Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Take a picture.. It'll last longer

This morning when I got to the gym and waited for my friend, there were a couple of kids that came in and stopped in the middle of the lobby and looked at me. It was kind of sad and it made me uncomfortable to be stared at. I know that they don't understand that it's not right to look at people for an extended period of time... But I just wanted to say "What the hell are you looking at"? She honestly stood there and stared at me for what felt like two minutes. Then she started walking away to catch up with her mom further ahead all the while her head was turned back at me. 

It feels like people are looking at me every 5 minutes today. I don't know why. Has anyone ever seen a person in a wheelchair talking to their friends? Is that shocking? I don't get that. I seem to elicit two different reactions from being in a wheelchair. Either someone will unconsciously stare me down like an alien... or they will do the apologetic "avert the eyes" where they immediately look away after noticing you're in a wheelchair to prevent them from staring. I get this all the time and I'm used to it but sometimes it pisses me off. Sometimes I want to say something or look at them the way they look at me. 

All I'm trying to say is it's ok to notice me, it's ok to see me. I'm a person who deserves the same respect of personhood like everyone else. Staring at me or pretending I don't exist are equally inappropriate responses to me sharing a public space with you. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Wheels On

Wake up, get dressed, settle into my chair for the day.
My home away from home, extension of my body, 
part of my identity.
The thrill of it has long dissipated with the days of my youth.

People say "Take your life by the wheel", 
Well I've got six of them and it doesn't feel like I'm going anywhere.
If my chair could talk, it would tell you about all the dreams, the wild adventures, 
the boys to be kissed.
All the Pieces I've shed in it. 
All the parts of me waiting to be lived..

Waiting... waiting... WAITING...... 
For Access, for friends, for life to begin...
I've mastered patience.
Spend enough time in a wheelchair and you'll either become bitter or virtuous.

Well I AM DONE... being carried through life,
I am taking back my life - in style!
On my own two feet.
You wouldn't dare a mile,
in my shoes...

But I do! 3x a week at least.
Truth be told, I sometimes feel like a beast!
Taking on the world and going after my dreams.
Traveller, Writter, Blogger, walking's just out of reach.

Deep down I know that I will always have a disability.
Things will always be a little harder for me.
I don't need to be fixed with some kind of surgery,
I'm Shawna, I have Cerebral Palsy, and that's just fine with me!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Complications of Having a Romantic Relationship with Someone who has a Disability.

Don't worry, this isn't the R rated information you came here for... I promise! I started thinking about this topic when I witnessed an incident a couple of months ago that didn't sit well with me. It's been heavy on my mind lately so I thought it would be great "blog" material... 

Before I begin this story, I just want to clarify that this is not me talking about an incident that happened to myself in third person. I was at the mall with a friend and we had finished up our shopping for the day and were patiently waiting for ACCESS to pick me up. I saw a woman in a wheelchair a little further down from me who was waiting for ACCESS with a gentleman by her side. There was nothing unusual about it, I assumed he was a friend. Then they began cuddling and laughing. Of course with her being in a wheelchair, most of the advances were initiated by the man. They seemed friendly with each other and then he began kissing her. It's none of my business and I don't want to say anything out of line, but I wasn't sure if she was "ok" with being kissed. I wasn't sure if he just crossed a boundary with her or if she really was ok with all the advances. 

I have been in situations where men have gone too far with me and I wasn't able to protect myself. I don't know if that's really what was going on or not. Perhaps they were in a loving relationship and this was a very normal and usual occurrence. I tend to be pretty good at reading people and situations and something didn't feel right in my gut about how she responded. But intuition is a very grey area, it doesn't make something "true" just because I feel a certain way. 

Someone once told me that he would be worried about being a relationship with a person with a disability because it may look like he's taking advantage of them. I understand that but on the other hand, it's no one's business. It is my right to have love in my life and to be free to express that in public. With that being said, I do take precautions in public because I don't want to draw more attention to myself. I don't need people to stare at me and wonder. I wanted to give that lady the same respect, so I didn't stare. But the reality is that being a woman with a disability significantly increases your chances of sexual harassment. You are simply more vulnerable. 

So how do we differentiate what is respectful consent and what is abuse? Are there any actions to take when we're unsure? Some situations are more clear than others. In this case, I would have been crossing the line if I intervened when I was unsure about the situation. I mean if this woman was actively pushing him away, it would have been obvious that she didn't want him to do that. But she may have been shocked, or scared, or didn't want to draw attention to herself. Perhaps she was having a bad day and that is why she responded the way she did. While I may feel a responsibility to speak out against anyone I see take advantage of someone else, sometimes you can't tell. It's her life, it's her business and no one else should have a say. 

