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Classroom Tips: 6 Canadian LGBTQ Activists that Students Should Know About

Classroom Tips: 6 Canadian LGBTQ Activists that Students Should Know About

June is celebrated as LGBTQ* Pride Month in communities across Canada and the United States. This month celebrates sexual and gender diversity, promotes equal rights and increases the visibility of these communities. Pride month also brings attention to the discrimination and violence that people in LGBTQ communities face.

To celebrate the month, we want to share some courageous LGBTQ advocates that have made transformative change in Ontario.

Jim Egan is most famous for taking the case for same-sex couples to get spousal benefits to court starting in 1986. In 1994, the case reached the Supreme Court, though they did not rule in favour of extending spousal benefits to same sex couples. However, the judges unanimously decided to list sexual orientation in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a prohibited grounds for discrimination. Egan also wrote letters and commentaries in newspapers around gay issues starting in the 1940s.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Egan_(activist)

Jeremy Dias After coming out at his Ontario high school, Jeremy experienced bullying. When his school would not let him start a Gay/Straight Alliance or Rainbow Club he took the school board to the human rights commission and won. Dias used the money he received to start the Centre for Gender and sexual Diversity, formerly Jer’s Vision, an organization working to improve acceptance in classrooms and workplaces across the country. They also drive the Day of Pink initiative, which is celebrated internationally as the International Day Against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia, Transphobia and Transmisogyny.
http://dayofpink.org/
http://ccgsd-ccdgs.org/

Nancy Nicol is a documentary filmmaker, activist and professor at York University. Through her films she has documented the history of LGBTQ issues in Ontario and Canada. She is also doing research engaging with LGBTQ communities globally to explore how these groups fight for human rights and resist the criminalization of gender diversity and sexual orientation around the globe.
http://www.yorku.ca/nnicol/bio.html

Richard Fung As an artist and filmmaker, he looked into gay Asian sexuality and launched the Gay Asians Toronto group. His aim was to create a sense of inclusivity and belonging for gay Asian Canadians after attending the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that was held in 1979.
http://www.clga.ca/gay-asians-toronto-0

Douglas Stewart is a gay rights activist and was the founding Executive Director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention. He works mainly within Black communities to provide awareness and support to issues around gay rights.
http://www.clga.ca/npc/subject/86
Toronto Interviews

Gloria Eshkibok is a two-spirit Indigenous activist from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. She is an actor who shares stories, is a lead vocalist for the Unceded Band, and sings with the Sweetgrass City Singers. As a victim of the 60s Scoop she also speaks out about her experiences.
http://www.clga.ca/npc/subject/27

These inspiring activists have shifted the conversations about LGBTQ rights in Ontario and Canada, by helping bring forward a multiplicity of narratives and experiences.

Classroom Tips: How can you inspire the next generation of activists?
• Create a safe space for gender and sexually diverse students in your school (like a Gay/Straight Alliance, positive space signs, or another student driven initiative)
• Put up a rainbow flag in your classroom and keep it up year round
• Share the stories of LGBTQ people in the classroom curriculum
• Talk about current issues that the LGBTQ community is facing such as bullying, high suicide and murder rates, as well as homelessness
• Always challenge students inappropriate language such as ‘that’s so gay’ or other homophobic and transphobic comments. Create a campaign around educating students and staff about the power of words.

How will you celebrate LGBT Pride Month in your school and classroom? We want to hear your ideas! Share them with us by emailing your stories to info@harmony.ca or tweet @harmonymovement or using #PrideinSchool.

Where to find more resources on LGBTQ issues:
Egale Canada – https://egale.ca/
Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity – http://ccgsd-ccdgs.org/
Rainbow Health Ontario – http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/
Queer Ontario – http://queerontario.org/
Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives – http://www.clga.ca/
LGBTQIA Resource Center – http://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/index.html
Queer Hall of Fame – http://www.qhalloffame.ca/
*LGBTQ are “the initials used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning and queer people. A broader range of identities is also sometimes implied or may be represented more explicitly by the initials LGBTTIQQ2SA, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, 2-spirited and asexual.” Educator’s Equity Companion Guide, Harmony Movement, 2014. http://www.harmony.ca/shop/

International Day of Pink – Workplace Tips

International Day of Pink – Workplace Tips

What is the International Day of Pink?

It started in a Nova Scotia high school in 2007 when two students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, witnessed a young gay student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The two boys intervened, but wanted to do more stop to homophobic and transphobic bullying in their school community.

In the space of a few days they rallied enough support from their school to persuade everyone to come to school wearing pink in order to show solidarity with the bullied student. The result was the first ever Day of Pink, which was the precursor to many others where students wore pink attire to school to show solidarity with their bullied classmates and stand up to bullying. Inspired by the initiative, Jer’s Vision founder and 2014 Harmony Award Winner Jeremy Diaz created the International Day of Pink in an effort to support students internationally with resources and tools for making their schools more inclusive.

