Jamie’s thoughts on the Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability

On Tuesday, September 29th, one of our L.I.F.E. Mississauga Instructors, Jamie Hutchins was able to attend the Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability. Below are his thoughts on how the forum went:

“Yesterday, there was a forum concerning issues of accessibility and disability. Federal election candidates from various Toronto ridings were present to discuss their party’s platform regarding disability and accessibility.

Mike Sullivan represented the NDP, Arnold Chan. the Liberal Party and Sharon Danley, the Green Party. The conservative party was contacted, but no member volunteered to come and speak to those issues.

 

Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability
A snapshot of the crowd at the forum on Accessibility and Disability
As for the discussion itself, there were several key points that I found intriguing. Primarily, all parties insisted that the largest adversary to the disability/accessibility movement is the Conservative government. Each federal representative said that the largest obstacle to adhering to the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been the Conservative government.

 

All parties, except the Conservatives, have vowed to fulfill its international (and ethical) commitments. Furthermore, the NDP and Green party explicitly stated that they intend to create a national policy on accessibility and disability (Canadian Disabilities Act). Although Arnold Chan also expressed a desire to legislate such an act, he was not able to comment whether it was on the executive’s (Trudeau and his potential cabinet) agenda.

 

Secondly, I was astounded at the depth of the questions. To be clear, this discussion was specifically designed to appeal to persons with disabilities. Some of the questions designed covered topics including a Canadian Disabilities Act (CDA), physician-assisted suicide, a national housing strategy, disability representation in the HoC, adherence to the UN conventions and an increased pressure on provincial governments to administer better services.

 

Each speaker outlined his/her party’s policy concerning the aforementioned issues. Many candidates repeated old adages of “equality of service”, “reducing poverty”, “more consultation with community agencies and persons with disabilities”, “more adaptive equipment” and “an attitudinal shift”. However, both Sullivan and Danley offered more substantive policy changes should their parties be elected. Sullivan expressed his party’s commitment to enact the CDA within a year. Furthermore, the NDP is the only party to have a committee set up to constantly critique the party’s direction. The committee’s job is to meet with community agencies, listen to their advisement and consequently “hold the party’s feet to the fire”, if they alienate stakeholder rights. Alternatively, the Green Party has advocated to design a national equipment fund so that people with disabilities can exercise their right to live independently.

 

Thirdly, I was impressed by the turnout and audience participation. Peoples with disabilities were very well-represented and their questions were very specific to their disability. It was exciting to see such human agency from the group. Such a high attendance of persons with disabilities helped solidified the rights and equality rhetoric that accompanied most of the discussion. There was a wide representation of the disability community including persons who are blind, deaf, using mobility devices, having episodic disabilities, cognitive disabilities, learning disabilities, etc. This stressed upon me the importance to try to remedy the current situation regarding persons with disabilities. As a political party looking to get elected, it not only makes sense to move forward because it is proper (and moral) to have disability rights enshrined in legislation, but also because persons with disabilities represent such a large portion of the vote.

 

Lastly, Ryerson did an excellent job hosting. The adaptive devices allowed for all members of the crowd to participate. In conjunction with the captioning service provided, there were multiple people using both SLQ and ASL to communicate effectively with the deaf audience members. Student volunteers were constantly in the right place to help those with blindness find their seats. There was also one large aisle that allowed mobility devices to go back and forth. Also, I was impressed with the live tweeting of the discussion as this allowed questions to flurry in from Alberta.”

 

Volunteer Profiles: Bill Blodgett

Written By:  Brendan Hair

Despite suffering a stroke in 2003 Bill Blodgett is peddling a path he hopes stroke survivors will follow.

While the road to recovery seems daunting Bill feels there is no reason to give up based on his experience.  From his progression the Peterborough resident advises survivors to remain positive. He believes there’s always ways to persevere if you want something bad enough.

“There is always hope – Don’t give up. There is always a way to do something. It takes me a little bit longer but there is nothing that stops me from doing what I want to do,” said Bill.

