World Advocacy Idea: “Action People First"
Updated: Jul 1
Written by Meghan Atkinson-Smith
December 13, 2021
People need to speak out and let their voices be heard around the world. Starting a self-advocacy group that travels the world can help others that need support. This could help bring self-advocacy and accessibility to other countries that might not yet have a lot of resources we have here in BC.
Long before I started with BC People First I used to travel a lot. When I was young I would travel around BC. Later as a teenager in 2002 I went to Japan, where I found accessibility features such as elevators and ramps were really, really good. Also in Honolulu Hawaii I found a lot of wheelchair ramps and elevators. Once when I was in Mexico though, there were not many wheelchair ramps. The few they had were extremely narrow and steep, and I remember one with only one railing on the right side of the wall.
Later when I went to the United Kingdom accessibility was so different in each area. For example in Dublin, Ireland the sidewalks and accessibility ramps there were perfect. Meanwhile in Scotland there were not many ramps, and many steep hilly areas had very high steps. In England the “Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus” for tourists had ramp access like our BC Transit buses do. But on the main transit system I did not find elevators in many subway train stations. Most of these Tube stations only had stairs and escalators. So many people like my boyfriend who is in a wheelchair would be limited to the few stations that had elevators. Otherwise they would have to take buses instead.
Basically I have had a lot of very different experiences with accessibility around the world. To help people worldwide have more accessibility and independence in their lives, we could start a new group that could be named “Action People First.” This can be a new and helpful group that we start in Canada where the People First movement started in the 1970s. But most importantly people around the world can join it. The more the merrier! BC People First is not alone in the world. In fact the website https://www.peoplefirst.org/ says there are active People First groups in almost every province and territory in Canada. There are also People First groups all over the world in other countries such as Italy, Austria, England, Scotland, Wales, Hong Kong, and the USA.
Since Covid is still going on we could begin by reaching out and meeting with some of these other groups online. We can start with Zoom meetings for international groups until travel restrictions ease. If you like this idea, get in touch with us! Later perhaps members from different parts of the world could meet and travel together, and in some countries we may need interpreters. We can all help each other to discuss what people need. Countries that do not have strong self-advocacy and accessibility resources can learn from other countries that do. The more accessibility for the world, the better for all people. It’s time to act and say we will help.