Trudeau’s ‘accessible Canada’ includes unpaid work

Marchers holding signs at the Toronto Disability Pride March
Marchers holding signs at the Toronto Disability Pride March. Featuring Beverly Smith.

Back in 2015, before the Canadian federal election, a movement of disabled people was building across the country. The call for a barrier-free Canada was built in that time by a small, dedicated group of people who reinforced their message daily through social media and on the ground action. Their methods were so effective, that what began as a grassroots call for national solidarity grew into a campaign promise by Trudeau….

Instead of reaching out to offer paid work to disabled people, they paid consulting firms to find disabled people to consult with. They are doing market research rather than accepting the expertise of disabled people in designing policies or programs.

Read the full article I wrote for Socialist.ca.

Have your say on the future of the Canadians with Disabilities Act

The Federal Government will be hosting a public forum to get input from the public on what the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act should include.

where and when this takes place:

When: Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Time: 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Where: Chelsea Hotel Toronto – Churchill Ballroom, 33 Gerrard Street West, Toronto, ON

If you would like to attend this event, you will need to contact the Office for Disability Issues in advance so they can send you a short form with your contact information and accessibility needs.

Pro-Tip: Go with a group and plan the questions you want answered.

Would you like some suggestions of what you might say to the Federal Government at these consultations?

Here are a few starting points from the AODA Alliance.

Here are a few points that I’ve made regarding an Accessible Canada for All.

  • The need for accessible, affordable housing. People can’t be expected to find decent work without decent housing that meets their access needs.
  • Protection of the rights of parents with disabilities.
  • Accessibility in healthcare and all stages of education.
  • Including Indigenous Peoples and refugees in the discussion, and allowing them the same or greater accessibility as the rest of Canada.
  • Police training in effectively and sensitively working with disabled people.
  • Distribution of Health and Social transfers to address the inequities in the systemic barriers that exist between provinces and territories.

This is an opportunity for disabled Canadians to have equitable status as citizens and residents of this country. We need effective enforceable legislation that works for all of us.

Disabled Canadians are more than consumers and potential employees. The Federal legislation must have a broader scope to create equitable rights for disabled people with effective enforcement.

Other ways to Participate:

  • Write to your MP
  • Submit your thoughts to be gathered by SCI Ontario.
  • Participate in the online questionnaire until February 28th, 2017. The questionnaire is also available in an accessible PDF version.
  • Submit your feedback in the language of your choice (English, French, American Sign Language or Langue des signes québécoise) and preferred format such as online, handwritten, video or audio submissions. You can provide your input to the Office for Disability Issues via:

Phone: 1-844-836-8126

TTY: 819-934-6649

Fax: 819-953-4797

Email: accessible-canada@hrsdc.gc.ca

Mail:
Consultation – Accessibility Legislation
c/o Office for Disability Issues
Employment and Social Development Canada
105 Hotel-de-ville St., 1st floor, Bag 62
Gatineau QC K1A 0J9

All of the feedback we receive will be incorporated into reports that will be made available on the consultation website and in alternate formats, on request.

You can also consult the Discussion Guide for more information.

 

Changing the Accessibility Conversation #IDPD 2016

Last night I was out for dinner with my Mom. It was a small space, and it took some time getting a table, so we chatted for a while waiting, and then came in and sat down. It was at this point that something unexpected happened. The young waitress came out with only one menu, hands it to my Mom, and asks if she’ll be ordering for me. There was a split second of stunned silence while my Mom and I processed what just happened before I could say “Excuse me?!”.

The young waitress quickly apologized, and handed me a menu. Later after we ordered our meals, my Mom called the waitress over, and asked her to apologize to her daughter. As inherited as this trait might be, it’s still embarrassing for me when my Mom calls someone out on my behalf, though perhaps not nearly as embarrassing as it was for the waitress.

She did apologize, and explained that she hadn’t interacted with disabled people before. I felt a little empathy towards her at this point, perhaps because I too have been on the receiving end of a Mom Rant, and left her with some disability pointers that I hope she’ll remember. Someone else will be getting an email with the Accessible Customer Service Standard.

If this seems at all shocking for 2016, know that it will likely continue into 2017 as well. Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities #IDPD. Disabled people across the world have been bringing attention to issues like this all day, and for decades. I’m protected with a certain amount of privilege that keeps situations like this away from me most of the time, but many people are not.

