Krystian Shaw prefers the term “diverse abilities” over disabilities.
It’s one of the ways the 26-year-old tries to challenge the public perception of what people with physical and intellectual disabilities can do.
“It’s a positive term instead of always being known as disabled all the time,” he said, focusing on what people can do.
It’s that same goal — to show people what he and others with disabilities can do — that led him to start publishing a free monthly newsletter, the Kamloops Self-Advocate.
Now three years old, the newsletter features jokes, inspirational quotes, event listings and news stories and columns all penned by Kamloops residents who have disabilities. During the winter months, another contributor puts a unique spin on Kamloops Blazers’ coverage.
July’s issue included a profile of Mike Touchie, who uses a wheelchair after being injured in a building collapse, an article on computer-skills training for people with disabilities and a recipe for ribs.
An advisory council meets every three months to discuss ideas for upcoming issues.
“It’s all disability focused,” said Shaw, noting he would like to work as a support worker, but because he needs some supports himself, that wasn’t possible.
The newsletter began as a way to give back and advocate for others and serve as a voice to discuss stigma in the community.
“Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean people should treat you poorly,” he wrote in Kyrstian’s Corner, his monthly column in the Self-Advocate.
“There will always be discrimination as long as there are humans on the planet, but we can help educate and give awareness to others which would help reduce the stigma. We need to continue to speak up and speak out,” he wrote.
Shaw said there were people who figured he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the challenges of a monthly publication when he was first starting out.
“I proved them wrong,” he said.
His mother, Linda, remembers those comments.
“People in the field were saying he wasn’t capable of doing anything else but delivering fliers,” she said. “And somebody else in another department said, ‘Are you talking about the same Krystian we’re talking about?’ They saw the potential in him.”
After a year of publication, Shaw went to Community Futures Thompson Country to come up with a plan to turn the Self Advocate into a full-time business.
“I enjoy that I can work in the disability field like anybody else and give back to people what was given to me,” he said.
He’ll be discussing that process and the importance of advocacy work at the Kamloops Library, Victoria Street and Fifth Avenue, on Saturday, Aug. 6, at 2 p.m. as part of the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library’s author talks series.
Shaw is also putting together a peer support group for disabled people who want to learn skills and tackle discrimination, which will begin meeting this fall.
The Kamloops Self-Advocate is available at coffee shops and service providers around the city and online at selfadvocatenet.com/kamloops-self-advocate-newsletter/.
It’s on Facebook as The Kamloops Self Advocate Newsletter/Diverse Abilities.