That’s Budgeting…

I have been spending the last couple of days getting ready for the winter rains to begin.  I basically hibernate in the winter and don’t get out as much.  I haven’t worn shoes in years so when it’s raining my feet tend to drag through the puddles when I transfer from chair to car and no day is a good day when you start off with wet feet.  For that reason I do most of my running around on one of the infrequent sunny days we see on the Island during winter.  That was yesterday.

After a doctors appointment I headed over to my local market to do a bit of stocking up including the last of my prescriptions.  Now in BC we have a program known as PharmaCare which is aimed at helping with the cost of prescriptions.  It is need based so more beneficial to lower income but for more detail just click on the link I provided.  When you live in a budget conscious way, as I do, any little program like this helps with my personal budgeting so why doesn’t the government do the same?

Here’s the issue, the BC government insists everything they do is to improve the lives of all citizens of BC.  One of the ways they demonstrated this was the first increase in almost a dozen years to the provincial disability allowance.  Their generosity took somebody on disabilities benefits from the whopping $906/month to an earth shattering $983 thanks to a lotto size $77 increase.  Christy Clark milked every moment of press coverage available on how great the government was to the “poor disabled”.

What she wasn’t saying, but #socialmedia certainly picked it up, was the new charge of $52/month for a bus pass program that use to be covered by disability benefits.  This “generous” increase the BC government magnanimously granted those most in need  effectively isolated a whole a whole segment of the community.  My issue doesn’t involve disability rates or the spill over onto transportation but it does provide some insight into government mentality (or lack there of).  Sometimes mentality is confused with ideology… Continue reading “That’s Budgeting…”

The Decline of the Independence Empire

“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight” – Marcus Aurelius  

The end of the summer is upon us and fall is definitely in the air.  I know I haven’t published a thing in almost three weeks however I do have eight drafts on the go.  The diversity of topics could confuse the guest announcer at a formal function for multiple personalities so I better get a few finished.  Each is based on recent personal experiences which most people find depressing “small talk” and I can’t blame them.

Many of these personal experiences may be disturbing to some people so I do try to keep these topics out of my day to day chats but at the same time I need to express them.  Those of you out there in the know realize what we are experiencing may sound emotionally draining but try carrying all of that stuff bottled up inside.  So thank you faithful reader, for allowing me the ability to get some of these things off of my chest…

The last two weeks of August were very tumultuous and required some re-examination of some of my core beliefs.  As much as I hate to acknowledge it my ability to maintain my independence may be waning a bit.  For someone whose independence is almost sacrosanct that’s a hard one for me to swallow.  I have been aware of these decreasing abilities for some time now but chose to ignore them.  In retrospect the move from my crutches to total wheelchair dependence happened twenty years ago which is probably the same time some of the doubts I am now facing were planted.

I had a number of incidence in late August that has really brought this home to me.  All of them involved being stuck somewhere without my car and a wheelchair problem.  The last incident involved a flat wheelchair tire.  When you are sitting there with a completely flat tire without my car you can start to feel pretty vulnerable.  That feeling of isolation plus being unable to wheel without potentially destroying a perfectly good $1000 Spinergy Rim wheel was distressing.

Where's the dignity?
When dignity is tied to independence do you stay quiet?

It was probably the first time in my life that I felt truly helpless.  That feeling was fleeting but it had still cracked my psyche.  I have been a survivor for so long that feeling of helplessness was haunting.  After sitting there for a few minutes like an old buck caught in the headlights of that on-coming 18 wheeler it clicked that this was one of those moments when I could actually use my iPhone for the actual phone factor. Continue reading “The Decline of the Independence Empire”

Ms. Leitch Please…

I have been making a real effort to avoid any return to political blogging but this one I can’t let slide.

Choosing Ignorance
Why is it so much easier to choose ignorance rather than accept fact…

Ms. Leitch please, you went from asking what you referred to as a simple question regarding Canadian values to “enhance a unified Canadian identity“.  Words are powerful and emotive.  From a semantics perspective there is a big difference in the subtext of Canadian “values” and “identity”.  Hiding behind semantics to advance, what appears to be, a questionable agenda not only insults my intelligence, it also insults my “Canadian identity”.

