For God Sake Wake Up

“I think complacency is what you allow it to be” – Draymond Green

Text box quoting "Pretending you're okay is easier than having to explain to everyone why you're not"  Caption below box states "Sadly a forced reality for too many people"
Sadly a forced reality for too many people

I cannot express the level of my anger right now. It’s Thanksgiving and suppose to be a joyous day spend with loved ones (or those close) celebrating the things we are thankful for. Instead I am sitting here pretending to be busy while the thoughts in my head just radiate frustration.

I make a lot of excuses for a lot of people based on that “Pretending you’re okay” statement but I have had years to polish it. I have five generations of people coming and going through my life and I have learnt (took a while) to just be quiet about my own feelings. When I do express my true feelings I am told I’m emotionally draining and most people don’t want to come by to be drain. I learnt years ago to avoid any topics regarding the multitude of “micro inequities” many marginalized face. However today, due to a particular case, I can’t let this fester, I can’t just be quiet otherwise I am everything I am writing about.

I’ve run out of peppers to slice, run out of items to prepare so I have a few meals backed up in the freezer, run out how much house work I am prepared to do so I can no longer dodge the anger I am feeling. I know I go on a lot about access and city maintenance of sidewalks (or lack there of). I will often allude to policies and regulations that are only enforced as a matter of convenience, when someone pushes it. Outside issues.

I try to work with others in the community to make it a little bit more inclusive for everybody but my access advocacy generally ends at the doorway of my condo unit. I deal with the inside condo frustrations on my own. Little things like not being able to get on my deck, unable to reach the stove vent fan, having to wait for someone to visit so I can get them to adjust my thermostat and the list goes on. They are frustrating but not life threatening.

I don’t talk about the morning anxiety that “first” transfer of the day from my bed to wheelchair causes. I don’t talk about that inkling of fear that is there every morning not knowing if I will land properly in my wheelchair or miss so I can spend however long it takes to get up off the floor and into the chair hoping nothing major has been broken or torn. I don’t talk about the frost bite on my fingers tips developed while wheeling to Safeway on a brisk winter day. Yes I have gloves but they get wet when your pushing a wheelchair and that transfers to your fingers.

I try not to dwell on how many drugs I may have to take that day so I can keep myself moving. Yesterday I spend almost ten hours dozing in my recliner due to fatigue generated from pushing past my limits the day before. I don’t talk about the hours I spend researching why a policy or regulation that was created 30 years ago is no longer enforced. I don’t talk about those things because they are mine, those are the personal issues that drive people away.

When I do talk about it it is generally to the person I feel is responsible for it. Little things like why the fire code requires a list of vulnerable individuals living in a condo. I have spend almost a year explaining to the condo management association that they need that list in the fire room kept in the lockbox that only first responders have access to. I have send the four page code document to management showing them it exists. However, as it shows in the case I am speaking of, it seems to be profit before people. All I get from the condo management company is “we didn’t know that”. Does not paying attention to regulations that were established before most of these management people got out of play school really count as an excuse? Just because you weren’t there when they were developed doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Too many people, these days, have no concept of “due diligence” which many, like myself, pay the price for. Come on people, look past your personal comfort bubble and wake up.

Picture of Martin Luther King with the quote "In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends".  captioned with "I can no longer be quiet"
I can no longer be quiet

There are so many “little things” it sometimes seems insurmountable. Society should be an ongoing evolving process. Forgetting or ignoring our past does not guarantee forward movement. I have lived with the results of that type of silence for way to long. Yes I speak out but I speak out from the perspective of “lived experience”, a luxury many new disabled don’t enjoy. If I don’t use my experience to speak out for them I become an enabler and not a solution.

I can fight for curb-cuts, I can argue for a more inclusive community, I can engage policy makers and challenge them when they choose to turn a blind eye. I can speak up when I see situations that are governed by “policy” rather than the needs of the person. I can deal with some of my own emotional turmoil, which tends to be created by a society in denial, by speaking out and reminding them of past developments. I know my history, I know my rights and I am very aware of the tools available to me to defend myself. I know how to suppress my feelings and when to let them fly, many new to this world don’t.

So when I came across the Verna Marzo story in the news today I became livid. I can’t even begin to imagine how much dread she must live with. For her condo association to deny something as simple as an automatic door opener to provide her, not only security, but enhanced peace of mind infuriates me. But then I realize by staying quiet I am part of this problem. People shouldn’t have to go running to the Human Rights Commission every time someone decides they can abuse that person. And that denial by her condo management company is ABUSE. I am livid and really have to question how long people are going to stay silent to this type of abuse.

