When This Day is a ‘Day’ No Longer

It’s here again. December 3rd, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Here’s the theme for 2015:

Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities

“The estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation. The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.

Persons with disabilities must be able to fulfil their role in society and participate on an equal basis with others. It is important to focus on the ability and not on the disability of an individual. Often, the societal image of persons with disabilities is impacted by attitudes based on stigma and discrimination, as well as archaic ideas about disability and persons with disabilities that are often the greatest barrier to their full and equal participation in society and development on an equal basis with others. It is important to note that disability is part of the human condition, and that all of us either are or will become disabled to one degree or another during the course of our lives.

By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. This enhances their own capacities and supports them in setting their own priorities. Empowerment involves investing in people – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.”

Nice words, eh? But they don’t mean much to me. Neither does having a day that focuses on disabled people.

They’re just words. It’s just a day.

I don’t want there to be a ‘day’ for disabled people. I don’t want a light shone on disability as something to be celebrated, or marvelled at. I don’t want a day that urges the world to take notice, take action, and suddenly care. I don’t want a day that is designed to leave people momentarily motivated, inspired or guilty.

I don’t want a day makes me angry, and sad and frustrated and diminished and confused.

I believe with all my heart that accessibility and inclusion and the breaking down of barriers should be as natural as breathing. Simply having a day that points out the need for this only serves to raise awareness for a brief time, and then, it disappears.

It’s not what we need.

Here’s what we need, people.

We need a world where accessible, affordable housing isn’t an impossibility for too many of us, and we are relegated to living arrangements that restrict our movements and severely erode our quality of life.

We need a world where we can get hired for any job we want. There may be a glass ceiling for some, but for us, it’s a glass door. You don’t see it’s there until you run smack into it.

We need a world where we can go into any building, without discovering that no one thought to install an automatic door opener, or the ramp is too steep to manoeuvre, or the ‘accessible’ bathrooms don’t accommodate a power chair or a scooter, or someone had put the Braiile labels in the elevator in UPSIDE DOWN.

We need a world where we don’t have to go through the service entrance, or the back door or through the underground parking to access an entrance to a theatre or arena – only to find that we have the worst seats in the house.

We need a world where accessible parking isn’t hogged by those who don’t need it, and where we can actually REACH the parking meter from wheelchair height. We need a world where accessible transportation isn’t a privilege or luxury, but a right.

We need a world where we’re not yelled at because our speech disabilities or our hearing impairments or our cerebral palsy make us automatically stupid or incompetent or drunk.

We nee a world where our guide dogs or service dogs aren’t refused service at a restaurant, or a ride in a cab.

We need a world where we can read a menu in large print, review a document on our computer in a format that will work, or get have interpreters at an event so we can fully participate.

We need a world where everyone who requires caregivers have enough compassionate, competent workers who accommodate our schedules and needs, not theirs.

We need a world where none of us are questioned for our desire to have a family, or our ability to raise kids.

We need a world where our disabilities, mental, physical, and environmental aren’t second-guessed just because they appear invisible to others.

We need a world where we don’t have to push, cajole, beg and badger governments to protect our rights through legislation.

We need a world where being different doesn’t make us the object of bullying, exclusion, condescension and discrimination.

We need a world where all of us are accepted for the smart, talented, beautiful, sexy and valuable people we are.

As I write these words, tears form in my eyes. I know I am lucky to have a disability that doesn’t limit me that much. I can travel, I can take care of myself. I can live anywhere I want because I’m not encumbered by stairs or doors that are too narrow or bathrooms I can’t get into. Hell, despite my lack of sight, I can fake my way into most situations. I can write, I can bring my world to life with my camera. I am loved and appreciated.

It’s still hard, though. I was bullied as a kid and as an adult. I was denied the chance to pursue a teaching career. I’ve had people refuse to hire me. It’s a struggle to find paid work.Maintaining self-confidence is a constant struggle.

But I continue to try. I continue to show the world what I can do in the hopes that it not only helps me, but others, and especially kids. I continue to fight with and for my community.

I’m only one person. But if enough of us fight, and persuade, and influence, and prevail, we won’t have to ‘celebrate’ this day again.

Will you help?

And Then, CBC Called…

Yesterday, I posted on the significance on November 17th for me. Not only was it my late husband’s birthday, burt it was also World Prematurity Day, and as a middle-aged preemie myself, I wanted to celebrate the occasion by telling my story. I was really touched by the response!

And then today, I got a call from CBC Vancouver, wanting to talk to me as a follow-up to my piece and my life as a tiny survivor. I was excited, happy and terrified! But I had met  host Stephen Quinn a few times before, and was very comfortable, so I made it through!

You can hear the CBC On the Coast interview at approximately 1:16:55.

I’ve discovered that I’m also in an article on the CBC web site. I am truly blessed.

But it’s not just about me. It’s about every tiny baby who’s struggled, survived and is a miracle, no matter what they achieve in life. Anything and everything is possible.

Stay scrappy kids. This old gal did.

An #EyeOpener for Us All – The First-Ever I AM Awards

Being disabled is challenging. Overcoming stereotypes based on ignorance and fear can make life even harder. It’s happened to me many times in my life.

But when it comes to developmentally disabled people, the obstacles are even more intimidating, because society’s expectations are very low.  Surely, these people can’t be productive, active members of their communities. They must be cared for in protected environments. They must be invisible.

Well, I had my eyes opened, big-time over the past few weeks. And I’m so happy and grateful that I did.