The campaign has now grown into an international movement inspiring schools and organizations to come together on the second Wednesday of April to speak out against bullying and show support for those who are bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This April 12th is an opportunity to take a stand against homophobia, transphobia, and transmisogyny[1] in our workplace.

Here’s how you can get involved:  

  1. Visit the Day of Pink website to find out how you can get involved as an individual, school or organization.
  2. Download Day of Pink posters and resources, and post them in common spaces to raise awareness and start a conversation.
  3. Incorporate discussions about the Day of Pink and its meaning with colleagues, visitors and community members. Ask: “How do we practice inclusion of LGBTQ people? What are some gaps we need to address?”

Beyond the Pink: Promoting LGBTQ+ Inclusion 

It’s important to remember that the pink shirt is just a symbolic gesture. To be meaningful, the gesture must be accompanied by a true commitment to equity and inclusion expressed through actions all year round. One of the misconceptions about bullying is that it is something that only affects young people and schools. But according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, over a third of Canadian workers report having been bullied, with almost half of those targeted by bullying experiencing stress-related health problems. Homophobic and transphobic bullying is not only damaging to the workers’ morale, health, and wellbeing, it is also costly for the employers.

Here are some steps you can take to support gender and sexual diversity and promote an LGBTQ-positive workplace environment:

Supporting yourself through education

Some of us have experienced homophobia or transphobia in our lifetime. Some of us have not. Some have experienced other forms of discrimination based on our different intersecting identities. Regardless of where we locate ourselves on the spectrum of sexual and gender diversity, it is vital that we listen to the voices and perspectives of those directly affected by homophobic and transphobic bullying, because every individual story and experience will be different our response must take this into account. That said, each homophobic and transphobic incident as part of a larger oppressive system that recognizes only two genders and sees heterosexuality as the only acceptable norm; framing it that way can help take the blame and shame away from the victim and emphasize our collective responsibility for promoting equity and human rights for all. We can begin by asking ourselves: What do I need to be an effective ally?” Supporting ourselves through education and resources can help us put bullying in the right context and be more effective, informed and resilient allies to LGBTQ people.

Supporting others through action

Pink shirts don’t stop homophobic and transphobic bullying – people do. The most important thing anyone can do is not being a bystander. Becoming more attuned to what’s going on in our environment and not ignoring or minimizing offensive language (like “That’s gay”) can send a strong message that discriminatory language will not be tolerated. This sets boundaries as well as expectations regarding acceptable behavior in the workplace and in spaces shared by community members.  When it is not safe to intervene by yourself, call for support and involve others. Be sure to know your workplace code of conduct, human rights policy, and the process for conflict management and the right person or department to contact for information and support.

Supporting your organization through resources

The Day of Pink website has a great selection of resources, posters and awareness-raising materials. But it is good to be aware of other organizations and resources that can support your workplace Diversity and Inclusion work with respect to LGBTQ communities. Making a list of resources available and accessible to employees, service users and community members can help promote a safer and more inclusive community. We recommend this list created by the LGBT Youthline.

[1]Transmisogyny is the expression of hate and violence toward femininity and ‘female’ markers in trans women and male-assigned people. It results from the cultural belief that masculinity is inherently superior to femininity.

International Day of Pink – Classroom Tips

International Day of Pink – Classroom Tips

What is the International Day of Pink?

It started in a Nova Scotia high school in 2007 when two students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, witnessed a young gay student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The two boys intervened, but wanted to do more stop to homophobic and transphobic bullying.

In the space of a few days they rallied enough support from their school to persuade everyone to come to school wearing pink in order to show solidarity with the student who was bullied. The result was the first ever Day of Pink, which was the precursor to many others where students wore pink attire to school to show solidarity with their bullied classmates. Inspired by the initiative, Jer’s Vision founder and 2014 Harmony Award Winner Jeremy Diaz created the International Day of Pink in an effort to support students internationally with resources and tools for making their schools more inclusive.

The campaign has now grown into an international movement in which people come together on the second Wednesday of April to speak out against bullying and show support for those who are bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This April 12th is our chance to take a stand against homophobia, transphobia, and transmisogyny[1] in our school communities!

Here’s how you can get involved:  

  1. Visit the Day of Pink website to find out how you can get involved as an individual, school or organization.
  2. Download Day of Pink posters and resources, and post them around your school or organization to raise awareness.
  3. Incorporate activities and discussions about the Day of Pink and its meaning in your classroom. Check out this activity guide for teachers created by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

Beyond the Pink: Promoting LGBTQ+ Inclusion 

It’s important to remember that the pink shirt is just a symbolic gesture. To be meaningful, the gesture must be accompanied by a true commitment to equity and inclusion expressed through actions all year round. Here are some steps educators can take to support gender and sexual diversity in their schools:

Supporting yourself through education

Some of us have experienced homophobia or transphobia in our lifetime. Some of us have not. Some have experienced other forms of discrimination. Regardless of where we locate ourselves on the continuum of sexual and gender diversity, it is vital that we listen to the voices and perspectives of those directly affected by homophobic and transphobic bullying, because every individual story and experience will be different. That said, homophobic and transphobic bullying are part of a larger system that recognizes only two genders and sees heterosexuality as the only acceptable norm. Supporting ourselves through education and resources can help us put bullying in the right context and be more effective, informed and resilient allies.

