NANAIMO — A Nanaimo society hopes their involvement in the first-ever disability pride march is just the beginning of their advocacy for more inclusion.
A delegation of about 80 people from Clay Tree Society travelled to Richmond on June 15 for the event, which drew more than 1,000 people. Inclusion BC organized the march to "advance a new culture of pride, strength and freedom for people with intellectual disabilities in Canada."
Clay Tree executive director Glenys Patmore said their participants are already asking about their next chance to get out and be vocal.
"Last year we did the trip to Victoria where we protested about the bus passes, now we've done this," Patmore told NanaimoNewsNOW. "More and more we want to do things like this and get ourselves noticed and get our guys out there themselves. It's okay us advocating for them but they're actually doing this themselves which I think gives them a lot of self-worth and pride."
Patmore said their non-profit, which runs programs for adults with developmental disabilities, fundraised a little more than $7,000 in less than seven weeks in order to pay for the trip. It was a massive undertaking, involving coordination with BC Ferries, nine vehicles, borrowing and renting wheelchair vans and even a night in a hotel for the whole crew.
"When we got there they had closed off the roads, there were police escorts, everyone was cheering us along and honking their horns.
She said a lot of their participants have been marginalized their whole lives because of their disabilities. "For them to actually be really proud of who they are and for people to be cheering them on, they just thought it was wonderful and they're still talking about it."
B.C. is a leader in Canada when it comes to advancing the culture of pride for people with intellectual disabilities, Patmore said. Despite that, she said there's still a long way to go.
"Maybe there's going to be a Nanaimo disability pride or a Victoria event. I think the more you get the word out there to the general public that these guys want to be included and want to be part of every day society I think that only good things can come from that."
Roughly 15 per cent of British Columbians identify as having a disability. Fewer than half of those with disabilities in Canada are employed, as opposed to 79 per cent of the general population, according to 2015 numbers from Statistics Canada.
You can learn more about Clay Tree Society and their work here.
On Twitter: @domabassi
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