Disability Alliance BC’s mission is to support people, with all disabilities, to live with dignity, independence and as equal and full participants in the community.
We recognize that people with disabilities will face barriers to accessing services, inclusive participation and justice because of their specific disability or health condition, including those who have disabilities deemed ‘invisible’ by the public. We also recognize that people with disabilities may face additional barriers due to intersecting forms of oppression and marginalization, including: colonialism, systemic racism, transphobia, gender inequality, heterosexism, and social inequality. All of these forms of oppression and marginalization create added barriers to equal and full participation in the community. We believe that advocating for disability rights must include recognizing and celebrating the intersectional identities amongst people with disabilities, and which actively calls for decolonization, racial justice, 2SLGBTQIA+ rights, gender equity, and social equity.
We also find it incredibly important to acknowledge and express gratitude for the historical and ongoing labour of disabled queer community (in particular, queer femmes), women of colour and non-binary folx, whose work has paved the way for disability justice in our communities. This labour has long supported our mission as an organization, but has often been undervalued, unacknowledged and appropriated by us and the rest of disability community. This labour has not been given the proper recognition as it should, and therefore we will commit to making space for, and giving due credit to, those in marginalized groups who actively advocate for justice which has also directly or indirectly advanced disability rights.
Our previous actions as an organization have not always been equitable and inclusive. The ways in which we have prioritized issues within the disability community and have interacted with clients with diverse backgrounds have at times created significant harm. In February 2020, a DABC representative spoke to the media about the protests carried out by Wet’suwet’en land defenders, noting that the protests were making it difficult for some clients to access the DABC office and other medical appointments. This statement failed to uphold the values of intersectionality and brushed over the colonial violence, displacement and oppression that many Indigenous communities face. It was a mistake we are deeply sorry for and will not repeat. In prioritizing some issues faced by the disability community over others, not only do we undermine real issues faced by other marginalized communities, but we also fail to reflect the needs of people with disabilities facing intersecting barriers. Disability issues should not be treated as separate from issues faced by other marginalized communities as they are inherently intertwined.
It is important to us that the role we play within the disability community and the programs and projects we deliver are not complacent in perpetuating systems of discrimination and oppression. In order for us to uphold the dignity and respect of Indigenous people, Black people, people of colour (IBPOC), 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, and other marginalized groups in the disability community, we must be actively working towards dismantling systems of discrimination and injustice.
We respect and serve all individuals with disabilities regardless of their race, citizenship, social status, sexual orientation, gender identity, neurodivergence, employment within stigmatized economies such as sex work, and lived experiences with drugs and addiction. However, our services and programs remain targeted in assisting people with disabilities who need it the most: those with low or no income. We recognize the ways in which social and health inequities disproportionately affect IBPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, and other marginalized groups in the disability community, and it is integral to us that our organization goes beyond assisting these clients, but to advocate towards wider systemic change that ensures people with disabilities live a dignified life, out of poverty.
We strive to do better, and to do so, we must first listen, learn and then make change. To that end, we have commissioned an external agency to conduct an audit of our organization to identify ways in which we can become more equitable and inclusive. From there, we are developing action points to proactively work towards this goal. In the meantime, our organization has identified an initial list of actions we will work towards to improve the experiences of IBPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and other marginalized individuals with disabilities:
- We will examine biases in our own hiring practices. While DABC has promoted the hiring of people with disabilities since the inception of our organization, we acknowledge that we must do better at hiring people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds. This is not only to ensure that our staff reflect the diversity of individuals that we serve, but also to commit ourselves to approaching hiring as a way of undoing historical employment discrimination faced by IBPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and other marginalized individuals in our province.
- We will make space for the voices of IBPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and other marginalized individuals with disabilities in our internal and external engagement processes. We will commit to understanding more keenly the issues uniquely affecting these marginalized groups so that we can better tailor our services and programs, as well as our systemic advocacy. We will actively seek out their consultation, participation and representation.
- We will work towards incorporating decolonizing language in all of our communications, as well as incorporating Reconciliation Actions suggested by First Nations in BC.
- We will foster a workplace environment which removes implied assumptions about a person’s gender and sexual orientation.
- We will call upon the organizations we partner with, as well as the facilitators and organizers of events and meetings in the disability community, to ensure that their work is inclusive of IBPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and other marginalized groups’ participation and representation.
This above list of actions is not exhaustive; it will certainly be expanded upon following reflection on our equity audit, and further and continuous collaboration and feedback from members of the IBPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, as well as individuals facing gender and social inequality.
We commit to standing in solidarity with IBPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and other marginalized individuals in the disability community with more than just words, but with action.