The “D” word

Dating.

Seriously. We all do it at some point in our lives… Or for the most part we all do. Some cultures have prearranged marriages, but most of the world goes on dates.  For those who use a wheelchair, this is no different.

In my personal experience I have had wonderful dates that turned into relationships that became lessons.  My first girlfriend was when I was about ten. She dumped me for my best friend at the time because I was too young for her. The next few girlfriends came years later and were athletes, hockey and rugby. These relationships ended on account of my own stupidity.  The next few were high school relationships. By this I mean ones I specifically only had in school. They didn’t exist outside. They laste a few weeks, but lessons again. Finally college came and two more girlfriends, both new experiences and both very different in their own way.

All of them had something in common… They all didn’t allow society’s view of me to stop them from dating me.  You see, all too often people will stop and ask themselves “Will his condition stop us from leading a productive relationship?”, that or they will just “Not date guys in wheelchairs.” As one girl so bluntly put it.  Apparently all guys in wheelchairs are still the same, who knew…  Sure, I get that I was socially awkward for a while.. Sort of still am… But my quirks are what make me, me.  I was a loner for years until I came out of my shell and grew out of the small group of friends I held on to like a life raft for years.  It was refreshing.

It was nice to make new friends, one in particular seemed to share my quirkiness. We would eventually find common ground… Or at least we would sing “Hotel California” for hours on end.  It’s really nice to know that these kinds of people exist, you see.. This friend and I recently reconnected and picked up like no time had passed, our connection strong as ever, maybe even stronger now.

As I think about the social stigma that exists still, I wonder just how many people say no to me and how many say no to my chair.  I recently had a friend tell me that I am too passionate and that I put too much emotion in some things… But isn’t that what life is about? Throwing caution to the wind and giving it your all!

Well I might not have this dating thing down yet but I do know one thing… If ever someone wants to know how much my physical differences will affect a relationship, all they have to know is it will take me a little longer to get up that flight of stairs… But I’ll do it if it means we can see the stars better.

That door, I can open it myself… but thanks, I guess?

Hey everyone, it’s been a while since my last post. Things have gotten busy! I’m out of bed a bunch now and really active! It’s awesome!  So I’ve been on the bus again a lot, going to malls with friends.. that sort of thing.  Every time I go to a mall that has a button to push if you have difficulty opening it… well, I don’t use the button because I simply don’t need it.  Yet every time I walk up to a door there is always someone “nice enough” to push the button for me, sometimes literally cutting me off to push the button.  I honestly don’t have the words to tell you how annoying this really is.  I’ve been using a wheelchair for 22 of my 25 years, and I’m pretty good at it (although a quick look at the walls in the house would suggest otherwise) so if you’re looking for someone to help, maybe the lady carrying five bags coming out of the door three down.  I’m not saying everyone who uses a wheelchair wouldn’t need help, just the ones who are young, have headphones on, pushing a manual wheelchair past four bus stops because they’d prefer to walk (yes, I call it walking), and who just held the door for the young lady who’s dragging him shopping.. those ones are probably well-versed in opening doors and pushing buttons too.

Okay, so that vent is over. (But will probably return since most people probably won’t see this)

It’s summer, and with summer in my hometown comes our local music festival! This year I went to see a band called the “Dropkick Murphys”! A boston-irish post grunge band with an awesome twist! They’ve got bagpipes and banjos and everything!  Anyways, the last time I was at this festival I crowd surfed Billy Talent in my chair.  The lead singer (thanks for the beer, Ben) was so stunned that he stopped the show and said “Hey, bring him on stage!”  I’ll admit, it was awesome! Yeah it was dangerous, yeah I could have been dropped by anyone of the hundred or so people who carried me from forty rows back… but man was it awesome!!
Now, this time I was front row with my poor 100lb female friend who decided to wear flip flops (really flimsy thong sandals from the dollar store).  Yeahhhhh-probably shoulda told her to wear shoes. So we got there early enough to see the act before, they were called “The Jivewires”!  A great local band (and now you’ll figure out where I’m from) with a blues note!  They played their set, and then the chanting started… “D-K-M! D-K-M!”

By this time there were maybe 500 of us (I honestly couldn’t count them all, but we were a good bunch for a best-kept secret! (Oh right, it had been lightly raining since I got to the grounds, so I was soaked) By the time the band hit the stage we might have had 5,000.  Front and center we were, so much so that the crowd control looked at me and said “Are you sure, bro?” “Definitely”, as DKM broke into “The Boys are Back” (if you play NHL video games you’ll know that one! By their fourth song a few crowd surfers had made me miss it, but I didn’t give up my prime seat! No way you could have moved me!  The fifth song was about to play and they introduced it and everyone started to sing along (well everyone around me… okay fine, just me).  “Rose Tattoo” absolutely rocked it for me!

