Parksville is home to Canada’s first sensory-friendly chiropractic office.
Dr. Emily Roback aims to make the recently-opened Ivy League Chiropractic, which uses an accessible business communication model, a welcoming environment for people with sight, hearing and sensory issues, as well as people who are sensitive to things such as touch and light.
“I’m going to paint the office using a colour-blind palette friendly colours,” said Roback, who was born profoundly deaf after her mother had Rubella while pregnant. She added she is “trying to really think about all the sensory sensitivities that people have, so when people walk in it’s like, ‘oh my gosh — completely different experience.’”
Roback said a patient’s environment can help them heal better. She considers environmental stressors such as scents, humidity, noise levels, temperature, lighting and fans.
Her sensory-friendly practice uses braille, close captioning, sign language and devices that allow people with hearing loss to tune into an audio system. The office is also designed to allow easy wheelchair movements and uses a service called Internet Protocol (IP) Relay, which enables persons with a hearing or speech disability to use a telecommunications relay service through a computer or web-enabled device to communicate via telephone with hearing persons.
She said she plans to add a visual/vibrating emergency alarm system as well, so people with hearing challenges will be alerted if the fire alarm goes off.
People can call into the office and leave a message. Roback will then reply back by email or text. She also wears a clear mask, so people with hearing issues can follow what she says easier.
She has been a chiropractor since 2007 and has worked in offices in Ontario, the Northwest Territories, Alberta and Vancouver Island.
Experiencing first-hand the challenges of being deaf in a hearing culture motivated her to look for opportunities to improve accessibility in chiropractic offices. When she began to research the idea, she did not find anything in Canada.
She had the idea for a sensory-friendly practice several years ago and gave a 45-minute presentation on the topic during the 2019 British Columbia Chiropractic Association Conference.
After looking for two years, she was able to find housing in Parksville, where she enjoyed the beaches, sunsets, quiet and laid-back atmosphere on visits. Roback moved in April and established her practice this summer.
“Parksville has given me an opportunity,” she said.
Roback has written about the topic of sensory-friendly offices in an article for Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor and in her memoir.
She said people did not think she would make it as far as she has.
“I stuck it through and I would say surprised quite a few people,” Roback said. “The potential is there, everybody has the potential. We just have to understand where our limits are and change them.”
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