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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Lack of Accessible Taxis in New York City is Okay, According to Appeals Court and Bloomberg


There are only 231 accessible taxis in New York City. The appeals court ruled on Thursday that,   in a city where there are over 13 000 taxis, this is okay, as long as a person with who wants to drive a cab isn't discriminated against on the basis on disability. The appeals court ruling overturns an earlier ruling by Judge George Daniels saying that the low number of accessible taxis in New York City violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Michael Bloomberg Says There's No Need For More Accessible Taxis in New York City, So It Must Be True


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pleased with the appeals court ruling. In a quote in the Huffington post, he demonstrates the lack of insight into the needs of New York City citizens and visitors in wheelchairs that's become sadly characteristic of him since this story broke last year: ""This ruling is consistent with common sense and the practical needs of both the taxi industry and the disabled, and we will continue our efforts to assist disabled riders,"

Here's the comment that I left on the Huffington Post story last night (with the punctuation errors corrected; it was late):

"If Bloomberg is content with knowing with knowing that by limiting access to convenient, reliable transportation for people with physical disabilities in his city, he also limits their access to employment and volunteer opportunities, as well as opportunities to put their money back into the city's economy, I guess there's no talking him out of it. Lord knows people have tried.

I hope he's also considered that tourists to New York with disabilities are also affected by how difficult it is to get a cab. If I were planning a leisure trip to an American city and I was still using a wheelchair, or with someone in a wheelchair, this news would definitely make me consider going elsewhere.

What else are the people of New York with physical disabilities to take from this except that their mayor doesn't care about their transportation needs or value the contribution that they make to city life? 

Congrats on spitting in your constituents' faces, Mr. Bloomberg."

More information on the new ruling on accessible taxis in New York City:


Other posts that I've made about accessible taxis in New York City:





Friday, 29 June 2012

Annette Corriveau, Dr. Phil and Joni Eareckson Tada


Google just recently alerted me to May 25 blog on Huffington Post by Joni Eaerckson Tada on the  April 13 Dr. Phil interview with Annette Corriveau. She was not impressed with how he handled it. Neither, apparently, were a coalition of unnamed organizations and individuals who wrote to Dr. Phil, accusing him of promoting the idea that parents should have the right to euthanize their disabled children.


Did we watch the same program, I wonder?

Eareckson Tada's Objection's to the Dr. Phil Interview with Annette Corriveau


Eareckson Tada, who is the founder and CEO of the Joni and Friends International Disability Centre, had several objections to the Dr. Phil interview with Annette Corriveau:

  1. For a discussion on euthanasia, there should have been a wider variety of guests reprepresenting a a wider spectrum of perspectives.  If this had been a general discussion on euthanasia, I couldn't agree more. But it wasn't. It was an interview with one woman whose controversial views had put her in the news.  For context and comment, a person who supported her views and a person who opposed her views also talked. I would have loved to have seen this topic get two episodes so that they could have brought in more voices on either side, but it was an interview and it didn't even get an hour. The Dr. Phil interview with Annette Corriveau covered a lot in less than an hour.
  2. It was biased toward her position. No, it wasn't. I actually found Dr. Phil to be firmly in the camp of Annette Corriveau's two adult children. He specifically said that while he would not want to continue if he had their disabilities (and he is entitled to his opinion), they can't tell us how they're feeling about life and what they want done on the basis of that. Therefore, even if Annette Corriveau did have the right to euthanize them, to do so would be wrong, as she's making an assumption that they want to die. (This is the part that really disgusts me too, by the way...just because she feels that she''d want to die if she was in their situation doesn't mean that they want to.)  If Tada wants to talk about biased television, the "16 x 9" episode about Annette Corriveau that appeared on Global Television is available on the internet.
  3. Dr. Phil used "mercifully" in the question when he asked the audience about whether Annette Corriveau should be able to kill her childen - Ereckson Tada seems to think that fewer people would have raised their hands had "mercifully" not been used in the question. I'm not convinced.

Ereckson Tada also said that in the "Uncensored" video (which appears generally appears on the Internet after summary for each Dr. Phil episode, but I could not find it for this one when I searched), Dr. Phil and his staff were much more pleased with how the show went than they had a right to be. Ereckson Tada believes that he was very irresponsible.

Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I just don't see it

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Update: GOOD NEWS!


I don't know the nuts and bolts.

I just know that the Supreme Court said that the individual mandate was constitutional, which is apparently a very good thing. And then I had to turn CNN off, because it was driving me up the wall, and I haven't been back.

But I can see from Twitter that the "Obamacare" people seem good and riled up, so I take it that something significant did indeed happen to advance affordable health care for all Americans.

