Tag Archives: accessibility

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An interview on Rabble podcast about the sexuality and disability project I’m working on, ACSEXE+. Take a listen if you’re inclined!

ACSEXE+: Talking disability and sexuality in Montreal

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I am a lucky girly. I get to work on this blog and video project, ACSEXE+ all about sex and disability. I get to collaboratively encourage Quebec to be more sex positive, open and downright sexy. I get to work on a video featuring some fabulous Quebecers who want to share their thoughts on how to accessibilize sex! I’ll interview people about their perspectives on sex and how it relates to disability. I get to research and facilitate knowledge sharing between people who identify as having a disability, and learn people’s tricks on sex positions, how to resist ableism in the dating world, and what we can collectively do to make Quebec a more sex-positive place! I am a lucky girly!!

If you have some art or writing that you’d like me to feature, share your ideas with me! Make me even more lucky:)

ACSEXE+


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Well, tonight (Mar 18, 2015) I called the cops on a
bus driver. Yes. The driver of the 105, bus number 22-288, departing
concordia loyola campus at around 10:30 pm tonight, held me captive
on his bus at my stop. I was the only passenger left, he closed the
doors, parked the bus, illuminated the out of service sign and told
me I was not going anywhere.

This happened after I had requested
that he lower the bus when I got on at loyola. I had taken the
concordia shuttle from downtown and waited to take the 105 two stops
to home. I requested, he looked me up and down and said ‘vous est pas
capable de prendre la marche?’ I stared at him. I said, ‘are you
going to lower it?’

He said ’S’il vous plait?’ I stared at
him.

He reluctantly lowered it.

I sat at the front of the bus.

He said, ‘you could have said please.’
In French.

I said, ‘it’s not up to you to ask
whether or not I can take a step.’ In English.

He said ‘vous pouvez parler en
francais’.

I said, ‘yes I could’.

He sassed me.

I sassed back.

Then, two stops later, at my stop, a
guy was getting off first, and before he got off said, ‘it shouldn’t
make a difference whether someone is speaking english or french,
you’re in the public service, you should respond to your customers.’
The driver at this point said ‘oui, je comprends le francais, j’ai
juste dit…’

The guy getting off the bus said
something else and then the driver became aggressive, pointing his
finger at the guy and started to yell. Then I got up and told him he
was being aggressive and that is against stm policy, it says so right
there on the poster. (‘Pas de place pour la violence’ with a big
clipart heart)

The guy got off the bus, I sat down to
hit record on my phone because I had a feeling this was not over, and
then I found out that I was right.

The driver got up out of his seat, came
and leaned over me and said, that I was not polite.

I said that all I did was ask for the
bus to be lowered.

He said that he has children and he’s
teaching them to be polite.

I said, ‘oh now you’re comparing me to
your kids? That’s demeaning.’

I told him that it is his directive to
lower the bus and ramp whenever asked, regardless of what a person
looks like. I was angry. He was going to call the cops. He had closed
the doors, making it impossible for me to get off the bus. He
was going to call the cops?

Fuck no!

I dialed 911 and
tried to set up my call recording app.

I guess 911 is
blocked from these types of apps because it didn’t take.

I called again,
without recording and told the oporator I was being held on a city
bus against my will. I told her where and what bus number and she
said she’d send a car.

Then, after hearing
me speak very loudly, in English, to 911, the driver opened the doors
of the bus. Imagine that. He got off and talked to the driver of
another 105 who had pulled over to look out for his union brother.

I waited on the bus
for the cops. Let’s do this shit I said to myself and my cellphone
recording, fuck this. Let’s see what the cops have to say about a
male bus driver locking a woman alone with him on a bus late at
night.

The cops came to
talk to the bus drivers, completely ignoring me.

As they went
directly to speak with the drivers, I intercepted, asking ‘does
anyone want to hear what I have to say?’

One
c
op told me to go away – over there. The other, shorter
shittier cop grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away, and when he
realized I was audio recording him, he took my phone, stopped the
recording and turned off my phone, and wouldn’t give it back to me.
Schoolyard bully style.

I finally grabbed it out of his gloved
hand and started recording again, attempting to speak with the stm
cops and chef d’operations who had now arrived on the scene.

They were ‘mamming’ me, and telling me
to wait my turn, that they had to speak to the driver first even
though I was the one being threatened, held against my will and had
called the cops to help me.

The first cop, after having a little
chat with the bus driver, confronted me and told me if I ‘can’t live
in the society, that’s my problem.’ He had my bag, including my
wallet, and he threw it in the mud. He told me to go home. ’M’am go
home. You’re off the bus now. We need you to go home.’ This is
actually what he told me. As though I am the problem. I am a
hysterical, crazy bitch who should quiet down and go home. I’m the
problem. I did something wrong by calling the police when my security
was in danger. ‘Go home, m’am, go home now. Back off. Back off. When
I tell you to back off you back off.’ Me: ‘Don’t touch me, you can’t
touch me.’

