Ricky Gervais Returns to Twitter

So, Ricky Gervais returns to Twitter by mocking people with disabilities. This time it’s not “retard”, but “mong”.

For those who don’t know, “mong” has for decades been considered a shortened form ofricky gervais “Mongoloid”, which is what people with Down’s Syndrome used to be called. It’s an insulting, bullying term, along the same lines as “retard”.

But Ricky Gervais insists that he didn’t mean to be insulting to people with Down’s Syndrome when he used “mong” in a series of jokes on Twitter recently, among them “Good monging” , “Night night, monglets” and “Two mongs don’t make a right”.  Like other comedians who defend their use of “retard”, he claims that he was using “mong” to insult “dopey or ignorant” people.

The twitter pics of him in self-described “monged-up” poses with captions such as “My favourite drink is toilet” obviously weren’t meant to mock people with Down’s Syndrome either. *laying on the sarcasm very thickly*.  I find it difficult to understand why he’s surprised that advocacy groups are upset.

I’m going to link back to the very first post I wrote about this sort of this…about “political correctness” and “words just being words”…and reiterate that I’ll never call for any word to be banned.

But I do wish that people (this means you, Ricky Gervais) would be more responsible with what they put out there.


By the way, Ricky Gervais…

I know this means nothing to you…but I stopped watching “30 Rock” after Tracey Morgan’s last stunt like this.  And I was getting bored with “The Office” anyway, so I really won’t find it difficult to cut it out of my Thursday night viewing. *shrugs*

Here’s another commentary on Ricky’s jokes, and his refusal to apologize, which I particularly like.


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Response from Philip Garber’s Professor

Just found this online.


It’s interesting to hear her side of it.

- Sarah

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Lessons from Philip Garber

A Facebook interaction last Thursday evening was…not my finest moment, advocacy-wise. It all centred around an article that I found and linked to about Philip Garber, Jr., a college student with a stutter who was asked by one of this professors not to speak in class.


“Your Speaking is Disruptive

Philip Garber’s “profound stutter” is not the only thing that makes him unique in his 2 classes per semester at the County College of Morris.  At 16, he’s in college when most of his peers are still in high school. Philip Garber’s education has been home-schooling and charter schools, and he says that he’s not experienced any discrimination because of his stuttering. In light of that, his History teacher’s suggestion that he not ask or answer questions in class so that he not “infringe on other students’

Philip Gerbertime” and the more blunt, “Your speaking is disruptive” surprised him.

Shocked, my original comment on the article was: “If I’d been his support worker, she would have been toast.”


Then a dear friend who is a college professor weighed in. She said that she wondered why he was focusing on college so early instead of continuing with the speech therapy that he’d decided to leave a while ago.  I said that I could see her point – why would Philip Garber put himself in such a high-pressure setting, that presumably would make his study worse, when there was plenty of time for college?

Another friend who knew better than both of us came along and pointed out that speech therapy doesn’t work for everybody, and that stress or nerves don’t always affect stuttering.  And another friend that I totally wouldn’t have expected to be on Philip’s side posted in emphatic support of disciplining the teacher for how she’d handled the situation.

Philip Garber and Person-Centred Support

I thought about Philip Garber and that article a lot last Friday.  While I could see my professor friend’s points, something about the way I’d responded was really bothering me, and it took me a while to figure out what it was. While Philip wouldn’t be a person that I’d normally support in my line of work, I’ve certainly worked with teens with intellectual disabilities that have *wanted* to go to college or university. One young man with a mild disability had his heart set on Bible college. I had my doubts about whether he could handle it, as did the high school that he attended. But we used the brief time that I was available to support him to go through the application process, and I heard later that they’d accepted him. I assume that they did so expecting that they’d be able to meet his needs, as we’d made them clear in the application.