Supporting others through actions

Pink shirts don’t stop homophobic and transphobic bullying – people do. The most important thing educators and community members can do is not being a bystander. Becoming more attuned to what’s going on in our environment and not ignoring or minimizing offensive language (like “That’s gay”) can send a strong message that discriminatory language will not be tolerated. This sets boundaries as well as expectations regarding acceptable behaviour. When it is not safe to intervene by yourself, call for support and involve others.

Supporting your school through resources

The Day of Pink website has a terrific selection of resources, posters and awareness-raising materials. But it is good to be aware of other organizations and resources that can support your school’s equity and inclusion work. Making a list of resources available and accessible to educators and students can help promote a safer and more inclusive community. We recommend this list created by the LGBT Youthline.

 

[1]Transmisogyny is the expression of hate and violence toward femininity and ‘female’ markers in trans women and male-assigned people. It results from the cultural belief that masculinity is inherently superior to femininity.

Classroom tips: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The United Nations observes March 21st as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The annual worldwide event promotes the right of every individual to live with dignity and respect. March 21st is an opportunity to remember and protect that right. It’s a day to come together to speak out against racial discrimination in all its forms!

Come Together!

We are fortunate to live in a country where diversity is valued, respected, and celebrated. We know that multiculturalism is our greatest strength, and that our national identity is nothing without it. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all citizens equal protection and benefit under the law. What’s more, Canada’s Human Rights Act prohibits any form of discrimination based on (among other things) race, ethnicity, national origin, and colour. Not too shabby, eh?

Does this mean our country is free of discrimination? No way! There is still a long way to go even in a nation as accepting as Canada. We are challenged on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to make sure our country is living up to the principles of equity and inclusion. Let’s get to work!

Create Change!

Everyone has the right to live a full and rewarding life no matter who they are or where they come from. We need to work together to stop the many forms of racial discrimination that deny so many people this basic right … and we must start today.

An easy way to get started is to brainstorm using three simple prompts:

Start!

  • What can we do to stop racial discrimination right now?
  • Can we create a school blog or newspaper for students to discuss racism they encounter in their community?
  • Can we create a book or documentary club to learn more about anti-Indigenous and anti-black racism (among others) in Canada?

Stop!

  • What can we do support students who experience racism?
  • How can we speak out against racist jokes?
  • How can we encourage others to do the same?

Continue!

  • How can we continue to oppose racial discrimination?
  • How are we already learning and educating others about racial discrimination in our communities?
  • How can we continue to improve our school culture so that it is safe for everyone?

Keep Keeping On – World Day for Social Justice

Keep Keeping On

The Significance of February 20th

It has been 10 years since World Day for Social Justice was declared by the United Nations.  February 20th is a reminder that gender equity, fair employment, economic justice and environmental sustainable are a few of the many things we need to feel safe and secure in the world.  Although this international gesture highlights the need for all nation states to ensure the social and economic wellbeing of its citizens, global events over the last decade show the limit of gestures.

An Eventful Decade

We have survived a global economic crisis that has further polarized wealth between the world’s wealthiest and the rest of us.  We have witnessed devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Japan that caused a severe loss of human life and ecological destruction.  We are seeing rising temperatures and alarmingly low levels of Artic sea ice as evidence to support that Climate Change is a real thing.  We are observing terrorist attacks from Beirut to Quebec City where the sanctity of human life is overrun by poisonous ideas.  We are realizing the human effects of political instability through a Global Refugee Crisis that should hold Western powers accountable for their foreign policies.

The last decade has also shown us the power of social movements in pushing back to power.  We have seen the Occupy and Anti-Austerity movements highlight economic inequality and the impacts of government policies that favour profits over people.  We have witnessed the power of everyday people to create pro-democracy movements across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  We are hearing the voices of Black Lives Matter and Idle No More who remind us that systemic racism is a lived reality for Black and Indigenous Canadians.  We are further realizing the ecological cost of unsustainable economic growth through the courage of Water Protectors in South Dakota and Kinder Morgan protesters on the West coast.

Moving beyond Divisiveness

When we speak up against racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, environmental devastation and economic inequality, the counter response is to shut us down with the term Social Justice Warrior or dismiss the issues entirely.  This is an opportune moment to look back on decades of social movements and learn from our past mistakes.  We not only need to be united but also intersectional with regards to race, class, gender, ability and sexuality.

