Saturday, February 06, 2016

Hello Saturday! It's Meaning Time

Image Description: Test Reading GOOD MORNING Saturday, with flowers and sunshine and bees flying about.
It's Saturday morning and I'm up and nearly ready to head out and do my first presentation of the year. Today it is to a group of parents and I have to say I'm wildly excited about it. I enjoy presenting to parents, especially ones who get up on a Saturday morning and drive somewhere to hear some guy they probably haven't ever heard about, talk about sexuality and abuse prevention. I am prepared and hoping for a lively discussion and maybe even a little bit of friendly debate.

It's been some while since my last lecture, which was in early December, and I've enjoyed the down time at home. In fact it was a bit of a shock rolling into a hotel room last night. It was a 'oh, yeah, this is what I do!' As January is typically a really slow time of year for lectures and training, it's a welcome break from life on the road. Now I've done a few webinars, but I can do them from home, in my housecoat if I want, I don't but I could. I'm still mistrustful of technology and am sure that I can be seen.

As Joe and I settled into the routine we began talking of the places we will go this year, the people we will meet, and what new adaptions we may need to make to our life together on the road. It was a pleasant conversation and we're both looking forward to travelling the breadth of both Canada and the United States.

But, this is the start of a new year.

And I'm feeling blessed to be able to do this work.

I met with a professional, much younger than myself, much smarter than myself, who is mid career and we spoke about what we both do. He said that he's got to a point that he now wants to think about his career in terms of resume but instead in terms of impact. He wants his work to have real meaning. I understand that goal entirely.

I think we all do.

And for me, meaning, right now, is going out on a Saturday morning to talk to parents about their adult children with disabilities.

How cool is that?

Friday, February 05, 2016

A Radical Kiss

(Note: there is no voice over, the only sound is that of a guitar playing gently)

This morning I was on one of the two gay news sites that I visit every day. Both of them were lauding, and rightly so, Hallmark for producing a 'kiss' ad featuring a gay couple. I clicked on to watch the video. I didn't realize how short the ad was and before I knew it the next 'kiss' ad was playing.

I was thunderstruck.

This kiss was radical. Perhaps even more radical than the one with the two men. It features a fat man with the woman who loves him. It's gentle, powerful and holds, for me at least, great meaning.

I'm not used to seeing people who look at all like me on screen. If fat people do appear on television or movies, we are usually the butt of the joke, or a gluttonous villain, or the source of slapstick. But this, this was romantic.

Romantic.

Like he's worthy of love.

Like he's, and I can't type this without tears running down my face, beautiful.

Sorry ... that's all I can write today.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Zig Had Already been Zagged



Image description: a set of stairs, viewed behind a tree, that has a wheelchair ramp zig zagging through them.

When we were in Vancouver, out for a walk, many, many, years ago, we came across the Law Courts building  and it was there that I first saw what I thought to be then, the coolest set of stairs I'd ever seen, back in the very early 80's. Notice I said that I thought they were the coolest stairs, I was walking then, so I saw them as stairs with a ramp, I now see them as a ramp with stairs. Life changes vocabulary some times. I was impressed then, as I am now, with the seer beauty and the audacious brilliance of the 'stairs'. Even then, I was in the disability world as I worked with people who had both physical and intellectual disabilities. It amazed me.

Recently I have been seeing similar pictures on social media like the one below, also a ramp cut through stairs:

stairs with built in ramps for wheelchairs. Genius:
People are, rightfully, commenting on how clever this is. It is clever now, it was clever 36 years ago. Yes, 36 years ago. While I am pleased that people are seeing this image and realizing, again, that it's possible to be functional, accessible and beautiful. But it's important to recognize that, even though it is beautiful, the concept is not new. It's a concept that just simply isn't much used.

The ability to do this has been there for a long time.

The will to do it has not.

I drove buy a brand new building, here in Toronto, that has shopfronts on the bottom level. Not only could they have been built to have been easily accessible, some of them have been. Others have a step with an awkward narrow ramp that would be nearly impossible to use.

The choice was there.

For some reason the builder, or the builder's client chose not to take it.

So, it's the will not the way that keeps people with disabilities out.

Never forget that.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

What I Am, What I Am Not

Image Description: The words 'I am OTHER' on a black background, the letters in the word 'other' are all of different colours.
Being Other:

I can be angry without being bitter.

I can be dissatisfied without being ungrateful.

I can be plainspoken without being rude.

I can be difficult without being unreasonable.

I can be tearful without being 'emotional.'

I can be frank without being disrespectful.

I am a person with a disability who lives in a world that disrepect difference.

I am a person with a disability who faces barriers, daily, to full participation.

I am a person with a disability who experiences prejudice in an uncountable number of ways.

I am a person with a disability who is expected to be an inspiration through a smiling face and a silenced voice.

I am a person with a disability whose existence is turned into a negative metaphor ... a blind eye, a deaf ear, a crippled economy, a moronic decision, a limp effort, a crazy dance.

I am a person with a disability who's body has been outlawed and who's freedom is never secure.

To make community, I must be angry at injustice.

To keep community, I must express dissatisfaction at lack of options.

To ensure community, I must be plainspoken about my needs.

To continue community, I must be difficult and steadfast in my demands.

To communicate community, I must be tearful in expressing my passon when my very life is devalued.

To mold community, I must be frank and honest about prejudice.

I am Disabled. Say The Word.

But I am not a greedy grasping, bitter, ungrateful, rude, unreasonable, emotional and disrespectful cripple.

