Colour Me Pissed Off

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothings going to get better.  It’s not” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax  

I am so pissed off today it’s best I let the optics speak to my point otherwise my mouth will get me in trouble (yes the wisdom of age, knowing when to be silent).  As many of you know my position on access has created a bit of a differing of opinion between the City of Nanaimo and myself.  With that said I do believe in the process.  When I look back at my fifty years of fighting for all things access, what’s three years of disagreement with Nanaimo.  However this latest has just turned up my heat and welded the tea whistle shut.

A little over a year ago (June 2016) I was asked if I would do a bit of a wheel through one of Nanaimo’s larger parks and look at it from an access perspective.  I agreed because I would rather be part of the solution than the problem.  For those interested in seeing them, they are all on my YouTube channel under Colliery Dam Park.  In the process I came under attack by a handful of locals who don’t believe “nature parks” should have to be made accessible so I eventually stepped out of the process.  I have a certain “life balance” and it’s working for me so no need in letting a few social media trollers upset the apple cart.

The very first issue to be pointed out was lack of disabled parking.  I thought that would be an easy fix considering the parking lot was already paved.  A year later (a couple of days ago) I was receive a picture saying there was now a disabled parking logo in place and asking me what I thought.  I told the person I would take a drive up there and check it out.  Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day and a little wheel through the forest would have been nice.  I arrived to find a corner spot with the parking logo.  In reality they had painted the logo on a regular spot and call it the “wheelchair corner”.  Nice bright logo and not one apparent thought to dimensions.

It was pretty apparent from fifteen feet away this was no where near code (3700 mm or 12.14″ using inches).  It is not near wide enough and I have a small car.  Someone pulling up with a van is hooped.  Anyway I thought “well I do have a small car, let’s see how well this works”.


A half shot glass of common sense should have told the person that having raised concrete next to your door makes it much harder to transfer to a wheelchair.  Just painting the logo there doesn’t men it is an “accessible spot”.  Just because you saw some new piece of nice graffiti somewhere does not mean Picasso was just in town.

I am seeing an increase in signage expressing “disability friendly” but once you look at it (not always but it is a growing trend) the signage is there but not the standards.  I find this extremely upsetting because the messaging to the general public is these things are being taken care of.  Access is more than logos… COLOUR ME PISSED OFF


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One Voice Speaking

“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity” – Albert Einstein

SilenceIn light of the tragedy out of Charlottesville last week I feel the need to speak out a bit.  You cannot point at any one event that lead up to Charlottesville but silence and complacency went a long way to creating the conditions.  I am reminded every day by people I know very well just how disconnected many people are from much of the reality many of us face.  Denial is an easier bubble to live with when you avoid the realities of what is going on around you, it’s a good guilt alleviator.

I believe the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms comes with a sense of personal responsibility.  We do not have “freedom police” and we don’t need them if people speak up when they see rights being ignored.  If you are a responsible member of the community and have the ability to self-determine then you need to speak out.  Would you pass a grass fire by the side of some highway and not report it?  This same attitude is needed to avoid the erosion of the Charter.

We have a shared responsibility to protect our rights by using the due process that is available.  You can’t do that from inside your bubble of “privilege” regardless of what that privilege is.  A sense of privilege does not have to involve wealth, skin-colour, social standing or tribal mentality but it does require acknowledgement.  By recognizing your privilege you can step out of the comfort of your bubble by supporting the rights of those being marginalized by the erosion of their rights.  For the last fifty years mine has involved access in all of it’s forms.

To that end I attended a Nanaimo City Council meeting this past Monday to speak to the laws regarding accessibility.  I was thinking I would be speaking to the letter I send the City requesting a “Duty to Accommodate” an ongoing issue, closed captioning on Council meetings.  They broadcast them, they live stream them and they are available for archived viewing but none of them are closed caption.  Access, a federally mandated concept, can take many forms, is not restricted to the built environment and web accessibility is also an access issue. Continue reading

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Reliving the “Dream”…Access

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer” – Bruce Lee

Well let’s start off with the good news of the week.  The new BC government is re-instating the BC Human Rights “Commission” and it is about dam time.  The Liberals closed it down in 2002 leaving BC, a province that in the 70’s and 80’s was a beacon of human rights solutions, the only province in the country with no Commission.  The Tribunal process in itself was a discriminatory barrier, I know, I did one.  Having left government from a policy analyst’s position I was familiar with the paperwork required but god help those people that didn’t understand the system or knew how to interpret the process.  Anyway, congratulations Premier Horgan, good start.

