“Heather is knowledgeable, thoughtful, funny, and generous. As the moderator of Chronically Queer, they create a welcoming environment for everyone—regardless of where participants are in their respective disability journeys. Chronically Queer benefits from Heather’s extensive experience, longstanding commitment to advocacy, and dedication to supporting disabled people and affirming disabled ways-of-being. It is clear that Heather views accessibility as a practice and is therefore always seeking to make the group work better for participants. Moreover, Heather is passionate about ensuring that accessibility extend beyond “crip” spaces and, in that spirit, often offers group members opportunities to have our voices heard in majority-abled spaces as well. Under their care, the group has become a thriving community and fostered many friendships.
“I am so grateful to have witnessed the work of Creating Accessible Neighbourhoods – it is an incredibly necessary organization that is transforming the way we think about accessibility and disability justice in Vancouver and beyond. Every business, organization and community can benefit from the important work they are doing to change systems, communities and organizational culture. CAN’s work serves to eliminate barriers to access in a way that is approachable, inclusive and sustainable. I have had the pleasure of working directly with Heather to bring some visionary projects to life and am constantly inspired by their patience, wisdom, integrity and passion for this important work.
“Creating Accessible Neighbourhood’s (CAN) Executive Director, Heather McCain has been an active community partner in our SSHRC funded partnership grant project Canadian Disability Participation Project (CDPP). One stream within this partnership grant was focused on mobility and participation of persons with disability using assisted devices. The core research project within this stream was titled Enabling Mobility And participatioN among those with Disabilities (dEMAND). Heather was actively involved with the project from its inception and has served on the Community Advisory Board of the Mobility Team. They have provided invaluable input in the design and implementation of knowledge mobilization tools that included a community participation simulation game, On the Move: Participation and Inclusion game, a photovoice display and video vignette. We plan to continue to build our relationship with CAN as we move forward with our new projects in the area of mobility, access and participation.
“In the time that I have worked with Heather, they have proven to be an exceptionally supportive, empowering, and optimistic leader within the Working Group and the greater community. They have been fundamental in creating a space where others feel safe and supported in sharing, learning, and contributing towards the increased visibility and recognition of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community in Burnaby, and have provided invaluable insight, education, and support around incorporating accessibility and accessible practices into every step of our planning for Burnaby Pride.
Heather’s work is deeply rooted in intersectionality, recognizing and respecting the uniqueness of our individual identities and experiences, and is continually evaluating their approach to learning from and engaging others in the pursuit of becoming a better advocate and ally for all.
“Heather spoke with me on the phone for a really enlightening hour! Not only were they a great listener and respectful of my limited education in this subject, they were able to give me truly honest reactions and suggestions for improvement. This ranged from the words I used to speak about disabilities (such as refraining from using “able-bodied” and instead using “non-disabled”) to commenting on the story of the movie itself and how it can be more powerful and effective towards bringing awareness to disabilities equity the Hollywood industry. We continued our discussion after the call too, and Heather gave me feedback on the language in my project’s documents to make it as respectful as it can be.
All of Heather’s insight was valuable and exceeded what I was hoping to learn. CAN gave me a safe environment to grow and ask questions that I couldn’t ask elsewhere. And ultimately I am grateful to be guided by a specialized group than to put any pressure on friends and colleagues with disabilities to teach me what I should be learning on my own.
I am more confident now in my efforts to help people than I was prior to speaking with Heather. And these lessons go beyond my work! Any time I speak now, whether about my project or otherwise, I am able to use language that is more respectful for people with disabilities and further explain the importance of these words and why I speak differently now. I am certain that this has an effect on these people and is making important progress by helping them to better understand what I have learned as well.
I have such gratitude for Heather and their team at CAN. Their work is important and has a positive effect in the world. And if there’s one thing they teach extremely well, it’s that we are all in this world together.
“I truly appreciate that Heather set their audience at ease, from the start, with an approachable tone of acceptance and understanding. They created an environment that welcomed participants from all levels of knowledge and experience regarding the subjects of disability awareness, ableism, and Disability Justice.
Heather conveyed their depth of knowledge in engaging and meaningful ways as they encouraged and challenged participants to investigate our perceptions about disability. I appreciated that Heather shared real-life examples that really communicated to participants how we all participate in ableism and how we can work to build community, ensure autonomy, and help one another to meet each other where we are and value what we each have to offer.
I appreciated that Heather started by centering decolonialism and discussing the barriers that exist for Indigenous people with disabilities. Heather applied an intersectional lens throughout the session and recognized the range of experiences with disability. The session made me aware of perspectives I had not previously considered and challenged me to evaluate the conscious and unconscious bias that I have.
Heather is passionate about the topic of disability awareness and their enthusiasm helps to encourage participants in believing that by working together we can create a more accessible, equitable, and just world.
I am thankful that Heather encouraged further exploration of the subject by providing additional resources and a toolbox of strategies for participants to implement at work, on social media, and in our personal lives. I feel equipped and motivated to move forward and put into practice that which I learned from Heather.
I highly suggest Heather as an educator and workshop facilitator. I contemplated that which was covered in the session long after the workshop. I look forward to participating in future workshops by Creating Accessible Neighbourhoods.