Monday, April 30, 2018


When I'm working out on the ergometer at the gym, I watch one of my favourite quiz shows. It's been on televison for years, it's British and not on television here in Canada so that means there are thousands of episodes that I've not seen. I enjoy watching the program and find it just engrossing enough to take my attention away from the demands of the machine.

Yesterday I watched an episode where, after the answer to a question was given, some filler information about the person mentioned, a golfer, was given. They stated that the golfer made complaints about the fact that when he went back to the club house women would pinch his ass, he made a complaint about this finding the behaviour intrusive. Then the host and others make jokes about, "What, he didn't like it?"

I gasped.

And immediately remembered.

A man with an intellectual disability was referred to me because he had aggressively pushed a woman with a disability away from him. She had been bruised by the ensuing fall and the staff were very concerned about her safety. He was considered much more disabled than she and the thought was that he might need to be moved because of the danger he posed.

In the investigation it was discovered that this woman was sneaking out of her room at night and sexually assaulting this man. She knew that he would not have the ability to report her. She knew that he was vulnerable to her ability to get into his room undetected. She had used considerable force, in one case breaking two of his ribs with her knees. The staff were aware of this, but it didn't come up until well into the assessment. They hadn't thought it relevant. But then, they hadn't thought of it as assault either. In fact, they joked about it.

When asked about this mans skills regarding abuse prevention and reporting, the staff laughed and said, and this is a direct quote, "I think we just need to teach him how to smoke afterwards."

It was funny to them.


Of course I don't approve of his use of force to push the woman away, but I also don't approve of sexual assault no matter the gender of the individual assaulted. What's difficult about that to understand?

In the end I don't think I ever convinced the staff that a crime had been committed against the man who was clearly not consenting to the sexual touch and behaviour of the woman who forced herself on him. I don't think they ever really understood what they were condoning.

We did stop the assaults.

His aggression stopped the moment he felt safe.

We worked at teaching him ways to keep himself safe, we taught him abuse prevention skills.

They refused to refer her to the offender clinic stating that I had over-reacted to her behaviour. I don't think I did then, I still don't think I did now. I think she was poorly served, she had a right to treatment, she had a right to be taken seriously.

But then, on a game show, where a man was mocked for not 'liking' unwanted touch, I'm not sure that we are anywhere near understanding what sexual assault is and the roll that power plays and the way power can shift.

We all have power.

We all can abuse it.

End of story. 

I can still hear people clapping and laughing at the jokes made about the man, his butt and unwanted touch.

Can you hear the sound of my head shaking with confusion?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Shove

I read a report recently that most people are poorly fit to their mobility devices and as a result experience pain for at least part of their day. For me, this is also true, I do experience some pain when I'm in the chair for a very long time. At the end of a day's lecture, I really need to switch out of my chair at least to stand and do some stretches - the kind that I don't fall over if I try.

But what's interesting to me is that I've never read about the pain that's caused simply by socially interacting by typs (typicals) while in my chair. You'd think that it would be obvious at we are seated and not standing. I for certain notice that they are standing, you'd think the reverse would be true as well, but apparently not.

I had just met someone, a fellow my age, and we were talking. I was enjoying the conversation but was beginning to get a little sore. He stood, as so many people do, just a little behind my chair which required me to turn way round while looking up. It's not an easy position for me.

You may be wondering one of two things:

1) Why didn't I turn my chair around so that I could chat comfortably? Well, there simply wasn't the room, there were a lot of people around and my chair was positioned such that any movement would endanger the ankles of those around me.

2) Why didn't I simply ask him to move forward? That's a more difficult question. It's hard enough to meet people, to have these casual chats that are part of what we all want from community - connectedness - without breaking the flow of things to get them to accommodate you by moving. People often respond so awkwardly and sometimes with great embarrassment. So, I'm okay sometimes thinking that I don't want to educate I just want to participate.

But then this happened.

