Let’s Talk Language

I am not going to say too much here as I think the tweet from the Founder and Executive Director Tracy Humphreys, says it all.

BCEdAccess is a non-profit organization. “We champion and support children and youth who have disabilities and who are complex learners to reach their full potential in BC education, and in all aspects of their lives.”

At a press conference on December 29th, 2021, the Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside announced a phased delayed school start, in January of 2022 due to the spread of the Omicron variant; euphemism language to describe disabled children was used.

Here is BCEdAccess’s response.

Twitter Thread


When I think of language, it shines a light on the darkness that people don’t want to reveal. I remember my own internalized ableism and what I was too ashamed to say out loud or discuss with others.

If someone cannot even describe a disabled person with the rights based language and say the word “disability”, that just shows you how far we need to go in the advocacy fight against socialized ableism.

Let’s just think about all of the horrors that society is uncomfortable talking about. Apparently, disability is part of that group.

We all grew up and are living in a very deeply entrenched ableist society. It’s time we use these opportunities to unpack and unlearn ableism together.

Thank you Tracy and BCEdAccess, for being such a strong voice.



Education Case Law

My first law class is now complete.

Here is a poem I had to create about case law for one of my assignments. Cool law professor for making a creative exercise as part of the assignment!!

Case Law

Schools are places of learning
They mold, inspire and teach
But much to my surprise
Educational law is out of reach

As parents you have ideas
How your child’s education will go
Case law doesn’t float through your head
Until you have school conflict woes

As I sat consulting with a lawyer
He told me my case wouldn’t stick
There is no case law to support it
I thought he was just being a dick

I searched through all the case law
And much to my surprise
He was right about my case
I was hoping it was a bunch of lies.

Without educational case law
The people in charge are free
To do whatever the fuck they want
Consequences, they never see

Oh, education case law
It was not meant to be
I guess I have nothing left to do
But get drunk on spiked herbal tea.

Shame and Disability

For someone with a disability, it’s hard to put into words the level of shame that is connected to being disabled to someone who has no connection at all. In fact, I haven’t found the words yet.  Shame is too woven into my brain chemistry that I can’t objectify it yet with language.

When you are a kid and you are disabled, your whole goal in life is to blend in. Many people whose identities are connected to marginalized communities will talk about how as a kid, “they just wanted to be like everyone else.”

The intense effort in hiding that disabled children define their day by, confuses non-disabled well-meaning adults.  “Why don’t you just ask for help?” Beyond the obvious, that victim blaming disabled children for their lack of education supports is ridiculous, IT HAPPENS!

Even when children are offered supports in school, they are sometimes rejected, as kids don’t want to stick out. The desire for social acceptance is too strong. Survival is the priority, and that survival is the social atmosphere of school. It’s a tough environment.

Children are naturally impulsive, honest, and impatient. They ask us questions that make us chuckle, or turn red in public, or test our own patience level. We find cuteness and innocence in the childlike features. These features are also the very reason why disability needs to be talked about in schools and why adult guidance is essential. Left unchecked, and it can create a hostile environment for a disabled child. Sometimes to combat the bullying and oppression, education presentations are done in the class. By the time these are done, in grade six or seven, it’s almost too late. What ends up happening is the opposite occurs. The bullying increases. The bullies now have new language to use. Many families have experienced this, and the presentations were their last resort, and now school transfers are what is next on the agenda.

Kids who are forced to leave programs because of their disability and being systemically weeded out or being bullied by other kids, don’t forget it.  Overt or covert acts of ableism stick to us and don’t fall off. They get absorbed and compound.

Children who need help, are rarely going to ask for it.  The adults are going to need to pick up on the evidence laid out in front of them.  Teachers need disability training. They need disability literacy skills to navigate disabled students through the education system.  Without formal diversity and disability training, true inclusion is just a run-away train, and what is left in the dust…is shame.

Rally Speech

When my child was struggling in school, it was blamed on his behaviour.  Him not writing anything down was said that he was refusing to do his work, due to personality. He was punished by being sent out into the hall for 45 min to try again, or stand outside in the hall, or to be yelled at for not following the instructions.

