive. But the general concensus is that NAAW has been a positive influence on society as a whole, and the network and message should continue. How to do this is, of course, the challenge.

The group still feels there needs to be some coordination, whether shared or secured in some other fashion. Organizations need to expand on their local involvement and commitment. A campaign is still necessary for expansion of the corporate base. NAAW needs to continue independent activity. This is what is being encouraged this year – that is, provide the message, tools, promotions and resources, but not necessarily dollars, and send people forth. This type of delivery is new to NAAW and is, most likely, the future, but it requires the support of Canadians nationwide.

Pending discussion and consultation with the rest of the partnership and committees, nothing is absolute for NAAW ’97. What we can say is that NAAW, as we know it, will change, and we need your input, stories of success, and reasons why NAAW is beneficial or otherwise.

(Launel Scott is National Coordinator of NAAW. She can be contacted at: 357 Third Ave.,Ste. 139, Saskatoon, SK, S7R 1M6; tel.: (306) 653-7232; fax: (306) 653-7074. Or call toll-free: 1-888-808-NAAW (6229).)

THE NAAW NETWORK INCLUDES…

– National organizations for and with persons with disabilities

– Corporations

– Government of Canada

– Communities and individuals

 

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