Iris Ho


Bachelor of Kinesiology, Adapted Physical Activity, 4th Year

Course: KIN 472 (Fall 2021) with Instructor Jennifer Leo 

Who was your community partner and can you describe the project objectives? 

The Steadward Centre (TSC) is a facility that "supports inclusion and independence for children, youth, and adults living with impairments through our programming" surrounding physical activity. 

For aspiring adapted physical activity (APA) practitioners such as myself, the opportunity to work with TSC offers helped translate textbook theory surrounding accessibility into practical application and clientele experience. Our goal was to facilitate an exercise program one-on-one with a participant experiencing disability once a week, and monitor progress and changes to their functional abilities. We were advised to seek out opportunities to make adaptations on the participants' programming with supervision and guidance from the staff. Most importantly, we were encouraged to reflect on our experiences within the sessions by making connections between our actions and the assumptions we hold as APA students. 

What was your biggest takeaway from your CSL placement? 

Opening opportunities for conversations focused on everyone's success will create a social environment within a physical activity space that fosters a sense of community, inclusion and trust. A goal of my participant was to work on a seated small ball toss to help develop their left hand catch. Throughout this process we had developed inside jokes surrounding how my own catching and throwing had begun to improve since the first day. This form of friendly banter extended towards other members of TSC, where participants and peers began to join in on the conversation and poke fun at the spectacle. 

Although it was motivating to see the immense improvement provided by a simple regression, the value of this experience really lies in the conversations surrounding the achievement and fun of the exercise. While my participant (and other members) knew it was okay to poke fun at my catching abilities, I knew that it was okay for me to celebrate their catching improvements without having to worry that they would be offended by "unwarranted" applause. This was because the topics of our conversations were always focused on the strengths and gains of each other. 

I learned that this approach helps to shift the conversations of success away from preceding the phrase "...despite having a disability", because we celebrated everyone's accomplishments, disabled or abled. Both me and my participant, as well as other members within the TSC environment were able to trust each other for encouragement and applause, regardless of our roles and disability identity within the space. 

How can you apply any newly gained knowledge/skills to your future endeavours (courses/employment/volunteering)?

The concept of ableism is a term that was introduced to me early on in my APA courses; however, KIN 472 was the first time I really got to engage with the concept through real world experiences. Many APA practitioners, such as myself, approached our roles regarding individuals living with impairment as an opportunity to help them. This mindset comes from a tendency for able-bodied individuals to treat disability with pity, where “helpful politeness” is encouraged as an expression of kindness towards disabled individuals. Regardless of the good intentions that may characterize helpful actions, ableism is reproduced through the underlying connotations of pity. 

As a result, I realized that there were negative implications when my professional objective was guided by attitudes of helpfulness because it assumes helplessness in those seeking adaptive services. I learned that it is imperative for APA professionals to distinguish between discriminatory kindness and warranted help when providing service delivery to disabled individuals as misconceptions regarding our role as a practitioner will serve as a reproduction of ableism. Rather than insisting on helpfulness, I, as the practitioner, will reflect on theories behind my practice in the future, and challenge the assumptions that inform my work with the disability community through reflexivity. By doing so, I can translate ableism from just an awareness as a concept, into a conscious non-practice that I constantly re-evaluate.

What are some of the ways that COVID-19 has affected your community partner or your placement?

One of the reasons why I picked KIN 472 as my major elective was because of the in-person experience it offered within a predominantly online-heavy term during the COVID pandemic. Through my conversations with my participant, I came to an understanding that for many of the individuals that attend TSC, the program serves as their one and only weekly outing. I was so impressed by their willingness to show up to every session despite mandates that may have made it challenging for participants to even get to the centre. Many of those who attended TSC were also at an increased risk for exposure; therefore, it was critical for all members of the TSC, volunteers, staff and participants, to take caution when using the facilities. As a result, it was difficult sometimes when sharing the space as we needed to ensure machines were properly sanitized and distance was maintained. However, every single member was so kind and patient, as we worked to navigate the space together.