Inclusion and Access

In the beginning

Defined as “the experience that results from freely chosen participation in physical, social, intellectual, creative and spiritual pursuits that enhance individual and community wellbeing”, recreation is a fundamental human need for all citizens. With this in mind, the Shared Strategy Working Group pulled together inclusive thinkers from across the province to figure out how to move forward with Goal 2 of the provincial framework for recreation: Inclusion and Access.

Inclusivity requires a comprehensive approach where all partners involved agree to their roles and responsibilities in creating welcoming, inclusive, and accessible environments. This means working well beyond the legal requirements for accessibility for the province of Nova Scotia. The standard of inclusivity and sense of welcomeness that we strive for, beyond what is legally required, is a decision that should be explored as a community, as organizations, and as a sector, in order to ensure consistency in service, and responsible and purposeful spending. This Framework, and the tools and resources we have compiled to support its implementation, aims to support your work in your organization and communities. Only when we start to work together will change happen so that all persons in our province are able to access - and benefit from - the power of recreation.
Access to public education and health care are considered basic human rights. Recreation supports these rights as an essential element of a healthy lifestyle; therefore, constraint-free access to recreational activities should be considered a top priority. Financial, transportation, cultural, physical, and psychological are some, but not all, of the constraints and barriers that need to be addressed.

But this is just the beginning. With this framework we aim to change the recreation delivery system in Nova Scotia to one that is inclusive, fair, and welcoming. Hang on, because things are about to get real.

Why is inclusion and access important?

This is a common question that gets asked, and often puts onus back on the persons who are marginalized to answer. With this framework, we are flipping the question back to you.

Why are you not including everyone in your community?
Are you okay with ignoring a large portion of the population?
What values do you hold that prevent you from being inclusive?
Conversely, what values do you hold that lead you to aspire to be inclusive?
What are you waiting for (because, while you wait, you are continuing to marginalize and anticize)?
Are you comfortable with your current exclusive practices?
What is preventing you from serving all people in your community?

These are hard questions that need to be asked and answered. We need to hold ourselves - and others - accountable because our current recreation delivery system is failing a large portion of our population, especially the part of the population that could benefit from it the most. We are not okay with this, and we hope that you are not either.

It’s time that we wake up, step up, and take action. Our values are showing, and it’s not pretty.

A Person First Approach

Imagine an approach that puts the person above all else. Person First puts the experiences, wellbeing, needs and feelings at the centre of the recreation delivery system, and means we seek to understand and have empathy for all individuals we are aiming to serve. Without this approach we will continue to view our work through our own lens, which is often a Eurocentric dominated lens, creating damaging policies and practices, and not achieving our goal of recreation for all.

The foundations of recreation were built on ensuring that all persons have access to the multitude of benefits of recreation. As our sector grows and diversifies, and as we become more aware of what inclusion (and exclusion) means to those in our community, we are aware that physical accessibility is just one component of creating safe and welcoming spaces for which our community can recreate.

Consider the following impact these lenses can have on a person's ability to recreate: race/ethnicity; Aboriginal/Indigenous status; African Nova Scotian, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI); newcomer/immigrant; physical/mental disability; and health condition. Furthermore, a person’s ability to access a space or program or activity can also depend on their level of education; income; employment; social status; access to transportation; and mental health.These relate to an individual's place in society, and yes, everyone has a place. Experiences of discrimination or historical trauma are also important to consider for certain groups, such as Indigenous Peoples, persons of African descent, Jewish and SOGI. A person’s lived experience matters. Intersectionality matters.

What does intersectionality have to do with it?

Intersectionality in its simplest form means that oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.

Applying an intersectional approach has numerous advantages. It acknowledges the complexity of how people experience discrimination, and recognizes that the experience of discrimination may be unique. It also addresses the fact that discrimination has evolved and tends to no longer be overt, but rather more subtle, multi-layered and systemic, and that categories of discrimination may overlap.