Diverse Abilities Programs & Training

Gina Martin

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“Disability Inclusion and Awareness (D.I.A)", through the Victoria Disability Resource Centre (VDRC). Presented by Gina Martin

Woman In Need workshop - January 2023

  • I really appreciated the practical information about ways to be helpful, as well as things to consider about accessibility. The discussion about language was also helpful.
  • I found the information was excellent about physical disabilities! I thought there could have been more information about mental illness (particularly about how a workplace can be more inclusive for folks with mental illnesses + how to reduce stigma in the workplace - but maybe that is another workshop).
  • The speakers were great, and I left feeling like I knew so much more after the workshop! The speakers kept my interest the whole time and I felt comfortable asking questions. I thought the presenters did an excellent job.
  • I am so appreciative to have had the opportunity to take this workshop. The information was invaluable in helping me to understand how to participate in creating a welcoming and accessible retail space as well as an inclusive work environment. I appreciated learning about the presenter's lived experience and found the workshop very positive, with practical ideas that I feel I can implement in my life, and at work. I learned a lot!
  • This was a fantastic presentation with lots of really helpful information to support our learning. It was so valuable and appreciated to hear about Gina and Erin's lived experience, and their approach was kind and compassionate. A wonderful workshop that gave us all an opportunity to deepen our learning and awareness about both visible and invisible disabilities. Gina and Erin’s kind, compassionate and honest approach was really helpful in creating a space for us to ask questions, and better understand how we can bring this knowledge into increasing accessibility and inclusiveness across everything that we do.

Saanich Commonwealth pool - October 2022

  • Gina was amazing I thought the speaker was wonderful and I appreciated the talk was coming from someone who knows firsthand what it is like to have a disability like low vision The positive manner in which the information was presented was most impressive.

Fairfield Gonzales Community Centre - June 2022

  • Every day lived experience of our facilitator. Her personal stories were really insightful. I also enjoyed reviewing person-first language, and current phrases to use or stay away from.
  • Gina had expert experience with blindness. It left me wanting to learn from other facilitators with different direct experiences; deafness, wheelchair users, mental health, learning disabilities, the list goes on an on - folks who I want to hear from, about the barriers, speedbumps & biases they encounter in this world & how we can do better. 
  • Everyone needs to attend this workshop. Learning how to offer support to folks with disabilities without your biases and judgments coming into play, is an essential skill for anyone aspiring to be an ally.

City of Victoria Recreation - September 2022

  • I thought Gina did a wonderful job and was very real and relatable.
  • Presenter was great, very engaged.
  • This session brought many issues up in an engaging and approachable way- staff felt safe asking questions and were able to understand disabilities in a deeper way.
  • Presenter was fantastic and very approachable!
  • Great workshop and fantastic facilitator!

District of Saanich (Commonwealth Recreation Center) - October 2022

  • The Disability and Inclusion training provided by Gina and the VDRC will be invaluable to my future interactions. I feel more confident in my knowledge and abilities to help make our facility and programs as inclusive as I can.
  • The Disability and Inclusion training provided by Gina and the VDRC will be invaluable to my future interactions. I feel more confident in my knowledge and abilities to help make our facility and programs as inclusive as I can.
  • Gina was amazing I thought the speaker was wonderful and I appreciated the talk was coming from someone who knows first-hand what it is like to have a disability like low vision.
  • The positive manner in which the information was presented was most impressive.
  • I thought it was all very informative and useful; Gina was amazing.
  • It was a very informative and enjoyable workshop.
  • The positive manner in which the information was presented was most impressive
  • I loved the entire presentation. I'm going to learn some ASL.
  • As a person who is hard of hearing, I appreciate the awareness to be considerate of all persons with disabilities regardless of if they are seen or not.

