Smiles all around as unique program accessibility is enhanced at Acadia

In celebration of National AccessAbility Week, May 28 to June 3, Acadia University is proud to recognize the completion of improvements to accessibility in the S.M.I.L.E. (Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience) program. More than $500,000 in enhancements were possible thanks to a grant from Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities as part of the Campaign for Acadia fundraising initiative in 2019.  

A national charity, Jumpstart helps kids overcome financial and accessibility barriers to sport and recreation to provide inclusive play for kids of all abilities.



S.M.I.L.E. is an innovative, volunteer-driven, adapted physical activity program for children, youth, and adults with developmental, cognitive, physical, and sensory disabilities. S.M.I.L.E. aims to improve participants’ total development and promote lifelong physical activity participation through physical literacy.

“Enhancing accessibility to Acadia’s S.M.I.L.E. program has created a meaningful and lasting impact on our participants, student volunteers, and the surrounding community,” said Dr. Roxanne Seaman (’96), Director of S.M.I.L.E. “The Accessibility Grant from Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities is an investment in inclusion. We are incredibly grateful for their support.”

The program received funding over two years to enhance its program quality and capacity by expanding its Snoezelen Room: a multi-sensory environment that helps reduce agitation and anxiety and engages users by stimulating reactions and communication. The funds also supported the installation of an accessible washroom, elevator, and wheelchair ramps.

The infrastructure innovation enhancements will serve children of all abilities, especially those with cognitive and developmental disabilities. A free program for all users, S.M.I.L.E. attracts participants across Nova Scotia.

Madeline Gillis is a fourth-year psychology student at Acadia and a student volunteer with S.M.I.L.E. Her older sister, Anna, has been a long-time S.M.I.L.E. participant. She explains that the new elevator has offered more opportunities to her sister, who uses a wheelchair, and others with mobility challenges.  

“It allows her to participate in activities that she may not have been able to participate in a couple of years ago just because of accessibility,” Gillis explained. “She loves this place so much. It’s a really important part of her development physically and cognitively.”  

“We chose the S.M.I.L.E. program because it is such an outstanding program,” said Andrea Acheson, Regional Manager of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, Atlantic. “I’ve seen the impact it has had on parents, the impact on the student volunteers, and the impact on participants, and we’re very proud to be part of it.”

About Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities

Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities is a national charity dedicated to helping kids overcome financial and accessibility barriers to sport and recreation. With an extensive national network of over 1,000 grantees and 289 local chapters, Jumpstart helps eligible families cover registration costs, transportation, and equipment. It provides funding to selected organizations for recreational infrastructure and programming. Since 2005, Jumpstart has helped over 3 million kids get off the sidelines and into the game. For more information, visit

About Acadia University and S.M.I.L.E.

The Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience program (S.M.I.L.E.) at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, is an academic-based program that uses various physical activity settings to help those with varying disabilities develop motor, social, and cognitive skills. At the same time, student volunteers are given unprecedented opportunities to forge friendships and serve as mentors and leaders. Acadia University provides a personalized approach to education, encouraging broad learning, inclusiveness, and community service. S.M.I.L.E. is a true example of an Acadia education in action. The program has become a part of the University and, by extension, the local community’s culture. Learn more at



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