A Toronto organization wants you to see people with disabilities as just that — people first.
Project Value launched a video series this week featuring the stories of those living with disabilities, in particular spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). It's in response to the ongoing doctor-assisted dying debate and the case of a 25-year-old woman in British Columbia with SMA who is fighting for the right to die.
Their work "seeks to explore a different perspective [that] contradicts the narrative that disability is a fate worse than death," the organization says on its Facebook page.
"We seem to be portrayed as people who are on the verge of death," Ing Wong-Ward, a disabilities advocate and one of the subjects featured in Project Value, said. "That is certainly not my life. I am not thinking about when I'm going to die."
Disability only one part of a person's identity
Wong-Ward was born with SMA and relies on a motorized wheelchair to get around. The disease is neurodegenerative, which means that those who have it continue to lose motor neurons and muscle. But Wong-Ward says she doesn't want people to only see that side of her.
"Ultimately, I am more than what you see physically," said Wong-Ward. "I'm a mother, I have an eight-year-old daughter, I'm a wife. I'm part of the leadership team of a large disabilities resources organization."
Project Value aims to highlight those stories, to help people understand that people with disabilities can lead fulsome, happy lives.
"Value to me means having a good life, an interesting life. A life that is full of diverse possibilities and being disabled doesn't prevent you from being that."
Wong-Ward is a former media professional and worked at CBC.