A new program at the Alberta Legislature has made the Page Program more inclusive.
The Associate Page Program was launched at the end of October and the first Page with a disability was hired.
St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud spend the last year-and-a-half working with the Speaker’s Office to help make the Page Program more inclusive.
Pages are high school students who work with the Legislative Assembly to deliver messages, distribute documents and work supporting ceremonies and special events. The new Page was hired as an Associate Page and has support staff to help learn the role.
“I think it creates a picture for people and it brings attention to the fact that people with disabilities … have so much to offer. They are a person first and it’s not about the disability. This is just a way of promoting that and for people to see that there is a lot of value in hiring a person with a disability,” Renaud said.
All of the Pages work part time, around three shifts per week, including the new Associate Page.
So far Renaud said that she has heard good feedback from the other Pages and said she believes the new Page is fitting in well.
Inclusion Alberta, an advocacy program that helps support children and adults with disabilities, was brought in to help create the program. The organization came in to do a job study to assess the tasks the Pages perform to help recruit a Page that would be the right fit for the job.
Renaud said that opportunities like this for people with disabilities do not come up often or enough.
“The sad reality for people with disabilities in Alberta is that 80 per cent of those who want to work or who can work are unemployed,” Renaud said.
Renaud said that the program rolled out quietly this session because they did not want to bring any extra unwanted attention to the new Page.
“We didn’t want to single that person out. It can be pretty intimidating to be singled out that way,” Renaud said.
The MLA said that she hopes to see the program continue.
“If it were up to me, and in a perfect world, it wouldn’t be an Associate Page Program, it would just be the Page Program that was inclusive of all kinds of things, disability being one of them,” Renaud said.
Renaud believes this is the second inclusive Page Program in Canada and hopes that other legislatures will notice and introduce a Page Program of their own.
The St. Albert MLA has a history of advocating for people with disabilities. Before the was an MLA she was the executive director of the LoSeCa Foundation, which is a non profit association that provides support for people with disabilities. She is currently serving as the deputy chair and member of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.