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International Children's Fest tops in inclusivity

St. Albert's International Children’s Festival of the Arts has received the Community Inclusion Award from Inclusion Alberta.
2705 Childrens Fest Award file
St. Albert's International Children's Festival of the Arts has been recognized for its efforts to be inclusive of all abilities. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

This was a big week for the International Children’s Festival of the Arts even though the festival had to take a pass for 2020. It was originally scheduled to run all this week.

Instead, the festival received the Community Inclusion Award from Inclusion Alberta on Friday. The family-based non-profit federation advocates on behalf of children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families in their efforts to be fully included in community life. It has been supporting children and adults with developmental disabilities for more than 60 years.

“The festival strives to be open and accessible to everyone regardless of age or ability. To achieve this, we build accessibility into every aspect of the festival,” began Andrea Gammon, the city’s manager of cultural programming.

Every venue and workshop location features accessible entry and seating plus free sensory kits are available at all of the feature performances. These kits include sunglasses and ear protection and are prominently displayed and offered at the entrance to each venue to anyone who would like to use one.

There are also free calming rooms located in portable trailers on-site. They feature a number of amenities such as soft cushions and fidget toys to help patrons with sensory sensitivities who need a break from the hustle and noise of the festival. Volunteers are stationed at each room to guide patrons about the rooms’ use and to answer all questions about inclusivity at the festival as well.

“In addition to these physical measures, we also provide comprehensive, advanced information about each performance so that everyone attending is aware ahead of time what they can expect from a sensory point of view. These ‘sensory considerations’ are prominently displayed in promotional materials so that everyone attending the festival has access to the same information,” Gammon added.

Festival programmers also ask schools in advance if they have students with special considerations, as well as the best way to make accommodations for them. This way, they can ensure there is appropriate seating at the venue and any special volunteer needs are met.

The festival also encourages people of all abilities to volunteer.

“We have put in place a number of policies and procedures to help make the experience of volunteering at the Festival as enjoyable and meaningful for everyone.

The Children's Festival was nominated for the award by one of its volunteers from the 2019 festival.

“We are absolutely delighted and humbled by the recognition,” Gammon stated.

The festival was previously recognized in 2019 by Autism Edmonton for creating an environment that is welcoming and inclusive for all.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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