In the Community

Accessibility Resources

Accessibility Resources

Together we can create an accessible and inclusive province for all Manitobans.

MLPD continuously strives to keep its members informed about events, initiatives and developments that impact the disability community as they happen and provide valuable information and resources.

Accessible Elections

Canada currently has a minority federal government. As a result, there could be a federal election called at any time.

MLPD is working with Elections Canada to ensure those living with disabilities have access to education and information to make the electoral process more accessible. We are hosting free webinars about How to Register and Vote in a federal election as well as Working in a Federal Election. Bookmark this page and check back regularly for new information, or follow MLPD on Instagram and Facebook.

Elections are important: when you vote, you choose the person who will represent you in the federal government. This person will make decisions that affect you and your community. By actively participating in the electoral process you can ensure that the voices of people living with disabilities are heard.

As part of MLPD’s ongoing project with Elections Canada, MLPD recently held a virtual town hall where three politicians or candidates spoke about their experiences campaigning.

We had the pleasure of speaking with:
Cindy Gilroy – City Councillor for Daniel Mclntyre;
Jennifer Howard – Chief of Staff to Jagmeet Singh;
and Whitney Hodgins, an honorary MLPD Council member and candidate from Brandon, Manitoba.

If you missed the Town Hall, please have a look at the captioned video below:

We asked Whitney to share their advice for future candidates. Here is what they had to say:

Have you thought about running in a federal election, but you’re not sure how to get there? Not to fear! I will be walking you through not just how to become a candidate for federal politics, but also will pull from my personal experience being a former federal candidate myself living with a disability.

Before you get started, the first question you need to ask yourself is, what is driving you to run for federal politics? You need to know what your personal motivations are before you run. Everyone has their own reasons for running, whether that be to fight for environmental justice or to advocate for the disability community. Whatever your reason is, it needs to be clear to you, and you also need to be able to translate that to everyone who interacts with you during the campaign.

The second question you need to answer for yourself is, are you planning to run as an independent or as a candidate of a political party? If you plan to run as an independent, you will financially fund your own campaign or fundraise donations from community members. You will also need to fill out the nomination package from Elections Canada and return it to the Returning Officer by the designated deadline.

I decided to run for my federal riding of Brandon-Souris under a political party where I was already a member, the New Democratic Party. Before I could seek the nomination from the party, I needed to put together a candidate’s package which I accessed by contacting my local riding association president. If you do not know who your local riding association president is, you can reach out to the federal party of your choice, and they can assist you. Afterall the objectives of any party are to have more people interested in participating and who are engaged to help shape a better Canada for all. That is a non-partisan objective we all have in common.

Be warned, vetting to become a candidate for a political party is a much lengthier process than what most would think. Many prospective candidates plan months in advance before the writ is dropped. A writ is the mechanism by which government bodies like Canada use to call for the next general election. That’s when a campaign can officially begin. Some candidates are successfully vetted by the party of their choice and move onto the nomination phase, while others are not successful. During the nomination phase, the membership will vote on your candidacy if you are competing with multiple prospective candidates. If you are like me with no competition, you will be acclaimed, if your party constitution allows for it.

Let’s say hypothetically you pick your political party; you complete the vetting packages and now you have been nominated. The next phase is that you are then an official candidate under the banner of your party. How exciting! In my case, I was considered a candidate 24 hours before the writ was dropped. I received an email from a NDP federal representative congratulating me on successfully being acclaimed as the candidate, and that we were creating a formal announcement later. The next day my phone started ringing off the hook from media outlets and newspapers. That very morning, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, had announced the writ was officially dropped. He also said that election day would take place on September 20th, 2021, which was 36 days later.

Once you have reached this stage, the work is just beginning! You can then as a candidate start collecting signatures to get your name on the ballot once the writ drops, and before the designated cut off date. Elections Canada requires all federal candidates seeking to have their name on the ballot to have 100 signatures from residents in their local riding unless you fall within a riding that is considered exempt. In my case, I needed the standard 100 signatures. You may think that number is incredibly overwhelming, but my advice is start by turning to family and friends for support. You may also find yourself like me, dropping off lawn signs, doing media interviews, attending community events, and fundraising for election materials all at the same time!

If you are running under a party banner, you will have people behind the scenes there to help you. You will be tested and pushed to your limits as the clock counts down to “E-Day”. That means its also important to know your personal limits and what you’re realistically able to do. Do not feel afraid to ask for help during this period of time. One piece of advice I wish to share is that your campaign is your campaign. You may have to follow a party platform and message but how you wish to get that message out to the broader community is quite flexible. Have fun on the campaign trail, because not many people get the privilege to run in a federal election and to be the voice of that community.

