"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

~ Niccolo Machiavelli, historian and writer

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Totally Illegal Not Legal ...

Not at all legally- related but very cool, I think.

Check this out.

The world's first ultra-accessible family fun park/amusement park specially designed for children and adults with special needs. Grand opening is April 10, 2010, San Antonio, TX.
Morgan’s Wonderland ...
  • Located at the former site of the Longhorn Quarry
  • 25 acres in size, and is the first Ultra Accessible Family Fun Park in the world!
  • 8-acre lake stocked with a variety of fish
  • Controlled entry and exit
  • Features RFID locator wristbands and touch-screen display monitors so parents and caregivers can keep track of family and friends
  • Fencing around lake edge as well as security fencing around the park’s perimeter for added safety
Activities & Amenities include:
  • Specially designed air-conditioned/heated and oversized ADA-accessible restrooms
  • 3 playscapes
  • Train rides with wheelchair-accessible cars
  • Ultra-accessible carousel
  • Amphitheater
  • Catch-and-release fishing
  • Water cannons & remote-controlled boats
  • Gymnasium (basketball, volleyball & tennis)
  • Special Event Center for up to 700 guests
  • Walk and Roll Path around lake
  • “Around the World” – themed rest areas
  • Water Works - water play area
  • Off-Road Adventure ride
  • Music Garden
  • Swings (several types including wheelchair swings)
  • Sand Circle™
  • Sensory Village™
  • Garden Sanctuary with Memorial Wall
  • Several rest stops, picnic areas & pavilions
  • 2 first aid stations & infant feeding room
  • Braille signage, 3-D park model & service-animal rest area
  • 2 gift shops
  • VIA Transit Center
All that plus Morgan’s Wonderland is free of charge to everyone with special needs. And designed for individuals (both adults and children) with a broad range of cognitive and physical special needs, it offers many unique features such as braille signage, a 3-D park model and a service-animal rest area to make the park accessible to those who are hearing and visually impaired.

Go ahead and check out Morgan's story. But I would really suggest you watch this news story on the Park. Then you'll really get it.

Makes me want to pack up the family and hit the road south, it does...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Supporting Epilepsy Around The World

I can't believe that Purple Day is tomorrow. And I haven't even posted on it yet!

Not because I've forgotten about it - it's just that we've been too busy doing stuff for Purple Day.

Last Saturday was spent at our local Mall with a Purple Day table. We sold bracelets, handed out lots of purple pins, ribbons, cupcakes as well as information on epilepsy and had some great chats. It was so cool to see people walking around the mall wearing the Purple Day pins and the epilepsy ribbon. Especially since the vast majority of them had never heard of Purple Day before.

And besides painting both blogs purple, we've had our local Village Council proclaim March 26th as Purple Day, we have three local schools (elementary, middle and high school) participating and a local day care is involved in the Purple Day Bunny Hop.

Oh yes, my oldest daughter will also be selling purple cupcakes (with the help of some of her friends and the resource staff) at her high school tomorrow, there will be special PPP draw for the kids wearing purple at the middle school (grand prize being a Purple Day Cake for that student's class) and, yesterday, the Kids on the Block landed at the elementary school to put on a presentation for the Grade 5s at the elementary school.

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Now for any of you wondering what this Purple Day is and what all the fuss is about ... you should have been here last year!

Just teasing ... Purple Day is about a very special young Nova Scotian. It's about speaking up and stepping forward. About not being afraid. About bringing epilepsy "out of the shadows". And about what one person can do when they make up their mind to something.

9 year old Cassidy Megan didn't want to tell her classmates that she took seizures. That she had epilepsy. She was afraid they would make fun of her.

But when members from the Nova Scotia Epilepsy Association came to Cassidy's classroom and did a presentation, it empowered her to speak up for the first time in front of her classmates and admit that she had epilepsy.

And yet Cassidy went beyond that. She realized that people needed to learn more about epilepsy, "especially that all seizures are not the same and that people with epilepsy are ordinary people just like everyone else". She also wanted kids with epilepsy "to know that they are not alone". And with this realization, Cassidy became a spokesperson for epilepsy.

She went to the principal of her elementary school and asked if they could create and celebrate Purple Day ~ a day when everyone would wear purple to increase awareness about epilepsy. With the help of her mom, Cassidy began contacting politicians, celebrities, non-profits and corporations, asking them all to spread the word about Purple Day and epilepsy.

And with that, Purple Day was born.

From students in classrooms around the world to Paul Shaffer on the Late Show with David Letterman, people wore purple to spread the word about epilepsy on March 26, 2008. Cassidy was interviewed by news outlets across Canada and was even featured in a South African epilepsy newsletter.