One example of Bill’s perseverance comes from his source of transportation. While Bill’s comfortable with the bus he would not be satisfied without a chance to use his bicycle. With the support of adult stabilizer wheels he’s continued riding his bike for leisure and to attend the two March of Dimes of Canada programs that he volunteers with: the Aphasia and Communication Disabilities Program, and Life After Stroke, a Stroke Recovery Canada chapter in Peterborough.

Bill Blodgett and Bicycle
Bill Blodgett and his love of cycling

Along with his cycling passion Bill began setting his sights on regaining his driver’s license. He’s optimistic after seeing a fellow Life After Stroke volunteer driving a modified car.

For Bill, being a part of his local stroke support chapter has also had a positive impact in his recreational time.  Another member of Life After Stroke introduced him to a swimming program at the YMCA. Bill now attends the YMCA three times a week.  

Despite always being on a tight schedule Bill recalls never missing the weekly Aphasia program, which he started volunteering for in 2011.   He was also named a guest speaker at the York-Durham’s Aphasia’s Centre’s 25th anniversary in 2014.

As a volunteer Bill compliments March of Dimes Canada as an organization full of great ideas and inspirations.

“I would never have dreamt that they would be so innovative.”

To learn more about the March of Dimes Canada programs that Bill participates in, visit:  Aphasia and Communication Disabilities Program and Stroke Recovery Canada.

Turning Points: Shirley Dennis, David Huson & Paula Povey

Turning Points

Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the last few weeks we have been sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are the last three Turning Points:

New Life

“My turning point was when I realized I was going to survive and with a little work and effort, I was still going to have a life.”

– Shirley Dennis


David Huson

 “My turning point was volunteering at a local peer support program; this allowed me the opportunity to apply some of my recovery tools,  and my new normal became dedicated to a life helping others in a similar situation as my own. ”

– David Huson, Guelph Wellington


Paula Povey

My Turning Point happened  three years post stroke, when I accepted the fact that this is MY NEW NORMAL and that I AM A SURVIVOR, NOT A VICTIM!!

– Paula Povey, New Hamburg


Thanks for reading and please make sure you check out the other entries too!

Turning Points: Bob Dutru, William Blodgett, Sangeeta Chaudhari

Turning Points

Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the next couple of weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll be sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are our next three Turning Points:

Driver's License

“I’d say the day I got my license back after not being able to drive for 8 months!”

– Bob Dutru, Niagara


William Blodgett Bike

“My turning point was when I learned that I could still ride my bike and swim, albeit not as well as I would like…however practice makes it worth some more.”

– William Blodgett, Peterborough Ontario.

William Blodgett Swimming


Sangeeta Chaudhari

“The day I returned back to volunteering at a school near my home. I feel I am making a difference and it makes me feel proud. I am once again giving back to my community.”

– Sangeeta Chaudhari – Milton, ON


Make sure you check out our entries too!

Turning Points: Tom Rideout, Marg Cyr, Judy Mostow & Margaret Kindree

Orange

Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the next couple of weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll be sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are our next four Turning Points:

Tim Rideout

“My turning point was coming to my first peer support meeting and learning that life does go on after a Stroke.”

– Tom Rideout, Toronto


“Our turning point came when Ted and I joined Survivors of Stroke.  It was from them that we learned how to deal with the challenges of stroke and that while our lives were irrevocably changed, there was life after stroke.

– Marg Cyr, Niagara


10-year-celebration-TRANSPARENT-295x300

“Every year!! I see subtle changes every year as I try to live my new life to the fullest.  I am now celebrating 10 years post stroke, and my new life is full, rich and rewarding.”

– Judy Mostow, Thunder Bay


 “After my stroke I could not spell or do Math.  Rehabilitation and my family helped me relearn spelling and math.  This encouraged me to continue to try more things – playing solitaire, sudoku and getting my driving license back and continuing to write letters.  I am now working on crossword puzzles.  Small things are “Turning Points” for all of stroke survivors.”

Margaret Kindree

  “This is a picture of me and daughters – from left to right Cindy, Valerie, Monica and Margaret – they all helped me after my stroke.”

