When I Felt Truly Included as a Person With a Disability

The week of March 8, 2017, I was in Ottawa taking part in Equal Voice’s initiative Daughters of the Vote. The initiative was in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first few women getting the right to vote in Canadian Federal elections. 338 women between the ages of 18-23 came from each federal riding and took their seat in the House of Commons. There were more women sitting in the House then have ever been elected in Canadian history, there were more indigenous people sitting the House then have ever been elected in Canadian history and there were more Muslims sitting in the House then have ever been elected in Canadian history.  We broke all the records that day.

That day I gave a speech. I said that my education and my future, and the education and future of my closest friends, was jeopardized because we are disabled. I said there needs to be more for funding for proper accommodations so the things that happened to me as a kid, and are still happening to me, don’t happen to anyone else in the future. I spoke of how people with disabilities have every right to an education as our abled counterparts. I said all of this on National Television in front of Members of Parliament, the first female Prime Minister of Canada and many other respected and powerful political figures.

We wanted things to change. We had enough of the societal norms we encountered on a regular basis. I am so proud of my sisters who stood that day; they stood with me and I will stand with them.

I met the most powerful, strong and wonderful women that week. We know what we stand for, we will fight for it, and we won’t let prejudicial societal rules stop us. Those 337 women have special place in my heart and that week will be one of my favorite weeks in my whole life.

But before we took a seat, then took a stand, we had to march from the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to Parliament Hill. That’s a solid 7-minute walk and with that many people for that long of a walk, I was bound to be left behind. I had gotten used to it so it didn’t concern me a whole lot, but something interesting happened that I wasn’t expecting. My friends from university pushed my wheelchair the whole way.

When there’s a large group of people  at the House of Commons, you always take a picture at a set of steps, which was exactly what happened that Wednesday. When the picture was taken, everyone else headed up the stairs — but if you’re in a wheelchair, you need to go back down the hill then go up and around on the road. It’s not at all convenient, and a long way out of the way.

I expected my one friend who was pushing me to help me up the hill, but that’s not what happened. All of the delegates from my university came with me. For the first time in 22 years, I wasn’t left behind. I wasn’t told: “Find us when you get there.” It wasn’t just me and whoever was in charge of me going the accessible way. For once I was told, “You’re one of us, and we aren’t going to leave you behind.” So seven women walked with me to the accessible way into the House of Commons.

When my friend who was pushing my chair started back down the hill towards the road to get to the entrance, another delegate from my university asked where we were going. Once we explained, the seven women from my school walked away from the rest of the delegates so we could stick together. There were no questions, no protesting, just the simple idea that we stick together.

That day I wasn’t left behind, and that made all the difference.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image provided by contributor.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Spinal Cord Injury

The Roberts Family. Mom in wheelchair, husband and baby boy.

What I've Learned So Far as a Mom in a Wheelchair

I instantly started to research ways to take care of my son once the pregnancy test turned positive. I am a T6-T8 paraplegic from a car accident in 1999. With a spinal cord injury, creativity definitely comes into play when you have a child. This is what I have learned so far as a mom [...]
Kev piggybacking on the trail.

Camping in the Outback After My Boyfriend's Spinal Cord Injury

“What the hell am I doing?” I thought, watching as my boyfriend Kev vomited strenuously into a plastic tub, then slumped, shaking and exhausted, back onto a pile of fetid sheets, heated from within by his fever. We were holed up in a motel room in Western Victoria, on day two of a four month [...]
Wheelchair user getting ready to drive.

6 Lessons in Independence From My Daughter With a Spinal Cord Injury

My daughter lost her independence with a C6-7 spinal cord injury — for good, or so I thought. After the car accident, she tapped into a well of hope and focused on the prize of increased physical ability. Beth, 14, left inpatient rehab early to start her first year of high school on time in [...]

Please Encourage Your Children to Ask About My Disability

Three years ago, I had a serious car accident, broke my neck at the C6/C7 level, and became a quadriplegic wheelchair user. I’m able to use my arms, but my fingers don’t work well and I have very little grip. These are two real-life scenarios that have happened to me in the last year. Scene: The [...]