Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Days in England

1. Having "Camp Gaydar" in our front yard.
2. Eating my toast with Utterly Butterly on it.
3. Hearing people voice their opinions passionately at Speakers' Corner at High Park.
4. Absorbing the culture, beauty and history of the country by going on the boat tour of the
Thames; visiting Hampton Court and the Tower of London; seeing the Royal Pavillion in
5. Going to Cambridge Pub and having ale and fish & chips. My dad may or may not have liked
ale (I'm not sure), but he ate fish & chips every Saturday for 48 years while he was married to
my mom. Eating fish & chips with vinegar and salt & pepper like he used to do made me happily
6. Sitting in the park with people on old-fashioned wooden lawn chairs.
7. Laughing with Sarah & Rob, Catherine & Leon, about the most ridiculous things.
8. The fact that all of the galleries and museums are free, relying only on donations to keep them
running. And that there are so many bookstores in the neighbourhood. Such a country that
focusses upon knowledge and culture can't be all bad.
9. Aero mint Bubbles.
10. "Mind the Gap" knickers.
What I loved and will miss about England (Part 2)

My Days in England

4. I'll sincerely miss the transportation system. The people who run the trains were so friendly, respectful and helpful. At every stop there was a person waiting for me with a ramp, and they told us that it was against the law for a person with a disability to not be accommodated.

All buses were accessible and free for both my attendant and I. And, the bus driver did not have to get out to pull out the ramp, he just pushed a button to release it.

And there is no Wheel Trans, you just hop in a cab because most of them were accessible. And the cab drivers were far more respectful than the drivers Wheel Trans hires.

Once I get back to Toronto I am going to lobby for more accessible transportation. There is no reason why we can't get the same kinds of accessibility--and respect!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Days in England

3. Seeing all (well, most) of the sights I wanted to see. Hampton Court, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Themes Boat Tour, Brighton Boardwalk, the Royal Pavillion. I'm exhausted but overjoyed.

My Days in England

2. Having a fellow artist like Sarah made this trip lots of fun!

We were interested in similar things, like going to galleries and doing our own artwork in parks and in our flat.

(By the way, I thought it was fantastic that the statue featured within the main entrance of National Gallery was of a pair of lovers, both of whom
had disabilities.)

My Days in England

1. Being with my darling Rob and getting to spend a lot more quality time with him.
What I liked and will miss about England... (Part One)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Days in England

Today FREEDOM! The lift is fixed!!!!!!!!!!! I went out in my own power wheelchair and painted in Soho Park all afternoon.

My Days in England

Tuesday Sarah & I went with Catherine & Leon to Brighton. It was chilly, dull, and windy, but it was definitely one of the most fun days Sarah & I have had so far. Being with Catherine & Leon is kind of like being with a husband and wife comedy team. They kept us in stitches all afternoon and evening.

The four of us walked on the boardwalk to the pier. Catherine, Sarah & I bought a hairband each to keep the wild wind from blowing our hair. And, I also bought a ring and a necklace as souveniers.

We saw the Royal Pavillion, which was really beautiful, and then we had dinner at a restaurant called Pinocchio's. That was kind of cool because as a kid Pinocchio was my favourite story of all time.

All in all, a brilliant day - except (duh-duh-DUH!) Sarah and I came within centimeters of dying in a taxicab going back to our flat. There was traffic and our driver was trying to get us home quick, but he almost cut off another cab. Then the other driver got very pissed off and started chasing us, it was like something out of a movie. They stopped, and the other driver hurled insults at our driver. Fortunately nothing came out of it, and Sarah and I got back alive.

My Days in England

Monday Sarah & I went to see the Tower of London. It was cool, man! I could feel all the ghosts, including poor Anne Boleyn.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Days in England

My Days in England

Despite this nasty manual wheelchair, I've still managed to get out and have fun! Sarah and I have been painting in Soho Square park, and went to two art galleries. Yesterday Rob joined us and we went to Hyde Park, then we had dinner in a quaint little Italian restaurant.

There is no roll-in show here, but I need to keep clean or my roommates will think, "throw her out!" So, I put my commode chair in the bath tub and it worked out great! See, even when you're told it is not accessible it can still be made accessible.
And now for some nudity....

Friday, August 15, 2008

My Days in England

Ok, so maybe England isn't perfect after all.

Let me explain. First. there was the problem of not being able to charge my power wheelchair for the first 3 days due to the fact that there's a different voltage system from North America compared to that of Europe. Thankfully, the problem got solved when Sarah bought a Universal Charger from a wheelchair store. Cheers, Sarah!

I thought that was the end of the problems, but no such luck. Rob had gone out in the morning to the store and came back with some news: the lift was broken and they (the people who run the building) didn't think it would be fixed much before next Wednesday. Wednesday, I thought - trapped like a rat for 6 days! Eek!