A woman passed by, someone I don't know and haven't ever seen before, and noticed where he as standing and how my body was twisted to accommodate his stance. She marched over, and yes people with walker can march over. She came from behind him, took him by his shoulders and pushed him forward. She said, "Can't you see how he has to sit when you stand behind him like that??"

Then, before leaving, she said to me, "You're welcome."

I was gobsmacked.

Yes, I was in pain by the time she came over. But it's my choice as to what to do about it. I do have the assertion skills and the social skills to deal with it. And. I'm a really good decision maker.

I get what she was doing but the fact that she understood the situation, visually, she didn't understand the situation internally. More than that she had no right to touch his body or to shove him forward. It's outrageous behaviour.

Her disability doesn't give her permission to take away my personal agency.

Well, it all ended badly of course. He was mortified. So was I. He asked me if it had been uncomfortable for me to chat with him because of where he stood, I said that it was but that I was enjoying the conversation and hadn't wanted to interrupt it. That didn't save it. He apologized and fled.


Thanks for the help.

I feel discomfort after long hours in the chair.

I feel physical pain sometimes in interacting with others.

But those are my problem and I have my own solutions and choices.

No one gets to make them for me.

Friday, April 27, 2018


First I was filled with anticipation.

Now I'm full of fear.

First I was eager.

Now, not so much.

My new chair arrives on Monday in the late afternoon. We've gone through a lengthy process trying to get exactly the right fit, exactly the right wheels, exactly the right height. Measurements were taken and tryouts were had. Finally, the colour was picked and then, the chair was ordered and went under construction. This brand builds each wheelchair from the specifications given. They had been given.

It has been a long road, over a year and a half, to get to this point. And now it's here. I'm not sure now if I should have done this at all. True, my present wheelchair (I can't even used the words 'my old chair') is in really rough shape. True, after sitting for a day in it I experience pain. True. True. True.


There's always a 'but.'

But my present chair has carried me around the world. It's gotten on and off airplanes, in and out of trucks and back seats, its waited for me outside airplane and rental car doors. It's sturdy. It's tough. And it's proven it can carry me anywhere I want to go. I trust it.

I trust it.

And it's a trust that's been earned. Even when I put the chair under extreme stress, it holds me, it rolls forward when I push it up steep ramps. We've been through breakdowns, of course, I don't know how many foot rests I've gone through, or how many times the brakes have needed adjustment, but that's minor stuff. The major stuff? It carries me without complaint.

This new chair is carbon fiber. They say it's really strong.

It's really light. Impossibly light.

I will be the first person to ever have rolled in this new chair, it's freshly made, paint barely dry. How do I know I won't be in some far flung place when the chair collapses? How do I know I'll make it home?

I wonder how I can explain to someone who's never used a wheelchair what the relationship is between my body, my very self, and the wheelchair I sit in?

But come Monday, I will have a new chair.

And a new relationship to build.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Who Was She?

We've driven well over a thousand miles in two days. This has meant hours and hours of sitting in a car, I finished a long book, with a punishingly small font, somewhere near the end of the trip. This has also meant that we've seen our share of food courts.

This is our preferred form of dining on the road, it's quick, it's cheap, it's full of choice and it's always accessible. We find a mall near the interstate and then head in. For me the other benefit of food courts is that they are so democratic. They offer entrance to all, and that invitation is accepted. Perfect for people watching, perfect source for blog writing.

Our last food court, until we head home, was packed when we arrived. But we found a table easily enough because they had designated table for people with disabilities and the little blue symbol, surprisingly, had been respected by the mob.

As we ate I noticed a little child, a girl, maybe 2, in company of a woman with Down Syndrome. They were just finishing up their lunch when we took our places at our table. The child was crawling all over the woman who was laughing and playing with her.

And it struck me.

I can't even guess what the relationship of that woman with Down Syndrome is to that child. She was clearly there alone with her. The child was clearly and definitely in love with her. And while some in the court, because you always need to remember the word 'court' when you are in one, she shruggled off their disapproving stares.

Was she the child's mother?

