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September 18, 2017

Still a ways to go

Part way there
Twice this summer I've been invited to functions that illustrate that famous oxymoron "Government Intelligence".  I've been reluctant to say anything because some progress has been made in the situation of Canadians with disabilities and I don't want to be a party pooper.

On the other hand, people have been rude, ignorant and inconsiderate, and they need to be held accountable.

First, I was invited to this event:

The Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada (the Alliance*) is consulting Canadians about the Government of Canada’s proposed accessibility law. We want to hear from people with disabilities, their families and caregivers. We also want to hear from service providers, businesses, unions and other community organizations. We are collecting information through surveys, public meetings and discussion groups. We will be compiling our findings in a report for the Honorable Carla Qualtrough.

The Alliance invites you to attend our public session taking place on July 17 at the Atlantica Hotel Halifax from 6PM – 8PM.

It was held in the basement of the Atlantica, emceed by Sue Uteck. To get to the basement you need to take a small elevator - one wheelchair at a time - competing with crowds of tourists headed in the up direction.  Pretty soon they discovered that they could go up by going down first, so the elevators were always full. Once downstairs, the conference area is two stepped levels down. The Alliance had rented two ramps, much too steep, requiring spotters to negotiate safely. Ironically (there's that word) there is a door on that level, but it's for use in fire emergencies only, by some train of twisted logic.

Today I attended the proclamation of the new Accessibility Act at the East Preston United Baptist Church.  This was strictly political theater, with the Premier and the MLA taking credit for improving lives and a Minister (not the religious kind) announcing 15 accessibility grants.  That was the Minister of Community Services, the clueless department that is largely responsible for the antique view of disability in the province.  One grant was for the East Preston United Baptist Church for an accessible washroom.
Bishop Presron

The church had a carved bust of Richard Preston, who bought his freedom in Virginia sometime after 1812.  By all accounts he was a generous and pleasant person, as were our hosts at the church.  As Paul Vienneau would say, Preston could distinguish sympathy and empathy.

Imagine the genius of the event planner in the Premier's office who invited people with disabilities to attend an event in a rural community 1 1/2 hours from downtown.  Where only 1 bus leaves in time for a 10 o'clock meeting - 07:28.  To a place without a bathroom.  And on a bus that can only accommodate 2 wheelchairs.  And 1 1/2 hours return.  And you pay their extravagant salary.

No wonder the church wasn't flooded with wheelchairs, scooters, the blind and the deaf.  This was arguably the most significant development in the lives of Nova Scotians with disabilities since the Charter, only they were effectively excluded.

Speaker Kevin Murphy and Gerry Post, the new access Czar were there; myself, two other wheelchair users.  The Minister (political) responsible for the Act didn't bother to show.  

What might have been a celebration of progress was merely a demonstration of the venality of politics and the virtual invisibility of people with disabilities.

The ceremony ended at 10:44 and all going well, a bus passenger would've been back downtown at 13:20.  5 hours, 42 minutes without a bathroom - 8 more minutes and they'd be in London:

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