Which brings me to the final stage of being a candidate in a federal election; if you lose the election, lose with grace. It’s important to congratulate the winner of the election and to thank the many people who supported you over the course of the campaign. You may feel a mixture of feelings or if you’re like me, you may feel too exhausted to feel anything in the moment and you might not feel anything until you go back to pre-election routines. If you win, win with humility. Congratulate and thank your opponent(s) for putting their name forward because it takes courage to put yourself out there and its important for democracy that there are options for people to choose from. When the dust settles, and all the media cameras and reporters have left for the night its also important you go out there and assist in the clean up efforts of all your campaign materials that were put out. Oh, and one more thing, keep one of those lawn signs for yourself. After all, you’ve earned it.

As part of MLPD’s project with Elections Canada we hosted a webinar on Lived Experience at the Policy Table. Janet Rodriguez from Disability Without Poverty and David Kron from Barrier Free Manitoba treated us to this incredible conversation on what elected officials can learn from lived experience of disability, and why they enjoy their advocacy work.

An interview with Breanne Boyce about Advocating for Accessibility

Melissa Graham and Breanne Boyce at a Transit Plus meeting. Breanne is using a pick white cane, and Melissa is using an electric wheelchair.

Melissa Graham and Breanne Boyce at a Transit Plus meeting. This article is part of MLPD’s three-year project with Elections Canada. This year, we are raising awareness of the importance of having candidates that are informed on disability issues. For this article, we chatted with Breanne Boyce, someone we have connected with about Transit Plus issues, where the local representative was informed and involved.

Breanne has been organizing tenants recently at the apartment complex they live in, to settle a dispute with Winnipeg Transit Plus over the pickup location at their apartment complex. A Winnipeger born and raised, who works for the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute, Breanne lost vision in 2018 leaving only partial function in the left eye. Even before it was Breanne’s paid job to do so, Breanne had been advocating with people to help them find mental health resources. Breanne’s educational background includes degrees in clinical behavioural psychology and conflict resolution, and a desire to help people, which has given Breanne a solid foundation to be an advocate.  

It is through this advocacy with tenants and Winnipeg Transit Plus that Breanne connected with the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD). Breanne first connected with Sheryl Peters, a projects manager at MLPD. Breanne recalls Sheryl being warm, supportive, resourceful, and Breanne felt heard. Melissa Graham, MLPD executive director, became involved in bringing her advocacy experience and the organization into the discussion with Winnipeg Transit Plus. Throughout the process, Breanne was in contact with local elected representatives and arranged a meeting with Winnipeg Transit Plus officials at their apartment block. The resolution to this issue was in process at the time this article was published. 

“Many non-disabled people, including those who operate services and supports for people with disabilities, don’t know what it’s like to have a disability,” Breanne explains. “It’s through speaking up that we can work to get these issues resolved”. 

It’s important to connect with elected officials to raise awareness around accessibility issues, as Breanne has learned through this recent advocacy around the Winnipeg Transit Plus issue.  “If a community works together and has the backing and support of politicians, the community has more of a voice, and the politicians have the power to change things”. The local MLA, city councillor, and the Ombudsman have shown leadership in working towards a resolution with Winnipeg Transit Plus, Breanne says 

“Advocacy work can be mentally exhausting and daunting. There are many barriers and obstacles to get through to make a change. Systems are very bureaucratic and sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”. Breanne says that sometimes those in the system don’t understand the impact of changes they are making.  

“Remain patient and persistent,” is the advice Breanne gives to people who are doing self-advocacy. Trust your gut and moral instinct. If you know what you’re doing is right, don’t give up”. Breanne encourages others to connect with organizations like MLPD to help. 

Breanne wasn’t really into politics, but now thinks it’s important to be involved. Breanne started voting to raise issues that were important to her. Breanne speaks from experience, advising us all to approach political parties and find those willing to help advance issues that we know need change. And to support those parties who spend the time and effort to make a difference. 

“There’s power in numbers. Build your advocacy army when it comes to these areas,” Breanne says. “It’s a huge misconception that when it comes to advocacy or voting, one person can’t make a difference”. 

If you’re passionate about making change through advocacy but don’t know where to start, Breanne says to connect with people who are fighting similar issues, collaborate, and get your voices heard.  

“It takes one person to start a ripple effect when it comes to making change. Then you add more people one by one, and the base gets stronger. Then you can build together and form a coalition of change. And it all starts with one person, so don’t be scared to take that first step”. Because, Breanne says, “in the end, it makes the world of a difference, not only for the people facing the challenges now but also for those who may be impacted in the future. Taking these steps will inspire others to do the same going forward”. 

“Ultimately, Breanne said it’s important to create communities where people with disabilities can navigate with more independence”. 

