Disability is something that affects other people, right? Think again. 75% of Canadians who do not have a disability know either a family member or friend who lives with a disability.
According to Social Development Canada, one in eight Canadians has a disability – that’s upwards of 3.9 million people! There are nearly 1.6 million seniors with disabilities in Canada.
It’s perhaps more interesting that a recent Government of Canada report, Canadian Attitudes Towards Disability Issues, points out that a majority of Canadians surveyed believe that people with disabilities face real barriers in many aspects of their lives.
“Discrimination against persons with disabilities is a widely acknowledged reality in Canada today. More than 8 in 10 Canadians believe that there is a great deal or some discrimination taking place in today’s society.”
Did you know that it is the law in Ontario, the United States, Britain and Australia to eliminate and prevent barriers to the full participation of people with disabilities? But Canada has no such national legislation – despite a Government of Canada task force recommendation in 1996 to enact such legislation.
This is Warren's World
Ah, that youthful idealism and hope. But make no mistake: Warren is more than hopeful. He has a mission, a very practical one. He aims to achieve accessibility. Why? Because, in his words, “Accessibility Rocks!”
During the 2006 Federal Election Warren and film crew will be visiting randomly selected offices of the candidates running in Toronto to learn of their commitments to accessibility.
A 22-year old Ryerson University student studying real-world advocacy and government relations at Ontario March of Dimes’ Toronto head office, Warren Rupnarain also happens to use a motorized wheelchair (necessary to increase his mobility as a result of the effects of Cerebral Palsy).
“The wheelchair replaces my legs. It gets me where I need to go. But unlike my legs, it’s a little bulkier, so sometimes there are challenges in getting into different facilities,” explains Warren. “But people have to realize that accommodating someone who uses a wheelchair only gives organizations greater access to more talent, more volunteers, more people who want to help out and contribute.”
“Can he get into the election offices?” will be the test Warren’s World uses on the campaign trail. Will he be accommodated? Will candidates agree that creating national disability legislation is the right way to go? True advocacy in action.
But this is more than the usual “will you support” exercise. Warren’s World will be filming the experiences of Warren and Co. in their entirety – reality TV. Or, web TV, that is. Each day’s experience, or “episode”, will be posted to the special Election Coverage section of the Ontario March of Dimes website (www.dimes.on.ca).
And what happens if he can’t get into an election campaign office? “If we can raise the bar of awareness during the formidable stages of policy formation, that is right at the grassroots level of campaigning during an election, and we get the ear of the candidates out there, then we have to give applause,” explains Government Relations Coordinator Steven Christianson. “Our goal in this exercise is to demonstrate to those in elected circles that we want to work with you in creative ways, that there is always a workable solution.”
Budding WebTV star, Warren, agrees. “Accessibility is more than a word or tag-line. It’s something that affects me everyday, something that affects anyone with a disability, at any age. That’s got to change. So we’re going to have some ‘advocacy fun’.”
Because Accessibility Rocks!