As World Day for Social Justice approaches, it is crucial for us to recognize that ordinary people are doing extraordinary things to create a better world.   It is also crucial for us to recognize that we still have a long way to go towards ensuring a fair and just world for everyone.

Looking to Get Involved?
The following links contain information about a number of organization in Ontario and Toronto that are working on a variety of campaigns.

http://canadianpeace.org/find-a-local-peace-group/#Ontario

Campaigns and Social Justice Groups
Looking for Social Justice Teaching Resources?
The following links contain reading and video resources on a variety of topics.

http://www.etfo.ca/Resources/SocialJustice/Documents/SJBWMBooklist.PDF

http://www.edudemic.com/6-videos-use-social-justice-lessons/

 

Black History Month in Canada

Classroom Tips: Black History Month in Schools

By Koryn Stanley & Ryan Singh

As we reach another February, we as educators know that it’s time to celebrate another Black History Month.  But have you ever asked yourself why we need a Black History Month?  What are the benefits to having Black History Month?

Although we know there is a strong need to celebrate Black Canadians, Black culture and the contributions of Black people in Canadian History, it’s important to question why there is a strong need for this.  When we limit celebrating any culture or people to just one month, what are we telling the people who identify as part of that group?  How are we separating them from the rest of their fellow Canadians or from Canadian society in general?  It is important for us as social justice warriors to really consider these questions as we move into this February.

Black History Month as ‘Othering’ Black Canadians:

Anyone who is not white can attest to this question being asked of them almost anytime they meet a new person: “where are you from?” (or “what is your background?”) and when that person answers “Canada” or “Canadian” the follow up response is usually “well ok ya, but like where are your parents from?” or “where are you really from?” These types of microaggressions are forms of othering.  When we say othering we are describing the act of separating one group from the rest of society and setting up the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality. Psychologists refer to othering as “any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as ‘not one of us’.”1

If you’re not from European or even more so British descent, you are not considered fully Canadian. If your skin is white, you may still occasionally get the first question but once you answer Canada, most are willing to leave it at that. We draw this parallel because when we set aside a month to celebrate Black contributions in Canada it makes it feel somehow different from the rest of Canadian history and not an important part of the whole country’s history.  If it is a part of Canadian history, then it is a part of the history, period.  Why does it need to be celebrated differently? This is how it others Black Canadian history and people from the rest of Canadian history. It turns Black History into ‘THEM’ and the rest of the year (European history) is ‘US’.  This is just part of the reason that many Black Canadians do not feel like they can fully participate in Canadian society.

If we really want an inclusive Canada, then Black history should be celebrated and taught all throughout the year and not just given one month to be discussed and have students learn about all the amazing things that Black people have brought to this country and how they have enriched it.

Black History Month is important:

It is extremely unfortunate that Black Canadians in 2017 still fall victim to racism, both individual and systemic, on a daily basis. A recent example of this happening individually is York Region Trustee Nancy Elgie using the N-word to refer to a Black parent.4 Right now, Black history is needed and has its place of importance in our society. Many people in our society still need to unlearn ideas they have about black Canadians. BHM is in some ways a method to force our society to celebrate Black Canadians. It can also function in a way to give many Black Canadians a voice, and a place to see themselves within society.  Until we can come together as a society without separating and segregating each other based on skin colour and ethnicity we will need Black History Month. We need to ensure that Black contributions get celebrated and talked about and not overlooked as they have been for too long in the past.

Nevertheless, a truly inclusive society requires more than allocating a month to a group of people who have been, as the Ontario Black History Society has explored, a part of Canadian society since the 1600s.2 As we move forward, it’s time to incorporate all of Canadian history into our history lessons and not leave people out based on skin colour or ethnicity.

How to do Justice to Black History during February and throughout the year:

As educators, I encourage you to find more connections to your history lessons and look at where you can add, not just Black, but other cultures that have contributed to Canada’s rich history and make a point to integrate them throughout the year.  For example when discussing Thomas Edison and how he invented the electric lightbulb you can also bring up Lewis Latimer (a Black man) who also invented the patent for a method of producing carbon filaments which made lightbulbs last longer, more efficient and cheaper.  You can also mention Latimer when talking about Alexander Graham Bell, as he assisted in the drawing required for the patent of the telephone.3

When you are planning your BHM celebrations, think as broadly and inclusively as possible about current and ongoing issues regarding the Black experience in Canada.  Maybe you can have some conversations about Black Lives Matter activism and work. Janaya Khan of BLM Toronto has an interesting video on having conversations with people who challenge or push back on the work/advocacy of Black Lives Matter. An engaged conversation on the content of the video and what issues emerge would provide a great tie-in to Black History Month & the ongoing need for education around why Black history month is needed and how we hope one day it will not be. However, we need to eliminate stereotypes and racism before we can let go of it. Let’s use Black History Month to help make Black people an important part of Canadian society and their school community.

