A spirit of community and fun abounded during the 11th annual Celebration of Diverse Ability event held at Selkirk College on Monday. The two-hour event was designed to increase awareness and challenge ideas about disability, and individuals living with disability.
Hosted by students of the Classroom and Community Support Worker (CCSW) program this year’s event was called “Luminosity: The True Brightness Found in Our Differences.” Over 200 people gathered to experience the displays, movie clips, singing, dancing, interactive games and crafts that were part of the day. The event even featured an area with dogs, cats and a rabbit waiting quietly to be petted and adored by anyone wishing to connect with a furry friend.
Several people who have experienced living with diverse abilities gave inspirational speeches to the gathered crowd. One of those was 18 year old Hannah Johnstone who talked about her experience being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. “Most people misunderstand me and they have little or no knowledge regarding ASD,” she said. “Young people are very judgmental and the emphasis is on fitting in. I am capable of many things, but fitting in is not one of them.” Hannah went on to explain that with the help of others and lots of books she has, “… become very self-aware of my ‘gift’. With the acceptance of my friends in the [Castlegar] Youth Council, I no longer feel weird or out of place.”
Representatives from Special Olympics were on hand with a giant petition banner for everyone to sign promoting the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign which educates people against using the word retarded to refer to people. “It is just disrespectful and it is so not 2016,” said CCSW instructor Jane Green.
When asked what she wanted people to take away from the event, Green stated, “It is really time for us as a culture to make the shift …. and really understand there is no them, there is only us. To stop the old ways of thinking and start new ways of welcoming.”