I was born in Manitoba, grew up in Alberta, lived in Ontario (mainly Toronto) for three years, lived in Montreal for a year, Halifax for almost a year and 25 years in BC.  There is no such thing as a “single” Canadian identity.  There are many, many great Canadian values and for you to sully them under the guise of enhancing a unified Canadian identity requires that I speak out. Continue reading “Ms. Leitch Please…”

Pissed Me Off, Again

“A right must exist independently of its exercise,” – Rory O’Shea Was Here (2004)

I usually try to be polite and mature in my writings.  I try to be as factual as I can and hopefully eliminate as much of my own bias as possible.  Then there are days like today where I run across a story that just really pisses me off and I need to RANT.  These types of stories are showing up with increasing frequency and they all have a related theme.

12042646_10156796145460571_1826686942731217207_nOver the years I have watched as “words” have been redefined simply by being used out of context.  The context the word usage derived from may have changed altering the understanding of that word.   Definitions from thirty years ago may no longer be valid and yet we continue to build a legislative framework on those words.  I contributed fifty + years of my life to build an inclusive society and I know what the intent of all that work was.  I can no longer sit here like a “politically correct puppy dog” simply because I may benefit from some of these programs while my history is erased.

RANT – A story came to me today about a mother in Smith Falls, Ontario.  She has been tied up in the Human Rights process fighting for the rights of her son with Down Syndrome.  I have included the link to the story but here’s the long and short of it.  Her son is a 52 year old individual who has lived in the community most of his life.  He receives a certain level of support in the community to sustain his independence.

I am guessing mom is in her seventies so not really the stress she needs in her “retirement years” (for the record for some parents of children with disabilities there is no such thing as retirement).  Plus she was absorbing (and she admits a good bit of financial support from friends) that $1500/month additional cost that the government wouldn’t cover.  The governments own standards stated the son could have a home visit from a nurse four (4) times a day but not the fifth time.

To screw around a family for something as simple as the difference of one visit pisses the hell out of me.  A standard needs to be balanced with intent before being denied.  Behind every standard is a “legislative intent“, people tend to forget that.  A standard is simply a way to provide measurement or activity but intent is a way to adjust for circumstances.  Over the years I have watched as “intent” slowly disappears from decision making.  The intent behind home care for independent living is to allow people to stay in their community and that intent should hold some weight when determining needed hours of support. Continue reading “Pissed Me Off, Again”

Let It Come

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them” – George Eliot

The passing of Kenny Baker caught my attention this weekend and created a tsunami of thought.  Although I remember many of Kenny’s movies I also remember him as a voice that spoke for disability rights and acceptance.  He may have made the character of R2D2 an icon however his voice as an activist was shattering barriers rather than star troopers.  He was an important voice in a sea of marginalized people in a generation where the Vietnam protests overshadowed almost every social issue facing the world.  People like Kenny paved the road for inclusion.

Kenny lived 81 years with hypopituitarism, the cause of his dwarfism.  Forty years ago the idea of making it past 50 with this disorder was a challenge let alone 81 years.  Today, thanks to the efforts of the likes of Kenny, people with disabilities are far out-living prior expectations.  Death takes us all, you will be missed but your spirit and your contribution will live on through many of us.

Death is becoming much more prevalent in my life these days.  Getting old has some of its own realizations and receiving more funerals invites than wedding invitations these days speaks to the demographics of my social circle.

A very close friend of mine lost his younger brother to cancer about a week ago.  I’ve known Ken over 30 years but I didn’t really know his brother.  I knew his brother was very ill and the family was making the best of the time left but I didn’t realize he had passed away until I found out quite accidentally (and embarrassingly).  His brother was only 63 leaving his beloved wife and two adult children behind.

Ken and I keep regular contact however he’s in Calgary and I’m on the Island so we are not necessarily current on the day to day aspects of each others life.  I happened to send him an e-mail containing a short joke about a fellow whose buddy had passed away and was speaking to him from the beyond.  Ken, with his usual grace, got back to me commenting on the timeliness of the joke as he was busy composing the eulogy for his brothers service.  Boy did I feel like a schmuck but I know Ken well enough to understand his comment was very genuine.

