Thursday, December 12, 2019

Freedom Too

I don't think anyone heard us.

We were speaking quite low.

But what was happening was that three of us were talking about materials to teach someone about anal sex, after lunch, and over a sharing plate of sticky toffee pudding.

We all laughed when we realized what we were doing.

We all stopped when we realized why.

People with disabilities, even those who have grown up in the community, are still far removed from the opportunity to slowly grow into their adulthood. People's opinions aren't just opinions they can actually be immovable barriers. Agencies policies aren't just policies they are commandments that can bow even the strongest back. Peer rejection isn't just rejection it can be an act of bigotry that locks an invisible gate behind which the shadow of the institution remains.

Freedom.

Freedom from.

Freedom to.

There is much to celebrate, we were after all talking about training that would happen, training that was sought out, and more, training that is being allowed.

Because that's where we are still at ... people with disabilities not having rights but allowances. I will decide, your team will decide, the agency will decide, your parents will decide if you have the right to ask for and receive information about your body. Your body is not yet yours. Your body is a political thing. Your body is a territorial thing. Your body is not under your control.

But even still.

It's important to celebrate those three people leaned in over sticky toffee pudding and talking about anal sex and how to teach it.

Because that means someone, somewhere, said, "Yes, go do this."

And while that voice and those words still must come from others. It's a welcome voice. But even welcome voices need to become unnecessary voices when it comes to the body of another.

Freedom.

Freedom to be an adult.

Freedom from the power of others.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Speak For Yourself

On Sunday we decided that we needed to inject a tiny a bit of class and culture in a weekend Netflix 'Dynasty' haze. To meet that end we went to see Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale" which was being broadcast live from England. It was playing in a movie theatre neat us, Shakespeare and popcorn! We arrived to find the disabled parking quite flooded from melting snow so we stopped at the ramp leading to the theatre and Joe got the wheelchair out and I got in. He turned to help me get through the doors when someone appeared saying, "I'll hold the door for you." Joe said, "No, we're good, we have this routine down. "It's okay, I don't mind." Joe again, "Please just let us do this on our own." No, I'm waiting for my brother in law who is in a wheelchair too."

And then she said it, "So I know what it's like."

I hear this freaking phrase far too often. People speaking of 'knowing' what disability is like because they, pick one:

1) had to use a wheelchair when they broke their leg.
2) had a relative of some sort who had a disability.
3) went to a training where they had to undergo a simulation of disability for 15/20/45/60 minutes.
4) once worked at a camp with disabled children.
5) presently work with adults with disabilities in some capacity.
6) saw this documentary or psa about disability, and oh how it made me cry
7) have a child with a disability - of any age.
8) once saw a person with a disability across the street.

This is theft.

This is silencing.

This is erasure.

I don't care if you worked with, lived with, parented a person with a disability you don't "know what its like." You know your experience, but that's YOURS not mine. A parent doesn't "know what it's like for their child;' a staff doesn't 'know what it's like for the person they serve; and using a wheelchair for a week or two doesn't give you the slightest clue as to "know what it's like."

Speak for yourself. Your experience is valid and valuable in the discussion of disability but your experience is just yours. Disabled people who live 24/7 with their disability are the only one's who "know what it's like." But even there. I know what it's like for me, I know what my disability means and doesn't mean. But I speak only for me and my experience. I do not speak for and cannot speak to the experience of someone who has a different disability and different life realities.

So.

In any and all situations you need to 'speak for yourself.'

And, no one else.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A Challenge

Kindness.

This month's issue of 'The International Journal for Direct Support Professionals' is one that I wrote on what it means to be, or do, kindness. It was published this month because on Nov. 13 we celebrate World Kindness Day. In the article, I challenge people to spend an entire day being kind in all situations, with everyone.

I am taking the challenge myself, knowing that I'm going to fail, sometimes, get it wrong other times, but I'm going to try. Kindness is an action not an attribute so that means that this will be a day that will exhaust me.

So I challenge you to take the challenge and then come back here and tell me all about it!

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Moving Forward

It was the morning after the first snowfall of the year. Much more fell that we expected and, as we were up early getting ready for me to go to work, the plows had not yet been through. We took a second to turn on the television to get the Toronto, where my office is, weather report. We found the station and then listened as a poor reporter stood out in the freezing cold talking about the snow and ice.

The reporter was down somewhere near Union station and you could see pedestrians quickly scooting by. Then a man entered the screen to her right and walked off screen to her left. He never looked at her, or the camera, he was solely focused on moving forward.

He had Down Syndrome.

He was alone.

He was going somewhere.

