Tags: disabilities

Baby and me

Dis ability: The Old Woman's Toilet Troubles

My mother came down from Sudbury

"No spring chicken" teaches lessons in accessibility

Image: Photo of Geoffrey Dow with Benita Hart, his mother

My mother is a cripple (her word, not mine). She's 83 years old, has two bionic knees and one of those is ... loose. Falling apart, she says, and the surgeons in Sudbury (all of whom work out of the same practice, so no shopping around for a second opinion unless you're willing to shop for one in Toronto or Ottawa) say she's too old for a replacement.

Despite that mechanical failure and a spine giving way to osteoporosis, and despite some problems with short-term memory (not, so far as I can tell, early-stage Alzheimer's or some other kind of dementia; but disconcerting nevertheless), her doctor tells her she's mostly in very good health and has every chance of seeing her 95th birthday.

She is, further, having the time of her life as a born-again celebrity of sorts (if only in Northern Ontario) and has made of her late uncle Jules' saying, "life is good", her own touchstone.

Image: Banner from CBC Sudbury's feature page for Benita Hart and 'Growing Old Ungracefully'.

Last week, a friend was driving down to Ottawa and wondered if she would care to accompany him. Travelling isn't as easy for her as it used to be, but she said yes, and so arrived in Ottawa last Thursday. And I saw her on Sunday.

* * *

A lot of people find my relationship with my mother a little strange. We actually like each quite a lot, as people as well as as mother and son, yet we probably don't see each other as often as once a year, we seldom email and, unless she's having computer issues (I have her running Linux Mint, so I'm her go-to guy for support when something's not working), we probably only talk on the phone every three or four months.

But those conversations usually last between two and four hours, and include healthy exchanges of politics and philosophy along with a a lot of laughter (and a little gossip), so I'm not bothered. And neither is she. After all, we both have lives.


She had asked about staying with me and Raven, but I had to remind her that inhabit the top two floors of a three-story town house. Though she's taken up distance walking through the good offices of a physiotherapist and a walker, her knees aren't up to a flight of stairs every time she wants to use the bathroom.

So, as I said, she stayed with a friend. And meanwhile, I had a friend of mine come into town on Thursday, whom I hadn't seen in 22 years. Since Sonia was only passing through town, I invited her to dinner and she stayed the night on our couch after we caught up and reminisced as old friends long out of touch will do. (It wasn't only the passing of time that was shocking about our reunion; it was also how many memories we did not share in common. Or, as Sonia put it, how lousy my memory was. Somehow, over the years, I had come to think of her as some sort of weird, near-celibate girl who was forever single; she had to reminded me that I'd met at least two of her boy-friends. But onwards. This entry is about Mom, and the lesson she taught me about accessibility issues.

You weren't expect a lesson, were you Gentle Reader?

I had work on Friday and Saturday, so it was only on Sunday afternoon, after my soccer game, that I actually saw me old mum in the flesh.

Image: Photo of Geoffrey Dow with Benita Hart, his mother, and her walker.

Cognizant of how difficult it can be for cripples the handicapped to get in and out of small cars, I'd foregone my usual compact in favour of renting a minivan, and it was in that vehicle that my mum, Raven and I set out for dinner, on the way detouring past our home, the inside of which my mother will never set foot.

We wanted to go to Saffron, a Persian eatery which — to our surprise if not quite shock — seems to no longer exist. We ended up at the Golden India restaurant, a Bangladeshi-style Indian restaurant on McArthur. Raven and I have been a couple of times before and found it far and away the best Indian food we've had in Ottawa. The dishes are subtly flavourful, even when "extremely" hot. (I ordered the brilliant Bangalore Pal and didn't regret a drop of the sweat I lost over it.)

But the good food and conversation were marred by a post-prandial occurrence.

Though the bathrooms were on the main floor, it turned out they were not, quite, accessible. The toilet, my mum said, was extremely low. There were no grab-bars. She very nearly had to call for help, just to get up off the shitter.

The things the able-bodied don't think about! (And despite my problems with arthritis, able-bodied is still how I think of myself!)

The restaurant's hostess apologized when my mother complained, but it was pretty pro forma. "No one else has ever complained," she said.

"Most people probably just don't come back," was my mother's response. And no doubt, she's right. Unlike my mother, most people don't want to make a fuss. Hell, my mother doesn't "want" to make a fuss either, but she (quite rightly) thinks that fusses sometimes need to be made.

Anyway, the incident left me contemplating the place we'd tried to take her the last time she was in town, the sometimes sublime Chahaya Malaysia. A low-key, mom-and-pop style restaurant serving brilliant food, it is a also one of those places whose bathrooms are in the basement. Tough shit for the handicapped. And a good thing it was closed the time we tried to introduce my mum to its brilliant food.

But the moral of the story is, even when we think we're aware of issues having to do with social justice, it's really damned easy to miss the things that don't affect us personally in some way. If you've ever wondered why the toilets in old folks' homes are so high, or the seats have risers, now you know: when the knees are going, standing up is no easy thing.

Thanks, mum. I hope you had a good drive back on Monday. Presumably, if something went wrong, one of my brothers would have called by now to let me know.

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/281252.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.

Baby and me

On state-sanctioned murder

One of the best political bloggers around tells it like it is about Kathleen Wynne's supposedly centrist Liberal government.

