“I wonder what they think about climate change?”

That question contained the most compelling vision of inclusion I have ever encountered. It was offered by a speaker in Scotland a number of years back.

She asked us to imagine a time when people with disabilities were recognized for what they thought about the big issues of the day and for what they were doing about it When that happened, she said, we would know that a big shift had occurred. And that the fixation with labels and diagnosis was declining.

Fortunately that vision is becoming commonplace. Not because people with disabilities are suddenly making contributions. Although they are finding more ways to do so.  But because more people are paying attention.

In the case of Yaniv Janson 77,988 people are paying attention, to be precise. That’s the number of people who have visited his Taking Action website which promotes the UN’s sustainable development goals. That’s not counting those who visited his solo exhibition, Please Do Touch at UN Headquarters in New York earlier this month. (June 2018) Or the 400,000 who viewed his profile in Air New Zealand’s magazine.

Yaniv Daniel Janson is an artist and writer based in Raglan on the west coast of New Zealand’ North Isalnd. He is the youngest artist to be invited into New Zealand’s Academy of Fine Arts. His work has been displayed in more than 40 museums and galleries in four countries.

There’s no doubt about what Yaniv thinks about climate change. Or clean drinking water, eliminating poverty, protecting the oceans, and affordable housing. He gets right to the point in his painting and writing. He has a talent for cutting through chatter and clutter. He had no time for my careless generalizations during a recent dinner Vickie and I had with him and his parents, Robin and Annick.  

Yaniv is equally determined on the action front. He says, “I am one of those people who think they are going to get what they want.” He launched “Taking Action” after five years of consultation with New Zealand’s disability community. He’s written 5 books, campaigned to reduce the use of plastic, exhibited his art in a Paris gallery and picked up numerous awards and citations. That’s numerous as in considerable! And he’s still in his twenties!

The word “happy” pops up in his latest book Please Do Touch – happy ocean, happy plants, happy cities, happy shapes, happy colours… It also comes to mind when you experience his paintings. And it’s certainly in the air when you’re in his presence. People are drawn to his happy imaginings. Not because the other reality of what’s wrong and not working doesn’t exist. But because the fixation on that reality makes it hard to do something about it.

Happiness is a universal desire. Fortunately Yaniv’s refreshing combination of art and justice is lighting the way.

Dear Reader: this post is part of an occasional series, Lessons From the World of Disability.

EH!

Dreams shape reality. ~ Judith Snow

Musical accompaniment for this post is Now and Then by PEI’s unparalleled singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan. Please support her music. She is performing If It’s Alright with You – the songs of her father, Gene MacLellan three nights a week in Charlottetown this summer. PEI dreaming…

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Visit socialchangequotes.com to browse Canada’s largest collection of quotes about social change, curated by Al Etmanski.

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