IGH volunteer and manager discussion about accessibility and inclusion

This is intended as a discussion for us all to learn from each other. You have all had wonderful training from the Invictus Games and have access to the IG Accessibility Guidelines. I’m sure we can learn something from you! (notes were added from the open discussion with the volunteers and manager. The discussion took place in the IGH prior to opening to the athletes)

While there are legislated “rules” it is important to remember that one size really does fit one. Everyone is different. You and I are different in how we connect with a space. Tomorrow I may have a different experience. I may have entered the room feeling one way and within an hour I feel different. 

As a service provider be less interested in your role and more interested in reading the people in the environment.


Framing and standpoint: IG uses a People first Approach, Eg: Person who is blind. Inclusion moves away from language that uses words such as impaired (eg: visually impaired) because it is not the person who is impaired but rather it is the environment that is impairing access or creating a barrier. Not people with disabilities but rather people who are differently abled. We are all differently abled. 

Inclusive Design aims to include everyone, therefore, we attempt to create agility in all aspects of service including customer service as well as the environment being interacted with. “If someone is excluded, we are excluded from them” Gregg Vanderheiden

Key reminders:

  • Don’t speak to a person’s aide when addressing a person.
  • Have a pad and pen to communicate with if need be.
  • Smart phone with google translate.
  • Don’t jump in and assume a certain type of help. ASK.
    • Can I help?

    • Yes.

    • How can I help?

  • Consider language such as “can I get something for you”. Sometimes the word “help” can have assumptions.
  • Approach within clear sight lines of the person, not from behind or with loud, quick sounds/gestures.
  • Key symptoms of PTSD: emotionally numb, re-experience due to triggers, feeling jumpy, difficulty concentrating, irritated, angered. Source: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/symptoms

Key items in the room

Created a quite area away from the audio/visuals and with low lighting.

There are two bluetooth headsets available if someone would like to block out ambient sound and listen only to the TV

There are arm chairs and long armless sofas, cubes that can be used as seating, ottomans. Attempted to give choice so please observe and report back on how furniture was used and what might have been useful to have.

Anecdotes to illustrate every situation is different and how you might address: two diff wheel chairs at conference (via Jess); woman with cane and multiple items to carry (via Jess). TK

The space is somewhat of an agile and adaptive environment given that all furniture is easily moveable, including cruiser tables on hydraulics. Adjust something as needed. 

Personas for discussion

Developed from athlete profiles

Never assume! Always ask.

"The physical disability to me had more stigma attached to it, because PTSD you could hide," (Retired Master Cpl. David Desjardins)

First persona:

  • Age 50s,

  • Retired army veteran

  • Identify with physical disabilities and PTSD. (PTSD has different levels and each person has different lived experiences):

  • Likes to avoid surprising actions, sounds, and prefers having his safe and personal space when communicating with others

  • Enjoys socialising and face to face conversations

  • It is about abilities: is competing in the Invictus Games in wheelchair basketball, shotput and discus.

  • Speaks English/ French, knows basic ASL

  • Loves the excitement of the games and competition, hence enjoys peace and calmness after the sporting event/ match.   

  • Not legally blind but uses zoomtext and large text

Second persona:

  • Age 30-35

  • Army veteran, and active as civil servant

  • Is competing in cycling and acting as assistant coach in wheelchair basketball.

  • Advocate of LGBTQ

  • Is part of a minority group (it can be any minority)

  • Identifies with PTSD

  • Fluent in English, and knows some Arabic and basic Spanish

  • Believes in empowering individuals

  • Independent and loves to offer an elbow/hand to help others (this is a person that you can ask for help if needed)

Third persona

  • Age 40

  • Army veteran, and active as civil servant

  • Is competing in Indoor Rowing, Powerlifting and is an assistant coach to the fitness coach for wheelchair tennis

  • Is an immigrant, spiritual (it can be any faith)

  • A person of faith: likes to pray before competing (is there a prayer or silent room available? Do you know where and how to find it?) 

  • Is part of a minority group

  • Identifies with PTSD (most veterans face PTSD)

  • Fluent in English, and Arabic

  • Has service animal

  • Reads braille but also uses voiceover on iOS

Feedback and questions:

Q: How can I tell which is a service dog and which is a therapy dog?
A from group: Usually there are notes on the dogs vest that may say "Please don't touch me, I'm working" or "Therapy Dog". Observe and you may quickly see others interacting with a dog who is a therapy dog.