John Howard - January 2023

  • I am a program coordinator for a local non-profit which recently received Disability Inclusion and Awareness training offered by the VDRC. Our team found this training to be both illuminating and enriching. The facilitators, Gina and Erin, were knowledgeable, open, and kind. From this training we learned so much and have found actionable ways we can make our spaces more inclusive and accessible. Thank you VDRC for offering this important training, anyone and any organization could benefit from this learning.
  • I found hearing their stories was a lot more impactful than if they had just read facts from a text or pamphlet.
  • The program length was great and informative, and the learning activities were effective
  • I think this was a great intro session for people who come in having no previous knowledge on the subject. 
  • I loved the interactive opportunity to try to guide Gina to a seat, and the feedback I received.
  • Facilitators were fantastic and shared parts of their personal experiences with a disability which was helpful for understanding.
  • This was a great training to have in our organization. We learned vast knowledge from a lived experience and now we can use this information to better serve our clients. I truly believe every person should have access to this information, and I believe this training could be a valuable skill for employees to add to their resumes as a certificate training.

Burnside Gorge Community Centre - October 2022

  • The training is not only a great refresher on what we might think we already know, but also a reminder of the many things that we don't know still. I've learned a lot about the different disabilities, how to communicate effectively, and appropriate language usage. I even learned about some fun facts about braille and how different people navigate on the streets and even through life. After the training, I am feeling more confident and inspired to be proactive, and I wish that I could carry around a small booklet with me at all times to encapsulate all that I've learn today so that I can be knowledgeable & helpful everywhere I go!
  • I thought Gina did a wonderful job and was very real and relatable.
  • This session brought many issues up in an engaging and approachable way- staff felt safe asking questions and were able to understand disabilities in a deeper way. The manner which Gina spoke about her own disability and how positive she is, was inspiring.  
  • Presenter was fantastic and very approachable!
  • Great workshop and fantastic facilitator!

“Lived Experience Around Disability (LEAD)", Presentations Given at Retirement Communities, through the VDRC.
Coordinator and Facilitator of Senior Program, Gina Martin

The Victorian: 

  • Impressive presentation by Gina. Hearing her story and how she does things was very interesting. 
  • I learned how to help visually impaired people. 
  • I now have a better understanding of vision problems.

Jensken Aerie: 

  • Learning about equipment that helps blind people was very interesting. attendee
  • Hearing personal experience is so important. Thank you for your explanation on so many different topics for the blind.  
  • Very informative presentation and knowledgeable facilitator.

Alexander Macky: 

  • This presentation helped me understand what other people go through 
  • I learned so much, excellent presenter.

Berwick in Royal Oak: 

  • Having demonstrations made things so much clearer. I now know how some people do things who don’t see. 
  • Learning from you gives me hope as I’ve just been diagnosed with macular degeneration. - - You have a good attitude and it is refreshing. Gives me hope.

Amica on the Gorge: 

  • Gina’s training in the United States was so interesting and inspiring. 
  • It is amazing what blind people can do. I enjoyed learning how the presenter does everyday things.

Marian Manner:

  • I learned to offer help by asking what their need is and if they are OK with me helping.

Friendship Community Church:

  • The presenter was excellent and I liked the demonstrations and trying to do something under the sheet where I could not see my hands.

Luther Court:

  • I am hearing impaired and Gina spoke in a loud clear voice. Thank you

Shannon Oaks:

  • Your story is real experience and I learned much good information how to help the blind.

Carlton House:

  • Such a friendly facilitator. I was interested in everything she said.

Montague House:

  • Not for me but I have a friend who has bad cataracts. Gina gave me ideas and many things to talk to my friends that can help her. Excellent presentation, everyone should attend this.

Sommerset Amica:

  • The presenter gave me hope. 
  • I loved the demonstrations of the tools that Gina uses that makes her life easier. I had no idea. 
  • Having a disability is not the end of the world
  • I heard great feedback the from the first presentation you did. I was disappointed I missed it. When I heard you were coming back I told 2 friends and we all loved how clear you spoke. Great presentation! 
  • Interesting talk, I learned a lot of good information about the best ways to offer help to blind persons. 
  • So brave to embrace her disability.  My biggest fear is to be blind. She has such a good outlook on life. Very enlightening presentation. Thank you for coming again. I learned so much new stuff this time.