Good. It's about time. :)

Here are some reading resources about the decision: http://www.shakesville.com/2012/06/scotus-decision-on-affordable.html

Anxious About The Affordable Care Act...and Looking Back at my Brain AVM


It's a big day for America. The Supreme Court is making it's public ruling on the Affordable Care Act. True to my form of investing much more emotionally in the politics of other countries than I do my own (except in election time in Canada, when I'm a real bear for six weeks), my stomach is tied up in knots over this.

I can't really say why. Perhaps it's because, being from a country that has universal health care, I hear about things like death panels and about how children with disabilities will suffer if the Act is brought in, and I get angry and think "That's *so* not how it works!"

Perhaps it's because I know that I'd never have been able to afford the insurance I would have needed to even get my brain AVM surgeries done, let alone the after care. 

Perhaps it's because I have friends in the US that I know are going without medical care because they can't afford the insurance.

Perhaps I just can't wrap my head around the idea of going without treatment because you don't have the money to pay for the insurance.

At any rate, all of this has prompted me to bring out the "Grateful to Be Canadian" post that I printed on Canada Day last year a little early this year. I know that Canada's medical system is far from perfect. But I'm damn glad to have it, and proud to live in a country that believes that medical care is a right, not a privilege.

William Peace at Bad Cripple has made many great posts lately about the Afforable Care Act, but I found this one especially striking: http://badcripple.blogspot.ca/2012/06/disability-and-health-care-michael.html

Happy Canada Day!  ;-)

---

My Brain AVM Story: Grateful to be Canadian


I sometimes feel like I spend a lot of time defending Canada’s health care system. I know that it’s not perfect. I can tell some stories of some real atrocities that have happened to people I love, in fact.

But it was there for my mother, right from the time that she was diagnosed with cancer to her death. She was treated, as far as we as we could tell, to the best of the doctors' ability, with respect and dignity. We were treated with respect by hospital staff as well.

The medical system has always been there for me as well, in spades. Like I said, I've been very fortunate.
I had my first stroke in the middle of a job interview in British Columbia. I was twenty-two at the time. I was rocking that interview. They wanted a coordinator for a symposium on youth violence, and I could tell that they liked me (I ended up getting the job, actually).

But it was not to be, because in the middle of the interview I got an incredible headache that came on like a train – fast and forceful. “So this is a migraine,” I thought, faltering over my words. I had to stop and explain what was happening. Someone on the interviewing panel gave me some Tylenol, and I managed to finish the interview, but at the end of it they wouldn’t let me go until I’d promised to go to straight to the doctor.

I didn’t protest. I could feel my neck getting stiff. “So this is meningitis,” I thought.

I’d only been in British Columbia for a couple of months. I’d just put my application for BC health insurance in the mail that morning. I walked into the town health clinic, put my Ontario health card down in front of a receptionist who didn’t know me from Adam, and said, “I think I have meningitis.”

Five minutes later, I was in a doctor’s office.

Five hours later, after an ambulance ride to the nearest city, I was checked into the nearest hospital. I’d had a CT scan and a lumbar puncture and I was scheduled to be transferred to a larger, more specialized hospital in the morning.

Five days later, I’d had an angiogram and I’d had been diagnosed with a brain arteriovenous malformation, or brain AVM (check the Glossary on the About Me page for definitions of unfamiliar terms). A consult had been set up for me in a brain AVM clinic in a Toronto hospital, and I was cleared to fly home to Ontario.

Five months later, I’d been seen in the brain AVM clinic in Toronto Western Hospital twice.  The doctors had decided on a course of treatment based on another angiogram: embolization to reduce the size of the brain AVM, and then a craniotomy to treat the rest of the brain AVM. 

The surgery didn’t go as well as they’d hoped: A small segment of brain AVM could not be treated. I later had a stroke that had significantly compromised my left side. My treatment team was arranging in-patient rehabilitation at Penetanguishene General Hospital, closer to home, so that my father wouldn’t have to do so much driving. They were just waiting for seizures to stabilize before they sent me.

PGH kept me for as long as they could, and then sent me to Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre, which kept me for as long as they could. My in-patient rehab was seven months in total. I still see a seizure specialist (and, because I didn’t like the first one to whom I was referred, I asked if I could switch, and I was accommodated).

When It All Comes Down to Money


There’s a chance that I wouldn’t be here if the medical system hadn’t been here to support me the way it had through the brain AVM ordeal. My family would not have been able to afford my brain AVM surgeries, let alone my aftercare and rehabilitation, if we’d lived in country without universal health care. 

As I said, the system isn’t perfect...and I really feel for people that have had a bad outcome because they've been put on a waiting list or because they've had to sit in an ER too long.  That absolutely shouldn't happen. But I can’t imagine living in a country where people sometimes go without treatments that they need simply because they can't afford it.

It makes me grateful to be Canadian.