Now to the other side of the equation and I am focusing some of this at the new generation of activists, particularly those activists involved with the disabled.  Please, please learn about your topics, don’t let “access” slide because you believe someone or someplace is “trying”.  They’ve been trying nothing but my patience for the past fifteen years.  Every time you, as a young activist, “settle” for a lesser than what should be you trash every right the previous generation helped mold. Continue reading

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The Analysis of an Ad

“We become what we behold.  We shape our tools and then our tools shape us” – Marshall McLuhan

Change of pace for today, I need a break from the world of news, disability and access.  As a political news junkie, tuning out is difficult but metaphorically it is my fentanyl crisis.  Due to the toxic nature of the news these days I need to tune out and just chill.  So today a change but related to my passion in it’s own way.  Let’s see what 60 years of finding distractions has taught me as a person, not an activist.

Baby-boomers were the first generation to grow up in a world of television.  However many of us went the first 4 to 10 years of our life without the distraction of television.  It is important to note here that those are the same years you are in the “imprint phase” of developing the core of your belief system.  The experiences and behaviours you are exposed to will set the stage for your beliefs but how they are applied starts during the “modelling period”.  It was during that modelling period when TV first made its presence known in my life.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of my parents first TV in 1957.  Television was a growing industry and to own one meant you had moved into the growing “middle-class”, historically a new norm in Canada.  It sprouted from the “working class” of the 19th century and the purchase of a television was one measurement that marked middle-class status.  There was a reason for the “keeping up with the Jone’s” saying.  But again I digress and my point was to demonstrate how a quickly a new technology can impact us. Continue reading

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Creeping Acceptance

“The first step towards change is awareness.  The second step is acceptance” – Nathaniel Branden

I took a few days off following Canada Day, in part, to avoid the current heat wave but also to rest the body.  Increased fatigue seems to be the flavour of 2017 and it does take a bit longer these days to reenergize.  The stroll along the ocean walk is very relaxing with gorgeous wild life (from seals to eagles) which is a good way to gather my thoughts and reenergize.

The olfactory action caused by that tinge of salt in the air is natures aroma therapy.  That aroma says home to me which contributes to my renewal.  Needless to say it doesn’t take a lot of encouragement to hang around the water front albeit from the paved walkway (sandy beaches are not designed for wheelchairs).  It is a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon.  The down side are the crowds and the reminder of what I can no longer do like walk on the beach.  When I was still able to walk with my crutches I could go on the beach, put my feet in the water or just lie on the sand.  Can’t do that from a wheelchair.

The other downside is that one cannot wheel from one end of the ocean walk to the other due to poor accessibility planning.  There are a number of spots where it just becomes to tedious or dangerous to try and maneuver safely.  There are a number of spots where you have to either use a stairway or the path is at such an angle it’s dangerous.  I’ve tipped my wheelchair more than once.

Foot bridge in public park

Maffeo Sutton Park, along the Nanaimo Harbour, very steep

One of the minor example is this little pedestrian bridge which comes no where near to meeting accessibility code.  To make it to the top, not a long way but a steep way, I have to do a good run at it to crest the bridge.  It is as much about gained momentum as wheeling strength but that action is predicated on people stepping out of your way during the run.  If I have to stop because some inconsiderate idiot lacks the critical thinking ability of an amoeba to block my ascension then I forfeit my uphill momentum.  That is difficult to accept because there was a point in my life where I would just push through but the strength isn’t there anymore.  Another acceptance issue… Continue reading

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Canada Day 2017 – Embracing Change

“We don’t develop courage by being happy everyday.  We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity” – Barbara de Angelis

Full body braces 1955

1955 Winnipeg newspaper

What does Canada Day mean to me?  Well according to my mother it is the 64th anniversary of my polio diagnosis and the beginning of the 1953 polio induced summer of silence so to me it is a day of rebirth.  1953 also marked the end of the Korean War resulting in a second round of wounded veterans returning to Canada for rehab.  This was the largest influx of wounded veterans since the end of WW2 and the community was ready.

Programs and supports had been put in place following WW2 to help disabled vets move back into their home communities.  National legislation and regulations were being put in place to assist wounded veterans return to the productive life’s they knew prior to fighting for their country.  These policies and programs would ripple from veterans to the child survivors of the last polio epidemic prior to the vaccine in 1955.

In 1945 the Veterans Rehabilitation Act (Canada’s equivalent to the American GI bill) was introduced in Parliament and became law.  The Family Allowance Act was introduced in 1945, in part, to assist those vets with children but also as an acknowledgement that Canadian values were changing.  Rehabilitation services and supports for wounded vets were available through facilities in larger centres and kept them from returning to the farm.  Between the influx of European war refugees and wounded veterans settling in cities to access services Canada was on the road to leaving an agrarian society and becoming a country of urban dwellers.  The face of Canadian demographics was changing.  The need for national regulations to accommodate the massive urban migrations while acknowledging the universality of Canada became the new rally call of politicians.

