Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility)
“How can people without disabilities make policies and decisions for the disabled without having the benefits and information provided by our lived experiences?”
I am Jolene MacDonald, and this question is something we will be touching upon today in the 5th episode of our podcast, “Why Access Matters.”
In this episode, we want to emphasize the importance of including the input of people with disabilities in the policies, decision-making processes, activities, and services for them. This is a key concept called inclusion.
There is a slogan that we feel applies a hundred percent to including the input and lived experiences of disabled people in the facets of life and law that affect us: “Nothing about us without us.”
According to Wikipedia, it is a slogan used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that policy. In its modern form, this often involves national, ethnic, disability-based, or other groups that are often marginalized from political, social, and economic opportunities.
In its English form, the term came into use in disability activism during the 1990s. James Charlton relates that he first heard the term used in talks by South African disability activists Michael Masutha and William Rowland, who had, in turn, heard the phrase used by an unnamed East European activist at an earlier international disability rights conference. In 1998, Charlton used the saying as the title for a book on disability rights. Disability rights activist David Werner used the same title for another book, also published in 1998. In 2004, the United Nations used the phrase as the theme of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is also associated with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The use of this slogan has expanded beyond the disability rights community to other interest groups and movements.
If you are interested in this topic and want to know more about it, please check the description of this episode wherever you listen to it. We’ve put some resources and links for you there.
Now that we’ve started thinking about links between inclusion, disability, and accessibility, let’s focus on some of the benefits that come with having an inclusive approach to making our world more accessible.
According to the definition and approach of the US government (as one of the first governments that enforced the “Accessibility act”):
- Disability inclusion means that individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in every aspect of life to the fullest extent possible.
- These opportunities include participation in education, employment, public health programming, community living, and service learning.
- Including people with disabilities in everyday activities and encouraging them to have roles similar to their peers who do not have a disability is important for building the capacity of youth, especially youth with disabilities, and making society more inclusive for all individuals.
- It is important to note that one part of inclusion involves creating true accessibility rather than simply providing accommodations.
- A way to accomplish this is through universal design, which includes designing products and environments to be useable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or status in life.
Aiming to understand better how important it is to break down barriers, I talked to Edward Faruzel.
Edward is the Executive Director of KW AccessAbility, where he and his colleagues are advocating for “a community of equal opportunities”.
Edward’s physical limitations made him a wheelchair user in his day-to-day life, but this hasn’t slowed down his dedication to helping others; at KW AccessAbility (a non-profit information and resource center), he has a key role in helping support adults with physical disabilities based upon the principles of choice, equality, co-operation, and mutual respect.
In our conversation, he shared his valued lived experiences with us and specially addressed key points about how to move toward a more accessible world.
[End of Opening]
Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility)
Hello, I’m Jolene MacDonald and the host of Why Access Matters. We’re here with our fifth episode of our podcast and we’re talking with Edward Faruzel from KW AccessAbility to hear his thoughts and experiences about accessibility. So, welcome, Edward. It’s so nice to see you again. I’d love if you could introduce yourself to everyone.
Hi, Jolene. Yeah, thank you very much for having me. So, my name is Edward Faruzel and I’m the executive director at KW AccessAbility. I use a wheelchair in my day-to-day life. I’ve been using it my whole life. So, yeah, I’ve been a volunteer with KW AccessAbility for many years, and then about 10 years ago when the executive director retired, then I took over and really enjoy being here with, with this agency.
That’s awesome. I know we’ve been familiar for quite some time. I think it was probably 2012 when we met in Create-A-thon. Is that the right year? I think approximately.
That’s exactly the right year.
Yeah. I know we were doing the- the free 24-hour straight work and you were my group’s client, and that’s how we got connected. And then we- you actually were one of the reasons that I had the idea for Accessibrand, so I don’t know if you actually know that, but when we were at Create-A-thon and you really opened my eyes to how inaccessible a lot of things were, and the light bulb went off for the whole marketing and communications and design and having the lack of digital accessibility, especially when we were sharing all that information about my daughter Joy, with Dwarfism. So, I should thank you for that because it was really meeting you that helped enlightened me and gave me a lot of ideas and eventually, I started Accessibrand. It took me a long time, but I wanted to share that information with you.
Well, that’s great. Yeah-Well, I appreciate that. We-we learned a lot from each other and we’ve been helping each other out for, for many years, so
Yeah, I think just to let people know too, that we do partner with KW AccessAbility and that we are looking at having more of their auditors or their members become auditors for Accessibrand. So, we’ll have that bigger partnership with you guys coming up shortly. So that’s pretty exciting for us as well.