Cop: ‘If you don’t follow my order I
can touch you. Back off. That’s an order. That’s an order.’

What is that shit? Am I a fucking
cadet?

Eventually an older man stm cop, a
retired military policeman I found out later, took me to sit down in
his cruiser and took notes on my side of the story. He looked me in
the eyes and answered a lot of the questions I grilled him with like,
what is the policy of the stm on ramp usage, (by saying I don’t know,
I’m not a policy guy) and sublty suggesting I request a
‘sensibilisation’ for the driver or group of drivers in the complaint
I could file. Hardly an ally, but he wasn’t harrassing or being
violent towards me, so that’s a start.

I told him a lot, recounted the whole
thing, how I didn’t answer his question about my personal, physical
‘capabilities’ and he took that as a personal affront to his pride,
and as an opportunity to hold me hostage and give me private
ettiquite pointers. I explained that asking someone what they are or
are not capable of when they request an accessibility feature, is
dicrimination. You can hear all of this on the attached recording.
The stm cop listened, took notes for his report. I asked who gets the
report, in like, 2500 different ways. He dodged my questions about
this in 3000 ways. He asked what my disability is, for the report. I
told him what I was comfortable telling him, that I use various
mobility aides, that I have chronnic pain and that any unnacounted
for movements cause me more pain. I refused to answer with any more
information. I asked him about protocol when a complaint is filed, he
told me that I should consider taking Transport Adapte. I repeated
sentences about discrimination and how scary it was to be locked on a
bus with a man. He offered to drive me home. I declined.

We got out of the car, out of earshot
of his bitchy young white Quebec-supremicist lady cop partener with a
swishy ponytail. He told me his mother is ‘handicapped’ too, and she
uses a wheelchair and she has a hard time getting anywhere, and its
not just the stm its stores and restaurants and they offer
alternative services like food delivery, but its not the same. He
said this is a hard moment and it will pass.

I said, yes discrimination is
everywhere, but the stm is a public service and it especially burns
because I pay full price for a pass every month.

And this moment may pass, but actually,
this happens every day.

Now I’m home and trying to play back
that first recording of the bus driver and little cop and it won’t
play. I think he fucked with the recording somehow. Makes sense that
a cop would learn that trick. Hopefully someone out there can help me
fix it so we can hear the first five minutes of what turned into an
over hour long complete fuck up.

I am at a loss. I am fine. I am
wondering should I get back in touch with the journalists? Should I
blockade stm meetings, should I ignore this constant bullshit so I
can get my work done? Should I move right now and leave all this
horse shit behind me, thereby kind of screwing my comrades over? I
had such a nice evening too, singing and seeing my music family, UTC.
I was listening to Canada Reads on podcast and planning the soup I
was going to eat. That driver, those cops, this constant harrassement
and abuse by the stm really put a damper on my mood.

Right now I am in calm shock and need
to eat dinner.

Le #printemps2015 arrive. There are new massive protests planned for Quebec this spring, in the tradition of the student protests of 2012. (See kind of funny photo above)

This
is exciting for me, and also concerns me. I love the idea of people
young and old, mobilizing against austerity, and sticking it to the
decision makers. God knows almost nothing turns me on more than a
demonstration in the street by the light of the springtime Quebec moon. I
said almost. I’m more than just political in my preferences, you know that.

However, like this young, normalized, white hand proudly proclaiming it’s rightful place in a mass social movement in Quebec; against austerity, against selfishness masked as an economic system, proudly aligning itself for community, marching really fast and rambunctiously down the middle of the street, it doesn’t represent all the people in the movement, nor the people most affected by austerity. 

My comrade Laurence Parent tells it like it is in this article recounting when a healthcare professional recommended she eats frozen microwave dinners 365 days a year to accommodate cuts in her province- funded homecare services, that had previously provided funds for meal preparation, like for actual food. http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/laurence-parent/repas-surgeles-a-saveur-dausterite_b_6778700.html

Now that’s something to say Esti! to. (Esti = Quebec version of Fuck)

Or the story that recently came out in the Journal de Montreal, about long time disability rights activist, Deborah Kennard, who is not being released from hospital to go back home after a stay, because the residence where she lives will not agree to pay for nursing care to meet her healthcare needs. http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2015/03/14/confinee-a-lhopital-en-attendant-une-decision-administrative An administrative loophole has turned her into a prisoner of the hospital. Austerity has extended that sentence.

I’d get out on the street to protest that shit.

