Newcomer accessibility program

Last October, MOSAIC launched the Accessibility for Newcomers Program, an innovative new program that will enhance accessibility for immigrants, refugees and newcomers in the Lower Mainland.

Funded by the City of Vancouver in accordance with their new Accessibility Strategy, the innovative program will connect newcomers with disabilities to employment and disability support services while working to create a local network of accessibility and settlement service providers.

The program offers one-on-one sessions and outreach support as well as language assistance and cultural interpretation which are necessary to participate in settlement and employment programs usually designed for local-born English speakers.

“It’s so important to have a program like this that is specifically designed for newcomers with disabilities so that services can be provided in a culturally appropriate manner,” says Sam Nikmanesh, MOSAIC’s Newcomers with Disabilities referral specialist.

MOSAIC offers one-on-one support and outreach to other programs | Photo courtesy of MOSAIC

Nikmanesh, who is visually impaired, works with clients with disabilities to co-create ‘service connection plans’ to ensure necessary language and cultural support when accessing employment programs, informational workshops, legal clinics and other disability services.

Advocacy is another crucial aspect of the program. The program focuses on promoting a unified network of Vancouver’s accessibility and settlement service providers. It also aims to bring the intersection of disability and (re)settlement experiences to have an impact on all policy and partnership discussions – especially when implementing Vancouver’s new Accessibility Strategy.

Services are available at MOSAIC as one-on-one support and outreach to other programs.

About Vancouver’s Accessibility Strategy

“Accessibility means being able to reach, understand, contribute to and use the places, information, and services in our city” – City of Vancouver.

Adopted in July 2022, the Accessibility Strategy reflects the city’s commitment to support the full participation of persons with disabilities. The strategy establishes and maintains inclusive services, programs, and infrastructure, and aims to remove and prevent identified barriers. Developed in tandem with the Equity Framework and the Healthy City Strategy, the Accessibility Strategy means to also align with the Vancouver Plan and the City of Reconciliation framework.

For the purposes of their strategy, the term ‘persons with disabilities’ is used to reference the complexity and diversity of these lived experiences. The city defines persons with disabilities as “those who experience physical, mental health, cognitive, communication, intellectual, sensory, or age-related impairments, whether they are seniors, others with age-related impairments, or people with lived experience of mental health concerns or substance use issues.”

All in all, the strategy strengthens the recognition of the rights, dignity and independence of people with disabilities residing in local communities. It fortifies the city’s ability to stimulate a culture of equity and inclusion that values and includes all residents, visitors and employees. It also takes into consideration the multiple identities that intersect to make us who we are and how experiences differ depending on factors such as disability, age, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality and gender identity.

Vancouver’s Accessibility Strategy also includes the addition of curb cuts on sidewalks, audible signals on crosswalks, an amelioration of parking options and an expansion to employment opportunities.

“We are working with local accessibility partners to strengthen and collaborate on advocacy efforts in order to provide the best possible support for newcomers with disabilities,” says Hugo Velazquez, senior manager of Community Engagement, Refugees and Migrant Workers Programs at MOSAIC.

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