Last year, we brought Purple Day to the Annapolis Valley. And to the combined approximately 700 students at a local elementary and middle school. And like I said above, this year we expanded it a little.

How can you fail to be be awed by a story that starts with a 9 year old Nova Scotian girl and ends with purple tea parties and pizza parties, purple cocktail parties and fundraising events, purple art shows and pool competitions, a Calgary City Hall Purple Day Proclamation Celebration and a purple-lit CN Tower and Niagara Falls?

So on behalf of our family and the 300,000 Canadians and 2.5 million Americans and countless others around the world who live with epilepsy each and every single day, we offer a very heartfelt thank you to Cassidy.

I wonder how many people are aware that epilepsy affects more than twice as many Canadians as those who live with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis combined or that one in 100 people has epilepsy? I wonder how many people are aware of many epilepsy issues?

Well, thanks to Cassidy Megan, I am sure the answer is many more now. And that number is growing every year.



Monday, March 22, 2010

"Onward and Upward"

There was a nice article in Saturday's Star, "Milestone Reached But Still Far To Go".

It discusses how despite two landmark events we have recently discussed here (Canada's ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the decision from the Canadian Human Rights Commission enshrining the right of voters with disabilities to accessible polling stations), there still is much more to be done.

Hard to argue with that - issues around education and access to health care, transportation, work and community activities abound. And the very valid point is made that although accommodating needs too often falls victim to demands for budgetary constraints, attitudes are most often at the root of problems.

So where do we go from here?
In the words of Helen Henderson, Onward and Upward.

After all, do we really have any other choice?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

About Time

The title of this post reflects my first thought when reading about this.
Elections Canada must make its polling sites accessible to people with disabilities, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal says.

The tribunal issued its ruling Friday, in response to a complaint from a physically disabled Toronto man who argued that voting sites should be accessible to everybody.
This after Peter Hughes arrived at a Toronto polling station in March, 2008, to vote in a by election. Hughes, who uses a walker to get around, was shocked to discover that the polling station was at the bottom of a long flight of stairs. He actually sat down on the edge of the stairs and went down on the seat of his pants down to the bottom of the stairs while somebody carried his walker.

Now that's dedication.

As is following through the process on a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

And winning.
  1. $10,000 in damages for Mr. Hughes

  2. Elections Canada must formulate a plan for greater consultation with voters with disabilities and disability groups

  3. Elections Canada must stop situating polling stations in locations that do not provide barrier-free access in any electoral district in Canada

  4. Elections Canada must implement a procedure for verification of the accessibility of facilities on the day of an electoral event

  5. Elections Canada must review the Accessible Facilities Guide, Accessibility Checklist, and accessibility sections of the Manuals for the Returning Officers and the other categories of election workers

  6. Elections Canada must revise its standard lease for polling locations to include the requirement that the leased premises provide level access and are barrier-free.

  7. Elections Canada must provide sufficient and appropriate signage at elections, including the universal accessibility symbol so that voters with disabilities can easily find the shortest and most appropriate route to all accessible entrances at polling stations.

  8. Elections Canada must review, revise and update its training materials and programs concerning accessibility issues for their officials and give training to every officer or employee who deals with disability and accessibility issues

  9. Elections Canada must implement a procedure for receiving, recording and processing verbal and written complaints about lack of accessibility.
Well done, Mr. Hughes. Well done.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Great Good News

Update: CACL Press Release ~ Canada Ratifies Historic UN Treaty ...

Apparently, it's official!

As of today, Canada has ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Making Canada the 82nd country to "make this international commitment to protecting and advancing the human rights of persons with disabilities".

Which is great good news.

Why "good" and not "great"?

First, don't get me wrong, I really do believe this is good news. A good step forward. Something we have been waiting for for quite a while.

It's just that I have a sense from some recent conversations with different members of the disability community that there may be a general misunderstanding out there as to the actual effect that our ratification of the Convention will have - a belief that it will be more useful, more valuable than it might actually prove.

I am looking at this, of course, from a legal viewpoint.

And although Canada's ratification of the CRPD may well give us stronger moral and political grounds to question and demand more from our various levels of government, I'm not so sure that it will make much a difference legally.

I've written a little bit on how this works before.**
The Convention is not binding on any country that has not ratified it. Further, the Convention will not take effect or ‘enter into force’ (for any country who has signed it) until 30 days after twenty countries have ratified it.