Fellow blogger Dave Hingsburger recently posted about a disabled man who was finally given agency and the power to make a major decision about his own life at the age of sixty. This is a must read, beautiful post, bring tissue.

As a disabled person, sometimes it seems like this loss of agency is something we have to live with, but it’s not. Loss of agency has much more to do with the system we live in then it does with us as disabled people. I think this is particularly important when we talk about employment, which happens to be part of the theme for this year’s #IDPD.

Let’s face facts, employers would still prefer to hire an able-bodied, neuro-normative person most of the time, especially when that potential employee is white. These are hard times to find jobs for many people, but white, educated, non-disabled people seem a little more entitled to those jobs, and we need to start talking about that with them.

Like this waitress, when you’re just doing your job, sometimes it’s hard to see the people who’ve become invisible in the process. Not unlike the indigenous peoples in Canada whose rights and traditions suddenly become invisible so our Prime Minister can approve a pipeline, create some temporary work for other people, and leave progressing our economy and environment to somebody else.

The bottom line: if we don’t talk about our agency and our rights, and making those things visible, they will be lost to someone else who is louder and more visible then we are.

So please speak out when you can, if not for you, then do it for the many of us who are still not in the conversation today. Start with writing to your MP. Talk about accessibility, talk about a Canadians with Disabilities Act, talk about pipelines. It’s time the conversation shifted.

Accessible Apartment elevators down 3 times this week in Etobicoke

I’ve lived in the same co-op apartment building since the spring of 2010. There have been times over the years when I’ve been frustrated with where I live, but nothing quite like this past week.

I live in a co-op in Ward 6 in Toronto. I’m fortunate to live in a wheelchair accessible apartment that I can afford, although I think the idea that someone should feel fortunate to live in a space that they can afford and access contributes to the kind of complacency leading to the situation that I’m now in.

As I write this, both elevators in my building are down for the third time this week. I live on the eleventh floor, and I have no idea when they’ll be up and running again. To clarify that, one elevator has been down for the entire week, and within this week the other elevator has broken down three times.

The first time was Tuesday, November 22nd, at around 10:30pm. I had just come into the building after visiting my friend in hospital on the other side of the city, so it was already a long day. I was just about to enter the elevator when the fire alarm went off. I waited downstairs for the fire department, and the fire situation was quickly resolved, someone was smoking in the stairwell. That should’ve been the end of it, but it wasn’t.

The firemen couldn’t get the elevator to go back in service. They couldn’t even get inside. They tried everything they could think of to get the elevator running again, even setting the alarm off to try to get it to reset, but it wouldn’t.

At this point I should explain that the building has some security, but they check on a range of building in the area. There is paid maintenance during the weekday, and the rest of the time we rely on volunteer maintenance. It’s well known in my building that the volunteer rarely answers his phone, and you have better luck banging on his door, but he was on vacation. My building manager was also on vacation.

There are a lot of seniors, and people with disabilities living in my building, thankfully I was the only one stuck downstairs. Security contacted my building manager, who contacted the daytime maintenance and the elevator repair company. It was about 11:30-12am when the maintenance guy came, he was not able to fix the elevator. He and security stayed with me until 1 am when my partner could get there. My partner and I decided to leave for an accessible hotel, the closest an hour away. My power chair was nearly dead, my cell phone was dead, and I had just the clothes on my back and my purse.

At 2 am, the fire department, thankfully nearby, saw us waiting for the night bus, and told us elevator repair company had shown up, and we went home. They knew because one of my neighbours got fed up and called 911. My local fire department is actually pretty great.

Since then, it was down Friday November 25th from before 6:30am to 10:30am, and again today, which is Sunday November 27th, I do not expect the elevator to work until Monday. I only found out about this because the person who came to assist me in the morning climbed 11 flights of stairs to get to me.

For me, I work full-time, and this impact my job and well-being. I’m trapped in my own home today, but it’s also a major safety concern for the seniors and people with disabilities that live here. What if an ambulance was called?

I recognize that sometimes things happen, but what really is most upsetting is the lack of preventative measures or concern.

When I called the building office on Friday, they acknowledged the problem, but offered no solutions or preventative measures. She offered to call me when the elevators were up, but I was already downstairs by the time she thought to call.

At the very least, we need full-time maintenance staff, and someone to check on vulnerable people when the elevators are down for more than an hour. Co-op members should be informed of expected repair times, and be given the option to switch companies if that’s what’s needed. This cannot be allowed to continue.

