I have no desire for tomorrow because a) the worker who woke me ripping up the carpet this morning is coming back tomorrow. He said only half the crew showed up but that they will be pounding and sanding and ripping like mad tomorrow, starting about 14 feet from my bed (and come back Thursday to finish the job). And b) I am going to the dentist tomorrow for, what I hope, is the last time (for a while) to have my permanent crown put on. How I will do that in a ripped up floor has yet to be determined. The worker did assure me that he would be done by 4:30 today. Then he added, “But don’t worry, I’ll be back tomorrow at 6:00 a.m.” And belly laughed at the terrified look on my face.
Today, I interacted eight times with five different agencies, including a 90 minute nursing assessment to determine if my care workers can put a cold pack, wrapped in towels, on my body. This is the second to last step of almost a seventh month process of trying to have this added to my care sheet – an important issue for someone who passes out due to heat intolerance. I made the argument that, I know that care workers are not ‘medically trained’ but they must have SOME medical understanding, for instance they wouldn’t go into a client with MS and turn on all the heaters. The community nurse said, “Actually, the probably would....there are quite a few workers who don’t do that well with English.” Okay, when the person assessing you is MORE cynical about the system than you are, what does that mean? Anyway, I was busy ALL DAY pushing boulders up hillsides to watch them roll down again.
I wanted to illustrate (and how it is creeping in on my life) a bit of what is known as “corporate culture” in the branches of government in British Columbia. "Corporate culture" used to be referred to as “Boy’s Club” or “Discrimination” and many other names. Essentially, in a closed environment, a type of attitude is taken toward things because of the way that those higher up view and talk about things, and this spreads to middle management (often because they are hired by the people with these views) until you have this “culture.” Which is why you can work in one department of a government or university and it will have a running club and charity auctions and emphasis on work/life balance. But go to another one and there will be people who are dispirited and the rule of the day is “cover your ass”, “It wasn’t my fault” and “No one will really care anyway.”
British Columbia in Canada, several years ago made some very important laws regarding disability. They actually didn’t think they were making disability policy or “culture” they thought they were ‘proactively turning the red on the government books to black' (from deficit to surplus). The first thing they did was tuck the registration of being a Person of Disability into a subsection of the Welfare department (in BC called MIEA). The idea was that if the people on disability assistance were put under the same regulations and assessments (and compulsory pushes toward job seeking) then a smaller percentage would still BE on “welfare”, thus red turns to black (see, this is the first change, that disability assistance was now, actually, welfare, not a recognition that those with disabilities might individually or as a group have special or specific medical issues which would need to be met by the public sector, but that they and people who were receiving "welfare" were, in essence, the same).
So, not disability assistance anymore but a subsection of welfare: and if you have no need for welfare, or no proof you haven’t applied for employment insurance, then there is no way to apply to be a person with a disability. So, if you are a person with a disability in BC and you live with a partner or have income which is below the poverty line but above the qualification for welfare, you do not show up anywhere as a person with disability to the government of B.C. (off the radar!)
The second change was to “Shake out those cheaters and welfare scammers” (US, the disabled) by ELIMINATING legally, that someone could be permanently disabled. So, yes, if Mr. Reeve (if he was still alive) or another other high para lives in BC, they need to show up every three years to be assessed because they are NOT permanently disabled. Indeed, legally, no one of a permanent disability lives in BC at all (or visits, so sorry Rick Hansen; Vancouver is hosting the paralympic games in 2010: 10,000 athletes from around the world and not one, according to the province hosting the games is permanently disabled.)
Now you might think that is just because B.C. is very optimistic and that hey, ALS isn’t a permanent disability because a cure is around the corner, as it is for SCI’s, etc. But the problem is that governments make decisions based on the statistics gathered from government branches (particularly in a government based system like Canada). So, the problem is that the recreation needs, the representation needs, the technology assistance needs, and all the legislation regarding people with disabilities is taken from MEIA. But MEIA’s system is one where many, perhaps even a majority of people with serious physical impairments and yes, permanent disabilities are invisible, unable to be counted because they simply don’t show up ANYWHERE on government stats. Which doesn’t stop legislation and other decisions being made which will impact them.
