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Rewriting The Rules; Tackling Ableism

A poster which states the unwritten rule that 'if you need to see the doctor often, you're a difficult patient, right?'. Next to this, it states 'Wrong, To support people with disabilities, change the rules, not the people."

Changing the rules, not the people, is a focus of a new human rights campaign

BC Disability

October 28th, 2022

Nearly half of the human rights complaints made in BC over the last decade have been filed based on disability - more than any other form of complaint.

BC's Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, talks to us about her office's new campaign to fight ableism.

*Note: If you're looking to file a human rights complaint, you should do so with the BC Human Rights Tribunal, not the Office of BC Human Rights Commissioner.

Why did you start the Rewrite The Rules campaign?

Kasari: Every year we run a public awareness campaign of some kind. This year we decided to run it around disability, in particular ableism. We wanted to emphasize that disability isn't in the person; it's in society and people's attitudes.

We tried to focus on the rights of people with disabilities because ableism is such a big issue. Almost half of human rights complaints in BC are filed on the basis of discrimination due to disability.

More human rights complaints relate to disability than anything else - what does that reflect?

Kasari: I think it's a form of discrimination that doesn't get talked about much. We often talk about sexism or racism, as we should, but often ignore an issue that impacts so many people - the largest minority in the world as some have said.

Ableism has created a system where those without disabilities take it for granted that things are built for them and done their way, and that they won't have to face barriers in their daily lives. But we need to remember that for many, many people this isn't the case.

The campaign aims to drive more conversations about ableism

What are the most important things to change?

Kasari: There's not one particular piece that solves the puzzle; it's a multilayered issue. With this campaign we're trying to raise awareness around ableism because it's at the root of the discrimination persons with disabilities face.

Inclusion in our schools and our workplaces is a key component. Nearly half of complaints regarding disability related to discrimination at work, so it's a particularly challenging area for people with disabilities.

We also must be attentive to intersections - someone's experience with ablesim may be different based on whether they're a woman, low-income, queer, or racialized for example. People with disabilities cannot just be lumped into one group.

What can the average person do to fight ableism?

Kasari: Education's the key step. Learn about the issue and the experiences of people facing discrimination. Read stories by people living with disabilities or watch videos featuring their experiences. It's a very tangible way of promoting change.

In what other areas are human rights being challenged?

Kasari: We've identified several strategic priorities. Many pieces of our work falls into addressing discrimination which occurs in work places, housing, and government services.

We're also doing a lot of work on the rise of hate, especially during the pandemic, and it's critical we learn how we can do better before the next crisis hits, whatever that might be.

Poverty's also a focus, and we've been advocating reforms to make discrimination on basis of poverty illegal, as well as to protect the rights of those detained by the state and mental health system.

There's still a ways to go before all people are treated with the respect they deserve.

Learn more about the Rewrite The Rules campaign:


Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BC Disability. To get in touch, send an email to!


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