And that’s when I figured out what was bothering me. I’d forgotten about being person-centred, as a support worker. If I’d been a support worker for this 16-year-old young man (for anyone, really), being  person-centred  always makes it very simple: “You don’t want to do speech therapy anymore? Let’s talk to your parents about why you don’t want to do it and see if we can come to some sort of compromise. And if you want to take college courses…let’s see what it would take for you to get in.  It’s up to you.”

And I’d forgotten about good advocacy. Philip Garber obviously has the academic credentials to be at County College of Morris, or the school wouldn’t be letting him take courses there. Whether he’s paying to go himself or there on some sort of scholarship, his tuition is being paid. He’s a student at the school, and as a student at the school with a disability, he’s entitled to accommodation – not an attitude of “I’d rather not deal with your disability, so don’t talk.”

She *would* have been toast. As his support worker, I’d have made sure of it.

What Do You Think?

I don’t think I’m really forgetting these things…maybe just need to get back into the swing of things. More volunteering, perhaps, now that school’s over.

By the way, here’s a link to Philip Garber talking on YouTube…decide for yourself how “disruptive” his speaking would be if he answered questions in a school environment.


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Catching up…

Wow, has it really been since Monday that I posted here?  I don’t like leaving the blog unattended that long, and I will do my best not to do it again. It’s been a very long week.

I have been doing technical writing courses for over a year now. I’ve been doing them online through Simon Fraser university. My final assignment in my final course was due this week – a 25-page document, which for me was a social media policy for a local organization, complete with a basic guide book to social media. The document has labelled screen shots, and diagrams, and charts, and an index…it’s been a lot of work over the last ten weeks, and *a lot* of work over the last two weeks, and I’m quite proud of it. I’m just hoping that the organization and my professors feel the same way.

So, that’s been taking up all of my  time this week. And any other energy I’ve had has gone into worrying about my cat, who got outside last Saturday night…making and putting up posters, calling radio stations, vets, newspapers, pet stores…anyone willing to take some information or put up a notice…trying to keep my other cat’s anxiety level down (she doesn’t like being separated from her friend), and wondering why my cat going for a little walkabout put me in such an emotional tailspin.

Thankfully, my little wanderer showed up outside my window early Friday morning,. She was soaking wet from the rain, and very hungry, but thankfully unharmed, and she has nicely settled back into apartment living. I have never been so happy to see that stupid cat.

So, that has been my week. A lot has come up that I will be writing about, but for tonight I’ll leave you with a nice image. I wrote not that long ago about how I feared that, only being able to use one hand, I was concerned about how much I’d be able to interact with my infant niece, Gillian. I can’t

"Treefrogging" - Gillian and Gavin

just go and pick her up the way everyone else does.  But my sister and her husband are fine with putting her in my arms, and on a recent visit Rachel put her in what they both call “treefrog” position against my chest.

Now, I’m sure that “treefrog” isn’t the technical term for this position, but Rachel and Gavin started calling it that because Gillian snuggles right in when she’s in it – like a treefrog suctioning itself to a tree. Rachel thinks it’s because she likes being near someone’s heartbeat. But it’s a good position for me to hold her in when I’m sitting down, because I can use my good arm and hand to support her under her bottom and my weak arm to support her across her back – I don’t even really need my hand.

She slept in my arms for a good 45 minutes this way, all warm and snuggled up against me, making her little baby sleep noises…and I suddenly felt much more like I was able to be a part of Gillian’s baby years.

“Of course you can be!” my sister scoffed when I told her about this, and I realized that it hadn’t even occurred to her that I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) hold Gillian because of my disabilities.

I guess I sometimes still make a bigger deal of things than they need to be…even after over a decade of living with disabilities. I’ll talk a bit more about that tomorrow night.

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Kids, Disabilities and Teaching/Learning about Inclusion

I’ve been thinking about society and inclusion.inclusion

Is Inclusion Valued in Our Society?

It’s always interesting, seeing how kids react to my disabilities. Kids on the street tend to stare, which really embarrasses their parents. I can hear the kids says things to the effect of, “Mommy, what’s wrong with her?” or “Mommy, why does she have a cane?” and the parents quietly hushing them: “Don’t stare.”

