People with Disabilities March and Roll on the Streets of Toronto

On October 13th, 2012 the disability community once again made their voices heard on the streets of Toronto. They marched with a goal to bring recognition of the struggles and value of people with disabilities as we fight against ableism and other forms of oppression, but they also marched to celebrate and take pride in themselves as part of a community of people with disabilities.

The Toronto Disability Pride March began in the fall of 2011, inspired by the events of Occupy Toronto, and the marches against cuts to disability services that were happening in the UK. The March was also intended to raise awareness to cuts and events that were impacting the disability community locally, such as cuts to social housing and incidents with the Toronto Police. In that first year one hundred people gathered at Nathan Phillips Square and marched down to St. James Park.

The UN has noted that people with disabilities are largely excluded from civil and political processes and are overwhelmingly voiceless in matters that affect them and their society. Many people with disabilities are unemployed or underemployed against their will. Though people with disabilities are seen as less or not exploitable by the owners of the means of production, they are further oppressed by being left out of it. To put it in terms of the occupy movement, they are often the lowest 1% of the 99%.

This year we are noticing this oppression in the form of cuts by stealth, and a political scene that not only divides us by our various disabilities, but also by other forms of oppression such as race, class, gender, etc. In September, the provincial government put forth a draft standard to make parks and the outdoor environment accessible. This sounds great until you consider that the same government is eliminating Community Start Up and Maintenance funding to people living on social assistance, which many people rely on to find and keep their homes. They might as well call making these parks accessible the new Home Modification Program.

The accessibility legislation may get out foot in the door for changes in Ontario, but at what cost, but letting our government choose which barriers to eliminate and which to ignore, are we setting ourselves up for future discrimination? Where are the standards to benefit those with chemical sensitivities or mental illnesses? Who says it’s acceptable to leave them out.

The way the March was built also changed this year. Without a solid Occupy Toronto base to build from, we were basically starting from scratch. We discovered some of the perils and perks of grassroots group organizing. We came up with a new route, and made new allies that helped make our March a success.

We also discovered that for some people in our community the concept of disability pride is scary, the concept of the oppression of people with disabilities is still too hard to face, and connections between different movements in the disability community are something they are not ready to build. We need to work on that.

A question I often get asked about this March is what is disability pride. I think we can find it in a great many things. Being in the march, and making ourselves visable is one example, the solidarity we find in marching with each other is another. Another way I think we show this pride is by recognizing and fighting oppression. There are some people with disabilities who will try to tell you that oppression of people with disabilities, otherwise known as ableism, does not exist, that all we need is to eliminate a few barriers and we’ll be fine. I’ve actually gotten emails suggesting that. We know that’s not true. Anyone who’s on ODSP can tell you that’s not true, anyone who’s been asked to leave a disabiility grassroots organization because of a mental health issue knows that’s not true, and any parent who has feared having their child taken away because of their disability knows that’s not true. We can do better. For too long, the rights and oppression of people with disabilities have been discussed behind closed doors, or not at all, but through actions like the Toronto Disability Pride March we find our voice, and make ourselves heard in the chorus of movements.

It’s no mistake that the Toronto Disability Pride March brings out a call to build connections within the disability movement. It’s a call for equal access and equal rights for everyone regardless of their race, class, gender, sexuality, or what disability they have. This is something that seems to be lacking from the mainstream organizations and movements, and why the March will continue to forge its own path.

We call on our allies, people of every ability from the labour movement, the student movement and beyond. We call on those whose struggles have long been supported by people with disabilities to join our struggle and prove that we are stronger united. For more information you can find us on Facebook, or check out our website http://torontodisabilitypride.wordpress.com/. We look forward to seeing you next year!

 

NEW LOCATION: OCCUPY. STRIKE. RESIST. . . How do we beat the 1%?

#OCCUPY. STRIKE. RESIST.
. . . How do we beat the 1%?

