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Rochester organization seeks 'inclusion ambassadors'

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A Rochester organization is hoping that people who are spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic will use some of that time to become "inclusion ambassadors."

Rochester Accessible Adventures, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that people with disabilities have access to sports and recreation, is offering online training for children who are in middle school and older.

"When they're forming opinions and coming to experiences that will influence what values they grow up with," explained Anita O'Brien, executive director. "And I think that this tool allows adults to also explore the issues around inclusion in a way they're able to change their own values."

The course uses animated video sequences and interviews with people who have disabilities to demonstrate how they can be included.

O'Brien said it also shows kids how to be advocates. She said she's already heard from children who have noticed inaccessibility in places like playgrounds.

"And giving them tools to be able to speak to that feeling or that observation that they're making, I think is extremely important and such a gift to them," she added. "They can actually turn around to a business owner or a facility and say, 'Hey, can we work on changing this?' "

The three-hour online training is free. It was developed by the Inclusive Recreation Resource Center at SUNY Cortland.

Those who complete the course will get a certificate. RAA's goal is to have 2,020 people complete the training in 2020. So far, 100 people between the ages of 6 and 90 have registered. O'Brien is encouraging groups to take the course, too.

She said organizations like Girl Scouts of Western New York, Best Buddies, the Sunshine Rotary Camp, and the staff of the town of Irondequoit’s summer camp have already signed up, and so have people from across and beyond the United States.  O'Brien said registrations have come in from six U.S. states and four countries, including Canada and Singapore.

The training is being promoted online through the hashtag #WeWillInclude.

This story is part of Move to Include, an initiative that uses the power of public media to inform and transform attitudes and behaviors about inclusion. Move to Include was founded by WXXI and the Golisano Foundation and expanded with a grant by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.