Theory of Everything (2014)

With Oscar season upon us, I felt it was my duty as a disability studies & media scholar to sit through the latest Stephen Hawking bio-pic, Theory of Everything. What follows is my review of a wholly mediocre movie that likely only got nominated because it featured a nondisabled guy pretending to be a disabled guy. As with most reviews, the following may (read: likely does) contain spoilers – consider yourself adequately warned. Contine reading

Andrew Lawton is not a scandal

Last week, AM980 conservative radio host Andrew Lawton had an epically bad week. Inflammatory comments made both online and on the air by Lawton have dominated the attention of Londoners, with some demanding AM980 fire him immediately while others promise said action will only make Lawton a martyr for free speech. Obviously, AM980 is in a tough position, where no matter what they do someone will be upset. But in this post, I would like to suggest that we’ve missed the forest for the trees here and aren’t actually talking about what really matters. Contine reading

Microsoft #Empowering Campaign

Earlier this afternoon I was contacted by Microsoft on Twitter who are rolling out an “#empowering” campaign, tied in with the tonight’s Superb Owl competition (annual gathering of ornithologists?), aimed at showing the ways Microsoft is changing the world through technology. One such commercial focuses on a young boy named Braylon O’Neill who, with the help of advanced prosthetics, is going to take over enslave the world. Here are some of my initial reactions to the campaign. Contine reading

How #BellLetsTalk is both problematic and vital

If you’ve been on social media this morning, you no doubt have discovered that it’s #BellLetsTalk Day in Canada. An initiative started several years ago, #BellLetsTalk aims to open up conversations about mental health with the promise that every tweet or post using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on social media will garner a donation of $0.05 from Bell Canada. But is this campaign really about mental health or just a crowd-sourced advertising campaign for Bell Canada? Contine reading

Are the disabled ‘afflicted’?

On January 6th, I was invited to speak on AM980’s Andrew Lawton Show about a recent Facebook post on the radio station’s fan page stating Trig, Sarah Palin’s son, was “Down Syndrome-afflicted.” Mr. Lawton and I had an engaging conversation around whether or not the term “afflicted” is offensive or if people are simply nitpicking for political correctness. For those who were not able to tune in to the broadcast, I’ve decided to write a short meandering blog post outlining why we need to stop referring to disabled people as being “afflicted.” Contine reading

Why Viktoria Modesta doesn’t rethink disability

The Internet has been abuzz over the past week of a new “bionic” pop star, Viktoria Modesta. Modesta’s meteoric rise is thanks to Channel 4’s “Born Risky” campaign, which provides resources and support for “alternative voices” that would otherwise struggle to break into the mainstream. Leading the campaign is Modesta with her song “Prototype,” the beginning of which demands the viewer to “forget what you know about disability.” But for a text that demands the viewer to “forget” what we know about disability, it seems to spend a lot of time marinating in the juices of all-too-familiar tropes and images of disability. Is Viktoria Modesta really revolutionary or is she simply Lady Gaga with one leg?

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The problem with “Spend a Day in a Wheelchair”

Many advocates, myself included, often point to the general population’s ignorance of the experience of disability as being central to the oppression faced by the disabled. The problem is that too many developers, designers and administrators are designing buildings, spaces, and programs along normative understandings of ability and function rather than basing their work in the aberrance of the human form. For years, we have run events like “Spend A Day In A Wheelchair,” in which able-bodied individuals are assigned certain disabilities and required to complete tasks, the theory being that by experiencing life with a disability these individuals will have a better understanding/appreciation for the plight of the disabled. In this blog, I would like to take some time to explain why this is a flawed educational tool and recommend we stop deploying these schemes, as they’re doing more to hurt the disabled subject than help. Contine reading

The 19th Annual Jeff Preston Celebrity Golf Tournament

I remember not knowing quite how to feel the first year Port Elgin Rotary approached my family and asked if they could hold a charity golf tournament to honour the work I had done for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada. Obviously I was absolutely humbled by the kind offer but it was a lot for a 12-year old to process at the time. Mostly, though, I was just excited to have the opportunity to continue raising funds to fight Muscular Dystrophy, driven by the recent loss of a dear friend who had Duchenne, Muscular Dystrophy.

After the second year, I remember driving home from the Saugeen Golf course and my mom warning me not get my hopes up because this tournament, named after me, would likely not continue for much longer. My mom knew better than most that these types of charitable events were huge undertakings and energy–and funds–were quick to wane.

Leafs sweater signed by Baun, Bower and Jeffrey

Hot item in this year’s life auction: A Maple Leaf’s Winter Classic sweater signed by Bobby Baun, Johnny Bower and Larry Jeffrey

Years later and I’m proud to say my mom was totally wrong.

Last week marked the 19th anniversary of the “Jeff Preston Celebrity Golf Tournament,” organized by Port Elgin Rotary and held at Saugeen Golf Course. To date, we have now raised over $1.2 million to support MD research across Canada, most recently directing funds to Jesse’s Journey. Once again, we had a full slate of golfers (41 teams in total) taking to the course on a beautiful Friday afternoon. It is truly amazing how many golfers have returned every year with most having attended the tournament for more than a decade. Because of their dedication, and the hard work of local Rotarians, we were once again able to donate $25,000 to MD Research and step that much closer to finding a cure.

I just wanted to take a few moments to publicly thank everyone who worked so hard this year to make the tournament a success once again. First and foremost, a huge thank you to Kevin Carter for chairing the organizing committee this year and keeping everything on track. Similarly, I would also like to thank Rob Dunlop for his work recruiting celebrities. Of course, I’d like to thank all of the dedicated Rotarians who work behind the scenes before the event and volunteer on the day of the event–without you, this could not be possible. I would also like to thank all of the celebrities for taking the time out of their busy schedules to join us, especially those who have returned year in, year out. Thank you again to Bruce Power and Unifor, our two title sponsors who have been with us since the beginning, along with the Power Workers Union who show up in force every year. Lastly, I would like to thank the golfers for giving their time and money to this cause that is so dear to me, my family and others within the MD community.

Thank you to everyone and I can’t wait to see you all next year at our 20th anniversary celebration!