A number of months ago I decided to discontinue these posts. To be honest I wasn’t seeing much sense to them anymore. I wasn’t sure how many people were actually listening. The changes happening under the current government appear to be just speeding up the erosion process. The only time I ever hear Harper making any type of comment on disability and rights seems to be only for photo ops while programs disappear.
When I see $6.6 million tax dollars earmarked for programming within the disabled community being considered elapsed because no one qualified for it, I sit up and take notice. When 1758 applications are rejected you better pay attention. Compassion and understanding is draining out of this country faster than the air in a wheelchair tire at -30 Celsius (based on my own experience that’s about 120 seconds) and walking away from it won’t make anything better.
Everything I feel to the core of my being and every belief I have taken up the mantle for in my lifetime now looks more like the residing tide in Tofino following a surfer competition. Fifty years as an activist and I continue to see the same barriers thrown in front of me everyday. It was just becoming overwhelming and this feeling, under Harper, has grown into a constant throbbing that is more reminiscent of an abscess tooth than failing democracy.
A couple of things have happened since then which lead me to believe I may have been premature. First I would like to thank those faithful readers who have contacted me with encouragement to continue. Some even donated a few bucks to help keep things going. Apparently some people are listening.
It was sixty years ago this month that I was a March of Dimes Poster Child. In that sixty years I have fought hard for my personal independence and for a more inclusive society. One of the recurring themes of my activism has always been access. I grew up in a children’s hospital at a time in our history where access and inclusion were not even thoughts let alone practices. This was why you grew up in hospitals.
School, activities (Cubs, Scouts, Brownies, Guides, etc) were part of our life there. This was a time when your parents could only visit twice a week for an hour each time. That wasn’t considered cruel, we were kept very busy. Our family really became those other polio patients since most of us would be in there for the entire school year.
The other kids in the hospital were more of a family than my blood. That is apparent today when I talk about access. I have spend my life fighting for physical access and yet I have five siblings as well as a son who live in non-accessible housing. I am trying not to sound bitter here but I have been through this conversation with a couple of my siblings and to them it is “just Terry raising shit again”.
My own behaviours have become a two sided sword. I have worked hard to get people to look past the disability and see the person. It turns out I was so successful at that that I have allowed the need for accommodation and assistance to become a non-issue. It isn’t a non-issue and the adoption of that believe is nothing short of apathy. And it’s that creeping apathy that is becoming a major contributor to the erosion of the rights I fought so hard for in my early life. IMHO PM Harper has decided to capitalize on this apathy to dismantle democracy and democratic process. I can’t sit back and be part of that.
I spend most of my 20’s and 30’s involved with all kinds of committees promoting barrier free access, rights for the disabled and increased opportunity for community inclusion. I use this history to contribute to the materials I share in these blogs and it is that personal experience that helps me with some of the insight needed. It does help my faith in others to have people coming forward and asking me to continue with this blog. The comments and compliments on my knowledge base is truly humbling. With the current erosions of democracy and rights I see going on around me, rights I have spend years fighting for, have me convinced that now is not the time to be walking away from activism.
I have fought hard over the years for equal access and the attached video shows just how seriously or how much real thought is put into access. I had friends visiting from Calgary recently and they shot this little bit of video wheeling down the street in Nanaimo. I have become so use to telephone poles being in the middle of the sidewalk that it doesn’t always register with me. Now that I look at the video I realize we still have a long way to go.
The national building code was amended in 1976 to incorporate a set of access standards into the build environment and yet I continue to run into barriers (physical) daily. Attitudinal barriers is a whole other issue but I will save those to deal with in future articles. It is way too complicated for one article but I will provide an example.
I have spend almost fifty years fighting for and defending physical access. I have five siblings and a son/grandson. Not one of these people have an accessible home. I have not been able to visit a family member in over fifteen years without crawling up the stairs on my hands and knees, something I could do at one point but doesn’t work as well now that I am approaching 65. The joints and muscles just don’t work the way they use to.
With that said I have spend a good part of my life making my own accommodations. When I attended a function that was being held in a non-accessible venue I would accommodate by dragging my ass up those stairs. All I hear from people is “you use to do it”. It is human nature to measure people based on past accomplishments and behaviours regardless of changing circumstances. I was very good at setting the bar high. Nothing would negate everything I have tried to accomplish over the past fifty years faster than me just quitting and I will not be the vehicle of my own demise.
I am back and again I thank those who encouraged me to continue with these articles. I am recognizing the amount of work still ahead for the community of individuals with disabilities as we age. We are now hitting ages that forty years ago were unheard of. We have a government that hasn’t prepared for the non-disabled senior so good luck to those with disabilities.
One other change that has encouraged me to continue was the Alberta election. I congratulate Alberta for getting rid of a political dynasty dinosaur with not only a new government but one that nobody in the country thought could win in Alberta. Not only did they win but they did so with gusto, nothing really close about it. So to quote Alexander Pope “hope springs eternal in the human breast”. I think the Alberta experience has brought hope to many Canadians who believed democracy was being taken away from us. Lets see what happens in October with our federal election.
Just one man’s opinion