Noor Shaker is a 15-year-old teenager with cerebral palsy living in Port Coquitlam, BC, who decided she wanted to make a difference with how people with disabilities live an everyday life. She is a part of the StrongerBC Young Leaders Council, which has given her opportunities to talk to other youths who also want to create a better world for young people living in British Columbia. In June of this year, she was interviewed by Alexis to discuss accessibility issues and how making a difference, even a small one, is important. In this interview, she shares her experience with talking to Premier John Horgan, as well as how education needs to change to include more accessibility.
Alexis: Welcome everyone, my name is Alexis Folk, and I am your proud host of the Meeting Mighty People podcast. Today I am pleased to introduce Noor, who lives with cerebral palsy. Noor is a cool person. Join us to learn more about Noor. Now let’s get on with the show. Hello Noor, tell us a bit about yourself and your passions.
Noor: Hi Alexis, thanks for having me. So my name is Noor, and I live with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy affects my legs mainly, so I spend most of my time rolling around in the outdoors.
Alexis: Great. What barriers have you faced living with cerebral palsy?
Noor: Most of my barriers have been accessibility barriers around school: not being able to open doors or not being able to get around because of the lack of funding when it comes to accessibility and getting mobility aids. I had to wait three years to get an electric chair, and I only recently got that in 2020. That’s been a huge issue – getting equipment and living in an accessible world.
Alexis: Right? Tell us about what’s inaccessible to you.
Noor: The sidewalks around my city are often too bumpy and narrow for me to use, or if I do I’m bumping around. Or at school there’s some doors – for example, my gym door – that I can’t get through without having someone open it because it’s not automatic.
Alexis: So the true barrier is independence here.
Alexis: What has spurred you on to becoming a political activist?
Noor: Almost ten years in the school system and I’ve seen a lot of talk from government officials but no action from them about how they’re going to support students with disabilities or they’re going to provide more funding or do this and that with no action from them since they got elected. I wanted to be a part of something that makes change happen.
Alexis: Wonderful! Right? Isn’t that kind of slilly?
Noor: I often say, “Most fairy tales don’t begin with ‘once upon a time’. They begin if I get elected.
Alexis: Right? I’ve had to advocate within my own town to get my own bathroom doors put in my school so that I could have proper access to the washroom.
Noor: And it’s not just physical barriers like doors or stuff like that. There are barriers to get an EA [Educational Assistant] with me to walk in gym because the school is so understaffed and they’re not paid enough and nobody in the education system is paid enough. Nobody is supported in the education system. So another issue that I am advocating for is getting more support for K-12 staff and students with disabilities. Because how are we supposed to support them when our educators are burnt out and have little to no support?
Alexis: Right? That’s kind of silly. I hear that you have been a big part in advocating for access inclusion for everyone, and you have spoken to the BC Government about this important topic. Can you please tell us a little bit about this meeting?
Noor: So yeah, I was in Victoria from May 11 to 14, and I met with many different MLAs like Finn Donnelly and Brittny Anderson for Nelson-Creston, and near the end I met with the Premier and I had a chance to ask him a question, which was “Who is responsible for funding with people with disabilities?” And his answer was himself, like the Premier is responsible for that funding, and I asked him when he planned on implementing that funding, and if that’s possible. The answer he gave me that Ottawa doesn’t give him enough money, so he has to bug Ottawa for it, but in my opinion, if he’s building a museum that costs us millions of dollars, he can invest some money into accessibility.
Alexis: Right? That must have been an interesting experience.