Thursday, July 12, 2012


A few months ago, or maybe it was a few weeks ago, though at my age now, all I'm certain is that it wasn't a few days ago. Time passes so swiftly and life contains so much stuff that I can't really place things in time any more. My standard answer to questions about when something happened is 'a couple years ago.' I now realize that I'm presenting myself as if my whole life has been lived in two years! Anyways ... a while back, I met a young man, Dylan Johanson, who works with people with disabilities who is also a film maker. We chatted and he sent me a video that he had done and asked if I might consider sharing it here with you. I think that, after yesterdays post, this is the perfect time. Watch it first, then I'd like to point out what really struck me about this video ...

First thing off, did you notice that it's captioned. It's surprising how many videos regarding disabilities that don't have this option. But now to content. I found the story earthy and real - undeniably real. The story of a woman with an intellectual disability who goes to work, and in the course of her day, saves the life of a child, is one that has profound implications. The story in and of itself is enough. The video, entitled, "Challenge Your Assumptions," might be seen as one that is about disability and ability, about the right to work and the right to respect, all important.

But there is something more.

Something defiant.

Margaret announces at the end that she has a disability. She didn't need to do that, it had been said in the video, but she wanted to say it, announce it to the world. She laid claim to her identity. She wanted to make sure that the viewer gets the point, "I am a self aware, proud woman with a disability. I know who I am. I know what people often think about me and those like me. I am here. I am proud. I have value. I live with no pretence. I live with no denial. I need nothing more than opportunities I deserve."

Some will find the presentation of the story inspirational.

I found it revolutionary.

Which camp do you fall in.

And a note to Dylan ... this, what you've done here ... we need more.

A note to readers ... this, what you've seen here ... can we make it go viral?


theknapper said...

Ive just posted it on my facebook and will send it to some others I know.

Anonymous said...

I think it is great that Margaret got recognition for saving a life. Personally - I don't care about the disability.

I get confused at times reading this blog. We are often called to be proud and wear our disabilities as brightly as a "yellow pillbox hat". Othertimes we are encouraged to not expect special treatment - for "this is how it should be". Or kindness should not be outstanding. So I wonder - which is it - inclusion and exceptance without disability an issue - or acknowledgement of accomplishment and being disabled?

I maintained a life with CPR many years ago. I received no acknowlegmentment nor award - barely a thanks from the paramedics as they took over the task. Doesn't matter one bit. It is the life saved that is important not me.

Adding "I am disabled", which is true - should not change the view of the above comments. Get my point?

John R. said...

We need to celebrate all forms of diversity and difference. I feel we are in the infancy of celebrating the diversity of disability.

Too long we have as a society medical-ized, demonized, ostracized, criticized, bastardized and yes, even capitalized on intellectual disability and developmental disability.

Time is showing us, as is this video, disability is just alright with happens Margaret could have said I have red hair. The reality is when dealing with assumptions in our society, Margaret, would be most likely discounted due to disability. The video is not apologetic, sensationalized or sappy. It just is yet another illustration that human beings hold unlimited potential regardless of red hair, no hair or disability.

Thank you Dylan and thank you Margaret!!

Karen said...

Anon, you do realize this is a DISABILITY blog, right? Maybe you should be reading the 'normal, important' people blogs, you might be happier there.

Andrea S. said...

Anon who posted at 3:03 am:

Why do you assume there is any contradiction between being included and accepted without disability being made into an issue when it's not ... and having your accomplishments and your disability recognized? It's entirely possible to recognize that a person is part of who a person is without turning it into a big issue when it's not.

Maggie said...

There's a lot of variation in the ways, times and places that lifesaving heroics are honored or barely mentioned.

In most workplaces today an employee's use of CPR, Heimlich, or other 'hands-on' lifesaving would be met with a plaque or a newsletter announcement at the very least. I find nothing unusual in Margaret's being honored by her employers and the Board of Ed.

The video makes an important point. When our neighborhood grocery first started hiring adults with cognitive disabilities to bag groceries and manage carts there was a lot of eye-rolling and whispering (sigh; I'm embarassed for us, but we were too new to ableism to notice our behavior).