I would sincerely appreciate any comments or experiences or ideas to be shared in the comments below. I believe this is an important conversation to have. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What if I could travel around the world to see if there's accessibility like here in Canada? ( Part 1)

             I would like to go on a cruise around the world for a year to see if other places are accessible for people with disabilities.  
            Firstly, I would like to go to Thailand because it’s something so different from where I live now. The weather is warm and the views are fantastic! I did some research about what you can see and do if you’re a tourist in Thailand. I discovered that they have a website for people with disabilities who would like to travel. On the website you can find a detailed guide about where to stay, what to do, and there are lots of accessible package holidays.
            Secondly, I would really like to see Paris, so the next destination would be France. Again, if you go online, you’ll find an easy way to plan your trip. On the Paris- Official Website of the Convention and Visitors Bureau; they offer you adapted cars or taxis to go around Paris. You may also use adapted public transport like busses, metros, tramways, etc.
            The next step would definitely be touring Africa. I think it would be great to go on an African Safari for a couple of days. If you want to try this, it’s important to know that Safari accommodations can vary. You can stay in a cabin or a bungalow-style building at the safari lodge, or you can stay in a tent at a proper camp. It's also useful to know that many camps will run a generator at least part of the time, so you’ll be able to charge batteries if you’re using a power chair or other electronic medical equipment. There are many places in Africa that are wheelchair friendly. For example, if you want to visit South African National Parks, or National Botanical Garden's, many camps and visitor destinations provide ramp access into their main facilities. There are also some units in many of the camps that have been adapted for guests with limited mobility.
            Argentina it’s another dream that I hope will come true. It is a beautiful country, but it’s not a good place to go for people with disabilities. Many provinces in the country have not adopted the laws about the accessibility for people with disabilities.
             Another place that I want to go again is Australia. I was there in 2015 on a cruise around the continent, and I had a really good time. There are a lot of places that I want to see, because I didn’t have time to see them on my first cruise. I get around with the help of my friend.
            I am going to the Caribbean Islands next year for a 21 days cruise. I will come back and I will tell you how it was. I’m sure that will be a great experience and I’ll share it with you.
You know what!? I think I will go ahead and take up this quest of seeing the world. After all, nothing is holding me back... not even my disability. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Accessibility in Calgary

Hi Everyone!

Sorry you haven't heard from me for a while... The truth is, I've been very busy getting this video together demonstration inaccessibility in Calgary, AB. I wanted to share it with all of you!! Please let me know what you think! Also, please feel free to share this!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The dream of the girl

Hello my friends,

It’s difficult finding your old self after having a min stroke. It’s hard getting back to the person that you were before and doing all the staff that you can do and you love to do before. You never thought you have to stop working for your dream; in my case, working on walking. Sometimes, I’m not sure if the doctors are right, and if I have to stop fighting for my biggest dream. Maybe, I don’t have to listen to them all the time and it’s much better just to keep working on my goals. It feels like I’m giving up on my dream to walking and I’m not the girl who give up on her dreams. I know that it sounds silly for people who can walk, but for me is like a baby taking their first step. I will keep working out because I don’t want to become a vegetable, but if they tell me that I can’t go back walking that will kill me, because I always have a dream that I’ll be the first girl who has a Cerebral Palsy, but who will be able to get out of her wheelchair and walk. So I don’t know if that is working for me, but I need to see what the doctors said. The doctors told me that they will have an answer for me in six months. The six months are almost here in two weeks, so I will see what happened.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Problem with ACCESS CALGARY

How would your life be if you have to rely on handi-bus every day? Let me share with you my experience with handi-bus. I grew up in Airdrie  and there was a handi-bus that serviced Airdrie and surrounding towns. I used that system until I moved to Calgary at eighteen. I like it because they know who I was and my mom was on the board.  Moving to Calgary was a big change for me because the city is so much bigger than where I came from. 

When I first move to Calgary If I wanted to go somewhere I had to book to days in advance. In fact when it came to personal trips such as going for coffee, or to the movie I had to book even further in advance and that's suck because you don't know what you'll do in a week. Now you can book a trip for anything you want one day before, but when you call you have to be on hold for 30-45 minutes. There is a 20 minutes window in which your vehicle will arrive. Often times the drivers will be late because Calgary is so spread out and sometimes there are unexpected accidents and mechanical failure. 

For me I hate waiting but I have no choice and I have to use Access Calgary to get around. Sometimes I go all over Calgary, because the drivers are fallowing this unorganized list of addresses. Even if I'm really close to my home I may go all over in Calgary before reaching my destination. 

Sometimes I can be dropped up at a location a half an hour earlier than I requested. For example, in the morning I booked a trip around 9, and they came to pick me up at 8. 

At the end of the day I'm grateful that I can get out just like everyone else, but I have to believe that we can do better like a community to support those who use this service.