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Rick Hansen Fund announced support to Ditidaht First Nation

The funding will improve accessibility and services

As part of Indigenous Disability Awareness Month, the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) is pleased to announce the Ditidaht First Nation as one of two Indigenous communities that are recipients of the RHF B.C. Accessibility Grants Program. Malahat Nation and Ditidaht First Nation on Vancouver Island’s Westshore join Seabird Island Band as recipients of the program. Ditidaht territory reaches inland from Cowichan Lake, down through Nitinat Lake, and out to the coast between Bonilla Point and Pachena Point. 

The eponymous Rick Hansen Foundation is named for the Canadian wheelchair athlete who undertook a 35-month, 40,000km global marathon to raise awareness and funds for people living with disabilities.

Formed by British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) in 2015, Indigenous Disability Awareness Month (IDAM) is the only Indigenous disability specific awareness initiative of its kind in the world. IDAM recognizes the unique barriers that Indigenous people living with disabilities face, but also celebrates achievements and the significant contributions Indigenous people with disabilities make in their communities.

In his remarks about the announcement, Ditidaht Nation Housing Manager Chris Baker acknowledged that “Accessibility issues are often overlooked,” and said he thinks “this is the perfect opportunity to gain as much knowledge as possible to help improve accessibility in our community.”

BCANDS is celebrating 33 years of successfully delivering Indigenous disability programs and services across Canada. According to BCANDS, one in five Canadians experiences a disability, however, Indigenous peoples of Canada experience a much higher rate of disability, at approximately 30% to 35%, than that of the non-Indigenous population.

Funds like these are important to supporting access and programming for disabled persons in Indigenous communities. Each community will receive up to $82,500 in funding for accessibility improvements to sites in their communities to improve access and inclusion for people of all ages and abilities. The funding can also be used for accessibility training to help create a positive culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition, the program provides complimentary RHF Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC) ratings and celebratory plaques to publicly mark community achievements.

RHFAC is a rating and recognition program that measures the meaningful accessibility of a site based on user experience feedback of people with varying disabilities. Some of these features included in certification requirements are accessible entranceways, vehicle access, emergency systems, accessible washrooms, and wayfinding signage. They may also include improvements made to serve community members who may be hearing impaired, deaf, or who are experiencing vision loss or blindness.

These grants are in keeping with the core aims of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (CRPD, ratified by Canada in 2008) which was generated to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Some of these include: 

  • respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons

  • full and effective participation and inclusion in society

  • respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity.

The announcement also builds on the “leave no one behind” imperative of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Sustainability Goals make 11 references in total to people living with disabilities in areas of education, employment, equality and data collection to achieve those goals. Support from the RHF will help Ditidaht First Nation realize that goal.

From Nov. 19 to 21 Indigenous Disability Canada and BCANDS will host the Indigenous Disability and Wellness Gathering in Victoria. The gathering will bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments, leadership, service providers, community members, and others to learn, connect, and collaborate in addressing the unique barriers Indigenous Peoples with disabilities face.