But I’m not sure if the young, healthy, only-been-in-the-hospital-for-a-broken-arm-at-age-6 fist in the above photo is aware of these realities. I’m not sure if they know that parents with young children who need physiotherapy and speech therapy at an early age to assure their positive future, have the role of physical therapist being thrust on them due to budget cuts in the CLSCs (community health organizations), as if a parent who is exhausted and working full-time can moonlight as a top quality physio therapist as well, to compensate for a failing economic system.

I will hear chants about students’ tuition and a lack of jobs for young generations this spring, but will I hear the tens of thousands of people expected to take to the streets yelling about homecare cuts, and being allowed off the bus with a ramp, like I am so often refused http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/conflict-ramps-up-walker-reliant-rider-complains-driver-left-her-stranded-1.2258406, and having access to the accessibility devices that suit them best, not just those provided by the province’s favourite company? I don’t know.

Will they protest the age-old, and personally consuming excuse that ‘we can’t accessibilize transit in Montreal, because… austerity.’ As though the decision makers on the board of the STM are not at all responsible for mis-spending and complicity in the failure of past accessibility projects like the elevator to nowhere in the Place Bonaventure metro station (subway system in Montreal). http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/Montreal/2015/03/02/004-ascenseur-station-bonaventure-metro-montreal-accessibilite.shtml, or could not, while doing other repairs and closing down Beaubien station for an indefinite amount of time, also work on installing a damn elevator. But no, that would cost too much. Because… austerity.

This is not just a rant.

I sincerely hope that when that fist and the throngs of people that join it take to the streets this spring, accessibility will be on people’s radar. That when people yell about austerity and resist the police who will inevitably come to silence them, they will be doing so for people who are not there at the demo, not just themselves. That they fight for people who are stuck in the damn hospital waiting to get their lives back on track, waiting to do their life’s work of activism again, if only they weren’t being hospitalized, forcibly.

I hope that when the young folks take to the streets they yell extra loud for the folks who got fucked by transit on the way over to the square, showing up late to the demo or just giving up and heading home.

I hope that they pay attention to their surroundings and don’t kick canes out from under people’s hands like they did in 2012 to me, as I struggled up that very same hill on Berri street (pictured, weirdly, above). I wrote about that experience here: http://aimeelouw.blogspot.ca/2012/07/a-qui-la-rue.html I hope that they read our posts, share our perspectives and enact the community that they are advocating, on the streets, on transit, and in their everyday interactions. Because austerity for many, is a constricting force on our daily lives. It squeezes and pushes and there is no way out. Unless everyone gets on board and starts yelling and tweeting and writing and recording and works our collective magic, to make sure austerity is the thing that gets squeezed out this #printemps2015 (spring2015).

My little, kind of cold, also white, arthritic hand says to the fist above: take me in your hand, and let’s join a million other hands of all forms and colours with all the real, daily concerns they have written on their palms, and let’s do this thing together. Open that fist and leave space for all of us who are being harmed by the decisions that lead to austerity and the decisions that are made in austerity’s name. Lower your hand and follow our leads. 

This evening, I bashed a metal garbage can off the wall it was nailed into with my scooter, in a fit of fury.

I had spent the entire day trying to wake myself up enough to tick off at least some of the tasks on an ever-growing list of work and life activities, to little avail. I slept through the million alarms I set for myself, sipped coffee, black, with milk and finally of the cappuccino variety. I walked a block to my neighbourhood coffee shop for a change of scenery and crisp air, carrying my laptop and a folder. In doing so, I over-exerted my knee, which then hurt for the rest of the day and probably took away more of my limited energy. For all you spoonies out there, this was a seriously low spoon day. Even among these last few low spoon weeks.

But I was going to the pool. I had to. It is good for me. It is never a bad idea. These were the phrases I chanted to myself as I worked my way out of my waking slumber and into my heavy winter coat and along the bumpy and pain-inducing cracks on the sidewalk in my scooter. I was going to the pool; that happy place that never lets me down. The place that I enter into feeling frazzled and disjointed, and come out feeling clear-headed and serene, like the glassy surface of the water after closing time.

I was changing, I was showering, that routine that has become almost religious to me. I was doing laps. Left arm up, kick kick, right arm up, kick kick. And so it went for a solid twenty minutes. It felt amazing, as always. I didn’t want to overdo it though, and go beyond the optimal peak of gaining energy and endorphins towards exhaustion again. I had to get up when my alarm goes off tomorrow. No sleeping in with an anemia hangover from nettle tea and the stress of idleness that chronic pain and fatigue can bring.

My swim was over, I was showering and squeezing the water from my hair. I was putting on my stretchy pants and wishing my socks were stretchier as I struggled to pull them over my damp feet. I was putting my hair up, I was back in my coat, boots on, and I was ready to go.

