By Ilanna Mandel of Mandel Creative
Why We Must Be Activist/Warriors
Today in the Province of Ontario, Canada, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, over half a million people with disabilities are living in abject poverty. I recently interviewed both Rima Berns-McGowan, MPP and Joel Harden, MPP of the NDP. Both of them are astounded at the level of callousness with which Premier Doug Ford treats people with disabilities.
According to MP Harden, the Conservatives have allowed over $44 billion in tax rebates for the wealthy while at the same time they refuse to lift people with disabilities out of the dire situation they keep them in. Berns-McGowan is particularly upset with the fact that Ford’s ideology is one of cruelty. Rather than pay attention to the situation, he simply ignores it.
There are some brilliant activists in our province whom I’ve had the honour of interviewing lately: David Lepofsky, Sherry Caldwell, Anthony Frisina, and many more. Their work is essential to a way of life that is directed towards accessibility, equality and inclusiveness. But, far too many people with disabilities in Ontario are still suffering.
Here is a passionate quote from Sherry Caldwell: “It is past due for all levels of government to address disabilities rights. Ontario is riddled with barriers roadblocks and gatekeepers. This forces many people living with disabilities into poverty or lower social economic status. As founder of Ontario Disability Coalition the emails we receive are heartbreaking many feel hopeless and loss of dignity they are living in sub poverty . It’s not reflective of canadian values and needs to change.”
Here is more from David Lepofsky: “Our mainstream media are less vigilant than they need to be – they just don’t cover our issues. Most people don’t even know there is an ACA. We found during COVID that it was harder to get our issues covered. Like the triage situation. Media coverage leads to action. What concerns me right now is that we’ve seen incredible efforts but the problem is too often it’s focused not on disabilities. Equity is LBGTQ race and gender but not disability. Equity for some is not equity for all.”
From Anthony Frisina who founded Above and Beyond: “Activism remains a point of building allies in our communities literally and figuratively. It takes a village, it also takes those in power to collectively find the money to bridge the gap to accessibility and inclusion. It takes investing in money with the output being value. There remains so much pushback from those in which we address that conversations tend to spiral rather than get solved which procrastinates the vision of collective prosperity. Rights need to be heard and action needs to take place in a prioritized fashion.”
As disability rights activists, we cannot afford to be quiet, polite and passive. We must be active all the time. We must speak to the media, interact with each other, communicate our messages to each other. Let’s not be so involved with our own needs that we forget those of others. Disability is a complex experience and unique to each individual. As activists, we must be warriors for our cause as no one else will do this for us.
Follow Illanna Mandel writings on Disability Rights on her blog Mandel Creative