We have rules and regulations for a reason. That reason shouldn’t be based on “convenience” for some but a barrier to others. I’m tired of platitudes, I’m tired of being seen as an “inspiration”, that’s fine for the poster philosophy but doesn’t pay the bills or make my neighbourhood more inclusive. Yes I am angry. I get angry every time the City allows a developer to build an 80 unit condo complex but ignore accessibility standards. If you ignore the building guidelines for accessible bathrooms you save enough space to add three more suites. Follow the money…

Verna Marzo is early in her experience however she is already learning there is little incentive in todays society to strive for independence. The disabled have become a product where there is a better return on investment for the healthcare industry than there is in the esteem of the person working hard to be part of an inclusive society. So for all of that silence out there, you are complicit. Your complacency is denying others their own self-worth. When you spend all of your emotional and physical energy trying to be part of a community, is it really a community I want to be part of.

I think I better stop writing for now…

Canada Day Celebration 2019 – what is it?

Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity.” – Marshall McLuhan


It is Canada Day and the country is celebrating. Large, joyous celebrations from coast to coast to coast. That day of the year dedicated to what it means to be Canadian and express our joy of being Canadian. For many new Canadians, this is the first experience enjoying a Canada Day celebration and welcome. Many more have celebrated back to the time it was still called Dominion Day and for those, to quote a great Canadian artist (Neil Young), “keep on rocking”.

What would Canada Day be without a bit of Canadian trivia, another contribution to the world, Trivial Pursuit? Today is “Canada Day”, originally called Dominion Day but changed to Canada Day when the British North American Act (BNA Act) repatriated to Canada in 1982. From that point forward the BNA basically ceased to exist and the Constitution Act, we we know it today, came into being as did Canada Day. “O Canada” was not proclaimed our official national anthem until July 1, 1980 but was sung for the first time in French 100 years ago. The Canadian flag became official February 15, 1965 leaving the Union Jack behind. We have been an evolving country for 152 years now. As long as new Canadians continue to arrive at our shores and families, regardless of what part of Canada they live in, we can look forward to another 150 years of celebrations.

Speaking to Inclusion and Diversity at a Canada Day celebration in 2014

In the 90’s I was very involved in an international exchange student program. I spoke with more international students (these were high school students) about where they would prefer to be placed. The program had volunteer host families (no families were paid but the student was expected to some of their own spending money). The importance of a “good fit” placement could not be understated.

This was planned this way with the expectation that the student would become part of the family and truly understand life as part of a Canadian family. In my mind it was a successful model. My wife and I hosted a young man from Japan the first year, a young fellow from Belgium the second and finally a young fellow from Germany. I am still in touch with all three of them almost 30 years later and they continue to be like family.

That is when I really began to think about Canadian “identity”, I needed some concepts to help frame it for these kids. The first time I heard my student from Japan phone his parents the call was over in about five minutes. He then shared with me the extent of the conversation and part of it was “Canadian”. I asked how he had cramped all of that info into such a short call including describing what a Canadian was. His was response was simple “Easy, I said you were Canadian”.

I have lived in Toronto and they would describe a Canadian very differently than some from Calgary. I have lived in Halifax and they would describe a Canadian very differently than someone from Montreal. I have lived in Montreal and they would describe a Canadian very differently than someone from Vancouver. My experience has been to most of the world we are “Canadians” and identity is unimportant. Identity reminds too many of them of “class distinctions” which is what many immigrants were fleeing when they came to Canada. They just wanted to be “Canadian”. My point is Canada is diverse and regional, that has worked for 152 years now.

Marshall McLuhan made that statement over fifty years ago and it is true today as it was then. We don’t have an identity. We are simply Canadian. We are a country that has been build by immigrants escaping perceived “identities”. My roots go back generations however they began with one branch escaping persecution in Europe. We all started somewhere so it is always overwhelming for me on Canada Day to see the focus being put on what it means to be Canadian, diverse, accepting and open to compassion. We are Canadian not based on identity but based simply on being Canadian.

I can only hope that 150 years from now those grandchildren of this newest group of immigrants are sitting around in their lawn-chairs celebrating the way most are today. Right now I fear we are at a turning point where too many politicians are playing “identity politics” rather than continuing to build on the strength that is the commonwealth of Canada. We may have regional differences but at the core we are all CANADIAN.

Happy Canada Day…and in true Canadian fashion, let me close by saying “I’m sorry” if I’ve offended anyone (smiley face).

Return to Sender

“A lesson learnt and not shared is destined to become a lesson lost on wasted time” – Terry Wiens (2019)

I stopped writing about six weeks ago thinking my publishing days were over. In part because one just gets tired of writing the same thing over and over by finding different words but also in part that most people just weren’t getting the message. For over forty years I have tackled the issue of “access” from every conceivable angle, ramps to curb cuts, alternative formats to audible signage and then a light went on. Access wasn’t the real issue, access was simply a tool.

