In Canada, like the UK and other countries in the Commonwealth, we spell ‘labour’ with a ‘u’ … and today, in particular, I think that’s so appropriate. I was talking to an elderly woman yesterday who was really excited about her Labour Day plans, she will be taken by her aide to a family gathering. She told me that she resisted getting a personal assistant because she didn’t want to admit to needing help. But she says she is now as mobile and active as she was in her 30s.

As I left the conversation I thought a lot about direct support professionals. I thought of those who helped me in the early days of my disability. I thought about access and community and options and freedom. I thought about a work force whose impact changes the world.

Of course labour has a ‘u’ in it.

U make it possible for someone to take part in the everyday tasks of living. This may seem mundane to some but it’s not. I lived in an inaccessible apartment for 10 years and now, in a home I can live in, I can do the dishes. I can’t tell you how that feels. But I can tell you providing service so that someone can do what they need to do changes their world.

U make it possible for someone to use their own voice. Yesterday we were in a movie theatre and a direct support professional was assisting a young woman to order popcorn before going to the movie. She spoke softly and you, a Direct Support Professional, created space for her to be able to speak for herself. It was difficult and you had to be gently assertive with those behind in line, but you did it. One of the most amazing acts of direct support I’ve seen. That’s why there’s the world ‘professional’ in Direct Support Professional. You were incredibly gifted.

U change the community by being there supporting people who have been denied community. Every time you go out with someone you reclaim ground that was once lost. People lived in shadows, in basements, in attics, in institutions, locked away from the eyes of others. You defy prejudice and you confront bias just by being with, supporting carefully and treating someone, once cast away, as a valuable person. It’s a powerfully political act that will eventually reclaim your part of the world for people with disabilities.

Labour has a ‘u’ in it.

And U are at work today.

And U will make a difference today.

And U ensure that dreams are achieved.

Of course LABOUR has a ‘u’ … of course it does.