Thursday, April 30, 2015

Waiting, Worrying and Wheelchairs

So we landed in Calgary.

The flight had been fine, the service great. No problems. Only a couple more worries left. I was confident that we had this trip down now. Then a whole new issue arose. A worry I hadn't contemplated showed up. One that needs, now, to be added to the list. My wheelchair was in the body of the plane behind a door that simply refused to open.


Eventually I had to get off the plane to go up to wait at the gate. They had a wheelchair to take me up but it had these things on the foot pedals that many people have but make their use impossible for me. I managed to make it to the get and get seated in the waiting area. "Here's a new one," I said to Joe who just looked so completely frustrated.

But here's what the staff on the plane and on the ground did that made it all better:\

1) they did not dismiss my concerns. They made it clear that they understood that my wheelchair was of vital importance, and they made it clear that my worry and anxiousness was an absolutely appropriate response to the situation. I wasn't treated as a spoiled child who didn't get what he wanted when he wanted.

2) they answered my questions and kept me up to date. They always answered my questions about what was going on. They gave me information, not reassurance that everything would be OK. They told me, for example, that the plane could not fly with items in the hold that did not belong to a passenger on the plane. It wasn't leaving until the wheelchair was off.

3) they offered a variety of solutions and let me pick what I wanted. When it was clear that I couldn't use the chair they brought to the plane, because of the foot rests. A number of options were presented to me. I choose the option and they went with it, fully understanding that this was my choice and they honoured the fact that I could make my own choice.

4) they showed genuine concern for me and the situation but they didn't over apologize. I knew that they were concerned that I get my chair, that I was dealing with real and appropriate anxiety, that I had to get to the washroom but couldn't. All of those things were going on but they didn't buzz about me with 'I'm sorry' on their lips. They gave me space to breathe and to calm down.

5) they let me know as soon as the chair was out, even though I had to wait for it to be brought up. They didn't let me sit in worry one second longer than I had to.

Bad situations are bad situations but people sometimes do all the right things I felt myself supported by people who understood what the situation meant to me and I knew they were working to make it better.

We got the chair.

We got to the washroom.

We got the luggage.

We got the car.

We got to the hotel.

OK, now we're in Calgary!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Worries In A Row

Photo Description: Air Canada plane flying west over water.
The alarm went off early.

We got up and showered. No laying about.

The bus comes, now, in a half an hour.

Joe is getting the luggage organized and I'm getting my worries set up, all in a row. Oddly it makes travelling in a wheelchair easier if I do it that way. It's easier to deal with them, one at a time, in chronological order, than it is having them all bunched up in my mind.

It isn't the wheelchair, of course.

It's all the rest that goes with it.

I know a couple people with disabilities who just don't travel any more. Not by bus, or by train or by plane. They just find that the work that goes into travel, the sheer number of people you have to deal with and depend upon added to the worry about the chair being damaged is just too much.

A couple years ago, I was getting to that point.

But now that I've got the worries all in a row. It's somehow more doable. For me. Each one of those individual worries, I've dealt with before. Right from getting on the bus to getting on the plane. Air Canada and I have spoken and they know what I need and I know what they need.

As someone who has to deal with anxiety, and the issues that come with it, for most of my life, I've had to develop my own coping mechanisms. This is one that works for me.

The other thing that helps, really helps, after getting the worries all lined up, is to think about the other end. I'm going to have the privilege of giving a keynote speech or two and I get to moderate an exciting session. I'm going to be able to listen and learn as well as having the opportunity to share a bit of how I see the world of service delivery.


It's near time to go down stairs.

All the in house worries have been dealt with.

Tick, tick, tick, ... several worries off the list already.

Damn, that's a good start.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Photo description: Police officer giving a person in a wheelchair a ticket. Officer resting his foot on the foot rest of the wheelchair.
 It was Sunday, traffic on Yonge Street was a little heavier than we expected, but we waited for the right moment. We had been shopping at a little grocery store on the east side of Yonge and were heading home. To do this legally we would have had to go up a block, cross at the lights and come back a block and then head west. Our decision was to wait until it was safe and then zip across the street. Jaywalking for one, jayrolling for the other.

When the break came, Joe was able to zip straight across and up the curb onto the sidewalk. I had to go a much longer distance because the corner we were at didn't have a corner directly opposite, so it made my ride a long diagonal. Longer, shmonger, I am faster in my chair than Joe is on two feet.

As I was approaching the corner, a woman was walking southbound. She called out to me, "You shouldn't be doing that, it's dangerous."

Now, here's the thing.

I don't understand why she's talking to me at all. I don't understand what mechanism in her mind made it OK for her to enter into my life and make commentary about it at all. this has flustered me and confused me from the moment I became disabled. What about me, what about the wheelchair, gives people this kind of permission. I don't understand.

I said to her, "Why are you commenting on me and, " pointing at Joe, "not him." I wanted her to understand, though I begin to doubt that people can see what they see as caring as prejudice instead. She said, "Because he knows what he's doing."

Now, here's the thing.

This is the core of a very big problem. Very. Big. I think that there is an assumption that people with disabilities, of any stripe, are in desperate need of parenting on a constant and continual basis. An assumption that advice and helpful commentary are what's needed in a situation because disabled people are never, really, quite an adult. Never really quite independent. Never really quite aware of the rules and the dangers of every day life.

I think this attitude permeates society.

Accepting the adulthood of people with disabilities would mean having to accept us as having voices that need listening to, experiences that are real and lives that have meaning. None of that is convenient to the present push to have us seen as less worthy: of support; of health care; of life itself.

My voice, saying that my life in a wheelchair is a vibrant one, can't be discounted as easily if I capable of, say, deciding to cross the street on my own.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Protecting The Vulnerable

Photo Description: Road sign reading 'Vulnerability Just Ahead'
... protecting the vulnerable.

I heard someone say that yesterday when they were talking about physician assisted suicide, they were saying that there needed to be a balance such that the rights of those who are at the end of their life, in pain and who want to end their suffering and the rights and concerns of those who want legislation at is aimed at protecting the vulnerable are equally respected.

... the vulnerable.

Who are 'the vulnerable?'

Well, even though I don't exactly know who 'the vulnerable' are, I do know that the responsibility for the wish to kill them has been shifted to them. It's something about them - the vulnerable, that makes murder a really easy choice. Vulnerability has been made part of their DNA. Vulnerability has been to be determined as a permanent state of being.

We never talk of those who are vulnerable to murderous urges on sight of someone with a disability.

We never talk of those who are vulnerable to bigoted responses to reasonable requests to accommodations.

We never talk of the vulnerability of the powerful to misuse of power.


