Transition Magazine: Editorial (Spring 2024)

Photo of Chantelle MacIsaac. She is smiling and wearing a dark purple shirt. She has shoulder length brown hair.

This editorial was written by Chantelle MacIsaac, Senior Manager of Interdepartmental and Strategic Initiatives at MOSAIC. It originally appeared in the edition of DABC’s Transition magazine, Welcome to BC: Challenges and Supports for Newcomers with Disabilities (Spring 2024).

Read the full edition in PDF format here and in text-only format here.

If you’re interested in contributing to Transition as an individual or an organization, please email transition@disabilityalliancebc.org.

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Imagine being a newcomer to Canada. You need to navigate a new culture and new systems, with rules that are written and unwritten, spoken and unspoken–all through a second language.

Newcomers to Canada experience many varied challenges in the settlement process. The road to stable housing, employment and community inclusion can be a windy one, with frustrating detours along the way.

Then imagine also living with a disability. All these challenges are multiplied.

You will face a dizzying array of services, and complicated eligibility and application processes for government and community programs. Systemic ableism will create further roadblocks for you because services, policies and spaces are often designed without people with disabilities in mind, despite 1 in 4 Canadians having a disability.

Newcomers who are looking for information and support also find that immigration and disability services are often not available through the same organization. Immigrant services have not always had training in disability-aware services and disability services may not have the tools or capacity help newcomers settle safely in our communities.

A final and crucial piece of the settlement challenge for newcomers living with disability is mental health. Immigrants and refugees too often arrive in Canada having experienced trauma, such as social instability or violence, domestic violence or the perils of the journey to Canada itself. The ability to offer mental health supports and trauma-informed services is vital to truly meet the needs of these newcomers.

As a result of these intersectional barriers, newcomers with disabilities may find a closed door when they reach their destination here in BC and Canada.

Work Supporting Newcomers

In 2022, MOSAIC launched a program called the Accessibility for Newcomers Program to begin addressing some of these barriers.

With initial funding from the City of Vancouver and additional funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), MOSAIC has developed a circle of care approach where newcomers with disabilities complete a needs assessment with multilingual settlement workers and receive supported referrals to settlement, employment and disability services.

Participants are connected to multilingual programming within MOSAIC, such as WorkBC and employment services, violence prevention programs, legal advocacy pertaining to tax benefits, 2SLGBTQIA+ programming, seniors clubs and multilingual settlement workers.

Before making referrals to external services, staff first “knock on the door.” If no one answers, or when someone answers but doesn’t invite the client in, we support clients to navigate their way to another door. This approach facilitates successful connections to programs and services, and reduces frustration and isolation.

In addition to this program, MOSAIC led focus groups at a 2022 newcomers’ forum (please see Newcomers Speak Out at Forum on page 6). We also led a group at a 2023 forum on Mental Wellness for People with Disabilities, with the aim of amplifying the impact of people with lived experience on the services designed to support them.

The theme that emerged out of the Mental Wellness focus groups with newcomers with disabilities was the importance of community connection and belonging.

To meet this call, the Accessibility for Newcomers Program plans to enhance services in the coming year with regularly scheduled activities for newcomers with disabilities to come together, network, socialize and create community. Check out the program website for emerging opportunities to be a part of the community!

We are also jointly offering a new program in partnership with Disability Alliance BC (please see MOSAIC and DABC Partner to Support Newcomers on page 9) called the Newcomers with Disabilities project. With this program, we hope to build a service that not only better meets the needs of newcomers, but provides a model for intersectional community programs.

In This Transition

In this Transition, you’ll see more pieces of the big picture for newcomers. Race and Disability Canada talks about their work gathering the experiences of racialized people with disabilities, and their calls to action for education and training. You’ll learn more about the Newcomers with Disabilities forum and hear directly from newcomers about their settlement challenges. Plus, you’ll see more details about our newcomers partnership with DABC.

Last but not least, you’ll find out how to connect with some of the key groups offering information, support and resources to newcomers with disabilities.

Chantelle MacIsaac is the Senior Manager of Interdepartmental and Strategic Initiatives at MOSAIC, and oversees the Volunteer Program and Accessibility Services. Chantelle values and creates space for the voices of people who will utilize the services to be heard.

Accessibility for Newcomers Program Url: https://mosaicbc.org/our-programs/support-for-newcomers-with-disabilities/

DABC's Transition Magazine: Summer 2023 Edition!

Cover image for the Summer 2023 edition of Transition magazine, featuring half a person's face, with a neutral expression

The Summer 2023 edition of Transition magazine is here! The theme of this edition is BC’s Legal System: Is it Working for People with Disabilities?

Download it from our website in PDF format here and in text only format here.

