By Luca Martial and Jacqueline Di Bartolomeo

A group of occupational therapists based at Montreal’s McGill University have launched a brand new version of ‘Jooay’, a Canada-wide mobile application aimed at connecting children with disabilities and their parents to leisure activities in their area.

The interactive app, which made its debut in 2015, uses geo-location on users’ mobile devices to showcase activities ranging from arts programs and social recreation to sports, day camps, respite homes, support groups, and other activities nearby.

Jooay is the brainchild of Keiko Shikako-Thomas, an Assistant Professor at McGill’s School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, and Annette Majnemer, who is the Vice Dean of Education at the Faculty of Medicine. Working with a team of researchers, rehabilitation professionals, educators, community organizations, and parents, their goal was to increase access to information in order to boost participation in leisure activities for children with disabilities – an important part of living a full and healthy life.

“We wanted it to be an App to help families connect and find things in common, help each other, find solutions to help their children engage in different activities and participate more in the activities that are important to them”, says Shikako-Thomas.

The new and improved version of the app now includes a chat function as well as increased accessibility features. All are key to creating an online community for sharing information and creating a support network for families and their children.

“We are always so busy trying to find activities that are right for our children…this is really what we needed to make at least this task easier. It also helps to talk to other parents and see what they are doing, what works for them that could work for us too!” shares Mehrnoosh Movahed, a parent who has been using the app.

In the past three years the Jooay network has expanded across all provinces in Canada and includes about 2,000 leisure activities and programs. The App creators also started a Facebook group for parents so that they can share experiences and help each other in overcoming common barriers to accessing leisure activities. Meanwhile, Jooay boasts ‘ambassadors’ across Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, often local community members who are tasked with seeking out activities and creating links between different stakeholders.

Other important players have also been making good use of the application since 2015. Robert Simpson is a physical education teacher at the MAB-Mackay Centre School, a school for children with disabilities in Montreal. “I used to spend a lot of time trying to find sports and other activities for my students close to where they live, so they could stay active and have fun,” he says. “Now this is all organized into one single place; this is really handy!”

Organizations wishing to have their activities listed on the app can also submit information directly and engage in the different activities across the country such as leisure fairs and “science cafés” on the benefits of leisure for all.

Suffice to say that Jooay is a game changer for children with disabilities in Canada.

Version 2.0 of Jooay is now available for free download in French and English through the App Store on iOs and Google Play Android devices. Readers can also visit Jooay’s website to use the application on the Internet.



November 16, 2018