I’m writing to my Councillor Mark Grimes and my building manager Gary McMayo. I welcome other suggestions.

The 6th Annual Toronto Disability Pride March Saturday, September 24, 2016

Starting at Queens Park (111 Wellesley Street West) and marching to the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson (99 Gerrard Street East) from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Please note: accessible washrooms are not available at Queen’s Park. Please see information on accessible washrooms on the route page.

Why we’re Marching:

  • To bring recognition of the struggles and value of people with disabilities as we fight against ableism and other forms of oppression.
  • To be visible and show that we have a voice in our community and a right to be heard by taking to the streets.
  • To celebrate and take pride in ourselves as a community of people with disabilities.

Be Loud, Be Proud, Come March with Us!

Find us on Facebook and Twitter @DisabilityPM

We need volunteers and marshals for the march! If you have experience that is great, if not we still want you! If you aren’t sure what a marshal does, here’s a brief description. Please fill out the volunteer form if you are interested.

Some  things you should know if you plan to attend.

The Toronto Disability Pride March aims to promote a cross-disability atmosphere, that also recognizes other forms of oppression such as race, class, gender, sexuality, sanism, etc.  We believe the disability movement is strongest in a harmony of voices, not one homogeneous voice. We ask all those who plan to attend the march to respect this approach and the other people within the space of the march.

Have Questions? email us at torontodisabilitypride@gmail.com.

Come out for TTC Accessibility for All!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 4:00pm
Please join us at Yonge and Bloor Station, Toronto, Ontario


D!ONNE Renée is the organizer behind this event. If you have any questions, want to throw your virtual support behind her, or have comments, reach out to her via email or on Twitter at @OnElectionDay.

Click to listen to audio announcement.

The announcement reads:

Accessibility is a Right — Not an Option

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016 – Between 4pm – 8pm, on behalf of community and Public interests, an #AccessibilityNow! TTC campaign/protest will take place starting in the Yonge and Bloor area to raise issues concerning discrimination based on disability, barriers, and ableism in transit and its services.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets out the interpretation for “barriers.” Too many barriers exist within the TTC. It is not acceptable to take a “minimum/at least” approach in improving access for all. The standard should be a model that reflects an equal to or greater than the access that is currently available, model. The equal to or greater than the access that is currently available model is a model of equity and equality.

People have a right to access public systems; in this right, people should feel that they have the option to be free to choose whether they access those systems or not. We are all not free just to be.

Approximately 35 out of 65 subway stations are “partially accessible,” on good days. Functioning equipment = good days. “Partially accessible” means that all patrons don’t have the option to access the system for lack of elevators, Braille information and helps, proper signage (large print, clear, large-enough digital boards), functional escalators, inaccessible entrances/exits (now including Presto Card gates and readers) to subway stations, buses, streetcars, and extraordinary Wheel Trans wait/scheduling. Plus the TTC worsened accessibility when they began replacing the names of Toronto’s subway lines with confusing numbers.

TTC (and transit across Ontario and Canada) must be proactive in its operations and provide equality in its services and not discriminate against anyone, including people with disabilities and/or people requiring accessible access in order to use its systems. TTC was able to find money to implement Presto Card systems into its subway, bus, and streetcar services even though the gate systems being used at subway and bus stations are all not accessible; but TTC seems to be unable to be actively proactive in ensuring that all areas of TTC are fully accessible.

While this event will take place in downtown Toronto, the issues and concerns being raised affect all of Ontario and Canada. We want everyone to have the ability to travel independently, or in group, as we so choose.

We want a barrier-free Canada.

Will you help?

Will you join the protest and invite others to do so too? Will you gather with community in accessibility advocacy? #AccessibilityNow #GetItRight #AODA #AODAFail

Air Canada Discriminates Against Wheelchair User

Disability advocate Tim Rose is attempting to fly to Cleveland to deliver a presentation on the importance of accessibility. But, ironically, he can’t get there because a major airline is refusing to accommodate – or even brainstorm possible ways to meet – his needs. Although Air Canada is the only airline to fly there direct (and thus Tim’s only reasonable option), they are refusing to transport his wheelchair because it is too difficult for them. Despite the fact that he has flown this exact route with Air Canada on a similar plane before (not to mention flown many times around the world). Despite the fact that their own accessibility policy commits to transporting mobility aids that do not fit on smaller planes by another method. and despite the fact that they have almost two months to come up with a solution. They are saying Tim wanting to fly with his wheelchair is the same thing as trying to bring an oversized bag. Tim and his wheelchair are not baggage.

