Urban First Nations People with Disabilities Speak Out
Douglas Durst, MSW, PhD, Professor of Social Work, University of Regina
Shelly Manuel South,MSW, Regina, SK and Mary Bluechardt, MSc, PhD, Memorial University of Newfoundland
This article presents the findings of a two-year exploratory study that examined the challenges identified by First Nations persons with physical disabilities in a western prairie city-Regina.The rate of disabilities among Aboriginal people is 32 per cent, which is twice the national average. Research groups conducted with First Nations persons with disabilities sought qualitative data regarding the daily barriers these people encounter. A First Nations researcher and an Elder used a traditional style of “sharing circles” to collect the data and ensure that their voices and perspectives were clearly articulated. Findings from this study suggest that urban First Nations people with disabilities are not living an independent lifestyle and are excluded from participating in community life.They live in poverty and isolation, and do not access many of the services and benefits to which they are entitled.The participants identified practical recommendations to eliminate or overcome some of the obstacles.There is a need for a thorough policy and program review of the conflicting jurisdictional issues and, to initiate change, there is a need for a strong and effective voice that includes Aboriginal persons.