– Margaret Kindree, Oshawa

Turning Points: David Ingram, Donnie Miller & Donna Ribotto

Social-Media-Post-Green

Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the next week we’ll be sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are our first three Turning Points:

7144763-Hand-drawn-ABC-letters-Stock-Vector

“After spending 3 days in ICU and looking at an item hanging on the wall, my turning point was to be able tell my girls it was a Fire Extinguisher. My second turning point was when I was able to print all the letters in the alphabet. The first time I tried I could only come up with 16 letters. I could give you dozens more but these two are significant to me. “

– David Ingram, Lindsay


Donnie Miller

“Shoveling snow this winter for the first time since 2011.  Finally being able to help my family with domestic chores”

– Donnie Miller – Stroke Survivor since 2011. SOS Niagara


long_road_to_nowhere

“The turning point came when I realized that all those travelling on the detour were my true companions and my new tribe.  The road is still rough, and hard to travel, from time to time, but knowing there are others helping and understanding makes it a road well-travelled. Wishing you blue skies and a happy heart.”

– Donna Ribotto, Thunder Bay

Volunteer Profiles: Michael Soo-Chan

Written By: Brendan Hair

With the bitter cold and frigid air this winter season, a vacation in tropical Trinidad & Tobago would help many Canadians struggling with the cold.  But a polio survivor from the Land of the Hummingbird has brought plenty of warmth to March of Dimes of Canada (MODC).Michael came to Canada from Trinidad in 1965 to attend McGill University where he graduated with a B. Eng. – Chemical.   He later earned a business degree from the University of Windsor (B. Commerce – Hon. Business Administration) while working full time.

Michael contracted polio as an infant leaving him with a severe impairment to his right leg.  Despite this, as a Process Engineer, Michael battled through physically demanding on-site jobs, including time at an oil refinery in Montreal, Quebec and a petrochemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario. The physical demands of the job took its toll and Michael made a decision to switch his career to the Financial Sector.  The Pickering resident now enjoys retirement from Ontario Power Generation (OPG) but dedicates his time to volunteering with MODC’s Durham Post-Polio Chapter.  Michael serves in the volunteer role of Treasurer, and has a keen interest in researching stories and developments in the post-polio world to share with his fellow polio survivors.  While Michael considers himself mobile, his objective is to assist people with more severe post-polio symptoms.

“I think I’m in a better position to help those who are less fortunate than myself and I do this through the information that I share,” said Michael.  Wheelchair accessibility is an area of concern for those survivors who use wheelchairs and who will/may require them in the future.  Michael is optimistic that wheelchair accessibility at public facilities and premises will keep expanding to remove any restriction to mobility for wheelchair users.  “There is a movement now to make those changes happen and we must give our full support to making sure it will.  We must not rest easy.”

Michael Soo-Chan
Michael Soo-Chan

While the spread of polio may not be a current issue in Canada, it is very much alive in countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  He believes the problem can be greatly diminished by administering the vaccine, as seen in India which was declared polio-free in 2014, with the last case reported in 2011.   His hope is that Pakistan (opposing) will look at India’s success and come around to accept the vaccine as the path to eradication of this disease.  Michael says, “In Canada and the Western world, the problem is recognizing and identifying the symptoms of PPS (Post-polio Syndrome).  A disease, long eradicated in Canada, medical practitioners are not familiar with the disease nor do they understand the lasting trauma to the survivor and its impact on him/her in later years.  We, as post-polio survivors, through communication, collaboration and consultation with our doctors can become our own best advocates.”

Erica Mugan, MODC Group Developer, values Michael’s contributions as a volunteer: “Michael is an integral part of the Durham Post-Polio team. His enthusiasm and interest in finding resources to inform the group about what is current in the world of polio and post-polio is greatly appreciated.  The group meets monthly and he always brings along resources that he has researched.”  “He is a valuable asset to the team and I am sure that his peer support group members would agree.”

Michael is the father of two daughters, enjoys cooking and is an advocate of healthy lifestyles.  He is an avid photographer who confesses to shooting almost everything: “I love street scenes, land and cityscapes, people, nature, birds and animals.”  He has contributed to the creation of an annual calendar that the group puts together for the Durham region.

