No Bulb in the Socket

“Life is to short to drag a trunk of suppressed negative feelings around, dump that crap and travel life’s road with an overnight bag.  The trip is much more enjoyable when not weight down with old baggage.” – Terry Wiens (2018)

CONFESSION – ALERT, if course language and angry outbursts affect your sensitivities you should stop reading now.

"It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them" - Alfred Adler

Every now and then I just feel the need to lose it.  I get tired of the “political correct” approach, I get tired of worrying over others sensitivity when it is very apparent they don’t give a damn about mine. I get tired of swallowing my feelings to the point where I’m a festering volcano of emotional sludge ready to blow just to avoid hurting someones ego.  This is one of the moments.

I thought the light had come on last night until I woke up this morning and realized there is no longer a bulb in the socket.  The “flickering” of the light was simply the shorting of the power running through the empty socket.  Society has unscrewed the light bulb.  I am fucking tired of this.  I am not just tired of how society can overlook so many aspects of inclusion I am also fed up with many in the disabled community who want everybody else to do all of their advocating.

I’m sorry but just because you broke your back doesn’t mean you don’t have a spine.  Start standing up for yourself and quit waiting for the next thing to screw up before you take a stand.  Grow a pair and start to #SpeakOut before you lose something else, rights are not guaranteed if you don’t fight for them.  You can choose to be the doormat of societies compassion or you can choose to be an agent of change.  If you want a system that is fair and protective then be an agent of change.

I have been an activist for 50+ years.  Over the last ten years I have been attending the funerals of my mentors and role models.  That generation that laid the foundations of so many of the rights I enjoy today.  Sadly they are gone and it is now my generation that is fighting to protect and strengthen the work they did.

Fifty fucking years of fighting for access, services and recognition.  Fifty fucking years of fighting for the right to employment, the right to live where I want, the right to self-determine and, when you add all of these things up, the right to be a contributing member of my community.  And still I get calls from people or organizations asking for help.  I’m an activist, not an enabler.  I’m fucking tired of it, I helped set the table, I’m not going to cut your meat.  The tools are there, make use of them.Continue reading “No Bulb in the Socket”

On Being a Victim

“You can slowly ease into being a victim or you can accept being a victim, the only difference is the level of fight” – Terry Wiens (2018)

I had a very hard time falling asleep last night and was plagued with thoughts regarding victimization.  There’s a twisted irony to a week containing the annual celebration of love, Valentine’s day, ending with the level of tragedy we witnessed in Florida.  What kept me awake was realizing how deep into the wastelands of desensitization we are becoming as a society.  There has been over fifty years of that type of tragedy for us, as a society, to speak up and demand change but our collective silence allows it to continue.

A late night discussion on the pitfalls of stepping forward out of fear of repercussions just highlighted how far we have wandered into the forest of denial out of fear of speaking up.  Social media has just enabled even more vitriol to paralyze public reaction and keeps people in fearful silence.

I have spend my life refusing to be a victim which has made me the activist I am today.  I will not be silent on victimization, repercussions be damned, I will not be silenced towards injustice out of fear of losing friends or services.  It is my responsibility to minimize my own level of victimization and if that means being a dick every now and then, so be it.

I am no Colton Boushie but I do recognize the victimization attached to that case.  Being a victim is not a competition, it is not about the degree of victimization, it’s about the state of the groupthink that allows it to happen.  It’s about attitude.

When a court case can dismiss any potential aboriginal jurists under the guise of a “perceived bias” while twelve white jurist are believed to have no racial bias that says something about our society.  When persons of authority in that community can write on social media that the “only mistake was leaving witnesses” one has to question how balanced the system is for victims.

The biggest victims here are the First Nations community themselves.  Granted none of Colton’s peers sounded like angelic kids but then I was never a fully law abiding teenager either.  That didn’t mean you could shoot me and then walk away unscathed.  People need to speak up before this type of victimization becomes a norm.  Every time we remain silent we desensitize ourselves to the harshness of reality.  When we fail to speak out we become part of the problem and not a contributor to a solution.

These seventeen deaths in Florida were more than victims, they were martyrs.  They died in the name of a cause most of them probably weren’t even aware of.  The true victims are those who now now have to live with the void left in their lives because of inactivity to tackle an issue America has turned a blind eye to for generations.  An issue that has been going on for years in America but protected by the financial strength of one organization, the NRA.

