“Too often disability is seen in medical rather than societal terms. While disability is clearly related to physical and mental functioning, the primary issue is whether society is willing to provide persons with disabilities with the supports and opportunities necessary to participate in Canadian life.” ~Raphael et al.

What we mean when we say disability:

“Disability refers to the interaction between individuals with a health condition (e.g. cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and depression) and personal and environmental factors (e.g. negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports).” – World Health Organization (WHO)

People with disabilities – whether physical, mental, emotional or a combination thereof – face many challenges and barriers and are often left marginalized and vulnerable. Having a disability can lead to challenges in finding housing, receiving an education, gaining skills and long-term employment. It can also lead to many other factors that impact overall health outcomes. People with disabilities who do find employment tend to get paid much less than those without disabilities. Many also report that they have challenges in accessing any kind of workplace accommodation for their disability. This is discouraging, disheartening and discriminatory.

By the numbers:

  • Over 22 percent of Canadians report having a disability
  • Canadian women are found to have a higher rate of disability at 24 percent vs. 20 percent for men
  • The rate of unemployment is 24 percent for individuals with mild disabilities and 69 percent for those with very severe disabilities

“Article 25 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) reinforces the right of persons with disability to attain the highest standard of healthcare, without discrimination. However, the reality is that few countries provide adequate quality services for people with disability.” – WHO

It’s important that you are aware of the services within your campus for students who have disabilities of any kind. Campuses today have many supports for students who are neurodivergent or have a disability. You may be in a position to point someone in the direction of a service that can make a huge difference in their lives.

In this work we must check our own judgments and biases. We might find ourselves advocating for people again purveying attitudes of ableism.

Ableism is discrimination of in favour of able-bodied people.

Off the top of your head, what resources and accommodations are available on your campus for people who need them?


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Post-Secondary Peer Support Training Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Jenn Cusick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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