The real issue lay in building an inclusive community, access was a way to ensure everyone in a community could be part of that community. The disabled activists of the 70’s and 80’s had spend years defining “accessible” as physical. In todays world accessibility is simply one tool to an “inclusive” community that is welcoming to everybody. You can put all the ramps into a library you want but that doesn’t mean it is accessible to someone with a visual disability. So now we have to undo terminology that took thirty years to establish and for me, I’m tired, that is the battle for the new generation. Time to step back and let the next generation take over.

This kind of re-enforces my reasons for stepping back. In the midst of file purging I came across some of articles from my day as a columnist with the Alderlea Magazine. They served as a physical reminder of how long and hard I had been beating this drum while questioning if it was all worth it. As a polio survivor I have dedicated much of my life fighting for disability rights and community inclusion while identifying it as access. I don’t want to get involved with an old process using new language. Words are important but they keep changing. It is difficult to walk away from what had been a big purpose in my life but at some point we all have to accept certain realities.

Historically, for half of my life, I was considered a “non” citizen. Even the right to vote for anyone with a disability was based on the whim of the voting poll manager up to the mid 70’s. There was no Charter in those days so there were no regulatory protections. I could be refused a job interview based purely on me identifying my use of crutches. I could also be refused rental units based purely on my disability so we have made some major moves forward but the world of disability has changed. So it is time to step back.

With that said I have also returned to Calgary to retire in. Calgary has always been my “comfort city” and has always been where I identify as home. So it is nice to be back home. What I find disheartening since my return is how fracture and divisive Calgary has become. I love this city and it tears me up to see how the city is tearing itself apart. So I may stop pushing access (“inclusion”) ands start speaking out on Calgary issues. I want this city, and believe it can be, to get back to the days where it was a city full of people who were proud of Calgary. Right now I am seeing fractured and polarized citizens that want to keep blaming others for issues rather than being part of the solution to keep Calgary the welcoming city it use to be. For now…

Life Long Memories
As I look back down my path of life,
The up’s and downs, rewards and strife,
What have I learnt? I ask my soul,
Was I helpful or was I drool?
Did I do right by all my friends?
Who will gather when my life ends?
Have I left my son a legacy clean?
Have I left him foes, spiteful and mean?
The questions we ask as we move through the years,
Reflections of memories, love, joy, and tears,
Memories that make us what we are today,
The love we have gathered from all those that stay,
The joys of experience of a lifetime abound,
The tears we have shed for those all around,
We are what we do; we are what we’ve made,
Hold onto your memories, let them not fade.

-Terry Wiens May 2006

Is Being a Pioneer Worth It?

“In a word I was a pioneer, and therefore had to blaze my own trail” – Major Taylor 

There’s a light fog out there today, maybe better described as a mist but enough that you know the horizon is there but you can’t quite make it out.  That same fogginess has been clouding my mind of late which has stymied my writing.  So today I have to get some thoughts to paper before I go completely ballistic.  This misty mind is very depressing and when you are socially isolated the only form of expression is my writing.

People have been telling me for most of my life that my activism made me a “pioneer”.  That may be true but in my mind a pioneer has a destination with the plan of arriving at a destination.  My destination has always been an inclusive community which involves minimizing barriers, a society build on policies and regulations designed to eliminate any type of physical, attitudinal or systemic barriers.  A community that protects and supports all members otherwise known as an “inclusive” community.

To fully understand inclusion one needs to recognize three basic concepts.  Inclusion can have numerous forms but are generally defined by three parameters.  Some individuals may need more hands-on supports, which is interdependence.  Some may simply need protections provided through some policy or regulations that just even a playing field, independence.  Those two states are different but related.  The connecting concept, which often gets lost in translation, is the ability of self-determination.  That ability to self-determine contributes deeply to ones dignity and self-esteem.  How important is inclusion if you have to live it without dignity?

If you can’t differentiate between those three concepts you will never really grasp the importance of the “independent living movement“.  Those three terms are the trifecta of an inclusive community.  Without acknowledging all three you are simply creating a “product” for a healthcare system.

As a young polio survivor I was in the perfect demographic to be a pioneer in the coming independent living movement.  I grew up in the shadows of the likes of Robin Cavendish, Doug Mowat (one of the founding members of the BC Canadian Paraplegic Association and first elected disabled MLA), and Judi Chamberlin.  These are but a handful of activists whose mantle I picked up in the late 60’s and forward in my life.  They prepared the pathway that my generation began to pave.

I did my first activist march as an 18 year old hippie in Vancouver.  I got involved, as so many hippies did, protesting the Vietnam war.  It wasn’t due to my crutches but it did introduced me to the world of activism.  I was in Vancouver as a way to outrun the Alberta Eugenics Board.  Sterilizing the disabled was still allowed in Alberta so when I saw that letter show up I was out of Calgary and on my way to Vancouver before my parents even got home from work.  So the seeds of activism were already there, they just hadn’t been nurtured yet.  Vancouver did that and gave me a process.

