Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

People with Disabilities Aren’t Quite ‘Out from Under’

Filed under: Advocacy,Living with a disability,Vancouver Winter Games — by at 5:10 pm on Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Out From Under exhibition sign Presented as part of the Cultural Olympiad, Kickstart Disability arts & culture is hosting the groundbreaking exhibition “Out From Under: Disability, History & Things” that pays tribute to “the resilience, creativity and cultural contributions of Canadians with disabilities”. The exhibition is on now until Sunday, March 21st at the University of British Columbia’s Robson Square campus.

Darrell and I took in this display while at Robson Square for the Paralympic Torch Relay. I found the display to be a sobering reminder of people with disabilities were treated or, more accurately, mistreated in the not so distant past.

I found the display case with three shovels to be most jarring. The written explanation read:

Every object has a history. And every history has some relationship to disability. One simply needs to dig for it a little.

Take the ordinary shovel.

Shovels have been used in conditions of forced institutional labour and to bury disabled people in unmarked graves.

Fancy shovels with commemorative plaques have been used at sod-turning ceremonies for rehabilitation facilities, as a way of recognizing charitable benefactors.

Shovels adapted for accessibility today enable disabled people living freely in

communities to do whatever garden or yard work they choose.

As disabled people find and claim their power, they take hold of the tools once used to push them under.

(From: The exhibition text)

The ordinary shovel was accompanied by a photo of the mass grave site at the Woodlands School in New Westminster. That could have been my fate had my parents listened to the medical professionals and had institutionalized me because I “wouldn’t amount to anything”. Chilling!

Ironically, after viewing this historical display of how people with disabilities have struggled to overcome oppression, I had to wait for an UBC employee to unlock the wheelchair washroom. The men’s and women’s washrooms were unlocked, but the wheelchair accessible washroom required a key. WTF? I couldn’t believe it! What happened to freedom and independence when I need to wait for someone to come to unlock the door so that I can pee?

However, this was nothing compared to what it took for one of the exhibition’s curator and disability rights activist Catherine Frazee to travel from Toronto to Vancouver to be at the show during the Paralympics. Unable to fly due to her disability, Catherine decided to spend four days and nights to travel by train; historically the railway united the country and she was looking forward to experiencing that part of Canadian history.

But Via Rail insisted Catherine and her customized wheelchair had to travel separately; not a possibility for her. Catherine and her assistant/life partner were forced to drive down to Chicago to board the Amtrak with an accessible sleeping car  to travel to Seattle and rent a van to get to Vancouver. 

Can you imagine denying Canada’s top disability rights activist the use of her wheelchair when traveling by train?

Perhaps a wheelchair accessible washroom key and a Via Rail ticket will be added to the “Out From Under” exhibition years from now.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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From Watching Gold to Touching Gold at the Paralympics

Filed under: Vancouver Winter Games — by at 3:05 pm on Monday, March 15, 2010

Thunderbird Arena ready for Paralympics Ice Sledge Hockey Early Saturday morning Darrell and I dragged ourselves from our warm bed and made our way out to the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Arena for the first Paralympics Ice Sledge Hockey game – Canada v Italy.

Ignoring my fever and potential bronchitis, I donned my official Olympics hockey jersey and headed out the door. Except for a vague memory of attending a Canucks practice session back when I was in preschool, this was my first ever hockey game; that is embarrassing to admit as a Canadian!

The game was amazing – a little slower than ice hockey, after all it takes longer to turn around and maneuver a sledge, although the guys definitely move and they aren’t afraid to slam another player into the boards! The linesmen had to do some high stepping to avoid an oncoming sledge; occasionally they weren’t quite quick enough!

The Canadian team dominated the ice, leaving the goalie Paul Rosen alone in the Canadian end for most of the game! Here are a few highlights from the third period:

How these guys balance sitting on the equivalent of one skate blade and their upper body strength is incredible! Surely shoulders weren’t designed to propel one’s self across the ice like that.

Darrell and I will return to Thunderbird Arena on Tuesday evening to watch Canada take on Norway and become one step closer to defending their gold medal title from the 2006 Paralympics in Turin!

From Thunderbird Arena we made our downtown to the Vancouver Public Library. After a quick lunch at the same cafe as our first quasi-date nearly fourteen years ago, we headed for the lineup for the Royal Canadian Mint to see the medals. Upon reaching the end of the lengthy line, a security guard informed us that the line was now closed and to come back tomorrow. We turned to head away.

An official-type woman came running after us and said she could get us to the front of the line. Initially we thought she meant when we returned tomorrow. But, no, she meant now; she led us to the front of the three-hour lineup! I felt guilty bypassing the hundreds of people standing there. I don’t use my disability to take advantage of a situation, but occasionally the universe has a way of balancing the score…and who am I to argue with the universe!

Darrell and I were given white gloves and proceeded into the secured area with the next group of perhaps; perhaps 15-20 of us. We read about the process used to make the amazing medals, each one unique, in the display cases while waiting to get close enough to see the actual medals.