I became frustrated, panicstricken, and depressed all in one shot. All my life, I had dreamed of coming to England and discovering my heritage. Now, I was faced with being imprisoned within the flat's walls, missing everything I had been yearning to see for years!

But, what upset me the most was the attitude of the people who run this building. When Sarah called down, they gave no sign at all of any empathy for our predicament. They seemed only to care about covering their asses, saying: "Well, we didn't really want to rent to Ms. Abbott, but Mr. Marr talked us into it. We're not actually 'wheelchair accessible'."

That comment drove me nuts! I've been living here since Monday, and, although the lift and doorways are kind of snug, it is definitely do-able. In my humble opinion, it is accessible. In fact, compared to my home it is much more spacious. In my humble opinion, my apartment is even less accessible.

Well, anyway, since I began this entry, there have been good things happening! I've rented a manual wheelchair, which will be far easier to leave the flat in, and the people who run the building have agreed to reimburse me for it. Yahoo!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Days in England

So, Hampton Court won out. It was great too! I got to feel Henry the 8th's presence and it was so cool when four of the staff sang Happy Birthday to me! More later, Sarah and I are going out to paint the the town...literally!

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Days in England

Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to go to England. Why, you may ask? Well, for one, all four of my great grand parents came to Canada from England, and that fact always made me curious about the land that they left. Also, my mom told me the story about Henry the 8th and his six wives, and as a kid i thought it was pretty cool. I mean, how horrendous, but still somehow cool. Well, anyway, this instilled in me a curiosity about the history of England.

I am in England right now. I'm so happy! I'm here with my dear husband Rob and my good friend Sarah, and we're all here to celebrate my 50th birthday tomorrow. Woooohooooo, I'm so happy! I finally got here. Already it feels like I belong here.

We're staying at a fantastic flat in Soho. My good friends Catherine and Leon recommended it to me and today they helped us get settled in. In fact they took me on a bit of a tour of the town. I'm not sure what we're going to end up doing for my birthday tomorrow. Brighton or Hampton Court -- flip a coin!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Memories of Montreal

My time in Montreal was both good and bad. I mean, partying every night with Lenny, Nora, Kim Aaron & Sarah was great and fun! And, finding out that I had inspired a young boy named Liam, who, like me, had CP and was an AAC User, to become an artist felt fantastic!

His mother explained to me that Liam had always liked to paint but decided to quit because he didn't feel that his work was as good as other kids'. However, when Liam saw me doing a painting demonstration, 2 years ago at the ICE (Independence Community Empowerment) conference, it instilled in him a desire to try painting again. In fact, since then, Liam paints every day, sometimes for hours at a time!

Isn't that a fantastic story?! I feel so overwhelmed that I, little ol' Anne Abbott, actually inspired somebody to stretch their artistic inclinations.

And that, my dear readers leads me to compare this wonderful story to the not so great stuff that happened during the conference.

Why is it that in recent months I've gone to 2 different conferences, both focusing on empowering people with disabilities and providing them with a better quality of life - and yet, the people running these conferences seem to be doing everything in their power to dissuade people with disabilities from coming and having their say.

I was fortunate. My hotel, transportation, and registration were all paid for, and I got a small honourarium for being part of 2 presentations. However, my friend Aaron, although he had friends who paid for his hotel and transportation, didn't have any funding to pay for the conference registration fees. He was told it would be $120.00 for the whole 6 days, but then he got there and he was told no, no, it's $180.00 a day! What person with a disability, who lives on the meagre amount that we receive from ODSP each month, could afford $180.00 a day? It's ridiculous!

And then, Aaron got a ticket to the "President's Reception", a special event with drinks, hors deurvs, and mingling. Great, right? Sure, except that Aaron needed his attendant (Sarah) to go in with him and help him eat. They said, no, no, your attendant needs to pay $60.00 to get into the reception. They seemed very firm upon this point, until Lenny & I yelled out how discriminating it was! Trains and buses let attendants ride for free or at reduced cost, because they know the importance of an attendant to a person with a disability. Recently, in Canada, it became law that attendants could fly free, on domestic flights, so the person with a disability wouldn't have the extra burden of paying for an extra ticket.

Yes, I know, conferences are now saying that it's difficult, financially, to do things like they used to. I say nonsense! Re-think your strageties! Nothing is set in stone. Maybe choose cheaper hotels, ask the vendors to pay a slightly higher price to show their wares, have a sliding scale for people on ODSP or little money.

My point is, people with disabilities, about whom these conferences centre around, should be encouraged to participate not discouraged. I want to inspire other people with my art, and I want to get inspired by them. This is what conferences should be: an exchange of ideas - an accessible exchange of ideas!

Memories of Montreal

Bonjour! I'm back from my 5-day trip to Montreal. Here's some pics Lenny & I took. (By the way, as you may notice from the pics I finally have my own wheelchair back! Yahoo!)