Stephanie Cadieux, recently re-elected as MLA for Surrey South, has been named BC Liberal caucus chair and critic for Gender Equality, Accessibility and Inclusion. (contributed photo)

OPINION: A call to action on International Day of People with Disabilities

People with disabilities must seen, heard and supported, writes MLA Stephanie Cadieux

When we think about how we can reduce barriers and improve equity and inclusion for those living with disabilities, we tend to think about innovations to our built environment, to transportation and to improving other physical obstacles for those whose disabilities we can see. But what about those whose disabilities aren’t so visible? How do we ensure we are meeting their needs and improving their experiences and outcomes, when we can’t always see the challenges they are facing?

These are questions we need to be asking ourselves on Thursday, Dec. 3, as we mark International Day of People with Disabilities. It is an important call to action to ensure that all people with disabilities are seen, heard and supported. We need to consider those living with mental illnesses, brain injuries, neurological disorders, learning differences, hearing impairments, and chronic pain or fatigue that we can’t always see.

This is particularly important in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With all British Columbians being asked to stay at home as much as possible, it is especially important that we check in with those whose access to medical supplies and resources may be more limited right now.

For everyone living with a disability, it is also important that decision-makers put an accessibility lens on all that they do. At the provincial level, in 2014 our former BC Liberal government launched Accessibility 2024, an ambitious 10-year plan to improve the lives of those living with disabilities that contained specific, measurable outcomes. We are four years away from the goal we set of being the most progressive jurisdiction for people with disabilities in Canada, and still have much work to do— albeit with a new government in place.

We hope Premier John Horgan and the NDP will deliver on the commitments our former government made after consulting widely with community members and stakeholder groups. They are counting on us as their representatives to turn their ideas into action.

For my part, this spring I intend to continue to pursue legislation to mandate the inclusion of accessible housing in multi-unit developments and initiate a discussion of much-needed improvements to accessible parking in British Columbia. We need to end people’s careless attitudes towards parking in these designated spots, to help improve safety and accessibility for those who truly need the extra space and better proximity to their destination.

While the disability community was promised Accessibility Legislation this fall, government has now postponed that to the spring. After the introduction of the federal Accessible Canada Act, advocates’ focus rightly turned to the province and I anxiously await the introduction and debate of the legislation.

After the recent October provincial election, it was Premier John Horgan himself who said, “I’ll be influenced by good ideas wherever they come from… if it makes sense we’re going to implement it. That’s how I will approach working with all members of the legislature.”

Rest assured, I will hold him to his word.

Stephanie Cadieux is MLA for Surrey South and BC Liberal critic for Gender Equality, Accessibility and Inclusion.

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