Nowadays lots of us customers have warm casual acquaintances with these employees. But until this video I might have thought they 'wouldn't know what to do' in an emergency.

Thanks for sharing this.

Dylan Johanson said...

I am so touched that the video's, and Margaret's, message has had such an impact on many of those who've seen it. When I first heard Margaret's story I immediately felt strongly that it needed to be told.

I think what Maggie said is true for many people: that we can perhaps attribute competence in simple tasks to people with intellectual disabilities but certainly don't assume they can rise to a moment and do something amazing. I hope this video helps to discredit that assumption, and I was honored to have the opportunity to tell Margaret's story.

When I asked Margaret if she would like to announce her disability herself, rather than simply have it said in the video, I was very moved by her response. She said, "Sure, Im not ashamed of who I am. I have nothing to hide." The power of her words coursed through me as I focused in on her proud face.

- Dylan Johanson

joanne said...

I always enjoy these inspirational stories, disability or not. Your point is well made though David. We still have a ways to go before we consider people with disabilities equal, let alone heroes. Have posted it and shared it with Thanks!

Rachel said...

Joanne, I'd be careful tossing around the term inspirational -- what Margaret did was above and beyond, obviously, and if anybody in a cafeteria saved a child like that it'd make the paper, but it tends to get attached to people just doing everyday things.

Lovely videos, Dylan, I watched a few more of them. Well done.

Laura said...

I think we all tend to forget sometimes this is dave's PERSONAL blog. One he chooses to share with us. That means what's written is how he feels about things and therefore not everything he writes need to be held up some higher greater good of community standard. He writes about tolerance and inclusion and the need for respect and yet some of us don't always extend that to him. What's that about??? Sometimes how one feels is just how one feels no qualifiers needed. As for today's post. I think her disability is relavent to this story cause she wants it to be!! Go Margret. Her disability in my view doesn't make it any more or less great that she saved this child's life. I'm sure she changed a few ideas about people with cognitive disabilities that day though. I shared it on my facebook too. Thanks for sharing it with us Dave and Daniel!

Anonymous said...

I was very moved by this video & impressed that Margaret would be so involved & sensitive to her surroundings, that she would notice something so subtle happening & then have the knowledge in place & the clarity to act so quickly to deal with the problem. We would all be proud of ourselves for having that combination of abilities at hand. And cheers to Dylan Johanson, for bringing the story to us simply and powerfully.

Rosemary said...

Go Margaret!
Dylan, awesome video.
Dave, thanks for sharing, I will, too.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Thanks for sharing this. I really like it.

Regarding the relevance of Margaret's disability - disability matters in our society. It matters in lots of ways, whether it should or not. I am sure that Margaret's disability has mattered in her life. I cannot imagine that she has not experienced ridicule and rejection and loneliness. Based on the current stats she is very likely to have been sexually assaulted. These are the realities of life for most people with disabilities in 21st century North America. Does the fact that Margaret have a disability matter? In my opinion it surely does. This is one resilient woman who has made a place for herself in the world despite staggering obstacles.

I love how proudly she tells us she has a disability.

Thanks Dave and Dylan for sharing this bit of Margaret's story.

wheeliecrone said...

To me, "inspirational" is a word that separates. It puts the "inspirational" person over there, while the rest of us are over here. "Inspirational" makes me clench my teeth in irritation.
Margaret deserves to be included, just as other people with disability deserve to be included. Margaret is clearly a valuable employee who has done something that deserves praise. She saved a child's life.
Bravo, Margaret!
I am very pleased that the school system had the good sense to include Margaret.

Nan said...

re: your intro. My daughter often says "a long few days ago" to mean more than a few, but not a year!

Nan said...

Inspirational, revolutionary . . . neither actually. something a bit more powerful. Revelatory...and about relationship!

Anonymous said...


at first I saw the video and was "in awe" that someone with a disability safed a life.

But than I thought a little longer and had different thoughts:
(and even so some of them might soudn offending in no way I want to offend, it is just a thought-process...):

- I had to remember a post by Dave a long time ago in which you had to name five attributes about yourself. I "played" this game with all of my friends either disabled or not. Not one of them choose disability as a noticeable attribute for themselves.

