A commentary by Julie Robertson, a member of the WeWaiKai First Nations and general manager of the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres.
I haven’t experienced a pain-free day since I was nine years old.
As a person with a mobility disability, I’ve spent years with wheelchairs, walkers, leg or knee braces, on top of countless surgeries to help increase my mobility.
Accessing health care as an Indigenous person has added to this struggle — and I know I’m not alone. One out of every three Indigenous people in Canada has a disability.
Each Canadian who has a disability has their own story and struggle navigating a world built for able-bodied people. Often, health and wellness advocates define a healthy person as someone who walks 10,000 steps a day — meanwhile, municipalities continue to overlook accessibility rights within their jurisdictions.
Furthermore, the message from mass media is: In order to be happy, you have to be thin and fit. But to be thin and fit, you must be mobile.
Well-meaning as these messages may be, it is extremely isolating and exclusionary to anyone with a mobility disability.
If you’re bombarded with the message of having to achieve 10,000 steps a day, there will be days you feel like a failure when you can’t reach 1,000.
The bigger challenge is walking 1,000 steps in my shoes.
That’s why I started the 1,000-step challenge.
This week, the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres has been challenging our community to only walk 1,000 steps a day to help recognize the barriers faced by millions of Canadians who have a mobility disability.
The challenge helps raise awareness for the issues faced by those with mobility disabilities by drawing our attention to the accessibility of our daily routines. Try going to work, to school, to the movies, to a doctor’s appointment, getting your weekly groceries, with a limit of 1,000 steps a day.
Through the anecdotes I’ve received from our Friendship Centre community, it’s almost impossible limiting step counts while sustaining a usual standard of living.
Even advocating for mobility rights is hard.
My family has told me stories about the first few years after Indigenous people were finally given the vote in the 1960s, and how we were endured but not acknowledged. It is the closest example of what happens today around disability and inclusion. The fight sits on the shoulders of those with disabilities — few allies are there to help raise our voices.
For example, disability posts get a tiny fraction of social media traction compared to our usual advocacy for Indigenous rights. While we as a society may be making very small steps into inclusivity of race and gender, disabilities are still taboo to talk about, let alone share publicly.
The 1,000-step challenge looks to buck this trend. We’re looking for allies to step up. On this Indigenous Disabilities Awareness Month, consider taking the 1,000 step challenge. Sign up at 1000StepChallenge.ca. Challenge yourself to complete your daily activities in only 1,000 steps, and consider the obstacles you face.
Use the step log to track your daily step count.
For those who are financially able — you will be asked to donate one cent for every step over 1,000 to a local non-profit that supports people with disabilities.
Step up today.