I've always thought that disabled people by the very nature of disability, ableism and disphobia live our lives as an act of open revolt. The very fact that we are shopping, and going to movies, and going to work, and going about our business instead of plummeting from bridges and over-passes gives the lie to the idea that disability is a life unworth living.

So there he was.

Walking across the screen like an advertisement for 'Not Dead Yet' he simply was.

When I write things like this, people often comment that his triumph is really our own, as parents and teachers and support workers. We so want the taste of victory to be our own. But no one can understand what it is to be him there, except, of course, him there. No one can know the stares he faces, the names he's called, the spaces closed to him.

We do what we do.

But it's his walk.

And he made it, in the very early morning of the first day of ice and snow.

He will arrive at his destination with freedom in his wake.

Monday, October 14, 2019

What The Dog Wants

Photo Description: Close up photo of a gentle faced doberman /German shepherd mix
Right now, as I'm writing this, Lucy is sitting beside me. It's taking a long time to type these words. You see right now, Lucy has decided that her need for affection and affirmation is the only thing I should be attending to ...

excuse me ...

be right back ...

OK Lucy is now full up on hugs and love.

I admire this about her. If she could get up and debate with behaviour therapists, she would want to make the case that love isn't contingent ... if it is it's toxic.

I have always maintained this, I wrote 'the 10 Commandments of Reinforcement' a long while back wherein I stated that rewards could be contingent but that love should never be. Lucy here is a follower of that philosophy.

Lucy has no difficulty in seeking out affection when it's needed. She has no problem in communicating exactly what it is she wants from us in that department. "Scratch behind my ears" is different from "stroke the underside of my throat."

I wish I had the skill of asking for affection when I needed it.

I wish that I didn't feel embarassed at how much I need it.

But there you have it, Lucy the pooch, believes she deserves it any time she wants it. Maybe that's why she seems so much, so very much, more at peace with herself.

Damn dog.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Today We Vote

Photo Description: Three maple leaves one brown, one yellow and one red are placed over the words "Happy Thanksgiving. Credit: This work was found on the internet here: https://dayslee.ca/2017/10/07/happy-thanksgiving-day-canada/

Today we vote.

The advance polls open just a little after breakfast time. Joe and I are away, in Edmonton, on the day of the election so we've planned to get in the car and drive over to the center and mark our ballot.

Those who know us, and even many who don't, know how we are voting. We have one of those lawn signs in front of our place, and in a mammoth tribute to our neighbour's practice of diversity (for isn't diversity something that is done?), there isn't a single mark on it.

But that doesn't matter here. What matters is that, on Thanksgiving Sunday, we are given the privilege of voting. Of participating in the responsibilities of citizenship. Of raising our voice in regards to the direction we want to see our nation take.

I remember our neighbour Tess. An American citizen who lived most of her life in Canada. Near-death, she decided to become a Canadian. Shortly after she went through a process, sped up because of the circumstances of her health, and became Canadian, a Federal Election was called. On voting day she was carried out of her apartment on a stretcher. The poll was in the lobby of our apartment building and she made them stop so she could get a ballot and vote. All while laying on the stretcher.

She wanted to become a Canadian to honour the life that she had lived in this country, she wanted to vote because she wanted to be counted, at least one more time, before she died.

I remember speaking to my father, him too in a hospital bed, about the war years and listen to him, for the first time, tell stories of the war. My father was not a man to ever show pride in accomplishments, but pride did slip into his voice as he spoke of being one small man in one great big war. He had served his country and that mattered to him. He was quietly proud of his grandson, my nephew, who also serves.

He and my nephew served and serve this country, keeping us safe and free.

And all that's asked of me is that I vote.

And I will, in a few hours, in Thanksgiving for the freedom on this day of giving thanks.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ready

The last item was scanned and the clerk turned to me and asked, "All ready for Thanksgiving now?" I looked over the bounty packed in bags; turnips, carrots, potatoes, acorn squash, the Tofurkey roasts, and was about to say that we needed not a thing more, we were ready, when I noticed the store had created some prepackaged bags that could be donated to the food bank.

I grabbed one and passed it to her and when she scanned it, I said, "Now I am."

Joe took the bag to run it up to the drop off while the last small items were packed.

Behind us was a couple, probably in their late 20's. He wore those kind of glasses that made his eyes look a little bit bigger than they were. He and those eyes were staring at me. And he was crying.

He turned to the woman he was with and said, "To see such generosity from someone given so little."

The obvious inappropriateness of his remark was such that even the cashier blushed. Joe arrived back from dropping the food off and we were ready to go.

I didn't say anything.

Because I've been given much, and much beyond a life lived with purpose, a life lived with love, and a life lived with adventure, I've also been given an extra dollop of restraint to use, at will, when I needed it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate the occasion.