National AccessAbility Week: May 26 to June 1, 2019
Red Shirt Day of Action for Accessibility and Inclusion: Wednesday, May 29, 2019
THANK YOU, CANADA for taking part in the first RED SHIRT DAY on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, to show your support for persons living with disabilities and your commitment to accessibility and inclusion of people of all abilities.

Mark your calendars to take part in next year’s Red Shirt Day on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.  National AccessAbility Week will take place Sunday, May 31 to Saturday, June 6, 2020.

If your school, workplace, group or community is planning on taking part in Red Shirt Day 2020 (June 3), register your commitment by completing the following short survey, and in order to receive posters, suggested activities and other resources: https://forms.gle/qbkVcwaBDEuEx9hb6

#RedForAccessAbility, #AccessiblityForAll, #RedShirtDayCanada

Established in 2017, National AccessAbility Week celebrates, promotes and showcases the diversity, inclusion and accessibility in this country, and highlights some of the important initiatives aimed at creating an Accessible Canada.

Easter Seals Canada is proud to do its part to promote and celebrate National AccessAbility Week, as part of the active leadership role that it plays on accessibility and inclusivity issues, and the direct-to-client programs and services that it provides in support of Canadians who are living with disabilities/with diverse abilities across Canada, and their families.

As we celebrate the third National AccessAbility Week, Easter Seals has put together a collection of resources and activities that individuals, families, schools and workplaces can use to celebrate and further promote accessibility and inclusivity in their communities country.

“…when we include people with disabilities, we create a stronger Canada for everyone. We’ve made great strides in promoting inclusion for Canadians with disabilities, but there is still much work to do…We need to change the way we think, talk and act about barriers to participation and accessibility, and we need to do it right from the start, not as an afterthought. An inclusive Canada is one where all Canadians can participate and have an equal opportunity to succeed.”’

– The Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

Check out the Government of Canada’s National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) website for more information and a calendar of events scheduled in your area.

A photo of Dave Starrett, President & CEO of Easter Seals Canada“Building an inclusive and accessible Canada—creating real social change—is going to take a huge collaborative effort and a significant shift in the way we approach the physical, social and attitudinal barriers that currently exist for people living with disability in this country. Easter Seals is proud to be at the forefront of this shift, and we’re excited about the awareness that the new National AccessAbility Week will bring to these efforts.”

– Dave Starrett, President and CEO, Easter Seals Canada


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WED, MAY 29, 2019





RED SHIRT DAY (MAY 29, 2019) 

Show your support for persons living with disabilities, accessibility and inclusion by wearing red on May 29, 2019.

A group of people wearing red clothing standing in a heart-shaped formationEaster Seals is encouraging and inviting everyone to wear red on the Wednesday of National AccessAbility Week each year, as part of their activities to observe the event.

This year, National AccessAbility Week is May 26 to June 1, 2019, and Red Shirt Day is on Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

By wearing red on Red Shirt Day on May 29th, 2019, individuals can show their support and join others across Canada in creating a visible display of solidarity for persons who are living with disabilities, and the importance of creating a fully accessible and inclusive society that honours and values the contributions of people of all abilities in all aspects of life in Canada.

On Wednesday, May 29, 2019, post a selfie or a photo of you with your friends, classmates or colleagues – all wearing red – on social media with the hashtags: #easterseals, #AccessAbilityForAll, and/or #RedForAccessAbility.

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Other materials and resources to enhance and promote accessibility and inclusion

Free National AccessAbility Week and Red T-Shirt Day Posters:

Help raise awareness about National AccessAbility Week and Red T-Shirt Day by putting up these free posters in your community, school and workplace, and by sharing them electronically.

Click on the images below to view a larger version and/or download a copy of the poster.

 A National AccessAbility Week poster featuring a hand opening an automatic door opener button  Easter Seals National AccessAbility Week Poster featuring a parent pushing her child's stroller down a ramp next to a flight of stairs  A poster featuring an image of a woman pushing her baby stroller up a bus ramp in order to board a bus  Easter Seals National AccessAbility Week poster featuring a young boy playing street hockey while using his walker  Easter Seals National AccessAbility Week poster featuring two men playing wheelchair basketball 

Language Matters: Evolving terminologies related to disabilities, accessibility and inclusion:

Language is constantly evolving as society changes. Likewise, with better understanding and awareness, words and terminologies related to disabilities issues have evolved to be more inclusive and respectful of the dignity of people who are living with disabilities/with diverse abilities.

