Dear Everybody campaign aims to end stigma around disability

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital has launched a five-year push to make Canada more inclusive.

“I’ve dealt with stigma my whole life because of my cerebral palsy,” Jadine Baldwin says. Steve Russell, Toronto Star

By Ainslie Cruickshank, Staff Reporter, Canadian Press, Toronto Star August 28, 2017

Jadine Baldwin is 17. She’s smart, confident and has big goals for her future. But sometimes, she’s treated like she’s five years old.

“I’ve dealt with stigma my whole life because of my cerebral palsy — I’ve dealt with people doubting my intelligence,” she said.

Now, the young advocate is taking a stand.

Baldwin and other youth with disabilities are working with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital on a five-year campaign to end the stigma around disabilities and make Canada more inclusive.

The Dear Everybody campaign, which launched Aug. 28, gives young people with disabilities a platform to raise awareness about the stigma and barriers they face everyday, focusing on issues such as employment, bullying, friendship, education and health care.

People often say Holland Bloorview is a “bubble” of inclusivity, said Julia Hanigsberg, the hospital’s CEO.

Julia Hanigsberg is the CEO of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, which has launched a five-year campaign to put an end to stigma around disabilities. Steve Russell photo

“Of course that makes me very proud of Holland Bloorview. On the other hand, that is a huge indictment of the rest of society because what that really speaks to is how outside of these walls they’re not feeling included,” she said.

Fifty-three per cent of kids with a disability have only one or no close friends and are two to three times more likely to be bullied, according to statistics provided by Holland Bloorview. As they get older, they continue to face barriers. Just 49 per cent of Canadians who have disabilities between 25 and 64 are employed, compared with 79 per cent of Canadians without disabilities.

Even when a disability isn’t clearly visible, stigma can lead to frustrating barriers, an issue Maddy Hearne understands all to well.

Hearne, 17, has had six concussions — the latest was just 18 months ago.

Maddy Hearne, 17, hopes the Dear Everybody campaign will help normalize accommodation for people with disabilities. Steve Russell photo

Alongside dizziness, headaches, nausea, tiredness, confusion and trouble concentrating, Hearne has also had to face down stigma.

At school, she’d walk around with headphones and sunglasses trying to protect herself from the overstimulation of the hallways, but that often left her socially isolated.

“I looked different and the kids thought I was crazy and they wouldn’t talk to me just because of how I looked and what accommodations I had,” she said.

At the same time, she dealt with people who didn’t believe her when she said she needed accommodation for her invisible injury.

Hearne hopes the Dear Everybody campaign will help increase people’s understanding of disabilities and help normalize accommodation.

Too often, people assume disabilities are the problem, when the problem is in fact us, Hanigsberg said.

“We put the stumbling blocks in the path of the person with the disability rather than taking those stumbling blocks away,” she said.

“What needs to be fixed is the stigma,” Baldwin said.

“I believe that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle and I was built to be here and to live in this different and amazing body because now, I can educate people.”

Dear Everybody will give Baldwin a larger platform for lessons that she’s already been teaching — that a disability is “just a limitation,” and that’s something we all have.

“We were made to be different. If we were all the same, the world would be boring and we’d never learn anything,” she said.

Teens on joining campaign to end stigma around disabilities. Jadine Baldwin says some people don’t see her “as a person” due to her cerebral palsy. Baldwin and another teen, Maddy Hearne, talk about being part of a Toronto rehabilitation hospital’s campaign to end stigma around disabilities. (The Canadian Press) Uploaded on YouTube August 28, 2017

Source Toronto Star

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Holland Bloorview launches Dear Everybody campaign to end stigma for young Canadians with disabilities in Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

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