Our Transition team is always glad to receive feedback and to consider articles or creative work from our community partners and from people living with a disability.

If you’d like to send along your ideas, we’d love to hear from you: transition@disabilityalliancebc.org.

Article: Becoming a Mom on Wheels

This article was written by Marjorie Aunos, and originally appeared in the edition of DABC’s Transition magazine, Parenting with Disabilities (Spring 2023). Read the issue here.

If you’re interested in contributing to Transition as an individual or an organization, please email transition@disabilityalliancebc.org


Photo of Marjorie Aunos. She has medium-length wavy brown hair, dark glasses, and is sitting in her wheelchair outdoors.

January 5, 2012 was my birthday. Not my real birthday, but my second chance. On a country road, my car slid on black ice. It only took a few seconds. I became paraplegic when I sustained a Spinal Cord Injury at a T2 Level.

As a single parent, my last thought before impact was for my son Thomas, who was only 16 months old at the time.

I knew right away my life would no longer be as it was. I was scared I couldn’t be the mom I had dreamed of being.

But, I knew parenting with a disability was possible. I knew this because, as a psychologist, I had seen hundreds of moms and dads with an intellectual disability do it. The determination and love they had shown had inspired me to become a single mom by choice.

Surely, I thought, they could also inspire me to fight through every internalized ableist thought I had about my own parenting. Thoughts like, “If I can’t run after him, how can I bring him to the park?” “How can I be a mom if I can’t drive him to school or put him to bed or meet his teachers on parent-teacher night due to lack of accessibility?”

If I knew many moms with intellectual or developmental disabilities, I knew no one with a physical disability or mobility limitation who was a parent.

I had no mental images of how it could be done. I also had no idea how to parent at a distance, while I was six months in rehabilitation, and my son was being cared for by my parents.

My academic and professional knowledge of parenting with a disability also created a lot of insecurity. I knew the discrimination parents with intellectual disability face, the lack of inclusion and the over-representation in child welfare, often with a lack of evidence.

I knew I would need to advocate for myself as a parent, and for my child, at every stage of his development. My fears were validated eight months after my accident when the “Rocking the Cradle” report came out in the US. It looked at parenting with all kinds of disabilities and the disparities people face: poverty, lack of adapted housing, lack of resources and services that are accessible, negative and ableist attitudes towards their parenting, and sometimes custody battles and intimate partner violence.

To ensure I could be available for my son when he needed me, all the while learning about what my body could and could no longer do, we moved into a house with two apartments. My parents moved into one apartment so they could be nearby to help out.

For safety, my mom gave Thomas his baths, while I supervised and managed the whole endeavour. I would say, “Grandma, Thomas played in the sand today, so he needs us to shampoo his hair” and she would perform the task.

When he would wake up during the night, she would come down from her apartment, pick him up from his bed and hand him to me in mine. She would wait patiently while I cared for him. When he finally fell back to sleep, she picked him up from my arms and set him back into his bed.

As Thomas grew in physical autonomy, less and less co-parenting was needed. As I now parent a teenager, the support I require is what any other parent needs: strategies to deal with the rolling of the eyes!

Since I didn’t have another mom on wheels to learn from after my accident, I decided to write my stories. I wanted other women to see what it could look like.

I also produced an event called Amplifying Voices of Parents with Disabilities, so I could connect with other parents with disabilities. No matter if our disability is the same or different, seeing other parents with a “different” stance normalized my reality and experience.

Being part of a community of parents with disabilities has empowered me more than I can say. And, because finding services or supports in the community for parents with disabilities was hard to do while parenting a young child, I am working with some of my colleagues to ensure a resource guide will be available in the future. You can see a few of these resources on page 20.

I’ve now been using a wheelchair for eleven years. Eleven years of challenges and struggles, but mostly eleven years of happiness and memories. I am a mom on wheels and I am actively parenting my 12-year-old son.

Over this past decade, I have seen him grow into a beautiful young man who is kind, creative and social justice driven. He and I are the best team there is.

Some Statistics

In Canada, 12% of women report a functional limitation (Statistiques Canada, 2018).

In Québec, it is estimated that 4.8% of families with a child under the age of 18 has a parent with a disability (Mercerat et Saïas, 2020). In the United States, the estimate is 6.2% (NDC, 2012) which is generally considered a huge underestimation. A third have a physical limitation.

You can purchase the book, Mom on Wheels: The Power of Purpose as a Parent with Paraplegia, at https://tinyurl.com/vrdv6b92.

Marjorie Aunos, Ph.D. is a single-mother-by-choice living with a Spinal Cord Injury. She is a renowned Psychologist and Researcher in the field of Parenting with Disabilities and an Award-Winning Inspirational Speaker.