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‘We are people and we deserve the same rights as everyone else.’ Western graduate talks about accessibility in environmental movements

Flint said it is important for allies of the disability community to go out and pressure Western’s campus and other local establishments to become more accessible. // Photo by Emilee Kyle

By Emilee Kyle

“In the United States, there are about 54 million people who live with a disability. That’s about one-fifth of our population.”

On Thursday, Oct. 18, Western alumna Kyann Flint opened with this statement at the workshop “Accessibility in Environmental Movements” organized by WWU Students for the Salish Sea. Flint said her goal is to raise awareness of the social and physical barriers people with disabilities face every day.

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Flint graduated from Western with a degree in political science and social studies. She lives her life with a neuromuscular disorder and uses a wheelchair.

“There are so many more barriers in this world for people with disabilities than just missing ramps, missing elevators, or just the rickety bricks on this campus,” Flint said. “It needs to start with educating people on disability, educating people that we are people and we deserve the same rights as everyone else.”

In environmental movements today, the disability community has often clashed with the environmental community, Flint said. One example is the topic of eliminating plastic straws. While Flint considers the elimination of plastic straws a positive change overall, she said there are many people with disabilities who depend on them.

“It’s important to not put judgment on them because they don’t have any other way to drink,” Flint said.

Flint said it is important for the world to become more environmentally sustainable but it can’t forget about people with disabilities in the process.

Izzi Lavallee, senior and WWU Students for the Salish Sea co-founder, organized the workshop.

“I think it’s really important to bring the disability community into every single conversation that we have,” Lavallee said. “We’re not going to heal these large-scale local or global issues, particularly in regards to the environment, if we don’t have that inclusivity.”

Club leader Rondi Nordal said an event like this can help them be more inclusive in addressing the needs of all people, including those with disabilities.

Students for the Salish Sea is an environmental and social justice club that takes action and educates the community about local issues, Nordal said.

“Our goal is to work as a network to support a healthy Salish Sea,” Nordal said.

Flint is also the Chief Accessibility Officer at a local company named AbiliTrek.

She said the mission of AbiliTrek is to inspire people with disabilities to get outside without boundaries. They provide a platform for people to rate establishments on how accessible they are.

Flint said it is important for allies of the disability community to go out and pressure Western’s campus and other local establishments to become more accessible.

“There’s not a lot of people who are intentionally making things not accessible, they just don’t know because they don’t have to live it until it happens to them or someone they love,” Flint said.

The Western Disability Access Center is located in Old Main 120.

For more information about Students for the Salish Sea, you can visit their Facebook page.

For more information about AbiliTrek, you can visit their website.

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