Identities Are Beautiful & Complex

The word "disability" is imperfect and IDIA acknowledges that for some, it can be uncomfortable because it calls attention to our limitations rather than our strengths. While it is the protected status under the Ontario Human Rights Code at the centre of our work, many members of our community do not identify with this word. As a result, it is often better to talk about "accessibility" as an alternative.

Among the people we serve, there are numerous distinct communities, some of which choose identity-first language such as disabled person, autistic student, or deaf community. However, not all of our students identify identify with a community, and some still feel more comfortable with person-first language - a person with Chron's Disease or a student with bipolar disorder. In the end, it is always best to reflect back the language or terminology individuals choose to describe themselves.

Disability is not a standalone experience, but rather intersects with many other equity-deserving identities. We recognize that disabled Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour may encounter even greater barriers than white people and settlers. Members of LGBTQ2IA+ communities, those who experience poverty, and religious minorities, may face more intense social exclusion when also experiencing a disability. Cis men with disabilities may be treated as having a more legitimate experience as compared to those from less privileged genders. Against this backdrop, it is important to always be mindful of how trauma can add complexity and further marginalize people.

On a hopeful note, society's concept of "disability" is evolving. Increasingly we can celebrate our identities without apology and raise our voices to advocate for change. The madness pride movement is but one exciting example. Those of us who embrace our uniqueness have both evident and non-evident disabilities, short-term and life-long disabilities, and a broad spectrum of other experiences.