Another official-type woman came over to us to tell us to wait behind after the other people left and then we could get our photo taken with the medals. Much to my surprise and delight, I had the opportunity to touch and have my photo taken with each of the six medals (3 from the Olympics and 3 from the Paralympics). A few of the photos aren’t quite in focus and I’m definitely not feeling my best, however the photos are my memories to cherish.

Glenda touching a 2010 Olympic gold medalTouching an Olympic gold medal…

Glenda touching a 2010 Olympic silver medal and silver…

Glenda touching a 2010 Olympic bronze medal and bronze…and to think each one is unique. The process used to create them is amazing!

Glenda touching a 2010 Paralympic gold medal The Paralympic medals are more rectangular in shape, with Braille on the back.

Glenda holding a 2010 Olympic gold medalThe Olympic gold was brought over to me for me to hold up close; an opportunity not afforded to everyone!

Glenda touching a 2010 Paralympic silver medalSpeaking with mechanical technologist Renato Romozzi, he preferred the shape of the Paralympic medals and definitely favoured the bronze for its colour.

Glenda touching a 2010 Paralympic bronze medalI would like to sincerely thank the Mint for making this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity extra memorable for my husband and myself. I appreciate the extra time you took with us so that we could experience these awesome medals up close. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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The Paralympics: Challenging Social Media to Respond Where Traditional Media Fails Athletes with Disabilities

Filed under: Vancouver Winter Games — by at 2:14 am on Friday, March 12, 2010

Paralympic Games countdown clock in downtown VancouverThe Olympic Winter Games may be over, but the Paralympics are just beginning!

(Yes, it’s still winter even though the trees are already in full bloom. Gotta love winter in Vancouver!)

Even though the Paralympic celebrations are significantly scaled back from the pandemonium seen during the Olympics, there’s still much to see. The final day of the Paralympic Torch Relay began with the lighting of the community cauldron at Robson Square, kicking off a 24-hour torch relay around downtown Vancouver.

Darrell and I were at Robson Square for the beginning of the 24-hour relay and I captured these videos. Please forgive me for not captioning them; my left thumb would be a month at that task.

The first is the lighting of the cauldron with the background story of the flame. (Watch the journalist who tries standing up in front!)

(Note: It’s now 2am and this video still won’t upload to YouTube for some unknown yet annoying reason. I’ll try again later tomorrow.)

The second video is The Canadian Wheelchair Dance Academy performing Open Happiness. (Seeing Monica from elementary school was definitely a surprise!)

In addition to the torch relay, a short list of Olympic pavilions are also staying open for the Paralympics, including the very popular Robson Square zipline. (I wonder how accessible that attraction is. ) Here’s your chance to check out these attractions without the long lineups!

For those who prefer enjoying sports from the comforts of your own couch, you’ll need to only watch 57 hours of televised broadcast by the Canadian consortium led by CTV, unlike the more than 2,200 hours of Olympic coverage. Even the Opening Ceremonies will not be broadcast live, but rather “repackaged Saturday afternoon into a four-hour block with a replay of the first Canada-Italy sledge hockey game.”

The good news is that social media and the internet are picking up where traditional media is failing. Paralympic Sport TV — the Internet TV channel of the International Paralympic Committee — will offer free live broadcasts worldwide via Internet. Huddle around your computer screen to cheer on your favourite Paralympians. Then blog about it, tweet it and facebook it. Let’s make some noise about these Games and well-deserving athletes.

Go Canada go!

Breaking news! Due to criticism, CTV has decided to air the Opening Ceremonies live in Vancouver beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific Time. The rest of the country, however, will have to wait. The show will air nationally on CTV on Saturday at 2 p.m. local time. See what making some noise can accomplish!

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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A Lesson Learned from Roger Ebert

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 3:10 pm on Thursday, March 4, 2010

Film critic Roger Ebert has battled thyroid and salivary gland cancer and, in the process, has lost his ability to drink, eat and speak. He now communicates like I do: using text-to-speech software.

Watching Oprah interview Ebert on Tuesday, I witnessed what I have often felt while using text-to-speech technology. Because it’s difficult to have spontaneous communication with this technology, the interview was more of a Q&A session – Oprah asked the question and Ebert responded with his prepared responses – rather than it being a two-way conversation.

Ebert was given the questions prior to the interview, giving him time to prepare his responses. I appreciate how difficult preparing responses ahead of time is. What makes sense when writing them at home may not fit the flow of the situation when it comes time to actually respond.

However – and, in my mind, this is a big however – when Ebert was responding, Oprah was completely quiet and listened. She did not interrupt, interject or take the conversation in another direction, like she typically does. In that moment, Ebert was in control; the one without the voice had the power and I find that very empowering!

It took watching someone else communicating in the same manner that I do to see how empowering this form of communication can be. Thanks Ebert.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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