We make the victim, vulnerable.

We keep the victim vulnerable.

Those who are vulnerable to sexual abuse not because of disability but because the powerful deny them the power of education, the strength of vocabulary.

Those who are vulnerable to bullying and teasing not because of disability but because the powerful decide that the bullying of the different is a normal response, it's what the normal do ... inaction of the powerful is approval to the violent.

Those who are vulnerable to lives of poverty and economic powerlessness not because of disability but because social and physical structures set up barrier after barrier after barrier such that work and workplaces are inaccessible in every way possible.

But the vulnerability is, to them, all ours.

We, the disabled are made to carry the burden of the neglect and the abuse and the violent whims of the 'they.'  We are vulnerable after all. 'They' tell us all the time. 'They' tell us at the same time as they say they want to 'protect us.'

Who are 'they?' And what do 'they' want to protect us from?

They are the ones who live in fear that we, the vulnerable, will one day find voice and power.

They are the ones who made us 'them' and will do anything they can to deny us access to education, employment and social justice.

They are the one's who see murder as a solution.

We do need protection.

But not theirs.

Our own words, our own voice, our own strength.

Our own.

Because how can 'they' protect us ...

When they see murder as the fix.

And elimination as the cure.

Their vulnerability to the ways of power and privilege is, I fear, terminal. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

To Whom Much is Owed

They settled into their seats behind us just as the lights went down and the previews began to play. They were a couple probably 15 or 20 years our senior. They spoke to each other in the kind of whisper that is louder than a speaking voice. Joe and I glanced at each other, each of us with hopes in our eyes that they weren't 'talkers'. We are the kind of movie goers who virtually never, ever speak from previews to credits. We like others of our kind.

When The Water Diviner began to play, they hushed. But a few minutes in, the fellow behind me spoke, with urgency, to his wife. "Is this a war movie? What kind of movie is this?" She answered, "It's got Russell Crowe in it, see," she said as his name appeared on the screen, "he even directed it. You know I love Russell Crowe." He quieted. The movie played on. I guessed, rightly as it turned out, that this was not the end of the drama playing itself out behind us.

Suddenly on the screen there was an intense scene. I don't want to describe it too much because some of you may be planning to see it. (We're that kind of movie goer too.) As the intensity increased on the screen, the man behind me spoke again, his voice full of pain and anger, "How could you have brought me to this? How could you? You know, you know, I've told you. You know!!" He got up. Stood for a second. "I'm going home. I can't take this. It will be weeks before I feel safe again. You know that."

He became aware that he'd been speaking fairly loudly. He touched my shoulder on the way out. "Sorry," he said.

"Thank you, for my freedom," I said.

He started to cry and walked out of the theatre.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Out In Public View

Picture description: The word 'out' in capital letters surrounded by a purple bacground.
I feel a responsibility, both as a disabled guy and a gay guy, to be 'out.' Publicly, up front, out. I had a discussion with someone at work the other day about being out and open about who you are makes everything you do a political statement. We were waiting downstairs yesterday morning for WheelTrans when another older fellow in the building came down and sat on a couch opposite Joe, I was in my wheelchair.

He talked about the fact that he was going to the doctor that morning. WheelTrans pulled up and I got on. Joe came back into the building and he asked Joe where I was going so early in the morning. Joe told him that I was going to work, that I liked to get an early start in my office. Joe told me that he was shocked, flat out shocked. We don't know where he expected that I was going but 'to work' was not the answer that he anticipated. 'Out' ... being 'out' is about that.

So we decided to meet the wedding organizer from the church in a public place. Timothy's, which was the place where I changed my mind about getting married, which is always bustling with activity. The tables were all full when we got there, so as I zipped ahead to scout for any possible movement, a table came available back where Joe and the planner were standing. Great.

This guy finds a date, goes over the service, asks questions about music and about the organization of the day. Joe and I had already planned a lot of what we wanted to happen so we filled him in and he jotted down notes. We drank tea, he drank coffee, and we worked through what needed to be done. When we chose the date, he said, '2016' and we said, 'No, this year' we thought he was going to fall over. Apparently most people take a little longer to plan the event. We're taking a few weeks.

But, and here's the point of the post, as we talked and worlds like 'wedding' and 'marriage' and 'church' and 'ceremony' wafted from our table to others at other tables and others walking by, they looked and saw who was there.

Two men.

Two older men.

One fat, disabled guy.

One guy who, they think, could do better.

Let me be clear that we just held the meeting there, like people hold meetings there all the time. We've held many other meetings in this place. We did not put on a show in any way. We just held a meeting about our marriage ceremony there, in public.

Because being out.

Changes or challenges people.

And that's part of our job as people who are different and who advocate for a world that welcomes, not fears, difference.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Born With Purple Eyes: A Blog With Two Endings

Photo description: close up of an eye, the iris is purple.
 I was just about finished getting my hair mowed when she came in. She was a lovely white haired lady wearing incredibly cool dark rimmed glasses. This was a woman who managed to create her own style, from the cut of her hair to the cut of her clothes, yet none of it looked like she thought about it very much. Her personality was warm and welcoming, I imagined if you got close to her she would smell of apple pie baked in Covent Garden.

She noticed Joe's new jacket hanging with the coats at the back of the salon and asked, "Who owns that beautiful blue jacket?" Joe answered that she did. She said, "My son would love that."


She paused.

"My son has the most amazing blue eyes," she said, "when he was born his eyes were a lovely purple, even now, his eyes are blue with a slightly purple hue."


She paused.

"When people meet him they really notice the colour of his eyes. He is a lovely, handsome man."

One more time.

She paused.

And continued with pain in her voice.

"And he thinks he's ugly. He really thinks he's ugly. I can't understand why he feels that way. I can't understand why he can't see himself as he is, beautiful."

Then, realizing that she had slipped into intimate conversation with strangers she brushed the conversation away and deftly changed the subject.

This blog has two endings.

First Ending:

As I listened to her, I sat there, looking at myself in the mirror. I saw what people see. I saw a fat man in a wheelchair, bald headed, eyes with luggage enough to move a movie stars shoes. I saw what people see. I know what strangers think of me. I know they see me as ugly and ungainly and unworthy and unlovable. I know that.

But I don't feel that way.

I don't feel ugly.

Or unworthy.

Or ungainly.

Or unlovable.

At least I don't feel those ways very often, maybe only in very low moments. My life is so full of purpose and so full of living that I don't think of my looks very much at all. There are moments, and I've written about them here, when I see myself reflected in the eyes of others - cruel eyes with shallow vision. I may be stung by what I see there, but it passes, it always passes.

I think because I'm loved.

And because I rise every morning to purpose.