Originally posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at On state-sanctioned murder

Kathleen Wynne, our newly appointed, self-described "social justice premier," has a plan to "reform" welfare based on the Orwellian-titled report "Brighter Prospects." Part of this reform is the elimination of the already criminally low Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and the special diet allowance. There will now be no distinction between regular welfare and disability. Under the current system, ODSP gets you $1,075 a month and general welfare gets you $606 a month. Neither amount is really enough to live on, especially in Toronto, but now people on welfare will get slightly more ($100) and people on disability will get drastically, murderously less.

Anyone who is disabled or knows someone who's disabled will see the immediate problem. I mean, there are many immediate problems, but the biggest one is that having a disability costs much, much more than being an able-bodied but jobless person. Medications, mobility devices, and other necessities for survival cost a lot. The medication that kept me alive for a year, thankfully covered by my insurance plan because I'm employed, cost $679.70 a month, which is nothing compared to what it costs to keep a cancer or HIV patient alive. A manual wheelchair starts at maybe $130. A motorized wheelchair—a crappy one—starts at almost $2000. Many disabilities require a special diet beyond what food banks can provide. You can, if you're lucky, get a tiny and shitty apartment for under $1000/month in Toronto (subsidized housing being a scarce commodity), but good luck if you want something on a subway line so that you can haul your disabled ass to one of your many doctors' appointments. And if you've managed that, have you noticed that you don't have any money left over for food, or transit, or emergency expenses?

How do disabled people get by as it is? Generally, because there are free subsidies that the government doesn't need to think about—beleaguered friends and family members who take up the slack when the state fails.

Wynne ought to know, because she's premier now and it's her job to know. If this budget passes, she'll have condemned thousands of people in Ontario to desperate poverty, starvation, and homelessness.

She'll get away with it too, because disability advocacy is just as problematic as any sort of advocacy for marginalized people. No one listens to crips. If you're disabled, you generally have too many problems dealing with bureaucracy and pain and sickness to fight for your rights. But above and beyond that is the difficulty with quantifying deaths that occur due to capitalism.

If you are, for example, calculating deaths under Stalin, you can look at how many people were shot, how many died in gulags, how many died of famine and forced relocation, and so on. (If you're being brutally honest, you need to separate which famine deaths would have occurred regardless of the political regime in place and which were deliberate, and also compare the death toll when any large shift in economics happens—for example, privatization—but it's nuances like these that get me called a Stalinist even though I'm quite far from that.) Deaths under capitalism, and particularly the deaths occurring in a vulnerable population, are much harder to quantify. Many disabled people are sick, and likely to die while on disability. This is a given. How do you separate out the "natural" death toll from the premature death toll that will occur when the threadbare safety net keeping some alive is yanked out from under them. You can't easily do so, and thus it will look like Wynne murdered 0 people, when in fact she might be murdering thousands. (But, of course, it's with a stroke of a pen rather than by the firing squad, and we as a society are much more comfortable with that.)

It also highlights the ridiculousness of tokenism in politics. Wynne is the "social justice premier" because she's queer and a woman. What good will this accomplish for queer disabled people? For disabled women? Precisely fucking nothing, just as the election of a black "progressive" president in the US didn't benefit Trayvon Martin or countless children murdered by drone strikes, just as the election of a female Prime Minister in the UK all those years ago crushed the poor and the working class just as surely as the election of a male Prime Minister would have done. Wynne is proving herself already to be just as bad as Conservative butcher Mike Harris—if not worse—and our main alternative seems to be an outright fascist who would further destroy unions and institute chain gangs. (Oh, and the NDP is being useless. I had hopes there, but it's useless.)

It's a pity Ontarians are so placid. We ought to be storming the legislature with pitchforks and torches. These people are monsters, killers, targeting the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us so that they can kiss up to their wealthy base. There's no gulag hideous enough to punish that level of cruelty. We ought to refer to them, and treat them, as enemies of humanity.

Oh, and for the record? Both welfare and ODSP need to be raised significantly to pre-Harris levels + inflation and cost-of-living. We can tax the obscenely wealthy and/or cut MPPs' salaries to make up the difference. It's just basic human decency.

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/254144.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.

Baby and me

30 days on writing: Entry #28: Neurotics and drunkards (no cripples!) - oh my!

On inclusivity —

The meme continues ...

28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there's nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

I don't know if it speaks only to myself or to the culture (a culture?) at large that, when I first read the above question, I did so hearing a chorus of voices whose sections included the shrill, the self-righteous and the politically fashionable.

I suspect I've read one to many internet pile-ons, in which hordes of (mostly) anonymous do-gooders wielding moral self-assurance like iron bars descend upon a sexist or racist evil-doer with the joyous outrage of the eternal Mrs. Grundy to berate, ostracize and otherwise correct the transgressor.

(Yes, in most of the cases I've witnessed, said transgressor had engaged in morally questionable (at best) behaviour; the pile-on itself remains an ugly phenomenon at least similar to mob-justice.)

But the question itself as written is in fact perfectly innocuous. People who are disabled are a significant ingredient in the human soup and certainly ought to be represented in fiction.

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On a note entirely unrelated to this meme and only tangetially to writing at all, I find myself in possession of a some invite codes to Dreamwidth, if for any reason you're looking for an alternative to LJ, or if you're a non-blogger looking for a home. Reply here or send me an email through my info page and I'll hook you up.

And on a personal note, I am happy to report that I will be taking a trip out of town for the first time since I moved to Ottawa nearly a year ago. Raven and I will be leaving Friday morning for Sudbury, my mother and brothers for to see. Which means that, coincidentally, I'll be finishing this Terribly Popular Meme on the very day I leave town and, likely, go mostly offline for four or five days.

Play nice while I'm gone, okay?

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/18926.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.