Women of Vancouver – Karen Lai paves a pathway for inclusivity of people with disabilities

Karen Lai has been recognized by the YWCA of Metro Vancouver for her excellent work in the community. Lai is one of the 2020 nominees for the Women of Distinction Award in the Community Champion category.

At UBC, Lai earned a master’s degree in Human Kinetics, focusing on the role of adventure therapy and the inclusion of people with disabilities. In the recent past, she created and delivered the Face to Face Mentorship program for BC Centre for Employment Excellence. She matched people with disabilities to companies and organizations to practice their interview skills.

Contributions to the community

Karen Lai, one of the nominees for the 2020 Women of Distinction Award. | Photo courtesy of YWCA

Lai, now a trained facilitator, has been working for the Vancouver community assisting people with disabilities for more than 20 years. She describes her initial work in helping those with disabilities as ‘recreational programs.’ Lai’s contribution in this field has moved into helping people with disabilities find employment.

Currently working as an independent consultant, Lai specializes in accessibility and inclusivity. Most of her workshops include her as she role models vulnerability and curiosity and creates an environment that encourages questions and conversations based on her own life experience with cerebral palsy.

Lai works with multiple non-profit organizations, companies and municipalities to help them become more welcoming to people with disabilities in the community and in the workplace. Her work also includes making sure that people with disabilities are in fact being involved at the workplace. When hosting one of her workshops at Langara College, Lai was recommended to the YWCA for recognition.

Inclusion in its real meaning

Most of Lai’s work has been about including people with disabilities in the workplace or their community and making sure that they are included in the truest sense. Inclusion, as a term, is very open and is used quite frequently by all organizations, companies and businesses small or big to make each customer or employee feel welcomed.

But, what does inclusion truly mean?

“Valuing individuals and ensuring that they feel a sense of belonging,” answers Lai. “I think inclusion is about personal feelings. It is how well one feels valued and how well one belongs.”

In light of this lesson in value, Lai has been assisting organizations with the development of accessibility or inclusion plans so that everyone feels valued and, therefore, included in modern day workspaces of the city.

“[My main goal is to] increase community engagement and make their communities more physically accessible and welcoming for people with disabilities,” she says. “We have a long way to go.”

To find out more about Karen Lai, her involvement with the community and her workshops, please visit: www.inclusionaccessibility.com

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