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Research on Researchers: Sheenagh interviews Mandy Wold from B.C. Self Advocacy Foundation

November 30, 2012
Mandy Wold and Jo-Anne Gauthier at the 2012 Walk N Roll Fundraiser

Mandy Wold and Jo-Anne Gauthier at the 2012 Walk N Roll Fundraiser

Sheenagh:  We’re interested in how people with disabilities (or diversabilities) are involved in community based research that has to do with them.   Can you tell us a bit about your work and organization and how you support people to find out more about their communities?  

Mandy: Over the past year the British Columbia Self Advocacy Foundation (BCSAF) has embarked on a provincial tour of our No More Barriers Campaign to raise awareness about our human rights and get people talking about how to make these rights real for everyone. We launched our website: http://www.bcsaf.org and contracted the ESATTA Coop (Empowering Self Advocates To Take Action) to present our No More Barriers workshop because BCSAF believes that self advocates need to be driving the conversation about themselves. We travelled to the communities of Nelson, Kamloops, Burnaby, Prince George and Penticton sharing the campaign and hosting community dialogues talking to people with developmental disabilities (diversabilities) about the barriers they face in their lives. During the dialogues participants recorded what their top 3 barriers were in their lives and then brainstormed what the possible solutions were to those barriers.

We found that the top barriers people with developmental disabilities (diversabilities) face in BC are:
·         Finding a job and keeping it
·         Finding safe and affordable housing
·         Finding support to be healthy
·         Not being the decision maker in your life
·         Getting youth involved in self advocacy

With this information we put out a call for projects developed and lead by people with developmental disabilities (diversabilities) to break down these barriers in their communities. We had an overwhelming response and funded 12 projects across BC to break down barriers.

Sheenagh: What is a good example of a project that the Foundation grants have funded?  

Mandy: One project is lead by The BC People First Society. They plan to travel to communities in BC to promote self advocacy and increase membership across the province by teaching self advocates the power of their voice in their community and the importance of deinstitutionalization.

Sheenagh: You are really good at being helpful from being the scenes.  Can you talk about what that role is like for you?  

Mandy: I’m here to support self advocacy development, so really I’m here to encourage self advocates to speak up. I support the work of the BCSAF Board as well as the community projects we have funded. Since we had such a great response to our call for projects this year the Board has decided that they would like BCSAF to fund community self advocacy projects each year. So we are now working on gaining more donors so we can make that happen.

Sheenagh: How do you think people with disabilities can benefit from research about them?  

Mandy: Knowing what barriers you are facing is the first step to finding solutions and making the community aware of changes that need to be made to make it a safe and welcoming place for all neighbors to enjoy.

Sheenagh: Can you tell us about someone with a disability who has been important to you?  

Mandy: I have met so many amazing people over the past year and a half working for BCSAF it’s very hard to pick one person. Members of the BCSAF Board and the BC Self Advocacy Caucus are constantly inspiring me by the incredible volunteer hours they put in to improve their communities. I admire how giving and welcoming everyone is regardless of the struggles they go through. Self advocates know what community truly means. The public needs to get better at listening and learning from them.

For more information about the work of the B.C. Self Advocate Foundation check out www.bcsaf.org

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