Reflections from Disability Without Poverty

Lived experience of disability and gifts in the political process is an important and often neglected conversation. MLPD is expanding this conversation as part of a project with Elections Canada. Recently, our Executive Director, Melissa Graham, had the opportunity to interview Michelle Hewitt and Rabia Khedr from Disability Without Poverty (DWP). They spoke about their experiences working with elected officials and policy-makers towards the Canada Disability Benefit. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

This is a photo of Rabia Khedr, National Director of DWP. She is standing against a black background, wearing a blue headscarf, grey blazer, and a smile.

Rabia is the National Director of DWP. She is from Mississauga, Ontario. She describes herself as a person with a disability and a Brown woman who chooses to cover her hair. Rabia also describes herself as a Muslim Punjabi Pakistan Canadian woman who is Blind.

This is a picture of Michelle Hewitt, She is in her wheelchair on top of Parliment Hill, wearing a DWP baseball cep, glasses, sweater, and she's smiling.

Michelle is the Chair of DWP. She lives in Kelowna, British Columbia. This is where she has lived for the past 18 years, prior to that she lived on the Island, but she was brought up in England. Michelle acquired multiple sclerosis 19 years ago and uses a power wheelchair full-time. She is also a PhD candidate and has a very cute dog.

Leaders in the Community

Michelle and Rabia acknowledge their privilege in being able to support the disability community. They also acknowledge that they do not come from privileged backgrounds, have experienced barriers, and come from working-class families. Additionally, Rabia experienced multiple barriers as a child immigrant. Both Michelle and Rabia see this work as a passion and feel privileged to be able to use their education and experiences to support the community.

They decided to start DWP when the Canada Disability Benefit was announced in the 2020 Throne Speech. At the time, anti-poverty disability work was really taking off in British Columbia. They needed to build the organization rapidly to keep up with what was happening with the proposed benefit.

Both Michelle and Rabia feel that the most effective way to hold the government to its promise is to facilitate the active engagement and capacity-building of the disability community. They carried out research, conducted polls, held webinars, conducted online campaigns, and many other activities. They want to make sure that the views of people with disabilities across the country are being heard in the halls of Parliament and in the offices of all MPs and Senators.

From the beginning, DWP saw how important it is, in Michelle’s words, “(to) inform disabled people and our friends and allies so that they can advocate for themselves in the most effective way”. They encourage people with disabilities to get to know party platforms, and start letter-writing campaigns and e-petitions. DWP also encourages voters with disabilities to be involved in the electoral process across all parties.

The Benefits of Lived Experience

DWP starts with the approach that “disabled people living in poverty know what they need… They know where the accessibility hiccups are”. As Rabia put it, “When I walk in and meet with, you know, an able-bodied white man, the fact that I have a disability, I am racialized, I am visibly Muslim, all this stuff – he doesn’t expect me to talk to him the way I’m talking to him. And I can draw on my lived experience and talk about the reality of living with a disability and experiencing poverty … from firsthand accounts and real stories of the people that I support around me in the community work that I do”. When people with lived experience of disability are directly informing elected officials and policy makers about their experience, it leads to a better understanding of how those decisions impact real lives and genuine circumstances.

Michelle and Rabia noted that without the knowledge of people with lived experience, important data gets left out of the policy creation process. As Michelle said, “We purposely set out to reach people that are newcomers to Canada, refugees, racialized, LGBTQ2S+, and institutionalized”. They’re also setting up peer-led interviews, understanding that sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who has had the lived experience of poverty and knows how it can impact someone’s life.

Politicians without lived experience can fail to see what the barriers are when making policy decisions. For example, they may not understand the barriers that are created when a medical form is required to access a program. People living in poverty often have more barriers to accessing family doctors, are more likely to be charged a fee to have a form filled out, and are less likely to have a medical professional working with them who has a full understanding of their disability and its impacts.

As a person who acquired her disability, Michelle was sympathetic on this point. She reflected that before acquiring her disability she was an active ally to the community as a non-disabled person, but when she acquired her disability she realized how much she didn’t know before.

Building Capacity Through Education

One of the unique aspects of DWP is that they identified early on that civics education was also needed. They support disability communities in understanding how bills become law and how to effectively work with policy makers. One of their most effective strategies was let people know that they could send mail to their Member of Parliament free of charge.

Michelle noted it’s important to remember the value of your vote. Your vote is a message to the candidate to represent your opinions and to remember that you are the reason they have their job. She also felt that it was important for candidates to see the value of lived experience and make it easy for people with disabilities to share their knowledge – actually sitting with people and having conversations.

If you would like to know more about the work of Disability Without Poverty, please visit their website at

If you would like to hear more about Michelle and Rabia’s experiences, please join our webinar coming up in mid-February 2024.

Seniors with Disabilities Resource Guide

Welcome to Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities’ Resource Finder for Seniors with Disabilities. Click one of the links below to access the booklet.

This resource is the result of a vision by staff at MLPD to provide a quick-look list of services for seniors with disabilities, particularly those who are experiencing a new disability and are looking for services at the moment.

This project was funded by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program.

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