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New Brunswick Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

Voices of Diversity – What Inclusion Means to Me

Voices of Diversity – What Inclusion Means to Me

July 2022 issue of Altantic Business – Diversity & Inclusion Issue

Shows the magazine headline "In Their Own Words"
Voices of diversity share their personal experiences with the power of inclusion (and the pain of exclusion).

“ISMs” are everywhere…. classism, hetero-sexisms, cissexism, sizeism. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives are supposed to educate and protect against these ISMs. However, D&I often overlooks my ISM: Systemic Ableism.

I suffer from a rare disability knowns as TILT-MCS; chemicals render me unable to function, to even leave my house. Systemic ableism allows my disability to be labeled as histrionics, or “crazy woman” disorder, so my needs don’t have to be accommdated or paid insurance coverage.

System ableism is rampant with all disabilities. It keeps us pushed into a corner, unable to work, unable to contribute and for the most part forced to live well below the poverty line. The odd time people pay attention to our disabilities, it’s to pity us. But in my case, they refuse to acknowledge that their use of chemicals (mostly via fragrances) is what has led me to be house-bound and disabled. If they acknowledge their part in the cycle, then they would also need to fix it by changing how they live. Oh, the sacrifices they would have to make!

I’m not saying D&I should not continue to educate and protect against the other ISMs, but they also need to let us in! Anyone can wake up disabled. Waiting until that day to demand better is way too late.

Shelley Petit

Chair, N.B. Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, Inc.

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