People with intellectual disabilities often have their children snatched from them by those in agnecies which believe that it's acceptable to take kids based on who a person is rather than what a person does. But I know recently there have been cases fought and won by people with intellectual disabilities to be allowed to parent and unless parenting goes wrong are left alone.

Was she one of them?

I don't know.

But I never thought to see the day that a once impossible dream becomes real to the woken.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Where Lies Community

Google maps found us a mall where we could stop for lunch. We were on a 12 hour drive heading to Georgia where I am presenting for a couple of days and we were getting a bit hungry. The mall, as promised, was just off the Interstate so it was perfectly placed for a quick get off, get back on.

We found a parking space and headed in. Right at the door there was a directory and we found that we had parked at the furthest point from the food court and both of us were pleased. Joe would get a short walk and I would be able to have a bit of a push and stretch some muscles. It became clear that this was a mall that had fallen out of favour and there were few people there and there were signs that stores were slowly dying.

We got to the food court, found a local eatery that served bean burgers, and placed our order. Just after we arrived four people arrived, some with physical and all with intellectual disabilities. accompanied by staff. They went about and ordered their food and then came back together at a table.

Once together they were eating, talking, laughing, they looked and sounded like they were simply enjoying one another's company. Around them sat couples or families, each on their own phones, there were also several tables where people sat alone, some reading, some simply people watching.

It looked for all the world like they had found community and the others needed social workers to help them integrate, or maybe they needed a movement for inclusion to have them more socially engaged.

Of course, this impression was made only because the direct support professionals were doing their job right. They were there, they were attentive, they helped this happen - they had also obviously fostered social skills and social interaction between each of those there. Everyone, not just the staff, were treated as if they had value.

Sometimes we are the community and the power of that should never be diminished.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Spot at The Table

Something rather wonderful happened last night. I was scheduled to have a dinner meeting with several people who I work with on a committee. I was a tad nervous because I'm new to the committee and really only know the person who invited me to participate. Also, I'm a bit socially, um, inelegant.

As is my habit, I arrived early. We always leave time to get lost even though with modern technology that's less and less likely to happen. Joe parked and we went up the elevator to the floor where the restaurant was. We talked details about where we would meet afterwards for Joe to drive us both home.

Then he and I went into the restaurant and gave the name of the organization hosting the meeting. We were guided to a small private room and when the door was opened I saw something amazing. Lovely amazing.

Exactly in the spot which was most accessible at the table, there was no chair. I could roll and pull right into place. No pulling a chair out, no wait staff to wrestle the table into an inconvenient spot. It was the perfect thing to do to demonstrate welcome.

My reaction may sound silly as if I'm exaggerating my reaction. And I acknowledge that it shouldn't be a big deal, but it is. It's never happened before. Ever. I've had business meetings in restaurants before, but never, ever, have I arrived without fuss.

This mattered to me.

A lot.

I write this simply to demonstrate how simple gestures matter. Non disabled people expect to arrive at a table with chairs. Disabled people expect to arrive at tables with bother. But not this time.

Because I was made welcome.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


We went back on the road on Tuesday. We traveled to Syracuse last night and landed in Boston today. I've been thinking about this trip for awhile and in preparation started a new routine at the gym. I typically do an about ahour and a half, broken in two parts, one on the ergonometer and one on the cable machine. About two weeks ago I added in something else.

To get into the gym you check in at the desk and then there are a set of steps and, of course, a fairly longish ramp. When I started at the gym I couldn't push myself all the way up. I could, however, pull myself up using the handrails. But a few months into working out and I was able to push myself up, not exactly easily at first but it got better over time.

Thinking about the need to be at the best I could be for wheelchair pushing, I started doing reps of going up and down the ramp. Counting only the ups, I managed I managed between 10 and 15 reps at a time. It got me sweating and it was hard work but I felt sure that this would help me when I was faced with ramps and obstacles on the road.

