The 6th Annual Toronto Disability Pride March Saturday, September 24, 2016

Starting at Queens Park (111 Wellesley Street West) and marching to the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson (99 Gerrard Street East) from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Please note: accessible washrooms are not available at Queen’s Park. Please see information on accessible washrooms on the route page.

Why we’re Marching:

  • To bring recognition of the struggles and value of people with disabilities as we fight against ableism and other forms of oppression.
  • To be visible and show that we have a voice in our community and a right to be heard by taking to the streets.
  • To celebrate and take pride in ourselves as a community of people with disabilities.

Be Loud, Be Proud, Come March with Us!

Find us on Facebook and Twitter @DisabilityPM

We need volunteers and marshals for the march! If you have experience that is great, if not we still want you! If you aren’t sure what a marshal does, here’s a brief description. Please fill out the volunteer form if you are interested.

Some  things you should know if you plan to attend.

The Toronto Disability Pride March aims to promote a cross-disability atmosphere, that also recognizes other forms of oppression such as race, class, gender, sexuality, sanism, etc.  We believe the disability movement is strongest in a harmony of voices, not one homogeneous voice. We ask all those who plan to attend the march to respect this approach and the other people within the space of the march.

Have Questions? email us at torontodisabilitypride@gmail.com.

The Privilege of Niceness

Confession: The label of “nice” has benefited me as a woman and a disabled person. A smiling face has literally opened doors for me. I’ve pretended to be fine to get things I’ve needed or just to avoid confrontation.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that, perhaps we should reward “niceness” is society, but what happens to people who get labelled “not nice” or “difficult”?

Where do these labels come from? What are their consequences? Do we lose something by silencing people who don’t follow the status quo?

I’m not talking about someone who oppresses others. There are many forms of “not niceness” with power. I’m talking about marginalized oppressed people who carry these labels around before they even speak.  Who’ve been judged against Robert’s Rules of Order, or any system used to separate Others from professionals and decides who has a greater right to speak.

There are consequences on an individual level, with many examples. In advocacy groups made up of people labeled “professionals” and “community members”, those community members are more likely to be heard if they back up the professionals and keep their emotions in check, and speak when it’s their turn. A disabled person looking for services is more likely to get what they want when they’re articulate, and faces greater marginalization when they are not.

At a systemic level, it’s showing up in policy, through people who think social change can be brought about with legislation. Those fighting for accessibility legislation say it is the answer to our problems. Others want to introduce anti-poverty legislation, claiming income is an equalizer of fairness and respect. Sometimes activists are encouraged to play along, and keep quiet any talk about ableism or other forms of oppression…lest it disrupt sunny ways.

Don’t get me wrong, these groups are doing great work, but there’s a big piece missing. Accessibility and income cannot make up for those situations that leave us disadvantaged and devalues our humanity. Ableism and sanism are ugly truths, but we do ourselves a disservice by painting over those truths. It’s like trying to solve the wage gap between men and women without acknowledging sexism, or calling for an end to carding without acknowledging racism.

If we want change, it’s time to stop working within the same old rules and hierarchies.

It’s time to end the silencing of the uncomfortable.

 

 

Real Change means an Accessible Canada for All

#On December 3rd, let’s remind Trudeau what an #AccessibleCanada4All looks like.

Canada has a new government, and with that new opportunities for change, new potential, new possibilities. Among those possibilities is the Canadians with Disabilities Act.

It seems that Trudeau has taken up the call, and made this potential Act a part of the mandate for our new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough.

But what does this mean in terms of real change in the disparity of equity that disabled people face across this country?

There are some promising points here, Minister Qualtrough has a background as a human rights lawyer and Paralympian; this suggests that she is familiar with the struggles we as disabled people face.

Unfortunately, this potential legislation is already being framed in terms that will favour some of us over others. There are people who firmly believe that this national idea should follow in the path of provincial legislation that came before it, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This legislation was not so much focused on preserving our rights, as it was about getting disabled people involved in the economy, employment and industry.

These are still important points, but sometimes the more privileged disabled people tend to forget the many other hurdles that keep so many more of us behind.

  • The need for accessible, affordable housing.
  • Protection of the rights of parents with disabilities.
  • Accessibility in healthcare, including Indigenous Peoples and refugees.
  • Police training in effectively and sensitively working with disabled people.
  • Distribution of Health and Social transfers to address the inequities in the systemic barriers that exist between provinces and territories.