Picture of a person walking through a field of high grass with caption
Never let them see you bleed

After retuning to Calgary I enrolled at Mount Royal College in 1970 at a time when schools didn’t have to accept students with disabilities.  The old Mount Royal in Calgary was far from accessible and again I was told I was a pioneer.  The students union nurture my activism gene even more and it took off faster than a Japanese Honeysuckle vine. Continue reading “Is Being a Pioneer Worth It?”

The Poster Child Philosophy

“A commitment made to a child should be a commitment for life” – Terry Wiens (on the subject of Poster Children)

How many times does a picture of some cute animal or cute child show up on your Facebook wall?  That’s because cuteness sells.  This is also a well established premise in marketing and nothing is cuter than a child.  Non-profits, foundations and professional fund raisers understand this which is why we see a plethora of “cute kids” for any major fund raisers.

You can’t get through an hour of TV these days without seeing some cute kid in some ad for Variety Village, Ronald MacDonald’s House, St. Judes Hospitals, the BC Children’s Hospital or some other equally worth whiled cause.  Professional fund raising has become the norm while governments erode the advances that had been made 30 years ago.  This is the reality of how we have become a “user pay” system.

It has become the responsibility of the community to raise funds for a wide variety of equipment and services that the government use to provide.  It is now telethon’s hiding behind cute kids to fund what use to be community services.  Meanwhile foundations and professional fund raisers use the cute poster child concept to purchase “specialized equipment” that many institutions no longer have an operational budget to effectively use.  At the same time parents are left having to use their child to advocate for services they didn’t realize were not as available as they had been lead to believe.

1955 March of Dimes Timmy Winnipeg
Winnipeg 1955 March of Dimes Timmy

I was one of the first generation of poster children.  This was a time when we didn’t have the level of regulations and by-laws that exist today.  The bulk of us were institutionalized in hospitals dedicated to the well being of polio kids.  The truth was it was easier to warehouse us in a centralized facility then create an inclusive community.  This was pre-socialized healthcare days when there were no policies or regulations governing how the disabled lived or attended school.  However we were kept pretty busy while providing great photo ops for dignitaries and causes of the day.

By the time I was 16 I had met the Queen, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Cisco Kid, Gene Audrey and the list goes on.  Every headliner at the Calgary Stampede made a visit to the Children’s Hospital.  Nothing said cute like a photo op with the kids at the Children’s Hospital.

The optics of that “cute child” pulls at the heart enough to get people to loosen their purse strings and donate to a good cause.  The optics of a cute child go a long way in fund raising.  I know, as Winnipeg’s 1955 March of Dimes Timmy my picture helped raised a whopping $9000 which was a considerable amount of money in those days.  However that cuteness wanes when you become an adult and move into the real world.  When that happens you either become an advocate or a resident in a long-term care facility.  At 18 I was definitely not going into a long-term care facility so I became an activist for disability rights and community inclusion.

I have spend my life as activist for one cause or another.  I have raised a family, had numerous careers and had to fight every step of the way.  Today I am reminded almost daily as I watch gains I had fought for being eroded.  In todays society it has become the parent who must advocate for many of their child’s needs.

Picture of young NickIt takes a very dedicated and determined parent to stand up for their child and raise awareness.  Parents like David Willows who capitalized on the cuteness of his little fellow, Nick Willows.  He is tackling an issue that should have been resolved years ago but continues to be a hidden embarrassment while also being a major barrier to independence.

It is difficult to involve your child in their community if the proper supports are not there.  Something as basic as proper “designated wheelchair parking” shouldn’t be a battle we are still fighting but we are.  David has tapped into the cuteness of his son to get this message across to the powers that be.  Being a parent to a child with special needs can be challenging enough without having to refight battles many thought had already been dealt with.

Photo of a disabled parking spots being used as construction site
There were 27 other spots but they used this one for tools

What astounds me is how 7 of 9 (not a Star Trek reference) municipalities can see 3.9 meters so differently.  The City of Nanaimo tells me the dimensions are actually 3.7 meters but I’m not going to quibble over .2 of a metre.

What I do quibble about is when public designated disabled parking are used as a work space for contractors or the place where the snowplow can stack up the snow from the mall parking lot.  That’s not cute…

Unfortunately we all grow out of that “cute” phase and become adults with extradorinaiy living costs.  Paying 60% of your retirement income into rent because basement suites don’t work doesn’t make you cute.  Having the designated disabled parking stall for the apartment building as the one not under cover (like the other 25) is also not cute.  No such thing as getting into your vehicle quickly during a rainstorm…

I hope by the time Nick gets to an age where he realizes how hard his parents had to fight for him these issues are far behind us.  The joke about “getting the best parking spots” was never really a joke…

 

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”

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”

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”

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”