Yeah, we’re really looking forward to it also.
That’s awesome. Well, we’ll get right into the questions then. I think, you know, you told us a little bit about your past experience, but you had another job and a few different jobs before KW AccessAbility, but you brought your lived experience and your previous job experience to KW AccessAbility. We wanna know, how does that make you feel about all that past experience and how that’s brought you to this role now? If you can tell us a little bit more about that.
Sure. Well, I- I got my honors BA in Economics from the University of Waterloo. And when I was younger, everybody said, “Oh, you’re in a wheelchair, you should probably be an accountant.” So, I sort of gravitated towards the, the business area, but accounting really wasn’t my thing. And- but I did - did have some previous jobs. The most recent one before starting with KW AccessAbility was, I had my own consulting company with another person, and we were going around the province talking about human rights for people with disabilities living in long term care facilities. We were, we were informing people of what their rights were and we were also doing training sessions for the staff and PSWs who work with the consumers to give them a better idea of, of what everybody’s rights and responsibilities are. So, I really enjoyed that. At the same time, I was volunteering here with KW AccessAbility and got to know all the members and I was on the board of directors and I would fill in occasionally for the previous executive director. So, when he retired, it was seemed like a natural fit for me to- to step into this role. And I really enjoy it. Our members are, are just amazing and to be able to, to help people get the most out of life is really what KW AccessAbility is all about.
Well, maybe you can tell us a little bit more about what KW AccessAbility does, ‘cause I know you do some really important things, especially with training, and you have quite a few members with disabilities now as part of the, the, the community. So that would be great to learn a little bit more about what you guys offer.
Sure. Our agency is very unique. Many different agencies key in on a certain segment of disabilities. For instance, there’s the Canadian Hearing Services that deal just with people who are deaf and hard of hearing. There’s the CNIB [who] was helping people with vision loss, et cetera, but our agency is open to anybody with any type of physical disability. So, it creates a real melting pot for everyone to come and feel welcome and make new friends. Our, our, our agency basically has three main pillars that, that we focus on. The first is our recreation department. It’s recreation and health and wellness. If I say it’s our health and wellness department, nobody wants to come
And we are also very, we’re, we are a member driven agency. So, we have regular events every month. We have weekly events, but it- all our events are determined by what the members want to do. So, I don’t sit here in the office and, and say we’re doing this or that or that. We have monthly planning meetings and our members come up with different ideas, different activities that they would like to do, and we try to make it happen for them and with them. The second pillar of our agency is our computer department. And this is also a very, very important role because we teach people how to use computers, how to use different adaptive aids. We teach people, again, whatever, whatever area they need help with we can focus in on that. We don’t do big classes.
Most of our sessions are one on one with the individual, and so we determine what their needs are and figure out how to help them best. We can also help people navigate the ADP world. If they’re eligible to receive a computer, our manager will sit down with them, help them to work on the paperwork, which quite often can be very confusing.
Yeah, That’s great.
So, and then the, the third, the third part of our agency is advocacy and- and working with people in the community information referral, if they have any questions about where different services or how to access different services, we have many connections or we can help them find the connections that they need. If they’re having issues and need some help with advocating, we can also help them with that. So, we’re basically a one stop shop for people with disabilities, their families, their friends. We also provide information to other agencies that might have questions on, on specific disabilities. So…
That’s great. I know you- I’ve been in your office several times over the years and it’s always a very positive, you know, space and there’s always somebody full of smiles and something activity-based going on. I’ve been there I think a couple times through a potluck as well. So, I know you have a lot of activities, but I’m sure during covid it was very difficult. I know we’ve talked about that a little bit. So Covid added a real level of difficulty for the disability community and I know that you guys sort of worked from home that now you’re back in the office, but I’m sure that wasn’t easy for your members either.
No, exactly. Many people with disabilities do experience social isolation, and this was even more prevalent during Covid. But again, we shifted what we were doing and we did many things on Zoom and online so that our members still could stay connected with their friends. We had activities going every day and sometimes they, they were scheduled for two hours in the afternoon, but people were having such a good time that we just kept everything running sometimes until seven or eight o’clock at night.