 

1 https://therearenoothers.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/othering-101-what-is-othering/

2 http://www.blackhistorysociety.ca/news.php/news/30

3 http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/10/23/100-black-inventions-over-the-last-100-years-you-may-not-know-part-1/

4 https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2017/01/24/pressure-grows-for-york-trustee-to-step-down-over-racial-slur.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do We Talk to our Youth about Donald Trump?

How Do We Talk to our Youth about Donald Trump?

We are back in a new year and a new semester of school. 2016 was a tumultuous time, and as students are coming back to a potentially challenging year ahead. In this piece, we wanted to think through some strategies for addressing issues that have arisen since the election of Donald Trump, including new rhetoric that has come from some political party leadership candidates and what the impacts could be (and have already been) on ourselves, our country and our youth.

Over the long months of the U.S election campaign, as many of us watched from the relative security of Canada, it became increasingly important to consider how to talk about the politics of Donald Trump with children and youth.

Having run a toxic, vicious campaign for 18 months, Mr. Trump now faces the enormous task of seeking to unite a divided country in which a majority of voters selected one of his opponents. In the immediate aftermath, however, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented 867 hate incidents (as of Dec. 2, 2016), including graffiti, harassment and violent attacks. How do we tell students that someone who stoked such fear, anger and hatred is soon to be the most powerful person in the world?

There is no one way to have a difficult conversation. Children and youth could be feeling all manner of emotions regarding the state of the world, which means beginning by checking in with them is important. Further, knowing that students will have been dealing with challenges related to the violence Trump stoked, but not stemming directly from his election. These issues are interconnected, and acts of discrimination exist regardless of who the President of the United States is. However, there is a clear connection between his campaign and an increase in xenophobic behaviours.

Some Strategies

  1. Ask questions, such as
  • Have you heard about the U.S. election?
  • What are you feeling?
  • What do you feel about Donald Trump?
  • Are you experiencing challenges or difficulties since Election Day?
  • What have you seen around town or in the media?

It is incredibly important to hear our youth out, so listening will be important in this step as well. Allow their open expression of their feelings (including some that may believe this election is a positive step) and encourage them to share and let more conversation take place. Listen more than you speak, really allowing students to say what they need to.

  1. Talk about activism and change

Youth should have the chance to see what can be tangibly done to change what they see as wrong. Perhaps they want to push back against an issue in the school. Maybe they would like to know (or already do) the name of their Member of Parliament so they can write a letter in an attempt to influence policy. Or they could want to go international and show solidarity across the border with students or a particular group. Show them videos on YouTube. Help them find the contact info and edit their letters. Talk about a poster campaign or assembly on inclusion. What are their ideas? Discuss what can be implemented quickly and what may require a bit more work. Seek out your colleagues and join forces class-by-class.

  1. Discuss equitable treatment of each other

Remember that even when major political figures say the things Trump has said or talk about behaviours Trump has claimed, it does not excuse violating your school’s code of conduct (or basic decency). Reinforce that your classroom and school community are spaces that do not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism etc. If something occurs, remind them how they can take action and how you are here to support that.

There is much more that can be considered. Direct acknowledgement that this may be an uncertain time, but that there are strategies for change is helpful. During the campaign, tape of Trump was released showing him bragging about sexually assaulting women. This makes it as good a time as any to discuss consent with your class. What does it mean? What action can students take to create a stronger culture of consent? This is not only for male-identified students to know as behaviours to stop or never start, but for female-identified (or appearing) students to understand they can resist and stand up against without being in the wrong.

Further, a conversation about the Canadian experiment in multiculturalism could be on the docket. Has it been successful? How do we know? What challenges does it still face and how can we meet them? Is use of multicultural policy a possible resistance to the autocracy, fascism and xenophobia of Donald Trump?

This is an ongoing conversation that did not start when Trump entered the race, continues once he takes office, and does not end once his presidency has ended. For now, the time spent with students will be important for these discussions and the work of resisting policies coming our way is very important. We wish you the best for 2017 as you make these choices and carry on these dialogues with your students and offer them whatever support is possible.

Share this Tweetable: It is increasingly important to consider how to talk about the politics of Donald Trump w/ children and youth. ow.ly/6472307gU4Y #socialchangemakers

 

Classroom Tips: Widening the Lens on Accessibility: Reflections for International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Classroom Tips: Widening the Lens on Accessibility: Reflections for International Day of Persons with Disabilities

by Ilaneet Goren 

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) celebrated on December 3rd is a great opportunity to talk to students and fellow educators about disability issues and rights, and reaffirm our collective commitment to advancing equity and inclusion for people with diverse abilities. It’s also important is to recognize that disability is only one aspect of the individual’s multifaceted self. Accessibility should therefore encompass the whole person as well. As we celebrate IDPD, let’s reflect on the ways in which the idea of accessibility has become more intersectional to include other dimensions of diversity to help ensure we meet a wider range of people’s diverse abilities, needs, and lived realities.

