by Cheryl Fryfield
I went to the Summit meeting on June 16, 2014. I thought it was very exciting to meet the Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, Don McRae and Premier Christy Clark. I was more interested in meeting, Minister Don McRae because I got the feeling he was a caring man and was eager to help self- advocates. I knew the Minister was at the recent Inclusion BC conference in Nanaimo but I did not get a chance to meet him there. So I was glad to meet him at the Summit meeting. I think he is a very nice man indeed.
Now I know some self advocates that I spoke to think it is only words. That it is all talk and no action with our government. I have only recently started to attend self-advocacy events. I had heard many self-advocate had gotten help because they had gotten involved. I wanted to get a feel for these types of events myself and thought the Summit was a good place to check things out.
I thought the Summit went really well as both Minister McRae and Premier Clark spoke in plain language. They talked about raising the monthly income for people with disabilities. They have a 10-year plan for this. I think 10 years is too long. I think it should be a 5-year plan. They talked about employment and housing as well. Employment is a very big concern this year. Some of the other politicians also talked about increased accessibility for people who use wheelchairs. I think it is not all words, why would they put on an event such as this one and waste everyone’s time??
I talked to the Minister Don McRae about my Star Raft Project. “Cheryl’s Star Raft Salon” was a group of self-advocates who discussed issues important to people with disabilities. Sometimes we had guest speakers come to the meetings to talk about things such as: marketing, public speaking, and healthy eating. He said maybe he could help me get some funds so that I can travel around and promote it. I told the Minister one person in the group wanted to start a business for himself. That got the Minister going!
I think the government is working on behalf of people with disabilities. I think we have it better here than in some countries, even better than the United States regarding supports and services for people with disabilities. They still use the “R” word a lot in the United States. In the United States their medical and dental costs are way higher than ours. I believe jobs and housing in the United States are more difficult to find than in Canada. I think people with disabilities in Canada are more able to find employment and we are considered to have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.
There was question period at the end of the meeting: I wrote down a question: How hard would it be for a person with a disability to get a job doing public relations or to change their jobs? I was disappointed that my question was not answered. I guess I will have to find my answer somewhere else.
In closing I would like to share something with you. I lead a sheltered life until my late 20’s. I was unaware of the self-advocacy movement until a few years ago. I have gained a lot of experience now being on my own. I have been connecting to others at conferences, giving presentations and getting out in the public. I feel like I want to contribute to the community.
At the Summit meeting I learned there are a lot of people who are interested in topics important to people with disabilities. I am hopeful that our government is really working for us.
Video of the BC Accessibility Summit can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z7dCQZfNUQ