And it’s all due to my involvement with the Developmental Disabilities Association’s very first I AM Awards,

The I AM Awards were created to celebrate individuals who have made an inspiring contribution and have effected positive change in their communities. Those words don’t even begin to capture the energy, spirit and humanity of the people who were nominated for this award. I know. I was honoured to be one of the judges for this inaugural event, and got the unique opportunity to meet 30 amazing individuals through the nominations that were submitted. I was captivated and moved by their life stories – and humbled by their determination to live their lives fully. I had no idea how much they could accomplish – and I felt ashamed that I was surprised by this.

It was a long, hard process to choose just one recipient, but after a four-hour marathon, we did it!

Meet Dorothy Frew – the very first I AM Award winner. In her own words, she is a fighter, and a survivor. According to DDA’s blog, Dorothy is an advocate, widow, volunteer, and employee who receives support services from the Developmental Disabilities Association. Frew was nominated for her perseverance in overcoming obstacles in her efforts to live.

“Living with a life threatening disease, she demonstrates courage and optimism even when odds were against her. Through her fight to survive, Frew fought the healthcare system to receive the necessary care she deserved. As a result, she was able to receive dialysis and on the waitlist for a kidney transplant. Having been declared dead from a cardiac arrest, peers and patients at the hospital call Frew their role model for her wilful determination to live.”

Despite her physical ailments, Dorothy was excited and very happy to receive her award. I was fortunate to capture her joy and exuberance at the award presentation.

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The tagline under the DDA logo says it all.

“Overcoming Obstacles, Encouraging Abilities.” Dorothy and all the nominees are proof that so much is possible.

I will never forget how much I took for granted until I was given the chance to discover how these awesome people live their lives.

A true #EyeOpener.

Blind Tastings – Finger Lickin’ Goodness at Earls Yaletown

“Some 30 years ago, Leroy Earl Fuller and his son Stanley Earl Fuller had a simple idea: a laid-back burger & beer joint. When the restaurant started, there was no question about what the name would be. It had to be called Earls.”

Until I read the history of Earls Kitchen and Bar, I had no idea how this iconic chain got its start. And, until this week, I hadn’t eaten dinner at an Earls, ever. Well, that will change. I’ll be going back for the food, the atmosphere and the service. And for another reason, which I’ll save for the end…

So, what drew me to Earls on a pleasant spring evening? Ribs. Succulent ribs. Intriguing cocktails. All part of Earls’ #ThisCallsForRibs promotion.

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And a wonderful group of people brought together by Host Extraordinaire Marc Smith.

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My dining companions also included Dianne ChowMary SheridanBrian Webb, Adrian and Jeremy AKA The Food Gays, Christa Leigh and the awesome Cate Simpson of Earls.

Cate introduced us to the cocktail of the evening – the Mad Hatter. The presentation was fantastic and would have been a perfect addition at Alice’s Tea Party, with a warm vodka-based brew poured out of individual smoking teapots. It was delicious! (And I’m not a cocktail drinker.)

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And as for the main course…what do YOU think??

CAB_5433A full rack of pork ribs, meaty, tender, just the right combination of sweet and heat, served with some of the best cole slaw and warm potato salad I’ve had in ages. And I love eating with my hands!

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And until June 17, you can get this delicious meal for $25. An extra $4 will get you an Alexander Keith’s IPA.

Normally after a feast like this I don’t even have the capacity to even THINK of dessert. But I did take a piece of Key Lime pie home and had it for breakfast the next day:-)

We all obviously had a ball. Thanks to Marc and to Cate – and to Megan, our awesome server.

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There’s another, important reason I’ll go back to Earls. When I was looking at their web site, I came across something that made me very happy. An #EyeOpener for sure.

Earls posts its own Guest Accessibility Policy.

How can you not love an establishment that uses words like ‘dignity’ and ‘independence’ when talking about disabled people? We don’t hear them often enough. Thank you, Earls.

 

“Your Menu Was Burning…”

I can’t lie. I love eating out. Discovering terrific bars and restaurants, experiencing the joys of new taste sensations, savouring an outstanding wine – have been a passion and a pleasure ever since I was a student at McGill almost 40 years ago. I just wish that I had had my trusty iPhone and digital camera around to capture all of my dining experiences over the years.

I’ve been fortunate to attend many food and drink related events in Vancouver and document my experiences through the eye of the camera lens. But because I was out of the loop for much of last year, I’ve missed out on many opportunities to add my unique perspective to the food scene.

I’m here today to say I’m back – with Blind Tastings. (Pardon the pun…)

I’m ready to share my eating and drinking experiences in the Greater Vancouver area and beyond, and as usual, I can promise you photos that will hopefully have you almost smelling and tasting what I shoot.

But I’m going to provide an additional twist. And it’s all because of a candle and a menu with a mind of its own.

Many years ago, when my late husband Dave and I lived in Toronto, we went out to dinner at a small cafe. Unfortunately for me, the menu was very hard to read, so I pulled the candle on the table over so I could read it a bit better. It was a long thin menu, and as I worked my way down the list of offerings, I was unaware that the menu curled itself right into the candle. I was shocked into reality by a cup of water poured over me and the server’s voice saying, “Sorry, ma’am, but your menu was burning!”.

That encounter has stayed with me, and over the years, I’ve had cause to reflect how my own dining adventures could result in an improved and more accessible experience for disabled and senior diners.

So, I’ll still be taking great pics, and sharing my favourite menu items with you – but at the end, I’ll add a small tip on what the venue could do, or did do to improve my time there. It may be a real #EyeOpener.

And my very first Blind Tastings post will be up tomorrow!

Now, where do I head next? I’m open to suggestions…

 

 

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