Imagine you are entering your school for the first time…

Will you be able to access the building without any trouble or assistance?  Can you get around inside the building, move between the classrooms, offices and floors easily?

Will you have to worry whether the building has an accessible washroom or a gender-neutral washroom where your gender won’t be questioned?

Will you see images of people who look like you on the walls or in text books?

If someone isn’t nice to you, could you be certain it had nothing to do with your skin colour, sexual orientation, or ability? And at the end of the day, will you be leaving the school feeling that all parts of your identity were equally welcomed and valued?

These questions are based on the work of the renowned American author and anti-racism educator, Peggy McIntosh, titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” We’ve used this checklist in some of our equity training to helps guide participants toward greater awareness and understanding of social privileges, which – let’s face it – most of us take for granted. If we don’t acknowledge and critically examine our privileges, they can create blind spots that cause us to overlook barriers to equity and inclusion that hinder student wellness and success.

Doing this imaginary “walk of privilege” helps us think beyond our own needs and put ourselves in the proverbial shoes of students who experience barriers based on disability as well as race, gender, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity. It also expands our understanding of accessibility, inviting us to think about other ways in which spaces can inadvertently exclude and marginalize people.

Applying an intersectional lens to accessibility in schools means recognizing that students with disabilities may experience other forms of social exclusion including sexism, racism, and homophobia to name a few.

When planning for accessibility then, we must consider students’ multiple experiences and their fundamental need to be able to bring their whole self into the classroom.

Removing physical barriers can help a student get through the doors of their school, but it is the attitudinal barriers that prevent many from engaging in activities and contributing to their school community. Such barriers are deeply entrenched within our mainstream culture, and are often invisible to those who do not directly experience them.

Attitudinal barriers can manifest themselves in the form of:

  1. Unconscious bias, limited assumptions about students’ strengths and abilities
  2. Ableism – prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that able-bodiedness is the desired norm.

These are all part of a larger system of oppression that people with visible and invisible disabilities face.

Other layers to inaccessibility that can go unnoticed:

Spaces with cultural sameness can feel uninviting and exclusionary to people from diverse ethnocultural backgrounds. When advertising events or programs in your school community it’s  important to include images that represent our multicultural society. Similarly, a space where the “R” word is frequently used without anyone addressing or challenging it is not a welcoming space for students with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, their family members, and friends. Diverse representation and a safe and inclusive environment are an inseparable part of ensuring accessibility.

Classroom Tips for Educators:

When planning a school event, a lesson, or an activity, it is helpful to visualize students’ diverse needs as a flower with many colourful petals, each petal representing a different aspect of human diversity. Then imagining these petals as they overlap with each other, reminding us of the intersectional nature of students’ needs. Widening the lens on accessibility means thinking about it in more inclusive terms, practicing empathy to imagine the experiences of others, and addressing not just physical but attitudinal barriers as well through ongoing reflection and education.

For more information on Harmony Movement Equity, Diversity and Inclusion education visit:

Resources for enhancing inclusion and accessibility in your school:

Accommodating Students with Disabilities Face Sheet – Ontario Human Rights Commission
http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/accommodating-students-disabilities-roles-and-responsibilities-fact-sheet

Rick Hansen School Program
www.rickhansen.com/Our-Work/School-Program

How to make educational resources accessible by the Government of Ontario
https://www.ontario.ca/page/how-make-educational-resources-accessible

Planning an Accessible Event Guide by Access Ontario
https://accessontario.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Planning-Accessible-Events-May-2016.pdf

R-Word – Spread the Word to End the Word
http://www.r-word.org/

Positive Space Action Kit – ETFO
http://www.etfo.ca/Resources/ForTeachers/Documents/ETFO%20LGBT%20Kit%20-%20English.pdf

United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities
http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/

 

Workplace: Widening the Lens on Accessibility: Reflections for International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Workplace: Widening the Lens on Accessibility: Reflections for International Day of Persons with Disabilities

By Ilaneet Goren

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebrated on December 3rd is an opportunity to educate ourselves further about disability issues and rights while reaffirming our commitment to advancing equity and inclusion for people with diverse abilities. Equally important is to recognize that disability is only one aspect of the individual’s multifaceted self. Accessibility must therefore encompass the whole person as well. As we celebrate IDPD, let’s reflect on the ways in which the concept of accessibility has become more intersectional to include other dimensions of diversity to help ensure we meet a wider range of diverse needs, abilities, and lived realities.