Water’s Edge:

  • My husband has sight loss and I do everything for him. Learning about the things that are out there to help was wonderful. I wish my husband was here for this presentation.  Thank you for coming. 
  • I learned that people can learn to deal with whatever, if they decide to. I did not know that a blind person could do so much for them self.

Ross Place:

  • This is the second presentation I have been to of Gina’s. Both times I learned so much from her. She is knowledgeable and provided resources to 3 people I saw. Please come back again 


  • Seeing Gina’s visual aids I found a magnifying glass that really helps improve what I can read. Very kind of her to order me one. So grateful I found something to help me.

Burnside Gorge Community Centre:

  • We have guest speakers regularly and I found Gina to be very informative and I loved her positive attitude.  She was so friendly and that made asking questions easy. 
  • I had met Gina before and knew a bit about her. The training she did was so remarkable and impressive. That school she went to should be here for blind people to learn the same way. Your wooden boxes are beautiful.

James Bay: 

  • Gina came to us bringing a suitcase of low vision aids and things she uses in her kitchen and around the house. Being able to hold and feel the devices was so helpful. She explained how they worked and told me that not everyone prefers the one she has and to know there are many different things that can help me. 
  • Being able to try the visual aids Gina uses was very helpful. 

“Lived Experience Around Disability (LEAD)", through the VDRC. Coordinator and Facilitator of Youth Program, Gina Martin

Students trying hands on activities to gain a better understanding about disabilities. The teacher is at the back, on the right, watching the students participate.Teacher comments:

Oakland Elementary

  • I am a teacher at Oaklands Elementary, and today my grade 4/5 class enjoyed a powerful and engaging hands-on presentation by two presenters from LEAD. They were fantastic! The kids were very curious and riveted by the activities.  I’ve written about our experience in this workshop on my class blog, in order to share it with my students’ families. 
  • I loved how many students were involved and the discussions that came from the activities. I myself learned about the sounds of crosswalks and loved that our presenter was visually impaired so she could share personal experiences. Very meaningful.
  • It is great that this presentation is delivered by people who have lived experience with a disability. 
  • Please come back next year this program is excellent.  I absolutely recommend it!  

Cedar Hill Middle School

  • It was amazing. As an EA, I find kids aren’t always aware of how being loud affects classmates. Good talk about this. My students were still, had questions and the speakers were clear.  

Tillicum Elementary

  • Gina and Erin did an excellent job and sharing their lived experience in a meaningful way for students. 

James Bay Community School

  • The presentation was age-appropriate. It was wonderful that you shared your story as well as covering different visible and not visible disabilities. 
  • Excellent learning opportunity. The presenter was well-spoken.
  • I like the hands-on activities, the message and the tone was excellent. Experienced speaker and informative presentation
  • Excellent learning opportunities! The hands-on activities were excellent, and the presenter was well spoken.

McKenzie Elementary

  • As an educator of 15 years, I have seen many presentations and this one has been the most interesting and inspiring program for myself and for my students. This program plays a crucial role in helping children and adults harness empathy, which in turn, helps to manage complex, cooperative situations. These are crucial skills children need because it motivates them to act positively on behalf of others. Vice-Principal 

  • Very informative and interactive program. My students were very engaged and had lots of questions.
  • Love the hands-on learning experience for my students. It really helped them to understand how challenging task can be for some people. 
  • I highly recommend this program for all students. It helps create compassion and empathy for the students without disabilities. 
  • The method this presentation is delivered in is friendly and engaging. Presenters make it very comfortable for the students to ask questions and be curious. 
  • The variety of topics were age-appropriate and explained in a manner that the children are able to understand.
  • The presenter had a good pace/manner with the kids. My class had several questions that were sparked by the discussion.

Students are standing around a table and are putting on gloves, mittens,or oven mitts to accomplish a writing task. The teacher is at the left, towards the back, watching the students participate.

