The Occupy Movement

<img style="display:block; margin:0px auto 10px; text-align:center;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 148px; height: 223px;" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ZuxxOdL04rU/Tv-A3NZyD6I/AAAAAAAABH8/QQnMaCL71dA/s320/disability-blog-carnival-logo.jpg" border="0" alt="[Visual description: Disability Blog Carnival logo, featuring a black-and-white photograph of a man and a boy. The man is in uniform and holding crutches;
he is apparently an amputee; the boy is holding onto one of the crutches as a child might hold an adult’s hand; the two are photographed from behind, and
we see beyond them a seashore and a bridge]”id=”BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5692410139998556066″ />

After participating in last month’s Disability blog Carnival, I decided to take part again. This round is being hosted by Sharon of After Gadget, and the topic is Occupy – as in the Occupy Movement.

When the Occupy Movement first began, I thought it was kind of an interesting concept. People joining together to “take back our democracy and build a new economy”.

As time has passed though…

I have found myself more and more skeptical of its effectiveness and continue to wonder if the ‘99%’ includes people like myself.

If the Movement were successful, would I benefit? Would the world become more accepting and accommodating of people with disabilities?

Or would we be pushed aside, and left to fend for ourselves in an even more undemocratic and economically unbalanced society.

I’ve given these questions a lot of thought. Though I do not feel my life is where I’d like it to be, I’m not sure I want to support a Movement that lacks clear direction and that has not explicitly told me how my life will be any better without the corrupt politicians and money-hungry corporations.

I wonder if Canadians realize that in order for the Occupy Movement to truly succeed we would have to agree to reduce our standard of living…

Maybe I’m wrong, but I really do not see that happening.

I have friends who are huge supporters of the Occupy Movement and feel that this is the beginning of something better, but I do not fully agree.

If we didn’t have the multinational companies such as Apple and Microsoft for example, people like me would not be able to be independent, participate in social media or even work in some cases. Do you really think a “Mom and Pop” shop would choose to invest in creating accessible products for people with disabilities? The products made by the multinationals are already expensive because the target user group is small, so why would a “Mom and Pop” shop choose to take such a risk?

When Steve Jobs passed away in October of this year, many disabled bloggers wrote posts on how he had changed their lives. Without companies like Apple, who have made accessibility out of the box a priority, many of us would not be able to enjoy cell phones that connect us with the world, or even communicate with others independently outside the home.

I couldn’t imagine a world without screen readers, Braille displays and accessible cell phones – could you?

Even though I think it’s wonderful to see people from all walks of life joining together for a ‘united’ cause, I’m not sure, a single person has stopped to think about the repercussions of such a movement succeeding.

I have, and this is why, I am not willing to support The Occupy Movement.

Independent Woman

I’ve never taken part in the Disability Blog Carnival, but after reading this round’s topic, I was inspired.

I lost my sight in the summer of 1993. I had just finished grade 8 and was excited to begin grade 9 at a new school. It was a total shock. My parents weren’t sure where to turn. I spent my summer indoors, trying to adapt to a life without 20/20 vision.

September arrived and students returned to school. My mom didn’t know what to do with me. She kept me home the first day, and called our region’s Board of Education. She talked to a woman in charge of organizing special services and was relieved to learn that there was a department of sorts designed to help visually impaired and blind students.

That afternoon, I met a woman who would forever change my life.

Stephanie Sommer arrived around noon. She sat with my mom and I, at the kitchen table and asked questions. She had come to assess whether I truly required her assistance. The phone rang at some point during our meeting and after watching me reach past the phone, she took my hand and placed it onto the receiver with a smile.

After mom was finished with the call, Stephanie told us she would start working with me the following day.

Over the next five years, Stephanie would teach me not only the usual lessons of Braille and getting around safely with a cane, but she would inspire me to be an independent woman.

Stephanie never once treated me like I had a disability.

She expected me to act appropriately and study just as hard as every other student in my high school.

She always expected me to give eye contact.

She wouldn’t help me unless I said please or thank you.