Imagine you are entering your workplace for the first time…

  1. Will you be able to access the building without any trouble or assistance? Can you get around inside the building, and easily move between the offices and floors?
  2. Will you have to worry whether the building has an accessible washroom? Or a gender-neutral washroom where your gender won’t be questioned?
  3. Will you see people who look like you at the reception desk? How about in the office of the CEO?
  4. At the end of the workday, will you be leaving the organization feeling that all parts of your identity were welcomed and valued?

These questions are based on the work of the renowned American author and anti-racism educator, Peggy McIntosh, titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” We often use this checklist as an educational tool to help guide service providers and leaders in the nonprofit sector toward greater awareness and understanding of social privileges, which – let’s face it – most of us take for granted. And if we don’t acknowledge and critically examine our privileges, they can create gaps that cause us to overlook barriers to equity and inclusion that are all around us.

Doing this imaginary “walk of privilege” helps us think beyond our own needs and put ourselves in the proverbial shoes of those who experience barriers based on disability as well as race, gender, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity. It also expands our understanding of accessibility, inviting us to think about other ways in which spaces can inadvertently exclude and marginalize people.

Applying an intersectional lens to accessibility means recognizing that people with disabilities experience other forms of oppression including sexism, racism, and homophobia to name a few.

When planning for accessibility then, we must consider people’s multiple experiences and the fundamental need to be able to bring their whole self into every space in the community.

Removing physical barriers can help someone get through the doors of your organization, but it is the attitudinal barriers that often prevent people from using services and participating in activities. Such barriers can be deeply entrenched within organizational culture and practices, and are often invisible to those who do not directly experience them.

Attitudinal barriers often show up in the form of:

  1. Bias steeped in limited assumptions about people’s strengths and abilities
  2. Ableism – prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities based on the belief that able-bodiedness is the desired norm.

These are all part of a larger system of oppression that people with visible and invisible disabilities face daily.

 

Layers to inaccessibility that can go unnoticed, for example:

  1. Lack of ethnoracial diversity is a major barrier because cultural homogeneity in a multicultural society just doesn’t send an inviting message of inclusion to people from diverse backgrounds.
  2. A space where the “R” word is used without anyone addressing or challenging it is not a welcoming space for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, their family members, friends, and allies.
  3. Forms that continue to use a binary system of gender (allowing a person to only tick off the “male” or “female” box) means these services are not welcoming or accessible to gender diverse people.

And there are many more examples to that can be added to the above.

Tips for your organization:

When planning a meeting, an event, or a program, it is helpful to visualize people’s diverse needs as a flower with many colourful petals, each petal representing a different aspect of human diversity. Then imagine these petals as they overlap with each other, reminding us of the intersectional nature of people’s lived realities. Widening the lens on accessibility means thinking about it in more inclusive terms, practicing empathy to imagine the experiences of others, and addressing not just physical but attitudinal barriers as well through ongoing reflection and education.

For more information on Harmony Movement Equity, Diversity and Inclusion education visit: http://www.harmony.ca/community/

Resources for enhancing accessibility in your organization:

Accessibility Kit by OCASI
http://www.ocasi.org/sites/default/files/accessibility-kit_0.pdf

Planning an Accessible Event Guide by Access Ontario
https://accessontario.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Planning-Accessible-Events-May-2016.pdf

OCASI Accessibility Initiative – free workshops and resources for people supporting newcomers and refugees with disabilities
www.ocasi.org/accessibility-workshops

OCASI Positive Space Initiative
http://www.positivespaces.ca/

Ontario Nonprofit Network – Free e-learning and AODA information for organizations
http://theonn.ca/our-work/our-partnerships/enabling-nonprofits-ontario/

Rick Hansen Foundation – Access and inclusion resources, stats and grant opportunities
www.rickhansen.com/Our-Work/Access-Inclusion

United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities
http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/

 

Inclusive Holiday Ideas for the Classroom

Tis The Season to be Included in the Classroom!

The holiday season is a great opportunity to celebrate equity and inclusion.  With a little creativity and a lot of commitment, classrooms can be places where all students belong.  As educators, being aware that this time of year can also exclude students is a starting point towards building inclusion.  From the emphasis on over-consumption to the assumption that all students observe Christmas, addressing inclusion begins with adopting a critical lens.

Knowing your students is another approach towards celebrating diversity.  Respectful and caring student-teacher relationships are the basis of an inclusive classroom.  They also provide insight about what family customs, cultural practices or holidays students celebrate during the season.  For students who do not have any celebrations during this time of year, it’s important to ask how students feel around holiday season.

