Thursday, July 28, 2016

Running Out To Do A Chore: Dialogue

Really, I'm fine.

No, I don't need someone to be with me.

No, you don't need to call anyone.

Please, could you move out of the way of my wheelchair?

Seriously, I an fully independent.

OK, yes I need help with some things, but not with being out on my own.

I'd like you to move so I can get by you.

Really, you don't need to call the police.

No, I don't have a minder.

Really, I don't need a minder.

I don't have a staff at home, I have a husband there.

Yes, I'm allowed to be gay.

No, he doesn't have to be with me when I go out.

Please get out of the way of my wheelchair.

I'm not answering that question.

If you don't move, I'm going to call the police.

There's a security guard, 'over here, over here.'

This woman has me trapped here and won't let me move because she thinks I need a minder.

No, I don't need a staff.

Yes, I have ID but why do I have to show you ID? I just need your help to get out of here.

No, I don't have a certificate that says I'm allowed to be out on my own.

I'm done, I'm calling the police, and you sir are in real trouble. Your job is to help me from a woman who has clearly trapped me, a wheelchair user, in a corner and is blocking my free access.

Dial

(Everyone leaves)

I go on, alone without assistance.

WTFF.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

That's What Matters

"That's where I had my accident," she said, pointing to a bus stop, " I got off the bus, took a couple steps and fell straight back." We, the driver and I, were a little surprised to hear her voice as she had sat quietly while he and I gabbed about disability politics and ableism - he's really into all that stuff. We then listened to her tell her story of the day she became disabled.

She didn't know that what happened would lead to her using a power wheelchair right off. It took a couple of weeks before the damage that had happened during the fall to become fully evident. She spoke of having to adapt her apartment, make sure that she could shower and do all the bathroom stuff that people do, get used to a new way of getting around. Learning the ropes of navigating the world in a wheelchair.

Clearly she had been listening to our conversation because she started talking about her experiences with prejudice as a woman, as a visible minority, and as a wheelchair user. About how people treated her when trying to access the subway, how they yelled at her and cussed her out using her gender, her race and her disability equally in their verbal attack on her.

Then quietly, she spoke of how she resisted pressures to give up her home, to move in with relatives, to be taken care of ... she would not be anyone other than who she was. Some would see her and see fragility and they would be wrong. She had a will of iron and a determination to live her life on her own terms. That's who she was before, that's who she was now.

It's odd, she reflected, to be able to point exactly at a place and exactly state a time when life changed, but she said, "my life changed, I didn't. That's what matters.

And it is, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Japan, Hate and 12 Days

Purposely planned.

Specifically targeted.

Openly avowed.

The hate killing of disabled people in Japan is a chilling story. Let's go over a few facts, all of which are reported in the Guardian in clear detail.

1) the man turned himself in stating that 'it's better that disabled people disappear.'

2) he wrote a letter to a politician wherein he outlined the need to kill disabled people, the Guardian reported that:  "In the letter, Uematsu argued that the government should permit euthanasia for disabled people, said he would be willing to carry out such killings himself, and detailed how he would do it."

3) a direct quote from the letter:  “I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanized, with an agreement from the guardians, when it is difficult for the person to carry out household and social activities.”

4) he planned to kill 470 disabled people, though he also said he'd turn himself in after killing 260 disabled individuals.

5) all this was known when he was hospitalized, involuntarily.

6) a man with clearly stated goals of mass murdering people with disabilities, a man who had planned it out, who made it abundantly evident that he had a desire to eradicate disabilities from society, spent 12 days in hospital before being released. (12 days! Less than 2 weeks. I guess mass murder of people with disabilities, clearly stated and planned, isn't that much of a mental health concern. 12 days!)

The discussion of and public endorsement of the concept of mercy killing of people with disabilities had taken root in this man with alarming ferocity. No doubt he will be spoken of as someone who has mental health issues, and maybe he does, but when you read what he says, what he says isn't far from what most people have come to believe. His statement to the police upon turning himself in that 'it's better that disabled people disappear' isn't a deranged rant by someone out of control, it's a calm statement of fact that echos the sentiment of many in society. People with disabilities know this sentiment, we hear it, we experience it and we have come to fear what it will do. Our lives are devalued, are needs seen as special and therefore burdensome, our rights are declared to be gifts rather than guarantees.

