· Holland Bloorview,disability,advocacy

#DearEverybody,

We watch your face, and stare into your eyes.

We check out your body language, and see how you walk around us.

We make note of your use of words, and the tone of your voice.

We can hear what you don’t say, and interpret your silence.

Our disability is attached to a stigma of pity, disappointment, annoyance, shame, and rejection.

Why don't you come say ‘Hi!’ to us? Take some time to learn how our hands and eyes communicate. We want to live in a world that can look beyond our wheelchair, walker, communication device, and service dog. We want you to learn our way of being, because we are also people who belong in this world too.

Sincerely,

Aiden, Scarlett, Heather, Imani, Aviva, Ahmed, and Bella

The Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is a top Canadian research hospital that serves over 7,500 families annually. Their mission is to create a world of possibilities by supporting children and youth living with disability, medical complexity, illness and injury.

My family is proud to be part of the Bloorview community, as we are also dedicated in helping other families build resilience to overcome challenges that life brings. For this post I would like to share the #DearEverybody campaign with you.

This powerful video gives you a glimpse of what a world without stigma looks like.

Now let me introduce a few of my badass friends who continue to slay the world of disability stigma. Together we are living this journey to move beyond awareness and deepening acceptance of disability as part of diversity.

“This is what a comedian looks like.”

“This is Aiden. Aiden is loving and affectionate. He’s funny and makes everyone around him smile. He enjoys the outdoors and loves when everybody is together. He was diagnosed with autism at one-and-a-half years old. He is nonverbal (which can be a struggle for others to learn how he is feeling or thinking). Aiden has challenges with daily routines such as brushing his teeth and self dressing; things we take for granted. Aiden works very hard and is slowly learning. He is learning to put two words together using his picture communication system. Despite his disability, Aiden is a happy fun loving child whose smile is contagious. He can make a whole room burst into laughter and has a gift to make any day a happy one!

“This is what a rider looks like.”

“This is Scarlett. Scarlett had a stroke right at birth. She is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Scarlett is active and loves to ride horses. She can participate in many sports. Swimming, skiing and cycling are near the top, but being around horses is thrilling for her. She absolutely loves riding and hopefully one day will make it to the Olympics! Why not right??!!!”

“This is what an athlete looks like.”

“This is Heather. Heather lives with a profound, undiagnosed muscle disorder. Far from holding her back, she knows that athleticism is about more than muscle strength. It’s about participation, movement, teamwork, grit and determination. Heather looks forward to a world where everyone has the chance to run their own race. To learn more about Heather, check out her blog, Powered By Love!

"This is what a dancer looks like."

"This is Imaani. Imani is a fun, music loving kid who always moves to a good beat. He is seven years old and has cerebral palsy. Learning to stand and walk independently means he can now also dance solo. If there is a DJ or just the radio, this musical guy is moving with a huge grin on his face. He has even been to a studio and got to make his own beats with some music producers. This is definitely a guy who has decided he is going to march to his own beat and smile while doing it."

“This is what an Early Years Educator looks like.”

"This is Aviva. Aviva is passionate, outspoken, and totally dedicated to kids. She also has a nonverbal learning disability in visual spatial skills. Over the years, Aviva has learned how to use her strengths to support her with more challenging tasks, such as teaching geometry, reading maps, and supporting the development of artistic skills. She regularly looks towards her colleagues, friends, and parents to teach her, which gives her an even greater appreciation for struggling students, and how to support ALL kids to meet with success. Aviva stands behind the words in her email signature: “If they don’t learn the way you teach, teach the way they learn.” Many years ago, it was educators who believed in these words that allowed Aviva to become the educator that she is today! See what Living Avivaloca is all about here."

"This is what a world traveller looks like."

“This is Ahmed. Ahmed has Down’s syndrome. He is also a lover of world travel. Ahmed has traveled to over 10 countries with his parents. Ahmed enjoys learning about new cultures and countries. Although he can only read simple sight words, Ahmed can tell you many facts about different countries that he discovered on his own through internet surfing.”

“This is what a cyclist looks like.”

“This is Bella. Doctors have once told her family that she would never have the ability to walk. She has severe autism spectrum disorder, and was denied of government services because she was deemed ‘too low’. Bella continues to defy the odds and takes on any challenge with a big smile. Bella has a mini triathlon, duathlon and a 5K, 7K, and 10K under her belt. She is looking forward to her next race in September!”

To access more #DearEverybody resources for kids, youth, parents, educators, employers, and health care professionals click here.

To learn more about stigma - what it is, why we do it, how it impacts people with disabilities, and how to stop it access Bloorview's position paper here.

Thank you Beth Dangerfield for your support in this post. Your dedication and passion to support kids and youth with disabilities is contagious! Check out her blog here.

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