leadership

Claire Li

Clare Li

Clare Li believes the most painful part of living with a disability is trying to manage it all alone.

Even with her full-time job and benefits, she still struggles at times to afford the medication, physiotherapy, and paramedical requirements she needs because of a mobility disability, caused by a combination of two types of autoimmune arthritis and nerve damage.

“Not everybody has a decent support system,” Clare says. “Definitely not everybody has a financial support system.”

While Clare has learned to rely on her friends for help when she needs it, she knows many people struggle to ask for help. Clare was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis as a child. While it affected her ability to walk and resulted in constant pain, it was episodic, and often misunderstood. This made it difficult for her to explain to others what she needed.

“There’s always a baseline undercurrent of dull pain,” she says. “But I’ve been able to shut it off in my head.”

In her early 30s, a medical flare-up resulted in 18 months with a cast on her left leg. Concurrently she was diagnosed osteonecrosis in her left femur and another autoimmune condition, Ankylosing Spondylitis. A few years later, her hip was finally replaced. Then, as her mobility improved, Clare learned she had breast cancer. In the past, she had tried to hide her disability and wanted to do everything on her own. Cancer forced her to rely on those around her – and she saw her friends and family support her in numerous ways. This showed her that trying to do everything on her own would make things worse, and that changing her attitude about her disability was key to making progress.

“Disability is just something that impedes a person from participating in daily interactions or activities without a little bit of help,” Clare explains, remembering how she used to hesitate to say that she has a disability.

“There was an attitude shift. I started to realize that every human being has so much more they could offer the world if they had a little bit of help,” Clare says. “To me, having a disability benefit will provide people with that little bit of help, and take a little bit of stress off their plate.”

Clare was born and raised in Vancouver, B.C., but has proudly called Montreal home since 2005. She graduated from Concordia University in 2008 with a degree in sociology and French. Clare works in procurement for the
aviation industry and has a passion for bringing human rights and sustainability practices to her work. She enjoys biking around Montreal, boxing and feeding her friends homemade dumplings.