Simple guidelines and examples of inclusive language

  • Words like “disabled” or “blind” are adjectives to describe a particular condition. Since people are not conditions, as a rule of thumb, when writing or speaking of person(s) living with disabilities, it is important to put the person first. For instance, using the phrase “a person with a disability” instead of “a disabled person” is more appropriate as it places the individual first.
  • If it is not relevant or necessary, there should be no need to refer or state a person’s disability when writing or speaking of them.
  • Do not speculate if a person has a disability or assume to know their conditions. There are many types of disabilities that are invisible. Many people may choose to not disclose their disability due to stigma from others or if it is not relevant or necessary for others to know. If you’re unsure or if it is necessary or relevant to know, then enquire with the person directly in a respectful manner.
  • Take the lead from the individual on how or what words they would prefer to use to refer to their disability. If unsure, ask. However, many individuals with disabilities may use terms that we now know to be ‘inappropriate’ – such as crippled – in referring to or describing themselves; they may do so as a means of ‘reclaiming’ those terms for themselves. However, just because they use those words, it does not mean that others may use the words to refer to those individuals.
  • Most people living with disabilities are comfortable with words or phrases that used to describe daily activities. For instance, people with visual impairments may be pleased ‘to see you’ and people that use mobility devices or wheelchairs may want to “go for a walk” with you. An impairment or disability may just mean that some things are done in a different way. However, common phrases or expressions that that associate disabilities with negative connotations should be avoided.
  • Some tips on behaviour:
    • When speaking to someone with a disability, speak in a normal voice/tone. Do not patronize or talk down to the person.
    • When addressing a person with a disability, speak directly facing that person – instead of facing their companion, support worker or interpreter.
    • Unlearning established behaviours and language patterns takes effort and time, so don’t be be overly or afraid to make mistakes regarding the right or wrong language that it stops you from doing anything or enjoying your interactions with people who are living with disabilities.
  • Click on the following link to download a document with a list of recommended words and phrases to use.
Recommended children’s books:

The following are a number of books that you can read with children in your life or in your classroom.  They’re a great way to start conversations about disability, inclusion, and advocacy and engaging children on these topics at a level that they can relate to.

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A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz (ISBN: 978-0547875071)

Excerpt: “Alan loves animals, but the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo makes him sad. Why are they all alone in empty cages? Are they being punished? More than anything, he wants to be their champion-their voice-but he stutters uncontrollably. Except when he talks to animals… Then he is fluent.” This picture book, based on a true story, follows the life of the man Time Magazine calls, the Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation”as he searches for his voice and fulfills a promise to speak for animals, and people, who cannot speak for themselves.

An image of a book cover of a children's book by Arlene Maguire depicting a colourful illustration of a group fo diverse children

Special People, Special Ways by Arlene Maguire (ISBN: 978-1885477651)

Excerpt: “Share a joke or a dream. Make someone feel good. We need laughter, hugs, and to be understood . . . Though we seem different, inside we’re the same. Our hearts are for caring, no matter our name.” The delightful rhymes combined with rich watercolor illustrations portraying positive images of children with various disabilities, promote understanding and tolerance among young readers, and show them that we each have unique gifts to share.

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My Friend Isabelle  by Eliza Woloson (ISBN: 978-1890627508)

Excerpt: “Isabelle and Charlie are friends. They both like to draw, dance, read, and play at the park. They both like to eat Cheerios. They both cry if their feelings are hurt. And like most friends, they are also different from each other. Isabelle has Down syndrome. Charlie doesn’t.” This charming story, based on a real person, is written by Isabelle’s mother, and encourages encourages young readers to think about what makes a friendship special.

El Deafo  by Cece Bell (ISBN: 978-1419712173)

Excerpt: “Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to her chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at her hearing aid. Then Cece makes a startling discovery. She can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school. Can this new found superpower help Cece find the thing that she wants the most – a true friend?” In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.

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Rules by Cynthia Lord (ISBN: 978-0439443838)

Excerpt: “12-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”—in order to head off David’s embarrassing behaviors.  But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?” This sensitive and beautifully written story explores differences and acceptance. A great conversation starter.

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What are some of the facts, figures and statistics regarding the state of accessibility and inclusion in Canada?

Does Canada have a nation-wide federal accessibility legislation?