Monday, 25 June 2012

After My Stroke: My "Weak" Hand/Arm/Leg


Recovering From My Stroke: My "Weak" Left Side


Reading a post by Grace Carpenter over at "My Happy Stroke", I was reminded by how much trouble I used to have with referring to my left side, the side affected by my stroke, as my "weak" side.

Trouble because it wasn't just that my side had been made "weak" by my stroke. Right after my stroke, it had been been nearly paralysed, or so it had seemed to me. I remember doctors asking me to lift my leg from the bed, and only being able to lift both a couple of inches. The foot that had kept its strong arch and pointed toes from years of highland dancing and ballet classes lay shapeless despite my best efforts to make it do anything. And my left hand, when I tried to open my fingers, wanted to remain a clenched fist.

The Problem with "Weak"


As Grace points out, "weak" is a problematic descriptor when it's used to captured the full spectrum of experience with a limb that's affected by a stroke:

  1. Weakness - Weakness is part of it, yes. Twelve years after my stroke, my left leg is strong enough to support my weight only for very short periods (this is a relatively recent development) and my left arm isn't strong enough to hold very much. I do heavy lifting with my right arm and use my left arm as a brace, for extra support.
  2. Spasticity - For a long time (years), my left arm and leg had a lot of what my physiotherapists called "tone". My arm and leg shook sometimes, and my arm jumped when I was startled (I was fun in scary movies).
  3. Lack of Sensation - Once, when I fell, I broke the little finger on my left hand and didn't realize it until I had an x-ray of my hand done to look into something else. I couldn't feel that I'd broken my finger.
  4. Lack of Proprioception - For a long time (years), if I closed my eyes and someone raised my left arm in the air, I wouldn't be able to detect where it was. For all I knew, it could be just be a few inches from my side, or out at shoulder-level, or straight above my head.
  5. Neglect - I'm pretty good about not neglecting my left side now, but occasionally I'll walk outside with my t-shirt hiked half up my left side, or I'll not realize that my jacket has slipped off my left shoulder to my elbow. It used to happen much more than it does now, though.

I generally use the word "weak" to describe my left side, just because I haven't come across an alternative that I like (well, on my less-than-good-days, I might say "bad", but I don't mean it.)

Grace is considering "gimpy" but there's something that doesn't sit quite right about that with me, either...but if it works for Grace, more power to her! :)

Anyway, if you watch the video at the end of Grace's post, you can get an idea of how my left arm now moves. It looks as if we've got about the same amount of arm movement and control, but Grace definitely has more fine motor skills in her hand. I am not to the point where I can pick up cutlery with my hand; the more I try to move my fingers, the more they want to curl up into a fist.

I really like Grace's blog. Go check it out: http://myhappystroke.blogspot.ca/

Friday, 22 June 2012

Ableist Language and People Who Should Know Better


I have some thoughts on ableist language today.
A few years back, I took a Pharmacology class to help me to understand the medications that I'd be working with as a support person and the issues around properly assisting people to take those medications. It was an interesting course, taught by a Registered Nurse. I learned a great deal.

The section on anti-depressants was basically review for me. I'd been on anti-depressants on and off since I was 14, and spoken to many, many people who took them. I was interested to hear what the teacher had to say, but I was thinking that I'd get to relax a little bit. The course had been pretty fast-paced up until then.

All thoughts of relaxing went out the window after the teacher's introduction: "We all have whacko thoughts from time to time, but for some people it crosses the line into something more serious."

I put up my hand and suggested that perhaps there was a better word to use than "whacko", and she kind of shrugged and went on with the lesson. I quietly seethed. I didn't know the term "ableist" back then, but apparently I could recognize it.  And I can definitely recognize "ableist" today.

June 26: "Dr. Oz" Does Ableist Language


The things that bothered me the most about the "whacko" comment was that it came from a medical professional who should know better, and who should be setting an example as an educator. So you can understand why I'd be upset when I saw the promos for "Normal or Nuts" next week (June 26) on the daytime health awareness show hosted by Dr. Mehmet Oz.

The premise appears to be that a person describes a behaviour, habit or fear, there's some talk among Oz and a group of professionals brought in for the episode, and each professional holds up a sign: "Normal" or "Nuts".  It seems that several people are "assessed" over the course of the show.

Now, I was an English major for a painful semester. I recognize that alliteration is a tool, yada yada yada...but when I saw the promo, I immediately thought, "There's tomorrow's blog entry. Ableist language from a doctor on national television.  Nice job, Dr. Oz."

Dr. Phil Doesn't Diagnose and He Generally Spends a Whole Hour With a Person


The "Normal or Nuts" designation implies several things:

  1. That a behaviour, habit, or fear is normal is something associated with a diagnosis, with no in-between.
  2. That a professional can make a mental health diagnosis in a couple of minutes based on limited information.
  3. That "nuts" is a bad thing and something that you don't want to be (that's the ableist part)

Ableist language around mental conditions runs rampant in our society:

  1. "That's crazy."
  2. "He's a psycho/nutjob/wingnut/whacko"
  3. "It's insane in there."
  4. "You're nuts if you believe that."