When I get the opportunity, I just tell curious kids that my leg doesn’t work very well and that I need my cane to help me walk, and that satisfies most of them. The parents usually apologize, and I tell them not to; I tell them that I’d rather kids ask questions than think that there’s something mysterious and scary about my cane that they shouldn’t talk about. I think this surprises a lot of people. They’d probably be even more surprised to know that in my head I’m thinking: “And at least kids openly stare rather than stare and try to hide the fact that they’re doing it.”

Giving Kids Resources to Embrace Inclusion

The fact is, if we’re going to live in a society that embraces inclusion of *all* people with differences, we need to give children space to question and talk and develop the skills and vocabulary that they need to live in that society…and be patient when they’re not as sensitive as they should be. For my nurse friend Callie (named changed) at Penetanguishene, this meant sitting down and talking to her four-year-old daughter about how she’d meant to ask me why I was in a wheelchair, not a wheelbarrow, and what the difference between the two of them was. For me, it meant holding back my laughter when a kid at the elementary school at which I was a supply Educational Assistant for an afternoon jeered at me, “You use a cane…”, as if 1) I didn’t know it already and 2) He’d happened upon the ultimate insult.

“Yes,” I said calmly, thinking, What’s the best response to this? After a split-second of hesitation, I said, “Jealous?”

He was clearly taken aback. He stared at me for a moment, and then said, “Uh…yeah.”

Lesson learned, sonny, I thought, moving on to my next class.

Learning Lessons From Kids about Inclusion

Not that kids haven’t had lessons to teach me, too. In my work as a supply EA, I generally told the kids that asked what had happened, that I had to use a cane, that I’d had an accident, but I was fine now. I didn’t want to scare them with stories of bleeding brains and me having my head cut open, etc. But one kid, about eleven years old and in a special education class, did not want to let it go.

Had I been in a car accident? he wanted to know. No, I said.

Snowmobile? Jetski? Motorbike?

I finally explained to him that I’d had a problem in my brain and they’d had to do some surgery on it, and the surgery had caused some problems…but that I wasn’t in pain and I was getting better everyday.

“Well, why didn’t you just tell me all that to start?” he said, disgusted.

I’m starting to wonder that myself, I thought.

I underestimated kids going into that job. They’re smart.  They intimidated me in a way that no high school student ever did, and they taught me a lot.

But I underestimated high school students too. I always worried that the high school kids with intellectual disabilities that I worked with didn’t have enough friends in the high school, but they always got a loud, long round of applause from the student body when they crossed the stage at Graduation. And it was always the toughest, most bad-ass students that fell over themselves to hold open doors for me when I visited the high school.  Kids are learning that inclusion is a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong.  Inclusion definitely isn’t being embraced in our cultural institutions as quickly as a lot of us would like. Both kids *and* adults with disabilities get bullied. There’s a lot of intolerance out there.  We’ve got to start this education process of “different does not equal bad” early, give kids opportunities to learn and question, and keep our own hearts and minds open as we educate them…because they’ve got a lot to teach us about inclusion too.

Lots of stuff to think about…



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Happy Thanksgiving

So today is Canadian Thanksgiving…and with that in mind, here are some things that I’m thankfulthanksgiving for:

1. I’ve got all my basic needs met: food, water, a place to live, affordable medical care, etc.

2. I’ve got a wonderful, supportive family…including my beautiful niece, Gillian, who is celebrating her first Thanksgiving today.

3. Even though I haven’t got a job, I’m actually doing a lot of what I love right now – writing. And I’m taking steps every day toward turning that into a job.

4. I live in a community that, over and over again, has shown itself to be full of friends, sometimes when I least expect it and most need it.

5. I have friends all over the world. That’s a really cool feeling.

6. I live in a country that values peace-keeping, human rights and taking care of its vulnerable citizens.

7. I’m much more than my disabilities.

8. “The Big Bang Theory” is on every night now. :)

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada.