This is when things started to get rag-y. Check it out. My pool is an amazing place. There is a ramp into the water, it’s ridiculously cheap for a yearly membership, the people are chill, its clean, there are lots of windows that let in natural light. The centre has won an award for their level of accessibility. However, tonight, like so many nights before, the automatic door to the accessible change room was not working.

Sometimes when I go swimming I go with someone and so we work out exiting the change room together. When I go on the weekend, there is a kid’s swim time after adult lane time and so there are a million kids and parents who willingly hold the door for me and my scooter. But tonight I was the last one in the change room, no one was walking by, and I was mutherfucking stuck.

I tried to Houdini my way out by opening the door on foot, holding it open with my ass, and driving my scooter out, backwards, while not actually being in the scooter. This, of course, is highly risky for my feet, which were out of necessity, very close to the wheels. One wrong move and 250 pounds of mobility would have trodden their way across my foot. This also requires perfect placement of the scooter before I get out and open the door and maneuver it out. I was not reaching the perfect placement tonight, as I have patiently done in the past. Plan b: I looked for something to hold the door open, growing more and more pissed as I searched. There was this big, metal coat rack on wheels that I tried to prop the door open with, but it wheeled towards the door frame as soon as I let go. There was a foot stool by the water fountain for little kids, but it was too light. So I kicked it instead, sending it down the hall, hoping someone would hear and come out and help me. This is also when I started yelling, “helloooo… I’m stuuck in heeere!” and “yo… YO!”

No one heard me.

The thing is, I could have walked to the front desk, scooter inside the change room, and asked them to come and hold the door. But that would have definitely pushed my knee over the edge of just tired and pain-under-wraps mode, to all out, I’m not walking tomorrow. And when I had come to the pool to do something good for myself, I refused that route. So I went back in the change room, got in my scooter and drove forward – into the garbage can. I was in a frenzy at this point, frustrated and full of rage that they still hadn’t fixed this goddam door, even though I had told them it wasn’t working the last time I had come, and the time before that, (and the nice chick I see on Wednesdays who uses a wheelchair had told them before that). I just bumped the garbage the first time, and it came a little loose, so I backed up the truck and went in a little harder this time. And again. And again, with a thundering reverberation into the empty and locked-up swimming pool by this point. These booming sounds, I thought, would have to elicit some sort of action by the front desk staff, surely to god. But nothing. So I kept ramming that garbage until it went hurling across the floor, hit the wall and ricocheted backwards.

I sat for a minute, digesting the sight of nails sticking out of the wall and the metal garbage and bits strewn across the floor. My rage cooled after having noted my own success at destruction.

Here’s my take on the garbage scene, with the indignation of recent fury still coursing through my veins, and weariness, that effect of daily barriers to access, feeding my analysis: Only people who rely on the automatic door notice when it’s broken. That’s the bitch about accessibility; lacking accessibility features doesn’t piss everyone off, and the less people pissed off about something, the slower it is to change. But if I break things that are essential to all the patrons, maybe it’ll piss them off. Maybe they’ll see, to a lesser extent, how it feels to have something so essential as an exit, broken. If nothing else, I’ll have the catharsis of busting shit up til they fix it

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Here in Quebec, the ‘week of handicapped people’ organized by the provincial ‘office for handicapped people’ has just ended. The week is complete with movie screenings, accessibility audits of commercial areas, and a picnic in the park. No talk of criticism of inaccessible transit or cuts in homecare, or political action of any sort. Here is my article for the RAPLIQ journal (an awesome Montreal-based disability justice organization).

*Please note, my use of the word handicap is a translation of the French word for what we in English generally refer to as disability now. Don’t be turned off. Or maybe do be turned off. I know I am.

What’s your Handicap? Reflections on the Word and the Week · RAPLIQ

Traveling with my feet up

Hey Underwater Creatures,

When planning my trip I wish I had taken into consideration the amount of time I have been resting my bod at home lately. Usually if I do something strenuous one day, I need a recoup day after to chill and do sitting things like writing or working on editing gigs or radio projects. Or listening to the radio. It works out pretty well. But while planning my time here in Edmonton I was kind of basing my activity level on how I used to operate when I traveled, which involved more walking and less resting.

Luckily I have gotten better at planning transit/ snagging rides, and have lovely friends and family here who like to transport me, so I certainly have not been stranded. But I feel a bit rushed in getting all that I would like to done here, meeting all the amazing queer crip-folk working to make E-town more accessible.

They have this fly dance party crew called Qmunity, who get together and dance and build community and be all hot. Next time I roll through I should certainly try and make one of these!!

Well, lessons learned. I have more time in Vancouver planned, and a scooter rental in the works, so I’m sure that will help. And then its joy-ride central. Yeeeee-Hhaaaawwww!!!!