These were mainly kids going on innocently with their life’s at school when the unthinkable happened except it is no longer unthinkable in America.  It is becoming a norm and nobody wants to speak out against it except for the victims.  From the Kent State massacre to Sandy Hook, Columbine and now Stoneman High School in Florida.  America has had over fifty years to address this problem but nobody seems to have the guts to speak out.  Politicians talking about “thoughts and prayers” is just crappy code for “hey NRA how about donating to my election campaign” and it has to stop.Continue reading “On Being a Victim”

Perceiving Access

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception” – Aldous Huxley

Anytime I can open with a Huxley quote I am happy.  In my mind Huxley was brilliant, overcoming his own health issues while developing a philosophy close to my heart.  I read copious amount of Huxley as a kid with a sprinkle of the likes of Edgar Cayce, Lenny Bruce and so many others.  Lying in a hospital bed for six months at a time and reading the likes of Cayce at 11 years old really pumps adrenaline to the development of the limbic system.  With that said I want to put a bit of personal insight out there.

A picture of an optical illusions
What do you see?

I have spend the better part of my life arguing for access but after watching the City Council meeting Monday night I realized just how distorted perception is on this issue.  The newest member of Council had presented a motion,  basically to look at access issues within local government’s jurisdiction or possession.  It was a little bit more involved than that and I could get the actual motion but that’s not my point.  The discussion that followed among Council amazed me.  Based on their contribution to the debate showed me just how differently their “perception” of access is.

An optical illusion
When a bridge becomes a ship it’s easy to lose your way

Although I was hearing a lot of “support” for the idea there was also as much hesitation to support the motion.  As every councillor went around and spoke to the motion it quickly became apparent to me that there was a very narrow concept about what access is.  Much of the conversation focused on “built environment”, ramps, wheelchair friendly hiking trails, curb cuts and the list went on.  Unfortunately we spent so much of the 70’s/80’s creating the perception that access was “physical” that it became buried into societal groupthink.  I was one of those people pushing ramps, curb cuts, modified bathrooms, etc. while feeding the perception that access was all physical.  Well I might have done too good of a job.

In the late 80’s along came “educational inclusion” creating a new dynamic for access, service.  Physical access is very concrete measurable, physically apparent.  Service access is more abstract with measurable’s that are more qualitative than quantitative.  You can’t take a service access and set standards like a 1 in 12 grade for a ramp (just an example).  Qualitative outcomes are based more on perception than length and height, a different way of thinking.

Optical illusion
Knowing the structure helps with the perception

Following a healthy debate Councillor Armstrong agreed to withdraw the motion and revisit it at a later date.  Based on my perception of the subtext in the roundtable discussion it was the best course of action for now.  I, for one, am convinced that any healthy community needs, at minimum, an inventory of those places and services that may require some form of access planning.  I’m not arguing that all access issues have to be corrected today but I am suggesting that Council establish a common definition of what access should be.  To me access is more about attitude than code but that’s just my perception.

It was apparent during the debate that there was good support for that “with the right wording” could be acceptable.  I would suggest to Council that they fully define access before they agree on any cataloguing method.  Understanding the breadth of access is the maker or breaker for success on an initiative like this.

A short comparison from my days with the Office of the Fire Commissioner.  If you asked a fire fighter, a nurse, a policeman, and a paramedic to define the term “public safety”, you would have four different answers.  More than likely they would all be correct based on their perception of their role in public safety but I can almost guarantee you they would all be more focused on their role in the the delivery of the service.  Creating a common definition is best done at the beginning of any project.  It’s much less frustrating (and expensive) than modifying an approach along the way because there was never a spoken consensus at the beginning of the process.

Optical illusion
Count twice, cut once

After listening to the Council meeting I do hope they check their perceptions at the door before getting too deep into problem solving.  You can’t solve something you don’t see and if you don’t look deep enough you miss some of the more important parts.

I hope before Council tackles a new motion regarding the issue of access in Nanaimo that they firmly understand access.  This isn’t just about adhering to some measurable building code but about creating a new groupthink where access is about creating a welcoming environment.  Access to a public park is one thing, access to services that enhance life is another.  Well thought out access will increase the future employment opportunities for the new generation of those requiring some type of accommodation and allow for a better quality of life.  Define access before you decide how to approach it…





Shared Responsibility

“With Rights comes Responsibilities”

Two stories grabbed my attention this week that I really need to speak out on.  The first was that unfortunate event in that Quebec restaurant.  Did the police go to far in arresting the server?  Initially I would have said yes until after watching some Facebook chatter. I was also hearing from other disability activists looking for a point of view.  These are peers, each with a minimum of 45 years experience living with a disability plus a long history of activism.

We have spend the better part of our life’s fighting for access based on the disabled profile of the day.  However the face of disability looks very different today than it did in 1980.  The complexity of disabilities has grown in the past 40 years and our thinking has been slow to catch up.  In todays society we have to look at an inclusive community rather than just an accessible one.