That was, that was so key for our members to you know, know that somebody’s there with them and that their friends were there. And you know, we changed the way we did the computer tutoring using different programs like Team Viewer,
but yeah, so, using Team Viewer, we could still work with our members and, and hook up to their computer to-to help them navigate if they had any issues or, or questions we could still continue the tutoring in the comfort and safety of their own home. So..
I know that the Covid discussion wasn’t really something that was on our listed chat about, but I think it really relates to digital accessibility and why it’s so important for what we do as well. But I know you and I talked during Covid about the displacement, that people with disabilities that are trying to live independently but don’t, especially like yourself. I remember how difficult that was for you. You didn’t have people coming in to help you anymore. Like you mentioned at one point, if you dropped the remote, you have no one to come get you, like, like to help you, but that everyone was forced to go online. And so, it was so much even more critical, I think, for accessibility from a digital perspective, you know, during Covid. I hope that doesn’t go away for people because it, I think it gave in a sense more freedom in some ways, but also a hindrance in others. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Yeah, exactly. It’s-at the beginning stages of Covid, I didn’t leave my apartment for over a hundred days.
Yeah. It’s just, it’s so critical. I mean, it’s like, we talked about it, it’s just, it’s more than ramps. It’s more than push buttons. People forget about accessibility being such a broader concept that it applies to so much more. And that kind of leads me into the next question is, you know, what is your message to others about like, what they- I guess, who don’t know about accessibility or what we wanna teach them about the importance of accessibility. ‘Cause I know some people are afraid of it, I think because of, you know, litigation and lawsuits, but I think if we teach them to start somewhere, what kind of advice or message do you have to people in that respect who don’t know about accessibility? What can they learn?
Actually, Jolene, you took the words right outta my mouth.
I think that’s, that’s the kind of advice that we give too, is, you know, even for me, it really wasn’t until Joy was born, I didn’t know. And, and like you said, you don’t know what you don’t know, but once you know, you can’t not learn it, in my opinion. And I think, you know, the simplest of things, you know, when we’re out walking or something, I see people, you know, staring at my daughter or things like that. And it’s like, how can we teach people as a society, like you said, you’re not gonna catch it. Like, why do we feel so compelled to stare or not ask questions? I know I’m always concerned, even if I see another little person, I wanna talk to them because I wanna, I want to, you know, Joy to understand from other people that have her same condition.
But it’s almost like you, you’ve the fear of offending somebody. But I think the more we open communication to talk about disability, it’s not a bad word. It, it just is. And we often talk about at, at some point in everyone’s life, they’re going to experience disability. Whether you want to admit it or not, it’s gonna happen. You have quite a few members I know that have become disabled because of being in an accident too, right. Like, you’ve had members like that. So, it’s not just always something you’re born with. Myself, it, it’s only been in the last 10 years, so it, you know, you’re rethinking life a little bit different. I’m hoping that people listening to this podcast will do what you said, you know, drop in visit, try to get involved, try to understand it rather than ignore it and not do anything about it. One, one step is better than no steps, right?
Awesome. Another thing I wanted to talk about is that, I kind of touched on this earlier, that accessibility is more than ramps and push buttons. But tell us why you think accessibility is essential for society? Basically everybody, not just people with disabilities. And you can relate that specifically to KWA, if you like, or you know, like working with community of people with disability.
Yeah. It really, if people, people want to- if they start thinking about accessibility, that might be a little bit intimidating, but it really is universal design. Universal design is basically accessibility for everyone. And, and that just makes the world a better place. If you put up a ramp to get into your, your office or into your business, it’s not only gonna help somebody in a wheelchair, it’s also gonna help the mother with a baby stroller or an elderly person, you know, maybe with a walker, even if they don’t have a walker. It just makes life so much easier for everyone. So, I think we gotta stop thinking about it as, “Oh, we’re gonna help the disabled” and start just making the world an easier place to get around
Yeah. That there’s so much, so many layers to that even about, you know, home builders, stop doing things with so many steps. Like try and like, think about exactly what you said, it’s universal design, it’s inclusive, universal. We use the term accessibility, I think because people don’t necessarily understand universal, so to speak, that are just new to accessibility or understanding why you need to make a website, you know, label a certain way on the backend or why a document has to be, you know, coded a certain way so screen readers can read them. I think people forget we’re in our own bubbles, that there’s, you know, so many more opportunities and, you know, different ways of communicating with people, then we even realize. But the more we just don’t add the barriers, the more we don’t have to remove them.