But there's more.

A specific, targeted attack aimed at eradicating a group - a mass murder of a group of people because of who they are, and no where does anyone speak of hate. No mention of this as a hate crime against people with disabilities. No. Where. I have not read every paper of course, but in my searches on the Internet the only time that 'hate crime' has been used to describe this event it's by a disabled writer on a disability blog or on a Facebook post.

Why isn't it a hate crime?

I think the answer goes deeper than 'they don't get it.' I think it's because, maybe a little, people see the logic of what he's done.

And that scares the hell out of me. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Change

The line up for the light was long, we knew it would change over several times before we could make our turn. There was a man, hat out, walking the line of cars, asking for money. I had no change at all and was out of Tims cards, which I usually give out to people who ask for cash, as I made a mental list to pick up some more, Joe was digging in his pockets to find what change he had. When the fellow arrived at our car, Joe said, "This is all the change I've got, sorry it isn't more."He took the change and said, "Listen, man, you don't owe me anything, I'm grateful for anything you give."

Joe laughed, as he does, and wished the man a good day. He didn't leave. He smiled and said, pointing to the line up of cars behind us. "These people in these cars, they don't owe me anything either,' then he paused, 'but you know what I wish they understood?" He paused again, "I wish they understood that anyone of them could end up where I am today, I wish they understood that even if they don't want to give me money, they could still give me respect. I hate it when people act as if I'm not there, or as if just looking at me would make them dirty, if they don't want to give me money, say no, I'm good with that. Just don't make it like I don't exist."

I spoke next, "I use a wheelchair and it's the same, people either stare at me or they pretend I don't exist. It's one of the other. I get just wanting respect. I really do."

He thanked us again, "For the change and for a moment's break from being just a beggar.'

I understood what he meant.

Everyone who lives with difference does.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Wendy on His Way

Yesterday we stopped into the pub for a quick couple of drinks before heading home. I've written about this place before, for me it represents one of the few places of real welcome out there in the community. Real welcome happens when the place itself is structured to be wheelchair accessible and where the people who are there ensure that any blockage of a passageway because of placement of chairs or other stuff in the aisles are moved and where the locals make way at a crowded bar for a couple of others. I like going here even though we don't get there as often as I'd like.

We were chatting with two guys, one who had sprained his ankle dancing the night before and one who was talking about a twisted knee, I sat there listening and said, 'I can't wait for my turn cause I'm going to win this one without breaking a sweat.' They suddenly realized what I meant and we all laughed. When my disability is fair game for a joke, I know that I'm in a good and safe place.

Just before we left a nice fellow we've known for years, Wendy, was getting ready to leave and I saw him make his way over to a walker. We hadn't seen him for a long time and were surprised to see the walker. Wendy is one of those guys who just never seem much to age and always has had a quick wit and a friendly approach. I never realized until then that I never knew his birth name, he has been nick named Wendy for all the years and years we've known him and I can't imagine calling him something like Charles or Henry. He's neither transexual or into drag, he's just a guy called Wendy. Anyways, Wendy had a walker.

He stopped to chat, as we knew he would, and he told us the story of getting the walker after having a few severe health problems this year. He laughed as he told the story of being in a coma for three weeks and how he collapsed at a New Years party ... and he made it all quite funny. As for the walker, his transition from walking freely to walking with a walker was made with such a matter-of-factness that I was startled. No complaining or carping about now needing a mobility device, instead he saw it just as simply a means to getting out and getting on with his life.

I sat in my wheelchair, talking to him in his walker, and there was a new kind of understanding between us as we spoke about the things we use to get around. 'It's part of me now,' he said, 'and it keeps me free.'

Wendy was free before and he's free now.

That's the point of mobility devices, you know. The only point that matters. The free stay free, the captive are let go. I wish people could understand that as easily as Wendy did ... but then, maybe, in his youth, he spent time with Peter Pan.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Doing Damns The Darkness

Life is such an odd thing. Right now, on several different fronts, I'm going through a really tough time. As such when we drove to Saint Jacobs on Thursday night for a fundraiser for Choices in Fort McMurray on Friday in Kitchener, I felt very little like traveling, staying in a hotel, or getting up to do a lecture. I just wanted to sit in a corner and give up.