When assessments are not provided and diagnosis are delayed, children suffer. It’s traumatizing for the child and family. Meltdowns after school were heartbreaking while we waited and waited for an assessment. Kids cannot wait.

My child slipped through the cracks in the system, and it was me, who had to pull him out.

My child said to me one day that he thought school was abuse. When I told this to the professional, we were working with, he said, “for a kid like my son, he’s not that far off.”

I had to leave my employment because my child wasn’t getting the support he needed, and dealing and supporting my son, while he dealt with “the abuse” took a huge toll on our family.

A diagnosis of ADHD and learning disability for written expression should not be a traumatizing process. The government doesn’t want to spend $2,000-$3,000 on an assessment, but lost me as an employee paying a lot more taxes than the cost of assessment. Even from a financial point of view, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s a pay now or pay heavily later. Kids cannot wait.

Without a diagnosis, you don’t understand the WHY – and that is really dangerous.  Once we got a diagnosis, everything made sense. We could learn and provide supports that actually work. It is because of these two assessments that I was able to advocate for him and he is getting the targeted support he needs to access his education.

When people don’t understand why children are behaving the way they are, they get unnecessarily blamed, and so do their parents. All relationships become strained. All these theories start to be formulated. It becomes a blame game.

As a person who stutters I can also personally speak to this, as stuttering gets blamed on every little ridiculous thing we do or do not do. We don’t breathe right; we don’t chew our food right. As a child I never understood why I was different and therefore I had to guess, and as kids we guess wrong. We always think there is something wrong with us, that it’s our fault, that we aren’t good enough, and we are to blame for causing the pain in the people we see around us. We never even think for a second it is because of our genetics, or has something to do with what is lacking in our environment, or connected to the adults in our lives. Never.  Kids take all of the frowning faces, the looks of dismay, the energy of frustration and disappointment and they soak all of that in without question. It becomes a part of them, a part of their identity and their self-concept.

Assessments for children in schools are crucial. Kids cannot wait. Having trained teachers who are able to identify learning disabilities in those early years and for kids to be assessed is a human right. School should not be places of abuse for kids with learning disabilities. When schools are not properly assessing children, they are disabling them. They are creating the barriers and enforcing those barriers. Our kids have done nothing wrong and yet our children take the failures of the system, as their own.

Disability is a social construct, created and maintained by people. Living with a disability isn’t NEARLY as challenging as dealing with the ableism.

The Ministry of Education with their chronic underfunding, sets up this system to fail. It’s sets up the teachers, the EA’s and the children to fail. Discrimination all over this province in the education system, is rampant and shameful. One may think, contact the Ministry of Education. They may not be aware of the situation. OH! They know. In fact, they are ignoring me, and they ignore many other parents voicing their concerns about systemic issues. So, Ministry of Education, if you don’t respond to our concerns, our emails, our phone calls, we will take to the streets and rally. Our children have a voice and they will be heard. The abuse of power, lack of transparency and zero accountability need to come to an end.

Ministry of Education and to the province of BC, we will never stop advocating for our children.

Love Ableism, xoxo

Implicit ablest norms are a part of our culture and society, and they sometimes blossom out of loving intentions and kindness.

When I was growing up, I received the messages daily that I was to be protected. That I wasn’t to take any risks in life. That the expectations were lowered for me. What people thought I could handle and achieve was VERY much reduced.