Seasonal tips to celebrate inclusion and build equity

  1. December is a season of celebrations around the world. Having students learn about different holidays promotes awareness about the vast richness of cultures. Find out more here.
  1. A creative classroom project could be to develop a celebration that represents everyone. A student made festivity is a fun way to include everyone while celebrating the class as a whole. We’ve outlined this classroom activity here.
  1. Exploring our humanity through universal human values is a simple yet power reminder that we all have commonalities. The holiday season is a time to celebrate human values such as hope, love and joy.   Exploring these themes can foster a deeper understanding of celebrations, particularly amidst the consumerism that overwhelms this time of year.  As a class, create a list of values and an initiative that matches it.  For example, a “pay it forward” project can be developed to celebrate generosity.
  1. For the more critically-minded, hosting a Buy Nothing Day event can raise awareness about how consumerism has overwhelmed the holiday season. Challenging students to think about the role of gift-giving along with its value to retailers and corporations can generate some interesting discussions.
  1. The holiday season can also present opportunities to challenge stereotypes. For example, gift catalogues are a great way to get students to think about how toys are marketed towards boys and girls.Many commercials depict the traditional nuclear family enjoying the holidays while excluding different family types.

As the decorations are unboxed and the planning begins, we hope some of these tips will help bring the joy of community, the spirit of generosity and the hope of a better world to you and your students.

 

Tips for Planning an Inclusive Holiday Celebration at your Workplace

Tips for Planning an Inclusive Holiday Celebration at your Workplace

  1. Think about some of the reasons why December is considered a ‘holiday season’. What is the difference between a Holiday Celebration, and Holidays Celebration? (Hint: the latter celebrates multiple holidays observed during this season, including Christmas!)
  1. Consider the experience of those who do not have religious observances, cultural practices, or family customs in December, and those who have experienced loss, grief, or illness and may find it difficult to participate in celebrations. How would the month of December feel for them?
  1. Guiding Question: How can we create a celebration where all attendees feel reflected and included?
  1. As a group, generate a list of universal values and reasons to celebrate that could provide a more inclusive theme for the celebration; some examples can be Generosity, Community, Cooperation, Humanity, and
  1. Brainstorm some ways to express those values.

Some examples include:
Generosity: organizing a clothing drive or put together care packages

Community: hosting a games night or movie night to bring people together

Cooperation:  doing teambuilding activities with each other

Humanity: invite a guest speaker to tell their story or watch a documentary to learn more about different human experiences

Peace: educate people about the Golden Rule (download poster here ) or organize a “Peace Tree” activity (click here for instructions).

  1. Will your celebration include community members, and how will you ensure the event is inclusive and accessible to them? Creating opportunities for community members and service users to express their wishes and provide input into the celebration can enhance equity and inclusion.
  1. As a group, come up with a name for your celebration.
  1. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Inclusive Holiday Ideas for the Workplace

Tis The Season to be Included at your Workplace! 

The holiday season is a great opportunity to celebrate equity and inclusion. With a little creativity and a lot of commitment, any community space can be a place where everyone feels welcome and belong. As services providers, being aware that this time of year can also exclude some individuals, including some of our colleagues, is a good starting point towards building inclusion. From the emphasis on over-consumption to the assumption that everyone in your organization observes Christmas, addressing inclusion begins with adopting a more critical and mindful lens.

Understanding the diversity of the people who access your services, while also being mindful of the diversity within your workforce is another approach towards celebrating diversity. Respectful and caring relationships, whether they are between workers and clients or between employees, are the basis of an inclusive organization. Taking the time to build these relationships can provide a valuable insight into what family customs, cultural practices or holidays members of your organization celebrate during this season. Some people may choose not to participate in any celebrations for a variety of reasons. It’s important to be mindful of that and respect their choices while also creating a space where they feel comfortable talking about how this makes them feel.

Seasonal tips to celebrate inclusion and build equity

1. December is a season of celebrations around the world. Having staff and community members learn together about different holidays can increase cultural awareness within your organization and promote appreciation of the vast cultural richness that surrounds us. One simple way to do this is to create a Diversity Board with posters and messages acknowledging and educating about different cultural observances.

2. Instead of defaulting to the same decorations used since the 80s, why not invite community members and staff to contribute new decorations that represent everyone. A do-it-yourself decoration-making party can be a wonderful way to build a sense of community and inclusion while learning about each other’s cultures.

3. Exploring our humanity through universal human values is a simple yet power reminder that we have more in common than differences. The holiday season is a time to celebrate such universal values as hope, love and joy. Exploring these themes can foster a deeper understanding of the true meaning of holiday celebrations, particularly amidst the culture of consuming that overwhelms this time of year. Team leaders can use this opportunity to remind staff of these values and champion initiatives that promote them, like a “pay it forward” project to encourage the spirit of generosity.

4. The holiday season can also present opportunities to challenge stereotypes and raise our awareness about systemic exclusion. For example, gift catalogues and TV ads are a great way to engage people in critical conversations about the gendered marketing of products, as well as who is represented in the ads and whether their representation challenges or reinforces stereotypes. Many commercials still depict the “traditional” nuclear (typically white) family enjoying the holidays while excluding diverse families and different family compositions.

As the decorations are unboxed and the planning begins, we hope some of these tips will help bring the joy of inclusion to you and to members of your organization and community.