But, that not being an option, we got to the hotel. Joe went and got a few things we needed while I did what needed done on the computer and then, when he got back, he dragged me out for a walk. I enjoyed the fresh air and that frisson of excitement you get when crossing a busy road with cars that refuse to slow to let you pass, and it was simply nice to get out.

Getting up and sitting on the side of the bed, I wondered how I was going to give a lecture, particularly one with some humour in it, when I felt humourless and washed out and just tired from life. But the clock ticks and you have to get to it. So, I did. Soon we were in the car and then at the venue.

The moment we went in and joined in the buzz of excitement from the team from KW Habilitation who were putting on the fundraiser, things began to change. We watched the bake table get set up, Joe snatched a strawberry and rhubarb pie right off, we met the a fellow with an intellectual disability who was going to be selling 50/50 tickets and he was into sales from the get go, we saw the preparations for the lunch that was going to be on sale. We talked with people about what the fundraiser was about and why it was important.

For those who don't know Vita organized a (we hope) province wide fundraiser for Choices Association for Community Living in Fort McMurray. We called them to see how the wildfire had affected people with intellectual disability in Fort McMurray given the devastation to the town. What we heard was distressing and we received permission to go ahead and attempt a big fundraiser along with other service organizations serving people with disabilities across the province. Communities Support Communities, we called it - and this was part of that initiative.

By the time I was to start I had picked up from the mood of the room, from the determination to help others, from the general excitement that comes from an audience that's at a lecture on a Friday for a good cause. For the whole day I was away from cares and concerns and worries. It was a wonderful break.

Doing good things, and the right time, can have a remarkable effect. "Doing Damns the Darkness," for me is more than a phrase on this blog, it's a reminder to me that I can take action against anxieties and worries and 'things that go bump in the day'.

I have another, the last one, on Thursday, and now, I know it's there to help others, but it's going to help me too.

I'm good with that.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Strangers: An unanticipated post

I don't get tired of it. I've had the power chair for many years now and I don't get tired of the independence it gives me, the way it allows me to make a contribution to my life with Joe. We had arrived home and were expecting company in just under an hour. I had to run up to the bank and Joe needed to unload the car. I hopped in my chair, came down the elevator with him and then while he headed to the car, I headed to the bank.

We are together a lot. Even so, I still love these moments where it's just me doing what needs to get done. I went to the bank, bought a lottery ticket, and then headed home. I decided to come along the north side of Bloor Street to avoid the construction constriction of narrow passageways on the south side. I regretted it almost immediately. I was like a tiny little boat going west as a tidal wave of young teens came east. There were hundreds of them. All packed together, leaving very little space for anyone else on the sidewalk.

There was nothing to do but go forward. I'm not fond of being surrounded by kids this age, I have uncomfortable memories of being that age that I don't think I need to explain. Anyway, I headed on. An odd thing happened. Three times.

I was noticed by a small group, and they immediately started the pointing and the taunting. IMMEDIATELY. I tried to maintain dignity and keep going. But, only seconds later someone near them, someone their age, a peer, turned and told them to shut up. The voice was stern, not angry, and firm, not emotional. It was just a statement. SHUT UP. The voice carried authority. I looked at the young woman that spoke and she was pretty and petite and powerful. Her voice brooked no opposition and they silence. One even mouthed to me, 'Sorry.'

Wow.

Then it happened again. Another group started and another voice, male this time, spoke up. 'That's not cool, stop it,' he said. Again, a voice of authority. A voice that said, 'I mean this.' And, amazingly, they did. They did stop. I looked at him, again, a handsome fellow, athletic looking, I nodded a thanks that he brushed away.

Wow, encore.

And then it happened one last time. They were almost by. I'm not kidding hundreds. A young woman made a fat joke to the girl she was with, I heard it. I won't repeat it. The girl who spoke was as shocked as I when her friend turned to her and said, 'Why are you being mean? No need. No need.'

Then, they were by me.

I don't know who they were, where they were from, what brought them together. But I do know that there are some parents, or teachers, or mentors that should be really, really proud of the work they've done. I also know that there are some very cool teens who have discovered a way to break the code of silent acceptance of casual cruelty.

And for that, I'm thankful.

And for that, I'm hopeful.