#AbleismIs (Fuck Ableism)

#AbleismIs

What’s the best way to maintain inequality? Never name the fire that fuels it. The best way to hog power and control? Keep people in the dark about the ways they’re being mistreated; be it by individuals or institutions. Tell them it’s their fault. Redefine their reality. Tell them they’re losing they’re mind, that they did this to themselves, over and over until they take it for truth.

I’ve been asked to define ableism multiple times in the last few months. Each time, my stomach clenches with fear and retreat, as many different instances unfold themselves in my mind’s eye. I can’t. I think, almost instinctually. Putting the complexities of my daily life into tangible, understandable terms of oppression feels all-too-intense.

As intense as unacknowledged oppressions are, silence is worse. Silence is harmful. Silence manifests more ableism. I’m done with silence, and below is some of the ableism I experience. Add your experiences with ableism, so we can paint a fuller picture together, and hopefully dispel the power held by silence and ambiguity.

#AbleismIs a contradiction, a trap, that constantly invalidates people with disabilities and then tells them to get over their disabilities, be different, erase parts of themselves, look more ‘normal’

#AbleismIs the belief that disabilities are an excuse, born out of laziness or incompetency.

#Ableism says that disabled people are liars and/or criminals. Its baseline asserts that we could work but don’t, and if we are able to work, are scamming government funds and resources if we still have physical or monetary needs. #burdenofproof.

#Ableism locks disabled people up in institutions, presently, in many countries around the world. In Canada, the last known(abusive) institution was shut down in 2009.

#AbleismIs the assumption that everyone wants to be able-bodied,

#AbleismIs the belief that disabled people are less-than.

Systemically, #AbleismIs the structural oppression that legitimizes our poverty, unemployment, isolation, and general lack of well being. #Ableism justifies these inequalities by calling us inefficient, undeserving.

#Ableism glorifies our helpers as saints, while ignoring our names and stories.

#AbleismIs the reason why so many men still ask me if I can have sex.

#AbleismIs the reason those same men ask, “but how?”

#Ableism is this online dating text:

Screenshot 2015-11-10 16.54.55

Right. Because POF is where you find people to climb Mount Everest with.

#Ableism (internalized) tells me that I should not have other friends in wheelchairs, or with disabilities of any kind. It says that I’ve worked so hard to overcome my disability (eye roll), and thus shouldn’t have to associate with other PwDs.

#Ableism (internalized) whispers that I’m too good to date other PwD, because that’s all society expects of me and I better ‘do better’.

#Ableism (internalized) makes me a snob, isolates me from my own community.

#Ableism (internalized) makes me uncomfortable with disclosing my disability to those I’ll never see face-to-face, for fear they’ll start questioning my competency/legitimacy as a person, once discovering that I’m disabled.

#Ableism expects me to talk louder.

#Ableism wants me to learn in a standardized way.

#Ableism makes no time for mental health/sick days.

#AbleismIs the reason I didn’t know what ableism was until I was 24.

And maybe worst of all, #AbleismIs what’s made me think all these negatives are simply, “the cards I’ve been dealt.”

#AbleismIs never going to acknowledge that I was born with less spoons than ablebodied people, and #Ableism will never note that that does not make me less-than, but in fact gives me a greater filter against bullshit and time-wasting.

#AbleismIs the reason the rate of suicide for disabled people is estimated to be much higher than those of the “average” population.

#AbleismIs the reason those suicide stats are so well-hidden.

#AbleismIs the pity-smile from the passerbys at the grocery store.

#AbleismIs hiding my learning differences, because my physical differences are already too much to handle.

#Ableism causes closeted-living.

#Ableism teaches us that ablebodied people’s time is of more value than ours, that their lives matter more than ours, and that we should be grateful we are alive.

#AbleismIs ignoring or invalidating invisible disabilities.

#AbleismIs refusing to believe in the legitimacy of our disabilities.

#Ableism is, “You have brain damage? Well, you seem really smart.”

