One-in-four people with a disability in B.C. face discrimination: poll

BC Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender says it’s time British Columbians start rethinking accessibility for people with disabilities.

This comes after a poll recently found that one-in-four people in B.C. with disabilities say they’ve experienced discrimination in the past year.

“We need to understand how our systems can be built to serve a wider variety and range of human beings with all of our complexities. Those are ways we can begin to unpack ableism in our lives and make our world more inclusive,” Govender told CityNews Tuesday.

According to the results of the Research Co. poll, nearly half, or 47 per cent, of people surveyed reported incidents of discrimination in their workplace, while 40 per cent of respondents reported incidents in a public space, such as a store or restaurant. Meanwhile, almost 28 per cent of people said they’ve experienced discrimination at school.

Govender says this type of discrimination often happens at work or school because we as a society don’t think about the needs of people with disabilities when we design our infrastructure.

“Some of the assumptions we make impact people with disabilities, people who are narrow-diverse for example, people who have mobility restrictions. So, it’s really becoming aware of those unwritten rules before we can work to change those rules,” she said.

Adding to that, Govender believes the strain on the health system will lead to inequalities in care.

“If we’re having to make decisions about whose health care we value and who get access to health care services, people are very concerned that if they are the least well in that group that they might be excluded from the system.”

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While B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner notes the poll reveals high rates of discrimination and stigma, only 12 per cent of people surveyed say accessibility and the rights of people with disabilities are one of the most important human rights issues to them and the people they care about.

“We have a lot of work to do to eliminate discrimination and achieve real accessibility for people with disabilities,” Govender said in a statement. “That’s why my office — working closely with disability representative organizations from across the province — is launching a public awareness campaign today about ableism in our communities.”

A new campaign launched Tuesday called #RewriteTheRules aims to raise awareness about ableism and the ways British Columbians can address it.

The campaign is being run online, on social-media, and through ads on Vancouver streets, at SkyTrain stations, and at bus shelters.

The campaign will run until Nov. 20.

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