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Photo of four Singers at the Time in My Shoes WorkshopSeveral members of the Peterborough Singers gathered at Calvary Church on the morning of Saturday, January 12, to meet with a team of folks from the Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities. The two-hour program is called TiMS, or Time in My Shoes, and its purpose is to give people an opportunity to understand some of the misconceptions about people living with disabilities, to identify the barriers (both physical and social) that they face, and to provide participants a safe environment in which to ask some of the questions that perhaps they have thought about but never asked.

The morning started off with an introduction to the team. Each person on the team had at least one identified disability, whether it was a hearing impairment, a physical or cognitive disability, or some combination thereof. They were such a welcoming group of people that we all were soon fully engaged in the program. We found ourselves full of questions that they were happy to answer.

We learned about some of the social barriers that people face every day when confronted with situations that the rest of us take for granted. For example, we learned how difficult it is to follow instructions from someone speaking a totally different language or to make sense of a conversation when faced with a hearing impairment. And we had a small taste of the frustration and isolation that can occur in those situations.

We were given opportunities to experience some of the physical barriers that exist by wearing sight-impairment goggles, sound-muffling ear protection, and using a wheelchair. Several of us took turns with the equipment and spent time with each in order to really get a sense of what people with disabilities face every day.

And we were taught a very important lesson: how to offer help. We learned how best to approach someone with a sight impairment, for example, and offer assistance. And we were given tips on how to act as a sighted guide. We learned how difficult it can be to negotiate ramps and bathrooms in a wheelchair. We also learned a bit about some of the social and environmental challenges that people with autism face when confronted with overwhelming situations — and how best to help them find a quiet space.

It was incredibly illuminating, and we all felt quite humbled by the end and with a new respect for the team. The event also gave us a great opportunity to explore some ways in which we could, as the Singers, create a much more enjoyable experience for the people with disabilities who come to our concerts. We were so glad to have an opportunity to learn from the team, and we hope our new “relaxed performances” initiative, which the workshop helped guide, will encourage some new patrons!

Post by Tracey Tebbenham (not pictured with her Singers’ friends above as she was behind the camera)

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