I am not that.

What I am ...

... is an advocate for my life, for my community and for the community.

And your adjectives are not enough to counter my verbs.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Permission Slip

Image Description: the words 'PERMISSION SLIP' written on a beige background

It's so easy for me to get lazy.

The handles at the back of my chair practically scream, "help the helpless!"

I noticed a little while ago, which should have sparked immediate change but that's not how it works with me, that I've been giving in to the temptation to be pushed rather than to push myself. In the morning, on the way to work, the hallway trek to the elevator seems like such a long push, oddly the same hallway, on the way back from work, seems longer. And it's carpeted. And I'm tired. And, let's not forget, I've got these amazing handles behind me.

So, slowly, over time.

I've been pushed up and down those hallways more and more.

And it's not just those hallways.

Like I said, I noticed a while ago, but noticing doesn't always lead to action. It lead to me thinking, "How interesting. I should blog about that."

But I didn't blog about it.

Or do anything else.

Until Sunday, I was using my power chair and I had to reach out and lift something. It was something that I have carried for a long time, but I realized that it's heavy. Really heavy. I hadn't ever thought of it as heavy before. Then, wham, I realized that my arms simply don't have to power that they had when I was determined to push myself in my own chair. My arms were losing power and strength.

That was it.

I'm pushing myself again.

It's only been a couple of days. But I am firm in my conviction. I have always said, about others touching my chair, that those handles aren't permission.

Well, they aren't permission for me either.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Right, Right Now

Image description: A multicoloured disc with the words RIGHT NOW written in white
"Dave, you look different," Ruby said, holding a picture of Joe and I, taken back when we were in our early thirties. I glanced over at the picture, we were standing side by side looking uncomfortably at the camera. There were a number of differences I could see there so wasn't sure which one Ruby was referring to, so, I asked. Ruby, uncomfortable, said, "You don't have a wheelchair."

Now Ruby has only known me as a wheelchair user, she has only known me as someone who rolls my way around the world. I wasn't sure how to answer, so I just said, "I didn't need a wheelchair back then."

"Oh," she said. She looked at it for a little longer, "it doesn't look right," and then she put it down and went on about her business.

Ruby clearly sees me as 'right, now.'

I just love how Ruby and Sadie are just habituated to being around wheelchairs and people with wheelchairs. I love how their world now includes checking for accessibility, as I'm told they often do, "Dave wouldn't be able to get in here mom, that's not fair," even when I'm not there.

This is what inclusion, welcome or whatever you want to call it is supposed to do. It's supposed to teach kids that it can be 'right' to be in a wheelchair. That there isn't something wrong with you, something wrong with how you exist in the world, something wrong that needs to be fixed.

Being seen as 'right, right now,' is something I don't experience a lot.

So it felt good.

Shortly after we went out to celebrate my birthday, which is actually on the winter solstice, as a 'planned or be belated' event. I opened a couple of present but I'd already got the big one!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Today and The Doctor's Question

Image description: A yellow happy face missing its smile is looking over to see it's smile beside it.
Today I'm having my birthday party.

It is not my birthday.

My birthday on the winter solstice, which is not a good day for a party for us non-druid types. The season was just so busy and there was so much to do and my chair had just broken down and the scooter doesn't go to the same places ... there were a lot of reasons but we decided to postpone the celebrations.

So.

Today it is.

I was telling someone this and they asked if it bothered my that my actual birthday went without notice and that I'm celebrating so long after that date. I pointed out that my birthday didn't go unnoticed. I got phone calls and happy birthdays and my Facebook page filled with greetings and well wishes. So both in the real and in the virtual world, the day was marked. This is just the gathering. So, no, it doesn't bother me. I get to celebrate my birthday and the end of January, at the same time.

I will have a burger served at our local.

I will sit next to a jute box.

I will get a cake made by children.

I'm happy.

On Friday I had to go to the hospital as part to see a doctor as part of my continuing maintenance of the best health I can given the disability I have. I'd not met this doctor before and when he came in I was shocked at his youth. He was very young. He was quite handsome. He was very suave in his manner. We were very different people. I introduced him to Joe, my husband, to clarify why he was in the room with me.

Then he asked me questions.

He if I worked.

I said that I did.

He glanced over at me, seeing me a little differently than before.

He asked what I did for a living.

I told him.

He paused and said, 'Good for you.'

I wasn't sure why he said that but I said, 'Yes, I have a good job.'

Then his pen stopped.

He put it down.

He turned to me.

And asked a question.

'Are you happy?'

I don't know if I've ever been asked that question by a doctor before, but it immediately struck me as a very good question to ask. I paused myself, for a moment to think, I'd not been asked that directly in a very long time. I thought through the last couple of months, I'd been really busy and really stressed with deadlines and things to do. I brushed that aside - that's just how we live these days. He just sat there and waited.

'Yes,' I said, 'I'm happy. I am loved and valued by others and I love and value myself.'

The second part of that sentence was difficult to say out loud. I didn't want then, and don't want now, to sound conceited. But I believe that happiness begins inside ... people say you need to accept who you are ... I don't believe that acceptance is enough.

He looked at me, nodded, turned back to his notes.

At the end, he said that he had all he'd learned all he needed.

I thought to myself, 'So did I.'

I was glad to have been asked that question.

And it's one I'll ask myself, occasionally over the next however many years. Because I want to live happy, so I need to check in to see if I actually am.