February 23rd, 2018

Citizen Walk About brings message of equality and inclusion


By Villeneuve, Melissa on September 28, 2017.

Residents gathered at the steps of Lethbridge City Hall prior to marching to Galt Gardens for the eighth annual Citizen Walk About on Wednesday. Herald photo by Tijana Martin @TMartinHerald

Melissa Villeneuve

Lethbridge Herald

mvilleneuve@lethbridgeherald.com

For those living with a disability, life isn’t always a “walk in the park.” But dozens came together on Wednesday for the eighth annual Citizen Walk About to advocate for disability rights and show the community what they’re capable of.

The annual Citizen Walk About is hosted by South Region Self Advocacy Network (SRSAN), with assistance from the Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association (SAIPA).

“It’s an event where people with and without disabilities come together to celebrate the disability rights movement with messages about equality, inclusion and how far we’ve come and how far yet we have to go still,” said Christina Scott, SAIPA’s community engagement co-ordinator.

This year’s theme was “The Disability Rights Movement Across Canada,” focusing on the progression of disability rights across the country in the past 150 years. A special display detailed the progression in the country as a whole, while highlighting important milestones in each province and territory.

“While we’ve come a long way in the past 150 years, there’s a long way to go,” said Scott. “This kind of raises awareness that people with disabilities are a part of our city and it’s everyone’s responsibility to bridge those gaps to create community inclusion.”

In the 1800s, people with disabilities lived in institutions, Scott explained. People began to realize the importance of being out in the community, so they developed day programs and community access programs.

“That’s what you see today,” said Scott. “People with disabilities are out there more, but unfortunately there’s a long way to go towards equal rights in things like employment, housing, all those sorts of things.”

Scott said there have been some changes locally, and commended the City of Lethbridge for its plan to make public spaces more accessible for everyone.

The Citizen Walk About began at city hall and featured a walk to Galt Gardens, followed by a number of events and activities, including a barbeque and talent show in the park. Acts included singing, dancing, rapping and art displays. All proceeds went towards SRSAN and advocacy initiatives.

Ben Rowley, SRSAN’s chair of the organizing committee, has been involved with the walk since its inception in 2009. He said participation in the walk is growing, and more businesses are starting to change their attitude about hiring people with disabilities.

Having the annual walk is important to show that they are part of the community, too, he said.

“It shows what we’re capable of doing – our abilities, not our disabilities. I think it’s good to show it, so having the community see it is good.”

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