The first thing I noticed in Syracuse, where we stayed at a hotel where we always stay, is that the long, long roll down very thick carpet to the room wasn't as horrid as I'd remembered it. In fact I even wondered if they'd laid new carpet since my last visit. I asked. They hadn't. It wasn't the carpet it was my strength gained over the winter that had made the difference.


The hotel here in Boston is attached to a mall and after checking in and dumping stuff in the room we headed out to the mall. We accessed the mall by a sky-walk from the hotel and it was on a fairly steep grade down. Suddenly I realized that I was excited about trying to go back up the walk. We took a tour of the mall and I began to worry because my arms were tiring.

But we got back to the sky-way and I pushed up with almost ease!

On the road again.

And ready for what comes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Chapter Title

She was seated at the next table over. She had seen me come in and had lit up. I understood immediately and waved "hello". I know what it's like to suddenly, at the appearance of another, to not be the only disabled person in the room. She, like me, a wheelchair user, pointed to the table beside her as a welcome to Joe and me.

She had been alone when we came in. Her coffee steamed from the cup in front of her.

We took our seats, Joe and I, and got the food off the trays. We were at one of those Interstate stops where you can gas up your car, and depending on what you decide to eat, gas up yourself. I turned to her and asked where she was journeying from and too. It was then that I discovered that her voice also had to journey, from the formulation of thought to word, from words to breath, from breath to speech. I took a few moments for the words to be spoken. They came out softly, but without hesitation.

I was listening to her tell me a story from her travels as a disabled woman, a very funny story, and had just taken a bite when her travelling companion arrived on the scene. She listened for two seconds to take in what was being said and then began to speak over her. Speeding up the conversation. I looked at her and said, "I was speaking with her, please let her finish." I was polite but firm.

I looked back at the woman who had been in the middle of her story when she was hijacked. She seemed a bit dumbfounded that she had been given a space to finish her stories. Tears formed in her eyes as she continued on, and a couple of times I could see her fighting for the tears not to fall. She had the bearing of a woman with dignity. I knew here friend, or companion, or whomever, was annoyed, at me or at the time it was taking, I don't know or care.

Her story had a surprise at the end and Joe and I burst out laughing. Now her tears did fall. We chatted for a few minutes more and then she apologized and said she needed to be on her way. We wished them both well on their trip. She stopped her chair beside me, put her hand on my arm and said, "Thank you."

I wondered, to myself, if this moment, our shared moment, would become a story in her life like she has become one in mine. I wondered at all the stories that are told. At all the opportunities our behaviours and actions will have to be recounted by another. Do we think of ourselves as characters in the novels of other people lives? What will be the chapter heading for the moment we make our appearance or the moment we leave?

One day I hope I'm worth the breath of this woman who loves to tell a story.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Going Pee: A Question About Bigotry

Am I a bigot?

I think maybe.

Thing is I can't trust the opinions of the people I ask, who all assure me that I'm not, because I think maybe that the bigotry against those who have mental illness is deep and pervasive. So, I've come to ask you. I'd really like to know what you think.

Some background. The first thing I realized about having a disability and being a wheelchair user was that I was more of a target for social, and even physical, violence than I was before. That fact combined with the next realization: that I was less able to protect myself from either of those two things. These realizations have stayed with me throughout the many years that I've been a wheelchair user. I guard my safety and make decisions about my safety in ways that I never had to before the chair.

On Saturday we were out trying to get a few things done before the storm slammed into us. Ice pellets were falling hard and fast but the freezing rain had not yet started. We were almost ready to go, I told Joe that I needed to use the washroom. As I rolled over to the bench where Joe was going to sit and wait, where I could take my coat and hat off, I noticed a man noticing me.

He clearly had mental health issues and it looked as if he had slipped into the place to get some warmth. When he saw me he started mumbling loudly to himself, I couldn't make out the words, but as he spoke he was looking directly at me. I became increasingly uncomfortable. Then I saw that he was standing right beside the washroom door. I was going to have to roll past him and then turn in through the bathroom door.

Here's what I did:

I asked Joe to keep an eye on me as I went in and if he followed me in to come in quickly to ensure I was safe. I didn't want to be alone with him in a room out of sight of the crowd when he'd been looking at me and mumbling.

