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Breaking Down Barriers opens doors for those living with disabilities

The 37-year-old organization is dedicated to providing a new perspective on disabilities

Breaking Down Barriers (BDB) is an independent living resource centre serving individuals with visible and invisible disabilities in Collingwood and area for the last 37 years.

Executive Director Teresa Gal says BDB is often the first organization a person looking to enhance their independence turns to.

“We’ve become a one-stop navigation centre and a community lifeline for people with diverse disabilities and their support network,” said Teresa.

One of 24 such centres across Canada, BDB offers a range of programs and services, from teaching independent living skills and decision-making to accessing housing, providing peer support, directing and receiving referrals and collaborating with employment centres to help members find work.

These programs, services and workshops are offered to people from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds free of charge.

Gal says her team sees people ranging in age from 16 - 82 years old participating in activities and helping each other out.

“We encourage and foster volunteer opportunities for youth and seniors of all abilities,” said Gal. “And we offer programs that eliminate financial barriers so everyone can participate.”

Currently, BDB serves 4,500 individuals every year, with COVID-19 and a jump to more virtual services boosting that number up.

“We never want to turn anyone away and, during the pandemic, we were deemed an essential service as a community support service,” Gal explained. “The staff were all all-stars at embracing technology and providing services to the community, teaching members how to connect online.”

Beyond cultivating skills, promoting a new perspective on disabilities and ensuring that the aging population can live independently for as long as they feel comfortable, BDB also works with individuals to elevate their independence with the Direct Funding Program.

This funding stream enables individuals to manage their own care, allowing adults with physical disabilities to become employers of their own attendants, assisting with routine activities such as dressing, grooming and bathing.

This service gives members more choice and flexibility than previous programs. 

“It puts people in the driver’s seat of their lives,” Gal said of the program.

Gal says a major way the community can help make a positive difference for people living with disabilities is by being an advocate for accessibility in the community and helping to spread awareness about the organization. 

BDB is happy to accept volunteers, fundraising proposals or other educational opportunities for the agency to be involved in the community and help to fund its programs. 

The majority of the organization’s funding comes from diverse funding streams, with some funds from the Ministry of Health to support the organization's work as a Community Support Service and the Direct Funding program. A large portion of funds also comes through grant funding and the rest is funded by third-party donors, which Gal says “have been a blessing."

“We can always use the extra hands if someone is looking to volunteer, whether it is done virtually or on-site,” said Gal. 

To make a donation or learn how you can volunteer to help, click here.

To learn more about services provided by Breaking Down Barriers, click here or call 705-445-1543, ext. 301 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

You can also visit Breaking Down Barriers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram for more information.