Rabia Khedr has more than 25 years of experience in community organizing, including extensive work for disability justice causes, at local, provincial and national levels.
“When it came to (financial) supports for able-bodied people, the sky was the limit,” she says of government responses during the pandemic. “But when it comes to people with disabilities, it’s just filled with bars that can’t be pushed up. There’s barriers.”
“Every obstacle is an opportunity to do something different,” she says. Rabia is the CEO of DEEN Support Services, a disability support organization created by Muslim Canadians that supports people in Ontario, and a consultant with diversityworX, a company that trains organizations in cultural competency and accessibility. She is the founder of Race and Disability Canada and previously served as commissioner on the Ontario Human Rights Commission. She is also a member of the National Disability Advisory Group organized by Minister of Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough and also sits on the board of Accessibility Standards Canada. She was awarded the Queen Elizbeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
Born in Pakistan, Rabia moved to Canada at age 4. Rabia is passionate about involving all people with disabilities in planning and policy work, especially those who are racialized. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown people with disabilities are often forgotten in emergency planning and relief measures.
Rabia is excited to help bring people with varied experiences together to create a benefit that improves the quality of life for all people with disabilities. As a blind woman and family member to people with intellectual disabilities, she knows how social barriers make it more costly to live with a disability.
“I strongly feel that there has to be a ‘new normal’ defined post-pandemic and I want to be a part of defining it,” Rabia says. “There’s no going back – it’s going forward. We need to go forward with something new, something fresh, something better for everybody. This national disability benefit is just one aspect of that ‘better’ for people with disabilities.”
Rabia has a bachelor of art’s degree from the University of Toronto and a master of art’s degree from York University. She and her husband live with their four young adult children in Mississauga, in a house they bought from her parents more than 20 years ago. The couple can be found pursuing their pandemic-inspired hobby of tandem biking throughout the city.