Storytelling Panel at Inclusion Works

It was a full house in the Pavilion Ballroom at the Wall Centre for the Inclusion Works! Conference, which Inclusion BC co-hosted with the Canadian Association for Supported Employment . We were invited to join a panel on the power of storytelling, where we shared the work we’ve been doing on Challenging Misconceptions, a 3-year storytelling project that centers the experiences of people with disabilities in British Columbia. The project aims to change harmful assumptions about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Inclusion BC team was in good company on the panel, sharing the stage with a passionate and impressive group of presenters, including the father/son team of Fionnathan Productions, Keith Gelhorn of ADDVocacy, and Ashley Adie, one of the employees featured in our film on inclusive employment in Campbell River. The panel was moderated by Wayne Herbert, whose combination of comedic timing and thoughtful, rights-based perspective was a wonderful anchor for our 2-hour conversation on the power of story.

To introduce the audience to the Challenging Misconceptions project, we screened a “highlight reel” of stories relating to employment, featuring stories of struggle, triumph and humour from across the province.



Ashley and Inclusion BC’s content writer Katie Miller shared some of the barriers they’ve faced in their own experiences in finding employment as people with disabilities, like employers who haven’t understood their access needs  or had preconceived ideas of what someone on the autism spectrum is capable of. Ashley talked earnestly about people with disabilities “falling through the cracks” of the systems intended to support them, and there was thoughtful discussion about ways that we might design systems to better prevent this.

The panel discussed how storytelling can be a vehicle for change in creating a more equitable employment landscape in Canada and beyond. In Ashley’s words, stories of successful employees with disabilities can “put a bug in employers’ ears and help them rethink their perspectives.” Inclusion BC’s Director of Employment Initiatives Jillian Bradley brought up the point that even within the community living sector, there is sometimes doubt about whether people are truly able to work, and that through authentic stories of real people, we can show our sector that meaningful employment is not only possible, but should be expected and planned for.

At Inclusion BC, we advocate for the rights and opportunities of people. It’s our belief that through telling stories, we can not only shift the perspective of viewers or reader, but also create a change in attitudes for the people whose story is being published. Powerful change can happen when you show someone that their story is worth investing in, and that they should have a say in how their story is told.

It was encouraging and energizing to share the stage with others dedicated to this concept and getting to see storytelling being used as a vehicle for cultural change in all kinds of contexts.


Written and photographed by Galen Exo

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This article is part of our Challenging Misconceptions project. Click here to learn more.


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Our approach to advocacy is guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which recognizes the full citizenship and human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Kerridan Dougan, Advocate

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