“AccessAbility Week is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate diversity and inclusion, and to highlight the importance of accessibility.”
– Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
Beginning on Sunday, May 31, Canada will once again celebrate National AccessAbility Week (NAAW). It’s a week in which we we recognize and celebrate the contributions of Canadians with disabilities. AccessAbility Week also recognizes the efforts of Canadians who are working to remove barriers and ensure people with disabilities have an equal chance to participate in all aspects of daily life. This year marks the first AccessAbility Week since the Accessible Canada Act was passed in July of 2019.
The annual event is an opportunity to reflect on the progress Canada has made toward greater accessibility and inclusion of Canadians of all abilities. It’s also a chance to identify what more we can do to make our communities and workplaces accessible to all.
Here in BC, the province is doing its part to support this work by offering $50,000 in grants to not-for-profit organizations for accessibility projects in their communities. Eligible projects promote greater accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in a variety of areas like education and learning, sports are recreation, arts, employment, and more.
There are also numerous events in BC and beyond which mark the day by promoting and celebrating inclusion and accessibility. Digital events are taking centre stage during AccessAbility Week this year, from virtual conferences to digital festivals. Check out what’s happening across the country and discover ways to participate in the accessible celebrations!
Still, Life: A Digital Festival
Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture presents their first ever digital festival! Still, Life celebrates the ongoing creative work of the disability arts community, even as many aspects of life came to a stand still.
The festival takes place throughout AccessAbility Week and the program reflects contributions from various artistic disciplines including dance, theatre, literature, and visual arts. It offers a platform for old work yet to be seen as well as new work created in this time of physical distancing. For instance, Realwheels’ community show, Wheel Voices: Tune In!, won’t be premiering in May as planned—instead, they are offering a preview by presenting a Zoom rendition of Gimp Nation by Andrew Vallance.
Other events during the festival include workshops, artist talks, interactive presentations, film screenings and more.
You can find more information and register for your favourite events at www.stilllifefestival.com.
Red Shirt Day & Easter Seals
Easter Seals is bringing back Red Shirt Day on June 3, 2020! To promote National AccessAbility Week, Easter Seals Canada encourages Canadians to wear red as a visible display of solidarity. Canadians can take the Red Shirt Day Pledge to show their commitment to creating real social change and helping to build an inclusive and accessible Canada.
Easter Seals also has a fun activity to get kids involved in the celebrations! The Easter Seals Art Contest, celebrating both AccessAbility Week and Red Shirt Day, is open to kids ages 6 to 14. Children can send in a drawing or painting based on their vision of “An Inclusive and Accessible Canada for Everybody” for a chance to win a $100 gift voucher and Easter Seals Gift Pack.
To learn more about Red Shirt Day and check out their list of suggested activities, visit www.easterseals.ca/english/redshirtday
VAD Society Video Contest
If you’re looking to celebrate with a dose of positivity, these videos deliver! Since Voice of Albertans with Disabilities (VAD) had to cancel their in-person celebrations, they instead launched a National AccessAbility Week video contest. The goal was to raise support, awareness and positivity in the disability community by sharing positive stories from the community.
The submissions celebrate moments of community and inclusivity in this time of physical distancing, from a birthday scavenger hunt to a montage of reasons to smile. The videos are now open for voting—the top three winners will receive a donation of $1000 to the charity of their choice.
You can view all the submissions at vote for your favourite at www.vadsociety.ca/naaw-contest
reachAbility Digital Conference
The Nova Scotia-based organization reachAbility is taking their annual conference, NAAW 2020, online this year. Though the COVID-19 pandemic prevents an in-person gathering, the organization wanted to acknowledge the Accessible Canada Act and celebrate AccessAbility Week. Open to everyone at no cost, NAAW 2020 features live workshops, speakers, presentations, and more.
“Everyone in Nova Scotia and in Canada will have had, has or will have a disability. Let’s find a reason to celebrate inclusion and the incredible things that people with disabilities achieve every single day in their workplace, in their lives, with their families and with their children.”
– Tova Sherman, founder and CEO of reachAbility
The festival kicks off on Sunday, May 31 and runs all week. Some highlights from this year’s schedule include: live discussions with experts in the fields of mental health, social justice, human rights and more; interactive workshops on resilience, mindfulness, and staying curious; and a speaker series featuring leaders in inclusion from the arts, business, government, and non-profit sectors.
You can dive into the full schedule and register now for free at www.reachability.org/national-accessability-week