How someone deals with death varies greatly however the underlying theme is well entrenched in the death and dying process described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross so I won’t bemoan it.  I sat with enough grieving families and individuals in my years as a hospital emergency social worker to know everyone grieves differently.  My job was to listen and provided comfort as needed. Continue reading “Let It Come”

Who Is the Choir?

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela 

What does it mean when someone says “you’re talking to the choir”?.  Lately when the conversation turns to access I get a lot of “it’s alright you are talking to the choir” comments until I ask them something like:

Me – “Okay where could I send a family who want their 17 year old son with Cerebral Palsy to learn to drive.  They can’t find drivers program with a hand-control vehicle.  Where would you suggest I send them?”

Choir – “Well I thought you were talking about access. Learning to drive has nothing to do with access”

Me – “I am talking access and it’s relationship to driving is access to service.  The need to access service is the backbone of an inclusive community.  Everything else, ramps, hand-controls, beeping crosswalks, etc are tools to meet an objective and that objective is access.”

Choir –  “Oh I thought you meant getting those buildings ramped properly and some accessible housing.”

Me – “Well that’s part of access.  I’m much more interested in accessing the services in the building.  As an example, ramping a library makes little difference to a visually impaired persons access, so why do we consider it accessible once a ramp is there?  A ramp is merely one tool that can be used for access but that tool isn’t the whole process.  There is a wide range of life requirements to live independently and by recognizing access as an attitude it is much easier to plan for an inclusive community.”

Is that really talking to the choir?  Access is a very complicated subject that has been watered down over the years by dividing the audience.  To me access is a thought process and needs to be incorporated into every step of a process. Continue reading “Who Is the Choir?”

Boundaries Keep Moving

“It’s not the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog that counts”

In my last post I mention two stories that had caught my attention and went on to explain one of them.  That was the story regarding the Quebec restaurant and the patron with a serious allergy situation.  I touched on the history of inclusive advocacy, reflected on terminology and presented my case for shared responsibility.

The second story has been spurred on by a recent event but one that has become reflective of societal thinking.  It’s a sensitive issue that pits various disability demographics against each other and that’s the topic of service dogs.  I cannot stress enough on the difference between a “service” animal and a “comfort” animal.

The recent event involved meeting up with a longtime friend for lunch and a beer.  Normally I wouldn’t reference his visual impairment because it has little to do with our friendship but is quite germane to the topic.  He has a service dog (Dusty).  I had called in advance to check on wheelchair accessibility and everything sounded fine except…the establishment didn’t understand that attending service animals are part of access.

After a brief discussion we entered and took a table.  The owner (I’m assuming the owner although he never actually used that title) approached us to apologize for the confusion with Dusty.  Now bare with me because this is my jaded side, his apology (appreciated) became a long story of justification.  I’m more and more convinced that people have forgotten how to just say “sorry” and move on when an apology has been expressed.  An extended narrative from basically a stranger is not required with an apology.

He did raise some very good points.  He explained previous experiences where customers have shown up with “a dog in a vest” but no licence for a service dog.  We discussed his knowledge base at running a restaurant, not a human rights office.  He’s kept busy making sure restaurant standards, food prep, sanitation, occupational health and safety, blah, blah, blah are maintain.  He runs an establishment where most animals are prohibited for food safety purposes so how is he to know which animal is which.  Unfortunately he is right.  A quick Google brought me over a million hits or I could order a service vest off of Amazon, no questions asked.  It is easy to understand his frustration and confusion.  He isn’t alone.

Service animal legislation tends to be provincial jurisdiction while what a service animal is happens to be defined in a number of pieces of national regulations.  In other words what you think is a service animal may, in fact, be a “comfort” animal and that is a whole different can of worms.  This is where conflict between disability demographics begins to raise its ugly head.  Restaurants Canada provides a rudimentary Best Practices sheet on what kind of legislation directs treatment of service animals. Continue reading “Boundaries Keep Moving”