And if I got frustrated and attempted to give up, she’d walk away and wait for me to get over it.

Stephanie and I developed more than just a student-teacher bond, we became friends. She told me about her own vision problems and told me how she embarked on an educational journey that led her to working with students like me.

I remember the feeling of comfort that would come over me each time I smelled her perfume, and the smile that would sprout on my face, no matter how bad the day, when I heard her voice. Stephanie was my navigator, guiding me through a world I now found scary and full of unknowns.

She taught me how to read Braille and how to fully utilize the vision I still had.

She showed me how to travel safely throughout my community with a cane, and then when I told her I wanted to apply for a guide dog, she challenged me to first move outside of my comfort zone. I learned how to take the bus to a neighbouring town to attend movies and shop alone in their mall. Then, she gave me the biggest test of all, she asked me to learn how to take the bus to Toronto and then learn to take the subway to the largest mall of all (at the time) – the Eatons Centre.

Once I entered my final year of high school, Stephanie was there to help me reach my goal of attending university. She read through university brochures and program descriptions. Then she helped me fill out application, after application because I couldn’t decide on which one to attend. She was there when I received each of my letters of acceptance and then took it upon herself to arrange campus tours so that I could better decide upon the school for me.

After I began university, Stephanie and I talked a couple times a year, but after she attended my wedding in 2006, we sadly lost touch.

I still think about the lessons she taught me. She inspired me how to be the woman I am today, because when no one else did, she believed I could be better.

Mother’s Day

Tomorrow should be a day of celebration. A day to look back on the memories I shared with my mother.

Instead though, I want Monday to come as quickly as possible.

All week I’ve had to watch advertisements on TV and read messages via Twitter telling me what I should get my mother for Mother’s Day.

I’m sure this information has been helpful for some, but I find the constant bombardment to be emotionally draining.

I’m not expecting people to stop celebrating Mother’s Day. I’m not asking friends to stop talking about their mothers and how special they are. I don’t want Mother’s Day to become another politically incorrect topic, like Christmas, Easter or the use of husband and wife.

I just wish there were TV ads and Twitter feeds which suggested ways to honour the mothers who have passed away.

Or recommended ways to honour the men who have stepped up and taken on the roles of both “mother” and “father”.

My mother was a strong woman. She was a fighter. She tried to do what was best for her children. She didn’t always make the best choices.

But, she raised two strong women who will do their best to fulfill her dreams.

Could You Imagine?

For the past few months I’ve been reading “Best Friends Forever” by Jennifer Wiener and today came upon an “OMG!” moment.

Adelaide Downs is lying in bed thinking about the moment which caused her to realize her weight is not only unhealthy, but is creating barriers to life. In her mind’s eye, she is walking along a street and notices a sign advertising the dessert of the day and decides to go into the restaurant for a treat. The diner is small and has only booths so she knows from the moment she enters that the trip will not go well. After squeezing herself into the tight space between the booth and table, she looks at the menu and overhears a little boy ask his mom why the woman next to them is so large. The mom tells the little boy that it’s because she eats too much and makes bad food choices. Hearing this makes Addie uncomfortable, so she decides to quickly order a bowl of soup and leave. When she’s done though, she tries to stand up and is horrified to learn that she’s stuck! Then to make matters worse, she notices the little boy watching her struggle.

Reading this made me feel terrible. I thought about how awful it must have been for Addie to be in this situation and began thinking about my own weight and wondering if this could some day happen to me. I’m not a huge person, but I’m also not a healthy weight either. I’ve tried cutting this and that out of my diet and have tried convincing myself to go on our treadmill at least once a day, but right now I just don’t have the desire to stick with it. I also understand the risks surrounding my weight, but so far have just not found the spark I require to light my will power to become healthier. I know it will come some day, but I’m just hoping it won’t be too late.

It’s funny to think of all the obsessing I do over keeping my dogs slim and healthy, when to do this for myself seems to be so difficult.

