Archimedes and the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics

There is a 'back story' to the 2010 Paralympic Games that deserves to be publicized. 

Archimedes wrote; Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the world.

That's what a group of British Columbia disability activists decided to do. Unlike Archimedes however, some of us stood while others sat!

One year before Vancouver was officially awarded the Games, a group of disability activists came together with the
intention of 'levering' the Paralympic and Olympic Games to advance the
disability agenda for all British Columbia citizens with a disability.  Our intent was clear.  This was too big an opportunity to miss. We would use the Games to profile the contributions of ALL people with disabilities either as artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs, consumers, or citizens.  We wanted to move the agenda from one of accessibility to one of inclusion and participation.  It's not good enough, we reasoned, to get into the room or on the stage. That's simply prelude to what's most important; our performance, our contributions. We wanted to change the story from we/they to us.  We particularly sought to establish a relationship with business.  And to change the one we had with Government.

Here in abbreviated form are some of our accomplishments.

Arts and Culture: (the results of this initiative are on full display during the cultural Olympiad  and KickstArt 2010 Festival)

Strategic plan developed for Society for Disability Arts and Culture (S4DAC) and funding secured for an all important Business Manager; Creation of BRIAN – a province wide network of disability artists.  As a result expect to see a flowering of artistic activity by people with disabilities in this province.

Accessibility and Inclusion audit of Municipalities:  We created Measuring Up – the world's first self administered assessment of how well a community welcomes the full participation and inclusion of everyone, regardless of disability.  Measuring Up brought disability leaders together with other community and political leaders in unprecedented numbers.  It opened up a new front for the advancement of disability issues i.e. municipalities.

Over 100 BC municipalities are engaged with Measuring Up and you can bet each has their own stories) ; the Ministry of Housing and Social Development contributed $2 Million to develop municipal access and inclusion plans and to meet access and inclusion targets; individual communities leveraged an additional $700,000;The Union of BC Municipalities helped create: Developing Age-Friendly and Disability Friendly Official Community Plans.

Economic Inclusion

74 municipalities endorsed the challenge of improving employment for people with disabilities in their community by 10% by 2010; Purposeful Purchasing was created to mobilize expenditures and purchases ($25Billion annually) by people with disabilities and their families (this represents a startling 53% of the population when you include family and friends); Canada's first social finance equity fund (Resilient Capital) was established to invest in goods and services for people with disabilities and the elderly.

Accessible Tourism: A ratings instrument was created to review accessibility of tourism outlets, hotels and motels, restaurants, and retail outlets, for people with physical, hearing and visual impairments.  This is in preparation of the traveler requiring accessible accommodation.  We know for example that if we capture 1% of the US traveler with a disability we can increase tourism revenues by $2 Billion.

3700 businesses were assessed across BC; 64% received one or more positive ratings; 6 BC tourism regions now have on line business accessibility listings.

That's the statistical part of the story.  The human part is that people with disabilities and their families can no longer be seen as helpless, incapable and dependent.  We are an economic force, a cultural force and a contributing force to society. As you watch, read and participate in the Paralympic celebrations, spare a thought for Archimedes' inheritors, who decided to move the world of disability.  The glory of the next two weeks of athletic accomplishment will be sustained well beyond the Games by customers, consumers, travelers, professionals, athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, employees, employers, parents, spouses and citizens who just happen to have a disability.

Naming names risks unintentionally omitting some folks.  However in this case I'd rather add names later in order that I can  acknowledge the remarkable group of activists and their allies, who did what they set out to do.  Your Olympian achievements were there during the torch relay and Opening Ceremonies.  Here they are: community activists, public servants, politicians and business leaders.

Wendy Au, Lori Baxter, Gary Birch, Jane Blaine, Stephanie Cadieux, Vickie Cammack, Ray Cohen, Melanie Crombie; Bruce Dewar, Brian Dolsen, Isobel Donovan, Don Fairbairn, Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, Janet Fraser, Rina Fraticelli, Paul Gauthier, Bruce Gilmour, Barb Goode, Christine Gordon, Nancy Hall, Mike Harcourt, Matt Herman, Patty Holmes, Roger Jones, Peter Judd, Monica Kay, Craig Langston, Brenda Le Clair, Nigel Livingstone, Tim Louis, Rebekah Mahaffey, Brad McCannell, Lorna McCreath, Cairine MacDonald, Cynthia McEwan, Geoff McMurchy, Richard Molyneux, Avril Orloff, Patrice Pratt,  Mike Prescott, Stephen Regan,  Laurie Ringaert, Judy Rogers, Brian Salisbury, Harb Sihota, Mary Sjostrom, Coro Strandberg, Sam Sullivan, Richard Taylor, Susan Todd, Paul Tubbe, Maggie Vilvang; Barb Wahlman, Andrew Wharton, Faye Wightman, and Carla Qualtrough.

If I've forgotten any names please let me know.  I'd be happy to add them to this list.

For more details on Measuring Up, Accessible Inclusion and Economic Inclusion see:

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