leadership

Andrea van Vugt

Andrea van Vugt

Andrea van Vugt wants Canada to hear honest stories about the reality of living with a disability – regardless of what the disability is.

“The different disability groups sometimes can stay within their own circles. I think that this is a conversation that we can all have together,” Andrea says.

As the founder and president of the Disability Pride Alberta Foundation, Andrea has formed relationships with people who have various disabilities, and also held public education and awareness events about disability. The non-profit organization helps educate the public about the range of disabilities, empowers the disability community, and celebrates people with disabilities. It also runs a website with articles about how disability impacts people’s lives, written by people in the disability community

Not all stories about disability are easy to tell. Andrea knows talking about the financial poverty and hardship many people with disabilities experience can be difficult, and that it can be risky to leave social assistance programs. She received Canadian Pension Plan Disability benefits for many years after she
was diagnosed with epilepsy at 19. She later decided to return to school, which enabled her to find full-time employment.

“It’s really hard to get out of poverty, and you can’t always get out of it,” she explains. “You’re taught that the harder you work, the more you get. But that’s not how it is because sometimes where you’re at is situational and you can’t always choose the situation.”

Andrea says a national benefit is an important aspect of equality. “Equality includes wellness and wellness has to include finances, independence, confidence,” she says.

Andrea completed a diploma in business administration at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 2015. In 2017, she earned a degree in Business Administration – Management from Mount Royal University with minors in Social Innovation and Non-profit studies. She is pursuing a master’s degree in
community development from the University of Victoria. She lives with her husband in Calgary, Alberta.