Everyone’s got An Opinion

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

The above quote, was taken from a Twitter feed I follow, that sends out random quotes about life. I know I’ve been blogging a lot about things I’ve read, that were inspiring, but I’m hoping everyone enjoys the break from hearing solely about the fur babies.

When I read the above quote a few days ago, I began thinking about my aunts and how they seem to find it necessary to criticize other family member’s life choices, but seem to overlook the fact that their decisions haven’t been much better.

I know constantly being told what to do or what you’re doing wrong, is just part of being the “younger” generation of a family, but my sister and I seem to be even more of a target now that we’re older and Mom’s not around to defend us. I try and keep my distance. Try not to have to be in a situation where I’ll be alone with an “interrogator”, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Maybe it’s partly because I can’t see well enough to know when others are leaving the room. Or maybe it’s because I’m just too nice, but it always seems to happen at a family gathering and it’s gotten to the point where I dread having to attend.

My family thinks Huib is the greatest guy ever. They have no complaints when it comes to him and my decision to get married, but they still find ways of sticking their two cents into our relationship. They find it necessary to give me advice on having a successful marriage – which they haven’t succeeded in doing themselves, so I’m not sure how their advice is going to help me. They like criticizing the way I interact with Huib and ask why he doesn’t want to go outside with the “boys” rather than just sitting with me – because that’s what all guys do right? And then when I’m thoroughly annoyed, one of the aunts begin asking if we want kids and when I explain that things just haven’t worked out the way we’d like, they proceed to ask if we’ve actually been trying….well, isn’t that self-explanatory? AND is it really your business? I guess it just seems strange to them that their own children could be popping out babies without any real effort, but Huib and I are having trouble.

Then, after all that is over, we come to the weight questions… So you’ve gained some weight since the last time I saw you… – you don’t think I’ve noticed? Have you looked at your own belt size? Oh, the things I would love to say if I weren’t a caring and patient person lol! When I just sit there with a look of shock on my face, someone will proceed to begin advising me on how to lose the extra weight, which would be fine if they, themselves weren’t also fighting a weight issue. It seems as though our family’s genes just aren’t conducive to being thin.

It’s funny to observe them though when the tables have turned. When people begin criticizing them or asking them questions and giving “advice”. They just sit there and go red, not out of embarrassment, but anger because they see the questions as a personal attack. This is when one usually ends up crying or leaving because someone hurt their feelings or offended them.

Do you have any people in your life that you wish could take a moment, and just look in the mirror?

True Equality

“Until the disabled community gets behind the concept of access for all we will never have true equality. Access for most doesn’t count.”

The above statement, was written by our friends over at The Dog House about a week ago – hope she doesn’t mind me posting it here.

Over the years, disability advocates have fought to have the rights of “their” group recognized. Their members bring forth inequalities and the “leaders” begin lobbying the various levels of government for change. Small changes happen each year because of their efforts, but it always seems to be one group working to change policies and practices for their specific “issue” rather than trying to lobby for shifts in policies and practices which will benefit all disabled Canadians. It seems as though the various disability groups are afraid that if they were to ask for changes that will help everyone, then maybe “their” particular fight wouldn’t seem as important.

I did a quick Google search and found these two references that sort of illustrate my above thoughts.

This link, will take you to the Canadian Human rights Commission, where there is a publication that describes different changes that have occurred in the areas of ATM accessibility, equal rights in the tax courts and accommodations for disabled government workers. With further digging, I learned that that in all cases, the changes were brought about because one disability group complained about an inadequacy and not because the “disability community” as a whole saw it as a problem.

This link, will take you to a blog (I think) where the writer discusses changes that have come about over the past 50 years and shows how disability groups campaign against one another in an effort to bring forth “their” plights as being more important and often refuse to celebrate the successes of others.

I’m not sure if you’ll see these links as true illustrations of what I am describing, but they will at least give you a glimpse in the right direction.

Canadians with disabilities are far better off now than they were even thirty years ago, but I think we could have come much further if it were not for the ongoing attempts to outshine one another. In my opinion, no disability group is better or worse off than the other. We all face barriers in our everyday lives, so maybe instead of trying to work against one another, we should try and work together because until then I don’t see there ever being “true equality.”

