Our new centre is being built using the principles of Universal Design to suit an early childhood environment. Universal design challenges us to view children with disabilities as part of a continuum of learner differences rather than constituting a separate category. It involves creating a physical, learning, and work environment ready to be used by a wide range of people with varying abilities and backgrounds, without the need for further adaptation or design. The centre is being constructed to include the following elements: Fully wheelchair accessible, including accessible children’s toilets and sinks. Classrooms with physical layouts that include space for assistive devices. A designated sensory room to support children with Autism, sensory processing disorder, emotional regulation challenges, and other sensory needs. A designated storage area for specialized and therapy equipment such as standing frames, supportive seating, weighted blankets, visual and auditory equipment, augmentative communication materials, and equipment that supports body awareness and motor development. Equipment could be utilized by professionals for onsite therapy. Observation windows built into each classroom with Bluetooth audio to support observations of children in the early childhood environment. These observation windows can be used by a variety of therapists and professionals, as well as students from St. Lawrence College and/or Queens University to support course requirements of programs such as Early Childhood Education, Child and Youth Worker, Communicative Disorders Assistant, Autism and Behavioural Science, Developmental Services Worker, and Occupational Therapy, thereby helping to build capacity in a variety of fields related to inclusive early childhood education. Multiple methods of communicating direction and location of rooms and items within the centre including enlarged print, pictorial representations, braille and audio components, where appropriate. Equipment and materials to meet a wide variety of individual needs including varied seating options, sensory materials, and open-ended toys which encourage differentiated instruction. A daily schedule that incorporates flexible groupings and employs variable pacing. Hiring a variety of educators representative of the diverse population in Kingston, including educators with different cultural backgrounds and languages, male and female educators, LGBTQ+ educators, and educators with disabilities. Providing educators with opportunity to participate in professional development to support diverse needs, including training in the Hanen Speech and Language Program for Early Childhood Professionals, Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and American Sign Language (ASL). While Universal Design will promote access for individuals with disabilities, it also benefits others! For example, ensuring different modes (pictorial, tactile, audio) for redundant presentation of essential information at the centre benefits not only those with hearing or vision challenges, but also those who have English as a second language or who may have come from regions or parts of the world with differences from Canadian culture. Similarly, ensuring a diverse complement of educators not only supports those who may have challenges or barriers to entering the field of Early Childhood Education, but also provides a sense of belonging and value for children and families from a wide variety of backgrounds. Licensed early learning and child care centres of the future should be designed to support our diverse population, without the need for retrofits or modifications to existing programming. In collaboration with the City of Kingston and other community partners, we are proud to be able to offer a centre built according to principles of Universal Design as a part of the expansion of child care services for our community.
Did you know that all Unity sites are participating in the CWELCC? The Canada Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) program aims to provide child care for all parents at an average cost of $10/day by 2025. Families with children 5 years of age and younger currently pay 50% of a centre's fees and the government funds the remainder. In 2024, parents with children 5 and under will only pay 25% of the centre's fees.
The walls are up and the electrical work is currently being completed. To support accessibility, many of the rooms will have lights that are on sensors and automatically turn on when you walk into the room. The classrooms will have dimmer switches to allow the educators to control the amount of light to suit the children's needs!
Interior construction of our new site on Terra Verde Way has finally begun!!! Our contractor, Devin Wood, from Momentum Built Construction, is on track for the build to be complete by the end of June, which will give us an opening date between July-Sept (depending on Ministry of Education licensing). We are excited to share the construction journey with you!!!