Personal Leadership & Being the Difference

This being the week of International Women’s Day and the Paralympics, it seems only fitting to talk about courage and making a difference. International Women’s Day started on March 8, 1911 so next year will be the centennial of women’s right to vote.  Last summer I visited Seneca Falls, New York where the 1848 First Women’s Rights Convention was held. There is an outstanding Visitor Centre with exhibits featuring the history, culture and society that these leaders struggled against to win their rights.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were beaten, alienated, castigated and still they fought on together and as a result led the way to winning social and legal rights for women.

In Alberta, Canada, Emily Murphy was one of the Famous Five (among them Nellie McClung) who in 1929 fought and won a legal and political battle to have women declared as Persons under the British North American Act.  The actions these brave women took in their communities and cities impacted on their nations and the entire world.  They embodied "Think Globally, Act Locally".

As I was preparing and writing this blog piece, an incident appeared in the news yesterday, March 10, about a Canadian wheelchair-bound man who was savagely beaten in Australia by two teenaged boys. It’s horrifying to hear about such violence and abuse of human rights.   It speaks of 2 boys who see this man as different, as an Other, of their extreme lack of respect and dignity towards another human being and it speaks too of their own fears.  They clearly cannot relate to  the possibility that they too could be using an assistive device during their lives – their fear of perceived vulnerability or weakness emboldened their act of violence.

How timely and ironic that this happens in the days preceding the Paralympics.  What a powerful indication that we have a lot to do to address ableism.  Terry Fox, Rick Hansen and many others have inspired and educated Canadians.  Their personal leadership and courage to fight for this important cause has shifted the Canadian social landscape and perception of disability.

My dream and vision for Toronto, Canada is that the city will be accessible by anyone who uses a wheelchair, scooter, walker, crutches, cane or assistive device.  Every curb, entrance, washroom, subway, bus, theatre, restaurant and building would be accessible by everyone. Wouldn’t that be an amazing city to live in? One thing that is sure to promote healthy living, healthy aging, healthy communities and inclusion is having access to whatever you want to do and wherever you choose to go.

Here are a few accessibility-related resources - some are Canada-specific and some are more general - please let me know if there are any others that you'd recommend:

I’ll be watching the Paralympics opening ceremonies tomorrow.  I’m salivating with the anticipation of being glued to the television over the next 10 days to witness yet again the daring feats of athleticism and determination.   Lovin’ Olympian Courage!