After the show a few other buddies were there and one guy even bought me a few beers saying he remembered me from a few years back and that “I killed it, brah!”
So one buddy had an alcohol-induced hearing problem and decided to “help” me through wet (it was still raining) gravel.  Wet gravel + wheelchair front tires = …. well I’ve got a cut or two on my hand from that night.  All in all an awesome night, but a big part of me really wishes people wouldn’t try to help when they’re not asked to. Even if it’s the best of intentions.
So that was what you missed (well that and hanging with friends, but you don’t want to hear all that , do you?)

Have you ever had someone help you when you didn’t need it and it annoyed you or ended up with someone getting hurt? Drop me a line!

Stereotypes from nurses and other medical professionals

Hey everyone! So this is day 4 for me in hospital having had an ulcer repair. Hoping things get back on track after this and I can get back to living!  Anyways, I’d like to start off with asking if anyone has ever had an issue with stereotypes? With someone asking you the same question over and over just to make sure… No? Oh well so far this weekend it’s happened to me what feels like 100 times!  Nurses keep asking what my pain level is, and I get that it’s a question they ask someone who has had surgery.. my assumption is that they mark what I tell them in my file somewhere for the next nurse to compare.  I tell them that I’ve had to have this surgery because I don’t feel the site and ended up with an ulcer because of that!  Alas, every new nurse (and some repeats now) ask the same question and are shocked when I give the same answer… What really gets my goat is that they assume my paralysis keeps me from doing my daily activities, one nurse interrupted my social encounters today to ask if I needed anything almost twice an hour (or so it felt).  This got to the point where I felt like she had nothing else to do and they gave her one room (mine) to look after. (I’m in a semi-private… alone)

So there’s my update so far as to why I’ve been gone so long and what’s been happening.
I’m expected to stay through Christmas and probably won’t write another one of these until after I’m out, so Merry Christmas everyone!

You’re not the only person in your world

We all have an idea of how things should go in any situation and they never do, do they? 9 times out of 10 we have only our side figured out… but what about the people we interact with? At least half of an interaction includes one other person, and we must take this into account when we are dealing with the people in our days.  Be it the cashier at our grocery store, our mother, or maybe even a significant other.  Every single interaction you have will always be different.  Just the same, so will the people you interact with.  Your girlfriend and mother will love every part of you, while the cashier may become impatient with your physical or social differences.  Maybe you have a speech impediment, or have difficulty getting your groceries up onto the conveyor belt.  These are not things everyone thinks about and I have been noticing more and more that people tend to look at me differently.  Sure, I’ve always noticed the stares.. but how about the ones who really think I’m “amazing” for waking up in the morning? The ones who look at me and say “Oh isn’t that nice they have you here.” They mean well but they sound just down right ignorant.  It sounds horrible doesn’t it? It’s something I deal with almost every single time I go out.   Someone’s deity is going to heal me or I am inspirational for being able to push my own wheelchair.  Again, people mean well but it doesn’t sound as good to me as it does to them.  I want to be recognized for things that I actually make a real effort to do, like break down the social barriers that exist for people who live with physical difficulties, or the fact that I’m a college student, or maybe the fact that I’ve held jobs ever since I was 16.  Judge me for who I am, not what you perceive me not to have.

 

While a lot of what I say here is straight forward, I only say the truth. My opinions are my own and I’m not about to apologize for them.  I have gotten negative comments from both sides of the fence on various issues, including “Just accept the compliment”… Which is the most annoying one because if I don’t educate people they will never learn.  It’s like being in any relationship, if you don’t communicate it falls apart.

Yo Kanye, I’m gonna let you finish in a minute… but first!

Have you ever been singled out because of your physical difference? “Hey look at that ginger!” or “Hey that’s the short kid.” or even “Hey look at the cute girl over there.”  Some of these are pretty awesome, and then there are some where people feel the need to pity you and some actually go out of their way to “help” you and end up making you feel like you’re unable to do the things you know you can.  Most of these people have the best of intentions, but that’s what they say the road to hell is paved with.  There are so many ways to find out if someone needs help, here are just a few;

1) Wait and see if they struggle
While I know this one isn’t popular, lots of people will struggle at first with their issue and then overcome it shortly after. Like a video game you have to try the same task twice in just to get it right, life is sometimes the same way.

2) Ask
No really, it’s that simple. “Hey do you need any help with that?” goes a long way.  Most of the time you’ll get a “no, but thanks though”, but sometimes you may just get a “Oh that would be awesome, thank you!”

Don’ts – Don’t walk up to the door that someone is already holding and hold it over top of them and say “Go ahead”, especially if they’re in a wheelchair. Most of the time a wheelchair user will actually use the door itself to propel themselves around the door.

