Thursday, September 25, 2008

Douglas Street

We arrived in Victoria a little later than we expected. All the drive down we chatted about landmarks and reveled in memory. Joe grew up on the island, we met on the island and our years at UVic were important years. It was nice to spend time together in such easy conversation. We were back in the routine of travel, each having our parts down, so all that was left was to enjoy the journey.

We travelled over the Malahat and commented, as we always do, that the mountain isn't the same in a real car. All the cars I owned during University years trembled at the idea of going over the pass. Even without the 'will we make it' thrill, it's a great ride with beautiful views.

Arriving in Victoria, where we are only for the day of the lecture before heading over to Vancouver, we'd arranged to have dinner after work with Joe's sister and her family of hulking boys. Normally we do Chinese but the last time there we experienced a great Mexican restaurant and wanted to suggest it as an alternative. We couldn't remember the name or even the street it was on. We scoped out where our hotel was and then went to find the restaurant before calling Sharon to set up dinner.

Downtown was full of traffic, at one point we were on Douglas street and I saw him. He was rushing along, clearly he had a place to go. He may have been 40, maybe a bit older, he had Down Syndrome and he had purpose in his eyes. I only saw him for a minute, but that's all that was needed.

When I was a student at UVic back in the 70's, I took two psych classes (language of the day) Mental Retardation One and Mental Retardation Two. Our text book was full of pictures of abnormalities and exceptionalities. Our professor was clinical, in the extreme and the belief in 'hopelessness as future' was firmly ingrained in us. IQ ruled. The course was chilling. We made a visit to Glendale, the institution that housed people with disabilities in large numbers.

Captured in photographs, jailed in wards, that's where people with Down Syndrome were back in those days. Where they weren't was on the street, walking alone, with purpose, with competence with an assured right to be there.

This is what we've done.

Parents who demanded more, this is what you've done.

Advocates who fought for rights, this is what you've done.

Agencies who struggled to provide community, this is what you've done.

People with disabilities who live purposely, this is what you've done.

Our's is a victory not yet acknowledged nor celebrated. Except, in moments, where someone appears in the present where he'd never have been in the past. Except, in moments, when someone steps out of the ward and into the street. Except in moments like these.

Today, in my heart, I'm dancing.


Colleen said...

Me too Dave, me too!

We have come so far. Let's dance about that.

We have so far to go. Let's keep dancing.

lina said...

Beautiful Dave,
I can hear the music from here!

rickismom said...

Yes, I remember when in nursing school, visiting the big state institution, and a new "experimental" program (private, cost tons). It was like night and day. I was puzzled that the government didn't help more.

So we celebrate where we have gone... and we have gone far. But I am still puzzled that the government doesn't do more.....

And I see articles promoting "make the parents pay if they don't abort", and I fear. I fear that normal living for those with disabilities will always be tied to whether the parents have money to pay or not.

Sorry to dtract from your happy tune.. especially since it IS a cause for celebration. But if unemployment for the mentally disabled is 75% we are still only a third of the way there. So don't take your running shoes off yet!

abby said...

Thank you thank you.

After two days of struggling to write a response to the local paper about a piece that didn't get it quite right once again, after two days of head mired in the intricacies of advocacy, I needed to stumble across this today. There is a reason to keep on keeping on. Thank you

Tricia said...

hey Dave, i hear you. you have tout me alot about fighting for what we want and what are rights are man i am doing it all and even helping others and now i have made a Self-Advocate group on facebook and i am still working for CLBC and still have the group of Self-Advocates going in 100 mile house and it is going good and all i have to say is THANK YOU!!!!! for everthing that you have helped us with:):):)

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I have been thinking about how I can express this and I have not settled on something satisfactory, probably it is too emotional for me. But it is one of those things I just have to say or burst.

All those people who lived and suffered and died in all those institutions. Somehow, the progress we make now is related to them, it was not in vain. They are inspiration and motivation to say never again.