DISABILITY IS ABOUT PEOPLE, NOT POLITICS

My high school history teacher said there would come a time that I’d need to understand politics. And although I know bits and pieces of governmental bodies and systems, I can’t participate in dinner table discussions or understand news articles in a way I always hoped to. I want to learn more.

Now, thanks to Bill C-22, I have a reason to.

In its own words, C-22, called the Canada Disability Benefit Act, is “An Act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit and making a consequential amendment to the Income Tax Act.” In plain words, this is what disabled Canadians have been fighting for, and even though it’s on the political radar with its second reading earlier this week, no one knows if it will even happen.

I can’t explain the details of C-22. I’m still learning about this myself even as I’m writing about it now. Nonetheless, I felt it was important to speak up, because this is an issue that directly impacts my life as a disabled person, and so many more lives.

Recently, I’ve been researching the statistics regarding blindness in Canada, and I came upon a list of such statistics from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind [CNIB]. Here, they list the numbers of Canadians living with sight loss in each province and territory. If you will, take a look through this list and I’ll see you in a minute.

  • Alberta: 160,000
  • British Columbia: 252,000
  • Manitoba: 57,000
  • New Brunswick: 37,750
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 21,700
  • Nova Scotia: 49,500
  • Ontario: 681,000
  • Prince Edward island: 6,250
  • Quebec: 205,900
  • Saskatchewan: 43,000
  • Northwest Territories: 1,220
  • Nunavut: 1,280
  • Yukon: 1,400

A significant portion of the population, would you not agree?

However, this list doesn’t account for Canadians living with the myriad of other disabilities, physical, mental, emotional and invisible. Can you imagine what the number is? It’s 22%, or 6.2 million over the age of 15.

That’s almost one quarter of the Canadian population. And what is being done to support those people?

My people.

“Oh but Rhianna, didn’t you get a Covid-19 benefit?”

You mean the $600 one-time payment that we received, when able-bodied, working Canadians received $2,000? Yes, yes we did. Thanks government for covering less than half of my rent for one month.

And let’s not ignore rising costs due to inflation, and the income PWDs [persons with disabilities] receive from the Ministry that don’t account for this, and already keep disabled people below the poverty level. If you want to read a more detailed account of how the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction handles income for its disabled citizens, particularly after marriage, you might want to check out my four-part series here.

Am I over reacting? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? [Whatever a molehill is… is it actually a hill where moles live? Someone tell me, I need to know!]

I don’t think so. Please let me offer another perspective from fellow disability advocates regarding C-22, the response from the Canadian government, and the heartbreaking outcry of disabled Canadians who just want to know that they are valued and be treated like equal citizens.
As a disclaimer, yes, I retweeted these posts, but that does not mean I take responsibility for the exact wording or the messages of other tweets on these accounts.

This is not about politics, elections or legalities. It’s about people. And it’s about time we start seeing it that way and treat each citizen like the equal, valuable member of society they are.

SIX WRITING DREAMS

During one of our weekly phone calls, my dear friend, Anneliese, blindfluencer and blogger from Look On the Dark Side, asked me to write down a list of dreams. As someone who has always classified myself as a big-idea, sky-high dreamer, this caught me off guard; I knew all my dreams… didn’t I?

Nope. Dreams, like people, change and evolve, and things you never thought you’d consider are now at the top of the list. It’s an exercise in self-discovery more than a list of things to check off. And I found that the process was totally and wonderfully unexpected!

Please allow me to share six of my writing dreams with you.

I. A Blog About My Experience with Blindness

Sound familiar? Though I may already be fulfilling this dream, it doesn’t mean my dream is complete.

Not Your Blind Writer began out of a desire to overcome my fear of being known only as a “blind” writer. Now, over a year since my very first post, I’m proud to be a blind writer and to use my experiences, struggles, celebrations and voice to further disability equality, accessibility and bring about a true, heartfelt understanding that disabled people are valuable and important.

II. A Memoir

I’m hesitant about this one as I feel like I haven’t had enough adventure in my life to warrant a memoir; after all, don’t people want to read memoirs about people like Helen Keller, Fanny Crosby, Michael Hingson, or so many other people who have lived and done more noteworthy things than me?

But it’s an idea that won’t go away, and I’ve learned to listen when that happens. So, I will wait and write and see what happens next.

III. A Biblical Fiction Novel

There’s one idea that’s been swirling about my brain for years–at least since I was a preteen–about writing the backstory of a character from the Bible whose story is stubbornly lacking any detail. I began to write my first novel in university, but dropped it when I became overwhelmed by the historical research needed. And while I love research, it became a hang up and my novel was shelved. But not forgotten. And there’s not only one! I’ve got many ideas along this track, but I owe it to my first book and the characters I’ve lived with for over a decade to write their story first.

IV. A Fantasy Novella

When I say fantasy, I’m not talking about an entirely new world like Middle Earth or Narnia, but rather, a story set in what looks like our world and acts like our world, but with a few magical additions–talking animals, for one [of course].

The prologue to one such novella sits ready and waiting on my laptop, and has for years now. But the story it was intended to precede has lost the “thing” that brings it to life. When the time is right, I’ll bring it back–maybe then, the characters and I will be ready to tell the story the way it was meant to be told.

V. An Anthology of Short Stories

I’ve begun in the way any writer does–by writing short story after short story. Three of my stories can be found here, and I have more than enough drafts to keep me busy for a while. And that, my friend, is a great feeling.

VI. A Picture Book About Guide Dogs

I won’t give much away about this one, but needless to say, the guide dog in question is a spunky, go-getter, yellow lab with a brilliant sense of humour and a heart of gold [entirely inspired by my current guide, Saint]. And while he has the job of being a guide dog to a high school girl named Tara, he has another job too, which takes him down many unexpected roads and nose-first into many adventures.

As with every idea that comes into my head, any of these may change. In fact, I’m sure they will. But that’s the wonderful part of being a writer; characters and places that at one time, only existed in my imagination, become alive and breathing and the story tells me where it should go, not the other way around.

Maybe I’ll fulfill these dreams, and maybe some of them will only live on this list. And that’s okay. The important thing is to keep dreaming. And let’s be real: that’s the fun part, anyway!

What are some of your dreams? Tell me in the comments. And no matter what they are or what happens, let’s keep dreaming.