Did you know that over one in five (22%) people in Canada aged 15 years and older identify as having a disability? Many of whom may have experienced a form of discrimination known as ableism.
But what is ableism?
“Ableism is the belief, and practice of the belief, that people who have a disability are of less value than others,” says Krista Carr, Executive Vice President of Inclusion Canada. “Ableism leads to exclusion and marginalization across the lifespan of people with disabilities. Segregated schooling, inaccessible communities and high rates of poverty are all ultimately grounded in ableism.”
To help bring light to this systemic issue, Allstate Canada has partnered with Inclusion Canada to launch a public education campaign focused on ableism and how it impacts the lives of people with disabilities by helping to define #ThisisAbleism.
The Good Hands Advice team spoke with Yvonne Spicer, a person with an intellectual disability and former member of the board of directors with Inclusion Canada, to discuss her experience with ableism, how it has impacted her day-to-day life and what she’s hoping Canadians can learn from this campaign.
Meet Yvonne Spicer
When we spoke with her, Yvonne was in her final year at Fanshaw College in London, ON studying early childhood education. “I find the opportunity to help children broaden their minds, allow them to have a say in how they want to be taught, and empower them to make their own choices to be quite rewarding,” Yvonne explains. “Whether it’s teaching young children, or teens and young adults living with an intellectual disability, I want to be able to prepare them for success.”
When she’s not studying, she enjoys spending time with her cats Chimica and Goldie, and playing video games on her Xbox, N64 and Wii. “One of the games I’m playing at the moment is Wii bowling,” Yvonne mentions. Because of the pandemic we aren’t able to meet up in-person to play. So, every week we have a virtual bowling league where we play on our own, then meet via Zoom and record our scores. It’s a great way for me to be able to connect with my friends.”
Questions and Answers
Good Hands Advice Team (GHAT): How long have you been working with Inclusion Canada? And what are some of the ways Inclusion Canada has provided a positive impact in your life?
Yvonne Spicer: I was a member of the board of directors at Inclusion Canada for two years. Though I am not a member this year, I’m still actively involved with many of Inclusion Canada’s initiatives. For example, lately I have been advocating for the financial support of our Ready, Willing and Able program – which supports those living with an intellectual disability to find lasting and meaningful careers.
By being able to participate in Inclusion Canada’s committees and initiatives and having the opportunity to advocate and speak up on decisions that impacts me and others living with an intellectual disability, it’s had a positive impact on my life. It provides me with a sense of belonging and acceptance.
GHAT: What are you hoping will be accomplished through the #ThisisAbleism campaign?
Yvonne: I’m hoping that through this campaign we’re able to break down barriers that have been put in place for those living with a disability. Though there may be things that we aren’t good at (just like everybody else!) that doesn’t allow others to turn their backs on us, or tease and bully us. Like many people, we can suffer from depression and anxiety when we’re looked down upon. There needs to be a level of understanding and patience toward people with a disability to allow us all to thrive in an inclusive society.
GHAT: Has ableism presented any obstacles in your life? If so, what are some examples of the ways you’ve had to overcome them?
Yvonne: I have been in situations, like in schools, where I was told that I wouldn’t be able to do the work that lies ahead of me. Despite me taking the initiative to work with a tutor to improve my grades and putting in extra time completing my homework and assignments, to be rejected without the opportunity to even try gives me a sense of failing before I even start. It left me feeling discouraged. It’s part of the reason why I’m happy to be completing this program at Fanshaw College. To have a certificate and show others that, despite any limitations put before me, I can indeed do the work.
GHAT: Has there been a time in your life where you have experienced ableism? And if so, how did that make you feel?
Yvonne: There have been times where I’ve had potential employers reject me prior to reading my cover letter or resume. They assume that I can’t do the job without taking the time to get to know me and the skills I posses. When these things happen, I feel very sad and often depressed. Sometimes it takes me a while to bounce back from that feeling of rejection. I often take the time to self-reflect on things I could do differently or try to find takeaways from the experience. But, at the end of the day, knowing that I have the support of my mom and my friends always helps to brighten my day.
For those of you that don’t know what ableism feels like, imagine a constant feeling of rejection. It’s not a great feeling to know that others are making assumptions of your abilities due to a disability.
GHAT: From your point of view, what are some of the ways we can be better allies for those living with a disability? Are there any key takeaways?
Yvonne: Don’t make any assumptions based off of any disabilities. Just ask people what they need, and support everyone to meet their goals. From my experience, there are many who are just looking to learn. We want to be able to acquire the skills on our own so we can live a fulfilled life, just like anyone else. We want to be valued and included within our community.
To learn more about Inclusion Canada’s #ThisisAbleism campaign, visit https://inclusioncanada.ca/this-is-ableism/
This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.