The fact that these words are so engrained into our vernacular reinforces negative stereotypes of people with mental conditions and keeps stigma alive. The fear of the stigma associated with having a mental condition keeps people from getting the help that they need.

And when individuals that people recognize as having authority, like Dr. Oz, use ableist language, they legitimize its message. It's why media figures have to be very careful with their words, and why I've never particularly cared for Oprah Winfrey. While she's undeniably done a great deal of good, I sometimes get the sense that she doesn't responsibly use the incredible amount of power that she has. I hope that Dr. Oz doesn't go the same way.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Kick in the Crotch


Just a fly-by post today, and back for something more substantial tomorrow. I'm not feeling that great. But I had to share this blog I found over at "Smart-Ass Cripple" .

Mike is just generally awesome, but he's outdone himself with this. I don't think I heard the argument for why institutions need to be closed made quite so well.  It's a bit...visceral, yes. But it definitely gets the point across.

Monday, 18 June 2012


The National Federation of the Blind in the United States has called for people to boycott Goodwill Industries International. This story actually broke about ten days ago, so many of you likely already know about it.

The Issues Behind the Call to Boycott Goodwill Industries


The issue around the call to boycott Goodwill Industries is that the National Federation of the Blind had discovered that Goodwill had been paying some of its workers with disabilities significantly below minimum wage - as low as $1.44 an hour. Apparently it's permitted to do this through a nearly 75-year-old provision of the US Fair Labor Standards Act. The National Federation of the Blind is seeking to have this provision repealed, supported by 45 other organizations in the United States. But it's taking more immediate action through the call to boycott Goodwill Industries.

I hope that they can find some way to get it into legislation that people with disabilities have to be paid minimum wage. I know that from watching the struggle in Ontario to get businesses to pay people with intellectual disabilities minimum wage that until recently, success has varied from region to region and business to business. Especially in towns made up of mostly small businesses that don't have a corporate policy dictating hiring practices and may not have a lot of money to spare.

Work is Work and Employees are Employees. Period.


I've seen people with intellectual disabilities do a lot of different kinds of work.  People I've worked with have cleaned tables and taken out the trash in restaurants, stocked shelves in grocery stores, done cleaning in a variety of establishments, answered phones for businesses, and  even started their own businesses like walking dogs and doing housekeeping.

Sometimes in those days (as it is now), it was appropriate for someone with a disability to go do a job and charge a flat rate for their services. I remember working with a woman who got $15 a week from a local business to come do their cleaning each week. It took her about hour. That was reasonable compensation for her time and effort.

However, in those days I also saw people with intellectual disabilities go into businesses to help out with activities that were required to keep the business running, such as facing shelves, and not get paid or get paid very little. That's not appropriate or fair. The employees were expected to face shelves. Having someone do it freed up their time to do other things. That made the work that these people with intellectual did an important part of store work, for which they should have been compensated properly (at the minimum wage)...even if it was the only thing they did as an employee and even if they did it for only an hour a week.

Yeah, I'm Taking This Personally


Those days weren't so long ago...but it's gotten a lot better. The tide's turned quickly on this one (at least in Canada, and at least from what I can see). I'm really grateful that it's gotten easier for people with intellectual disabilities to earn a decent wage.

But am I offended by this type of nonsense coming from Goodwill Industries? You bet I am. I've focused on intellectual disabilities so far, but everything that I've read about Goodwill Industries' discrimination has been about people with disabilities in general. And I'm a person with disabilities.

Goodwill Industries, Meet Me at Camera Three


Hi Goodwill. As a person with disabilities, I'm really insulted that you think that my time and energy is worth so much less to you than those of a person without disabilities. I'm angry that you think it's okay to pay me slave wages because I have a disability. And I'm furious that you think it's okay to contribute to the further social devaluement and hardship of a group that's already socially and economically vulnerable.

I'm not naive enough to think that this sort of thing still doesn't happen. But, considering what you do, you were one of the last organizations that I would have suspected of doing it.
You've got a lot of damage repair to do. Better get on it.

For Readers Outside the US: I can't find any information about Goodwill's hiring practices in other countries, or whether advocacy organizations in other countries are supporting the boycott to ban Goodwill Industries. Does anyone have any information?

More about the call to boycott Goodwill Industries:


Friday, 15 June 2012

Deficit-Based Assessment


I'm participating in a blog hop over at With a Little Moxie (http://www.withalittlemoxie.com/) this week about Early Intervention programs...check it out, because there are some really fantastic posts.

