Riia’s Story

Riia Talve is a BC self-advocate who aims to raise awareness and inclusion of the vulnerable and marginalized members of our society. Born an artist, she uses art, photography and public speaking to share and express her experiences growing up with a learning disability.

“Citizenship, to me, means to be treated like everybody else, to be able to do everything like everybody else. Citizenship is belonging to society and being recognized as a person” – Riia

In an interview, she provided valuable personal meanings of inclusion and citizenship. With her experiences growing up, she sees inclusion as a gift because not everyone is provided the opportunities to feel included in society. She emphasizes the value of having the rights to be treated like everybody else, regardless of one’s abilities and circumstances.

When asked about a time when she felt included, she shares her experiences at Emily Carr University. Through the support of STEPS Forward, a family-driven organization that ensures full inclusion and participation of people with developmental disabilities in post-secondary education in BC, Riia attended Emily Carr University of Art and Design for four years and completed a Fine Arts certificate. She shares,

“when I went to Emily Carr, I was treated like every other student. I have the same class work; I have the same projects. Nothing made me stand out. I was included and accepted just like everybody else”.

To Riia, being a citizen not only means having the freedom to choose and be treated equally, but it also means treating everybody with respect and standing up for those who are being excluded and left behind. Asked if she will vote in the 2019 Federal Election, Riia responds, “I probably will”. She adds,

“It’s a right to be able to decide whether you want to vote or not and it’s a human right to be able to choose who you want in government [and] to be able to have that choice whether you have a disability or no disability”.

Riia’s life experiences continually motivate her to pursue a career as an artist and a public speaker. She has had numerous showings of her artwork, interviews and public speaking engagements that highlight her resiliency and self-determination as she has overcome the challenges and barriers she was faced with. One of her creations was the artwork for the “7 Keys to Citizenship”, a poster presented by InclusionBC and the UBC Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship in celebration of the 2015 BC Community Living Month.

As a self-advocate, Riia is passionate about helping other people through sharing her stories and art. She would love to be on the Ellen DeGeneres Show one day to share her life stories to its audience. She also hopes to provide inspiration at a global level through public speaking, promoting and displaying her artwork, and reaching out to people with disabilities in other countries. Ultimately, she shares, “[I hope] to help as many people as I can on a global basis, to help inner city schools and the poor with food and other supplies we take for granted”. To support her cause, she will continue to create more projects and sell some of her art pieces on her website at www.riiaphotography.com.

“I like people to know to never give up, to always try their hardest and try their best”, – Riia