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Disability flag raised at Charlottetown City Hall for the first time

The idea to have the disability flag raised came from UPEI student Antwaun Rolle, who has cerebral palsy.  (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
The idea to have the disability flag raised came from UPEI student Antwaun Rolle, who has cerebral palsy. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

A UPEI student led the charge to have the disability flag raised for the first time at Charlottetown City Hall to recognize the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is Dec. 3.

Antwaun Rolle is studying political science at UPEI and has cerebral palsy. He approached the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. to see if they could help him organize the flag-raising.

"For me personally as a disabled person, I think to be celebrated and to be recognized is something that's very important," said Rolle.

"I hope that this does not just stop at the City of Charlottetown. I hope it goes to New Brunswick. I hope it goes to … the politicians in Ottawa."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

The flag has bands of gold, silver and bronze, each representing a different type of disability: physical, mental and sensory, said Rolle.

The city raised the flag Thursday, after a planning committee made up of many different Island advocacy groups organized the event.

"[Antwaun] came to me and said, 'I have this idea, can you help me?'" said Tamara Steele, executive director of the Black Cultural Society of P.E.I.

"Even though it's not specific to our mandate, we thought, this is a person in our community, a person who does live with a disability."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Every group of people has disabled people within that group, said Steele.

"We thought this would be a really good opportunity to show some support to our disabled community, but to the disabled community at large here in P.E.I.," she said.

New coalition formed

Steele helped organize the planning committee, which included representatives from ResourceAbilities, Spinal Cord Injury P.E.I., the P.E.I. Cerebral Palsy Association, UPEI Accessibility Services, the UPEI Student Union, and PEERS Alliance.

Together, the groups formed a new coalition called Disability CARE P.E.I., to represent Islanders with disabilities. CARE stands for celebration, awareness, representation and education, said Steele.

"Disability can impact anyone at any time. Even if it doesn't impact you today, it might impact you tomorrow," she said.

"I just felt really proud to see [Rolle] take the lead and do something that meant so much to him."

'I felt isolated'

Rolle grew up in the Bahamas, where he said there were struggles because of his cerebral palsy.

"I really didn't have access to good health care. So it was really hard," he said.

"It was hard to make friends because a lot of people probably didn't understand my disability and what I dealt with, and so I felt isolated."

Rolle has now been on P.E.I. for four years as a student, and said the environment at UPEI is very supportive of his disability.

He said getting around the city can be challenging, however, including the way sidewalks are designed and getting into some restaurants.

"I do think there can be many improvements around the city for accessibility," said Rolle.

Rolle and the rest of the committee have also organized an event at UPEI on Saturday Dec. 3, to raise awareness of people with disabilities.

The panel discussion and Q&A session is at The Fox and Crow café and pub at 2 p.m.

"I've noticed that a lot of people are afraid to ask certain questions. So this is the time where we could let down those walls," said Rolle.