1. Therapy for Our Child with Down Syndrome - Meriah Nichols of With a Little Moxie

2. What happens at a 2 year Early Intervention Evaluation?

3. Melanie's Mania: My son IS the Sport!!

4. Birdie and the Child Find Committee. . . via Riding the Crazy Train: Diary of a Delirious Mom

5. Life is Beautiful: What is an IFSP?

6. NutsaboutNathan

I'll update this post as more blogs join the blog hop.

A Common Theme: Negative Feelings About Deficit-Based Assessment


I've never worked with children with disabilities below the age of 3, so I know very little about Early Intervention teams, the methodologies that they use, or eligibility criteria. Reading these posts was, in that sense, very educational for me.  I'm always curious about how things operate in areas of the sector in which I haven't worked, even if the information pertains to places in which I haven't lived or worked.
I kept coming across a theme in the posts that I relate to both professionally and personally, though: experiences of deficit-based assessment. It's difficult to deal with having your child constantly assessed, and keep hearing from therapists in meetings and in reports about how delayed your child is, especially in relation to other children. This sort of deficit-based assessment for services wears on anyone after a while, and it's a part of the support systems with which I've always had trouble.

Why I Dislike Deficit-Based Assessment


Even though some Ontario funding applications have a space to talk about the individual's strengths, the bottom line is that supports are allocated by how "disabled" the person is and how well the person's support system assists with managing the challenges associated with those disabilities. Deficit-based assessment is exactly what it sounds like: Focusing on a person's deficits to determine their eligibility for services, and not their strengths. In the age groups with which I've worked, deficit-based assessment is a relatively direct way of obtaining information, especially as services have started to require forms and reports designed to facilitate easy sharing between agencies or team members.  A question such as, "Does the individual require assistance with bathing?  Yes, No, Reminders only", with checkboxes, lets the individual give specific information that an agency may require to assist that individual to set and reach goals.

Deficit-Based Assessment Feels...Is "Dehumanizing" The Right Word?


However, when I assisted individuals and families to read reports or to fill out intake forms and applications for funding, I found myself constantly apologizing:

"I'm sorry that this is so intrusive. If we get all this information once, then we never have to go through another intake form."

"I'm sorry that we're focussing so much on the negative. We just need to let them know what it is specifically that your child and your family need assistance with and what you'll use the funding for."

"You may read some difficult things  in this report, but you have to remember that this is your child at one point in her life. There have been improvements since the last report and there's no reason to believe that there won't continue to be improvements if you continue with the plan you discussed with the therapist."

I think I'm especially sensitive to deficit-based assessment because of my experience of applying for Ontario Disability Support Program income supports after I had my stroke. Although I've since had many positive experiences with ODSP since, both as a person receiving supports and as a professional, I cried after my first phone call with them - I told Dad that they made me feel "handicapped".

It seems to me that applying for supports should be more of a strengths-focused process, but I struggle with how to make it so. I do suggest that people try to keep the focus on the person's strengths as much as possible, within the framework of how supports are currently allocated and evaluated. For example, at a meeting with therapists, perhaps the parent could suggest that the meeting start by everyone at the table stating what they think the child's greatest strength is.

How do you think we can keep reminding ourselves and support people of the strengths of the people with disabilities in our lives?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Disability Activist Karen Sherlock Dies


In Britain, a disability campaigner and member of the Spartacus group fighting so hard against the current round of cuts in disability supports, has died.  Her name was Karen Sherlock.

Rest in Peace, Karen Sherlock


Diabetic since childhood, Karen Sherlock's health had deteriorated in the last few years to the point where she was basically housebound. She had serious kidney disease, and was in constant pain. She was also no longer control her bowels, and often suffered bouts of uncontrollable vomiting. Only partially sighted due to the diabetes, she had stopped using the stairs out of fear of falling, and greatly curtailed her activities in kitchen out of fear of hurting herself on the stove or with a knife.  Asthma, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol,high blood pressure, and an underactive thyroid combined with her other conditions to leave her constantly fatigued. On June 8, it's suspected that Karen Sherlock had a heart attack, and the activist so beloved to the Spartacus community died.

To have to live in such pain and discomfort for the last few years of one's life would be bad enough. Karen Sherlock had significant stress added to her life by worries that, even though she was declared unable to work in 2008, she'd eventually lose her Employment and Support allowance. You can read about these worries in Karen Sherlock's own words, in this blog:


Sue Marsh explains why losing a support like the Employment and Support Allowance is something that so many people in Britain with disabilities in Britain are fearing right now:


Karen Sherlock fought hard to keep her support, and was told that a ruling had been made in her favour on May 31st...just a little over a week before she died.

