Dear Everybody, It's Time to End the Stigma

Young Canadians with disabilities have had it with stereotyping and are taking matters into their own hands. The youth at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital have launched the Dear Everybody campaign, an ambitious 5-year plan to raise awareness of and ultimately eradicate the stigma that surrounds disabilities, yielding a more inclusive and accepting Canada.

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It began in August with an open letter to the world in which the kids are "putting it all out there," bravely addressing the preconceptions that people have about the disability community. They realize that much of this is based on ignorance and have meticulously crafted every line of the letter in an effort educate. Their strategy of replacing stigma with understanding is already taking hold.

The axioms in the letter are as thought-provoking as they are poignant. They share things like, "Not everyone in a wheelchair needs to be fixed," and "If we can't include everyone in a game, we aren't playing it right."

Dear Everybody, Got a Question?

According to the campaign research, 53% of kids with disabilities have zero or only one close friend. Furthermore, as high as 64% of children and youth with disabilities are avoided or excluded at school, and the incidence of bullying is significantly higher. Jadine, a teenaged Holland Bloorview client with cerebral palsy, said, "When people see me, they just see a chair and don't realize that I have a brain and can say things and have feelings."

The website encourages readers to select from a suite of resources including social media posts, videos, posters and more to share through their networks. They can also follow and share additional messages and videos form their FacebookTwitter and Instagram pages.

Dear Everybody, Not Everybody in a Wheelchair Needs to be Fixed

"Working to counteract stigma involves more than simply not bullying or not directly treating someone badly. It's active, not passive," said Dr. Sally Lindsay, senior scientist at Halland Bloorview's research institute. "People need to make an effort to actually create inclusive and welcoming environments."

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