#AbleismIs the “R-word,” because when you use that word, you dissociate from the humanity of people with intellectual disabilities.

#Ableism says that I don’t understand how my body works.

#Ableism says my body is broken/deformed/tragic/something to gawk over.

#AbleismIs why I felt ugly as soon as I hit puberty.

#AbleismIs why I eventually decided “Fuck that, I’m pretty.”

#Ableism assumes that institutions know my priorities, and what’s best for me.

#AbleismIs responsible for the medicalization and dehumanization of my body.

#Ableism still regularly tells me I’m stupid, not good enough, and should just take what I can get out of life.

#Ableism hurts.

That’s all I have right now. My goal is to make a comprehensive list depicting what ableism looks like for all sorts of people, so contribute if you feel comfortable. Tell me, what does ableism mean to you?

Additions to #AbleismIs From Other PwD:

Jennifer Clayton says: “Ableism is…doctors telling me to find another doctor because they don’t treat people with “multiple problems.”

Ableism treats me like a dumb child, and is surprised I’ve had any accomplishments.

Ableism thinks I should be cured by now, or dead.

Ableism thinks I should apologize.

Ableism can suck it!”

Andrew Morrison-Gurza says: “#ableismis CP Warriors. Why are we fighting our disabilities and not embracing them? “
Point of reference:
 TIFFANY GRACE
Andrew also says: “‪#‎AbleismIS‬: Not knowing how to take things slow or create boundaries, because as PwD, we are rarely given the opportunity to experience consistency.”                                                                                                                                                                               Anne Killpack says: “#ableismis feeling like I have to be polite about not getting basic civil rights others get.

 #ableismis when a sign says dogs are welcome at the cafe that doesn’t let wheelchairs in.”

 Katie Calahan says: “[#ableismis ] When someone aggressively “insists” on “helping” me after I’ve politely refused their un-needed assistance several times! [#ableismis ]When my disabled friends tell me about the things they “can never have.” [Can-never-haves include],  “I’ll never get married” “I’ll never have a family” “I want to (career goal), but I’ll never be able to do that.”                                                                                                                                                                      
Odat Dbd says,: “[#ableismis ]the assumption that just because I don’t “look sick” I must be faking it. Naw man. I’m faking being well.”
Frank says:[#ableismis ] We are disabled not due to lack of our willpower, but, because society refuses to enable us. How can I compete fairly in a job market where 90% of the buildings where I COULD work, are not physically accessible to me?
Cheryl Green says: #AbleismIs the teacher complaining to me that it’s not fair I didn’t tell her I had a disability before enrolling in her class.
#AbleismIs The teachers telling me and the one other disabled student the accommodations they made for us without asking which ones we wanted or needed. And getting defensive when we told them the accommodations they chose for us felt unfair and awkward.
#AbleismIs asking me to wait for the whole rest of the class to get applause at the presentation, and then I can join them at the end.
#AbleismIs My mom reassuring me, “Well, at least you still have your intelligence” and not being able to explain what that meant when I asked her.
Send me your examples of ableism, at williamskristen519@ymail.com. Let me know if you’d like to remain anonymous.
                                                                                                                                                Recently, a group of black women with disabilities released a blog post called, “Black Women on Wheels: 6 Things You Need to Know,” The piece flies flat in the face of ableism, discusses the weight and shape of disability, and how it interacts with race and overall identity. It’s worth checking out if your looking for a little empowerment in light of all this ableism.

Why Some Women Hold Back on Sharing Their #WhyIStayed Stories

There are all these moving stories about escaping abusive relationships floating around the internet. They are all unique, and poignant, and hopefully bring better understanding to what abusive relationships are actually like.

But for every woman telling her story of abuse, there are probably two others holding back on sharing theirs. Statistically, 1 in 3 women will experience some form of abuse in their life—be it physical, emotional or sexual—which often go hand-in-hand. This means that a big chunk of the population has a story about the time they had their dignity, their sanity, and their safety stripped away from them, and yet they keep their struggles quiet.

