Michaela Robinson waits to hear from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Nov. 1

Michaela Robinson waits to hear from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Nov. 1

South Surrey self advocates weigh in on accessibility legislation

Michaela Robinson and Alexander Magussen selected for National Youth Forum in Ottawa

A South Surrey woman with a unique perspective on accessibility reached new heights last week, with a chance to ask Canada’s leader how his Liberal government was going to improve access for people with disabilities.

Michaela Robinson was among a handful of young adults who got to pose questions to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the one-day National Youth Forum in Ottawa, held Nov. 1.

Robinson didn’t mince her words, asking Trudeau “how your government foresees making accessible burdens more accessible for people my size, my shortness stature, and how it will help more people with disabilities to do things they love to do.”

At just three-foot-10-inches tall, Robinson knows the reality of barriers all too well.

But she is also a prime example of someone who doesn’t let her disabilities stand in her way – she is a Special Olympics athlete and an avid volunteer in and around the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

Her tenacity was among characteristics that earned her a seat at the forum, along with fellow Self Advocates of Semiahmoo member Alexander Magnussen.

Alexander MagnussenMagnussen, 28, is a passionate public speaker and chair of the Semiahmoo House Society group, which formed to support their peers with developmental disabilities, raise awareness and promote inclusion.

He said he and Robinson were among just over 100 young adults chosen from across Canada to represent people with disabilities at the forum; an opportunity he said was “a great honour.”

Consultations around accessibility legislation got underway last July and are scheduled to continue through February.

In response to Robinson’s question, Trudeau told the forum that his government is committed to have “an accessibility act with teeth” in place by early 2018.

Understanding the issues is central to addressing the challenges, he said.

“The first part of it is what we’re actually gathering here to do, is to hear from a broad range of Canadians with very different experiences and challenges about what is most needed,” Trudeau said.

Areas to be considered include whether current standards are adequate; if there are other examples in the world that Canada should be following; and what logical solutions can be put in place.

“These are the challenges that I think we need to understand properly,” Trudeau said.

“At the very least, we will make it much more obvious to Canadians who are ‘happily oblivious’ to the very real challenges that far too many people go through, more aware of what they can do…

“Making people understand that they are all of our issues is something that we are going to achieve through this process that you are all a part of.”

Video of Robinson posing her question was posted to SAS’ Facebook page, and received swift support. As of Monday, it had been viewed more than 6,100 times. Commenters commended Robinson as an inspiration and “an awesome spokesperson.”

“Even though you are short in stature we all look up to you,” writes one.

Magnussen agreed that Robinson “held her own,” including in drawing attention to herself when she wasn’t sure if her size meant Trudeau hadn’t seen her hand up.

“She made her presence known,” Magnussen said.

In addition to hearing from Trudeau, Robinson and Magnussen were part of group discussions around accessibility, removing barriers and leadership roles.

For Magnussen, who is autistic, financial accessibility for people with disabilities is an issue he’d like legislation to tackle.

As well, there need to be protocols in place that consider things such as the needs of people with intellectual disabilities while travelling, he said.

Magnussen explained that he is claustrophobic, and flying to and from the forum could have been unnecessarily traumatic had the flight attendant not been considerate of his need to get off the plane as quickly as possible after landing.

“I have autism; a meltdown can occur faster and without much warning,” he said. “It could’ve went horribly, horribly wrong… if they didn’t understand that it was a real thing.”

He admits that while he is “a little skeptical” about how much of an impact what was shared at the forum will have on the upcoming legislation, it was a step in the right direction to be given the opportunity for input.

“We have a right to have our words known and our causes known, because we are the last to have our issues brought up,” Magnussen said.

“A lot of time we aren’t asked about our own care, government-wise, or even daily.

“I hope that what we did will make meaningful changes for people with disabilities in Canada.”

Parliament Hill

Just Posted

Fleetwood Park Secondary School’s 2021 commencement ceremonies were held over the course of two days, June 10 and 11. Grads went through a small, distanced ceremony in groups of four, with up to four members of the grad’s household. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s 2021 grads find creative ways to celebrate in another year of COVID-19

This year’s Grade 12 students were unable to have any large-scale events

All nine White Rock Renegades softball teams are set to take part in the Canadian Pride and Power Tournament, scheduled for July 1-4. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock Renegades set to host multi-team Pride and Power softball tournament

‘There’s going to be a lot of excitement in the park,’ said Greg Timm

The Lower Mainland Green Team and students from Earl Marriott Secondary remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park. (Contributed photo)
Green Team returns to White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park to monitor previous work

Environmental volunteers, South Surrey students remove invasive species

Dooris Raad was last seen in South Surrey’s Ocean Park neighbourhood on June 7. (Surrey RCMP photo)
Doris Anderson’s digital triptych Aberration, which she is marketing as an NFT.
Semiahmoo Peninsula abstract painter dives into NFT market

Works sold as one-of-a-kind digital files

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Most Read