Equality is important for everybody regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or level of ability.
We are all human and to be treated the same, but unfortunately this is not how the world works.
People are judged based on their height, weight, facial features and more. Almost one third, 26.7 per cent, of New Brunswickers over the age of 15 have two or more disabilities.
I am physically disabled. That is a fact. I am also a strong, determined cis gender woman. I was the
only person in my high school in a wheelchair. Sometimes it bothered me; not because I am disabled,
but because I could not physically do everything that others could. I was not able to take part in some
of the graduation activities because they were not all accessible to me. I don’t believe this was
intentional, but I do believe the world is not designed for disabled people.
Many public stores have stairs but not all stores have a wheelchair ramp. If you are shopping in
uptown Saint John, many of the buildings are old. Some are designated as heritage buildings, which
means they will not do renovations to meet current building codes in order to preserve history.
I am not disputing that our heritage is very important. However, not all old buildings need to be preserved. If a building is nearly falling down then it should be torn down and made into a space that everybody can enjoy. Some options include mixed housing units ,and accessible retail outlets. The buildings that are transformed into something new could even be modeled after the original and stand as a testament to our heritage in a progressive way.
Wouldn’t everybody like to be included in our society, regardless of their limitations? Even if a person
is able-bodied, maybe they have a loved one that could benefit from a more inclusive world: a
grandmother, a parent or a friend.
New Brunswick is behind other provinces as far as healthcare and disability issues. We do not even
have a provincial disability act! New Brunswick has the second highest disability rate in Canada, just
behind Nova Scotia. What is stopping a province with such a high disability rate from providing this
Seniors and people with disabilities make up a large majority of our population. Why is the province
inaccessible? If everyone was able to travel, shop and eat where they wanted and not have to worry
about whether or not they can even access it, then our economy might actually grow.
If people with disabilities could get reasonable accommodation, and work as much as their disability
would allow, then unemployment rates would certainly drop. Those on long term disability benefits can
make over $500 in other income without having their benefits reduced. As the system exists, people
are penalized if they make too much money, which forces people to rely on social assistance. As a
result, many people are afraid to go to work or make more money. Absolutely nobody benefits from
If there is one lesson to take away from this article, it is to treat everyone with dignity. You never know
what someone is going through.
Be kind. Always.
Join me here next month as I continue my disability awareness series with the NB Media Co-op.
Kaitlyn Layden is a disability rights advocate in New Brunswick. She will be delivering a public talk on disability discrimination in housing on World Cerebral Palsy Day, October 6, at 7:00pm by Zoom.