Ableism Policy? Why should we care?

**UPDATEIT PASSED unanimously by all trustees. (Board meeting April 12th, 2022)

The North Vancouver School District has put a new notice of motion for an anti-ableism policy.

This is the type of willingness to discuss the uncomfortable topics that we need in our school trustees and I applaud them for providing their community the opportunity to write in or in-person to share their thoughts on this topic.

See Agenda

See Board Package

Below is my written submission and I already received appreciative emails from the Chair of the Board and Co-chair of DPAC.

The meeting is tonight! I highly encourage people to email the trustees, even if it’s just a brief message of support.

To get their contact information click HERE

I hope this motion passes!!

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Our society holds very outdated views of what disability means and looks like. One may think the ridiculous outlandish discrimination is a thing of the past, and that we have evolved into a new way of living that includes inclusion and equality. Why do we need a policy on ableism?

Let me assure you, as a disabled person and an active member of the disability community, I am here tonight to tell you. We have a very long way to go. People’s attitudes towards disability is one of charity, pity, and annoyance. I am either God’s mistake, or part of God’s plan and my purpose in life is to teach all of you a lesson about patience for your own personal growth and self-actualization.

I am not the sum of everyone’s limiting beliefs, attitudes and biases.

I am a person, just like any of you.

I am a wife of 20 years, a mother of two teenage children, a friend to many, and I am just a part of the spectrum of human variation to myself. My husband is also disabled, and so are my two children. Everyone in my immediate family has invisible disabilities, and if you looked at our family picture you would have no idea. We all have a mix of either stuttering, ADHD, anxiety or learning disabilities. My husband has a very well-paying job in a senior engineer role at a videogame company, and I am currently working on my second degree at SFU, this time in criminology.  I am not listing all of our accomplishments in life, because frankly we have done a lot.  And yet…everyone in my family has had to endure ableism. For my husband and I, it had a huge impact on our childhood growing up and what we believed about ourselves and what was possible in life for us.

At a disability workshop for adults, the presenter asked if anyone has seriously considered killing themselves and got as far as an actual plan. Every single disabled adult raised their hand.  

Being disabled isn’t the hard part in life. It’s dealing with the ableism.

When I was completing my first degree in human relations, I was in a psychology class on child development. When a 4-year-old girl is told by an adult, I think your dress is pretty. Her brain development does not allow her to understand that the adult can think she looks ugly and her stress is still pretty. Her brain tells her, she is pretty too. Children who are disabled get told through intentional or unintentional messages that they have an ugly dress, hundreds of times a day. They learn, that they are ugly too.

All of these attitudes and beliefs about disabled people are based on myths, misunderstanding, and false information. We are not talking about the laws of gravity here. Ableism can change. It’s preventable. Establishing anti-ableism policy communicates expectations, standards and accountability that vulnerable children need to have for their human rights and quality of life. You have an opportunity to be leaders in your community, and leave a powerful intention for inclusion that will be a legacy for this district and any future Trustees who follow.  This policy is not going to cost you anything, and it will raise awareness about ableism that needs to occur first, before we can even begin to change our own belief systems. The children in your school district NEED this policy.

With the start of this policy, you are turning the wheels of that change. We need to all work together so that every child is told that they have a pretty dress, and they feel in their heart, that they are pretty too.