Toronto, ON, Aug. 30, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (Holland Bloorview) launches year five of its Dear Everybody anti-stigma campaign for kids and youth with disabilities by urging Canadians to talk about ableism. According to a recent survey by Canadian polling firm Leger, about 95 per cent of respondents understand the meaning of terms like racism and sexism, while only a third can define ableism.

Ableism is the discrimination towards someone based on their abilities and results in favouring those who do not have a disability. This creates the stigma that sees people with disabilities as being inferior to others – less worthy of respect and less able to contribute or participate. Ableism comes in many forms and is present in schools, workplaces and the media. We are asking the public to confront ableism head on so that impolite stares, name-calling, exclusionary activities or inaccessible public spaces are no longer barriers to a future where everybody belongs.

“In order to help kids and youth with disabilities live their fullest lives possible, we all need to understand the meaning of ableism and how it occurs in words and language, actions and behaviours,” said Julia Hanigsberg, president and CEO, Holland Bloorview. “Everyone has a responsibility to bring ableism to the forefront of our collective thinking so that we can take the steps to seek it out and dismantle it.”

Other findings from the Leger survey include:

  • Almost 80 per cent of Canadians agree that society favours those that do not have a disability and 70 per cent feel that society sees less value in those that have a disability.
  • About half admit that in everyday conversations they sometimes use terms like “lame” or “dumb” (ableist language) to describe a situation.
  • Four-in-ten know what they can do in their day-to-day lives to combat ableism.

This year’s campaign is a true reflection of the common themes contained in years one through four and kids and youth with disabilities are helping kick-start conversations by sharing their lived experience and the harmful effects of ableism in their lives. Four of the youth featured in the campaign this year include:

  • Christopher doesn’t want you to explain to him why he can’t play. This 11-year-old has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy but he doesn’t want you to judge him before you can see what he can do. He likes to express himself through play and believes that it’s an important part of growing up – he loves basketball (and wheelchair basketball!) and many types of other sports.
  • Gavi has a lot to say and it’s frustrating when people don’t listen. Gavi has a speech impairment due to a muscle disability, and the hardest part for this 10-year-old is when people pretend they understand her but don’t. When you make the effort, you’ll see that Gavi is wise beyond her years – smart, empathetic, and funny. Not to mention athletic – she is the first female volt hockey player in Canada and she’s just getting started.
  • Nathan doesn’t want you to think that he can’t be strong and confident because he has a disability. Growing up, this 21-year-old says that people didn’t know how to “categorize” him – the intersectionality of being Black and having a disability was tough to navigate. Does that walker belong to him? Yes (and he’s proud of it). Does he have plans to continue to model and launch his own clothing line? Yes!
  • Rachel doesn’t want disability to be left out of the plot line in TV shows and movies. This 18-year-old loves theatre and musicals, however she didn’t grow up seeing characters that authentically looked like her on her favourite shows like Glee and Hannah Montana. Ask her how she’s using the media’s ableist view of the world as motivation and she’ll tell you that she uses her voice at conferences and symposiums to enact real social change. 

In previous years, the campaign has encouraged brands and organizations to start including disability in their advertising and content by signing our Dear Everybody Agreement. The Toronto-based arm of global agency, Forsman & Bodenfors, has been the lead on the creative for the campaign since Dear Everybody launched in 2017.

For more information about the campaign, visit deareverybody.ca, where you can find helpful resources on how to be an ally, as well as details on several virtual discussion panels taking place up until November of this year. Also, we urge you to join and invite others to the #DearEverybody discussion on social media to #EndAbleism for kids and youth with disabilities.


About Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital creates a world of possibility by supporting children and youth living with disability, medical complexity, illness and injury. Holland Bloorview is a top 40 Canadian research hospital that is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and serves over 8,000 families annually. Providing both inpatient and outpatient services, Holland Bloorview is renowned for its expertise in partnering with clients and families to provide exceptional care and is the only organization to ever achieve 100 per cent in two successive quality surveys by Accreditation Canada. Holland Bloorview is a founding member of Kids Health Alliance, a network of partners working to create a high quality, consistent and coordinated approach to pediatric health care that is centred around children, youth and their families. For more information or to donate, please visit hollandbloorview.ca or connect on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and parent-blog BLOOM.

About the survey
From July 23-25, 2021, Canadian polling firm Leger conducted a survey among a randomly selected representative sample of over 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and older using its online panel. The margin of error for the total sample is ±2.5%, 19 times out of 20. 


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