It’s been an interesting week or so in Canada regarding issues around disability. “Interesting” here means hit and miss.
I could, for example, direct you to the coverage of the Paralymic Games, but that site appears to be inaccessible to screen readers. It’s very busy, and has a lot of flash on it. There’s an audio slide show – the first I’ve ever come across – but you need to download something in order to run the audio.
So, hit and miss there, I guess.
Of course, then we get this story: No sugar-coating for disability exhibit: Co-curator’s trip out west parallels struggle to overcome obstacles in Out from Under
For disability rights activist Catherine Frazee, the personal overlaps with the political even when she doesn’t intend it.
That happened with Frazee’s recent journey to Vancouver from Toronto for Out From Under, a unique exhibition on the social history of disability in Canada.
As one of its three curators, she felt it was important to be here for the exhibition’s opening during the Paralympic Winter Games.
Frazee, the director of Ryerson’s Institute for Disability Studies, can’t fly for medical reasons having to do with living with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic neuromuscular disease characterized by the degeneration of the motor neurons. When she travels, she is accompanied by an attendant and Patricia Seeley, her life partner.
The only option for her was to take the train.
Frazee was willing to make sacrifices to travel out west, such as sleeping in her electric wheelchair. She can’t be separated from her wheelchair, which is uniquely customized to her body’s needs. At times, for example, she has to tilt it slightly back to help with her breathing.
When she contacted Via Rail, she was told that she and her wheelchair had to travel separately.
Of course she was. *headdesk*
The exhibit itself sounds amazing and I wish I could see it. But it’s telling to me that in my country, where politicians regularly tell me they really care about the needs of people with disabilities, it’s impossible for Catherine Frazee to travel to Vancouver. Ultimately, she and her partner traveled through the US, where the Americans with Disabilities Act, as poor as it may be, still required that there be train cars that Frazee be able to use.
Or another hit and a miss: Promoting rights of disabled new foreign policy focus: Cannon
Promoting the rights of disabled people around the world will become a key foreign policy focus for Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said at the United Nations Thursday.
Cannon made the declaration after delivering Canada’s ratification of the world body’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Awwww. Isn’t that awesome?
Yesterday morning Prime Minister Stephen Harper performed a first, by being the first Canadian Prime Minister to have his remarks streamed live through YouTube. Before and after the PM’s speech, and up until Sunday at 1:00pm ET, Canadians can login to the Talk Canada YouTUbe page to submit and vote on questions, which the PM will answer in another live stream on Tuesday.
As a completely blind Canadian and an Information and Communications Technology Accessibility Consultant (I help make information systems work for persons with disabilities), I take exception to the PM using technologies such as YouTube and Google Moderator (used for the questions and voting). These technologies were poorly accessible to me, and to other blind and partially sighted Canadians, including Derek Wilson who wrote about the barriers he faced. This is not the way that things need to be, it would have been very possible, should the PM have cared, to make the Talk Canada event easily accessible to a much wider range of Canadians, including the blind and visually impaired.
[I also have no idea if the actual videos will be subtitled, Signed, or a transcript provided.]
Oh, and Canada continues to refuse immigrants when family members have disabilities. The only ‘hit’ there is that we’re talking about it, I guess, since it’s been going on forever.
I’m frustrated. Politicians, business owners, school officials, everyone tells me that they really care about the needs of people with disabilities. They often do grand gestures: Ooh, we’ll show highlights from the Paralympic Games! We’ll agree that yes, we’re going to support the needs and rights of people with disabilities in other countries! We’re going to put in a Student Accessibility Services Office (because all people with disabilities on campus are students) and that will solve all the problems!
What we won’t do, apparently, is ensure that people with disabilities in Canada can get from Nova Scotia to Vancouver with minimal fuss and drama, like the currently non-disabled can. We won’t discuss how inaccessible politicians are to people with disabilities. We will express disdain that the laws in Ontario now require universities to be accessible to students before students spend months or even years self-advocating. We will approve bursaries for students purchasing equipment that helps them write their essays and do their school work in February – 6 months into the Academic year.
Oh Canada. Please do better.