–   Please oh PLEASE quit pushing the automatic door button for someone you assume will need it. Sometimes a simple “Oh I don’t use that” isn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, I see what you just did there and I appreciate the thought but what I don’t appreciate is the  social structure that has you pushing a button in assumption I will need it. (And for me most of the time I’m holding the door open for the girl I’m with so… dude… honestly?)

Ok so I’ve watched one of the videos of Kanye making his point to the people in the wheelchair section.  You know what, maybe he was confused. That could have honestly been a mistake, but his fans… there’s no excuse for that!  It’s this kind of pop culture that has our teens treating the elderly with disrespect and has our youth not caring about their futures. It has men disrespecting women and even women allowing men to objectify them even more. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll listen to some good rap.  Play me some “Dear Mama” or “Daughters”, but songs like “Anaconda” or… well pretty much anything by that artist… Just leave me in disbelief.

I’m just hoping that any parents or aspiring parents reading this won’t let their kids grow up to listen to people like West and Minaj and instead will have them listening to people like Macklemore and NAS (Listen to “I can”, definitely listened to that one a bunch since its release in 2002)

Again, hopefully you’ve learned something as I have today and you’ll share it with everyone in the comments. Maybe post your favourite inspirational song or maybe a quote.

Have a most wonderful of days!

It’s Wednesday and I think I’m getting a new bed tomorrow!

It’s Wednesday… well I’ve started this on Wednesday so when I finish it is still up for debate.  I’d like to start things off by saying I’ll be rappelling off the side of a building in just under 2 weeks and I’m so excited! 19 storeys of awesome! Second, I’ll be going down as Mister No Such Thing as Can’t! I’m excited because this is a charity that helped my family and I my entire childhood to pay for the essentials (wheelchair, crutches, braces.. even non-essentials like a trip to camp).  They help pay for things that enhance the lives of people who live with physical difficulties, they take disability and turn it into ability.  There are so many things in my life that I can say I directly and indirectly have because of them and am honoured to have been invited as an alumni to partake in these events.

Down to business, new bed! A bed that will allow me to finally heal (I’ve been in bed off and on for nearly 3 years.. not sure if I filled you in on that yet) and allow me to get back to my everyday living and not be stuck watching Netflix 24/7 (although Netflix I love you and you’re awesome, don’t ever change!… unless I’m done with that series, then change.)  For real though, I’ve been stuck in bed for so long that most of my high school friends are almost done their doctorates by now… yeah… it’s like that.  It’s been a constant dealing with infections and sores and other issues for the past 3 years, so long that I don’t even know what my life will be like if and when I get back up and out. I’m hoping that there will be some people left in my life, and obviously there are the ones who have stayed… but I debate keeping the ones who walked away when I had to be in bed and only come around every couple months, some only text and never show.

Well there you have it, short and sweet for this week.. I’m probably going to write one soon though (I have a bunch unfinished that I start when I get the feels so maybe up to 3 this week!) so you’ll have something to read!

Ladies and gents,

Remember that there’s no such thing as can’t, and always live life to the max!

Rock climbing and other fun things!

So I made a post about someone’s article I read that basically talked about all the things you shouldn’t do on a date with someone in a wheelchair… Well ladies and gents, this month I will be rappelling down the side of a downtown building, again! Yep, last year was so much fun I decided to try again, this time I think I’ll strap my 30lb wheelchair to me, last year wasn’t dangerous enough! Well, there you have it.. Rappelling down a building, so there’s one part of climbing. Now to find a time when I’ll be able to go up! I’m finding that more and more every day that there are people who have said that people in wheelchairs will never do *insert various activity here*… As much as this bugs me, these people are awesome! So many ideas! Although admittedly I don’t think I’m going to put “Become PM” on my “To Do” list.  I recently met a guy who is running for city ward councillor in my area, great guy… actually, one of my listed heroes as of a couple years ago when I saw him on tv… and now he lives down the street. Yeah, that’s right! He just so happens to have two prosthetic legs below the knee and have an amazing attitude about everything!  I won’t go into too much detail (because some of you reading this already know who I’m talking about) but I’ll let you have that much, someone who has been through so much already is wanting to go back out and give more to society, and yet we live in a society where people who have physical difficulties are put down and treated differently… Does it still make sense to you?

This one’s a little shorter (since it’s my second post today) so I’ll let everyone get back to your daily happenings.

Please comment if you have an ability story of your own, or if your family member has one, have them check out this blog and comment their story! Here’s hoping everyone has a great day!

“What part of “I can do this” don’t you understand?”

All my life there’s been something to prove. Be it to a friend, my family, my school… and sometimes an entire baseball stadium filled with people including one of my best friends and some of my hockey idols.  I’ve been lucky enough to have a strong backing in my lifetime, one that continues to support me to this very day. I’ve attempted to do so many things and usually with little resistance.  Unfortunately in the late 90’s there were still (and I’m sure there are still some) people who see a wheelchair and automatically see can’t.  Man that word hurts to type.

