Home CFB Borden 16 Wing Championing Change: CFB Borden Marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Championing Change: CFB Borden Marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Join the Borden community in an inspiring event that showcases the importance of supporting the diversity of the CAF through ability

Historically, the conversation around disabilities in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has been limited, but that reality has changed thanks to groups such as the Defense Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities (DAGPWD) who advocate for the specific needs of those joining the forces with a disability or those who developed one while serving.

This year’s International Persons with Disabilities Day marks a time for CFB Borden to take part in supporting DAGPWD and members with disabilities across the forces, celebrating the unique offerings that people with disabilities bring to the community.

“We’ve been changing our culture… to try and make it a better place,” said DAGPWD military co-chair, Warrant Officer Robert Stoodley. “That’s part of this defense advisory group that came from the CDS (Chief of the Defense Staff), some years ago, they realized that there was a problem with those main groups and that they needed to get better advisement from the people serving the communities.”

WO Stoodley was drawn to the cause behind the DAGPWD due to his own personal journey in helping his loved ones with disabilities navigate life with or without accommodations. He has witnessed seemingly small adjustments make a significant impact in someone’s career and life, especially in the CAF.

“To be given 20 minutes on a written test or to have text to speech sitting at your computer… It’s not that much money and you could have a meaningful career for that individual,” WO Stoodley said. “We’re short staffed. We can assist in relieving that.”

Champion of DAGPWD, Lieutenant Colonel Darren Lemire pointed out that there is plenty of evidence to suggest the CAF’s culture has shifted in a way that includes persons with disabilities, with both the RCAF and Military Police Academies being at the forefront of integrating personnel with disabilities.

“I can think about one of our QL3 qualifications; entry level military police training,” said LCol Lemire. “An individual couldn’t process information like you or me, or what we’d expect. They can’t read from a book necessarily and be able to repeat that information in a meaningful way, but still, potentially a good soldier or military member.”

According to LCol Lemire, there are even tools for combat that can assist members with disabilities in passing courses. Something that was unheard of 15 or 20 years ago.

“We’ve gotten much, much smarter. And it’s also what’s key to us is improving access for persons with disabilities,” he said.

Working alongside local partners such as Deaf Access Simcoe Muskoka and the Canadian Mental Health Association, WO Stoodley and LCol Lemire have been able to extend support for military families with disabilities beyond the base.

One way that DAGPWD amplifies the voices of members with disabilities is by inspiring them through a celebration on International Persons with Disabilities Day. This year, on 23 January at 0930 hrs, a flag raising will occur at the North Gate of CFB Borden and followed by a speaking event at the Waterloo Officer’s Mess between 1300 and 1530 hrs.

Keynote speakers include two inspiring individuals who have overcome or gained assistance with the disabilities they were born with or accumulated in adulthood. Forest Willett and Heather Tennant’s stories are sure to inspire, so be sure to stop by and listen in.

The International Persons with Disabilities Day is more than an event, but it reflects the collective effort of CFB Borden’s DAGPWD to build an inclusive environment for members and their families. This day represents a step forward in acknowledging the abilities of all CAF members.

By: Caleb Hooper