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A Week-end Shout-Out

I’m sneaking back on here this week-end to send out a big thank you to Chris Salter at Post-Polio News for not only picking up one of my blog posts, but an article that I wrote on employment for people with disabilities for Disability Horizons.

Chris has been providing a polio and post-polio news service in various guises since 1997. Post-Polio News sends out three web-based editions a day, each with a variety of disability-related resources from around the web. It’s well-worth subscribing to.

My articles are linked off of this page:




Thank you again, Chris. :)

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadians out there!


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Tales of Online Dating

I was browsing through some links on Twitter  last night, and I saw one about a “diabetesonline dating ‘dating service’”. My first thought was, “Not this again.”

A Diabetes Dating Service? Because People with Diabetes Should Just Date Each Other?

I checked out the link, and it was actually about a program to link diabetes researchers with people who actually have diabetes (which is apparently a bigger problem than most people think it is). But the link had brought me back to the days, not long after I’d moved into my own apartment, when I joined an online dating site specifically for people who have disabilities.

An Online Dating Site? Because People with Disabilities Should Just Date Each Other?

At the time, I was looking for at least a penpal who understood what it was like to be recovering from a stroke. I did find someone. We only emailed, but he was super-intense and moved way too fast and seemed to think that we were destined to be together forever after a few emails – where we primarily talked about how we’d both had strokes and how we were both dealing with them now.

I stopped communication and didn’t go back to the online dating website. Something besides his intense behaviour had made me skittish. I didn’t realize then that it was what would largely form the basis for my peeve about grouping people with disabilities together. I’d talked for years in training and with colleagues about how society tended to assume that disability in common was something on which people could build a friendship or even a relationship, but I hadn’t realized until then how…short-sighted that was.

More in Common with the Able-Bodied People in a Group than with the People with Disabilities

Knowing what I do about online dating now, I feel now like I walked away from the online dating website having more in common with your average able-bodied online dater than the guy who’d had the stroke to whom I’d been talking – there are a lot of people out there who have gotten involved with someone on an online dating website and had them get way too serious way too quickly – like say “I love you” after three emails. It could be a story from any dating site.

And the one guy that I did meet, admittedly not on one of the more major dating sites, but on an advice site associated with it, who’d also had a stroke at an early age – we’ve been long-distance friends for three years and we rarely talk about stroke stuff. We’ve got other things in common to talk about.

Choice Choice Choice!

Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for an online dating web site just for people with disabilities. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there’s nothing wrong with people preferring, and choosing to try to find, the company of other people who share their experiences. Sometimes it’s difficult for people who haven’t “been there” to understand the experience of having a disability, so I understand why people with disabilities might use a dating site where they have a better chance of finding someone else with disabilities. But note I said “choosing” earlier. Again and again, it all comes back to people having options. And thank goodness, this is an area where we do – no dating site is ever going to try to say, “Disabled people need not apply”.

Just a Little Bit of Who I Am

For me, the thing is…a disability is only a part of who a person is. It’s something that two people may have in common who are different in absolutely every other way – and totally wrong for each other. And that’s why I never went back to the dating site for people with disabilities.

Because, good or bad, I’m more than just someone who had a stroke. I’ve had to fight hard to get people to see that, and going back to a dating site that encourages people to look at me first as a person with disabilities feels like a step back.

Have a great weekend!

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Election Day in Ontario

Today, Ontario is electing a new Premier. I’m curious as to how Ontario agencies who electionsupport people with intellectual disabilities have assisted the people they support to prepare for voting. I’ve never worked with any people with intellectual disabilities in my career who have been interested in voting in an election, so I’ve never had to go through that process. But I know that people with intellectual disabilities certainly do vote in elections. And why shouldn’t they?