Canada has made huge strides as a country and society in terms of general public awareness of disability issues, enhancing inclusion and opportunities for people living with disabilities, and constructing accessible new infrastructure and retrofitting existing ones. However, this progress have not come fast enough and is not consistent across the country. Part of the reason for this is because Canada does not have federal legislation that pertain specifically to accessibility.

Most existing laws related to accessibility is part of broader legislation and policies that aim to outlaw discrimination based on various grounds such as gender, language or ethnicity. Presently, only three provinces have accessibility standards enshrined in their legislation: Ontario (with its Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, AODA), Manitoba (with its Accessibility for Manitobans Act) and Nova Scotia (with its Nova Scotia Accessibility Act).

In June 2018, the federal government tabled Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, which aims to improve accessibility for people living with disabilities. As of May 1, 2019, the bill is still making its way through the legislative process, and if passed, would be a historic and landmark piece of legislation for Canada as it would enshrine standards and enforcement mechanisms including fines for violations into law. In order to become law, the Bill must pass both the House of Commons and Senate, and receive Royal Assent.

Timeline of the passage of Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act so far:

  • June 20, 2018: Federal government tables Bill C-81 in the House of Commons
  • September 26, 2018: Second reading of Bill C-81 in House of Commons, and refers bill to committee
  • November 27, 2018: House of Commons passes third reading of Bill C-81 and adopts Bill C-81
  • November 29, 2018: Bill C-81 is introduced to the Senate for first-reading
  • March 21, 2019: Senate passes second reading of bill and refers the bill to committee
  • May 13, 2019: Senate passes third reading of Bill C-81. The bill is sent back to the House of Commons with amendments.
  • May 28, 2019: House of Commons considers Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.
  • May 29, 2019: House of Commons adopts Senate amendments and passes Bill C-81.
  • Next step: Royal Assent
  • Learn more about the legislative process for Bill C-81

More than 1 in 5 Canadians are living with some form of disability.

According to the results of the latest Canadian Survey on Disability, held in 2017, more than 1 in every 5 Canadians ages 15 and older reported having one or more disabilities that limited them in their daily activities. For many of these Canadians, challenges and obstacles in their day-to-day lives may limit their full participation in society.

An image of an infographic poster produced by Govt of Canada with statistics from the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability

Click on the image above to view a larger image and/or download the infographic poster.

The following are some of the other main findings from the survey:

  • Disability levels increases with age: More than 540,000 youth (or 13% of the population between the ages of 15 and 24) reported having one or more disabilities. In contrast, 20% or 3.7 million working age adults (between 24 and 64 years old) and 38% or 2 million seniors aged 65 and above reported having a disability.
  • Women were more likely to have a disability: 24% of women reported having a disability in contrast to 20% of men. This applies to all age groups.
  • More than 4 in 10 Canadians with disabilities reported having a severe or very severe disability: People with more severe disabilities often have lower rates of employment, lower income even when employed, and are at a greater likelihood of living in poverty regardless of age.
  • Mental health-related and learning disabilities are the most common types of disabilities among youth: Most Canadians with a disability have more than one type of disability, and the prevalence of disabilities varies at different stages of life. The prominence of pain-related disabilities is common across all age groups, but increases with age.
  • Youth with disabilities are at a higher risk of not being in school or employed, and this increased with the severity of the disability: This has major repercussions in terms of their quality of life and employment opportunities in the present and in the future.
  • Persons with disabilities faced lower employment rates: This increases with the severity and type of disabilities, and levels of education.
  • Persons with disabilities reported having lower personal income compared to those without disabilities: Among working age adults, personal income was strongly related to the severity of disability. Almost one-third of working age adults with severe disabilities are living in poverty.

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Disability, 2017.

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Excellent TED Talk videos on accessibility, inclusion, challenging stigma and stereotypes

Stella Young:
“I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much”

The late Stella Young was an Australian journalist, educator, comedian and disability rights activist. In her talk, Stella shares her upbringing and childhood experiences with the audience, and challenges us to question mainstream narratives of how people with disabilities are viewed, and emphasizes why they are not “inspiring” simply because of their condition.

Maysoon Zavid:
“I got 99 problems… Palsy is just one.”

