Sunday, January 31, 2010

Davey Versus Goliath

I thought I'd update you all on my fight with the Royal Canadian Mint. I know I fight a losing battle, but sometimes that makes a battle more noble, don't you think? To remind you:

I went to the mint to see what kind of collectible coins they had regarding the Paralymics which will be in Vancouver next month. I found that they only had collectible coins, in the amount of 25$ for the regular Olympics. I shot off an inquiry letter asking if they were going to produce a similar coin for the Paralympics. The mint wrote back saying that, no, they weren't putting out a collectible coin but that had put out a couple and would put out a couple more circulation coins in the amount of 25 cents. The letter was full of self congratulations for being the first mint to acknowledge the Paralympics with a coin.

I then wrote to someone in public relations in the mint saying that I was shocked, appalled and offended that they had minted coins for the two Olympics that had such disparate values. I noted that they managed to make it mathematically possible to calculate exactly the degree of discrimination between able bodied athletes and athletes with disabilities. For those of you who don't do math ... 25 dollars versus 25 cents points to a valuing abled bodied athletes 100 times more, how's that for discrimination. I asked for both an explanation and for redress - simply, mint a coin of the same value for the Paralympics.

A long time passed after writing them the letter. And it truth, I was thinking, 'Dave, you've made your point, now let it go.' Then I got the letter back and I was incensed. One line in particular got me:

"But while the Olympic 25-cent circulation coins are intended for a uniquely Canadian
audience, the 25-dollar silver coins have been aimed at a much larger,
international market."

Oh, really? And they think that the Paralympics are a couple of guys in wheelchairs from Wawa? I couldn't believe that she missed the entire point of my letter and then went on to insult the Paralympics as games that are not of international interest. I decided then and there the fight was not over. That I would make as much noise as it is possible for one person to make.

I have since written to the Minister in charge of the mint, explaining that Canadians with disabilities still face prejudice in almost every aspect of living, from housing, to employment, to grocery shopping. That Canadian's with disabilities understand what it is to be devalued and now the mint, under her jurisdiction has demonstrated that One Able Bodied Athlete is equal to 100 Athletes with Disabilities. Well, thanks very much but, forgive the pun, we won't stand for that.

I got the standard letter back ... thanking me for my opinion and promising that the Minister would look into it.

I've pitched the story to the news media. It landed with a clunk. But it's difficult to get people interested in covering a prejudice that, in all probability, they have!

But something odd happened. I was on an elevator telling a friend about the issue. It doesn't take long to explain and it isn't hard to get. When we got to the ground floor and got out, a fellow on the ride with us, I didn't much notice him as he was behind my chair, said, 'That's just wrong. Good for you for complaining.'

This guy was a walkee talkee and he got it in only a couple seconds of explaining. As I think most reasonable people do.

But reasonable people don't run the country.

And that's the tragedy.

I'll update you on the battle as it continues.


Lia said...

It never ceases to amaze me how willfully blind people in power should be. Good luck in your fight, and hopefully a news outlet will pick it up soon! There's nothing like a little public censure to get officials moving in the right direction.

Maybe if you're lucky, you can get a storm going in the blogosphere!


Evelyn said...

On a sliding scale of disability issues needing promoting this has got to be a -!.

Choose you battles wisely Dave. The time and energy spent on this will achieve what benefit? A little self-serving satisfaction perhaps, but of what long-term consequence in the lives of disabled people?

Wear your 'outrage' on your sleeve if you must, but be honest--it's ego that drives you.

Andrea S. said...

Bravo for taking this on.

But the anal retentive in me feels compelled to comment on your math:

100% = the full value of something.

100% of 25 cents is therefore, 25 cents (ie, the full value of 25 cents)

200% of something is twice the full value of something. Thus, 200% of 25 cents would be 50 cents.

300% of something is three times the full value, meaning 300% of 25 cents = 75 cents

And so forth.

Thus, $25 is actually 10,000% of 25 cents. Though it still does mean that it takes 100 disabled athletes (in their math) to equal one non-disabled athlete.

I agree that there is no reason why there shouldn't be international-level interest in people from any country purchasing a collectible item about an international-level athletic competition. Granted, maybe not as much as there is in the regular olypmics in terms of the number of people interested. But geographically speaking, the level of interest should at least cut across all countries.

What about the Deaf World Games, though? (Deaf-lympics)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Andrea, I meant to say 100 times, not 100 percent, I've changed the text, thanks.

Evelyn, give me your email so I can seek your permission before undertaking a protest.

FridaWrites said...

Evelyn, that's just condescending. All of us *do* choose our battles--we experience prejudice and discrimination almost every time we're out. I can't see how you think this is about ego. Dave isn't a Parlympian and I certainly never will be, but I certainly support those who are. While this isn't a battle I've taken up, there are many others that I have. Sometimes they result in change. It's the exception, though, when people treat us with good will.

NerdBird said...

You know, that's one of the reason I like the London 2012 stamps Royal Mail issued last year:

The Olympics and Paralympics stamps are mixed in the same sheet; and they're not scared of showing a wheelchair on one of the stamps.

Yay for that!

Sarah said...

This is one of those "image" things that are so important - despite living in the US, and depending on where you decide to go with this, I would be deeply interested in any sort of support I could add. A petition perhaps?


Fun Mum said...

Maybe I'm misunderstanding here, but if the paralympic coins are your standard Canadian quarters, will they not be seen and circulated all over the country? I know my kids get a kick out of learning about the different quarters that circulate through the ol' piggy bank. The $25 coin will likely end up only in the hands of a few collectors and be left on a dusty bookshelf.

Good for you for pursuing this issue, but in the long run I like the idea that kids across Canada will be passing these coins around and learning that paralympians are athletes worth celebrating!

Brenda said...

Dave, if you're looking for support in high places, how about approaching our own David Onley? He might, at the very least, point you in the direction of someone who could make the appropriate noises and get some action. Here's his website, just in case: Keep us posted!

[To Evelyn: You ask what benefit this might achieve? How about a world where an accomplished athlete is an accomplished athlete, regardless of how many limbs he/she has, or what type of equipment they require. Where the hard work of getting to the Olympics is acknowledged, equally, amongst all athletes and spectators alike? I doubt that Dave has his sights set on the Olympics any more than I do, so I fail to see how this particular fight would be in any way 'self-serving'. Dave already knows his determination will be tested by ignorance, apathy, defensive stances and a great deal of 'passing the buck'. But he's willing to do it anyway - for the benefit of others. And while I'm sure that Dave would never put it this way, that's not 'ego' - that's self-sacrifice and bravery.]