The second annual We Belong! Market features over 20 talented disabled and neurodivergent artists and entrepreneurs. The market offers a diverse range of products including soap, jewellery, pins, stickers, pottery, greeting cards, and art prints. It will be held on August 26 at Marpole Neighborhood House in Vancouver. The venue is fully accessible, and admission is free.
Sisters Margaux and Becky Wosk created the event to dispel stereotypes surrounding disability and neurodivergence and challenge preconceptions about what disabled people can achieve. Margaux, an autistic and neurodivergent small business owner, is a self-taught artist, designer, writer, content creator, Etsy shop owner, and disability rights activist and advocate.
Margaux’s small business called Retrophiliac specializes in enameled pins, pendants, and patches and has products in 50 stores in Canada and the U.S. Their accessibility pride pin is currently available on the Vancouver Museum website. They will also be featured in a documentary on the Our Community program airing on AMI on August 31, discussing disability and accessibility issues. This original series highlights the people, places, or organizations that help enrich the lives of Canadians with disabilities.
“Having the market helps bring awareness to the amazing talent we have in the city and province, which is not being tapped into. Many disabled people do not have the chance to get out of poverty to support themselves. Self-employment is important to people who are autistic”, says Wosk.
Unfortunately, there are no employment programs available specifically for disabled adults. Wosk suggests that the government consider providing grants and mentorships, possibly through Small Business B.C. or WorkSafeBC. While there are subsidies available for large companies to hire disabled employees, none exist for self-employed entrepreneurs.
The first market was launched last year with a vibrancy grant from the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association in a paved park spot between Hastings and Cordova, free of charge to makers.
Although it was the second time the event was planned, “It was harder than last year. This year, it was hard to secure funding and find an accessible venue. Last year we got a public space vibrancy grant from the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, but this year we did not. We received some funding from Inclusion BC, and this year we are charging vendors $30 to participate”, says Margaux Wosk.
Public space vibrancy grants provide up to $2,500 to enhance downtown Vancouver spaces. Activities can include fitness classes, dance performances, art installations, education, or craft markets.
Inclusion BC is a non-profit provincial organization that advocates for the rights and opportunities of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Members include people with intellectual disabilities, their families, and supporting organizations.
One of the barriers that make it difficult for disabled artists to participate in craft shows is high fees. Many markets in Vancouver are not accessible and charge too much, according to Wosk. Some events charge vendors over $200 to rent a table.
Sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are available by contacting the event’s email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or their Facebook or Instagram pages. There is also a Go Fund Me page with a goal of raising $3000 towards the $2,205 cost of hosting the event.
The organizers are unsure if they will be able to host future events. In order for the market to happen in the future, corporate or community partnerships are needed, and reasonably priced or donated space.
Date: Saturday, August 26
Time: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Marpole Neighborhood House, 8585 Hudson Street, Vancouver