Thursday, December 01, 2011

International Day of Disabled Persons: NOT

Update: I have had a long discussion with City Hall staffers and am pleased with the end result of the discussion. I've removed the City's email address as I no longer believe that any further purpose would be served by them receiving any more messages. They got the message. I'll update more in a moment.

This is a tale of dueling web pages. Take a look at the first which is the City of Toronto announcing that they will not be celebrating the International Day of Disabled Persons. Hmmm. Now take a look at this one announcing a celebration of that very day at Nathan Phillips Square in front of City Hall in Toronto. And, just for fun, one more which seems, also to be saying that a celebration is happening, outside City Hall, in Toronto.

What's up, you may ask.

Well, I made a lot of phone calls yesterday and I was supposed to hear back from the City by the end of the day with some answers. A very polite woman, obviously paid because she sounds like she cares, made a promise to me to have information so that I could write this post accurately. Like many promises made, it was a promise broken. But, I have to admit, she was good. I actually believed her. Give that woman a raise, she truly gets the 'what this job needs is sincerity and once you can fake that, you've got it made' approach to working with the public. Ah, well.

Even so I do have things to report.

Here's kind of what happened. I decided to find out how my city, Toronto, was celebrating the day. I knew that they usually held a ceremony of some kind. I wanted to attend. I found the cancellation on the City website, but I also found announcements of a ceremony on other disability related sites. Thus started calls, I was confused, one announcement seemed to say it was cancelled, others that it was going on. I called a few of the organizatons who are advertising an event on the day and was told that the day was going on but that the City was not part of the celebration as was evidenced by their cancellation notice. So, I wanted to know, then, why the City had cancelled their participation in the day. I called City Hall and the woman I spoke to had no idea about International Day of Disabled Persons and could find no reason anywhere for the cancellation, so she fobbed me off on my ward representative, telling me that if I had questions I needed to contact them. I called my councillor, and spoke to an assistant, who did not know of the day or of its cancellation, what deep inroads we are making, but I was given the number of the woman who heads up the Diversity Department at City Hall.

She informed me that the day had been cancelled because the 'community partners' with the city did not have the resources to participate in the day. It seemed as if she was saying that organizations supporting disabled people and organizations of disabled people had bowed out. I told her I thought that this was an odd thing to say since there was clearly a celebration going on in the Square. I told her that I'd spoken to the 'community partners' and that the 'community partners' were going ahead with the celebration in spite of the City's cancellation. She said she'd get back to me.

She didn't.

Instead I got a woman who called me, thinking I was the media, I told her that I was simply a blogger. Even so I asked questions. I wanted to know several things:

1) how was the decision made to cancel the City's participation in the International Day for Disabled Persons

2) why was it being represented that there were no 'community partners' when clearly 'community partners' were going ahead with the day.

3) why was I being told by various people, on various phone calls, that the decision to cancel the day was made by the city - was this accurate or am I misunderstanding something?

4) the present Mayor of the City of Toronto is one that has used derogatory language against people with intellectual disabilities - was the cancellation of this day an indicator of how the Mayor feels about people with disabilities.

5) the celebrations will be, as I understand it, outside. This means that many, if it's cold, will not be able to go. I, for one, will not be able to attend as my disability doesn't allow me to sit for long periods out in the cold.

So here we are, in Toronto, on December 3rd, International Day of Disabled Persons - out in the cold - marginalized - a minority disrespected and disenfranchised.

I wonder if I could ask you all  a favour.

Could you jot a note to XXX which is the general mailbox for the city and ask why Toronto is ignoring the International Day of Disabled Persons. You may be told that they are going to proclaim the day (whoopie) and that they are going to give out an access award on December 8th ... at a celebration of Human Rights - this was told to me straight faced as if I didn't know about, or maybe could not understand, the concept of 'tokenism'.

If you have contacts within the media, maybe you could ask how this kind of action could happen without any comment or coverage by the media. My not knowing about the cancellation was as troubling as it having happened at all.

I don't often ask you to take action here on Rolling Around in My Head, but I would be very thankful if you could help me celebrate the International Day of Disabled Persons by finding out why my city deemed it insignificant. For those of you outside Toronto, or outside Ontario, or outside Canada - please feel welcome to participate. Please 'tweet' or 'facebook' this request and the City's email address. I don't know how to either of those, but I'm betting many of you do. Or you can blog about it like the Seated View did, and like Lene, ask hard questions and take significant action. The City needs to know that the world is watching and aware, and even more, that people with disabilities have voices.

You see, this is kind of hard for me.

I love my city.

It just hurts to know, it doesn't love me back.


theknapper said...

I will send an email.....this is outrageous in so many ways.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Yep, my email went off this morning too.

ivanova said...


Anonymous said...

polite query sent.

Anonymous said...

Do people with disabilities need to be led? Do we really need the City of Toronto handing down a party (tokenism)? Do we really need to complain about injustice everywhere or could we start making justice reign?

Lene Andersen said...

thanks for posting about this. It's very clear that you got the runaround, although I'm not sure if it was deliberate or because nobody really knows about the International Day. I've attended it and it was always a terrific celebration within the community, but I've never seen any mainstream media there. Not even the year where David Onley, our Lt. Gov. spoke. Pretty sad...

Anonymous said...

just sent an email... I am shaking my head in disbelief and disgust.

Anonymous said...

There will be an indoor event at City Hall. This has been coordinated between a number of stakeholder groups and a sponsor Councillor's office.

The ball was dropped early, but there are people who have been working to help make ends meet.