A one-day political conference
Saturday, February 4 from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm
Galbraith Building, 35 St. George Street, University of Toronto – wheelchair accessible
Organized by the International Socialists
Register online: http://bit.ly/Feb4conf
Strike Occupy Resist.jpg
With every passing day, the capitalist system spins deeper into crisis. Politicians, bankers and bosses are trying to force us to pay for their mess – by slashing our jobs, pensions and wages. But across the globe, people are fighting back. The Arab Spring has inspired resistance all over the world, general strikes have rocked Europe, and the call to #Occupy and resist was taken up in over 1,700 cities world-wide. Millions of people are beginning to question the logic of the capitalist system.
Join us for this one-day conference as we discuss the next steps of the movement and the best ways to challenge capitalism.
11:30 am to 12:00 pm: Registration and snacks
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm: Opening meeting
Room 1: Occupy, strike, resist: How do we beat the 1%?
1:00 pm to 1:15 pm: Break
1:15 pm to 2:30 pm: Workshops
Room 1: Capitalist crisis: What’s behind the Great Recession?
Room 2: Student power: How can students change the world?
Room 3: ‘Humanitarian intervention’ vs. national liberation: How do we help oppressed nations?
2:30 pm to 2:45 pm: Break
2:45 pm to 4:00 pm: Workshops
Room 1: Climate chaos: How do stop capitalism from killing the planet?
Room 2: Crisis and resistance: Fighting racism by any means necessary
Room 3: From strikes to revolutions: How can workers change the world?
4:00 pm to 4:15 pm: Break
4:15 pm to 5:30pm: Closing meeting
Room 1: Building an effective movement: The role of revolutionary organization
For a list of suggested readings, please visit http://bit.ly/Feb4read.

OCCUPY. STRIKE. RESIST. . . How do we beat the 1%?

#OCCUPY. STRIKE. RESIST.
. . . How do we beat the 1%?

A one-day political conference
Saturday, February 4 from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm
Bahen Centre, 40 St. George Street, University of Toronto
Organized by the International Socialists
Register online: http://bit.ly/Feb4conf
Strike Occupy Resist.jpg
With every passing day, the capitalist system spins deeper into crisis. Politicians, bankers and bosses are trying to force us to pay for their mess – by slashing our jobs, pensions and wages. But across the globe, people are fighting back. The Arab Spring has inspired resistance all over the world, general strikes have rocked Europe, and the call to #Occupy and resist was taken up in over 1,700 cities world-wide. Millions of people are beginning to question the logic of the capitalist system.
Join us for this one-day conference as we discuss the next steps of the movement and the best ways to challenge capitalism.
11:30 am to 12:00 pm: Registration and snacks
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm: Opening meeting
Room 1: Occupy, strike, resist: How do we beat the 1%?
1:00 pm to 1:15 pm: Break
1:15 pm to 2:30 pm: Workshops
Room 1: Capitalist crisis: What’s behind the Great Recession?
Room 2: Student power: How can students change the world?
Room 3: ‘Humanitarian intervention’ vs. national liberation: How do we help oppressed nations?
2:30 pm to 2:45 pm: Break
2:45 pm to 4:00 pm: Workshops
Room 1: Climate chaos: How do stop capitalism from killing the planet?
Room 2: Crisis and resistance: Fighting racism by any means necessary
Room 3: From strikes to revolutions: How can workers change the world?
4:00 pm to 4:15 pm: Break
4:15 pm to 5:30pm: Closing meeting
Room 1: Building an effective movement: The role of revolutionary organization
For a list of suggested readings, please visit http://bit.ly/Feb4read.

We Strike Together ~ Public Forum January 11th

UofT PUBLIC FORUM
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11, 5PM
OISE room 2214 (252 Bloor St. West)
The 1% are undermining accessible public education
by increasing tuition and class sizes, cutting funding
and corporatizing campus. Join a discussion about how
the 99% on campus–students, TAs, staff and faculty–
can unite to support upcoming campaigns, like the
February 1 Day of Action and a possible CUPE 3902 strike.
Organized by Occupied UofT, in solidarity with UofT General Assembly,
UofT Students’ Union, UofT Association of Part-time Undergraduate
Students, UofT Graduate Students’ Union, Unite HERE 75 and CUPE 3902
For more info contact occupieduoft@gmail.com   @occupieduoft   #Occut

Post Durbin: Let’s Remember our Occupy Spirit

Here’s a video to uplift you on your Friday. Let it also remind you that while politicians have there heads in the sand over climate change, the people have the power to create real change. We are the people who matter this year, but the truth is we are only starting to realize the power we have.

Happy Friday!

International Day of People with Disabilities: a Call for a Better World

The following is a speech I gave yesterday…

 

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for inviting me to speak here today.

I think it’s impossible to have a discussion about activism without acknowledging that tomorrow is the International Day of People with Disability (IDPD). This is a day where people with disabilities across the world are encouraged to celebrate who we are, take stock of how we’ve come, and look forward to the struggles ahead. The United Nations encourages us to use this day as opportunity for inclusion and celebration, but also to organize and take action as we work to dismantle the barriers that keep us from full equality. Given the events of this past year, it seems appropriate that part of the theme for 2011 is “Together a better world for all”.

