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Important Update Regarding Lottery Registration and Exemptions

posted 31 Aug 2019, 15:46 by Admin Chair
To All Members of the Special Olympics Ontario - Greater Ottawa Community,

First of all we wish to thank you for your patience and understanding regarding the set up and implementation of the lottery system. Over the past few weeks, many of you have provided feedback, both positive and constructive regarding the switch from the First Come, First Serve system that existed before, to the lottery system being implemented now.

It is important to note, that this decision was not at all taken lightly, and while some have expressed concerns about the lack of consultation prior to making the switch, we can assure you that we have had consultation in the form of feedback and discussions with many of our community members and stakeholders over the past few years regarding the challenges posed by the First Come, First Serve system.

Everyone in this community knows and understands that Special Olympics is truly a unique organization, we offer our programming to individuals with all forms of intellectual disability as well as many with physical disabilities and we do not limit our programming based on what type of intellectual disability someone may have. But Special Olympics also exists at a crossroads that many other sports and community organizations do not, in that our programming is both offered for community participation, but also allows our athletes to train and challenge themselves by competing at the local, provincial, national and international levels.

In recent years, as our profile in the community has grown, and as the City of Ottawa reached a great milestone of a population of 1 million, demand for our programming has continued to increase. This rise in awareness and desire to participate is great news that we should all celebrate. With those demands however, comes an increasing pressure on our existing infrastructure and sometimes our sport capacities are necessarily limited. This may be due to a limitation with a facility, or with the number of volunteers available to serve athletes.

Our primary focus as a community is now, and always has been on delivering quality programming to individuals with intellectual disabilities within our community. Over time however, under the First Come, First Serve system, challenged in light of increased demands for programming, had begun to create a separation, between athletes who had strong familial or support networks, who were able to arrive early to registration and secure a spot in line on registration days and those who could not. We also had many athletes and their family alike, who could not come to stand and wait in registration for such long periods of time due to health and mobility issues. Existing athletes and prospective ones have regularly missed out on programming opportunities because they lacked the capacity to attend in person, or because Para Transpo was unable to deliver them on time, or because they were unable to secure the assistance they needed in form of a proxy to attend our registration. We have also had athletes who have participated in past years, but then subsequently been unable to participate due to being unable to arrive at registration the following year to secure a position. 

Our goal as a community is to continue to work towards a future where we will not have to deal with wait lists at all, and that we will have sufficient volunteers, funding, and access to facilities to ensure everyone hoping to participate in Special Olympics has that opportunity.

Below you will find answers to key questions many of you have raised in the past weeks. In the coming days, an FAQ will also be posted to our website addressing some additional questions you may have. If after this, questions still remain, please feel free to reach out to either of our Chairs, Kyle Dowd or Lindsay McPhee to discuss your questions.

How is the Lottery Being Applied

The lottery system is ONLY being applied to sport programs where registration has exceeded capacity, and is not being applied to all sports. Please note that some sports listed, many only have short waitlists, in some cases as little as one or two athletes. We remain fully committed to helping head coaches secure additional volunteers to address capacity issues and where necessary based on demand, look at the set up of an additional program. 

At this time, the following sport rosters will be decided by lottery (after exemptions are accounted for) due to over-subscription:
  • 5 pin bowling - Orleans
  • 5 pin bowling - Ottawa
  • Basketball - Ridgemont
  • Basketball - Roberta Bondar
  • Basketball Kanata Tuesday 
  • Curling Ottawa
  • Swimming Barrhaven 
  • Swimming Orleans 
  • Indoor Soccer - Ottawa
If an athlete finds themselves waitlisted in one of the above sports, but an alternative is available in the same sport within Ottawa which still has space and the athlete is willing to travel, they are absolutely entitled to switch their registration request to the other program. Please note that this will not take place automatically. 

Attendance at Lottery

As the lottery is an administrative function supporting registration, it is not intended to be a public event. In order to ensure transparency and accountability with the process we have taken these steps:

1. We will be asking 3 witnesses to attend the lottery in addition to the council members listed below - one athlete, one volunteer, one family member. Please let me know if you would like to attend. Spaces will be filled on a first come, first serve basis. You can only take one spot ie you can't ask for spot for yourself and an athlete.

2. The following members of council will be in attendance to conduct and witness lottery: 
  • Programs Chair - myself 
  • Admin Chair - Kyle Dowd
  • Athlete Registrar - Lise Lebeau
  • Provincial rep - Jason Hussak 
The lottery will be taking place Sunday (tomorrow) at 4 pm. Location will be provided to witnesses. 

Family exemption 

There have been some concerns raised about the inclusion of an exemption from the lottery for athletes who have family members who volunteer in a sport and so we wished to address those concerns:

1. The policy of granting exemptions to athletes with family volunteers previously existed, including under the previous First Come, First Serve system;
2. Many of our longest tenured, and skilled volunteers began their work with Special Olympics as a result of having a child or sibling with Special needs (our Admin Chair and many council members included)
3. We recognize that without the exemption, we risk the loss of much of that experience and knowledge from those volunteers if a space is not available for their family members
4. Special Olympics is not immune to the challenges facing all community sports organizations, including publicly run and privately volunteer run systems, and like them, we rely heavily and with compassion on the hard work done by parents, grandparents, and siblings in making our programming a success.

At the time of the launch of the Lottery system, we expanded the family exemption to formally include not just parents, but legal guardians (step-parents, court appointed guardians, foster parents etc), and also siblings and grandparents in an effort to ensure many different family relationships could be recognized.

We have also received some feedback from a few of you regarding whether support workers could be considered under the family exemption. Due to the unique relationship between workers and those in their care, and the potential liability associated with this (i.e. a paid worker which supervises an athlete is meant to focus their attention on that athlete directly) we were not prepared to implement a policy that recognized these options. We will be consulting with relevant stakeholders including athletes, their workers, group homes and their employees, and parents who employ support workers in the coming months in the hopes of finding conditions under which this system could operate. 

Competitive Sport Exemption

Based on the current competition cycle for Winter/Spring Sports, only those athletes that have qualified for the upcoming National and Provincial games as applicable to their sports will receive an exemption under the Competitive Sport Exemption Criteria.

The future use of the competitive sport exemption will be further clarified in the FAQ's to be published as it will be subject to the current competition cycle 

Final rosters will be sent out in the coming days and athletes will subsequently be notified of their registration status no later than Sunday September 8th. 

Thank you all for your continued engagement, feedback and support! We look forward to a successful winter/spring season and to seeing many of you in the coming months.

Lindsay McPhee                                        Kyle Dowd                                                                                                                                                                      

Community Coordinator, Programs Chair | Community Coordinator, Admin Chair

Special Olympics Ontario - Greater Ottawa