- Twenty or thirthy years ago someone who was afroamerican (black) might have featured in a video like these.

- It is known today, that the heimlich-manouver should not be used any longer, because it can cause rupturation of the aorta.

- Saving a life is always incredible good, whether your disabled, normal, gay, hetero, etc.
It is the deed not the disability that counts.

So the video came over somewhat cheesy to me and the interviewed child never looked the interviewer in the eye. That to me is something that gives mixed messages.

Okay, that is what I felt and thought. My own opinion.


Steve Glenn said...

I was quite moved by this video. As a teacher for 40 years I have learned to appreciate many school employees as they work with children. Often they, themselves,have a disability which is never mentioned and seldom known.I am happy that this video was made by a wonderful, talented young man like Dylan. I am proud to call him my nephew. Great work Dylan, love you. Uncle Steve

Jill Andrew said...

Dylan! Hope you are well:)
We'd be so appreciative if you'd consider sharing our event information with your network! Pretty please:) We are celebrating Deaf History, Culture & the Arts!
We got your contacts from Josh's Top 10 list! Way to go.


For immediate release
The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario to address 8th Deaf History International Conference 2012 (July 24-29, Toronto)

Toronto ON July 18 2012 –

The 8th Deaf History International Conference (DHIC) July 24 – 29 2012, hosted by the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf, celebrates award-winning film Clown White to be screened July 26 at the Airship 37 (Distillery District). Produced in 1981, Clown White was the first captioned film to air in Canada on CBC. Producer Martin Harbury and the 6 starring-Deaf actors will be in attendance. “This event symbolizes the significance of the presence of Deaf people in art and film and our rich longstanding history,” says conference chair and Deaf Historian Clifton Carbin.

The week opens (July 24) with High Tea with President & CEO of Canadian Hearing Society Chris Kenopic and Distinguished Guests including The Honorable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Gary Malkowski, first Deaf MPP of Canada. DHIC welcomes keynote speakers Deaf literary historian Ulla-Bell Thorin (Sweden), Deaf American Civil War historian Harry Lang (U.S) and Britain's celebrated Deaf historian Peter Jackson.

The theme of the conference, “Telling Deaf Lives: Biographies and Autobiographies” probes the history of Deaf communities around the world — Deaf leaders and innovators in literature, media arts, and history. “Deaf History is a fascinating subject and interest has grown tremendously”, says Peter Jackson, President of Deaf History International (DHI). Over 200 delegates from over 30 countries including Canada, U.S, Australia, Croatia, Cameroon, Lithuania, Ivory Coast, Martinique, Japan, Denmark, and France are scheduled to attend.

DHIC participants will celebrate the night away at a fabulous Gala on July 28 at the Fairmont Royal York featuring performances from Deaf comedians Angela Petrone-Stratiy (“You think Deaf People have Problems?”,1999) and David Burke, and Dancer Yan Liu (“Peacock”, 2012).

Available for Interview: Clown White cast (Kelly Halligan, Vanessa Vaughan, Mark Dillon, John Humphreys, Arleigh Graham, Danielle Turton) and producer Martin Harbury, DHI Conference Chair Clifton Carbin, Keynote Speakers Ulla-Bell Thorin, Peter Jackson, Harry Lang, Gala MC Anselmo DeSousa (Deaf TV), High Tea Walk through Canadian Deaf History - Helen Pizzacalla (CCSD). All bios available on DHIC site

Media Accreditation, Media Kit and High Res Downloadable Images available at

About Deaf History International (DHI)

Website: |Youtube: |Twitter: @ DHI_Conf_2012

Facebook: DHI-Conference-2012-Congrès-DHI-2012

DHI, founded in 1991 in Washington, D.C., produces conferences globally. DHI supports the research, study, preservation, and communication of Deaf people’s history worldwide. The next conference will be in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2015.

Media Contacts:

Jill Andrew, Media Relations
Catherine MacKinnon, DHI 2012 Media Liaison


Cell: 416-540-6659
Cell: 905-608-3821 (text messaging only)