Tag Archives: disableism


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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. 

Cars, mothers, dental work and drowsiness-inducing painkillers: on mutual self-care

The thing about being in a car-centric place is that you can’t take your mum to a doctor’s appointment if you don’t drive, and she will insist on driving. If you were in your natural habitat, you would hail a cab, and take it home. There would be no option for her to drive after being put under, operated on, and having three different types of painkillers. We had gotten up early, rushed to this hotel on the south side of Edmonton to catch the Red Arrow bus to Calgary. She was having dental surgery there. And then we got back on the Red Arrow bus back to Edmonton, that same day. And she insisted on driving home after we got off the bus. It was a lot.

She’s always telling me: just take a cab, if your knee’s hurting just take a cab, its not worth it. And that’s what I’m learning to do, not push myself, not do a marathon worth of activity after a surgery, or even on a regular day. I’m learning to take care of myself. Always, not just when I have time or can afford it. I have the luxury, when I can’t afford it, of a credit card. I am not forced to work a job that disables me. I felt frustrated that she wouldn’t let me help her, not even carry my own backpack, let alone carry her bag. To me self care is about accepting help when you need it and giving help when someone needs it more, if you can. But she wouldn’t, she said, “birdie I’m fine. Tell you what if you notice anything unsafe after one block I’ll pull over and call a cab.”

The sticker on the anti-inflammatory she just took flashes in front of my eyes: may cause dizziness or drowsiness. Merde I thought, I’m going to rip her face off. So I stormed into the hotel the bus dropped us off at, that her car was parked at, and looked for the bathroom. I only found the men’s and didn’t want to walk farther cause I didn’t have my cane and my leg was hurting so I went and spoke to myself in the mirror of the men’s. Gender is silly anyways. I wanted to hold my ground but didn’t want to force her out of her car, motor running, bags packed in and all. I wanted her to accept that I might have a reasonable point, along with all the nurses we spoke to who said, no driving or anything strenuous. But she was ok, she was fine. She is a bull-headed, sweet spoken lion woman, and will not back down from her belief that she can and will do everything all at once. Won’t take T3s, won’t ask a friend for a ride, won’t stay the night in Calgary, won’t even let me walk her to the bathroom. Because that would mean… what? That she, along with everyone else in the world, needs support and help sometimes? That her self-image and the image she puts out in the world will be degraded? Does she see needing help as a degradation of her self image, her pride, her confidence? Does she see it as fine for others to need help but not herself? How does that make me feel, when I am openly working on accepting help when I need it. And why does she only accept help when she is at the complete end of the possibility of doing something herself? Am I talking about my mother or myself at this point?

Its a sensitive subject for me cause I’m trying so hard to not be ableist towards myself. And I forget that when I come home, after being away and changing my perspectives, that I can’t expect others to receive that perspective through some transmissive process as soon as my plane lands and walker wheels hit the dry Edmonton ground. I can’t get mad at someone for operating how she always does, frustrated that she’s more concerned with my arthritis pain than the two incisions in her own mouth. I can try and make her see that its important to take of herself too, and that means resting sometimes. I can try and lead by example, by explanation, by sharing my experiences with coming home and putting a heat pad on my legs, or leaving my house messy or not pushing myself in the pool even though I want to swim soo fast and forever. But I can’t just get mad and slam doors. Damn I said to the mirror in the men’s hotel washroom with the potpourri and urinal scent, how stubborn and bull-headed was I this summer when she was helping me heal my broken leg?image