To learn more about Post-Polio Canada, a program of March of Dimes Canada, please visit: www.marchofdimes.ca/polio
Originally Published April 15, 2015.

Jess’ Blog: #MODCBusTour

Written By: Jess Weber

My name is Jessie. I’m 28 years old and I live at home but one day I hope to reach the milestone of eventually moving out.  I was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy right at birth which affects my arms and legs, my hand coordination, my learning, and my speech.  I use many methods of communication; however my main method is my iPad.  Having Cerebral Palsy is something I have learned to deal with.

Jess at the #MODCBusTour Launch in Toronto.
Jess alongside the MODMobility at the #MODCBusTour Launch in Toronto.

Since graduating from school, I’ve had a tough time transitioning from being a student and being involved in camps and programs to becoming an adult and seeing my active life shutting down before my eyes.  As a child, I attended summer camp every year and during the school year I participated in social groups and played wheelchair hockey on the weekends. I was hardly ever home!  As an adult who requires support in every activity of daily living, I began staying home a lot and was only able to go out when my mom was available.

Suddenly, I felt stuck, relying on my mom for recreational and enjoyment activities. We did much research in finding an appropriate program for me, however I never met the requirements.  I was either too mobile in my wheelchair, or I needed too much personal support, or did not meet the behavioural requirements.  Other programs did not provide any support, leaving it up to me to hire a support person.

Since joining the March of Dimes Canada’s LIFE Toronto program I’ve become happier, more active and I started to have meaning in my life again. I was very fortunate that I was asked to be a mentor for the next two sessions I attended.  As a mentor, I set a positive role model to the other participants. I encourage them to try new things and be amazing individuals. I also help participants new to the program feel comfortable and at ease in this new environment. LIFE Toronto is an amazing program which combines fun and learning experiences. My favourite parts of the programs would have to be the social outings, Conductive Education and life skill development workshops, especially now that I have had a hand in facilitating them.

I developed a workshop on stress management and coping that I facilitated to the rest of the group. The participants really enjoyed it and it was very impactful coming from me, one of their peers in the program.

Thinking back to these parts, all of them have contributed to my personal growth during my time with the LIFE program.  The Outward Bound and Variety Village programming showed me that anything is possible if I put my mind to it. During the day camp out activity, we worked as a team to put up a tent without staff’s assistance for the first time and I also reached the milestone of swinging on a regular swing.

Conductive Education is a community rehabilitation program that we participate in once a week with the LIFE program. I have seen some amazing changes in my physical ability since starting conductive education in 2013. I can now transfer on my own, using the walking ladder from my chair to stand and sit on the plinth totally independently.  I’m getting better at lying down by myself and positioning myself in a straight lying position. I also worked on walking with various ladders to hold on my sides. This helps me transfer my weight onto one leg as I grab the next ladder with my other hand. I’ve really come a long way since I’ve first started Conductive Education at the end of March 2013 and I look forward to seeing what I accomplish next.

Taking part in the LIFE Toronto program has created meaningful changes for me and I’m excited about the possibilities the expansion of the Mod Mobility program has in store. The new bus is about to kick off it tour – watch out for it at events in your community!

Jess, LIFE Toronto Program particiapants, Keith Rashid and March of Dimes Canada President and CEO Andria Spindel take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the #MODCBusTour.
Jess, LIFE Toronto Program participants, Keith Rashid and March of Dimes Canada President and CEO Andria Spindel take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the #MODCBusTour.
#MODCBusTour
March of Dimes Canada will be embarking on an accessible bus tour to highlight the need for inclusion in recreation and community participation for people living with disabilities
For many Canadians living with physical disabilities, there are barriers to accessing the recreational activities and community events that lead to friendships and essential social integration. March of Dimes Canada’s MODMobility Bus offers flexibility in configuration that can accommodate up to 10 wheelchairs and 10 seated passengers, allowing groups to enjoy recreational activities, day trip and family outings
To Learn more about the Bus tour click here.
Be sure to Follow #MODCBusTour on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

I am a caregiver – now, today and forever.

On Thursday, June 4, 2015 guests at the Ability & Beyond Dinner presented by Bell will be inspired by Captain Mark Kelly’s “Endeavour to Succeed” keynote address.