Exactly. That’s so true. And, and if you build it right from the beginning, it’s not gonna cost any more. People think that, you know, accessibility is gonna cost a lot of money, but it, it’s really, if you build it right into the structure, there are no extra costs.
That’s exactly our tagline. I think
Exactly. And I think the world is changing. You know, it is getting better slowly but surely.
Yeah. Well, I know it, even for me, I built this house 12 years ago. Nothing about it is-is accessible. I can’t talk today, apparently, it’s Friday, but like, there’s, there’s stairs everywhere. The grade of the property is high. There’s, you know, if we needed a power wheelchair, we don’t have even the right garage for the temperature. Like there is really no opportunity here to even retrofit this house. The-the bathroom on the main floor is down three stairs. So, you know, my mom, for example, has a temporary fracture on one foot and, you know, a problem with her other foot. She fell out the door and I can’t even bring her here because there’s no way for her to be independent in my house. So, you know, these are things now I would think about everything differently. So, but the builders need to do that. You know, the developers, people in our industry, marketing communications, if we can all stop and go, here’s a parameter that we have to input into our project, just like any other parameters we know we have to deal with. This is just a new one we have to integrate in for good. I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful for sure.
Yeah, me too.
Let’s keep our fingers cross for that. So, our last question is, what is your advice, we kind of said this already, but what’s your advice to accessibility, ac-activists or advocates or whoever else wants to support disability community or accessibility as a whole? I know you talked about, you know, getting involved, but is there any other sort of information that you would wanna give or advice? So hopefully if someone’s listening to this, they might do a little bit more.
Well, I, you know, as we said, the hardest part is taking the first step, just getting out there and talking to people. If you have an interest in, in some area, then, then, then go with that. But also, you know, don’t get frustrated if things don’t happen right away. It’s, it’s a process, you know. And you know, when I think back years ago, we were, we were advocating for simple things like ramps at street corners.
There never, there never used to be even a ramp. And we were, we were writing letters to the mayor and, you know, trying to advocate for simple things. And that’s how you gotta start. You gotta take it step by step. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t give up though.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share or that you would love to see done differently? Is there anything else you can think of?
Well, things are progressing right now. I think that there’s a huge, huge need for, for people with disabilities to, you know- in the fields of employment. So many people with disabilities are not able to find jobs and, you know, have meaningful work. The whole housing issue right now is, is huge.
I can attest to that it’s, there’s no difference in cost. And almost everyone on our team have some sort of disability for the most part themselves. There’s no cost difference. You just have to be open-minded to, I think the hybrid model is a really great example of that. But so many misconceptions. I would agree with that.
Exactly. So, you know, again, just open yourself up. Just, just be a little bit of a free thinker and don’t come into it with preconceived notions about, “Oh, this is gonna be hard to do,” or, you know, just, just think about how you can do it. And, and the-the easiest way is just to talk to people. You know, we did a job interview for, for a young lady and, and I mean, she’s in a wheelchair too, but her situation isn’t my situation.
I think employers also really need to realize that by offering accommodations, it doesn’t mean like preferential treatment or more cost, it means you’re probably gonna have an employee that’s more productive and probably even more long term in my opinion, when they feel valued. I think there’s just so many misconceptions about that. And then of course, we know that with unemployment, if someone with a disability is on, you know, disability through the government, there’s, there’s, it’s such a low quality of life. People are living in poverty and like you said, the housing shortage, it’s all over the news. We really need to see positive change for that. And I think that really can start with employers thinking differently. Not the old way of thinking that, you know, “Oh, I have to put in an elevator or this or that.” I think that’s the one silver lining from Covid that we’ve seen is, you know, stop micromanaging and let people do their jobs and they’ll probably do a better job than you even realize. But there’s a lot of misconceptions. Hopefully we see more, you know, open-mindedness, like you said, free thinkers. But that’s great information. Thanks Edward.
Well, I really appreciate you being here today on our podcast. And, if certainly you’ve had any more comments or anything like that, we’re always open to those sort of suggestions, but we look forward to more opportunities of working with you, Edward, and the rest of your members. And we appreciate you taking the time to be on our podcast today. So, thanks so much.
Well, thank you again for having me. I really, really appreciate the- all the things that Accessibrand is doing. And over the years, Jolene, you’ve really just, it’s amazing all the, the open and the, the, the open-mindedness that you have and the willingness to help and, and so it’s greatly appreciated and we love collaborating with you and, and your people.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility)
This podcast is published thanks to funding from CCRW (Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work)
CCRW’s Mission is to promote and support meaningful and equitable employment of people with disabilities. Check out their services at: CCRW.org.
