Recent News

Recent News

VHA PSWs Help Make Pride Toronto an Inclusive and Accessible Event for All

July 8, 2024
PSWs helping during the 2024 Toronto Pride Parade

The Pride Toronto Festival Weekend is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity, beauty and progress of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. As the biggest pride event in North America, Pride Toronto is also a chance to acknowledge the ongoing challenges faced by 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and to serve as a reminder of the work ahead.

At the heart of Pride celebrations is the idea of inclusivity and accessibility, but any celebration of this scale can pose significant barriers for people living with disabilities. Pride Toronto has been committed to making this event as accessible as possible and has created partnerships with community organizations to support their mission.

Accessibility services include Personal Support Workers (PSWs) to assist guests and participants, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, free mobility device rentals, designated accessibility viewing areas and quiet spaces to escape over-stimulation. Many of these inclusive measures are made possible by volunteer and community support.

“We are pleased and proud that once again, VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) was asked by Pride Toronto to help make the Pride Toronto Festival accessible with the support of VHA PSWs,” said Adam Benn, Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“Everyone should be able to participate in and enjoy this celebration of joy and acceptance. We are so pleased that VHA team members contributed their time to help ensure that Pride activities do not exclude any person due to visible or invisible barriers,” Adam added.

Over the 2024 festival, which ran from Friday, June 28 to Sunday, July 1, eight VHA PSWs helped make Pride Toronto a more welcoming and inclusive event.

PSW volunteers during the 2024 Pride Parade in Toronto

Volunteers during the 2024 Pride Parade in Toronto

Sita Sangroula, a VHA PSW who keeps coming back each year to be part of the Accessibility Services Team, sees this as a win-win opportunity. “It’s amazing to connect with like-minded people who are passionate about equality, diversity and spreading love. I truly have a blast and it’s wonderful to know that you are also having such a positive impact,” Sita said.

Volunteer Attendant Care Workers are based at the Accessibility Services Hub (ASH) on Wellesley St. E. and are also placed throughout the festival at performance stages, on parade routes and other designated locations to support the diverse needs of attendees and participants.

“At Pride I assist individuals with mobility issues, help connect guests in need of assistive devices, guide attendees to accessible bathrooms, help them access snacks and water and address other health concerns,” said VHA’s Aliza Bishwokarma. “I see first-hand how this support really creates a welcoming and supportive environment at Pride, which is what this event is all about.”

After three consecutive years as an Attendant Care Worker at the festival, VHA PSW Joie Francisco, commented that helping out at Pride means a lot to her. “VHA is an organization that supports many clients and families who are a part of the Toronto-area 2SLGBTQIA+ community. I always think about my clients who feel excluded in many ways due their disability and sexual orientation.”

“Every life holds so much value and everyone deserves to be happy, seen and heard. I see it as my purpose to support people from all walks of life,” Joie said. “I also just love being at Pride because it’s so fun and the energy, positivity and community connection is like nothing else.”

Pride Weekend is a celebration of love, identity and community, “but for VHA it’s also about decreasing health barriers and disparities experienced by members of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities—including those living with disabilities—and their allies,” said Adam Benn.

“The contributions of our PSWs at Pride are a reminder of the impact of combined efforts and how we are always stronger collectively,” he said.