We are two women who have each lived our own challenges being a sibling and a mother to someone with a disability. We’ve been in positions where we have felt the need to make excuses for the disability, sugarcoat it in front of strangers or pretend it didn't exist at all. Although we are not the one with the disability, we see the burden that falls upon other members of our families and have faced judgement and challenging questions about the behaviour and disruption that comes with being in their space. We want so badly to be part of the whole and are their voice to tell the world their wants and needs.
We are two women who are mothers, who don't know if we are doing this parent-thing right all the time. We’re trying to figure it all out, like other moms out there too. As we both work our full time jobs, we can get lost in giving almost everything we have to our jobs. We often come home tired, exhausted and depleted, struggling to find the spark to make time for our husbands and family. As mothers, we are continuing to learn about our strengths that we didn’t know we had, and dealing with fears that we didn’t know existed.
We are two women who started as colleagues, teaching in an elementary school. We joined forces in 2013 to blend our knowledge in Special Education and Health & Physical Education to create classrooms that would help students find their place of belonging. We know and believe that the disabilities our students have are assets in our school community, and are helping every student be their true authentic self, without fear of judgement or ridicule.
We are two women who have taken a leap of faith to start our own business, to show the world the innate value of all children and youth in our school communities through quality physical activity. Through our advocacy work, we have learned the power of our voices. We know that when the stakes are high, people with disabilities are the first to be forgotten. We’ve had many opportunities to support, provide and network with other individuals who want to create an inclusive space where everyone can move with a smile. Our business venture brings on a lot of extra work and hours, but by helping just one teacher we can impact hundreds of student's lives for the better.
Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day devoted to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and also a reminder that there is work still to be done in achieving gender equality. According to Inclusions Canada an estimated one in five Canadians (or 6.2 million people) aged 15 years and over have a disability, and at least 53% of these people are women. We want to offer a different perspective for you today. What if we celebrate women with disabilities as women, women just like us. Women who work, who are mothers, and women who face multifaceted barriers that are unfair in their own way. We are aware of our own unique advantages and disadvantages, however we choose to use them to make a difference for all women, all people, everywhere.
Today we wanted to use our Play Beyond The Label platform to celebrate all women who carry strength, determination and passion in their own path of life. It has been two and a half months since we started our business, and we have been busy! We have been connecting with teachers from all over Ontario and supporting and planning student-focused learning in their classrooms, as well as recently collaborating with an entire school community to develop a wellness initiative. We have presented to both seasoned veterans in the field and also teacher candidates with fresh eyes and focus. From collaborating with other organizations and entrepreneurs, to supporting educators in building their own inclusive physical activity programs, we are two women who are smiling as we lay the foundation for cultural change. As we see and have experienced systems that stem from people making the decision to dismiss differences, we choose to work WITH them.
We are two women who may lose our balance, who will fall and may sometimes want to give up too. But we don’t, and we never do. We lift each other up, and we want you to join us. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge where we pause to continue to celebrate women's achievement, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.
Our society has created many barriers and gaps to make disability into a slippery slope of inadequacy, stigma, oppression and judgement, however at Play Beyond The Label, we welcome differences as a gateway to evoke a real change in education. We choose to challenge the labels that seek to exclude learners based on physical and cognitive performance and use them instead to grow the mindset of those around them to build a better community.
How will you use your voice for change, and speak up when you witness injustices?
How will you take the steps to explore and practice what inclusion looks, sounds and feels like?
How does your role in your school community intersect with girls, young women, and people of all abilities?
What actions can you take to become an ally and to share your power with your community?