In 1973, the Government of Saskatchewan recognized the importance of people with disabilities to be their own best spokespersons, and financed “Voice of Our Own” conference in Moose Jaw. The conference was the first of its kind, inviting people with disabilities across the province. Topics were specific to disability issues, most importantly this event provided opportunity to network and dialogue with community groups, individuals and government of trends, markets and barriers affecting people with disabilities. After this gathering, the discussion for an organization to directly respond to the disability community was underway.
It was into this environment that the “Voice” was born. From this conference “The Saskatchewan Voice of the Handicapped” was formed. The “Voice” established itself as a non-profit, self-help organization of people with disabilities who were interested in promoting the concerns and issues affecting all people with disabilities.
By 1976, the organization had grown to full provincial representation, had an operational board, office in Regina and a staff compliment of three.. Funding was from donations, fundraisers, federal funding and main financial support from the Government of Saskatchewan. The accomplishments document the Voice’s role as a leader in facilitating education and advocacy of the people with disabilities in Saskatchewan over the last 4 decades.
However by 1986, the “Voice” was affected by budget cuts by the Government of Saskatchewan. The organization strives to offer programs and supports by seeking out alternative financial resources including fundraising activities, and requesting assistance from the private and corporate sector. In 1990 the “Voice” opened an office in Saskatoon to service the northern part of the province.
In 1995 the name of the organization changed to Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities Inc.commonly known as SVOPD. In 1996 due to federal funding changes, the organization closed its office in Saskatoon.
In the last several years people with disabilities have become more visible in the community. They are taking part in community activities, living independently, employed and making their own decisions. SVOPD has remained a leader in the community of disabled people, practicing lean management, financing through project funding and utilizing the expertise of volunteers.
Our primary service is advocacy and assisting individuals with disabilities to navigate systems, offer education and support, and program health/wellness camps for youth with disabilities. We have been quite successful in educating other organizations and lobbying for change for people with disabilities. Notable accomplishments include:
- We assisted with the Saskatchewan Building Code changes in the 1980″s
- We were instrumental with decision to have accessible voting booths with Elections Saskatchewan
- We were an advisory committee member instrumental wit policy changes with Public Transit with the City of Regina and the City of Saskatoon
- We were instrumental and successful promoting, implementing accessible buses with STC
- We collaborated with the City of Regina along with other agencies to design accessible curb stops
- The passage of the Uniform Building and Accessibility Standards Act to ensure new construction will be accessible
- Participated on the Saskatchewan Uniform Building and Accessibility Standards Appeal Board to monitor the application of the Act
- Promoted the creation of North and South Saskatchewan Independent Living Centres
- Voting by mail in Provincial elections
- Review Employment Equity Plans submitted to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission by employers
- Participate in co-op loans associations to assist people with disabilities in starting their own small business
- Fostered the development of the Employment Access Centre in Regina
- Initiated the development of social housing projects to increase the availability of affordable accessible housing
- Advocated to the provincial government the extenuation of home care services to include attendant care