  • This presentation was fantastic. It had the right amount of student involvement hands-on participation, and time for questions. A few things I liked best was respect for everyone, everyone is unique, practical ways to be helpful and awareness.
  • Gina and Erin used the activities perfectly as discussion points and attention grabbers. My students remained active and engaged and were answering questions.  I loved it. Fantastic talking points and hands-on activities.  The presenters were genuine and authentic, very powerful. Every teacher should go through this program with their students early in the school year. It provides so many examples and talking points that can be raised and focused on in the classroom.
  • This program should be shared with every school. I think my grade twos would benefit from this and be able to make connections and improve understanding. We see invisible and visible disabilities in every grade and nearly every classroom. This is so important to bring awareness and increase understanding so that peers are able to support their classmates with disabilities in a respectful manner. I loved how all the students got the chance to share their comments. They were engaged and asked questions repeatedly. Your presentation was lovely! (I sat in on a grade 3 LEAD presentation. Grade 2 teacher at MacKenzie Elementary.) 

Glanford Middle School

  • I thought it was very well done and you were able to keep the kids engaged. You honoured the students, if there was a lot of questions you provided time to answer them. Great presentation.
  • It was my pleasure again to have LEAD come into our school. It is such a valuable program.  Gina delivers a program that is clear and engaging for the students. She has lots of hands-on activities which the kids love.  Gina speaks from the heart and makes it a safe place for kids to ask questions and learn.  She gives valuable information for everyone about people who have disabilities. Living in a world where most people have a visible or invisible disability it is important to remind the students of this and to always be kind and inclusive. Gina gives easy ways for the students to understand this.  This is such a valuable program!

 Student comments:Students are trying to pick up a pencil wearing mittens.This simulates someone who does not have dexterity in their hands.

Grade 3 Students:

  • I loved learning about sign language and how to do the alphabet.
  • People who are blind can read with their fingertips it is called braille  And we have braille on our money.    
  • I liked how the presenters talked about it’s OK to have a disability.
  • I learned that being quiet helps some people with invisible disabilities learn better.
  • I learned that no two people have the same disability even if it’s called the same.
  • I liked the sign language and learning that it’s called American Sign Language.

Grade 4 Students:

  • Don’t use the word handycap use accessible.
  • I learned what it looks like for people with a type of dyslexia. And I learned how to make somebody with a disability feel good about themselves.
  • I am going to tell my mom I had a presentation in the library about disabilities. I like the person who was named Gina. It was interesting.
  • I learned that you can get a disability at any time.
  • I learned that a classmate has a disability and how I can help them.
  • Be kind to the blind.
  • I liked when I got to put my hand inside the bag to see how somebody who is blind seas. That was cool.
  • I learned that some peoples bodies or brains work different and that’s OK. 

Gina’s presentation is set up in the library. All the students are sitting on the floor, facing her, while she’s talking to them about what a disability is and how the class can be a support to someone who has one

Grade 5 Students:

  • I learned that having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t do things you just have to do them different.
  • I am going to tell my mom to use person first language. I like how Gina explained it clearly.
  • I like to learning the alphabet in sign language.
  • I’d like to putting on the mittens and trying to write with them on. Now I know how hard it is for my grandma who has arthritis to do things. 

Grade 6 Students:

  • I can share that I learned how people with disabilities use certain tools and ways to communicate and do tasks like everyone else does.
  • I like how she explained stuff really well and she let us come to help and demonstrate. I learned what and how you can do to be kind and helpful to a person with a disability.
  • I like how Gina involved us in the presentation and I can share that you should ask someone before you help them.
  • I learned that one simple act of kindness makes a big difference. I like how Gina talked with us and made me understand disabilities better.
  • Just because you can’t see a disability doesn’t mean person doesn’t have one. Don’t judge.
  • I like how the LEADers told us how we can help someone who is struggling.
  • Some people have disabilities they’re just not noticeable.
  • I learned there are lots of disabilities and what people use to help them.
  • I learned to move out of the way of people who use mobility devices like a wheelchair or a cane.
  • Don’t treat people with disabilities different.
  • I learned ways to help and respect people with disabilities from this presentation.
  • I like how they told me what to do and say if I am speaking to someone who has a disability.
  • Learned that when you talk about somebody with a disability the person should come first.
  • I learned why people first language is important.

