Independence Internationally

 

The Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres (CAILC) is proud to announce the 2002 United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons (IDDP) theme: “Independent Living and Sustainable Livelihoods.”

Last April, after CAILC suggested the UN theme of “Independent Living” to the Government of Canada, the Prime Minister wrote to Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, endorsing the idea. CAILC is honoured to be involved in promoting Independent Living around the world. Indeed, the 2002 IDDP theme will help promote both IL in Canada, as well as the IL concepts of self-determination, full participation and integration in countries around the world. The time is ripe to spread the word about Independent Living!

Upon returning from participating in this year’s Disabled Peoples’ International Conference – which was held in Japan from October 15 to 18 – CAILC wants to share some startling information. We heard that there are over 600 million people with disabilities in the world, and by the year 2020, experts predict that approximately 25 per cent of the world’s population will be persons with disabilities. We cannot ignore that wars and poverty, as well as lack of clean water, education and health care, are factors that are contributing to the rise of the disability population.

Despite the advancements made in disability leadership in Canada, CAILC recognizes that the stories of the journeys of many individuals often remain untold. Further, the potential that rests within individuals with disabilities often remains untapped, and as barriers are removed, the possibilities are unlimited as people fully participate. When governments embrace the principles of Independent Living, people with disabilities will be able to contribute economically, politically, socially and culturally. All nations will then tap into the unrealized potential of people with disabilities, and nations will become more prosperous, economically and socially.

CAILC’s 2002 Consumer Award of Excellence recipient Deborah Kennard is an excellent example of the possibilities of persons with disabilities who, when supported, are able to make significant contributions to society.

Deborah reflects the potential that exists in all citizens with disabilities. She lives in Montreal and was given this award on October 4, 2002, in Toronto at CAILC’s national meeting. With her family and friends present, Deborah accepted the award and shared the glory with those who worked with her to build a better community. In particular, her leadership contributed to the development of the Montreal Metropolitan Independent Living Resource Centre – Canada’s first bilingual ILRC.

Deborah’s warmth, intelligence and gentle and caring nature are qualities that complement her fierce determination to build a community that celebrates the contributions of all its citizens. Her gifts and skills enabled her to remove significant barriers in her own life. When she was in her early 20s, Deb lived in a hospital for a number of years. Articulating her needs to professionals enabled her to explore options for specialized equipment for greater mobility. This led to significantly increased opportunities for her.

After leaving the hospital, Deb spent a year in a rehabilitation centre. There she was faced with the challenge of learning a new language. She knew that if she were to make her needs known in Montreal, a strong capacity to speak French would open opportunities for her. Fluency in both English and French was of great importance to the committee work of the newly established Montreal ILRC. Deb’s leadership style, which works towards consensus, was effective in an often complicated community development process.

There are 600 million people with disabilities who, like Deborah, have untold stories, and who are making significant contributions in their communities – or, with support and acceptance, could be. ILRCs from across Canada will be celebrating on December 3, 2002, the untapped talents, the untold stories and the unlimited potential of Canadians with disabilities.

CAILC is enthusiastic about the awareness this Canadian-led declaration by the United Nations will bring on December 3 and beyond. Twenty years after the development of the first Canadian Independent Living Resource Centre in Kitchener, Ontario, it is clear that Independent Living has developed into an international movement.

Contact CAILC at (613) 563-2581 or visit www.cailc.ca.

 

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