PLAN members have been very involved in Accessible Canada’s consultations for new accessibility legislation. A few weeks ago, PLAN member Chanha Lee attended the Minister’s National Youth Council in Ottawa. Chanha is a terrific advocate, and we encourage you to read below to learn about his vision and priorities for a more accessible country.
What are the best ways to increase accessibility and remove barriers for Canadians with disabilities?
For me, I used to be a silent and shy person. During my childhood in South Korea, it wasn’t that easy for me to make friends. Later, I was kind of interested in the media team in my Korean elementary school and I was in the position of news anchor for the elementary school. After some students watched this, they started to recognize me all around the school. That was the first time when I started to open my heart to everyone, which shaped me today.
I first came to Canada when I was in Middle school. It was kind of easy for me to make many friends by greeting many people. However, it wasn’t easy for me to make best friends to hangout with because I had no idea what they’re talking about and what they’re interested in. Also, it was hard for me to find which group would be the best for me to hangout. I had too many people around me.
The best way to increase accessibility and remove barriers is to have relationships with others. For this, we need to have courage and ask people to hangout and remember that our autism or our disability is not our fault. That way you can have confidence to make friends.
What does the leadership mean to you?
Basically, leadership means to be humble and to show the bright hope and future to youth with autism. But for me, it means I can tell youth with autism they can live a good life too, like many people do. Also, it would be a good opportunity to share how desperately they want to interact and engage with people because many think those who live with autism aren’t interested in making friends and spending time together.
How can the government help youth with disabilities to contribute in leadership roles in a more accessible Canada?
When I was in high school, I wished I could join the leadership program, but I wasn’t able to because this program was mostly available for normal people. Because of that, it was very hard for me to improve my leadership skills. Therefore, I was hoping that the government could help youth with disabilities contribute in leadership roles by providing a leadership training program for them.
I have some friendly communities at Capilano University and more at Village Church, my own church. However, it still wasn’t easy for me to spend much time with my friends. I’m also hoping that we, who have autism, can find the best ways to spend more time with our friends. Furthermore, I know that there are some with disabilities who go to churches. I hope that there would be a special mentor for them in each church and each school community.