Grade 7 Students:

  • I learned that nine out of 10 people that have a disability you can’t see it.
  • If someone uses a white cane it means they are legally blind. Only 15 percent of people see nothing at all.
  • If someone says they have a disabilities and believe them. They trusted you to share it with you. I can ask how to be a support and just be kind. 

Peer Support testimonials, received from people in the community I was supporting under the Peer Support Program through the VDRC.

A note to thank you for the much-appreciated peer support program you offer. My phone call once a week from Gina is so helpful on so many levels. She is so cheerful and always positive despite her own challenges and our talks brighten my day, especially in this time of Covid. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this program available. Her positivity fills my heart with a real glow and I always feel so much better after our chats. Your service is more appreciated than I can say in short e-mail. Thank you again. Sincerely W.D.

I am writing to express my appreciation for the Peer Outreach Program. I am the fortunate recipient of regular phone calls from your delightful staff member, Gina, who has consistently connected with me for the past several months during the Covid pandemic. Due to chronic pain, depression and severe hearing loss I had become extremely isolated. Often the calls from Gina were the only connection I had with the outside world. Just hearing her familiar voice was uplifting. She immediately drew me in with her obvious concern, caring and compassion. She often had me laughing with her, and the sense of connectedness and positivity I felt was instrumental in diminishing my overall sense of hopelessness and resignation. I looked forward (and still do) to her calls! She is a real gem!

Gina regularly helped me identify goals and encouraged me to take the baby steps required to attain a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Examples of some of her suggestions are buying a plant, putting on energetic music, opening my curtains, doodling, making a phone call, getting outside, and several more. Contact with Gina through this program was a lifeline thrown at just the right time. Speaking with someone who could totally relate to being 'challenged' brought relief, confirmation of my strengths, and reassurance that life still has much to offer. This 'peer support' enabled me to identify and express my feelings and to trust her wisdom.

I was unaware of the services provided by your resource centre other than my parking permit, and am so grateful for the outreach aspects of this program. I believe it is imperative that this service become better known and more available to the public. For certain there are many people who would benefit and thrive from such support and I wholeheartedly endorse any consideration of continuation and especially expansion of this Peer Outreach Program. If I can be of any assistance in your requesting ongoing or increased funding or promoting or endorsing this invaluable program I am available. It would be an honour to give back. Most Sincerely JC

 I would like to speak to my experience with the Peers Support Program provided by the Disability Resource Centre of Victoria. I was in a depressed dark state when out of the blue I got a call from Gina Huylenbroeck in July. She explained why she was calling & asked if I needed help & if I had time to talk. That phone call changed my perspective & gave me the push to engage more virtually & also do some covid safe volunteer work. My energy level increased & I got out for walks & mentally took a big turn from feeling very alone. Between the Zoom coffee socials & peer support meetings, we are able to lift each other’s spirits. I don’t know what I would do without Gina’s calls. Please keep this program going. As the second wave of covid hits I believe it is vital to those with disabilities or immune-compromised systems to have other options of connection. Sincerely, PA

Hello, my name is (name omitted for privacy reasons) and I recently received a phone call from Gina on December 4th/ 2020. I’m writing to you as a follow-up on my conversation with Gina; your disability resource contact coordinator. I have had two different conversations with Gina now on different dates. I don’t usually write follow-up letters for phone calls made, but I’m making an exception this time. Gina is the most delightful person to talk with. She possesses the loveliest telephone voice which is coupled with her sensitivity, intellectual depth and insight; a true wealth of knowledge. I can only imagine what a profound lifeline she must be for so many people. That being said; a service such as this provides a very critical social program and absolutely needs to be implemented as a permanent resource. I sincerely urge and recommend the government to keep and make this program an ongoing performance and service; accessible to the disabled public.

