Breaking Down Barriers opened its doors on February 25th of 1985 as a resource centre for people with disabilities. BDB was the first to establish information and referral services for people with Disabilities in the Georgian Triangle. The organization was founded by a group of concerned citizens- Kathryn Bloomfield, Betty Meacher, and Chris Bouwkamp- who felt that people who lived between Barrie and Owen Sound needed a place to turn that would help them to address the issues they had in their lives as people with disabilities. Back then, the doors of what came to be affectionately known as BDB opened, closed, and reopened three or four times according to the availability of funding. In the early years, most of the funding was for projects. These projects included a study of accessibility in the Georgian Triangle, a study on transportation needs and a job seekers club for people with disabilities. To keep the doors open, BDB had to do some fundraising and developed an annual truck/car raffle which ran from 1991 – 2006 and successfully raised funds for the organization. In 1989, BDB received permanent core funding from the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Health and began offering Information and Referral Services
In 1992, through a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, BDB established a peer support program. In 1993, BDB applied for and was granted membership in Independent Living Canada and added skills development and research and development program. In 1994, another fundraising event was developed, the Box Lunch. This event ran annually until 2008 and was quite successful. The Barb Meacher Memorial Award recognizing a consumer who has shown commitment to the Independent Living philosophy and taken responsibility for their own life to reach personal goals was given out for the first time in 2003. From 1997 to 2004, BDB was one of twenty-two IL Centres across Canada that participated in delivering the Navigating the Waters program, an employment initiative of Independent Living Canada funded by Human Resources Development Canada under the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities. During this time, Breaking Down Barriers was also receiving a small budget from the Regional Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities to provide employment services
On November 1st, 2004 all employment programs were merged into our current annual funding with Service Canada through the Regional Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities. This increased the funding as well as the number of consumers to be served. The name of the program was changed Worklinks Employment Services. We continue to receive funding for this program annually. Also in 2004, the Diabetes Information Group was formed in response to consumer demand, this group now know as DIG, meets once per month.
In 2005 the Georgian Bay Breakers Sports Club was established and focused on track and field. In 2006, Breaking Down Barriers was asked to be a part of the United Way fundraiser Flakefest and an accessible curling demonstration. A partnership with the Curling Club was established and Wheelchair curling was added to our Sports Club.
In 2006 BDB became one of eight IL Centres to be part of the Independent Living Canada's Accreditation Committee accredited through Independent Living Canada. As stated in the letter received from the Accreditation Committee Co-Chairs, Cecilia Carroll and Diane Kreuger, “The centre in Collingwood has many strengths and it offers comprehensive and innovative programming in the Georgian Triangle area to consumers and to the community.”
In 2006 the Thumbs Up Access & Awareness Program began, which promotes an accessible community by assisting local businesses to become accessible. A series of awards were established in 2007 to recognize businesses and individuals who supported BDB in various ways including the Volunteer of the Year Award, Employer of the Year Award, Community Partner Award and the Thumbs Up Award. In 2008, the Distinguished Athlete of the Year award was added.
From 2005 to 2008 due to grants from Independent Living Canada and the Ontario Trillium Foundation BDB was able to hire a full time Fundraiser. During this time, awareness of the organization was raised to a new level and several new fundraising initiatives began including the Rockin’ The House Curling Bonspiel, an annual event which happens in March each year. In 2007, BDB applied for and received a three year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to develop and implement an integrated sports and leisure network. The goals of this project are to increase the number of sports and leisure opportunities for people with disabilities, involve more people with disabilities in these activities and engage volunteers in the project.
In 2009, in response to community demand, we began offering training and education to local municipalities around the standards set out in the Accessiblity for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
In 2010, BDB lead a group of municipal recreation staff and sports and recreation organizations to form the Georgian Triangel Accessible Sports Council. This group worked together to ensure that sport, recreation and leisure activities in the Georgian Triangle were inclusive. We are pleased that this contributed to the availability of many inclusive opportunities such as sledge hockey and Nordic skiing.
In 2011, BDB began a golf program at Batteaux Creek Golf Club.
In 2014, Health Links were created across the province. Health Links work with patients with multiple, complex conditions. When the hospital, the family doctor, the long-term care home, community organizations and others work as a team, the patient receives better, more coordinated care. BDB joined the South Georgian Bay Community Health Link on two levels, as a member of the steering committee and as a navigator. BDB staff work with other community partners and Health Care professionals to assist people with disabilities who have multiple, complex conditions access all the supports they need.
Also in 2014, BDB received a two year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to assist people with disabilities to navigate the complex system of health and community support services. More specifically, the project goals are to attract more volunteers to maintain or grow programs and to start the Community Companion Network linking individual volunteers to our consumers to assist them with system navigation, relieve isolation and/or assist with activities such as grocery shopping.
2015 marks BDB’s 30th anniversary.