Remember that name.
Let me tell you a bit about him. He was this 59 year old guy who lived a lone in the home he grew up in. His parents passed away. As a batchelor in his home, it grew into a state of messiness that is common for college kids and me on busy weeks. He'd had a series of health problems, he was overweight, he'd had a couple of hip surgeries and he walked with crutches. Barry, though, wasn't one to sit alone at home. His life was as exactly full as he wanted it to be. He took a cab every day to his workplace and every Sunday, like clockwork, he took a bus to his favourite pub. He was known in his neighbourhood and respected as a man with an intellectual disability who was making it on his own.
Then on November 29 of last year, a few weeks ago, he suffered chest pains. Wanting to live and knowing what to do, he called emergency services. The operator stayed on the phone with him as he waited for the ambulance to arrive. He collapsed and the operater listened to every sound hoping to hear his door open and help arrive. Well, she did hear everything, and what she heard astonished her.
The two ambulance attendants saw this big, fat, disabled guy, living in a messy home. They stood talking about him and decided that he wasn't worth saving. So they stood there and let him die, deciding to tell everyone that he was dead when they arrived. One more cripple out of the way, one more unnecessary life done away with. One more of us gone.
The operator immediately handed in the tape. Charges and investigations ... blah, blah, blah ...
A note of fear creeps into my life. What would ambulance attendants see if they came for me. A fat, disabled guy, in an apartment full of wheelchairs, long reachers, and grab bars. What value would my life seem if it was just my body they saw - not my connections, not my routines, not my hopes and dreams.
Sometimes there seems to me to be an immense gulf between we with disabilities and thee without - sometimes disphobia seems to be such a dark and evil prejudice.
Today, I mourn Barry Baker.
I tell his story here.
I will tell 5 other people his story.
Barry will live today, here in Toronto.
I hope you will join me and bring Barry's story to others, begin a conversation of the dangers of disphobia and the need for us to be alert to the fact that those who are supposed to save us, may indeed kill us, that those who are supposed to care for us, may indeed hate us, that those who we are supposed to trust - can't be.
A Victim of Bigotry