June 16th, 2024

Understanding vital to improving quality of life for disabled

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 3, 2022.

Lethbridge celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities during its 7th annual event at CASA on Friday which aimed to increase awareness and understanding and the issues that impact their lives.

The event hosted community members to discuss contributions they have made towards inclusion, along with recognizing those in the community who make Lethbridge a welcoming inclusive place.

“International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a UN worldwide recognized event that takes place on December 3rd to raise awareness for the disability community. Here we have our local theme, equality for life, not for show,” said Mark Davids, executive director for the Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association. “We have our Lethbridge Inclusion Awards, which recognizes different community members, everyone from individuals with disabilities who have been standouts or champions in their community, to awards for those who support our allies, people with disabilities.”

Highlighting the work that many in our community do, the event looked to showcase how inclusion helps the many.

“We have invited people to talk about the long-term systemic changes that they are making to help with inclusivity and diversity. Whether that is just for accessibility or hiring issues, whatever that might be,” said Davids. “It is critically important that the more aware people are, the more likely to be able to keep it in mind when they are making decisions.”

With work being put in towards inclusivity, those with disabilities are able to function in today’s world.

“In the past year we have seen many employers change their hiring policies, and promoting more inclusive hiring practices,” said Heather Lyons with Ability Resource Association. “There has been a big project on Coaldale, where they have improved their accessibility of their whole community. […] It is really great to see that the community is really on board with supporting people with disabilities to lead those inclusive lives.”

Recognizing all forms of inclusion, the event highlighted those in the community that go out and make a change, like Gerry Campbell-Greer, recognized for his work on a project at Lethbridge College working with reconciliation.

“I’ve been mostly getting support from the community, not just Indigenous, but the college in general. I am being recognized for making our community a more inclusive place, and not just for one group or another,” said Greer.

Greer hopes his work is a stepping stone for making our political system a more inclusive place, attending the University in the fall, focusing on history, archaeology, and political science.

“I am hoping that in the future I might run for public office, to have better representation in our political system,” said Greer. “It is important to represent people that are differently abled, which is the term I prefer to use. We are not just simply people that are just citizens of this country, but have contributing factors that we can give to this country as well as show we are just as capable as anybody else.”

Taking time to recognize those in the community that make inclusion better for all, and recognizing those who contribute to that work, the event saw a great turnout with many cheers for those helping pave the way.

“Being able to support the people that need the most help, that makes absolute sense,” said Davids. “Because if we are all keeping it in mind, then change will happen eventually.”

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