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May 25, 2021 | Blog

“Disabling” Communications

          I love communications because when we create spaces for dialogue and share our visions, missions, goals, passions – whether they are individual or organizational – the very fabric of our societies begins to weave in unique, interesting ways.

            It’s a funny time to be writing you about my work. Although I have worked at Vantage Point for two years now (July 2019), I’m in the somewhat suspenseful position of Interim Communications Manager, filling in after Nav’s transition to Take a Hike Foundation this April.

            I started at Vantage Point as a practicum student at Langara’s Library & Information Technology diploma program and built the Vantage Point library. After a fun and engaging practicum, I applied for the Marketing & Communications Coordinator role – previously championed by our Membership & Government Relations Coordinator, Miranda Maslany – and landed the position as I continued my studies. As the Marketing & Communications Coordinator, I eagerly introduced video production and editing to the role. I worked with team members to create our Membership video, and found opportunities for video in Volunteer Appreciation Week, and the #Elimin8Hate campaign. I even dabbled in animation with some of our custom delivery content!

            Despite the temporary nature of my interim role, I find myself diving into very deep, meaningful, and hopefully long-term work. While co-leading the conversation at Vantage Point around accessibility alongside the brilliant Kathleen Lane, I am also currently captioning videos for Homelessness Services Association of British Columbia (HSABC) – which has provided an incredible learning opportunity when it comes to BC’s housing crisis. As a side note, you can read about the powerful impact organizations like WISH have via an interview I conducted with Mebrat Beyene last Summer. As the Vantage Point team focuses in on our first strategic priority around equity, decolonization, and inclusion (EDI), it has been a great opportunity to focus on accessibility and designing digital media for people with disabilities (PWD).

            I’ll be honest and admit accessibility as an aspect of my work sort of snuck up on me. It was not a topic I considered much growing up, but when I met my fiancé, it became a regular discussion and I started to notice major gaps in infrastructure, services, and language. I was later diagnosed with a lifelong disability as an adult and started to truly understand how disabilities – especially when overlooked or undiagnosed – have very real impacts on a person’s life and livelihood. The concept of “disability” is a large, encompassing umbrella term which stretches beyond even my own understanding at times. It is both macro and micro, necessary to look at the big picture while keeping in mind each disability is extremely personal.

            How many people in your life openly have a disability? According to data released in 2017 in The Canadian Survey on Disability, 22% of Canadians over 15 years of age have at least one disability.[1] That means more than 6.2 million people and does not encapsulate all people within Canada. When you take that number into account, how many people in your life would you estimate actually have a disability – known or unknown? The interesting thing about disabilities is that at some point in their life, almost everyone will have a disability whether it is due to injury, genetics and/or ageing.[2] Despite their prevalence, disabilities account for some of the most widely misrepresented, misunderstood, and stigmatized lived experiences.

            On average, working adults with disabilities experience a wage gap of up to $19,800 after taxes with an approximate 56% employment rate (compared to the 80% without disabilities).[3] An article published in Wiley in 2020 found people with developmental disabilities were over-represented in Ontario prisons at 2.2% of incarcerated individuals – compared to the 0.7% represented in the general public.[4] Additionally, many people with disabilities don’t have marriage equality across Canada. In BC, if a spouse earns more than $2,460/year, the disabled person in that relationship loses access to their financial and medical benefits which often covers otherwise unaffordable medical expenses.[5] What if the spouse can’t afford those bills? What if both individuals require expensive accommodations? There are also social aspects to marriage equality; for example, if two dependant adults want to marry each other, an unsupportive community might create barriers.

            How to serve people from a broad range of backgrounds was a constant theme in my Library & Information Technology studies. Naturally, libraries are fantastic resources for people largely underserved and overlooked by many service providers. Between the conversations I would have at home around disabilities, and the opportunities arising at school to learn about disability services, I developed a real interest for the work. By second year, any time we could choose our project topic I treated it as an opportunity to learn more about disability services. As an added perk, we visited the National Network for Equitable Library Service – how cool is that!

            It’s interesting how communicating with individuals and inviting them into what we love learning creates opportunities. As I began having more conversations about designing for people with disabilities, new and unexpected pathways emerged. After many meaningful conversations, my cousin and good friend invited me to learn Mental Health First Aid, and my colleague shared information about a certificate program I jumped on in designing digital content for accessibility. I love communications because when we create spaces for dialogue and share our visions, missions, goals, passions – be them individual or organizational – the very fabric of our societies begins to weave in unique, interesting ways.

            With this Interim Communications Manager role, I am folding in my lived experience as a disabled person, my path in education, and cumulative work experience. I am co-creating an internal Vantage Point guide on digital accessibility practices and soon leading training sessions for the whole team – while at the same time captioning videos for another not-for-profit. The best part is seeing how excited other people are to learn this content as well! There are many things in life to be excited about (people who join Vantage Point know I love cycling before they meet me, somehow), but information sharing through meaningful communication is the greatest of all, because connecting through language is the key to cultural and social change.

 Discover BC’s vast disability services on their website: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/services-for-people-with-disabilities/supports-services

 

 

[1]New Data on Disability in Canada, 2017. Statistics Canada, 2017. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2018035-eng.htm

[2] Disability and Health. World Health Organization, 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/disability-and-health

[3] Disability in Canada: Facts and Figures. Easter Seals, 2019. https://easterseals.ca/english/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Disability-in-Canada-Facts-Figures-updated-Oct-2019.pdf

[4] Whittingham, Lisa, et al. The Prevalence and Health Status of People with Developmental Disabilities in Provincial Prisons in Ontario, Canada: A Retrospective Cohort Study. Wiley, 2020. https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.langara.ca/doi/epdf/10.1111/jar.12757

[5] British Columbia – Marriage Equality by Province. Kate and CRPS, 2020. http://www.kateandcrps.com/british-columbia-marriage-equality-by-province/

Author

Rowan King

Rowan takes care of the marketing and communications side of Vantage Point. He designs the newsletters you see in your inbox, edits the videos and podcasts you stream, populates the social media feeds you follow, and more! Rowan has a passion for accessibility and information collection (i.e.,…

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