Anti-ableism campaign launches with red chairs on campus

With words such as race, disability and gender identity boldly scrawled across the bright red plastic, the eye-catching chairs now found around campus are meant to be hard to miss.

They are intended to spark important but challenging discussions as part of an anti-ableism campaign launched Tuesday, Sept. 10 by Brock’s Office of Human Rights and Equity with the support of Facilities Management.

Now found in the Matheson Learning Commons, Jubilee Court and by the Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock statue in front of Schmon Tower, the chairs are a tool to discuss how human rights intersect in the lives of various members of the Brock community. The words on the chairs come from the protected grounds of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Part of the #rethinktheprethink initiative, sets of red chairs can now be found in Jubilee Court, the Matheson Learning Commons and at the Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock statue in front of Schmon Tower.

“The project’s main goal is to get people talking about how human rights impact them, and to start thinking about how many of the words on the chairs reflect their personal identity,” said Christopher Lytle, the University’s Accessibility and Inclusion Advisor. “By creating spaces for intentional public use, we are hoping to start conversations about intersectionality.”

Anyone seated in or adjacent to a specially-marked chair is inviting a conversation that can be based on any topic, as long as it is respectful and non-discriminatory. Users of the chairs should be open to having challenging conversations.

The initiative, dubbed #rethinktheprethink, will run at Brock until the end of September.

The hope is that the chairs will bring to light discrimination experienced by people with disabilities in particular, Lytle said. Disability is still largely misunderstood and, when it is involved in conversation, often takes the form of accommodation or accessibility issues.

The initiative aims to encourage discussions of ableism in order to reflect on the fact that disability is a subject of discrimination imbedded within society, daily routines and in the way society collectively views what is valid in regards to participation.

More information on Brock’s Office of Human Rights and Equity is available online.

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