So from a very young age I began to learn my abilities and how I was able to accomplish my goals. Getting up for school, showering, making breakfast… my later years were spent learning to shovel my ramp and part of the driveway (although usually the family will snowblow that for me) and even learning how not to become upset with a city bus driver who claims to “only be following the rules” by not allowing me on a half packed bus. Yep, I’ve seen it all.. I think. Oh and there’s nothing you can do about a driver who won’t ask 3 people to move and let you on. I’ve tried. Sometimes you’ll get the ones who will let you ask people, and sometimes you’ll even get drivers who will get up out of their seat and ask for you.

Sometimes there’s a matter of getting into stores or restaurants that have a step or two.. usually I can use the door frame to pull myself up no problem, unfortunately there is sometimes a step or landing before the door… but where there’s a will, there’s a way! Lots of places I’ve encountered either will help you in or have removable ramp platforms that allow for easy access! I do agree that lots of places need to move their ramps to the front and it’s time people in wheelchairs are no longer “the dirty little secret that have to go around back”. It’s great that so many places are stepping up to the plate and becoming much more accessible, not only to those in wheelchairs but also to those with walking difficulties as well!  All of these places are creating an ability awareness that will hopefully one day spread like wildfire! So many people are being included in so many different initiatives in so many cities in Canada that we are able to make a major difference and step up our game as a society. In my city there is a group of people trying to have a completely accessible baseball diamond installed, if you’d like to check them out go to “www.miracleleagueofottawa.ca”!

Hoping everyone has had a great day and if you have any inclusion, ability or other related stories, please share! Looking forward to hearing everyone’s point of view.

Quarter century and counting…

You’ll notice I’ve changed the username around a bit, please bear with me as it seems someone already has the original name. This one seems fitting until I can get my own site up and running. If you or someone you know is a web designer please contact me!

And now to today’s thoughts!

With time comes experience… or so it should. I mean, what’s a life without living? It’s a waste is what it is!  There are so many people who stop me and tell me how brave I am for coming out into the world in my condition.. or however they put it. I get it, they mean well; but if you really listen to their words.. it sounds pretty ignorant!

I mean… How many 24 years olds have met their heroes (all of them, all the living ones anyways), met one of their favourite bands after crowd surfing and being called up on stage, had their all-time favourite band send them a personalized signed CD when they were stuck in bed, have friends bring over cooked meals during the same time (Mmm… shepherd’s pie!), been able to watch their favourite hockey team live on many occasions(and most of the time from a box seat!), and not only see the team play in practice but also sit in for a team picture.. that’s right, A TEAM PICTURE! Have Chris Neil call me out by name, be saved by Daniel Alfredsson before falling before a puck drop, meeting Pat Quinn and Roy Mlakar and Roger Neilson and Jacques Martin and Jody Mitic and Rick Hansen and Luca Patuelli and even Max Keeping… But you know what… Society is sorry because all they see is what the media portrays.  Not all media, but the general media idea that people in wheelchairs are to be pitied.  What about guys like Rick Hansen or Stephen Hawking who have given so much to society, not because of their wheelchairs but because of who they are? Sure Rick probably wouldn’t have done the Man in Motion tour if he hadn’t gotten into that accident years back, but he would definitely be a philanthropist of some sort!  So I ask you my readers, what do you see that society can and should change when it comes to inclusion?

It’s long past time we start looking at everyone around us for what they can do for society and not what we assume they can’t do.
It’s time everyone begins to live in a society where there’s no such thing as can’t!

“Disability”, “Disabled” and other outdated words…

With every new generation comes new words. “Stoked”, “Rad”, and one of my least favourite 2010’s words… “bae”.  All of these words will come and go as a fad (oh look, another one!) and people will move forward, unfortunately there has always been a derogatory word used for different groups of people. Be it words like “cracker” or “redskin”, there is a derogatory word for every different physical appearance. Society is beginning to notice that these words that separate us are not okay to use.  Finding ways to teach the masses these things has proven difficult for many people, unfortunately people are comfortable with some language that is still derogatory to others; the words “disabled”, and “disability” are commonplace, used within government and society walls, and don’t seem like they’re going anywhere.

 

With these words taking front and centre more and more people are becoming okay with the idea that people who are labeled as such are unable and should all be placed into one basket.  Some people have the idea that anyone in a wheelchair is automatically socially behind, or that they have  a hard time finding a date and some believe that “they” have a difficulty learning in regular programs… None of these things are true for all people.  For people such as Rick Hansen or Luca Patuelli there have always been difficulties, unfortunately most of them are social.  Social difficulties because some people refuse to see ability and instead choose to see how people do things differently.