Today, I don’t really want to talk about why women avoid their stories of abuse (even after they’re free), but I will, because awareness.So here are some reasons not to talk about abuse, even after it’s over:

Reliving is terrible. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. A major deterrent in women avoiding the #WhyIStayed stories is because it involves thinking about one of the most scary, gut-wrenching, confusing, angering, taxing times of their lives. Even if it happened to you—especially if it happened to you—it’s a really big pill to swallow, and nearly fucking impossible to think about. True story: I still can’t think about it in its proper context. When I try, I think about tons of reasons why it wasn’t actually that bad, just so I can remember what happened fully. I often wonder if I was just young and the relationship was tumultuous. If I had been more emotionally mature, smarter, prettier, ablebodied, it wouldn’t have happened. Deep down, I know it wouldn’t have mattered if I was as enlightened as a Zen Master, or as pretty as Megan Fox, all the horrible shit would’ve happened anyway, short from walking away sooner or never meeting him. (Imagine?!).

There’s also the beautiful phenomenon of blocking, which a lot of people employ after shitty things happen to them. It does wonders for daily function, and can even delete things from your personal history if enough time passes. Great for some aspects of coping, not-so-great for sharing your story of mistreatment.

Victim Status. Once you disclose that this stuff has happened to you, a veil of sadness drapes itself all over your otherwise happy relationships. You watch as the person’s eyes digest your past, as they sit up straighter, tightening their jaw and say, “You don’t have to tell me this if you’re uncomfortable,” What they (maybe unknowingly) mean to say (probably?) is that you’re making them uncomfortable with the weight of your secrets.

Victim status, whether you want it or not, pushes a lot of people away. You’re one of those girls, who’s likely have a ton of baggage, and for whom there must be a reason all that bad stuff has happened.

Disbelief. Every time I read about one of the women who has come forward with her story, I catch myself looking for all the things she could’ve done differently: “Oh, she could’ve left, here, here, or here and she wouldn’t be in this sticky sitch.” I hear her talk about the early signs of being in a controlling relationship, and I think, “Didn’t she find it strange?” As if I’ve never been there. As if I don’t get it. I wonder, just like many people, how she let this happen? And, surely, she could’ve nipped it in the bud. What scares me about this is that I fucking know what it’s like, and I’m still inclined to question, be skeptical of woman sharing their souls. If someone who knows, way down, how this stuff happens, doubts the woman for her role in the events, what does that mean for how the rest of the world sees them?

Can’t leave it at the door. Being severely mistreated for years is not something anyone just up-and-leaves, physically or emotionally. Telling your story about it solidifies that. If you ever find voice to talk about it, either generally or specifically, it becomes more and more real (and less and less deniable) with every detail.   And you’ll have to take that with you, into your next relationships. It’s likely that your whole worldview morphed to match your abusive situation, and that never (I presume) goes away. You’’ll spend a long time (maybe forever?) waiting for the “other shoe to drop” in your new and old friendships and relationships, the way it did in your abusive one. This stuff, it doesn’t leave you. And knowing that can throw you back into denial harder than whiplash on Space Mountain.

Safety is another huge reason I’d imagine some women aren’t sharing. Sometimes even whispering the words “He’s hitting me,” can mean tons of danger. I didn’t address it here because the focus is mostly on emotional bounds that keep woman from disclosing, even after the abuse has dissipated.

So, next time you read a #WhyIStayed story, try to believe it with your whole heart, and if you want to put things into perspective, think of all the women who aren’t sharing. Commend all the women who are sharing—they are fucking heroes, but be mindful of those who aren’t there yet–they’re on their own journey.