- - - -

Canada will not be under any obligation to implement the Convention (make sure that its laws are not in violation of the Convention) until two events occur:
  1. The Canadian government ratifies the Convention; and

  2. Nineteen other countries also ratify the Convention and thus, bring it "into force".
In addition, it's important to realize that even at that point, although the federal government will be obligated to bring its legislation in line with the Convention, this does not bind the provincial governments. Each provincial government is free to make its own decision in that regard. And, unfortunately, many of the laws that affect the daily lives of people with disabilities are provincial laws.
Although in a federal state such as Canada, the fact that our federal government has ratified the Convention (along with 20 other countries) means that the federal government now has an obligation to bring its laws in line with the Convention, you might note that the news release makes no mention of any of the provinces ratifying the Convention.

I'm not suggesting that won't happen, eventually, but it doesn't appear to have happened yet. And that is of critical importance because, as noted above, many (actually probably most) of the laws that affect the daily lives of people with disabilities are provincial laws.

Don't believe me? Check this out.

And that, essentially, is what with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Canada has ratified the Convention but has not fully implemented the Convention in Canadian domestic laws. Youth criminal laws in Canada underwent major changes resulting in the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) which went into effect on 1 April 2003. In 1989, the Canadian House of Commons voted unanimously to pass a non-binding resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000. Between 1989 and 2008, the child poverty rates rose to a peak of nearly 25% in 1996, before falling to virtually the same rate of 15.8% in 2008.[14]
So that's the first thing to recognize. As much as this is a good solid step forward, our work ain't done yet.

The second problem is sort of an ancillary of the first.

Although, unless and until Nova Scotia (for example) also ratifies the Convention, the Province will be under no legal obligation to bring its laws in line with it, lawyers can (and no doubt will) try to argue that the existing legislation, already on the books, should be interpreted by the courts in such a way as not be in violation of the Convention.

That gets tried a lot with international conventions to which Canada is a signatory. And while it's always worth a shot, in my personal experience, I have yet to see it yield a stellar result.

Which, taken all together, leads to current state of pessimism is why I consider the federal government's ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to be good news.

It will be great news when we manage to finish the job.

** If you're interested in more detail on "Enforcing International Conventions and Customary International Law in Canada", I would suggest you go here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Be A PAL:

The Canadian Council on Disabilities is seeking support for Statistics Canada’s Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) in 2011.

PALS is said to be the most important and comprehensive source of disability statistics in Canada and CCD has been urging HRSD for sometime to support and announce support for PALS in 2011. Apparently a decision has not been made in this regard.

So the CCD is now encouraging everyone who is interested in public policy on disability to write to HRSDC Minister Diane Finley, urging HRSD to support and announce support for PALS in 2011.

The contact information for the Hon. Diane Finley is:

Hon. Diane Finley
Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Email: FinleD@parl.gc.ca

In addition to writing to Minister Finley, CCD is asking that you their concern about PALS 2011 with individuals and organizations in your network and encourage them to also contact Minister Finley about the need for PALS 2011.

And here is some additional information for you.

From April at CCD's Winnipeg office.
Some Background on PALS

Statistics Canada’s Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) is the most important and comprehensive source of disability statistics in Canada and is seen as a best practice model internationally. CCD is concerned that Human Resources Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has not yet committed funding for a PALS for the 2011 census.

It is crucial that PALS continue so that governments and community have the
information and research needed to develop good policy and programs. It should
be noted that upon ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities Canada will be obligated to collect data on the socioeconomic
status of persons with disabilities.

PALS and its predecessor HALS have been, and remain, extremely valuable survey tools. No other survey provides the range and depth of statistically reliable information about:
  • The kinds, causes and severity of disabilities experienced by Canadian
    children and adults;
  • The extent of utilization and unmet need for a range of human, technological
    and built environmental supports needed because of disability;
  • The need for, and availability of, disability-related accommodations for
    paid employment and for participation in education and work-related training;
  • Accessibility measures needed in local and interjurisdictional transportation services (buses, trains, airplanes);
  • Social and economic barriers experienced by persons with disabilities;
  • Impacts of disability and of the associated barriers on personal and family incomes and on the social and economic activities of family members;
  • Direct, non-reimbursed costs paid out-of-pocket by individuals and familiesfor disability-related items and services.
Under the heading "Act Now" on its home page, CCD has added information on the need for action on PALS 2011.

In closing, I would like to thank you in advance for considering this request and CCD will share information with you on this issue as it becomes available.
Off you go now.

There's work to be done.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Busy With ...

My apologies for the sparsity of posts around here lately.

But I do have an excuse. Or two.

Between working on guardianship documents to use as precedents, helping a few families with their efforts to obtain guardianship and bidding on a federal government contract to provide outreach and education to persons with disabilities and their families around the RDSP ... yeah, it's been a mite busy around here.

Okay, okay, in the interest of full disclosure, there was the Olympics, too. But we won't go into that here.

Still, I'm thinking you all might just forgive me. Especially when I actually complete the guardianship package.