And because, at my core, I'm OK with me.

I realized, as she spoke, that I am a lucky, lucky, man.

Second ending:

As I listened to her, I felt her sorrow. I felt the pain of the words that she was saying. She was a mother that loved her son. She was a mother who wanted her son to live with joy and not be plagued by thoughts of himself as ugly and unworthy. She was a mother, whose voice gave away her inner thoughts, "What did I do wrong? Why does he see himself in such a negative light? Was it what I said? Was it what I did? What could I have done differently. Did I do this to him?"

Parents don't need much encouragement to look to themselves with blameful eyes. Her son may see himself as ugly, but she sees herself as responsible. Her burden may be worse.

I would have loved to know her well enough to say, "Your son lives in a world, separate from you. You see his beauty. But he doesn't measure beauty in his mother's eyes - he doesn't trust that you can see him as others see him. He lives in a world that bombards men, in the same was as it pummels women, with impossible images of beauty. Men, these days, are presented in magazines as flawless, strong jaws, washboard abs, shoulders strong enough to carry the fantasies of strangers.

Parents are responsible only for loving their children and for raising their children in a loving environment. Her love of him was palpable. Her worry for him a tangible thing.

He has a mother who loves him.

And because of that, I believe that he will one day, look in the mirror and see what she sees.

I want to believe that.

So, I do.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dance On!

Disability pride?

Unashamed living?

What does it look like?

It looks like a little girl doing a dance.

I wept watching this video. I was stunned by the beauty, the joy, the power and the passion of this little girl. She demonstrates, how powerful pride is. She shows the world that we, as people with disabilities, eschew shame. She knows how to be, simply be, who she is and do what she does.

Out of the shadows and into the light.

Her life has limitless potential, not because she's brave, or inspiring, or any of that stuff, but because she knows already, how to be out and proud.

Living pridefully.

Dance on, little girl, dance on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What Linda Said

Image result for heart broken
Description: Drawing of a broken heart, the heart looks torn down the middle and is the colour of bruise. Across the image is the word 'Heartbroken.'
Last night I had a chat with Linda.

I have known her for many years and my affection and admiration for her grows every time we meet, every time we talk. I called her because I wanted to tell her the news of Joe and I getting married. She's one of the last calls I had to make. I was a little nervous about the call because Linda is an elderly woman with Down Syndrome. She is younger than me, by two years, but her journey has been hard and the road she's walked has been full of many barriers to overcome, and it shows. She is a very conservative and very faithful woman. Her prayer life is rich and she believes, absolutely, that God love her. I think, quite literally, this belief saved her life.

The church she goes to does not endorse the idea of same sex marriage. Well, that's maybe a tad understated, they are pretty emphatic that homosexuality, along with feminism, abortion and 'liberals' are all going to destroy society and bring down 'the family.' I've never talked to Linda about Joe's and my relationship, she knows us both of course, but I'd never had the 'talk' with her.


It was time.

I told her quite gently. I wanted her to know that Joe and I loved each other and have done so for 46 years. I wanted her to know that we were getting married and that the marriage was going to be done in a church, with a minister, in front of God. All of this I knew she would understand and approve of - well except maybe for the 'two men' thing.

After I finished. Linda sat for the longest time.

And then, quite simply, she broke my heart.

"So Joe loves you?" she asked. I told her that he did.

"And you love him?" she asked. I assured her that I did.

"So you aren't alone?"

"No, I'm not."

"I'm glad. They never let me love anyone. I tried but they always stopped it. It's too late for me now. I'm glad it's not to late for you."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Got It Wrong on Friday

I was asked a question in a seminar that I was giving, "The Ethics of Touch," that took me aback, not because it was inappropriate but because I'd never been asked it before, and I gave the wrong answer. That has bothered me ever since I realized it was wrong, which was about 40 minutes after I could actually do anything about it. We were driving away. It was Friday and we were heading home.


That means, I thought, I've got to just live with the fact that I messed up. I gave a personal opinion in place of a fact. That's a temptation that I find hard, sometimes, to avoid. So, I know some of the folks who were at the seminar are blog readers, I'm hoping they'll get the right answer to the person who asked the question.

Here was the question:

"I've been taught that when I'm talking to someone in a wheelchair I should crouch down so that we are looking eye to eye. That way I'm not towering over someone when we're talking. Is that right?"

Now, I have to admit, as I have, that I was taken aback, but I also have to admit that I have personally strong feelings about this. This led me to answer, as a person with an opinion, yet present it as a fact.

Here's the thing. I don't like it. I really don't like it when people crouch down or kneel down to talk to me. I'm not a queen with the power to bestow knighthood, so stand the hell up. I feel that when someone crouches down that:

1) they are doing me a big ass ol' favour.
2) that I'm to be grateful for the favour
3) the crouch  or the kneeling centres me out even more
4) it's patronizing
5) it makes it look like talking with me, a disabled person, is a whole lot of work

The first time someone knelt down to talk to me. Eye to eye, I was startled. I suggested he stand up but he insisted. We talked for about five minutes, and you can't make this stuff up, when he went to stand his knees locked and he couldn't get up. I had to turn my wheelchair so it was sideways in front of him and give him my arm, and the armrest of my chair, for him to get back up. I found it hard not to laugh, I didn't because he was really trying.

And that's what bothers me - I don't want people to be constantly trying, putting effort into what should be effortless.

So when you talk with me. Stand the hell up!


Here's the thing.

That's ME.

That's decidedly not everyone.

I should have said that I don't like it, but that the best thing to do is ask the person what would make them the most comfortable. After all I'm tall and I'm in a tall chair.

Why that simple answer didn't flow from my mouth, I don't know.

But if you are reading this, dear question asker ... it was a great question to which I gave the wrong answer.

Here's the right answer: Ask the person you are talking with what they would prefer.


How hard was that?

Too hard for me anyways.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Photo Description: Line drawing of a sneaker with the laces untied.



Words. Sneaky, sneaky words.

When I wrote the blog announcing that Joe and I had decided to get married, I did so with some trepidation. I know that some people reading this blog read it primarily for the disability aspect of my writing and that they are not so comfortable with the gay aspects of the blog. I remember back in the second year of my writing this that someone threatened to organize a boycott of my blog unless I agreed to write about any aspect of my life, or of disability, with exception of the 'gay stuff.' Well, I'm glad to say, that the boycott went nowhere and the support of my blog readers remained strong.