#DisabilityPrivilege

For all my bitching about disability struggles, I could stand to blog a bit about disability privilege. No, I’m not talking about getting the parking spot closest to the mall door, or front row seats at movies(though those are definite situational perks), I mean the different ways in which different physical disabilities dictate how we are seen by others. Here, I’ve arranged these in a chart, because, easy:

Societal Hierarchy Of Disability

 disabilityhierarchy

Before everybody goes ape snatch over my essentialist pyramid, allow me to make a cluster of disclaimers. Firstly, I made this up, just now…like everything I post here, unless otherwise sourced. Secondly, I am acutely aware of the troubling affects of generalizations, and issues around defining words like “slight,”I use this for definitive purposes only. Thirdly, acquired disability (caused usually by injury or accident, not from birth), can be worse physically than many Forever Disabilities (I term I came up with, to describe disabilities had since birth, that are never ever ever going away) but I think societal approaches to acquired disability are a little less condescending, which I’ll discuss. Quatro: This post will only address social views of disabilities, and how certain attitudinal changes happen with different disabilities. It is NOT (Never! Not at all!) a reflection of the disabilities themselves or the people that live with them. This pyramid is to meant to raise questions, bring about brain synapses, and maybe start mouths flapping. Let’s talk about it.

Claiming Personal Privilege

Of course, my vantage point as a person in the second -to-bottom category brings about an inescapable personal bias—and that’s also where a lot of my privilege comes in. So let me disclose quickly, in the interest of fully “claiming” privilege. I’m a white girl, who lives in Canada, and doesn’t need to have her parents help her with personal care. I’m mildly conventionally attractive (Thin? Nice teeth? Apparently I’m also conceited.), and I have full verbal capacities. I’m also educated and have part time employment at my disposal. I’m pretty damn privileged.

CP Privilege,

Since Cerebral Palsy is my story, I’ll use it as a starting point. Ever since undergrad, my friend Andrew and I have titled our type CP the “jackpot” of disabilities. It’s not, actually, we were ignorant fools in undergrad (ok well, at least I was). But there are a few positives to this disability as I experience it:

  • Some of the symptoms of CP, such as rigidity and muscle spasms, can be improved through therapy. If therapy is maintained (hah. No.) then your ability level can increase a fair amount, relative to how you define fair and the severity of your CP. It’s like Choose Your Own Adventure for disabled fitness.
  • People often think you’re paralyzed. Again, limited to my type of CP, which is experienced mainly in my legs, but not actually, it just takes a while longer to notice the other weird spasms happening everywhere. Keep in mind that I have “full” mental capabilities and am markedly free of speech-impediment. As such, I often “pass” as someone who used to be able, but no longer is. This is great while it lasts, as most people don’t question your intelligence when they think you once walked. Which brings me to…

Acquired Disability Privilege

I can only tell you what I know from being mistaken as paraplegic. A few years ago a coworker of mine approached me, saying he had a personal question. He sat down, slouched comfortably in front of me and said, “You take really good care of yourself and you seem to like it here. You’re always pleasant, but I…” He trailed off.

Anticipating his question I said, “You won’t offend me, just ask.” (OOPS, YOU’RE IN MY BLOG.) He laughed nervously and then said, “You’re accident must’ve been hard to deal with.”

I smiled and explained that I wasn’t paralyzed, but that depriving my brain of oxygen at birth was probably pretty rough. I told him I was born too early, that my brain had taken the bulk of it, and that brain damage was the result. In the milliseconds that followed, I watched him go from confused, to understanding, back to confused, to generally awkward. He shifted in his seat and said the ever-famous, “But you’re sharp…and good at your job.” When people say this, I have half-a-mind to punch them, but they mean no harm, and some people that have CP are affected intellectually, so a simple, “my intellect is intact” is usually all they get.

Point is, in finding out I didn’t used to walk, this guy started doubting my intellect, and my capabilities. It no longer made sense to him that I could excel without having been a walkie. And in a way, that’s acquired disability privilege.

Severe, Purely Physical Forever Disability Privilege

Say what? I see this newly-made-up category as those people that have severe physical disabilities, from birth to beyond. Generally, when society finishes treating them as a tragedy (as is sometimes incurred with many and most physical disabilities), they can then move on to doing whatever they do, without questions about intelligence, because their disability is purely physical.

