Welcoming Communities: Conquering goals, one net at a time

Bryce Schaufelberger knows what it’s like to face a challenge.

The multiple-time Special Olympics champion has been putting his best foot forward since 1997, bringing home gold, silver or bronze at the B.C., Canadian and world (Athens and Shanghai) games.

So when the soccer star took on creating a dedicated website for self advocates in 2000, he jumped in with both feet.

Winner of the provincial Reboot B.C. award for public value transformation, SelfAdvocateNet.com gives people with disabilities an online presence.

Bryce and colleague Joe Rikley operate the website from the H.O.M.E.S. (Healthy Opportunities for Meaningful Experiences Society) computer lab, where they work.

In addition to his achievements on the soccer field, Bryce Schaufelberger was also involved in the original creation of Community Living BC, and is also the founder of SelfAdvocateNet.com.

The goalpost has moved a long ways from the website’s humble beginnings at the 2000 H.O.M.E.S. Self Advocate Leadership Retreat.

Fourteen years later, the online community of self advocates and supporters is on a mission “to change attitudes one person at a time.”

“We post articles, stories, photos and videos that strengthen our voice. It gives us a way to share what is important to people with diverse abilities,” says Bryce, who is web manager for the site.

He credits website sponsor Cam Dore, executive director of H.O.M.E.S., for keeping the website alive.

Bryce is thankful for Cam’s belief in self advocates and to CompuServe for some early technical support, as well as the Ministry of Social Development and Economic Security (now Social Innovation) for start-up funding.

CLBC began sponsoring SelfAdvocateNet.com in 2013 as a way to support the voices of self advocates. CLBC provides an $100 honorarium to self advocates for articles that help them build understanding of their hopes and dreams. The website is now a great place to find stories about attending university, getting a job, finding love and more.

Bryce sums up SelfAdvocateNet.com‘s value: “We are highlighting the leadership from our movement and are excited that allies, community members and government have a place to learn about our abilities and contributions.”

But more than that, he says, there is a good reason why SelfAdvocateNet.com matters in promoting people’s abilities and skills and ensuring their voices are heard.

“The ability to get our stories out helps others to understand self advocates’ struggles – the good things and bad things. It gives us a place, a platform, for all self advocates to express their wants and needs.”

SelfAdvocateNet.com is also a place to come together and a place where others can communicate with self advocates.

“We are often the last ones to know what’s going on in the field,” Bryce observes.

“Having our own website values our lives and ideas. People take us seriously and understand we are not tokens, we are people who want to contribute to society.”

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