My quality of life is not diminished by my disability. I am not unhealthy or unwell because of my disability.
My disability is not a personal tragedy, it is not something that needs to be cured, and it is not something I have to overcome. It is simply part of what makes me, me.
There are more than 926,000 British Columbians over the age of 15 with some sort of disability – some sort of barrier to full and equitable participation. That’s over 20 per cent of the population. Yet only 59 per cent of people with disabilities aged 25 to 64 are employed, compared to 80 per cent of people without disabilities.
And we can change that. But we have to be honest. We have to acknowledge that the biggest barrier of all is ourselves – our own biases. In fact, attitudinal barriers are the most pervasive.
I was recently told by a business, when I suggested some improvements to their accessibility – “I’ve done what I am required to by law.”
I certainly would have hoped people’s thinking would have evolved by now, nearly 30 years after my injury, but it hasn’t, at least not enough. I wanted to believe that education and positive reinforcement was the answer; more carrot, less stick. But I have evolved my thinking. More stick is required.
That’s why a few years ago our BC Liberal government moved forward with Accessibility 2024. That’s why the Government of Canada unanimously passed Bill C-81, The Accessible Canada Act. It’s why all political parties in B.C. have committed to BC Accessibility legislation.
This is National AccessAbility Week. So I ask you, too, as members of our community, individuals and business leaders, to be a part of the change. See the ability. Remove the barriers.
Stephanie Cadieux is MLA for Surrey South