The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) was held at Calgary’s City Hall on Friday, with a marked focus this year on the theme of having sufficient accessible housing for Calgary’s disabled community.
Dozens of different vendors, community groups, organizations, and sporting clubs presented at the event, alongside noted barrier-free design architect Ron Wickman, and musician Taylor Nile.
“Disability is so broad in nature—we think of cognitive, physical, and mobility aspects, and so the variety is so, so big. And that means that people have different disabilities but also different strengths,” said Makrina Morozowski, a registered psychologist and volunteer board member for IDPD Calgary.
“Being able to highlight some of the different strengths that people have, what they can do, how they get involved, and we need to support that as a city.”
Morozowski said that bringing a vast range of different organizations together allowed for attendees to “put those puzzle pieces together in terms of what it is that people with disabilities need to be successful.”
“I think it goes to show people that we do want to work together with these agencies, and one agency can’t always do everything, but one agency might get you out physically active, another agency might provide support so that you can leave the house, and another agency might help with that transportation piece,” Morozowski said.
The event was organized in part by volunteers March of Dimes Canada, and ARBI.
Alena Widdup, program coordinator with March of Dimes Canada, said that holding the event at City Hall was an important way of ensuring accessibility.
“These days, a lot of venues are labelled as accessible, but for many folks, that’s just not the case: standards, versus actual accessibility, are very different,” Widdup said.
“It’s important that we are in a venue that is fully accessible to everyone who is participating—people with disabilities, people who are just walking through, it’s incredibly important to be able to have that inclusivity.”
Focus on housing for IPDP 2022
IDPD was founded in 1992 by the United Nations as a way to promote the rights and well-being of people globally with disabilities.
Annual recognition of IDPD have been held annually in the city each year, focusing on different themes.
And while the global theme for this 2022 was “transformative solutions for inclusive development, and the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world,” Morozowski said that one of the things that IDPD Calgary does each year is make their own theme on local issues that reflects the larger global theme.
“Our Calgary theme today is ‘it’s more than just a roof over our heads, shelters are basic human need, and housing should be a basic human right,'” Morozowski said.
“If we look at housing, especially a lot of the new developments like five storeys, split levels, they’re not super accessible for someone who uses crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs.”
She said that they were creating an advocacy point for different orders of government, and addressing what might not be an obvious outcome from lack of accessible housing: people being geographically stuck where they’ve grown up.
The advocacy towards more accessible housing, said Morozowski, would provide disabled Canadians the opportunities to grow up, to move, and do what they want to do.
Highlighting other issues and addressing barriers
Widdup said that participating in IDPD 2022 gives her organization more opportunities to take part in the March of Dimes Canada programs, many of which she said are free.
“The more people know, the more opportunities are given,” she said.
One of those programs called Connect and Share was borne out of the pandemic as a way to address loneliness.
“It’s an online program where a volunteer meets with the clients and just forms a friendship, and it just gives that opportunity to continue to have someone to support them,” Widdup said.
Morozowski said that the pandemic also highlighted how barriers really affected people with disabilities, and how they can be addressed.
“As soon as Covid happened, what happened to the world is we became very much more efficient at working from home, and so this this opened up for many people for whom transportation is an issue,” she said.
That continued focus on work from home, has parallels like on a day like Friday’s, which saw a deep dip in temperatures.
“We know that it snows and it gets very cold in Calgary, and we try our best I think to keep our sidewalks clean, but sometimes they aren’t. So if we’re having troubles getting outside of the house to get to work, or volunteer, or what have you, if someone can work from home then we’ve removed the barriers of getting to a place on time, which I think is great,” Morozowski said.
For more information on IDPD Calgary, see their website at idpdcalgary.weebly.com, and for more on IDPD the UN’s website at www.un.org/en/observances/day-of-persons-with-disabilities.