So, I live in a country with no disability act, in a province with no disability act, in a city with no accessibility code for buildings (which is the capital of the province of B.C.). And because of these laws, there is a culture that actually feels that those with disabilities can be treated as if they don’t exist. For example, the new hiring roll out of the Provincial Government which targets are now set to attract X% of students, X% of new immigrants, and to encourage immigrants to sponsor other immigrants with promises of jobs, as well as targets for ethnic groups. Linda asked, “Do you have any plans to set a target or attempt to hire more people with disabilities?” Answer: No. Amended to, no as our percentages are not that far off the public sector. Wait a minute, the government of BC is DESPERATE for workers (they will pay your entire student loan AND give you a FULL salary if you work for JUST three years for the B.C. Govt., for example), so much they are trying to get people to sponsor people in other countries to come here and work for them but they feel ‘they already have enough disabled?’ Even if there are qualified applicants in town?
I was passed along a conversation which occured in a branch of government within BC regarding the efficient use of property. The questions were coming from a person who was leasing a property for the government branch and wanted to make more efficient use (let’s call them Ms. Q.). They were trying to run this by those people who exist to say, ‘No actually, that IS illegal to sublet a government facility to be used as a meth lab.” (let’s call them Mr. M.)
The first thing Ms. Q. wanted to know was, could she eliminate the disability parking spot all together. Or could she make so other vehicles could use it because she didn’t see the need for a disabled spot. As she said, “We don’t have anyone disabled working for us.” (And implied in that is, ‘and I don’t expect us to ever have someone disabled in the future either’). Mr. M tried to explain that maybe someone disabled would VISIT the building so they should probably keep it.
Then there were bathrooms, Did they HAVE to make a bathroom wheelchair accessible? That is what Ms. Q wanted to know. Mr. M. had to admit that NO, she legally did not but again, what if someone at that office fell and broke their leg or what if someone who was in a wheelchair visited?
I have not yet found out if Ms. Q got her way in the elimination of a wheelchair accessible bathroom in a branch of government leased area.
What I mean about culture is that, if for example, an small branch of say, engineering or forestry said, hey, we don’t have any women here, why do we need to have TWO bathrooms, let's turn the women's into an coffee room? Well, that would scream “Boy’s club” because then, how exactly would a woman get a job there, when the culture is such that they don’t even see the need or anticipate that a woman would WORK there much less visit there?
Only here we have a REAL example of someone, instead of saying, do we need one or two designated disabled parking spaces is asking, why should we have one at all, as a(REAL) person could park there? Why should we have a spot or a bathroom as we cannot imagine a time when someone would work or even visit us with a physical impairment? And this is from the PUBLIC section; the one who is supposed to be PROTECTING us (hollow laughter please). As Mr. M pointed out, which Ms. Q had not and could not imagine, what IF, in the FUTURE, the laws changed, and there WERE disability laws and standards for buildings and a disability act?
Will the fear of the HASSLE of having to make the crips a bathroom in some distant future convince Ms. Q to order it to be built (when that could be a very efficient office space instead)? I will have to wait to find out.
But you can see what I mean=, these are not the “All crips are worthless” crowd. Ms. Q is a real person who represents many other people who after years of being in a public sector where there is no representation of people with disabilities nor public awareness of the 1 in 7 aspect (that 1 in 7 people have some disability), cannot imagine a world where they would share the same workspace with a PWD.
That clueless, innocent aspect is perhaps what scares me the most, these decisions made behind closed doors by people who are told to be efficient, to report to supervisors and department heads (and who are doing it for YOU, the public and taxpayers, as RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT) and none of whom have ever thought or considered or been raised in a workplace (or city for that matter) in which disability rights are actually considered just that.....RIGHTS.
Your reporter, trapped in her apartment for another day, from the surreal world of British Columbia (motto: The BEST place on earth) – signing out.
5 hours ago