Maysoon Zayid is an American-Palestinian actress and stand-up comedian.  In her talk, Maysoon hilariously shares her frustration about the many challenges and battles she faces such as the stigma, fear, and discomfort around disability and people with disabilities, and the lack of representation of people with disabilities in the media, both on-screen and off-screen. Her cerebral palsy is the least of her problems.

Rosie King:
“How autism freed me to be myself.”

Rosie King is a talented young writer with a vivid imagination, and a lot of perspective. In her talk, Rosie turns the notion of disability on its head and challenges the audience to reconsider their understanding of disability. There is diversity and strengths in ‘disability’ which sets such individuals uniquely apart from the norm, and questions why so many people are striving for the norm.

Elise Roy:
“When we design for disability, we all benefit.”

Elise Roy is a lawyer, artist and human rights advocate. In her talk, Elise speaks about her personal experiences and how it enabled her to look at issues from creative viewpoints. She encourages us to move from a deficiency model where adaptations for disability are designed as an after-thought to one where we are creatively designing solutions for universal use and purpose from the beginning, and how people with disabilities are integral to that process.

Sinéad Burke:
“Why design should include everyone.”

Sinéad Burke is a writer, educator and activist. In her talk,  Sinéad speaks about her personal experiences as a little person navigating a world built for average sized people. While society has changed and many things have improved, she encourages audiences to think further about what “accessibility” means. Designers have a responsibility to ensure that infrastructure is truly inclusive. Not only is poor design unsafe and excludes some people, it also denies them of their dignity and independence.

Judith Heumann:
“Our fight for disability rights – and why we’re not done yet.”

Judith Heumann is an educator and human rights activist. In her talk, Judith shares her personal experiences and how circumstances have changed for persons living with disabilities since. However, the changes have not always come easy. She talks about the challenges, battles and advocacy work that she and many others have had to take on in order to effect positive structural changes for people with disabilities, and reminds audiences that while things have gotten better, the fight for true and full accessibility and inclusion in society is not yet over.

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There are many ways that you can support Easter Seals to continue to make a positive difference in the lives of people with disabilities/with diverse abilities and their families, and our broader efforts to make Canada a more accessible and inclusive society for all.

Make a donation to Easter Seals or organize your own fundraising event:

It’s easy to make a personal donation to Easter Seals, or a donation in honour of someone. There are also many simple fundraising events or activities that you can organize on your own, at your school or workplace to raise funds for Easter Seals.

For example: collecting donations in lieu of birthday gifts, organizing a bake sale at school, holding a garage sale. For ideas or information, reach out to us at partnerships@easterseals.ca.

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Be an advocate:

Talk to your family members, friends and colleagues about accessibility and disability issues that affect you or your community. Challenge any stereotypes or misconceptions.

Organize events such as Red T-Shirt Day at your school or workplace to raise awareness about accessibility and inclusivity issues. Work with your school, local community group, businesses or councillor to improve physical and social accessibility and inclusivity in your community.

Get Involved:

Sign-up to volunteer with Easter Seals in your province or other accessibility groups and organizations in your community. There are many ways to get involved and contribute your skills and talent, whether you’re volunteering as an individual or group.

Social isolation is a huge issue among many people who are living with disability. Reach out and befriend a person at your school or in your community, and include them in events and activities.

Take part in an Easter Seals fundraising event or campaign.

Each year, Easter Seals hosts many fun fundraising events like The Drop Zone – where participants rappel off a high-rise tower dressed in superhero costumes, and the Paper Egg Campaign – where individuals can make a donation at checkout counters in many participating food outlets, and retail and grocery stores across the country.

Easter Seals also organizes many other provincial and local events that you can take part in, such as runs/walks/rolls/swims, banquets and galas, cross-country snowmobiling events, and much more.

Spread the word:

Even though Easter Seals has been around for close to 100 years in Canada, many people may still not be aware of our programs and services – including those whose lives and independence may be enhanced by accessing our services.

So tell your friends and family members, classmates and colleagues about Easter Seals. Invite them to get involved with Easter Seals, and encourage them to learn about accessibility and inclusivity issues, and how they can contribute or be an advocate and supporter for positive change.

Stay in touch!

Stay up-to-date about Easter Seals programs and services, events, and activities across the country by signing up for the Easter Seals Canada e-newsletter. We will also bring you the latest news and developments on accessibility issues from across Canada.

For even more current updates on Easter Seals and accessibility news and announcements, join our social media channels to be the first to know. Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter or Subscribe to our Instagram page.

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