I'm finding an interesting phenomenon though, with words and with how people use words when they write to me, or speak to either Joe or me, about our upcoming nuptials. The use of the word 'gay' as a qualifier when talking to me about the wedding is a relative constant. Let me say it clearly, we aren't having a 'gay wedding' we are getting married. And we are getting married at a wedding. That we are gay is irrelevant to what the ceremony is and what the ceremony means. Using a term like 'gay wedding' or 'gay marriage' may sound to you like acceptance but to me it just sounds like prejudice wearing sneakers.

"I hear you and Joe are going to have a gay wedding!"

This sounds, and I think it intends to mean what it sounds like, as if we are having a different kind of ceremony with a different kind of result. It's not like a straight wedding which leads to a real marriage.

Joe and I have lived together for 46 years. Our relationship is imperfect, which makes it both fun and a struggle at the same time, and we are still working to get things right. We can still be difficult with each other. While we aren't shouters (any more) we can certainly be creative in the ways that we can communicate disagreement and displeasure. It's just a normal relationship between two people. It's not a 'gay relationship.'

So please.





Our lives or our relationship.

Words can communicate so many things. And let me just say that sneaky bigotry is still bigotry. Sneaky prejudice is still prejudice and we notice.

We. Notice.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sigmond Freud To The Customer Service Desk Please!

I thought it was a battle to which the winner would be proclaimed 'the most polite.' That's what it seemed to be when the door opened. Some hapless fellow got there first and, noticing us coming, stood holding the door. We got there at the same time. Me in my wheelchair, her in her industrial strength running shoes. As we got there at the same time, I said, "Go ahead."

And then it started.

"No you go ahead."

"No you go ahead."

As we continued the emphasis began to change:

"No YOU go ahead."

"NO you Go ahead."

The poor guy at the door is looking helpless, he didn't know or how to intervene and get the two of us through the door.

I know I was being stubborn but I offered first. I like to be in a position where I can defer to another's needs. And besides that I OFFERED FIRST.

Finally, I go for a joke, "You know, I'm comfortably seated, this can go on for awhile."

Then she said, "But you have to go first, I'm supposed to help people like you. It's what's right."

I'm guessing she didn't mean 'morally right' but 'culturally right.' It's right in our culture for the non-disabled person to be the person that helps someone with a disability. It can't be right for a disabled person to be in the helping role - that would upset the apple cart and society would crumble into the abyss of equality. Who wants what that shit would bring?

"Well, then, I think I should let you go first because you are a woman." I thought this was the perfect rejoinder to show how silly this was.

She said, "Well, put that way, that makes sense."

And it ended. We were both through the door. The fellow who'd been holding the door said that he felt caught is some weird psychodrama.

Maybe he was right.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Annoyance, Identification and Empathy


It's part of the experience of daily living for everyone. Everyone. And in many cases the annoyance is understood, people around are empathic, compassionate and supportive. I remember being in a store hearing a woman, upset that she had driven into the city to find that the section of the store she wanted to visit was under renovation, express herself and her annoyance clearly. The staff were apologetic, they made it known that they would feel that way too. In the end they all agreed that the situation was unfair. One clerk called around to where the customer could find similar products in a store nearby. It was resolved.

It wasn't resolved because of the store nearby but because the clerks there understood the frustration, identified with the woman's situation and communicated their acceptance of her annoyance as being real and the situation frustrating. It began with affirmation.


The other day Joe and I decided that we wanted to go to a particular store to do some shopping on our drive from one city to the next. It was only a wee bit out of our way and I began my work day with the idea that I'd be doing something fun and relaxing before doing the drive to the next city. When the day was over, I got into the van, and we headed to the store. When I rolled in, I could see immediately that the section of the store that I wanted to shop in was the only section of the store that was up a flight of stairs. I could see that there was no elevator. I was disappointed. I had really looked forward to this.

I expressed my frustration, politely, to the clerk. She looked at me and said, "Yeah, well, that's the way it is." I felt slapped. No compassion. No empathy. No understanding. She stood there with her arms crossed looking from me to the stairs with a 'aren't you used to this by now,' look. Joe went upstairs, after hearing what I was looking for, and he and another, nicer, clerk, brought things down to me. This is not how I shop. I like to browse. Neither Joe or the woman helping really understood what I wanted, so I thanked the clerk who'd helped and we left.

At no point did either clerk show an understanding and appreciation for the source of my annoyance. At no point did they validate that, yeah, coming to a store, indeed coming out of my way to a store, and having the section be inaccessible would be annoying. More than annoying, it was isolating. Sitting at the bottom of stairs while people ran up and down bringing me what I didn't want. Sitting there feeling the mounting frustration of the clerk who brought me a selection of things I didn't want, like she expected me to buy something because she brought them. I work too hard for my money to be buying things to make clerks happy.

I sometimes wonder if people get annoyed with my annoyance because they can't, or won't , use empathy as part of their process of understanding. They could identify with a woman, who was 'like' them. Here the clerk couldn't identify with a person 'different' from them.

I wonder if a large part of prejudice is the inability or unwillingness to be empathic with a class of people that someone devalues. I wonder if the idea of empathy, which requires a degree of emotional identification, is terrifying at the least or sullying at the worst, is actually eschewed by those who simply can't accept the essential unifying humanity of an other, a lesser.

I don't know.

But, it would have gone a long way for me and my experience of the store.

Friday, April 17, 2015


There is a certain kind of stamina required if you are going to lecture, travel, lecture, travel. I've been off the road for a few months, presenting only the occasional 'one off' conference here and there locally. Nebraska is breaking me in for the next few months when I'm travelling and speaking a lot. But YOWZA it's been a workout. Don't get me wrong, I'm loving every minute of it. I've had lovely audiences, great questions and terrific support, but YOWZA.

My blog hasn't been updated for a few days because when we finish a day, we get in a car and drive and by the time we get into the hotel, get food ordered, I'm just whacked. This isn't a bad thing though, in fact it feels very, very, good. It's that good tired that you get when you've worked hard, concentrated intensely and given it your all. So. I've been sleeping well.

On our way down, we drove so I could have my power chair, we stopped at a hotel and on checking in I was chatting with folks also in the line. They asked if I was going to the casino, I told them that I was getting to bed because I had to be up for a long drive the next day. One of them asked why I was going to Omaha, did I have family there? I said, that I was gong there for work.

A guy said, "Wow, good for you."

It seemed silly at the time. I knew he was being nice, but all the same it seemed silly.

But not now.

After all the YOWZA involved in a lecture tour, I take his comment as a compliment.

I always have a bit of a worry when I've not lectured like this for a couple of months. I worry that I won't have the energy, or the stamina, or the ability to do it. It's a deep worry. It's a worry that brings along with it a premonition of pain.


I'm here.

I've one day to go.

Then I go home.

