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Chronicling 30 Years of Achievements

Editor's Note: April D'Aubin is Research Analyst at the Council of Canadians with Disabilities in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Thirty years ago, in 1981, Canadians were commemorating the United Nations International Year of the Disabled and the Handicapped. Many projects to promote the equality and full participation of people with disabilities were undertaken. A very significant milestone was the House of Commons’ Special Parliamentary Committee, which travelled across Canada hearing from persons with disabilities about the barriers they encountered and the solutions needed to bring people with disabilities into the mainstream. The Committee published the groundbreaking Obstacles report, which served as an action plan on disability issues for many years. In 2011, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national organization of people with disabilities, invited Canadians interested in disability issues to share personal reflections on how Canada has become more inclusive and accessible since 1981.

CCD published these testimonials in a new book, Celebrating Our Accomplishments, which chronicles the story of how Canada has become more inclusive and accessible because the voice of people with disabilities has been supported and heard. As the Hon. Diane Finley stated in the Foreword, “Significant progress has been made in Canada over the past 30 years for those with disabilities. And it has been a collective effort by individuals, business, government and organizations like CCD.”

On November 2, 2011, at End Exclusion in Ottawa, CCD launched this new anthology. The first recipients were: Sen. David Smith (who will also be presenting a copy to the Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien); Senator Janis Johnson (who will be presenting a copy to the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney); Dr. Kellie Leitch (who will be presenting a copy to the Hon. Diane Finley); Hon. Steven Fletcher; Shelly Glover MP (who will be presenting a copy to the Hon. Jim Flaherty); and the Hon. Carolyn Bennett. Steve Estey, the Chairperson of the CCD International Development Committee, presented a copy to the Hon. Peter MacKay, who played a key role in Canada’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Sixty-one leaders from the disability community shared their insights into milestones on the route toward an inclusive and accessible Canada. Jeffrey Stark and Donna Jodhan discussed information and communication technology; John Rae focused on how people with disabilities are achieving access to cultural institutions; Traci Walters, a community representative on the Andy Scott Task Force, shared an insider perspective; Steve Estey, Anna MacQuarrie, Dulcie MacCallum and Vangelis Nikias reflected on the creation of the CRPD; and People First’s Paul Young wrote about deinstitutionalization. Authors also revealed the personal dimension of working for social change. Human rights lawyer Yvonne Peters, for example, described her feelings about missing her sister’s wedding because she was on Parliament Hill advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

While Celebrating Our Accomplishments focused primarily on achievements, it also tackled some of the hurdles that the cross-disability movement had to overcome and ongoing challenges. In her article on the inclusion in Section 15 of the Charter, Ms. Peters discussed how, initially, CCD was focused on the inclusion of people with physical disabilities, and then amended that position to include persons with mental disabilities, when it partnered with the Canadian Association for Community Living. Meenu Sikand, in “Multicultural Communities Making Progress on Disability Issues”, called attention to the under-representation of racialized people with disabilities in mainstream disability groups. “Perhaps the recognition and inclusion of diversity in the disability movement has overlooked the cultural diversity that also exists among Canadians with disabilities,” stated Ms. Sikand.

Two authors, Jim Roots and Henry Vlug, chose to use this new publication as a platform from which to dispel a persistent myth. Some people without disabilities often wrongly assume that initiatives sought by the disability community will only affect a small segment of Canadians. In “Just a Deaf Thing?” these writers take aim at this myth and give it the knock-out punch, by demonstrating who else is benefiting from measures the deaf community innovated.

Support for Celebrating Our Accomplishments was so overwhelming that CCD is developing a second volume. Send your contributions of 400 words to ccd@ccdonline.ca. To read Celebrating Our Accomplishments, visit www.ccdonline.ca.

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