I’m stopping there, because I don’t fit this category, and writing as if I know a damned thing is causing me to break into a nervous sweat. I do not want to minimize other barriers that those failing into this category may face, only to mention that when your disability is “purely physical” (as mine is not) I should hope that people don’t constantly question your noodle’s capacity. Noodle.

And here lies the end of this likely offensive post. If you take nothing else away from this, I hope to stir your mental cauldron on how different disabilities are received and perceived. Thoughts welcome.

ALS Awareness: Know Why You’re Freezing Your Butt Off

A lot of people are jumping on board the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, ‘cuz it’s a weird, wild, trendy chance to give to charity. Some people that do this are all, “Hey, that’s what Stephen Hawking has, yeah? That guy’s a genius, pour some ice on me.” Others think, “Jeeze. ALS kills people? Gimme that bucket.” In the midst of all the freezing madness, a lot of the facts about ALS are being forgotten, omitted, or minimized. In light of this, let’s put down our buckets and talk about ALS, the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge, and what it means as a fundraising trend.

 What is ALS?

Here’s my really basic, really brief summary of ALS. It’s part of a group of neural-motor disorders, which I secretly wish would also be represented in all the awareness-raising with ice. More on that in a bit.

ALS–properly called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis –-is a motor neuron disease, which affects voluntary muscle groups. In overly simple terms, ALS wrecks motor neurons, which the body uses to send signals of muscle movement between the body and brain. This means that the brain-body communication becomes distorted, slowed, and eventually halted, leaving the person  paralyzed in many areas of voluntary movement.   The disease is degenerative, and fatal, and often marked for its rapid progression, as those diagnosed with it are expected to live only 2 to 5 more years. As far as frequency goes, it is estimated that there are 30,000 people living with ALS at any given time. It should also be mentioned that ALS has a genetic component, with 7% of people living with the disease having family members that also had it.

Expanding Our Knowledge: Other  Related Disabilities

ALS preys on the neurons that communicate between your brain and body. And while it’s an ugly beast, it’s not the only one. There are 6 other classifiable motor neuron diseases, of honorable, shitty mention. I’m writing them in the shortest way possible here, so that you’ll get a general feel for commonalities in motor neuron disabilities, and hopefully see why Science (not just the ALS association, exclusively), needs more money to both learn about this  and other diseases.

PLS (Primary Lateral Sclerosis) This big guy can often be confused for ALS in its initial diagnoses, as first symptoms may look the same. Unlike ALS though, atrophy (the waning of muscle tone)is not common, as PLS mainly affects the neurons in the Cerebral Cortex, which progressively die, causing slowed and eventually stopped fine and gross motor abilities (and increased spasms and rigidity) in people with the disease. The progression is much slower than ALS, and people living with PLS often live 20 more years with the disease.

PMA (Progressive Muscular Atrophy) This one hones in on lower motor neurons only. This means that unlike the above PLS, upper motor neurons, such as the ones found in the Cerebral Cortex, are left untouched. Symptoms present as weakness and atrophy, with no spasms or rigidity present.

Progressive Bulbar Palsy This jerk sometimes turns into ALS, apparently. It is characterized by the slow degeneration of the brain stem. The prominent feature is that it ruins the nerves that control the face, tongue and throat, resulting in difficulty speaking, swallowing and chewing, with limb function difficulties likely to happen later on.

Yes please.

Post-Polio Syndrome In case you’d like a frame of reference, the guy who inspired the movie The Sessions (Mark O’brien, not John Hawkes) died from this in real life. Thanks to vaccinations, this disease has largely gone extinct, and is no longer fatal in most cases. When it does linger around, it only bothers those who’ve had Polio before, attacking whatever neuron activity might still be allowing them to move.

