UBC program, 132 youth-led disability-centric projects get federal funding

The BC Brain Wellness Program is one of 133 youth-led projects across Canada dedicated to disability inclusion that will receive a total $1 million in new funding from the federal government.

Canadian Minister of Employment, Workplace Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough announced the new funding at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC Friday morning.

Established in 2019, the BC Brain Wellness Program (BWP) is an interactive online program establishing lifestyle approaches to complement medical treatments in clinics at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, according to its website.

Qualtrough was joined by Vancouver Granville MP Taleeb Noormohamed and members of the BWP, including co-founder Dr. Silke Appel-Cresswell and BWP senior program assistant and UBC master's of speech pathology student Katy Chen.

The BWP was awarded $9,982 in funding to purchase communications technology and create an accessible teaching kitchen for people with disabilities. The program also received $9,999 to purchase technology such as webcams and microphones for instructors to improve the accessibility and quality of virtual programming.

The federal funding for these projects is distributed through the Youth Innovation Component of the Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF), a federal program dedicated to providing funding for projects that make communities and workplaces more accessible for people with disabilities. The EAF put out a call for proposals on June 3, seeking to finance youth-led accessibility initiatives.

Qualtrough, a former paralympian with a visual impairment, congratulated the recipients of the grant and emphasized the need for accessible infrastructure and technology in public spaces and work environments. She thanked the team and student accessibility leaders behind the BC Brain Wellness Program for their efforts.

Appel-Cresswell spoke on the BWP’s online virtual resources and outreach throughout BC, describing the various possibilities for using the equipment the department secured to further its outreach and wellness initiatives.

She thanked the EAF for its contributions to the program.

“We have already seen benefits for our participants and will utilize the funding to further improve accessibility and reach of the program,” she said.

Kolby Hughes, a participant of BWP the program, said it enabled him to improve his motor skills and cognition — particularly when struggling with physical ailments during the pandemic — and said he felt healthy enough to participate in physical activities with his family as a result.

“Since I’ve started with UBC Brain Wellness, my condition has disappeared,” he said. “This program has given me a new outlook, and a new chance to interact with the community. It’s really given me a new lease on life.”