General Response

Today I received a response from the constituency e-mail address
of Ontario Health Minister Deborah Matthews. The message sender was not Ms. Matthews, but from one of her helpers. She told me that my message would be forwarded on to Ms. Matthews’ Queen’s park address and that I could always send my inquiry to the Ministry’s general address. I forwarded this message on to Christina’s Mom so she was aware of what I had heard so far and was told she had not gotten any word from the letters she had sent.

Well, this afternoon we both received identical messages from a man named Glenn Oldford, who I guess is in charge of sending general e-mails from some closet within the Ministry called Correspondence Services – our tax dollars hard at work!! I have copied the message below, not because it tells us anything, but because I think it’s important for the world to see how the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care spends our money and responds to a plea for life saving assistance.

Dear Ms. Sillaby:

Thank you for your e-mail message regarding a child’s care at the Hospital for Sick Children. While I cannot comment on the care of a third party, I would like to provide you with some information about hospital funding and operations.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care plays a strategic role in health care, but it does not intervene in the care of individual patients. This involves medical decisions that are best addressed by clinical teams.

The number of procedures that a particular hospital performs reflects the hospital’s decisions about budgetary and operational issues, such as the purchase of prosthetic implants and how to allocate operating room time.

Although the ministry provides funding for hospitals through Local Health Integration Networks, hospitals are independent corporations run by their own boards of directors. Each hospital receives a set funding allocation, and the hospital’s administration decides how to use this funding to best suit the needs of the community it serves. This is set out under the provisions of the Public Hospitals Act and other legislation. The hospital boards are directly responsible for the day-to-day management of their hospitals, including the quality of care provided to their patients.

The hospital administration is best able to provide feedback about a patient’s treatment and its own operations.

Thank you again for writing.

Glenn Oldford
Correspondence Services
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Thank you Mr. Oldford. I can see you put a lot of thought into your response and am so glad my tax dollars are being put towards the employment of such a useless position. I’m pretty sure my dog could have come up with a more creative way of saying “the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is a waste of tax payers money and we don’t care about critically ill children because we just hand out your money and leave it’ up to others to spend it.”

I think I will continue sending e-mails and letters each week on Christina’s behalf because there’s gotta be someone who actually cares out there…

The Timelessness Of Music

Just a quick note before I begin writing. Yesterday I decided to combine “Life and Its Challenges” with “Ruled By Paws” so you will notice some new, but old entries have appeared. When I started “Life And Its challenges” I thought it would be nice to just have a blog dedicated to my personal life and thoughts so they wouldn’t seem strange amongst all of my dog entries, but I just found it hard to keep the dogs separate at times and also didn’t find I had as much to say on a personal level. So, now you will get more of a glimpse into the lives of Huib and myself, instead of just the parts which pertain to our fur babies, as some like to call them.

This morning I’ve been listening to the Lithium channel on Serious radio and the song “What Its Like” by Everlast got me thinking about how some songs just never lose their effectiveness.

From Googling the song I learned it was the first song Everlast did when he left House of Pain. I don’t know his previous band, but I sure do like his first solo. According to Song Facts,
“What It’s Like” is about how society is too quick to judge people. It looks at the lives of three different people and the chorus continually reminds the listener that if they knew what it was truly like then they wouldn’t be so fast to label. Even though this song was written back in 1999, the meaning behind the words still causes listeners to pause and reflect about a social issue which remains unchanged.

There are other songs which come up on the radio from time to time that get me thinking about their meanings and how even with time the message rings true.

Are there any songs out there which make you stop and think?