I'm tired. Good tired. And now the worry is gone, bring on Calgary, bring on Vancouver ... in fact bring 'em all on, I'm good to go.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Where Joe Gets Goosed!

Photo Description: A blue statue of a man's face with two hands, one on either side of the face forming chairs. Set in a park. Joe is sitting on one of the hands.
Joe and I spent a day in Omaha, We'd driven from Toronto to Omaha in two days, which is a gruelling drive and needed a day to relax before beginning work. We stayed right down town in Omaha and right next, or nearly next, to a wonderful walk along the water. It was shirtsleeve weather. The walk was made accessible by a set of switchback ramps on both ends. We strolled along the water, Joe stopping to rest on an odd statue. It looked like, I told him in a huff, the statue was grabbing his butt! And he liked it!

We were able to cross over the water via a cute little bridge. It was a really, really, nice way to spend some time. Sometimes, and I'll explain this, I simply feel blessed to be living as a disabled person at a time when public spaces like this are made to be wheelchair accessible. I know that non-disabled people may feel blessed by being able to walk along the water, but they probably don't feel blessed that they have access to it. I keep trying to remind myself to not feel grateful for what I should take for granted. But, I've not conquered that yet.

Later we went over to the Old Market area for lunch. There were several places we could choose, some because they had outdoor patios, some because they were in buildings built with a flat entrance but we chose to go to Stokes simply because of the ramp. The management of the restaurant built a lovely contraption with a terrific ramp up one side and stairs up the other, both leading to the FRONT DOOR. Once inside we were greeted with great decor and a warm welcome:

Photo Description: Reception area of Stokes Restaurant with their name in some of the metal work decorations with flow through the space.
The food was amazing, the staff were great, the environment, including the bathroom, was accessible. At one point I asked to speak to the manager. They always approach with a kind of worried expression, I'm guessing people are ticked more often than they are thankful so they anticipate the worst. I just told the nice man that I chose the restaurant because of the ramp. The ramp spoke of the intentionality of welcome, not the accident of access. I appreciated it, I wanted him to know and to pass it along to the owner.

It was so comfortable there that we lingered a bit over a final pot of tea for me and a beer that was brewed in Nebraska for Joe. It was a nice day. We roamed around a bit more, did some shopping, very little of the shopping was possible because the stores were, by an large, inaccessible. We ended with having a stop at 'The Max' for a drink and we watched Jeopardy with a few others, some surprisingly, and delightfully, competitive.

I'll have 'Nice Day' for a 1000 Alex!

Monday, April 13, 2015


Photo Description: 9 rows of blue children's windmills placed in a park on grass, just coming green, in front of a tree coming into bud.
We checked into our hotel in Omaha and, as it was early enough, and as it was warm enough, went out for a stroll. We were pleasantly surprised that our hotel had a list of pubs in the Old Market area which included one LGBT spot. Right on Marriott! We made our way through town and found the pub which was both physically and attitudinally accessible. Right on 'The Max.' We were there long enough to wind down from the trip and, then, suddenly felt very tired. We said our goodbyes and left heading home a different way.

Joe noticed this glittering, madly whirling, installation of windmills. We crossed the street to see it. It was delightful. Really, really delightful. It was simple. It was joyful. Then I noticed the sign beside it. It said that April was Child Abuse Awareness month and then that powerful slogan, the one that brought me to tears the first time I saw it, "It shouldn't hurt to be a child." I looked back at the rows of windmills and now it seemed that their frenetic spinning might be an attempt to fly up and into the hands of a child who needed, just a little bit of, joy.

We walked the rest of the way back to the hotel quietly. We were tired, we'd done an eight and a half hour drive after all. But I was remembering. Remembering the time that I was called upon to measure and document a child's bruises. She had been beaten by her mother who had flown into a rage because this little girl had woken mom from a nap because she was hungry. I was given calipers so that I could get an exact measure. The child had an intellectual disability but the listlessness with which she greeted me and her frantic compliance to my requests to get a measure of the bruises which covered her arms, her lower legs, her right cheek, told me that she feared me, mistrusted me, and wanted to appease me so that I wouldn't hurt her further.

I took the paper, the one with the outline of the body and with instructions to draw the bruises on the outline indicating where violence had left it's mark. It's silly, I know, but I didn't want to bruise this paper child. I wanted, instead, for the hurt to stop. I've always been good at making up games, on the spot, for children. I didn't want the cold calipers to touch her skin until she saw them as something that could be fun. I managed to get her to measure other things in the room with them. Then, magically, the child began to emerge. She got silly with them, she wanted to measure her fingers, she wanted to measure my big, big nose. She giggled.

When I saw the child. Not the bruised and beaten little girl who had greeted me, but the child. The child who in forgetting the colours of pain on her body became unbruised, I wondered at how anyone could strike her, beat her. After the play, |I set about my work and got the drawing done. I got the bruises measured. The ones on her body, mind, not the ones on her heart, her mind or her soul. As I was leaving she asked if she could keep the toy for awhile, she wanted to measure some more things. I gave it over to her.

It shouldn't hurt to be a child.

It shouldn't hurt to be a child.

But it does sometimes.

And these windmills, twirling furiously in Omaha, are trying to stop it.

Are we?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being and Becoming More Careful

It's a bit of comeuppance to be faced with your own biases and prejudices all in the space of a few minutes.

Well, that may be an exaggeration, my bigotry happened, unnoticed, at first and only edged slowly into my conciousness as we drove into the setting sun in Michigan. We'd stopped for a bathroom break somewhere at a Meijers store. After so many miles I can't remember where it was we stopped. But, we'd done our shopping and were in the checkout line up. A young man in his early twenties was shopping with his father. The young man was clearly an athlete, wearing basket ball shorts and an easy grin. As I glanced around we caught each other's gaze and he smiled and nodded. I did too.

I felt his natural superiority in that smile.

I caught the, intended or not, attitude of condescension

I resented him for it.

On the way out of the store, I caught the gaze of another fellow. He was sitting on a bench waiting for someone. He wore beige pants that had seen better decades, a tight white tee shirt stretched over his belly, and big, big, boots. His face was grizzled and his shock of white hair needed taming. He gave me a quick nod and smile. I noted and smiled back.

I felt the friendliness in his gesture.

I caught the, intended or not, attitude of welcome.

I was grateful to him for it.

These interactions were so natural and so simple that I never thought of them. But, as the drive wore on and I had nothing else to think about, we weren't chatting because the van was too full of the cries of Madama Butterfly, I began to think about the old fella in the store. As it happens my mind then flipped over to the same kind of greeting given to me by the handsome young athlete.

I judged them differently.

Because of what they looked like.