Many things jumped out at me as I read her words about her situation, but this was one of the things that jumped out the most:

"So, what happens next is anyone’s guess, but none of us are devoid of disability striking us at any age or walk in life. A sudden accident that takes away our sight, or our ability to walk, talk or use our arms and legs. An incurable disease that will cause our health to deteriorate so that we cannot function. If this happened to any of the government members, what would they do if they were told, “you’ve got to have an ATOS medical.” Or, “off down the JobCentre you go because you can still work of course, ATOS said so?” How would that change their lives and the impact it has on everything they do every single second of their living lives?

The trouble is the government do not seem to be able to see this in their blinkered lives and opinions."

My condolences to all who knew and loved Karen Sherlock. May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


girl with the cane blogoversary


I can assure you that I didn't plan it that way (I'm simply not that organized), but this is the blog's second major milestone within a week: The First Girl With The Cane Blogoversary!

What?? Girl With the Cane Blogoversary??


Yes, it was one year ago today that I launched this blog. To get this Girl With The Cane Blogoversary started, let's go over some of the things that have happened since. Since June 12, 2011, Girl With The Cane:

  • Become the promotional cornerstone of my company, Running Steps
  • Was nominated for Ninjamatics Weblogs Awards for Best Feminist Blog, Best Weblog about Health and Wellness, and Best Life Weblog
  • Won 3rd Place in the Canadian Blog Awards in Best Personal Blog Category
  • Has at least 10 influential websites linking to it
  • Has developed a network including high-profile disability agencies, authors, bloggers, activists and advocates in Canada, the United States, and Europe.
  • Has become closely involved with the Accessible Clean Taxi Coalition and the individuals and organizations involved with them through blog coverage of New York City's fight for increased numbers of accessible taxis
  • Has became involved with the Spartacus movement in the UK, protesting devastating cuts to disability supports.
  • Has had, just in the last two days, visitors from Canada, the United States, the Czech Republic, India, Ireland, England, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, and Peru

Not bad for the first year.  I think I can justify having some Girl With The Cane Blogoversary celebratory ice cream today :)

I'd share it with a lot of people if they lived just a little bit closer, because there's are some people that I need to thank for actually getting me to this Girl With The Cane Blogoversary:

First...the Facebook friends who like pages and posts and leave notes and go vote and keep me honest  and just generally support me any way that I need them to. I couldn't have gotten this far without you.

Second...my blogging buddy in crime, who has stood back on this one, but who has always been there with advice and encouragement.

Third...all the other disability bloggers and online advocates/activists who haven the taken the time to read, retweet, and repost my content, link to my website, and let me do guest writing for them. Thank you in particular to:


If all of the people on the above list would please contact me at admin@runningsteps.ca, I have something for you by way of thanking you personally.

My apologies if I've missed anyone...I greatly appreciate all the support that everyone's given to help given the blog some traction this year, and getting it to it's first Girl With The Cane Blogoversary.

Of course, thank you to all of you who take time out of your day to come here and read...and comment...and email me with your stories.  "Girl With The Cane" has become a real labour of love for me, and I'm thrilled that people get something out of what I post here. I learn a lot from what you have to say too, and I'm really happy that we're starting to have some good dialogue in the comments on the posts. I'd really like to see that grow as the blog goes into its second year, and invite any suggestions for making this blog a place where people feel comfortable voicing their opinions and telling their stories.

I'm always on the look-out for guest bloggers, too. If you've got some disability-related content and would like to contribute, please contact me.

Happy Girl With The Cane Blogoversary! Any predictions for what will happen for the blog in its second year?

Monday, 11 June 2012

Girl With The Cane Blogoversery!

girl with the cane blogoversary

I can assure you that I didn't plan it that way (I'm simply not that organized), but this is the blog's second major milestone within a week: The First Girl With The Cane Blogoversary!

What?? Girl With the Cane Blogoversary??


Yes, it was one year ago today that I launched this blog. To get this Girl With The Cane Blogoversary started, let's go over some of the things that have happened since. Since June 12, 2011, Girl With The Cane:

  • Become the promotional cornerstone of my company, Running Steps

  • Was nominated for Ninjamatics Weblogs Awards for Best Feminist Blog, Best Weblog about Health and Wellness, and Best Life Weblog

  • Won 3rd Place in the Canadian Blog Awards in Best Personal Blog Category

  • Has at least 10 influential websites linking to it

  • Has developed a network including high-profile disability agencies, authors, bloggers, activists and advocates in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

  • Has become closely involved with the Accessible Clean Taxi Coalition and the individuals and organizations involved with them through blog coverage of New York City's fight for increased numbers of accessible taxis

  • Has became involved with the Spartacus movement in the UK, protesting devastating cuts to disability supports.

  • Has had, just in the last two days, visitors from Canada, the United States, the Czech Republic, India, Ireland, England, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, and Peru


Not bad for the first year.  I think I can justify having some Girl With The Cane Blogoversary celebratory ice cream today :)

I'd share it with a lot of people if they lived just a little bit closer, because there's are some people that I need to thank for actually getting me to this Girl With The Cane Blogoversary:

First...the Facebook friends who like pages and posts and leave notes and go vote and keep me honest  and just generally support me any way that I need them to. I couldn't have gotten this far without you.