I must commend whoever took the time to hire the right person for this job and for creating such a vital program: as well as for filling in an obvious void in public relations and resources, available to and for the disabled public.

I have asked Gina to enroll me as a member of your organization due to my interest in the service I recently received and being profoundly impressed with its delegation of resources.

Thanking you in advance for taking the time for reading my letter. Sincerely, JO 

My name is (name omitted for privacy reasons) and I am a senior living on my own - one day I received a call from Gina. It was a call that came at the right time and so very needed. Living on my own in these strange times is so very hard. Gina has become a most welcome caller. We talk about many things and I have learned many things from her. Her phone calls have been something I now look forward to. A person who has given me some great ideas of what to do or what I may need at this hard time of being locked down. I would like to say, at this time these calls have been a lifeline to me - I am so grateful for this program and really hope that it will not stop even when times get better. For us older folk on our own - not able to be or do the things that break up my days or help with our health issues, this phone line is a God sent for us. So please help make it continue.

Thank you for your time and all the staff that make this possible!! Your friend in truth - CE 

I would love to say how pleased & happy it’s been having Gina contacting me when pandemic started! Her joyful voice & positive kindness still means so much to me! I feel very fortunate talking with her. I look forward to our visits by phone & meeting her was a welcome surprise. Her caring & loving spirit exudes her even through phone lines! I feel very lucky to have her as a wonderful phone companion. I sure hope she continues with our visits via phone! Thank you. BJA 

You light up my life. I look forward to hearing it is you when the phone rings. You have such a good spirit about you. You have an upbeat voice and I feel better and lighter at the end of our phone call. Looking forward to meeting you in person one day. DN  

So thankful to have such a happy person check in on me. I appreciate you taking the time to let me talk and vent. I know I can go on and on during our calls every month. They often go on for what seems like hours but are wonderful. I am sad that we won’t be talking much in the future but happy you are doing what you're passionate about. Best of luck. LS

A person calls out of the blue. So kind and wonderful. I don’t usually talk to strangers. I do anticipate your calls every two weeks. I think it has been for over a year now that you have been calling. it is a wonderful feeling, especially during this pandemic crisis. I will miss the closeness of talking with you and all the helpful suggestions and encouragement you share to me. You are 1 person I would speak to every day if It were possible. Your positiveness cheers me up and I am really going to miss you. KN

It has been nice to make a new acquaintance and to have someone check in on me every couple of weeks. I don’t do much as my eyes don’t work well anymore. We always have lots to talk about. I have liked talking to you. I often get you confused with the other gal both your both nice. I am going to be 99 and it gets lonely around her sometimes. Thanks for your phone calls, can someone else call me when you move on. BB 

 Even though we have not met each other, your friend's parents live here at Luther Court, and it really feels to me like we have met. You laugh at my stories and that makes me feel good. It was nice to learn about all that the disability resource centre does. I had no idea other than my parking pass what your organization does. So sorry to hear that there is not funding for this outreach program at the moment. Your calls came at a much needed time, during this Covid 19 pandemic. Glad you reached out. TN

I like so much that somebody cares and takes the time to check in on me. I really like knowing you Gina. We always talk nice things together and I like that we laugh sometimes. PB

It has been delightful talking on the phone as I only have family. Having a different person to share experiences is refreshing as my social circle is small. It gives me a lift to have a chat. I am so old that nobody gets married so hearing about your wedding has brought me more joy than words can say. Thank you for sharing with me and listening to me. You are a bright light. PB

I am 94 and do not have many friends left so your calls always come as a joy. I enjoy our conversations, your a very friendly lady. Please keep calling. OB

Gina standing at the front of presentation, holding designated person with disability parking placard . There are tables behinder her with things she uses for her presentations.

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