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Sunday September 19th

September 20, 2010

By Kristin Nelson

Writing on my ipod now I am on the 15 going home after the first day of Showing Up Speaking Out on accessibility.  The afternoon was great meeting Susan Gibson and Heather Lovatt talking and writing about accessibility. We learnt about a door located behind 62 Albert St that is a little known accessible entryway that leads to an elevator off the ground floor.  We decided to make it more public with a quick sign. Inside 62 Albert are many arts organizations like Arts and Cultural Industries and the Manitoba Craft Council among others.

I am almost ready to go home after a nice day talking about it, accessibility I mean, and is there this guy wheeling himself in circles in the middle of the street at McDermot and King. He looks very much the worse for wear, like he should be in medical care and not in the middle of the roadway with cars and trucks paying little attention to him. The light is RED for him, he is gonna be hit, and he seems not to care. We wheel him onto the sidewalk, we ask him if there is someone we can call, someone who will come and get him. He wants to be taken home, to be pushed, not too far about 5 blocks, I think, but am not 100% where this place is although I have a faint recollection of seeing on my daily travels.

My knee hurts, I am tired, I am about to give up, leave him there to wheel in circles and go home on my own on the bus, I have had a long enough day, but shit I just talked to people for hours about accessibility in this town and how bad it is and this guy only has one leg to push with.  I have to wheel him home.  He smells and is sucking on a sock that is coming from a plastic water bottle filled with some liquid that is making him high. I ask him if he still wants that push and tell him I will push him as far as I can manage.  I tell him about my bad knees. I make sure he wants help from me and off we go. We wheel around the corner onto Princess and as I am pushing him realizing it is really not as hard as I thought when suddenly the cops pulling out of the parking lot block our path. They are coming out of the cop shop and I say to them that they have to move their car or else we can’t go anywhere. They are between two curbs. We can’t wheel down or up the other side with them in the middle, in the way. They are focused on the bottle the man has in his hands and gesture for us to come to them.  Come to them? I ponder.  There are 2 able bodied policemen sitting in a car who want us to wheel up to their car so that they can take this bottle from him! They tell him that they want the bottle.  The man throws the sock on the ground and then I ask him what he wants to do with the bottle, and does he want them to have it? They question me as to why I am helping this man, I say I am just helping him to get home and would they please let us pass.  We put the bottle on the ground and the cops decide to let us pass, giving us a look as they go.  They leave the bottle there, on the ground.  We keep on our way, I am blocking the smell of solvent and piss with my scarf.  I am sweltering because it is not that cold but my face is covered. The only small talk I can muster is about how nice the weather is today. I am nervous, nervous to be seen, nervous to be recognized going passed able bodies, young hipsters, cars, people on bikes. Many people on our walk/wheel know this man and offer hellos and hi fives and can I have a cigarettes.  No one talks to me. We reach his home, I drop him off and ask his name, he gives it.  He does not say goodbye, he does not say thank you.  My knees hurt even worse now, I hobble to a bus stop and find my way home on the 15. Sometimes what you do is more important than what you talk about.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Susan P. Gibson permalink
    September 21, 2010 3:20 pm

    Hello Kristin and Milena,

    I have thought much about what we discussed yesterday, and even the voices we used when talking on the sidewalk outside of Aceart. I missed some of what was said by passersby because I need new hearing aides. Which, as we shared stories and comparisons of what is available for required disability supports and for vocational equipment between provinces, has so far been denied to me as an artist and trainer who manages multiple disabilities.

    As you wrote in your faux job order, a liaison would have to slide through red tape and squeeze over, under or through the systemic barriers, just to enable artists with disabilities to even compete in the cultural market place, or be in the arts positions that cultural identity.

    The arts industry does not yet understand disability and those mandated to provide services to citizens with disability(in our shared experiences) have little idea about being an artists, art making processes or working of our cultural industry. Much education, I believe is needed. Which is why the work being done on art and disability, access and accommodation is so important.

    Which leads me, Kristin, to your bus ride notes and your well written story of the man in the wheelchair who needed help. What you did, pushing past your own comfort zone, challenging your own knees to address the needs of another human being is part of what I see as Disability Culture. That capacity to empathize with another and do whatever is in you, to improve their situation, has been my typical experience within the disability community. Which is why it is so hard for us to understand individuals in positions of power who do not even try or who dismiss us. This is clearly demonstrated by the situation with those police officers, the man in the chair using sniff and yourself. Accommodation starts with human empathy.

    I have been glad to write today as I wanted to participate and this process allows me to avoid the weather or the drive. An easy and workable accommodation.

    I will be following your progress. Take care.
    Susan P. Gibson

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