Issues Affecting People with Intellectual Disabilities

The provincial governments administer income support for people who have disabilities that prevent them from working. In Ontario, this program is called the Ontario Disability Support Program, and it also covers medical, dental and eyewear costs. Most people with intellectual disabilities receive at least some support from this program, or have found work to supplement their income support with the help of the ODSP Employment Supports Program. They deserve to know which party is willing commit resources to keeping ODSP income support at its present level (which is only enough to keep people living at a poverty level) and who is committed to raising it. It’s important that the people affected by the issues vote and get their voices heard.

Every Canadian Over 18 Can Vote in an Election

I understand that the concept of an election might be difficult for some people with intellectual disabilities to understand. I’ve tried to explain to people I’ve supported why they should pay their taxes, and that was difficult enough. There’s much more to an election than, “We pay taxes so that the government has money to run our schools and post offices and to pay our doctors to take care of us when we’re sick” (there was more to the conversation than that, but that was the gist). And the thing about taking large amounts of time to prepare people for things like voting in elections is that front-line workers really have too much to do already. Their days are pretty packed.

However, every Canadian over 18, whether or not they’re living with disabilities and regardless of how well they grasp the issues involved, is entitled to vote if they want to. The politicians don’t care if a vote is well-informed or if someone votes because they like the sound of the person’s name; a vote’s a vote. So if a person with intellectual disabilities wants to vote and has had no education about elections at all, we really can’t, as support people, stop them in good conscience. They wouldn’t be the first to go into the voting booth not knowing a thing about any of the names and what they stand for; they won’t be the last.

It would just be much nicer if they had some preparation, some awareness, before going in, to the extent that agencies can manage. For those people supported that indicate prior interest, it’s the right thing to do.

Good luck to all the candidates.


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My AVM Story: Winter and Stroke-Brain

I came home from rehab for good in Christmas of 2000. The winter was a long one of stroke-brainreally not going much of anywhere except for physiotherapy a couple of times a week, walking in the high school in the early mornings, and the odd outing out of town for a movie with Dad. I was doing some correspondence courses to keep busy, and it didn’t do much to wear me out anyway. But one afternoon cabin fever set in, and my stroke-brain pushed me outside.

Blame it on Stroke-Brain

I believe I’ve talked before about how stroke survivors are prone to making bad decisions about what they can and can’t do with their new bodily capabilities.  I call that stroke-brain. Stroke-brain doesn’t always give people accurate messages about their bodies. A woman in Penatanguishene rehab that had a room across the hall from mine was constantly trying to stand up from her wheelchair and put things up on shelves or straighten a picture. I was much more stable on my feet than she was, and I was forever trying to get her to stay put in her wheelchair and let me do whatever she was trying to do before she fell and broke a hip. Her stroke-brain just didn’t let her  understand that she didn’t have the balance or the strength in her left leg to stand without support. Who knows, maybe my stroke-brain was giving me the wrong messages too.

The Great River Expedition

One day in those first months back from rehab, my stroke-brain told me that I had the balance and and strength to go for an early spring walk down to the river via the cleared area next to our house.  That involved navigating snow banks, deep snow, fallen trees, and eventually a brief path through the forest. I fell several times, which made me even more determined to get to the river.

I got there and back without doing grievous harm to myself, thankfully. I thought that my father would be pleased that I could actually manage terrain that difficult.

He wasn’t. As I remember it, I ended up promising that 1) I’d take the cell phone with me every time I went outside 2) I wouldn’t try to go down to the river alone again.

I’d known that The Great River Expedition was dicey. I hadn’t realized at the time that it was actually dangerous. I do now. Now I think it was one of those times when my stroke-brain thought that my body was capable of more than it actually was, and I’m really grateful that I didn’t end up hurting myself.

Learning As I Go

Learning the limits of my new body was a learning process. I can generally tell now when something’s going to be risky, given that my balance isn’t great, and I stay away from them.

I do admit to standing on a chair to change a lightbulb, which is something I (and probably  most people, when you get right down to it) shouldn’t do.

I never claimed to be perfect.


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