This is hardly the first time people with disabilities have received inequitable treatment by Air Canada, see this article from 2009, and this article from 2015 for just a couple examples.

A while back I also started a petition related to this issue.

See Tim’s video below. Apologies this video is not yet captioned. I will post a captioned video when it becomes available.

 

 

Mountains to Climb

An image of a mountain in Calgary

 

Above this post is a picture of a mountain. This is where I was lucky enough to spend my Canada day, with my family. I remember a weight lifting off my shoulders as I gazed at the sight, feeling comparatively small against this massive reminder of how the world is shaped. Sometimes changing the life around it abruptly, sometimes subtly and slow.

Social movements can feel like that too. Sometimes change happens fast, you can get caught up in the momentum and sometimes confused, forgetting that things must slow down again. When things do slow down, you wonder if anything you’ve done, or continue to do, is making any kind of difference.

I’m feeling a bit like that myself right now. The Toronto Disability Pride March is now entering its sixth year, mark your calendars for September 24th. I look back at that first year, and it would be easy to convince myself that nothing has changed, with so many of us still struggling against oppression, with low social assistance rates, inadequate accessible housing, lack of accessibility, and now it seems we even need to prove our very lives have value.

Then I think about the small group of organizers who’ve kept this march going for the last six years, even when the weight of it seemed almost too much to bear. The people who’ve been inspired by it, the voices that have been heard, and I know why we do this. Like the mountain, slowly emerging towards the sky, we’ve claimed this space, and our world must change with us.

I think this year may be time to give that ground a shake.

Disabled People have better stories to tell

My proposed line-up of disability-themed movies:

  • A group of crip sisters sharing stories of their struggles through the years, and how their crip sisterhood helped them through it.
  • Maybe those crip sisters are on a spaceship, as part of a rebellion.
  • Two young disabled people from divided houses fall in love. In an act of rebellion against family pressure, they don’t kill themselves, but instead start a family of their own.
  • A disability activist searches for meaning in their own life while fighting for safeguards in assisted suicide laws.
  • A group of disabled/Mad friends go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. They wake up the next morning to discover one of their friends is missing, and encounter various shenanigans while looking for them.

Ok so maybe I should stick with writing blogs, but I still think these films would be better than what’s on the table.  See this review of Me Before You if you’re not sure what I’m referring to here.

We know why ableist films and messages continue to spread, as do sexism, racism, and homophobia.

We have a responsibility to call out these stories, so that their toxic messages do not spread.

I’ve been seeing posts and messages that “it’s just one story” or “they don’t mean you”, but I think those posts miss the point.

I grew up in an area without many other disabled people. I had no disabled role models until I left home. Despite the privileges of being a white, middle class kid, I grew up with a lot of discrimination, but I didn’t know that’s what it was. I thought it was me, that I was broken. I was surrounded by sometimes well-meaning able-bodied people who saw my disabledness as something to mourn, or to mould into something more acceptable. They didn’t have better stories either.

Ableist stories were all I had until my twenties. Yes, I’m still here, but they’re woven into my formation, that’s just how it is.

Growing up in that environment still impacts me, some days I still feel broken. Some days ableist attitudes from others convince me for a time that I don’t belong, that I am less of a person.

I am fortunate now, that I have a strong community of disabled folks around me, but not everyone does.

Ableist stories and messages might not impact all of us equally, but they do cause harm.

We need to tell our own stories. We need less suicide and more solidarity.

Preferably with rebel forces on space cruisers.

Disability Rights and Physician-Assisted Dying   – Saturday April 23rd

Saturday, April 23rd 2016 | 4:15 p.m.

Multifaith Centre | 569 Spadina Ave (north of College)

Speakers
Melissa Graham  Fighter for social justice, public speaker, writer, researcher, and proud disabled woman working with youth, women, & other disabled people in Toronto. One of the organizers and founder of the Toronto Disability Pride March. 
Maureen Aslin , Facilitator and educator working with community groups to support end of life planning. Advocate for patient rights.

Speakers list is now online at:
http://marxismconference.ca/speakers

For full program details click here:
http://marxismconference.ca/program

To register online click here:
http://marxismconference.ca/register

part of MARXISM 2016 | ideas for real change
$10 or pwyc
info: marxismconference.ca