Brock opens facility dedicated to enhancing adaptive physical activity

After three decades of offering programming at community locations across the region, the Brock-Niagara Centre of Excellence in Inclusive and Adaptive Physical Activity (CAPA) has officially opened its own space.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house was held for the Centre on Thursday, March 21 at 130 Lockhart Dr. in St. Catharines. Members of the local community, Brock employees and student volunteers, CAPA members and their families, and representatives from all levels of government attended the celebration.

CAPA’s developmentally appropriate movement programs cater to people with complex profiles and those requiring individualized support. The new space is fully accessible, with easy in and out access, and includes three large activity spaces, a fine motor room and a quiet room for self-regulated personal time.

“I think what makes CAPA distinctive is our embedded curriculum and our station-based pedagogy,” says Maureen Connolly, CAPA Director and Professor of Kinesiology at Brock. “The fundamental skills members need to practise, and the repetition required to develop their repertoire, are built into the stations. We see massive improvements in their movement and interactive repertoires the more they attend.”

Among the CAPA programs available to the Niagara community is Side By Side, physical activity programming for adults with developmental disabilities.

Current CAPA Community Advisory Council member Ashlee Dagenais, a wheelchair user, first signed up for Side By Side six years ago and recently joined the adaptive marital arts program. She is participating in both programs at the new facility to build her core strength and develop her leg flexibility and function.

“I decided to take [adaptive] martial arts because I wanted to show the world that someone with my degree of disability could actually take karate,” she says. “Twenty years ago, I was thrown out of [traditional] karate because I was too disabled. [In adaptive martial arts,] I’m learning how to stand and kick at the same time, which is a pretty big deal for someone with my degree of cerebral palsy.”

CAPA also offers an adaptive physical activity and life skills development program for youth who are underserved in Niagara’s typical educational environments called Confident Healthy Active Role Models (CHARM), and a developmentally appropriate movement education programming for children and youth called Supporting Neurodiversity through Adaptive Programming (SNAP).

Master of Applied Disability Studies student Kathryn Matheyssen, who has been volunteering with SNAP since September, says what she enjoys most about the program is seeing the “child-like excitement” on participants’ faces.

“When they come through the door, they light up,” she says. “There was a young gentleman who liked making loud noises because he could hear himself echo. I think in a school atmosphere, he’s usually told to be quiet, but in this program, the volunteers encouraged him to get loud and have fun.”

In addition to serving disabled and neurodiverse people in Niagara through its adaptive physical activity programming, CAPA carries out consultative and inclusive research that involves members of disability communities and directly benefits disabled people, their families and caregivers.

“The bulk of our ongoing research is in preparing practitioners to work with people with complex profiles and designing programs that will be meaningful and relevant for them,” says Connolly. “A lot of research has been done on conventionally functioning individuals, so it doesn’t adequately prepare practitioners for working with individuals who have more complex profiles.”

CAPA also promotes experiential learning via student internships and placements and offers Niagara community members training and professional development in inclusive practices, adaptive activity, accessibility awareness and preparation for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

For more information, visit the CAPA website or email Connolly at

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