The 70’s and 80’s set the table for “physical” access almost tying the concept of access to the build environment.  Today we confuse an accessible community with an “inclusive” community.  Two very different concepts requiring two different ways of thinking, access is about an “assumed” responsibility (building code as a concrete example) while inclusion requires a level of “shared” responsibility (which could be represented as the “intent” of the building code).

An inclusive society is about interdependence rather than independence.  Inclusive thinking would require the server to maintain a level of responsibility in dealing with a customer who had explained a life threatening allergy.  My experience has been if there are no consequences for the lack of responsibility than why should anyone ever have to be responsible.

The consequences for Simon involved three days in a coma and that was the result, in part, because someone ignored their responsibility in this little interaction.  If a doctor had caused this there would have been consequences.  If societal expectations are that an inattentive server can abandon their workplace responsibility but a doctor cannot then that is elitism not inclusion?

Are the police right in considering charges against this server?Continue reading “Shared Responsibility”

Anger and Apathy

Today is just a rant to get something off my chest.  Life can be a bitch to get some of this frustration out there when you have become like white noise to almost everyone around you.  Something happened two days ago and it raises numerous flags for me.

We have #blacklivesmatter, we #bluelivesmatter, and even an #alllivesmatter but I am left with the impression following this incident that there is an underbelly of belief out there that some lives are more valuable than others.  What am I ranting about, the planned, announced and completed murder of 19 disabled individuals, leaving 26 others injured and where is the outrage.  The same outrage that created the movements mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph.

The perpetrator of this horrendous event had been in custody after submitting documentation that he could “obliterate 470 disabled people” to the police.  He turned himself, an action I would interpret as a cry for help and they still choose to release him on March 2.  So we now have disabled killing other disabled, in part, due to a disparity of service provision.

If those closest to us don't get why will anybody else?
If those closest to us don’t get why will anybody else?

This is indicative of a societal thought process, “groupthink“.  In some situations it can manifest itself through terrorism but it can also manifest itself as “disability erasure“.  We begin to marginalized based on productivity and we do it to ourselves.  Although some of my peers may deny it, the truth is approach a Paralympian and congratulate him on his efforts at the “special Olympics“.  Two completely different events but one that inadvertently marginalizes the other.

And now we have done it again.  If this had of been a facility for veterans there would be world-wide condemnation.  But it wasn’t, it was an institute servicing persons with developmental disabilities.  I don’t hear much indignation over this one and that just leads me to wonder how much we have segmented ourselves…

Frame of Reference

I dozed off in my recliner last night, it’s a very comfortable chair, easy to doze off in but in bad need of some maintenance.  I woke up around 4:30 this morning and gave some thought to moving into the bedroom.  After glancing at my watch I just pulled the blanket up and went back to sleep.  By the time I would have dragged my butt into my wheelchair and moved to the bed I would have been too awake to really sleep but not awake enough to get up completely.  Woke up around 7 feeling great which gave me about an hour and a half of extra time.

For frame of reference, (had to get it in here somewhere) my old bed is just that, my OLD bed, most of the comfort disappeared years ago so it can take a little longer to roll my way out in the AM.  The recliner is proving to be a much more far reaching investment than I thought at the time of purchase.  Anyway I digress, so now I have my usual daily chores done (yes even at our age we have chores) and almost a free two extra hours.  It is raining and blowing like crazy out there so good time for some tunes and writing.   I have lots of ideas percolating so here’s one.  I will try and stay focused.

I have spend fifty years developing a career (which was very diversified), living in cities in every part of Canada, raising a family, paying taxes, doing things associated with ebb and flow of life but the one constant has always been my activism.  I have been involved in some form of community activism since the late 60’s and I continue that involvement to this day.  The issues may change (some even come back) but there will always be issues.  I’ve known a lot of very good advocates in my time so it is something I understand.  It has been my experience that the best advocates were those who could best find a middle ground, a solution where nobody had to lose.  In the last twenty years that middle ground has certainly shrunk.Continue reading “Frame of Reference”

School’s Back In

School opened this week for most kids in BC and my grandson attended his first day.  It was 24 years ago that my son, the taller of the two, entered his first day of school.  It was the same year BC Education introduced a number of changes to how school worked.  One of the changes was duel entry.  Basically any child who turned five before the end of April began classes in January.  Anyone turning five after the end of April would start in September.  It didn’t really make any sense at the time and it was abandoned quickly (I believe it only lasted the one season).

twenty-five years after his dad started my grandson attended his first day of school
twenty-five years after his dad started my grandson attended his first day of school

Another big news event at the time was the disappearance of Michael Dunahee.  Michael was a four year old who just disappeared from a playground in the city of Victoria.

Needless to say there were a lot of concerned parents on the Island.  After all if a child could disappear right off a public playground and completely disappear ON AN ISLAND then parents had to be hyper vigilant.Continue reading “School’s Back In”