That's wrong. If anyone knows that it's wrong, it's me. My thoughts about that young man are mine, they do not have a direct impact on his life. Yeah, right. Bigots say things like that don't they?

I need to be careful.

I don't want to be, I don't want to become, someone I can't respect.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Letter

Photo Description: Ink pen laying on papers filled with script.

Note To The Freaking World (and especially the guy yesterday who yelled at me because I was in the liquor store):

I am a stranger to you.

My disability does not give you permission to enter into my space.

Or permission to touch me.

Or permission to inform me of your opinion about me, my disability or my life.

My disability does not equal your stereotypes, there is not just one way to be disabled.

I don't care that you have a friend who's brother's cousin knew someone who knew someone who once (choose one) took a herbal remedy to cure disability; submitted their life to prayer and were healed; developed a positive attitude and miraculously walked again. I don't care, so shut up.

What I buy is not up for public scrutiny and I do not need to explain. Telling me that I don't have a right to buy beer because it's taxpayers dollars I'm wasting demonstrates not only your prejudice and your ignorance but also your comfort with your seat on the hierarchy, built by bigots, which you presume to be above me. From that vantage point you believe you have a right, as all who combine ignorance, privilege and a need to feel superior do, to comment on what I'm buying, what I'd doing, and how you perceive the decisions I make. Do you realize how small that makes you? Really, really, small.

I have the right to space.

I have a right to the space around me.

I have a right to determine if I need held and ask for it.

I don't exist for your benefit.

The fact that I can back on to an elevator, or any number of mundane skills, is not extraordinary, so you don't need to be in awe and you sure as hell don't need to compliment me on it.

If you'd rather be dead than in a wheelchair, you're wrong, you have no idea how permanent death is and how mobile a wheelchair is, so shut up.

I'm not your friend, I don't know you, so, please don't presume a familiarity that's not there.

I don't care if you are a nurse, you are off duty, so shut up.

That's all I have time for today. Yes, I have a life, I have other things to do than think about you.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Second Time Around

A couple of years ago I made a complaint regarding accessibility with a theatre and, surprisingly, got immediate action. They called me, asked me to make a visit. When I was there they took down notes on a clip board. They asked me intelligent questions about disability and accessibility and how they could create a culture of 'welcome.' I was impressed.


Nothing happened.

My last contact with them was a phone call explaining why they couldn't do what they'd said was possible. The reason for not doing it was complicated and though I listened hard I couldn't understand what they were saying. I asked for a letter outlining the reasons for inaction, I never got one.

Then a few days ago, I got a call from a new person, from the same company, who had just started in her job, which is to ensure customer satisfaction, and she wanted to talk to me more about the complaint I had made earlier. She'd read my letter, informed herself of the request and had had a few changes made. Would I come to take a look. I was sceptical, because of the last visit but agreed to go. We set a date.

On Tuesday, Joe and I went to meet her and the fellow who had acted upon the suggestions I had made. We were warmly greeted. I saw, from the outset, that changes had been made. The accessible door, which is not visible at the entry way, now had clearly visible signage indicating where the door was. That was one of two major suggestions I had made. OK, one for one.

We went to the area where my main concern was and there, right there, the big change was made. The change made all the difference in the world. There was accessible seating where there hadn't been any before. Or, more precisely, there was seating for those of us in power chairs. I backed into space and had to hide the tears in my eyes. In my mind came this whisper: they listened. The reason that I tear up when I hear that whisper is that it's followed swiftly by a clarifier: The listened - they care.

I know that often we disabled people, and our parents and allies, complain about inspiration porn, but I have to admit that I get really inspired by those without disabilities who do things that demonstrate that they can hear, actually hear, our voices, as if we are important and equal citizens. As I then listened to the two people as they spoke about their commitment to ensure that, in essence, all means all.

I left thinking.

It's all about 'getting it.' It's all about ensuring that those who have decision making power, making decisions based on the idea that a complaint or concern raised by someone with a disability is equal in importance and holds equal value as those concerns raised by other patrons. It's about understanding that adaptions and adaptations that make a space accessible aren't gifts given to whiners but, instead, are actions towards inclusivity and therefore are the soul of welcome.

I am thankful.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

In Which I Run Into A Friend

Middle-aged man sitting in a wheelchair, on a street, holding a cardboard sign that reads: IT'S NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK!
"They think I'm on the edge of death, all the time!" she said.

We spotted each other on the street, her in her scooter, me in my power chair. We both pulled aside to have a bit of a chat. I hadn't seen her in a long time and I told her how well she looked.

"I sure get different responses from the disabled people I know when we run into each other after an absence," she paused then continued, "almost all the non-disabled people I know always say, 'Oh, I haven't seen you in a couple of weeks, I thought you died. And then they laugh. I don't know what that laugh is about but, they think I'm on the edge of death, all the time!"

I told her that I haven't had that experience often, but occasionally, through the year, I get the 'I heard you were dead' or the 'I thought you were dead,' kind of responses from people. I agreed it was a weird response.

"Well, it's more than weird," she said. "It's frightening. They keep assuming that disability is some kind of disease that we are suffering through and the last step before death are wheelchairs and walkers. They don't seem to get that it's just that my legs don't fucking work, the rest of me is fine."

I burst into laughter because this is a woman who looks like, and is, the kind of woman who thinks that 'damn' is harsh. She swears seldomly and therefore effectively.

After laughing, in surprise at her language,  I agreed with her. "The confusion between disability and disease is a frightening one. It means that there is a cure for every disability and the cure is either getting up and doing an Irish jig, or popping off and diving to the ground."

"I'm healthier than I have been in years," she said, "I'm going to be disappointing people for years."

"Well, good for you!"

"Being disabled,?" she said, "is strange. All it takes to be an advocate is to live happily. That's what confuses them. Living abundantly, living happily, is an act of provocation for those who want to see us as suffering victims."

"And fuck that," I said.

"Couldn't have said it better," she said, laughing as she rolled away.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Get Me To The Church On Time - We're Getting married.

Photo Description: Two Unicorns wearing top hats and their horns are rainbow coloured.
This weekend Joe and I have decided to get married.

This wasn't an easy decision for us. Anyone who has spoken to me about it knows that I had particularly strong feelings about it. Joe, when asked, shared the same opinion but he was much less emphatic in his explanation. We are, after all, very different people.

In a nutshell, we both stated, that we had longed to get married early on in our relationship. We have been pretty open as a couple, at home, at work, in the community for a very, very, long time. We were a couple back when some members of the gay community weren't very accepting of couplehood. When I wanted to take a 'Happy 10th Anniversary, Joe' ad out in the national gay newspaper, "The Body Politic," it was reluctantly accepted after a long discussion of the collective who ran the paper.