Kennedy’s Disease Here’s one I’ve never heard of before (reassuring, right?). This disease mainly affects men, and is highly genetic, as it is caused by genetic mutations that influence the Androgen Receptor. Because of this very specific effect, symptoms in men are erectile dysfunction, breast development, and atrophy of the testicles. It is not life-threatening, and only some people with it end up having to use a wheelchair due to other weaknesses, according to the inter-webs.

SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) This fucking asshole of a disease affects the uptake of the muscle-building protein, SMN, as well as lower neuron motor functioning. This results in a lot of muscle weakening and wasting away, attacking the major muscle groups before the smaller ones. It has differing severities and 3 different types, and is very commonly diagnosed in kids. Later onset SMA is called Kugelberg-Welander Disease. SMA frequently falls under the Muscular Dystophy (so many muscular diseases…) umbrella too, because like MD, the muscles are affected due to a lack of a certain protein.

The bottom line here is that, while all these diseases differ from  ALS, it’s important that we know where ALS fits in the puzzle, and to be aware that all of these diseases need further donations, understanding, and research. As you can see, 4 out of 6 types of motor neuron diseases are fatal. In the interest of well-rounded awareness, I’d encourage everybody throwing ice on themselves to think about how the people living with these diseases are impacted. Maybe contemplate how you would feel if suddenly your brain peaced-out on your body, and the ways it would change you(read: slow paralysis, dependence, etc). Don’t just do the ice dump for the sake of hard nipples, think about why you’re doing it.

I was gonna write about the disability/charity narrative coming through all of this icy noise, but I guess that’s another post.

Wheelchair Bathrooms: Because Peeing Your Pants Sucks

Great news: A group of people in Ottawa are finally pushing for more wheelchair accessible bathrooms.  While the initiative is still (very) small, it gives me great hope that this issue is actually being talked about.

Obviously, my personal situation biases me in favour of lighting a fire for this cause. It’s no secret that much of my life revolves around the availability of a wheelchair accessible bathroom. In fact, if I’m going somewhere where I know said bathroom doesn’t exist, I’ll purposely dehydrate myself to avoid a problem. If I don’t have enough notice to do this, I often just bail altogether, claiming sudden illness or simply going radio silent for the night.

It’s funny to me then, when people act like accessible washrooms are some sort of added bonus in a place that already calls itself wheelchair accessible. Like “Oh look! A ramp. Oh, and you can pee too! Tonight’s gonna rock.” Do ablebodied people high-five each other when they realize they don’t have to pee in a bush, because civilization provides them with stalls? Accessible bathrooms should not be treated as an option, or an added treat on top of other accessibility features. They are a necessity for many PwD, for comfort, hygiene and  societal inclusion.

Blame the wheelie?

Blame the wheelie?

Thankfully, some lovely movers and shakers have finally taken this issue under their wing, beginning with pushing for accessible bathrooms in Ottawa’s core and in our up-and-coming LRT stations. As it stands, legislation only requires accessible bathrooms at the start and end of the rapid transit routes, with nothing wheelchair friendly at the stops inbetween.Ideally, the group , who goes by the name GottaGo! would like to see an accessible bathroom at the stations along the way, as this benefits PwD, parents with young children, people with intestinal struggles, and senior citizens.

Time is of the essence, as with many social issues, and GottaGo! is looking for as many signatures as possible by the end of August. Please click around and sign the petition here. If you want more info, email me or leave a comment. GottaGo! is always looking for allies,  and people who want to get involved. It’s for the good of bladders everywhere.

You Should Know About Rideau Regional

Many of us modern-day humans make the mistake of assuming old-fashioned injustice is behind us, at least in our part of the world. Unfortunately, current settlement cases , like the one involving Rideau Regional, remind us that this just isn’t true.

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Rideau Regional Centre in Smith Falls, and its sister facilities, Southwestern Regional and Huronia Regional Centre are finally being exposed. The three institutional housing units, which  housed people with developmental and/or physical disabilities, are being held to claims of abuse of their residents. After numerous complaints, as well as documented evidence, the institutions were shut down as late as 2009, and Ontario’s government is paying for their sins by way of financial settlement.