This was also before socialized medicine so my family moved to Calgary from Manitoba to access the polio treatment being offered through, what was then, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.  The next ripple on the growing tide of affordable health care was the introduction of the Hospital and Diagnostic Services Act in 1957.  This was a major step forward in the development  that we, as a society, began to recognize the need for universal healthcare.  This became part of history with the introduction of the Medical Care Act of 1966.  It took twenty years of the ripples created by a variety of legislation aimed at assisting veterans to achieve a universal healthcare system. Continue reading

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A Birthday

“Children are the anchor that holds a mother to life” – Sophocles

90th BirthdayToday, June 15, is my mothers 90th birthday and she is surrounded by family except me.  I am 400 miles away but I am there in spirit.  A couple of my siblings flew out from Ontario and a couple from Alberta however between the nieces, nephews, grandchildren and some great-grand children attending Kelowna means she will be surrounded by love today.

My physical absence is very reflective of our life long relationship.  I have often stated I grew up with thirty mothers due to hospital staff but this is my birth mother, the one who brought me into the world and the mother that pushed a doctor in 1953 to look past the flu into identifying my polio.  This is the mother who carried the weight of my childhood hospitalization with a concern hidden behind a smile and today she turns 90.  Not a bad celebration to be having.

Mom had six kids with one being a polio survivor.  In the 50’s and 60’s six kids kept a person busy.  She always had a garden, made her own bread, did her own canning and pickling but always found time, on Wednesday’s, to come visit me in the hospital.  This was a period in medical history when hospital visitation restriction included parents.  Polio kids were isolated, in part, out of fear of the polio and, in part, to allow life to go on in the hospital.  Parents were allowed to visit Wednesday from 2:30 to 3:30 and Sunday’s from 1:30 to 3:30.  Dad would be working and my siblings would be in school so every Wednesday mom would take the Killarney bus to come and visit so much of our time together was spend with just the two of us.

It was only after I moved to Kelowna in 2012 that mom told me she would never miss a visit because of a guilt she had carried around for most of her life.  It was actually quite dramatic and initially I was a little worried over this “serious talk” we had to have.  She sat me down to tell me the guilt she had carried because it had taken her three weeks before she could come to see me following my initial polio diagnosis.  She was actually “happy to get that off my chest”.  I had never been aware she felt that way so I reassure her no damage had been done and shared my belief regarding the dumping of guilt inducing memories even when they are over 60 years old.  But back to mom’s birthday.

Time was limited so every Wednesday I would go straight from our classrooms to my bedside.  From my bedside, on the 3rd floor, I had an unimpeded view of the walk from the Killarney bus stop on 17th Avenue to the front door of the hospital.  I would sit there, summer or winter, sun or snow and watch my mother trudge up that walk from the bus.  Sunday she would arrive in the car with my dad/siblings.  Siblings weren’t allowed to visit without a pre-arranged authority so for much of my life I was simply that face up in the third floor window which was as close as I got to being part of the family.  The window I am looking through today is called the Internet.

My mother has recently discovered the joy of an iPad and a Facebook account.  I called her this morning on Skype to wish her happy birthday.  Reaching 90, to me, is pretty pivotal and due to the dissociative nature my childhood I try to be a part of as many important moments as I can.  Growing up in a hospital you miss a lot of the important moments of life and those things can be so pivotal role in our emotional development.

Mom has influence my ability to be appreciative, patience, and respect.  She has been a pillar of strength when it comes to over coming her own adversity.  She had her first cancer diagnosis 45 years ago and has had bouts of chemo ever since, the most recent I’m aware of was three years ago.  In 1990, while camping in Saskatchewan, she got up to make the morning coffee and their fifth wheel exploded.  Methane build up in the collection tanks and she wasn’t aware resulting in burns to 80% of her body.  Following three weeks in Saskatoon they got her transferred back to Calgary where she spend three months plus in the burn unit.

In 1998 over a period of two weeks she lost her son-in-law to cancer, the next week it was her brother in Chilliwack (she flew out for the funereal) and within a day of getting back from that service my father succumbed to his cancer.  Mom showed an amazing amount of fortitude in dealing with one crisis after another in a very short period of time, a strength I had never seen before.

LastFamily 1

The last complete family picture

A couple of years following dad’s passing mom decided to move to Kelowna where she has been ever since.  She met a very nice gentleman shortly after moving there and remarried at age 76.  Unfortunately dementia took John but not before ten good years as a couple.

Mom has dealt with a lot in her life and she is still going strong.  I know there were a lot of activities planned for today so I am hoping the Kelowna flooding didn’t interfere with anything.  Mind you 90 candles could require a water down to put out the flames.  Mom I hope you had a great birthday and that you had sufficient time to get in a good visit with all of the out of town visitors.  Happy birthday…

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