I rolled by him.

Nothing happened.

I went into the washroom.

He didn't follow.

Everything was just fine.

Now I know that people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims, rather than perpetrators, of violence. I know that the stereotypes of people with mental heath concerns breed fear, not understanding. I know all that.

Yet I feared him.

I feared for my safety around him.

I think I may be a bigot.

I think that I have some work to do, in my mind and in my heart, to rid myself of prejudice. I think I do.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Answer

I met a married couple, both had an intellectual disability, and I asked them the same question I like to ask when I get to know two people in love with each other. I am curious about how the connection was made, how did they find each other, what were the circumstances that brought them together. So I asked, "How did you meet?"

Their answer shocked me.

Maybe even rocked me.

They met in such an ordinary way for people without disabilities but an extraordinary way for people with disabilities. I've met and asked that question of many, traditional and non-traditional, couples with intellectual disabilities. I've heard the kind of things you expect to hear.

At work.

At a dance.

At a party.

These answers thrill me. They really do. You do realize that only a short time ago, people with intellectual disabilities were so often restricted and monitored and shackled by sex phobic policies that these answers, ordinary answers, simply weren't even options. Relationships were punished. From love came punishment, programing and pain. So these kinds of ordinary answers are new to many people with intellectual disabilities.

But the answer that shocked me, rocked me, was one I had never heard before, every, not once. I didn't even notice that I'd excluded it as an impossibility until it was said:

"We were set up for a blind date by an uncle."


They were set up by family to go on a date and then when the time came supported to be married. Forgive me for my surprise. I know that many of you who are reading this are members of families who would have no difficulty with doing this for your kids. I know that. But the couple I'm talking about comes from a different era, from a time when we held hearts in our grasps and forbade them from beating rapidly. All of us. Parents and families included.

In that one answer, I knew the world was changing.

In that one answer, I knew there was hope.

Because love does something powerful.

It forces people to reckon with their biases and prejudices in a way that nothing else does. It cuts to the core of what we believe. Love is a powerful act. It has the power to cut down stereotypes and to raise high lowly set expectations. Love between two people barely seen as people raises a mirror that reflects the face of bigotry.




Sunday, April 08, 2018

the list

My new wheelchair has been ordered.

It's all done now but the waiting and the final fitting. The chair is going to take a little longer because I've chosen to personalize it by having it painted. But soon I'll be riding around on a new chair. We are both  excited because this one is faster for me to push and lighter for Joe to lift. We were both in on the choice and are both happy about it.

It took a long time until we got a wheelchair guy to assist us by doing things like answering calls and returning emails. That might not sound exciting to you but when it's about something as important as you mobility, it's terrific.

When I thanked him, after coming to an agreement about the chair, he looked a bit confused about why I was thanking him for simply providing me the service that he was supposed to provide me. I thought about that and I realized I was actually thanking him for understanding that he job was important and that people depended on him in deeply personal ways.

Sometimes I think that those who provide service don't realize the amount of emotion, a lot of which is fear, which is wrapped up in someones dependence on you just not being an asshole. It doesn't take much for you to be an anchor for someone during a difficult time.

Showing up.

And caring.


And hearing.

Taking action.


When he left with my order in his hands all that had been done. Funny, not a difficult checklist when you look at them as discrete items. But wow, it's tough to do them all together.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

heroes everywhere

There was a huge portico that seemed to us to indicate the buildings front door. There was no parking in the area so Joe set to drop me off and then go find parking. The doors were big and heavy and narrow. We figured it impossible to get in our typical way because there were no door openers. Joe pushed the chair through and then I took his arm to be steady as he walked me in.

I got in and the building interior was quite ornate. I pulled myself back out of the way in the large rotunda that was full of young teens. Apparently there was a big semi-formal dance happening in the room right next to where I was going to a retirement party for a really, really, good friend. The parking must have been hard to find because Joe took his time. I was enjoying the excitement and the nervousness and the scrubbed up and well dressed group of kids coming in and greeting each other and speaking in voices that they one day wanted to have.