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Rideau Regional Centre, Smith Falls

It is reported that many of the  residents that lived at any of the three facilities faced physical, sexual, verbal or psychological abuse, during dates ranging from 1945-2009 (depending on which house the resident lived in). Examples of the incurred mistreatment include, inhumane treatment and abuse at the hands of some of the staff, including physical and mental punishment for “acting out,” unnecessarily locking rooms to create a prison-like environment; unnecessarily medicating residents, refusing to allow residents to bathe regularly, and forcing residents to work without pay.” Claims of sexual abuse are also being made by residents, many of whom were children when the assaults took place. 

The Class Action also involves allegations that the provincial government is at fault for turning a blind eye to known and ongoing abuse. Simply put, the government knew about the living conditions and mistreatment of the residents, and ignored it. This claim has been backed by statements made by the Ministry of Health, and the Provincial Secretary for Social Development, both of which detail abuse, neglect and overcrowding as early as 1971.

Rideau Regional was so overcrowded that it housed 2,600 people (at its population peak) when it was only made to hold 1,500 individuals. In fact, since 1967, over 50,000 people have lived at facilities like Rideau, Huronia and Southwest. Finally, in 2010, former Rideau resident David McKillop stepped forward and initiated the lawsuit, claiming sexual and other forms of abuse happened to him and other residents, at the hands of Rideau staff. Since McKillop’s allegations,  a class suit has formed, under the legal direction of Koskie Minsky, LLP.

Currently, people that lived at Rideau or the other two sites are being asked to state the abuse they suffered, and are being promised a minimum of $2,000 in compensation for documenting the mistreatment incurred. The 25-paged claims form categorizes abuse severity, with the most severe instances of abuse warranting $35,000 to $42,000.

Arch Disability Law Centre (We have a law centre?! ) is currently assisting with filing claims. All claims must be made by August 5, 2014. For more information, use Google.

The Crumple Zone Doubles as the Wheelie Seat on the Train

It’s common knowledge that vehicles  have “crumple zones”– areas that are designed to crumple in the event of a crash, taking on most of the impact. Structurally, a car’s crumple zones are at the front and back of the vehicle, meaning that these areas handle the outside force while the middle, where the passengers and their dogs/luggage/groceries sit, is built with more rigidity making it most protected from impact.

What’s less commonly known is that trains have these sections too, only with rail transit it’s a lot tougher to identify areas that should be protected and areas that should give under pressure.  Complaints have been made about crumple zones being in the engineer’s area, making them at more risk of death in an accident. The build of passenger trains, with their long, narrow mid sections, short beaks, and abrupt cabooses don’t leave much extra crumple room in the event of a crash.

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But the smack of an outside force has to go somewhere, and if you guessed that the crumple zone of a train was originally at the back where the bathrooms, coatracks and disabled people  go, you’d be smack on. In 2003, there was a bit of an outrage over this revelation, not necessarily because wheelies sat there, but because people where worried about the poor schmuck pinching a loaf during an accident. In the intelligent words of Council for Canadians with Disabilities lawyer, David Baker, “So if you’re sitting on the can and an accident occurs, you’re a goner.”

The now-archived articles covering the issue plead for accessible bathrooms, which had yet to be installed in Via Rail trains, and more isle space for guide dogs. They assert that disabled people and everyone else who cares about the safety of humanity, are actually backing for change on the same problem,”They’ve issued an order saying you’ve got to change the washrooms, which is what we’re saying except we’re adding you’ve got to make them accessible,” Transport Canada guy Brian McGregor  said.

I’ve scoured the internet looking for updates or proof of re-allotted crumple zones on Via, with no success. I’m assuming relevant bosses and CEOs had multiple meetings in a rush to resolve this issue, which could’ve easily found its way to a courtroom But just to be safe, I’m thinking of ordering myself a bubble suit (and an extra vodka)  next time I travel the rails.