These are just a few examples, I’m sure there are many more.

This is why I’m asking all disabled people in Canada and their allies to make their voices heard.

Thursday December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is also the day before Prime Minister Trudeau’s Throne Speech.

That is why on December 3rd I’m asking all of you to show our new Prime Minister and his Cabinet what an Accessible Canada for all looks like.

Using the hashtag #AccessibleCanada4All please take to social media and remind them that real change is not a continuation of the status quo, where only the most advantaged of us move forward.

This is our time. Let’s make it count.

Please share the #AccessibleCanada4All campaign with your networks.

“Here in Canada, we won’t see your disability”…unless we can profit from it.

The Parapan Am Games, August 2015. I was at the Torch Relay a few weeks ago, and one of the speakers, a well-known member of the disability community, and founder of a disability organization said, “Here in Canada, we won’t see your disability”.

My jaw dropped. I wanted to believe that he hadn’t just said that like it was a good thing, but he did. In fact he went on about it for another few minutes with great enthusiasm.

I doubt anyone has gone from shameless fan girl to outraged disability activist as fast as I did in that moment, but it was an uncomfortable transformation that went something like this:

“Wait, what?”… “Are you kidding me?”… “Ok, any minute now he’s going to turn around and tell all the politicians behind him that they need to step up”… “Somebody must’ve put him up to this.”… “Nope, no, please just stop”.

He meant this as a positive statement I’m sure, I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a country where ableism doesn’t exist. I think the PR department forgot to tell the white guy with the microphone that Canada isn’t that country. If that country exists right now it probably has unicorns, wizards flying on brooms…and much better Games.

I want to believe this speaker meant well; he’s a Canadian icon. Maybe he’s just speaking from his lived experience.

Maybe he doesn’t realize that there’s disabled people still fighting for accessible transportation, like RAPLIQ in Montreal. Maybe he doesn’t realize people are fighting to keep their existing accessible transportation, like Save Handydart in Vancouver.

It’s not like Canada’s a country that still euthanizes disabled people, but it does do research to screen genes for disabilities, and let’s not forget the ableism in assisted suicide.

It’s a country were disabled people can move freely…unless you’ve have been forced to live in an institution (another example), or have a suicide attempt on record that prevented you from crossing the border.

It is a country where disabled people have free will, unless compliance with medication is forced on you, someone decides you’re too disabled to parent, or you’re a refugee seeking healthcare.

Perhaps it’s easy to be misdirected by the billions of dollars that was spent on the Games and forget we’re in a province that underfunds social assistance and social housing, still has high unemployment for disabled people despite the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the Guy Mitchell inquest.

If I may, let’s take a lesson from our Prime Minister on what not to do, and stop trying to make problems go away by pretending they don’t exist. Disabled people exist in Canada, and not seeing that is part of the problem. Shielding our eyes from oppression is not something to be proud of and it won’t make ableism disappear.

How about we focus on making Canada a country that sees disabled people, and sees them as an asset. That sounds like something to shout into a microphone.

For more on ableism see The Invisible Backpack of Able-Bodied Privilege Checklist.

Support a Barrier-Free Canada.

Why Canada needs more Disability Stories

I grew up in a small town of about 6000 people in rural Ontario. There were a few of us with disabilities in the area, but a small enough number that it was possible for those of us within that group to be at least vaguely familiar with each other. One I remember very clearly was a young man I’ll call Ted*.

Ted and I were not friends, in fact we had never met, but he was very much the nemesis of my childhood, by no fault of his own. At some point his parents had met my parents, where they heard all about his story and from that gleaned grand visions for my future. Ted used crutches, had plans for his future, and was a poster child for a disability organization. I was a rebellious, struggling stubborn kid in a power wheelchair. We were not close in age, and we had different disabilities. I was nothing like Ted, and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to be.

My parents just wanted what was best for their child, and with very few stories to draw from I can see why Ted’s story gave them hope. Eventually I carved out my own pretty awesome story, but there’s still something to be learned from Ted’s impact on my parents.

When I did interact with other children with disabilities, it was usually at summer camp. There, for a brief but blissful period of time all labels seemed to disappear. Of course there was still discrimination between kids, but there was also comradery in those shared experiences that I couldn’t find anywhere else. Brothers and sisters who knew what it was like to constantly be seen through the eyes of able-bodied people, and the loneliness that creates.