Second...my blogging buddy in crime, who has stood back on this one, but who has always been there with advice and encouragement.

Third...all the other disability bloggers and online advocates/activists who haven the taken the time to read, retweet, and repost my content, link to my website, and let me do guest writing for them. Thank you in particular to:

If all of the people on the above list would please contact me at admin@runningsteps.ca, I have something for you by way of thanking you personally.


My apologies if I've missed anyone...I greatly appreciate all the support that everyone's given to help given the blog some traction this year, and getting it to it's first Girl With The Cane Blogoversary.


Of course, thank you to all of you who take time out of your day to come here and read...and comment...and email me with your stories.  "Girl With The Cane" has become a real labour of love for me, and I'm thrilled that people get something out of what I post here. I learn a lot from what you have to say too, and I'm really happy that we're starting to have some good dialogue in the comments on the posts. I'd really like to see that grow as the blog goes into its second year, and invite any suggestions for making this blog a place where people feel comfortable voicing their opinions and telling their stories.


I'm always on the look-out for guest bloggers, too. If you've got some disability-related content and would like to contribute, please contact me.


Happy Girl With The Cane Blogoversary! Any predictions for what will happen for the blog in its second year?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

"My Special Needs Child is Not a Burden on Society" - Love that EllenSeidman!

I found a lovely post on Friday at http://www.lovethatmax.com, a blog by Ellen Seidman about life with her son Max. Max has cerebral palsy. He had a stroke just after he was born. I'm devouring Ellen Seidman's blog, and it's partly why I posted the blog that I did on Friday. That, and a discussion with Geoff that happened that same night. It had all got me thinking about things like equality, and opportunity, and contribution to society...and left me thoroughly muddled. Perhaps that's why I didn't sleep Thursday night.

(Geoff, if you'll remember, is my Conservative Facebook friend with whom I argue politics. We've started to joke that if we agree on something, pigs must be flying somewhere. We did have a good discussion the other night, though, tempered by the influence of other Facebook friends much more intelligent than I am.)

Ellen Seidman has read this post and approved it. It was important to me that she did.

Burden to Society? Depends On How We Choose to View Max, Not His Ability Level. You Go, Ellen Seidman!


Ellen Seidman's June 6 post, "My Child With Special Needs Is Not a Burden To Society", talks about a perception that because Max's needs are greater than those of some other children with disabilities, he'll therefore make less of a contribution to society, and money to support him would be "better spent" on children with less severe disabilities who will make a "greater" contribution to society. A number of other parents commented that they've encountered the same attitudes about their children with disabilities. Ellen Seidman and the commenters got very emotional.

I can understand why. One of the things that's annoyed me most as I've worked with people with disabilities is hearing from other people (sometimes in front of the person with whom I've been working, and sometimes from colleagues in the field) statements like:

  • "He'll never do that. His disabilities are too severe."

  • "She'll never be able to do that. It's too much for her to handle."

  • "What's the point of trying that? It's too expensive/there's not enough support/we need things that we don't have ."

  • "That'd be too hard for her. We don't want to set her up for failure."

Usually, the comment on the tip of my tongue is, "Unless you've got a crystal ball that I don't know about, you can't see into the future to know what this person is and isn't going to be able to do in life, and what contribution to society this person will make."  I generally tone it down to,

  • "No one is ever going to know what he's able to do, including him, if no one ever gives him a chance to try."

  • "It'll be a challenge, yes, but we'll get a good plan together for her before we move forward with anything."

  • "The point in trying is that he wants to try. It's his dream; everyone has the right to a dream. Let's assume that the resources are available and see how far we can get."

  • "What's the worst case scenario if she fails? She learns how to deal with failure. Everybody has to learn how to do that eventually."


What Does "Contribution to Society" Have to Do With "Equality"?


So, last Thursday night, Geoff and Julie and I debated what "equality" meant when it came to people with disabilities. I got it down to "equal opportunity", which thoroughly confused Geoff (and with good reason, as I was thinking of this graphic and substituting "equal" for "Fair" in my mind):



But I worked it out. I won't go into the protracted train of thought that led there, especially after reading Ellen Seidman's blog,  but it all became to me Friday when I was writing on tumblr:




"I’ve been thinking about this quote:  ”Fair isn’t everybody getting the same thing…fair is everyone getting what they need to succeed.”

But there’s an implication there that not everyone is equal. 

Maybe everyone is equal in that we’re all equally deserving of fair treatment?

Glad I worked that out…only took me all day…"

It'd be such a cool world if we could get it through our heads that everyone, regardless of ability level (or race, or gender, or sexual preference, or religion...you get the picture) is equally deserving of what they need to become what they consider successful (within limits, of course. I don't think that society could in good conscience support people to become successful ax murderers).