The UN noted that people with disabilities are largely excluded from civil and political processes and are overwhelmingly voiceless in matters that affect them and their society, but this year it seems we’ve found our voice.

In response to austerity cuts severely affecting programs similar to social assistance in the UK, people with disabilities took to the street in a “Hardest Hit” march. The organizers said about 5,000 people took part in the protest. Many travelled by coach and by train from as far a field as Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the south west to take part in what is being hailed the biggest gathering of disabled people in the UK the country had ever seen.

When the Occupy Movement began, people with disabilities were there, and welcomed in the fightback. When occupations sprung up across Canada in solidarity with the occupations in the United States, people with disabilities were among both the occupiers and people who support them. There is even a facebook page dedicated to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the movement.. People with disabilities were given accessible supports within the occupation in Toronto that would normally take months to receive in their day-to-day lives. This connection is an important one, because not only are people with disabilities part of the 99%, they are typically part of the lowest 1% of the 99%.

Here in Toronto, we were able to link the issues of the disability movement to the occupy movement through the Toronto Disability Pride March. On October 29th, 2011, one hundred people showed up at Nathan Phillips Square, and took to the streets to march down to the occupation, carrying signs that said things like “Build Ramps, Not Bombs” and chanting “ No Cuts, No Way! Tell Rob Ford we’re here to stay!” Shortly after this march, a similar event happened at Occupy Wall Street.

Since then, people with disabilities in Toronto have felt encouraged to be visible in their events and I think you’ll see this demonstrated tomorrow at the Winston Churchill statue when we celebrate IDPD. This event is usually city sponsored, but it slipped between the cracks this year, providing an opportunity for people with disabilities to take back the day.

Even with these great first steps, there is still much work to be done. The AODA has given us a focus on employment, transportation, the built environment, communications, and customer service, but there are still many inequalities that are left unaddressed by these standards. Issues such as low social assistance rates, and the attitudinal barriers faced in society also play a role in the isolation of people with disabilities.

In order to contribute effectively to society people also need to feel safe. This includes things like access to safe and affordable housing and feeling safe in society. Toronto is particular has experienced several situations in the past year and before that where people with disabilities have been harmed and mistreated by the police services set up to protect us. A particular image that comes to my mind was when a nine year old autistic child was handcuffed in a daycare, and the Toronto police considered this an appropriate action. Not to mention the countless incidents against people with disabilities that occurred during the G20. I would like to suggest that in a city like Toronto we can do better. I find it interesting also that while the American disability standards include best practices for police services in this regard, the AODA does not.

Experience shows that when persons with disabilities are empowered to participate and lead the process of society, their entire community benefits. Then how do we encourage those people?

The easiest way to get people involved in an issue is by talking about it Discussing an issue can actually be activism in itself, because it gets people thinking about how the issue impacts their life. This discussion can happen in an everyday conversation, a blog, a Facebook group, a radio show, or a larger event.

The five most important things to remember when working on an issues like this are:

  1. Avoid excluding people – everyone has something to offer, don’t discourage interest
  2. Be flexible – once your issue is a group issue, you’ve opened it up to people that may have different opinions that are also valid. Groups are dynamic, they change.
  3. Build alliances, this will help create critical mass and political will
  4. Prepare for your policy window, that right time when things can come together in a way that allows people to discuss these issues more openly.
  5. Have Fun – if you’re not having fun, it’s probably not worth doing.

Inclusion can come in many forms, all it takes sometimes is for someone to reach out and provide an opportunity, and we need this inclusion, especially from women and youth with disabilities who are so often left out of the picture. In honour of IDPD, I encourage all of you to please take up the touch and get involved. Together we can build a better world.

 

RALLY AGAINST AUSTERITY & FORD’S CUTS with Occupy Toronto – Saturday, November 5th

Join Occupy Toronto for a big Saturday march starting at 2:00pm at the Occupation Site at St. James Park – just east of King and Church streets.

We will be marching to City Hall where at 3:00pm, we will have a rally consisting of a couple of speakers and then a short concert against the social service cutbacks, privatization, wage cuts, and job insecurity that ordinary people are facing on the municipal, provincial and national levels.

Join us in the fightback and LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE!

SCHEDULE:

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2011
2:00 – Meet at St. James Park
3:00 – Rally and Concert at Toronto City Hall

On Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=134164850022069

Website:
http://occupyto.org/