A (hockey) blast from the past

Image of LFP article from 20 years ago

On the eve of the Gold Medal round between the Tigers and Jaguars (tomorrow night!! ahh!!!), how’s this for a #ThrowbackThursday? A little over 20 years ago (May 2, 1999), the London Free Press came to interview 15-year-old me about the London division of the CEWHA.

It is hard to quantify the role wheelchair hockey has played in my life. Back when this article was written, I would spend all week thinking about, planning for and looking forward to Friday night. The 2.5h drive from Port Elgin to London would always seem like an eternity, anxious/nervous to get on the court, while the drive home after would fly by…usually because I was fast asleep before passing Arva.

While I’ve had to take some years off here and there, wheelchair hockey is still a big part of my life – I now get to take groups of students from my class at King’s University College at Western University every year to experience this unique sport firsthand. Most of them are left in awe. Some of them leave terrified (the sport is a bit rougher than most expect).

More than just Canada’s game, wheelchair hockey was the first team sport that I could play competitively. It was also the first adapted sport that I could genuinely excel at based on my own skill and not because of the charity or pity of others. Until wheelchair hockey came about, there were no other team-based sports for people with my level of impairment. Too weak to play sledge or wheelchair basketball, I was left to solo sports where I missed out on that all-important ‘team bonding’ experience. I didn’t get that feeling of ‘belonging’ to a team until finding wheelchair hockey in grade 7. Wheelchair hockey was also the place where I would form life-long friendships with teammates of all ages, where I would learn from crip experts who had battled for disability rights before me and where, now, I get to carry on that crip mentorship tradition with young players just entering the league.

What hit me the hardest reading this old article, though, was the little reminder of how proud my parents were (are) of me and how much my family sacrificed to let me do the things I stubbornly wanted to do. Hours of driving through horrible weather, my parents ended their long work week month after month by driving me to London to play a game I love. They even managed to trick me into doing well in school through my love for the game. In part, I chose Western University for my undergraduate, in part, so I could be closer to wheelchair hockey.

I hope in my life I am able to love and care as radically, constantly, and fully as my parents do for my sister and me. My parents were, are and will always be the absolute best.

Back in May of 1999, I wonder if 15-year-old Jeff dedicated that double hat-trick to them? If he didn’t, 20 years later, I can confidently say that one and all the others were all for and because of you, Gail & Dave.

Are the disabled ‘afflicted’?

Facebook post featuring Sarah Palin and her son, Trig, with the text "A show topic yesterday in which Andrew innocuously referred to Sarah Palin's son, Trig, as "Down's Syndrome-afflicted" spurned several complaints alleging that calling Down's Syndrome an "affliction" is wrong. Do you agree, or is it splitting hairs?"

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.” Continue reading “Are the disabled ‘afflicted’?”

Article in the Public Sector Digest

Photo of a ramp with text "Why Organizations Need to be Proactive on Accessibility"

Photo of a ramp with text "Why Organizations Need to be Proactive on Accessibility"

This month’s edition of the Public Sector Digest features an article I wrote about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and why it is so important for both the public and private sector to embrace a culture of accessibility. You can check it out in the November print edition of the magazine or view it online with a membership here.

“One of A Kind Car” on CTV News

CTV News logo

A few weeks ago CTV News came along for a spin in my new car. Celine Moreau did an awesome job on the report, managing to get it all wrapped up before I left town for thanksgiving. Note for new drivers: you thought driving was tough before? Try doing it with a film crew. A little nerve-wracking. Joking (mostly); I had a great time.

You can see the video below.

New Episode of Cripz — Harry Potter

Another fresh offering over at Cripz: A Webcomic, this week featuring a parody of the recently released movie, Harry Potter. I have to admit, I was never a real fan of the Harry Potter series, struggling to make it through the first 3 books before ditching them to re-read Lord of the Rings. Having said that, I understand why people love them so much and the movies are definitely well done and, above all, entertaining.

While the series is, of course, based in fantasy, I’ve always been left wondering where all the disabled wizards are? None of Harry’s classmates have physical disabilities and, aside from perhaps Luna, don’t appear to have social or intellectual limitations either. I guess it’s for the best though, considering all those stairways at Hogwarts. This week’s comic is really about that, the lack of access in schools, because it’s not a problem that just affects the fantasy world of Harry Potter. Right now in Ontario, there are tons of schools that don’t provide access for students with disabilities and school boards that relegate all students with disabilities, regardless of their intellectual abilities, to Developmental Learning Classes.

We need to do better and one of the easiest ways we can help the disabled population right now is by empowering our youth to get educated. Now is the time to make education accessible to everyone!

Idling: A Transit Story

After a year of pondering and editing, we’re approaching the online release date of Idling: A Transit Story.

Idling: A Transit Story is an online documentary produced by Jeff Preston, chronicling the lack of accessible transportation in London, Ontario and across the province. Follow Jeff on his mission to bring about change the disabled population desperately needs by driving his wheelchair over 650km from his home in London, Ontario to the nation’s capital in Ottawa.

The documentary will be released in parts beginning on September 4th, 2009 with new chapters being released weekly. The full documentary will be available for free download from www.getmobilized.ca once all chapters have been released online.