Michael Bach speaks at the Accessibility Campaign Launch Event

Posted in : Blog
Posted on : June 21, 2017

Michael Bach, CCDP/AP - Founder and CEO

Thank you, Michael.

Welcome, bonjour, boozhoo and thank you to everyone for joining us this evening.

I want to start by acknowledging that we are meeting today on the unseeded ancestral territories of the Mississauga of New Credit First Nation and say thank you to our indigenous peoples for allowing us the honour of meeting here today.

CCDI’s mandate is to educate Canadians on the value of diversity and inclusion, and I believe our newest campaign – titled DON’T LET A BARRIER BE A BULLY – will do just that. We want to start a dialogue about accessibility – specifically about accessibility for people with physical disabilities who use wheelchairs and mobility aids.

Our goal with this campaign is to get Canadians thinking about the things that many of us take for granted – things like doors, steps, curbs. Things that a person who uses a wheelchair or a mobility aide would not only be hyper aware of, but may find insurmountable.

In preparing this campaign we recognized that our society is not terribly accessible for people with physical disabilities who use wheelchairs or mobility aides. While our country may be relatively young, our facilities have not caught up to the needs of today.

As recent as 6 months ago, we were opening an office in Calgary. Having a facility that was not fully accessible was a non-starter for us. I can’t tell you the number of facilities I looked at that thought they were barrier free, but their definition of barrier free and my definition of barrier free seem to differ. Stories like:

  • We have a wheelchair accessible bathroom, but there are two steps to get into the building and no assistive devices on the doors.
  • The ramp is through the parking garage. When asked what a person did if they didn’t drive to the office, there was a stunning blank stare.
  • Or my favourite: The accessible entrance is right beside the garbage dump. Because nothing says we value you, like the stench of garbage.

And that doesn’t even begin to mention the number of buildings that weren’t barrier free, and honestly, people just didn’t seem to care.

I’m sure some of you will not be surprised by this at all. People with physical disabilities who use wheelchairs or mobility aids know all too well that this world is not terribly friendly. I have experienced this when I spent two years walking with the assistance of a cane prior to having back surgery. You never know how many steps there are in your world until each one seems like a mountain.

With that in mind, we set about to create a campaign that was going to be disruptive. Many groups including ours, have spent a lot of time and effort trying to be gentle on this topic. This campaign takes a different approach.

I’ll be honest: what you’re about to see is quite aggressive. As we were developing the campaign we tested it with different stakeholder groups and some people were quite uncomfortable, bordering on offended. Those people were mostly able-bodied.

Most people with disabilities who have seen the videos were quite moved by it as it accurately represents some of their experiences and feelings. They, of course, know what it’s like.

When I heard the word “uncomfortable” from the focus groups, I was honestly quite pleased. I believe we need to become more comfortable with the uncomfortable so we can actually start dealing with the barriers that are holding some members of society back.

What you’re about to see is one of three videos that we are releasing as part of this campaign. The other two will come out later this week.

The black and white video focuses on a barrier – in this case, a door – and the narration that you will hear or read is as if the door were speaking to a person with a disability.

With that, we will play the video.

Not exactly a Canadian Tire commercial.

As I said, I recognize that the dialogue may make people uncomfortable. And if it did make you uncomfortable, I encourage you to embrace that discomfort. Ask yourself why it made you uncomfortable? And while you’re thinking about that, I want to share with you the story of Cal Schuler.

Cal lives in Calgary, and in 1975 had an accident that left him using a wheelchair. At the time, little in the province was accessible, and Cal had to finish his schooling by correspondence because there was no way for him to access a school in-person. Cut to 40 years later, and not a lot has changed. While the building code now requires all new facilities to be barrier free, there is no law that requires older building to retrofit, including health care facilities. Cal has many stories of not being able to access his doctor’s office, and even worse, having had major dental surgery in the hallway of his dentist’s office because the door wasn’t wide enough for him to fit his chair through.

That’s just one story. There are thousands.

I’m sure we can all agree, if we can change our society to be more accessible so that people like Cal can fully participate, then a little discomfort is worth it.

Now that I’ve made you uncomfortable, I have an ask. We need your help to spread the word about this campaign. There are four simple things you can do to help us:

  • While you’re here, take a selfie against our selfie wall and share it on social media with the hashtag #AccessibleForAll. That’s F O R, not the number 4.
  • Visit our campaign website at ccdi.ca/barriers to view the videos, and access resources for individuals, and business owners, who can help make Canada more Accessible For All.
  • There you will find a link to automatically change your Facebook profile picture to show your support for the campaign.
  • You can also share the campaign information, including the videos on your social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #AccessibleForAll. We’ve provided suggested tweets and posts to share the campaign on your channels to tell all your friends and colleagues that you want to see a Canada that is Accessible For All.

I want to thank you for coming this evening. I particularly want to acknowledge our hosts BLG for generously providing the space. I want to acknowledge TAXI – our creative agency, not the vehicle that brought you here – for their amazing work on this campaign. Maureen and Kevin, thank you for your kind words ofa support. And last but certainly not least, I want to thank the amazing members of the CCDI team without whose hard work, none of this would be possible.

Thank you, Merci, Miigwech. Enjoy your evening.

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