Then I noticed two boys come in, they stepped briefly into a hidden spot, that I could see because I had pushed myself out of the way of the crowd. They briefly held hands, looked into each others eyes, the hand let go and they bravely came into the room with their friends. Friends you have to lie to for safety, they will learn one day, are not friends.

They all joked around a bit, the boys presenting themselves as being without dates because they want to have freedom to meet as many girls as they could. Friends would have seen the look of sadness and desperation in their eyes.

We're not done.

We've not arrived.

We fought for marriage equality and somehow everyone thought we were done then. That we'd achieved the goal of equality. That maybe we should silence down, what else do we want for god's sake?

We want all people, including young gay couples, to feel safe where ever they go.


I heard the music through the part wall that had been created to divide one huge room into two large rooms. At one point where the music and the noise was particularly forceful. I let my self think that they were dancing together and that they were safe and that their love would not get them beaten or that their public display of their hearts would lead to the abandonment of love from the hearts of others.

They came together, they are not alone.

I hope for now that this is enough to sustain them.

There are heroes everywhere.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Unnecessary Doors

It looked planned, scripted, a snippet of a sit com.

I was lapping the mall, just wanting to burn off some stress from work. The mall is very particular with it's mall walkers club about the exact route you need to take to get the full distance marks. The only one of the stipulations that annoy me is where, downstairs, I have to dip into a sort hallway that leads to exit doors. I go down one side, cross in front of the doors to the other side and then turn and head back. It's short but it involves difficult pushing.

There are lots of people coming in and going out that need to be maneuvered by, the aria in front of the door is carpeted, and crossing in front of the doors is always very difficult because everyone thinks that what I'm doing is wrong. They keep dashing to open doors which I don't want to go through and I have to keep explaining what I'm doing. The explaining is hard because by then I'm puffing as I speak and I lose a lot of energy with the talk.

But a couple of days ago, it was hilarious. I pushed down to the doors and a woman coming in the door that I was heading to, opened that door and stood by to let me pass. I just shook my head and turned the chair so she dashed to the next door to open it. I was by that one before she'd managed to get it open, then she dashed as fast as she could to get to the next door, trying to figure out exactly where I was going to exit. Then when she got to the last door, the first time that I wasn't a little ahead of her, having the carpet and traffic to navigate, I puffed out, "I'm just lapping the mall, but thanks."

To her credit she saw the humour in the situation.

And then she said, "Good for you!" like she was complimenting a puppy.

I just shook my head and rolled away. Once I rounded the corner I stopped and laughed. Her dash across the entrance needlessly opening doors and the desperate look on her face to help me - it was funny. And so was the look on the faces of the people she nearly pushed over trying to get to doors to open them for me.

Ah, the good times just keep on rolling.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Would You Taste Soap?

Dear Conservatives,

I know that elections are coming up both in Ontario and in the United States. I know, also, that the rhetoric will also intensify. Our already divided societies will become entrenched in on-line battles with each other. There were will horrifying memes that go around that promote hatred and division with intent of scaring us all away from civil conversations and the sharing of opinion. I know both sides will call each other names and this is what I'd like to talk to you about.

Not being naive, I don't expect that a letter from me, a fat, disabled, gay, liberal blogger, will make any difference to the keyboard warriors always trying to get off the best shot, always trying to inflict the most hurt, always trying to shut down conversation and simply start a fight. It's a strategy used by both sides, and again, it makes impossible important conversation and respectful disagreement. But my goal isn't to "stop trolling and start talking." As much as I'd like that to be.

Conservative, anti-liberal, comments often use a word that is aimed at shaming someone's liberal leaning posts. Or they will use it to dismiss  the comment of someone perceived to be too liberal. It's been around for a long time now but I remember when  first encountered it. I was shocked, horrified even at the existence of the word. I was even more shocked by the fact that the user of the word was firing from the conservative front line.