Hello again everyone!
I am Jolene from Accessibrand, and thank you for listening to our podcast “Why Access Matters”. You just heard a conversation that I had with Edward Faruzel.
Please take a moment to reflect on the following questions and your answers:
Edward talked to us about the fact that he frequently was told that because he is in a wheelchair, he is more suited to certain occupations over others.
Please take a minute to consider how people decide on their career paths.
Should we evaluate their potential & skills regardless of any barriers or disabilities, or just focus on their limitations?
What would be the best way to form a realistic assessment of any person and their lived experiences (including their disabilities) to evaluate how they can do meaningful work for themselves & their society?
If you have thoughts to share about these questions, please reach out to us; we welcome your perspectives!
Edward also remarked on the changes that are slowly happening more and more, giving him hope. But, he said the hardest part of change is taking that first step, just getting out there and talking to people. He said, of the beginning of his advocacy: “It’s, it’s a process; when I thought back years ago, we were advocating for simple things like ramps at street corners.”
Can you take a moment to think about changes in our society, and even infrastructure now, that differ from how things were in the past?
Have any of them happened suddenly, do you think, or is there something that slowly came about as the people who need the changes made society at large more and more aware?
This one is a question all of us should be asking ourselves regardless of ability: Do we want to be a part of the solution or part of the problem?
I hope you want to be a part of the solution even by taking the smallest steps. Importantly, if you are in a position to make decisions regarding disabled people, please include persons with disability in the process!
We hope these questions and prompts, along with my conversation with Edward and other guests in previous episodes, have resonated with you and provided a different perspective on how you view disability, accessibility and related elements because, our motto is, as always: “Accessibility is necessary for some of us, but beneficial for all of us.”
Well, we’ve reached the end of this episode and this season!
I’m Jolene MacDonald, the founder of Accessibrand and the host of our podcast, “Why Access Matters”. As I said to Edward, it was because of meeting and speaking with him that I even thought of something like Accessibrand, and that considering the perspective of persons with disability is an invaluable thing.
This whole season, in each of our episodes, we have been lucky to find so many different gems in our conversations, and for that, we are grateful. We hope they made you think and reflect alongside us!
It is my hope that you feel the same and help us spread the word and advocate because change and growth in each of us means change and growth for society too.
We have officially reached the end of the first season of our podcast!
Here is a list of all those that helped make this season a reality and who have our gratitude and thanks:
- First of all: Thank YOU (our great listeners) for
taking the time out of your day to listen to me and my colleague and special
guest, Edward Faruzel, in our 5th episode of “Why Access Matters” and our other previous episodes.
- Secondly, our lovely and generous guests, whose thoughts and experiences are the heart of our podcasts.
- Then, our fabulous & admirable sponsor, CCRW that not only funded this podcast and our online learning course but, more importantly, is giving an unbelievable and truly admirable variety of services to persons with disabilities regarding their work and rehabilitation. Please check their website and consider contacting them for yourself or whoever is eligible for their services.
- And last but not least: a big thanks to our team at
Accessibrand for making this podcast:
- Farshid Sadatsharifi: who has plus five years of podcasting experience and brought his ideas and expertise to this podcast as the product manager and sound editor,
- Tanya Murphy: our art director who made all of the graphical elements for our podcast.
- Gloria Zibaei: who edited the transcripts and text for each episode to be clean, elegant and accurate.
- Alexandria Ditner, our support person for the ins and outs of our website and posts.
- Our social media team for distributing the podcast all over the web.
- and Jeff Percival for being a great support for the podcast production team as well as the voice for our mottos and sponsorship mentions within our episodes.
The next episode will follow on the last Friday of January 2023, but until then, please:
- Send us your thoughts and ideas!
- Follow our podcast in pod catchers like Apple
Podcast, Google, Spotify or any other platform you listen to podcasts on,
- And: Don’t forget to introduce us to your friends, family and network!
Please consider checking out our website if you need any accessibility services and would like to utilize the valuable lived experience and expertise of persons with disabilities. You can visit our
website at: www.accessibrand.com
Why Access Matters: A podcast by
Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility)
This podcast is published thanks to funding from CCRW.
(Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work)
CCRW’s Mission is to promote and support
meaningful and equitable employment of people with disabilities. Check out
their services at: CCRW.org.