LEAD, which stands for Lived Experiences Around Disability, is part of our Peer Support Program and delivers innovative presentations about what it is like to live with a disability to students (K-12) in Victoria. This program is delivered by persons with disabilities who have spent a lengthy period of time navigating their daily lives within their abilities. These speakers work in partnership with students with disabilities at each school, giving the students an opportunity to anonymously (via the speaker) or personally share what they have experienced at the school in terms of social and environmental barriers.

Delivering LEAD to the community, particularly to youth, will help decrease misconceptions and stereotypes around persons with disabilities in the community. This has the potential to lead to a more inclusive environment, where persons with disabilities could become better recognized as fully integrated citizens.

More than 1 in 10 youth in Canada have one or more disabilities, and youth with disabilities are at a higher risk of not being in school or employed. Connected with this is the fact that there is a distinct lack of understanding and an abundance of misconceptions surrounding disabilities. Youth face systemic barriers and an increasingly uphill battle when it comes to how disabilities are viewed and understood by their peers. The response we offer to the barriers students with disabilities face is important and it starts with speaking to the students directly and presenting them with alternative ways of thinking about disability.

What are teachers saying about LEAD?

“Thank you very much for today’s presentations. The students said they really enjoyed the presentation and many were even practicing some of their sign language this afternoon. All the staff commented as well on how great their presentation was. We really appreciate you taking the time to come talk to us today!” Tracey, Grade 5 Teacher at Tillicum Community School

“As an educator of 15 years, I have seen many presentations and this one has been the most interesting and inspiring program for myself and for my students. This program plays a crucial role in helping children and adults harness empathy, which in turn, helps to manage complex, cooperative situations. These are crucial skills children need because it motivates them to act positively on behalf of others.” Sunny, Vice-Principal at McKenzie Elementary School

“I am a teacher at Oaklands Elementary, and today my grade 4/5 class enjoyed a powerful and engaging hands-on presentation by two presenters from LEAD. They were fantastic! The kids were very curious and riveted by the activities.  I’ve written about our experience in this workshop on my class blog, in order to share it with my students’ families. LINK: https://inquiryninja.com/2022/10/20/guest-speaker-presentation. Thank you! Tiffany Poirier, Teacher at Oaklands Elementary

“Thank you very much for today’s presentations. The students said they really enjoyed the presentation and many were even practicing some of their sign language this afternoon. All the staff commented as well on how great their presentation was. We really appreciate you taking the time to come talk to us today!” Tracey Crystal, Grade 5 Teacher, Tillicum Community School

“It was my pleasure again to have LEAD come into our school. It is such a valuable program.  Gina delivers a program that is clear and engaging for the students. She has lots of hands-on activities which the kids love.  Gina speaks from the heart and makes it a safe place for kids to ask questions and learn.  She gives valuable information for everyone about people who have disabilities. Living in a world where most people have a visible or invisible disability it is important to remind the students of this and to always be kind and inclusive. Gina gives easy ways for the students to understand this.  This is such a valuable program!” Anna Copp, Grade 6/7 teacher, Glanford Middle School

What have students said they learned from LEAD?

“One step goes a long way to make way for others.” Grade 4 student

“I learned that lots of people have disabilities and that just because they do things differently doesn’t mean that their way is wrong.” Grade 5 student

“I’m going to tell my mom and dad about the beeping tool.” Grade 3 student

“That a lot of people around you could have a disability.” Grade 7 student

“I learned how to help and treat people if they have a disability.” Grade 5 student

“I learned that if you want to help someone with a disability you should ask them if they want help first.” Grade 5 student

“Don’t judge people and be helpful when they need help.” Grade 5 student

“I can share the sign language symbols.” Grade 7 student

“I can teach my mom and dad about sign language.” Grade 5 student

“I can teach others about all the tools that people can use to help them through life.” Grade 6 student “I learned that having a disability is not bad.” Grade 5 student

“I learned that people with a disability live the same life as people who don’t have a disability.” Grade 4 student

“I learned person first language…I can teach someone person first language and asking permission before you help someone.” Grade 5 student

“Not to put the disability first but the person and to ask if they need help.” Grade 7 Student

“I shared that I learned what it is like to walk in someone’s shoes.” Grade 6 student

“That there are hidden disabilities.” Grade 7 student