I moved away from that small town, and into larger urban areas where I met disabled adults who taught me important things about disability history. These were people who started disability organizations, and had protested for disability rights in their younger years. I was fortunate to have them as role models.

Not everyone is so lucky. Recently I saw a post on Facebook, in the picture a mom was sitting next to her physically disabled son in a public transit station, and she was crying. The post explains that she and her son were treated badly by fellow commuters while trying to use a public washroom. They felt her son was in the way and taking up space. It reminded me very much op my parents. What were she and her son to take from this experience? How would she use it to arm him for the world ahead?

The stories we share as disabled people might not be passed down through families, but they are still an important part of disability culture. Sharing stories of our leaders, the people who made it possible to where we are today, is an important part of how disabled people see themselves, as it is for the society that looks back at us.

Why Disabled Canadians should care about Bill C – 51

Today I was asked why disabled people should be concerned about bill C-51. This was my response :

I’m not sure I’m understanding your question, are you saying that the serious potential for the violation of human rights is not a concern of the disability community? “Demonstrating without an official permit or protesting despite a court order, activities that are commonly carried out by Indigenous communities, environmental groups, the labour movement and many others, could be targeted by the new CSIS powers, even though they are fully protected under the Charter of Rights and international law.
These new powers to reduce security threats by CSIS agents are not defined. The only exclusions are acts that would lead to death, bodily harm, perversion of justice or violation of sexual integrity. Other internationally guaranteed human rights such as liberty, privacy and freedom of expression are not protected from these new CSIS powers.
CSIS agents can also seek authorization from Federal Court Judges for warrants to take action that violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and permits them to act in disregard of local law in the countries where they are operating.” (Amnesty International)

Many disabled people are concerned about this bill, as it impacts our ability to support our rights, and it impacts the rights of those who show solidarity with us.

Say no to Bill C-51! Find a local rally, sign a petition, and contact your MP.

More ways to get involved

Ableism, not Assisted Suicide, is what we need to work against

Update January 23, 2016: Now that the panel has released its recommendations earlier this week, ableism in Canada is once again rearing its ugly head. Allen Mankewich, co-chair of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities, responded to one such example in the CBC this week.

The Supreme Court decision on assisted suicide brings up a lot of questions for Canadian disability activists, and some fear, but I think it’s worth looking at why we still have this fear.

I’d like to position myself in this conversation by noting a few things. The first is to acknowledge that within the disability community I hold a fair bit of privilege. As a white, well-educated, employed disabled activist I am aware that other disabled people face greater barriers and oppression and will likely have more to fear from this decision than I do, and I’m not saying that fear is misplaced. I am also a person who has attempted suicide in the past, and I have the privilege to be able to say that without shame. I was young and fighting many years of unnamed depression and ableism that I have since been able to climb out from. I have also known people for whom assisted suicide may have been a compassionate end to their suffering if that choice were possible at the time.

There are many disabled people who understandably feel that they’ve been made more vulnerable by this decision. It brings up many questions about what constitutes a valuable life. What does that mean for people who require assistance with daily activities of life? Does it impact the value of a disabled person’s life in the context of a capitalist society where the ability to produce, make and spend money, has become a mark of human value? What does it mean for mad people and psych survivors whose decisions to end their lives are often controlled by the medical community?

The reason I chose to try to end my life over a decade ago is a complicated one, but ableism, and my understanding of myself within society played a big role. This is a struggle that faces many disabled people still. The idea that we are burdens, and second-class citizen where other “experts” make choices and decisions about our lives is still as ever-present as it was then. The idea that needing help, and being anything less than 100% self-sufficient and independent makes us burdens; that we must all “overcome our disabilities” is holding us back. Yet this is the image we see presented to us not just in the media, but by the organization and presentation of some of our most cherished disability organizations. Yes, there are disability organizations in Canada promoting the oppression of other disabled people through their own internalized ableism. Their inability to recognize the privilege of their membership has silenced those who are more oppressed.

So what do we do about it? We can start with opening our doors and minds to a shift in the disability movement; one with zero tolerance for oppression within its ranks. One where working disabled people work towards becoming allies to people on social assistance, where disabled athletes can talk openly about needing supports. Most importantly we evolve our organizing to a level where disabled people are each experts in the disability experience, and all of us are equally valuable. We can no longer tolerate a movement or organizational community that positions non-disabled people as our champions and runs rampant with classism, racism, sexism, ableism, or any other form of discrimination.

The decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada on assisted suicide is about choice, and we too have a choice. We can choose to allow this decision to divide us into “achievers” and “victims”; or we can reject that ableism. We can use our collective power as disabled people to define lives worth living in terms that include all disabled people. This does not have to conflict with the right of other people who would make that choice. We have no reason to fear assisted suicide if we can overcome ableism within society and within ourselves. We have that choice, let’s choose to start now.

Solidarity with the elevator workers strike

As of the end of May, there are no talks planned in the strike that’s seen 1,400 Ontario members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors striking for more than a month with no end in sight.

According to Ben McIntyre, business manager for the IUEC Local 50 in Toronto, the union’s deal with the National Elevator and Escalator Association expired at the beginning of May. With no new deal, the elevator workers went on strike. Like many workers, they’re fighting just to keep what they already have.

But a problem is brewing that may make things even more challenging for the Ontario’s elevator workers. If the maintenance workers’ strike continues, the agency regulating elevator safety in Ontario says it may need to shut down elevators for safety reasons. The Technical Standards and Safety Authority says it requires regular safety checks and is concerned that, with elevator companies won’t be able to keep up with required inspections.

But while you’re journeying up those flights of stairs, it’s worth remembering that these are the workers who keep those elevators running every day, and without them, your commute might be much more exhausting.

Having said that, many people depend on elevators as a part of daily life; I use an elevator roughly ten times a day. Until they develop an easily available wheelchair that can handle stairs, elevator workers will be an invisible army connecting me to the outside world.

And I’d personally prefer that army to be well paid, well qualified, and in strong enough numbers to get the job done.

I’ve had calls from reporters expecting me to be angry about this situation, and I can understand why some people are upset and worried, but without this strike would any of us stop and think about the importance of the work they do?

The Toronto Transit Commission is trying to make it easier for people with disabilities, and other people who depend on elevators while supporting the striking workers. They are adding buses and looking at their options for riders as the elevator workers strike continues. They are also putting Wheel-Trans buses in strategic locations to assist people that may get stranded because of broken down elevator. Wheel-Trans is the accessible public transit alternative for people with disabilities to use in Toronto when they can’t access the regular transit system.

Elevator workers are vital to the quality of life for many who live in Ontario, including people with disabilities. Let’s not let others make this a case of workers’ rights versus disability rights; let’s make it a time we supported each other in solidarity, so that we can all have the quality of life we deserve.

Reposted from http://www.socialist.ca/node/1774

Reproductive Justice includes Women with Disabilities

Earlier this month I spoke at a reproductive justice rally, and as much as I was honoured to be there, it wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. For a long time I stayed out of the pro-choice conversation. I have always been pro-choice, but I didn’t always feel included in the movement. My concerns about reproductive justice were a little different than most feminists, while most women I knew were fighting for the choice of whether or not to have children; most women with disabilities were fighting for the choice to have children at all.
Like many fights in the disability movement this one goes on silently and often behind closed doors. It happens in subtle ways, the dead quiet after a little girl with a disability suggests that she is going to be a mommy someday, the doctor who asks a teenager with a disability why she wants birth control, to the barrage of comments a pregnant woman with a disability is subjected to in public. It also happens in more overt ways, like when a woman with a disability is not allowed to have her child in the maternity ward, the many unwarranted calls to the Children’s Aid Society, and even in some cases forced sterilization.

There are 300 million women with disabilities around the world, each one of them are impacted by issues like these, compounded by the same lack of reproductive justice facing other women in their communities. But how do these women organize if they are too afraid to tell their stories? How can we expect them to join the movement if they do not feel included?

While these women are feeling excluded from discussion of choice and reproductive justice, the anti-choice movement has been freely exploiting us for years. One day they tell women that children with disabilities are their punishment for having abortions, and the next time they are telling women that they should risk giving birth to a potentially disabled child, even at the risk of their own lives. We did not ask to be used this way, and I for one refuse to be used this way.

What we need is a reproductive justice movement that welcomes women with disabilities in the way we want to be included. The rising of women is the rising of us all, but only if women with disabilities rise too.