Grand Erie celebrating Accessibility Awareness Day to Spur Important Discussions About Equity and Inclusion

Caption: Staff and students at Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School will be participating in Share Your Stripes again this year

Grand Erie District School Board will be marking the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Monday, December 3 by celebrating the Board’s third annual Accessibility Awareness Day. The day is meant to increase knowledge and awareness of obstacles faced by individuals with disabilities, and to find out what can be done to remove barriers for participation in order to provide access for all students and staff.

“This year, the theme is all about empowerment, and ensuring inclusiveness and equity,” said Karin Mertins, School and Program Supports Lead in Grand Erie, and chair of the accessibility committee. “It’s crucial that as a board, we create and foster those environments where everyone can thrive and succeed.”

Working with resources from Unlearn, a social enterprise which inspires critical thinking through graphic design, schools and classes will be encouraged to start discussions about equity by examining unconscious biases and how they can be reinforced by the media, experiences, and relationships.

At Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School, students and staff are taking part in their second annual “Share Your Stripes” campaign.

“The campaign was born out of a question from one of our students with special needs,” said Angie Ferris, Social Sciences and Humanities Teacher. “The student asked how we could celebrate the contributions of our students with special needs. That sparked a discussion on equity and inclusiveness and led to the creation of ‘Share Your Stripes’ at our school.”

The goal of the campaign is two-fold: to showcase the contributions and accomplishments of students with special needs, and to highlight the fact that everyone brings their own unique set of stripes or differences to the school, and together they make a positive impact on the community.

“We encourage all students and staff to show their stripes on Monday,” said Ferris. “Any colour, any shape, any size. Just like the stripes on our shirts, we are all different, unique and beautiful.”

To honour Accessibility Awareness Day, Grand Erie will also launch the third video in its series on Equity. The video features the story of Brent Flicks, a former Simcoe Composite School student who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, and uses a wheelchair. Flicks brings an inspiring message about equity and inclusion that celebrates the spirit of Accessibility Awareness Day.

Equity is one of six pillars in Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan, and works toward the promotion of practices that help students, staff, and families feel safe, welcomed, and included.

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