SCIO Community Magazine
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Spring 2021

Community Magazine Cover summer 2021

Rolling Through Barriers

Stuart Howe
Dr. Stuart Howe | CEO, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

Last summer, as we were struggling through the first 6 months of the pandemic, the spotlight shone brightly on not only the many pre-existing barriers to full inclusion that our community members face everyday, but on new barriers being created in government responses to the pandemic. The pre-existing, critical shortage of PSWs increased to the point of putting many in our community into crisis, accessing essential medical equipment was stalled and hospital triage protocols were being developed that could prevent individuals with a disability receiving lifesaving treatment – and those are just three barriers that immediately jump to mind. There were many, many more.

We decided to launch an awareness and fundraising campaign, called Rolling Through Barriers, that would allow our community members to talk about the barriers they most frequently faced in their daily lives and give elected officials an opportunity to pledge their support for eliminating barriers to full inclusion.

As I write this, whispers of an upcoming election are increasing in volume. We must see where the parties sit on issues that impact our community and hold them accountable to their promises. We cannot be sloughed off with platitudes and empty words about inclusion. One surprising benefit of the pandemic is that it has given the whole world a view of the isolation and lack of access to services that many within the disability community deal with all the time. It leveled some of the playing field but not in a way we would have wanted.

Now that the world has had a glimpse into some of what our community deals with, it is time to provide a more detailed impression and clarify the misconceptions that are so often held about the barriers that people with disabilities face. So often, the lack of understanding of what people need to lead a fully inclusive life is at the base of why certain barriers are not given the attention they deserve. For example, many funding models for assistive devices are tied to making people independent within the home. However, what if they do not wish to stay within the home? What if they are looking to work outside the home and need the ability to elevate their seat to reach a counter? The barrier then is not their ability to work but the lack of funding for devices that would make employment outside the home possible.

Our Rolling Through Barriers campaign this year aims to dispel the perceived barriers while shedding a light on the true roadblocks that our community encounters regularly. By dispelling some of the myths about what living with a disability means and putting the focus clearly on the barriers our community encounters we are trying to show society that equity, not equality is our goal. Equality is to treat everyone the same, but equity is providing those with different needs with the support they require to be given the same opportunities as everyone else. For our community this may mean; access to mobility devices, access to medical supplies, accessible health care and adoption and commitment to the Accessibilty for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Accessibility is the key.

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