by Andrea van Vugt
Last week at the 93rd Academy Awards, a film about an indescribable American revolution was screened around one of those gleaming gold statues. That movie was Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, and if you haven’t seen it before, you should do it. The film shows that the disabled community can unite, take action and make changes when people claim their disabilities.
Crip Camp is described as heartfelt, inspiring and emotional. I played the film because I am a 36 year old disabled woman. The “R” rating piqued my curiosity and despite the fact that one in five Canadians identifies as disabled, our stories are never on the radar when it comes to popular culture.
I loved the movie. I loved it so much that I saw it twice. And it blew my mind the second time too. Why? Because it encourages people to assert their disability, it reveals the history of civil rights with disabilities and a reminder that moving people for people makes all the difference. Now not only are disabled people on the big screen, but we are also in the room in pretty clothes and freshly squeezed suits.
We tell our story.
So what’s the story? The disabled community is the largest minority in Canada. And – wake up – there is a minority that you can belong to at any point in your life. Every fifth person is a lot of people.
I didn’t claim my disability until a decade after I was diagnosed with epilepsy. While there is no overcoming a disability, claiming to set it free can be liberating. Of course, not everyone announces their disability. Many disabilities are invisible and disclosure can come at the cost of exclusion and evaluation.
Fortunately, the exclusion rate is falling and our civil rights are advancing.
There is more good news on the horizon. For the first time, the Canadian federal government has committed to creating a national disability benefit in 2020 and further refined the program in the latest federal budget. Just talking about such an opportunity is a milestone in civil rights.
Of all the people living in poverty in Canada, 30 percent of the people in deep poverty are disabled.
I’ve lived in poverty on the $ 16,000 a year allotted to me from various disability benefits and benefits. It was an exhausting, isolating cycle, but one that made me frugal, adaptable, and empathetic towards other marginalized groups.
We cannot overcome disabilities, but a national disability allowance could enable people in Canada to overcome poverty and become more involved in society.
How can we hold our government accountable for its promise?
We unite. We, like the disabled, and our allies unite. Whether you are a person with a disability, otherwise disabled, handicapped, crippled, handicapped, special needs, especially disabled, maimed, deaf, deaf, simple, special, gimp, impaired … I could go on and on. You. You know who you are
Be inspired by the history of Crip Camp and the movements with disabilities that spawned Bill 504 and the Disabled Americans Act.
Movements of the people for the people. It’s time Canada had a disability too.
The creation of a national disability benefit is an ambitious task. There are differences between federal and provincial assistance, and each province has its own benefit system, so coordinating a national benefit will be difficult.
Disability is also an uncomfortable subject for many, so it can be difficult to get the conversation going. There are many pieces in the puzzle, but if I have gained anything from COVID-19 isolation, it’s a new love for puzzles.
Crip Camp didn’t win an Oscar, but it has shared the inspiring story of a revolution that established disability rights in the United States, and its message continues to resonate worldwide.
It is time for the disabled community in Canada to follow suit and claim our crip so we can unify our movement and be heard.
Here we go. Claim your disability (if you have one), watch the movie (it’s available for free on YouTube and streamed on Netflix in Canada), and let’s work together for a disability without poverty in Canada.
Andrea van Vugt is a disabled attorney based in Calgary, Alberta. She is the founder and president of the Disability Pride Alberta Foundation, advisor to the Canadian Disability Benefit Initiative, and is pursuing a Masters in Community Development.
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