Today I delivered a motivational speech at the Speaking Out Retreat for Self Advocates in Burlington, ON geared towards adults with intellectual disabilities. This is the second Speaking Out retreat I have spoken at and it was a ton of fun. I met some awesome advocates and made some new friends. Thank you to everyone involved in organizing this event and a special thank you to Duane for inviting me.
This past week was the 26th Annual Society for Disability Studies Conference, a gathering of academics from around the world who are working within the field of disability studies to meet, connect and share their research. This year’s conference was of particular importance as it marked the 50th anniversary of Erving Goffman’s text Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identities, perhaps one of the most important texts used in early disability studies. While I wouldn’t claim that Goffman was the founder of disability studies, I do believe that the field of disability studies, at least not in its current incarnation, could not exist without the work of Goffman providing such fertile ground of criticism and exploration all those years ago. I met some amazing people and sat in on some spectacular panels, with topics focusing largely on subjectivity, biopower, and the emergent fields of Mad and Autism Studies. I also had the chance to participate in a media-focused panel with three other lovely academics and delivered a short presentation on some of my doctoral research. On the whole, the conference was both illuminating and energizing and I can’t wait to see everyone again at next year’s conference.
See you in Minneapolis!
This afternoon I was invited to deliver the keynote at the “Face-to-Face” wrap-up luncheon by an old friend, David Robbins-Singh. David and I met several years ago at Easter Seals Camp when he participating in a youth leadership program I was helping to run.
Face-To-Face is an annual program designed to develop employment opportunities for disabled residents of Windsor, Ontario and is an innovative effort to break down the linguistic and interpretive barriers preventing the integration of the disabled into mainstream society. There is no better way to break down the stigma around disability than by getting people with disabilities into the workplace to show the amazing things they can do when given the chance. I met some amazing people today and am really encouraged to see how many businesses in Windsor had jumped on board. Hopefully the participants found the program fulfilling and will have success in the near future retaining fulltime employment.
Great day, all-in-all, and a very special thank you to David for inviting me!
On Thursday and Friday of last week I was invited by Danielle Cheyne to speak to 3 sections of her Human Services class on accessibility and life with a disability. We had some excellent conversation and, as always, I was impressed by the students comprehension of the issues and willingness to learn. In a city that can be, at times, wholly UWO-focused, I think we need to remember to take time and recognize the great work being done at Fanshawe College. Thanks to Danielle and the students for being wonderful hosts, I had a great time and look forward to my next chance to spend some time on campus.
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.
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.
This past Friday was the 17th annual Jeff Preston Celebrity Golf Tournament, an event Rotary runs yearly in my honour to raise money to help find a cure for Muscular Dystrophy. This event is without a doubt the high point of my summer and something I look forward to every year. Once again, we had a packed field of golfers who braved the heat for a good cause, raising over $25,000 to be donated to Jesse’s Journey. I am absolutely humbled and forever thankful for continued support of the Port Elgin community getting behind this tournament in a huge way for nearly 2 decades. For all of those involved in the planning, operating, playing and sponsoring of this tournament, I cannot say thank you enough.
This year also came with some particularly shocking news. As you may or may not know, I have spent the past two years attempting to find a way to drive a vehicle independently. My dream of driving a car took a serious blow in late 2011 when I was informed the only way I could drive was with advanced hand controls and automated ramp system which would cost close to $90,000 — adaptions that are not covered/augmented by any government or non-profit funding available to me. It appeared there was no realistic way to make this dream a reality in the near future.
I was surprised, however, on Friday night by an announcement at the tournament from Duncan Hawthorne (CEO of Bruce Power) that the requisite money had been raised in collaboration with Port Elgin Rotary and I will be receiving a fully adapted van in the next few weeks. That’s right, sports fans, I will be driving by the end of the month! After all these years I will finally be able to drive independently…and three days later I’m still kind of speechless.
I could honestly gush for hours and hours about how thankful I am but honestly words don’t even begin to express how thankful I am. To this point I have lived a charmed life and it is all thanks to the limitless support I have received from my family, friends and surrounding community. Thank you for believing in me, supporting me, and I promise this van will be put to good use.
Earlier today I was invited to speak at the New Vision Advocates meeting, a group created by Community Living London to encourage and train individuals with disabilities to become self advocates. It was a great group of highly engaged people of all ages hoping to share their experiences of disability with others while fighting to make London a better place to live. The group even spent a bit of time after my presentation brain storming some ideas how to improve access on the local city busses as a response to a recent change in LTC policy that limits access to accessible seating on adapted busses. Made some great new friends today and I look forward to seeing the work they do in the near future.