International Day of Persons with Disabilities

By Suparna Gupta, Client Engagement Worker


Starting life in a new country as an immigrant or refugee is challenging for anyone — but for newcomers with disabilities, the barriers are even greater.

Shakila Zareen, a client of the Moving Ahead Program at MOSAIC, came to Canada as a refugee from Afghanistan almost three years ago. In her home country, she suffered extreme family violence which required several surgeries and ongoing medical treatment to this day. These experiences left her with severe trauma and depression, in addition to facial scarring.

In Canada, Shakila faced many challenges adjusting to her new home, including language barriers and culture shock. She couldn’t do simple things she loved, such as studying or taking a walk in the park, due to complications from her surgeries.

Through MOSAIC, Shakila was connected to the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program, where she was provided with special instruction materials in larger lettering that were easier for her to read. She was also provided with support in navigating the Canadian healthcare system and searching for affordable housing.

One of the largest barriers for newcomers with disabilities is finding employment, which also makes finding affordable housing and meeting other basic needs significantly more difficult. Although there is some government financial assistance for newcomers with disabilities, it’s typically not enough.

There is always more work to be done to create a more inclusive and welcoming society for newcomers with disabilities. On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, as we celebrate the resilience of immigrants and refugees with disabilities, we also need to recognize and raise awareness of the emotional, physical, and psychological challenges they face and continue working to address those barriers here.

Today, Shakila is looking for housing for herself, her mother and sister, and she is determined to create a better future in Canada. MOSAIC will be here to support her, and all newcomers with disabilities, every step of the way.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is annually observed on December 3 to promote the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities, and to take action for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development. The theme this year is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World.”