A new friend and I were about to head out for a day of sightseeing. This was the first time we had ventured out together, so I had to direct her in what to pack. First, into the van she hefted the portable ramp, so that I could get into buildings with one or two steps that made them inaccessible. Second, there were a number of items to pack in my knapsack: a portable urinal for washrooms where the cubicles are too small for a transfer; a metal knife, fork and spoon because the plastic utensils provided at some eateries often break off in my mouth; a roll of paper towels because small restaurant napkins are not absorbent enough; and my supersized raincoat, which covers both me and my wheelchair.
One of the things I really enjoyed this summer was getting out to a number of food, wine and craft beer events around Ontario. I love attending these kinds of events—food is my passion! Unfortunately, at one or two of them, I had to forego sampling a few of the culinary choices because the food stations were located on a sidewalk with a curb or on uneven terrain. My wheelchair may be motorized but even it hasn’t yet mastered the art of climbing curbs…
One day I was visiting a large corporation where I had once delivered a presentation on inclusive leadership. The message of my presentation was that anyone can be a leader in creating accessible and inclusive workplaces and marketplaces: you don’t need to be the CEO of a corporation (although you certainly can be the CEO) to demonstrate leadership.
Have you ever noticed that words can have a different connotation depending on the context in which they’re used? As a writer, I’m fascinated by the different ideas and feelings a word can generate along with its literal meaning. Take, for example, the word “buddy.” Depending on who is saying it and in what tone, this word can have either a positive or a negative connotation. So here are some things to keep in mind when you’re tempted to call someone “buddy.”
Let’s face it: Hollywood struggles with the way it depicts disability in TV shows and movies. Far too often in these productions the character who has a disability is portrayed as either a hero or a dependent victim. It’s also a well-known fact that most of the characters who have a disability are played by actors who do not have a disability. So when a TV comedy comes along that strives to be authentic in its dialogue on disability, it deserves our applause.
I have to admit there are days (usually Monday mornings before my coffee...) when, for a brief moment, I question whether it is possible to make our communities completely accessible and inclusive. I know I’m not alone. In the cynical and turbulent climate we live in, it’s easy to slip into being a “naysayer” and blame others for failing to lead the way to make the world a better place for everyone. I was having such a morning recently when I heard the story of the children at the Mabin School in downtown Toronto.
With all my heart, I believe that creating an accessible and inclusive community is rooted in the commitment of everyday ordinary people. By commitment, I’m not talking about a half-baked, politically correct buy-in. I’m talking about following through on a decision to bring about change that turns possibilities into reality.