As an 18-year-old I was hired by a family for contract hours for their disabled daughter.  She had a developmental disability and was non-speaking. She communicated in some sign language and we were a great fit. I don’t remember exactly what her disability was, but I remember she physically moved very slowly and had some mobility issues with her hands. Her mother did almost everything for her. If she was thirsty her mother would go into the fridge, get the juice jug, get the cup out of the cupboard and give her the drink. She was 16 years old and loved cooking shows. I remember thinking to myself, people have no idea what I have inside of me, I bet she feels the same. One day instead of me making us lunch, I asked her if she wanted to do it. You should have seen her eyes and how her face lit up. She was shaking. She nodded eagerly. I said ok…I’ll be outside on the deck, let me know if you need any help. (To be honest, I had no idea what she was going to put together. I would have been impressed with a P & J sandwich. It was a risk and I admit that I was nervous.) I occasionally would call to her through the open kitchen window, if she was ok, and her face was BEAMING, and she would give me the thumbs up. When she was done, she came out, opened the door and led me into the kitchen. She was shaking. I walked into the kitchen and on the table, I saw she had set up place mats, folded napkins with a spoon, knife and fork, and we each had a glass of milk ready for us on the table. On the plate she had cooked and served Kraft Dinner.  She was intensely shaking.  She was so excited and smiling so big, it was like…I thought her soul was going to shoot of her body. She kept writing to me, “Tell Mom, tell Mom”. All day, all she said was pointing to her message, “Tell Mom”. When her mother got home, I told her what she accomplished and she was shocked. I could see her processing everything…operating a stove unattended, spooning out the KD, carrying plates with food on it, etc. Her mom tried to cover up her anger. I could tell what had happened thrilled her and scared her at the same time.

 Her mother, out of love to protect and help her daughter was doing everything for her, when clearly, she was capable of so much more.

 People with disabilities have a right to fail. We have a right to get hurt. We have a right to suffer the typical aspects of life, just like everyone else. It’s almost like there is a belief that life is hard enough for you, I need to remove the typical life experiences from you, as you won’t be able to handle it. Life can be pretty shitty sometimes and as a disabled person, I have the right to experience all the suffering that anyone else experiences and learn and grow from it, and benefit from it just like anyone else. Behind the over protection, the lowered expectations, the decreased risks in life are ablest beliefs about disabled people.

 These are the beliefs that really disable us. It’s the air we breathe and we don’t even know it and as children you can’t put your finger on it or have words to understand it. You just feel that you don’t belong. You aren’t strong like everyone else.  We get the messages that we are weak, we can’t handle life, we need to be shielded from it. We are babied, overly shut out of the world that is harsh and not meant for us. Some people are bold and risk takers, some not so much. But yet disabled people are assumed that we are ALL not risk takers. We ALL want to be shielded. Our individuality is stripped and we are all given the same identity. It’s out of love, it’s well intentioned and it’s harmful and hurtful. We end up growing up in a fun house full of wonky mirrors that reflect back to us an altered version of our own self-identity.

Out of love and care for disabled people, what do we do FOR them or to protect them? What is the underlying belief system behind that? Ableism is so socially constructed in our society it is the implicit norms that we don’t see. Some we can clearly see. The lack of brail on the elevator buttons, no ramp or accessible parking spaces. But the invisible belief system is the invisible string theory of ableism built out of love, that connects us all, and something that needs intentional reflection in order to dismantle.  When society wraps all disabled people in bubble wrap and uses their disability as an excuse to not include them in life, it is a form of ableism, carved from fear and love.

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks about the sexism she experienced personally and those by other women breaking into the field, she talks about how men saw it was a way of keeping women out of the law profession as a way protecting women. She quoted Myra Bradwell who was denied admission to the bar in 1869, “According to our…English brothers it would be cruel to allow a woman to “embark upon the rough and troubled sea of actual legal practice. (Ginsburg, 2016, pg 71)

A book I read and loved was the book “Haben: The Deaf-Blind Woman who Conquered Harvard Law”. In her story telling she talks about how she was expected to do family chores just like every else. She talks about how she almost walked out in front of a moving train. She had the skills and ability to navigate around the streets after learning these skills from the school she was attending.

“There were so many signs….the vibrations through the ground…Blindness wasn’t the problem. Sighted people get distracted too. Many sighted people have been killed by trains. It’s about paying attention, not blindness. Does that make sense? …….Many people will blame my blindness, but those with disability literacy will recognize that carelessness created the danger.” (Girma, 2019, pg 118)

 Out of all of the people who close doors for disabled children, and shut them out, do we also want to be responsible for closing those doors…even if it’s out of love?

Ginsburg, Ruth Bader. 2018. My Own Words. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Girma, Haben. 2019. Haben: the Deafblind woman who Conquered Harvard Law. New York, NY: Twelve.