November is Indigenous Disability Awareness Month

Practice Point

November is Indigenous Disability Awareness Month

November 14, 2023

NOVEMBER IS INDIGENOUS DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH (IDAM), recognized every year by hundreds of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

This month was created in 2015 by Indigenous Disability Canada/British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS), an award-winning, national, not-for profit charitable organization established in 1991, whose main office is located on the ancestral lands of the Lekwungen People in Victoria.

According to the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA):

Statistics show Indigenous people experience higher rates of disability than the general population in Canada. There are many factors for this, but colonialism and unequal access to wholistic health care that many First Nations people face is a major contributing factor. According to one academic paper, Indigenous people who are living with a disabilities are “doubly disadvantaged” due to anti-Indigenous and disability-related discrimination. This does not factor in other intersectional identities that may add layers of discrimination, such as age, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Even the term “disability” is a colonial and social construct that implies someone cannot do something. That definition is different than how many First Nations cultures view people with “disabilities”. Many First Nations languages do not even have a word that translates to “disability”. Rather than viewing disabilities in terms of what a person cannot do, many First Nations people, families, and communities focus on the person’s strengths, gifts, and positive contributions to the community.

The FNHA recognizes that “accessibility” means many different things to many different people. Accordingly, it is conducting a research project

to determine what accessibility means to First Nations people in BC. The project is an opportunity to discuss accessibility, and how services, organizations and policies can be improved. The project findings are not only to raise awareness and showcase the diversity of the topic, it will also be used in the FNHA’s approach to align with the Accessible British Columbia Act to ensure their work is rooted in the voices BC First Nations who have experience with disabilities. That means listening to stories from First Nations people, families, and communities about what accessibility means to them and offer insight on the ways that accessibility plans, policies, and guidelines can be improved.

View the Accessible British Columbia Act here.

From the Community Living British Columbia (CLBC) web page recognizing IDAM 2023:

CLBC’s Cultural Safety Policy, launched last fall, guides CLBC staff and service providers in how they engage, support, monitor, and plan with First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals, as well as their families, support networks and communities. CLBC has created a video to raise awareness and understanding of the six principles that make up the Cultural Safety Policy. You can watch the video and learn more about the policy here.

In the spring, the Community Living Authority Act, which governs CLBC, was amended to formally include an Indigenous Advisory Committee, and to require CLBC’s Board of Directors continue to include at least one Indigenous person. As well, an official CLBC Board Statement committing to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples was signed at an historic and emotional ceremony.

A collaboration agreement signed in September between Secwépemc Child & Family Services Agency (SCFSA) and CLBC means that Indigenous adults with developmental disabilities in the Kamloops, or Secwépemc Nation area, can now receive support and community inclusion services directly from an established Indigenous service provider.

Read here about the coming 2024 Indigenous Disability and Wellness Gathering, to be hosted next year by BCANDS on Lekwungen territory.

Search for and follow #IDAM2023 on social media during November.

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We acknowledge that the land on which we work is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.