December 3, 2015. For as long as I live, I won’t forget that day.
Sixteen hundred people from across Manitoba crammed into the Manitoba Legislative Building to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the launch of Disability Matters Vote 2016. One event. One reason. Rights.
Joining thousands of celebrations occurring worldwide, we stood in solidarity of inclusion. We stood together to speak about the right to vote and to participate in all aspects of political and public life. We stood together in frustration. We stood together in hope.
The energy in the legislative building was incredible. Conversations buzzed, hundreds of webcasters joined, buttons and stickers circulated, signs bounced through the air, the sitting Cabinet was not amused, the media couldn’t get in: the building was at capacity and people flowed onto the steps outside. The elevators were beyond backed up trying to accommodate people using wheelchairs who waited patiently to access the event. There was a palpable excitement in the air. People crowded into corners, nooks and crannies and stood over railings, trying to hear and see the program above the audible excitement.
The message was clear – We have rights too. We won’t be left behind. Never before have we come together so strongly, so unified, so ready for change. Never has there been a stronger sense of collective empowerment.
Those in attendance and many more went on to be the change makers of Disability Matters: Vote 2016. The campaign created a ripple across the province connecting our provincial election to disability rights like never before. The focus was on basic human rights – employment, accessibility, access to services, dignified income and fair wages. Change happened. People with disabilities learned about their right to vote and exercised it. Many elected officials learned valuable, new information. We moved the needle forward on public awareness. We built new and stronger relationships. We collaborated. Most importantly, we saw what was possible when we came together. One unified voice: We all have the same rights.
We won’t be left behind.