We were told that we were 'aping heterosexual convention.' We were told that gay men needed to re-write and re-define out relationships ourselves without relying on the heterosexual norm. Whatever. They printed the ad.

The reaction to the idea of marriage for gay (using the word of the time) people within the heterosexual community was - well - there wasn't one because it hadn't ever been conceived or considered. It was simply a non-option.

A very, very, brave Catholic priest, who could have lost everything, performed a commitment ceremony for us, in our house, with a few friends over. We were very, very young. It was held on what is now 'Gay Pride Weekend.' But there wasn't any 'Gay Pride Weekend' back then, not as we understand it now. We went to work the day before the ceremony, went away for the weekend to Montreal, came back after the long weekend. It was nice. It meant so much to us. But it felt like something shameful that was hidden away from the prying eyes of others. It didn't feel like a wedding because it wasn't one. It was a commitment ceremony. Don't let anyone ever tell you they are the same things.

So after all those years of having wanted to publicly proclaim our relationship. we found that we had. Everyone knew. Everyone in Joe's world. Everyone in mine. I mentioned Joe often in my lectures, even in places where gay people aren't typically open. I wrote about Joe in my books, my blog and my newspaper column that I had for a number of years. We both felt a responsibility to be 'out' for others who weren't. I could see the looks on faces of those in the LGBTQ+ community, attending a lecture, when, in a causal way, I indicated that Joe and I were together. Shock, joy, hope - Joe and I have had some wonderful conversations with people in my audience who heard the lecture but what mattered most was that an openly, gay man was at the podium.

When marriage came around, we found that we neither wanted it or needed it. But then, something happened this weekend, that changed all that. A light switch went off in my head, and, I asked Joe if we should maybe reconsider and get married. After a bit of a talk, we both agreed, now is the time.

I'm not going to write about the moment in a Timothy's coffee shop where something happened to make me rethink our stand. I don't want to write that here, because I want to say it at the wedding itself. I will write it after that.


In Essence.

Joe and I are getting married.

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Change

I guess the point of integration is that it can, under the right circumstances, become inclusion.

Joe and I have been going to the same coffee shop for several years now. It's accidentally accessible. What I mean by that is that the building and the shop is older and the flat entrances and slightly wider doors are there as part of the design, so it just happens to be accessible. There is no intentionality about it. When we get there, it takes a bit to get in because they usually fill the foyer between the outer and inner door with stuff. It doesn't take much to move it, and they move it, without comment or complaint. They are efficiently, and maybe a little coldly, helpful.

It's one of those places where the same gang gathers all the time. Those regulars recognize us and are willing to move over a table to let us at the two or three tables that I can get to with my chair. It's never hopping busy, there's always other tables. Again, they do this quickly and without complaint but also without much warmth. Other than nodding at us in welcome, no one much ever talks to us.

I have no complaint about this. I don't expect people to immediately accept strangers, especially strangers that need something from them, to embrace our presence and include us in talk that often crosses several tables. We're good. We can get in. We can get out tea. We can chat with each other. We're good. Neither Joe or I have ever left there complaining about the slight chill from the others. I guess when you've got a place you can get into, people who make space for you and a cup of good tea, you don't want to wreck it in your head by looking too closely at it.

But something happened a couple weeks ago. We'd just sat down and a fellow who was at a table that we'd been directed to, said, "Mind if I just join you?" We said, "Sure." We stayed twice as long as we intended as he was an interesting fellow, easy to laughter, and who was able to engage in reciprocal conversation - avoiding monologues. We really enjoyed meeting him, really enjoyed that chat.

We left and I said to Joe, "What happened?"

Joe was as flummoxed as I was.

We went a couple days ago, not expecting the same kind of greeting but having a slightly different feeling about the place. We got our tea and were going by a table with three people at it. "Hey boys," called a woman at the table whose voice sounded well used, "don't sit over there by yourselves, join us if you'd like." We met three people there, people we'd seen and nodded to, people we didn't know in any other way. The chat was lively, a bit raucous, a bit naughty, and fun. It was great. Again we stayed much longer than we intended.

We don't know what happened.

We don't know why it happened.

But the place just transitioned from tolerant to welcoming.

And, I can't tell you how good that feels.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

That Moment: An Easter Blog

Photo description: Picture of sky and clouds with the words, "Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory." written in varying fonts over them. From
I had a teacher in Grade 4. I wonder if she knows how clearly I remember her? And of all the moments that come to mind, from time to time, when memory pops up to poison my day, one of them is of her. We, as a class, were to draw something, all of us sat at our desks working away at our pictures. I am not an artist. I know that. I have always known that. Even then, I knew that. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying the act of creation, I still like to doodle, I still like to draw. That she didn't take from me. But she tried.

She knew that I wasn't one of the popular kids. She knew that my weight and my awkwardness and my barely hidden differences made me the target of many and the friend of few. She knew that. Yet she chose, that day we sat drawing, to come to my desk, look at my drawing and laugh out loud. She whipped the paper from my desk and showed it to the class, telling them that "this is how NOT to do this assignment." The class didn't need encouragement to laugh at me, this is a skill that was well oiled. So they did. And I felt the humiliation rise from my stomach, to my heart, to my memory. Where it still resides. Where it waits to visit me, from time to time.

She choose to hurt me.

And I remember her.

I wonder if she ever knew that I have carried that moment with me, every day since?

I wonder if it would matter to her.

I had a teacher in Grade 5. I have complex memories of him. He, I later discovered, did horribly bad and completely unforgivable things to some of my classmates. I never knew. I never would have guessed. I was shocked when the revelations came. I was shocked because he once showed a kindness to me. Maybe 'kindness' isn't the right word. He noticed a peculiar talent of mine. This moment is so private that I'd rather not tell you what he saw in me. I just want you to know that he saw something in me, something special and unique and valuable. Something that turned out to be a skill and a talent that I would use my entire life, maybe, and most probably, because he noticed it, he spoke it aloud. He made me aware of it.

I remember it clearly, my mother was in the school, I don't remember why, and when he saw her, he pulled me out of the classroom. I stood beside him as he called to her as she was walking towards one of the exits. My mother turned, angry at being interrupted, and she walked her angry walk towards us. He said, "Mrs. Hingsburger, I want to tell you that your son has a wonderful and unique talent, I've seen it, it will serve him well." He then went on to tell her, at some length. I stood there shocked and shaken. Much more so than what happened the year before - after all I was used to ridicule and humiliation. I don't remember, at any time before, anyone other than Grandma Hingsburger, speaking of me in glowing terms, in hopeful terms. I don't remember my future being talked about as one of possibilities. One of hope.