But that's not my point. I'm trying to say that even the people who look the least "successful" in society's eyes still make a contribution to society in all sorts of ways and may be quite happy in life. So social support can't be reserved for who has the potential to make the greatest contribution to society. If we're truly all equal, we should truly be regarded as having limitless potential and the advantage of government systems that nurture it.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Max continues to contribute to society as he grows up. I hope that Ellen Seidman will keep blogging so that we can continue with her family on their journey. Do yourself a favour and go read the "My Child with Special Needs is Not a Burden to Society" post on Ellen Seidman's blog: http://www.lovethatmax.com/2012/06/my-child-with-special-needs-is-not.html

What's your greatest contribution to society?

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Work and ODSP: The Case for Choice


This is a reblog of a post I wrote about working while on ODSP. I have some more things that I'd like to say about it, and wanted people to see this post for context. Back with new content by Monday at the latest. :) - Sarah 


When I first started volunteering with people with intellectual disabilities, long before my brain avm and surgery, I was perplexed as to why the people on ODSP that the agencies supported didn't work more.

Shouldn't Everyone, Even Those on ODSP, Work if they Can?


I knew that many of these people were on Ontario's government support system for people with disabilities: the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). I knew that you could only make a certain amount of money each month before your earnings started to affect how much you got from ODSP each month. And I knew that many people with disabilities were highly motivated to stay on the ODSP program because ODSP provides medical benefits that most jobs that a person with intellectual disabilities would not be able to obtain.

However, being still in my teens at the time and being blessed (cursed?) with an over-developed sense of fairness, I wondered why, if these people couldn't work for pay, they didn't volunteer more. There were definitely places in the community that were happy to have them volunteer.

Why did I have to go to school all day, 5 days a week during the school year and then spend 5 days a week working all day, and my parents have to work all day, every day to keep my family going, when the people that I was volunteering with could simply decide that working wasn't something that they wanted to do, and sit around and collect a cheque?  The question festered in the back of my mind. I know that it festers in the back of many peoples' minds.

A Change...but Why?


Fast forward years later, after the brain AVM and the surgery, to working with youth with intellectual disabilities. Not very many of the youth with intellectual disabilities that I worked with decided that they didn't want to work when they were done school, but there were a few who did. I counted them as successes in my program, because, even though they weren't out and doing something, they truly were doing what they wanted to be doing. I'd have rathered that they be out and working, because I knew they were going to get bored very quickly, but it wasn't what they wanted. So we planned for them to be home.

I hadn't resolved for myself why this had become "okay" for me at this point, except that I now strongly believed that people should be allowed to choose what they wanted to do in life - no matter what I, or anyone else, thought they "should" be doing.  It wasn't until a debate on an internet  message board with somebody who thought that people with intellectual disabilities shouldn't be getting any help from the government or government agencies at all, that volunteer service would more than provide for their needs if we'd just let it (*that* particular conversation got me right riled up, let me tell you) that I sat down with a pen and paper and worked out for myself exactly why I felt income support for people with intellectual disabilities was necessary and why I thought they had every right to decide exactly how much or how little they wanted to work while they were receiving it. That cemented my change of heart about what people on ODSP should/should not be doing.

When It's Not Your Fault that You're Not Wealthy Enough to Choose...


People who get to the point where they can decide how much they want to work usually do it in one of two ways:  They come into adulthood independently wealthy (or, by some twist of fortune, become independently wealthy), or they work really damn hard to get to the point where they can retire early or at least take a reduced schedule...and you have to have a fairly high-paying job to allow you to do this.

People with intellectual disabilities generally don't have the option of going to school to get the education required to get a really high-paying job that's going to allow them to retire early, or have a lot of money to invest. You can't invest while you're on ODSP.  In fact, you can't have more than $6000 in your bank account at a time when you're on ODSP, or you're cut off.  The money you get is for survival, not for building a future.

It cuts down the options. No savings. No education. They can't make the choices we do, because they don't have the monetary resources to make those dreams a reality, nor the options of going to, say, college or university to get better-paying jobs.

In fact, for some people, meeting their basic needs on their monthly ODSP allotment is a dream that they can't make a reality.

Once I realized how far behind the eight ball not just people with intellectual disabilities, but people with disabilities in general are in society, it made me look with more patience and compassion on those who chose not to find work while on ODSP. I did choose to work. But I've been blessed with a good education and very supportive family and community to help fill in the "gaps" that have made working difficult for me; not everyone is so lucky.

I'm not trying to be negative; I sometimes just need to acknowledge the realities of the world that we live in.

I like to believe in the hope of fabulous things even in disappointing times.  I hope you do too. :)

Have a great weekend...