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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Leaving My Lane

Watching Olympic track and field events probably did it. Suddenly, I found myself telling my good friend Lorraine about something that happened when I was around eight or nine – something I hadn’t thought about for a long time.

Because of my severe visual impairment, I wasn’t allowed in sports. It was assumed that too much contact could detach my already delicate retina and leave me totally blind. So, for the most part, I watched.

But then I discovered that I liked to run, and to my surprise, I was good at it. When it came time to participate in a small local track event, I was excited. And then, I was told that I wouldn’t be running. Despite the fact that I had been in races before, and had done very well, it was decided that I couldn’t compete because I “might not see the lines and stray out of my lane”. I was devastated, and watched as the girl they replaced me with finished dead last in the race I had been so ready for. I never ran again. And the experience stayed with me for many years. I was all too aware of my boundaries.

But now, at 58, I am learning to embrace the joy of veering out of my lane. My life experiences, both good and bad, have helped. And my photography has really set me free.

My creaky knees won’t let me run anymore. But watch me fly:-)

Photo Friday – Sharing the Spotlight

This week, I was honoured and thrilled to be featured in an article in The Daily Dot called Seeing through Pictures, which focused on how my newly-found passion for photography has affected how I literally see my world.

It’s an understatement to say that I’ve been blown away by the response to the article. I can’t thank people enough for all the Facebook posts, tweets and retweets and notes of encouragement and affection. It thrilled my family. It made me proud, and more determined than ever to take my passion and run with it. Thank you.

But the piece wasn’t just about me. So I want to make doubly sure the spotlight shines on the others mentioned in the article – because they are and will continue to be my inspiration.

First, check out the amazing Tara Miller, who’s already been featured in an earlier post. Her work is phenomenal. Then go to Flickr and discover the brilliance and diversity of the Blind Photographers group. I guarantee you will gain a new understanding and appreciation of the many ways visually impaired people see what is often taken for granted. I doubt you’ll look at us and your world in the same way.

And last, but not least, thank you to The Daly Dot and to contributor Lorraine Murphy, for giving its readers a new perspective and for giving us a voice. It doesn’t happen often enough.