Captain Mark Kelly is an American astronaut, who flew missions aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the Space Shuttle Discovery, and is one of only two individuals who has visited the International Space Station on four different occasions. He is also a retired US Navy Captain, bestselling author, prostate cancer survivor, and an experienced naval aviator. Named one of Esquire’s 2011 Americans of the Year, Kelly exemplifies leadership, the importance of teamwork, and courage under pressure.

Captain Kelly and wife Gabrielle Giffords
Captain Kelly and wife Gabrielle Giffords

Captain Kelly will speak about his incredible life and his personal experience caregiving for his wife, former US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, during her recovery from a traumatic brain injury, the result of an assassination attempt in 2011.

Captain Kelly will share stories designed to inspire and help people find their purpose. He says he has learned valuable lessons from his experiences flying in combat, his space missions and more personally, when his wife was shot and his world changed forever. He became Ms. Gifford’s primary caregiver during her recovery from her brain injury, which also resulted in aphasia. He continues this role today, and cherishes it.  He will speak of his life as a caregiver, and how living with aphasia affects the whole family.

Approximately 1/3 of brain injury survivors will have aphasia. The condition causes communication challenges, but is not a sign of reduced intelligence. Understanding aphasia is crucial to helping improve communication not only for brain injury survivors, but also their caregivers, loved ones and families.

March of Dimes Canada provides services for people with aphasia through a number of programs, camps and support groups. All of these are crucial to helping alleviate the isolation and depression that can occur when first learning to live with the condition.

Captain Kelly is thrilled to be sharing his life lessons with guests at a fundraiser supporting March of Dimes Canada’s Aphasia and Communication Disability Program (ACDP).  His wife lives with the condition, and weekly visits an aphasia communication group, similar to those offered by the program.

“I am very excited to be coming to Toronto and sharing a bit of my story with March of Dimes clients and supporters,” says Captain Kelly. “I hope that guests will leave feeling empowered and learning a little about the power of the human spirit, to recover and to overcome.”

For tickets and more information, click here.

785x295_A&B Gala2015_FBBanner 2

Assistive Devices Program (ADP)

Barbara is a 73-year-old Kingston, ON resident who lives with osteoarthritis. Her condition results in poor balance and makes walking difficult. For over eighteen years, Barbara has been using a walker to help keep her mobile. Over time, the walker began to break down. However, she needed this equipment, so Barbara continued to use it, even without brakes. The condition of her walker was so poor that she could not even venture into the hall of her apartment building safely. Barbara said that “my old walker made me feel nervous when I was moving around.” Barbara’s occupational therapist began to worry about her safety and urged her to buy a new walker, but her limited income made this a difficult task. Barbara, in need of help, turned to March of Dimes’ Assistive Devices Program.

The Assistive Devices Program (ADP) provides financial assistance to people with disabilities across the province, assisting with the cost and maintenance of basic mobility devices as well as home and bath safety equipment. ADP is one of March of Dimes’ charitable programs supported 100% by donor dollars. Many of the people served live on an income of less than $15,000 per year, meaning that many assistive devices are financially out of reach. At ADP, the program is able to stretch every dollar to its fullest potential enabling staff to provide necessary, life-changing devices to people across the province that so desperately need them – and cannot afford the equipment on their own.

United Way donates a portion of its funds to the ADP program in Kingston and focuses on promoting Healthy People, Strong Communities. Without United Way, March of Dimes would be unable to continue helping people like Barbara. Without this partnership, the expense of a new walker, which exceeded $500, would have prevented Barbara from the peace of mind she now enjoys.

walker1

Barbara is happy to have her new, safe walker. Although she uses it primarily for indoor use, Barbara prefers using her walker over her wheelchair so that she can maintain and build strength in her legs. Without the funding she received from March of Dimes, Barbara said she “would have had to keep her old walker and she would have had to use her wheelchair more often.”  The new walker is large and comfortable enough to allow Barbara to sit on it when she needs to, which allows her to use it over her wheelchair. Barbara is very thankful for the help she received from March of Dimes.