While I am not, nor ever will I be, conservatives as is clear by my list of adjectives, I have too much to lose I do love and respect people who are. We do debate. We do discuss. And we do disagree. I sometimes fail to even grasp their points, they sometimes shake their heads at a reality they say I am not seeing. But, we like each other. Most of the conservatives I know, and while it's not a large sample it's seems to be similar to those on line, are Christian and the also believe:

That prayer should be back in the schools.

That the Bible is the true word of God.

That our society should be founded on Christian principles.

That the "golden rule" is the most important bit of moral advice given in the Bible.

Those conservatives that I know who are not Christian have similar kinds of beliefs:

It was better back in the old days where people knew their place.

It was better when parents raised their children to be obedient and polite.

It was better when families stayed together and where children were raised with good morals by both a man and a woman.

So my understanding of Conservatism from those who I knew and those who I encountered in my life, were people of principle, even if I didn't agree with their set of principles, I could at least respect them for having strongly held beliefs and I respected them even more if we could talk about it.

This was NOT a group of people who would have invented a word that would cause so much hurt and pain to people whose lives and being and sensitivities are considered when the world is used. The word: Libtard.

I hate this word.

I hate what it means.

To me it means that you can take the 'being' of someone you consider worthless and turn it into a way of shaming and insulting others. Imagine someone's mere existence being a tool for hurting others! Imagine what that feels like. I mentioned this to one conservative commentor, one who I typically respected even as I disagreed with him, and he said that he was aware that the 'tard' was a reduction of the "R word," which he said he would never use, but that to him the word 'libtard' and the resultant hurt from it were just 'collateral damage' in an important war against liberals.


Sitting at a keyboard sending of a flurry of insults and put downs IS NOT A WAR. I have family who have served and who presently serve in the military and let me tell you they don't have classes in typing to better engage the enemy. On line discussion complete with trolls and purposeful, intentional, hateful and mean commentary - on both sides, is just fighting, safely, behind a screen.

Why bring into it a community of people who have lived with and are targeted for social violence on a daily basis? Why use words that hurt people who have intellectual disabilities, hurt their families, hurt their friends, hurt the wider disability community? Why is that necessary to your argument? Is the use of the word an actual demonstration of what you think about disability? Do you actually think that those with intellectual disabilities are worthless, valueless, people who simply don't matter?

Two questions for two the two types of conservatives I've met:

1) What would Jesus say?

2) What would you mother have done if you said that words in your perfect nuclear family?

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Out Classed

I noticed him as I pushed by, he noticed me and nodded a disabled old guy to disabled old guy kind of greeting. I also noticed right away that he had a really, really unusual cane. It was one of those with three prongs on the bottom, but it also had a strong piece of white plastic that stuck out about a foot from one of the three legs. Whatever it was for, cool, he had it.

I parked where I normally do while Joe went to get the car. He passed me again, and again, smiled. Two women at the bench were talking about the cane and the white plastic that stuck out from it. They'd never seen it before and were desperately curious about it. "I'm going to ask him," said one of the women who stood up and started. I asked her to maybe consider just leaving him alone. It's none of her business about the mobility device that he uses and it's an intrusive question. She flared up and me and said that she was sure he wouldn't mind.

He walked very slowly and was now just at the door. I noticed that when he got to the door, he stopped and very carefully placed his cane and stepped over the small bump separating inside from the outside. She came at him, and startled him. He used the cane to stop himself from falling. She asked about the plastic and wanted to know what it was for.

Looking at her carefully then pausing and asking, "Were you raised with no manners? My business is my business not yours. Please excuse me." He said this in such a genteel kind of way, I wished in that moment that I had the ability to add grace to my voice when I'm annoyed, or startled, or bothered but I don't.

She looked at me watching and over-hearing.

"Fine!" she said to him and then to me, "And you can fuck right off!

He was on the side walk when Joe pulled up in the car, I said to him as I passed him, "I tried to stop her. Sorry."