He chose to build me up.

And I remember him.

I wonder if he knows that I have carried that moment with me, every day since?

I wonder if it would matter to him.

Today is Easter Sunday.

Today is about resurrection and rebirth and hope.

It is about shaking off the darkness and walking into light.

That moment in the hallway, hearing words spoken of me as a boy with possibilities, I return to that moment when I need encouragement, when I'm feeling defeated, when I mistrust my self. I hear those words swirl around me now, as I did then. It was my first understanding of 'gospel,' a word that comes from the Old English, meaning 'good news.'

"Good news, Mrs. Hingsburger, your boy has a gift."

"Good news, Dave, you have a future."

I remember this more and more as I get older. The surprise that I have that that feeling of pride that I felt, on hearing him speak of me differently than any one else ever did, doesn't go away. He planted this moment in my heart and in my mind. He gave me a memory that would serve me and inspire me and bring me hope right into my sixties, and, undoubtedly for the rest of my life. I know the power of that.

I think of this now because I am in the position, as we all are, to create those moments for others. To try to give messages to people, now, that will serve them in the way mine has served me. I explode with joy at the accomplishments of those around me. I want them, to notice, really notice what they have done. People these days are so busy that they don't even notice their accomplishments, they don't even know that what they know is unique to them.

I want them to see themselves the way that he saw me.

As whole.

As unique.

As talented.

I want them to have a memory inside them, that will give them the power to breath life back into hope, to rekindle the flames of passion, to resurrect their belief in themselves.

Because it mattered to me.

That moment.




Saturday, April 04, 2015

What I Didn't Give

A few days ago Joe walked passed him as he sat, in his usual spot, chatting with a woman. Joe heard him say, as he moved the cup he uses to collect change away from the woman who sat beside him, "This is my spot, this is where I work Monday to Friday, every week." Joe was telling me this as we rolled past where he was sitting. I noticed that his sign said that he was dealing with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. The rest of the sign was a simple plea for help.

On our way back, I had some change and as I crossed the street heading towards him, I had to figure out how I could stop beside him, give him the change without blocking the paths of others. I figured I could just tuck up close and that should be OK. I indicated to him as I approached that I was coming with change. He nodded. I thought that, given that he had PTSD, I ought to give fair warning before coming into his space.

I parked and got the money out of my pocket. He lifted his cup to make it easy for me to drop my change in. He took the cup away, looked up at me and smiled and said, "Thank you and Happy ... " and he was stuck. The word just eluded him. He ummed a couple of times. Said, "Happy ..." twice, as if he hoped that starting the phrase again would bring the word back to him. I didn't know that it would work on the third try. So when he said, "Happy ..." My "Easter" beat his "Easter." I had spoken first, I had finished the sentence for him. He nodded, but he looked defeated. He wanted to give me something and I didn't let him. He wanted to use his own voice and I used mine.



I swore at myself and then I swore to myself that I would never do that to another human being again. I know that it feels like a long time when someone is searching for a word or trying to get it out, but it's not. This interchange took only seconds. I could have waited. I wasn't in a rush. I was out of everyone's way. I had given him money but he needed time.

I can't tell you, accurately, how angry I am at myself right now. A guy is down on his luck. A fellow human being who has the same needs as I have for respect and for fair play. Another human needed me to be humane. And I failed him.

But I won't again.

Because, for fuck's sake, there needs to be a connection, a real connection, between knowing better and doing better.



Friday, April 03, 2015


Photo description: Picture of the upper part of a face, a hand reaches out with an eraser and erases the forehead area as if erasing memories. Credit:

It's been busy.

I've missed the last couple days, even though I attempted to write something both days, because I've been overwhelmed with things that need doing and things that called for my attention. I had a kind of misguided belief when I was younger that things would get easier and a bit slower as I got older. But in many ways the last couple years have been the most productive of my working career. I see 'accomplishments' differently now and I have much different goals for myself. Even so, I never anticipated being this busy - all the damn time.

Enough with whining.

I'm writing about this because of a question I was asked after the busyness of my day yesterday. I was asked if there were ever times that I simply forgot that I was disabled. The question jarred me a bit because it kind of implies a negativity about the state of being disabled. Like, I can't imagine someone asking 'do you ever forget that you are a man?'  I said that I thought it was an odd question, and said why, but I answered it.


I do.

But I only forget that I have a disability when three things happen at the same time:

1) I am in a place that is completely accessible to me. At my office, which was designed to be accessible long before I started there, I can move about freely without any thought at all about how I am going to do something. There are wide doors, door pushers, accessible washrooms. The floor isn't carpeted, in the hallways, which makes rolling easy. I was given the option, like all office staff are, to design the layout of the space I'm in regarding placement of furniture. (The same is true at home, but it's my home, that's a given. Unfortunately, for workplaces, it isn't.)

2) The attitude of the management and of the staff of a place are welcoming. I'm not going to use the words 'tolerant' or 'accepting' because those imply some kind of gift that we disabled are given. I don't want a 'gift,' I want to be able to expect respect. On the day that I was asked this question, I was at work. I know that because I am a director there, a certain amount of respect goes with the title. But, as a disabled person, I find that no matter what other label you wear in life, the fact that you have a disability means that withering, pitying, boorish, assholely behaviour can fly at you at any moment. However, I can honestly say that where I work, I simply work. I don't have to engage in constant education. I don't ever feel, that's ever, that my colleagues treat me differently than they do other, non-disabled, co-workers. This does not mean that the don't 'see' the disability, how I hate that bullshit, but that they don't 'value' the disability differently. Moreover, many of those I work with are 'askable.' For those who don't know what that means, let me explain. Askability is the state of being able to give help, when requested, in ways that do not demean or diminish another. Further, it means that after the help is given, nothing is owed. So a welcoming attitude matters.

3) I'm engrossed or involved in something that takes me out of myself. I'm lucky to have a job I love, live with someone I love, and have leisure activities that I love doing. All this means that I am often, in my life, completely involved in what's outside of me. I don't mean that I'm not connected to who I am, I mean who I am is connected with something that enthrals me. I'm not saying this right, but it's the best I can do.

When these three things are in place, I forget I have a disability. And. Unless what I'm doing is directly related to the fact that I'm gay or I'm male, I forget that I'm those things too. I simply 'am.'

So, I can say that I go hours and hours without thinking I have a disability or a difference. This disappears immediately upon going out into the community - my weight and my wheelchair are seldom met with welcoming attitudes. But then, if I'm with someone welcoming and askable, if I'm not facing barriers and I'm engrossed in something - like a conversation with Joe in a local parkette - I forget then too.

So, that's a longer version of that answer I gave to an odd question.