Get to know ABLE2’s CAC Members: Stacey Bielaski (CAC Profile)

ABLE2’s Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) was organized in 1991 in an effort to provide client-centered input to the board, that represents the interests of people living with disabilities. The committee also engages in opportunities for its members to be involved in ABLE2’s advocacy work. Currently sitting as Chair is Stacey Bielaski, a long-time program beneficiary and supporter of ABLE2, and an inspiring force to be reckoned with. 

Stacey, who grew up in Barrie, Ontario, was discovered to have a learning disability when she was in grade 1. Her parents enrolled her in a school that offered special education, where she was able to successfully learn how to read and write. However, that was cut short as their family moved to Ottawa Valley, and Stacey was enrolled in a public school where special Education was inclusive. She had mixed experience in the public school system; in high school, Stacey was able to take classes she was interested in and had some freedom to enjoy learning activities. When her family moved again, the new school she was placed in no longer offered the same freedom. She was not able to take classes she was interested in, and her year in grade 9 from the previous year was not credited, so she repeated the grade again when she should have been in grade 10. Stacey says, “I am glad we have a special education system, but I think they need to work better in the school system.” From her experience, she felt that her educators did not see her potential and was disengaged with the kind of treatment she received from her school. “Students in the special education [program should be seen] as people that have [abilities] to learn, and grow into incredible, smart, valuable members of society. We deserve education as much as the other students in the school system,” says Stacey.

Nevertheless, she overcame the challenges, and “…pushed myself knowing that I could do it, [knowing that] people believed in me,” says Stacey. When she moved to Ottawa and changed to a different school once more, Stacey persevered and received her Highschool Diploma. 

“I wanted to prove them wrong; I believe that I can do anything I put my mind to do.”

When asked about the bigger challenges she has faced as someone living with a disability in the community, Stacey says, “People could be more understanding and respectful. Sometimes they don’t understand what I’m going through. I try to understand where they’re coming from as well.” She also encounters obstacles like learning a new bus route for work and trying to get to the right place on time, managing her finances and paying her bills on time, and eating healthier. 

Despite these, Stacey keeps an open mind and continues to overcome the hurdles, armed with a positive attitude and happy disposition. She joined the CAC in 2018 and has been involved with ABLE2’s programs since then. Stacey says that she is grateful for the chance to meet other people with disabilities who also want to make a difference in the community. She says that being involved with ABLE2’s work inspires her, as it is “an organization that makes a difference in people with disabilities, [and] see their value in our society,” says Stacey. She is proud to be part of the ABLE2 community, especially after being invited to the Senate of Canada, with Senator Chantal Petitclerc recognizing ABLE2’s work in her statement for International Day of Persons with Disabilities on November 30, 2023. 

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When asked why more people should get involved with ABLE2, Stacey says, “ABLE2 is a good organization. They want to help people with disabilities live their best lives.” 

Stacey’s dreams and aspirations include becoming a great leader. “[I’ve] always felt [that] I wanted to make a difference in other people with disabilities, showing that their lives are valuable. [I want to] make our voice [be] heard in the community. I am very passionate about [letting] other people with disabilities know that their voices matter, that they are valuable, and worthy of an incredible life,” says Stacey. She also looks forward to being independent, having her own place to call home, and getting a college diploma in Journalism. 

“I am excited for my future; the sky has no limit. I am looking forward to doing some college courses. Education is very important to me. I am realizing [that] I deserve and have a right to make my dreams come true,” says Stacey.