"No bother," he said, "I'm sure we're both well practiced with the indecent curiosity of those who should know better."

Class. Yep. Class.

Monday, April 02, 2018

50 Words for ...

Sometimes I don't know how to react, or know what to say, or even understand what just happened. Sometimes I'm not only lost for words, but believe that the appropriate words don't even exist. There must be a foreign land somewhere that has 50 words that describe a disabled person's emotions when living in and around non-disabled people. And by that I mean 50 words beyond the one's we already have.

We were shopping in our grocery store and Joe was putting groceries on the belt to be scanned and I was taking the loaded bags and placing them in the cart. I always get warned that a bag is heavy when it comes my way, but I push my body around the store in an old chair with virtually no roll left in it, the bags aren't heavy. When the bags are loaded and Joe was preparing to pay. The clerk turned to me and said:

"I used to use a walker, you know, and because of that I notice people with mobility needs, so I've seen you in the store quite a bit."

I nodded because I knew she wasn't done and to let her know I was listening.

"So I want to say to you that you look really good today."

A startled look on my face is apparently encouraging. 

"I was in a car accident and on days that I was in pain, those weren't good days, and it showed I tell you.
So I just wanted to tell you that today you look good."

I nodded.

She took the gesture and said, "You're welcome."

We left the store. In the car I said to Joe, "So, every other day I look like shit? I look like I'm a survivor of a car crash and in chronic in pain? So every day I go in their my health is being monitored by a clerk who's expertise is a few months in a walker."

"You look good today." How can that statement turn into a kind of insult?

So, in the land of 50 words that describe moments like these, what word would that be?

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter, Jesus and The Boy Who Was Me

That Jesus rose again has never, for me, been the miracle of Easter. I know that it's a big deal of course, how's that for understatement. But as a young boy, who's fat was seen but who's gay heart was only guessed at, who suffered at the hands of bullies, who had his soul cut on the sharp edge of hateful words, I couldn't imagine, for a second, why he'd want to.

Why would he want to rise again into a world that inflicted pain and violence upon him? A world that spat at him. A world wherein he could have been saved but wasn't. A world wherein those the knew him and loved him denied knowing him. Why would he want to come back? Why didn't he just crawl into his father's lap and say, "No, more, I've had enough?"

When I was a boy, I had a much stronger faith than I do now. Then I saw the church as a place where I could experience the love of God, the welcome my faith provided me at the table of God, the idea that heaven was meant for me. This gave me great comfort. On my way home, at night, in the dark, I would stop in front of the United Church and give the cub scout salute, the most reverent thing I could think to do.

After a particularly brutal event at school I thought, for the first, not the last, time of suicide. That being me was too much burden for a young boy to carry. I felt that I had been given this body, and this heart, to navigate through life. I hated one and worried about the other, I won't tell you which was which. In a moment of despair, I thought it would be simpler to simply stop. Being, for me, had always been a fragile thing, why not just let it break?

I had a plan, I'd always had a plan, after the first 'fatso' or 'lardass' or 'pigface', I don't remember which, I had a plan. Death as the ultimate aspirin that would take the pain away forever. But as I sat on the side of my bed pondering my own death, my thoughts turned to heaven,  I thought about the mansions and realized, I didn't care about the housing or the streets of gold, I just cared that I'd never, ever, ever, be called those names again. I just cared that my heart would not be discovered, even though the names had already started on that front.

Then, I thought of Jesus, I thought of his death. I thought of those that mocked him and those that hurt him and those who tortured him. I knew that my own experience with social violence came no where near in comparison, but I was imaginative enough to sense the pain of rejection that he must have felt. And then I wondered why.

Why would he rise again?

Why would he want to?

What about the world called him back?

I might have different answers to these questions now, but then, it was a simple answer. He came back because he wasn't done. He came back because what other's did to him would not end his journey. He came back because there was more love to be had, more love to be shared and it would be him, not others, who determined the end of the story.

He wouldn't give up his ending into the hands of others.

And that thought, that idea, saved my life that night.