Canadian

On Monday, Huib and I were in Kirkland Lake so I could get blood taken in preparation for my lumbar puncture that is scheduled for a week today. The doctors still don’t know why my vision deteriorated so suddenly and then came back after a few weeks, so as a last ditch effort to figure it all out I’ve been scheduled for an LP. I haven’t had one since I was a teenager, they were terrible and the thought of having to endure one makes me cringe. But, we’ll leave that for another day and move on because I’m just not ready to talk about that. So, Huib and I were in town and decided to get a coffee at one of they’re two Tim Horton’s locations – yes, Kirkland Lake only has about 8,000 people, but has two Timmy’s! After ordering our coffees at the speaker, Huib moved up to the window and saw a sign for “Roll-Up The Rim”. “Roll-Up The Rim” is an approximately two week promotion Timmy’s runs, where people can win things just by buying a coffee, hot chocolate or tea. The promotional television ads last year for “Roll-Up the Rim” had a guy call his friend to inform them that it was time and instructed him to grab his toque (for those non-Canadians, it’s a winter hat) and jump on their moose so they could go grab their timmy’s double double. I used to laugh each time I heard the commercial and thought it was funny how they were able to incorporate several “Canadian things” without making it sound dumb.

This got me thinking about what other things are “Canadian things” and wondering why we take such pride in them. Last year Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and I remember Huib and I watching the closing ceremonies and laughing. The organizers had decided to showcase some of our Canadian talent and began everything by presenting a little skit of sorts to make fun of the various Canadian images – the beaver, the RCMP, and the maple leaf, among other things. I’m not sure if other countries are like this, but for some reason it seems as though Canadians find it necessary to make fun of themselves and be sure others don’t mistake us for Americans.

I think it’s wonderful to have such pride in your own country, but I’m also not sure I believe we are better than other countries. Yes, we have a wonderful public health care system where no one ends up in debt because of illness or dies because they couldn’t afford care, but what about the seniors who are struggling to survive on a less than adequate income or the Canadians suffering from mental illness who can’t afford help and end up in prison or living on the street?
I’m thankful to live in a peaceful country and know that when I wake up in the morning my neighbour’s house won’t be replaced by a bomb crater, but how can we take pride in a country that allows their veterans to live below the poverty line and when someone tries to speak up, information on his financial, medical and psychological condition is given to a cabinet minister? I’m not sure about you, but these facts sure don’t make me feel pride in my country… I will always be thankful for living in Canada and will wear the Canadian flag on my dog’s harness or my backpack with pride, but I will never see myself as better than Americans or any other country’s citizens because no matter what, they all have their “skeletons in the closet”. So, instead of trying so hard to be “un-American” maybe we should take a better look at Canada and focus on trying to solve our own shameful social problems.

And…to think, this was all started by ordering an extra large one and a half Splenda, two cream and a large black I wonder if Terri Clark was onto something when she released her song “I Think the World Needs A Drink”…

She would Have Been 52

On Sunday (February 6th) my mom would have turned 52, but in September of 1998 diabetes decided she should forever be 39.

When Mom first passed away, I found it hard to think of Christmas, Mothers Day, her birthday, and the day she left us (September 25, 1998) without getting teary or feeling generally miserable. I would get moody or easily upset without warning weeks beforehand. I found it hard to listen to friends and other students talk about what they’d be doing with their mothers on Mothers Day or what they got them for Christmas. I felt as though the world should know Mom was gone and therefore no one should be talking about their mothers. Well, it’s been almost twelve and a half years and I’m noticing the days now sometimes pass without thought.

I still think about mom when I’m having a bad day or when something exciting happens. I think about her when I visit my sister and see my step-dad. I think about her when I’m not feeling well and wish she could be there just to offer a finger to hold – something I always did as a kid. I wonder what she would have thought about Huib and where we’d be now if she was still alive. Would we be living in Northeastern Ontario? Or would we be living closer to Aurora because that’s where her and Dad live? Would Brandi be the way she is? Would she still have that feeling of entitlement and expectation that I be there to catch her every time she fell? Or would Mom have made her grow up and make something of herself sooner than we were able to do so? All of these thoughts and questions move through my head whenever I think of Mom and what life would be like if diabetes had not decided she would forever be 39.

Even though you’re no longer with us Mom – Happy 52nd Birthday!!