Tag Archives | activism

Protests Happening at US Goodwill Locations This Weekend

goodwilllIf you’re looking for something to do this weekend and maybe looking for a worthy cause that needs your time and energy, consider taking a walk down to your local Goodwill location on Saturday at around 10:30 am. Perhaps it will be one of the 80 at which the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the Autism Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), and the disability advocacy group ADAPT have organized one of their informational protests regarding Goodwill’s compensation policy for people with disabilities.

People With Disabilities Working for as Low as $0.22/Hour at Some Goodwill Locations

Regular readers may remember that earlier in the summer I wrote a post about this when it first became public knowledge. I thought the lowest that people were being paid was $1.44 an hour. As you can see, apparently it’s been much lower in some places (http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/08/21/protests-target-goodwill/16285/).  The NFB and other American disability organizations called for a boycott of Goodwill in America until they stopped the (sadly, legal) practice of giving locations discretion to pay workers with disabilities substantially below minimum wage.  64 of the 165 Goodwill-affiliated agencies in the US engage in this practice.

Goodwill argues that the certificate that allows them to pay people with disabilities below minimum wage is a “tool” that facilitates job creation for people that would otherwise find it very difficult to find work.

I don’t know what’s scariest about that “justification”: that Goodwill actually believes that paying anyone $0.22 an hour to do anything is a “job”, that they have the guts to put themselves out there as believing they do…or that there are people in this country, with or without disabilities, that need employment that badly or put so little value on the work that they they can do that they’d actually do work for that little money. It’s a whole lot of wrong, on a whole lot of levels.

Breaking It Down a Little Further

It’s difficult to understand how Goodwill doesn’t see how this creates more issues than it solves.

  • It’s exploitative. No two ways about it.
  • It does nothing to assist people with disabilities who are living in poverty to better their financial situation.
  • It sets a poor example for the rest of the business community: “Goodwill does it, and we all know that they do good work for everyone, so it must be okay.”
  • It sets a poor example for the community, the country, and the world. Do we really need any more examples of people with disabilities being devalued?

I wrote more about this at:  http://www.girlwiththecane.com/goodwill-industries/

The Goodwill Protests

As I said, the informational protests are happening at Goodwill locations across the country this Saturday, August 25, 11 am – 1 pm local time. You can keep tabs on what’s happening by following @NFB_Voice on Twitter. Also check out this article for anything you’d ever want to know about the protests (including how to organize one in your area if one isn’t going on, complete with promotional materials) and the Goodwill controversy: https://www.nfb.org/fair-wages#Protest

Spread the word and try to get to a protest yourself if you can!


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Child Protection Services: Call to Action

Before Ontario’s provincial election last year, I posted about how I’d gladly child protection servicessupport any candidate for Premier that would extend the the point at which children “age-out” of  child protection services (Children’s Aid Society, or CAS, in Ontario) from 16 to 18. I had some conversations this weekend that reminded me about why I think that’s so important, so I’m blogging about it again.

In Ontario, unless a child in the CAS system is a crown ward when they turn 16, and therefore applies for a program called Extended Maintenance, they get pushed into a society that’s void of protection services. Yes, they still apply for social services within the children’s system. But if they’ve ended up back in a house with abusive parents, or in another abusive situation, they don’t qualify for child protection services anymore. Teens with disabilities don’t qualify with adult protective services yet. They are in a no-man’s-land until age 18. For a teen with disabilities, in an abusive situation…that’s a hell of a long time.

Options, Options…Options?

Any teen can legally move out at age 16, yes.  But the teens who don’t have a place to go have a real problem. Education law in Ontario now stipulates that they need to be in school until they’re 18. They must also be in school, and have someone trustworthy willing to act as trustee, before they can receive social assistance.

It’s difficult to find these kids a place to go. They learn to survive however they can, either in the abusive home or as “couchsurfers” in other peoples’ homes. I’m surprised by the number that actually manage that way.

I couldn’t have made it on my own at 16.

Child Protection Services and Teens with Disabilities

If a teen faces the added challenge of living with one or more disabilities on top of having no place to go, that infinitely complicates matters. Entire teams of people representing multiple agencies can have difficulty finding a safe, appropriate place for the teen to go. I know – I’ve been on these teams.

Realizing that in that two years between 16 and 18, when child protection services in Ontario stop and adult protective services kick in, it’s like moving a mountain to get a teen with disabilities in an abusive situation to a safe space has been…a source of disillusionment with working in social services.

Hence the Call to Action!

There’s no reason why every child in Canada can’t be assured of child protection services until age 18. In Quebec, Manitoba, and Alberta, child protection services already go to age 18. In the Yukon and British Columbia, they go to 19.  So here’s what I want you to do.

If you live in Newfoundland/Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario or Saskatchewan, write a letter to your Member of Provincial Parliament. Tell him/her that children in your province need to be protected from abuse until age 18. Hell, I’ll write and post a letter that people can send or email to their MPPs. Leave a comment or contact me if this is something that interests you.

People in the US…research when people “age-out” of child protective services  in your state and see if there’s a gap before teens with disabilities can access adult protective services. I’d be happy to write a letter for you, too. 

Yeah, I feel strongly about this. These are our kids. They deserve as much safety and stability in childhood as we’re capable of giving them. They deserve a chance.

Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal:  http://www.cecw-cepb.ca/


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How An Activist is Born

On “Ramblings of a Fibro Fogged Mind”, a blog by my new friend Ravenswyrd, I read a post calledactivist “How is an Activist Born”. She talked about how she’d been moved to activism by the release of the Spartacus Report in Britain, a response to the austerity cuts and proposed welfare benefit reform. Disheartened by her own experiences with the disability support system in Britain and concerned about the direction in which it was heading, she become involved with the Spartacus group herself, working alongside other campaigners to get accurate information out to the public and to protest what has become a very scary situation for people with disabilities in Britain.

It got me started thinking about when the activist in me was born.

Quiet, Non-Confrontational Girl Becomes Volunteer

I didn’t get started in the field thinking that I wanted to be an activist. I was a high school student looking for volunteer work that would look good on my resume (I wanted to be a social worker when I grew up, that year). An opportunity with an agency that supported people with intellectual disabilities came up, and they seemed willing to have me, so I went with it.

And I enjoyed it. I liked the people that the agency supported. I liked the staff. I made some terrific friends among both groups. It was pretty fun, as far as volunteer work goes, though I wasn’t so naive that I didn’t know that working in developmental services wasn’t a field fraught with difficult issues and difficult questions and sometimes things that were difficult to face.  I just didn’t give them a whole lot of thought at the beginning.

Then, one day, I was walking in town with Beth, one of the women that the agency supported at the time. We walked toward a group of teens sitting on a bench, and I noticed by the way the she started twisting her fingers that she was anxious about something. As we passed the teens, one of them said, “Hi, Henry.” The others jeered.

Good one, I thought, rolling my eyes. I didn’t quite understand the joke, but presumed that they just thought it was funny to call her by the name of another client. Implying that all people with disabilities look the same, so it’s okay to call them all by one name?

I shook my head. Far too sophisticated for that bunch, I thought.

In the meantime, Beth had started to cry. We went to a bench and sat down, and talked about what was wrong. The teens calling her the wrong name had really upset her, and apparently it wasn’t the first time it had happened.

Volunteer Becomes Activist

I was angry. I didn’t like that she had just been walking down the street and someone had upset her enough to make her cry, for no apparent reason. I didn’t like that they’d taken pleasure in it. I didn’t like that it had happened before. I was still pretty quiet and mousy at that point in my life, but anyone who’s known a quiet, mousy person will tell you that we’re the ones that you really don’t want to get angry.

I told Beth that I’d be right back, and I walked back to the bench where the teens were.

“You called my friend by the wrong name and you made her cry,” I said, interrupting their conversation.  They stared at me.

“The one sitting over there,” I said, pointing. “Her name’s not Henry. It’s Beth. You call her Beth the next time you see her. Don’t ever let me see you make her cry again.” I turned and walked away.

For a kid who would rather have set herself on fire than directly confront someone, it was a pretty gutsy move.  I think it was really the spark of that “This isn’t fair and I want to change it,” fire in me.  It took a while for that spark to get going full-force, though.

I want to thank the people who nurtured it along. They know who they are.

Do you consider yourself an activist for any cause? What or who led you to become one?

“How An Activist is Born” – Ramblings of a Fibro Fogged Mind: http://ramblingsofafibrofoggedmind.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/how-is-an-activist-born/



Image credit: stuartphoto / 123RF Stock Photo

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Meanwhile, Back in Britain…

This is just heartbreaking.


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Way to Go, Noah Wyle…I’ve Always Liked Those “ER” Docs…

And no, I’m not just talking about the fact that they were all *very* easy on the eyes. 😉 I’ve always had a great deal of respect for George Clooney’s activist work, and it looks as if his co-star Noah Wyle is following in his footsteps.

Noah Wyle was arrested at a protest on Capitol Hill on Monday. He’d joined other ADAPT members to protest Medicaid cuts that will reduce in-home medical services for people with disabilities. One hundred other protesters were arrested along with Noah Wyle.


ADAPT originally stood for “Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit”, but the organization’s mandate has spread far beyond transportation in recent years.  Grassroots

Noah Wyle

Going to the protest…

advocacy for effective community supports for people with disabilities is now it’s major focus. ADAPT’s achievements include:

  •  Developing the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act, to get people with disabilities out of nursing homes and institutions and receiving medical services in community residential settings. Now known as the Community Choice Act.
  • Working to make sure that states receive funds from Money Follows the Person
  • Developing the Access Across America campaign for housing for people with disabilities
  • Training chapter leaders
  • Operating two national bases in the United States
  • Publishing a quarterly newsletter

But Back to Noah Wyle

I really admire celebrities, who obviously have a lot invested in maintaining a certain image, who are willing to take a risk and stand up for their beliefs (and Noah Wyle is currently acting in a TV series, “Falling Skies”). Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are two other working actors that do a lot of activist work that spring to mind.

Obviously any volunteer’s time and energy is valuable for a non-profit energy struggling to get its energy out there…and it’s amazing when you find people committed enough to a cause to be arrested for it…but it doesn’t get in the news when us Regular Joes get arrested.  A star willing to get arrested for a cause – that gets us in the news.  Noah Wyle was aware that he could get arrested, and he went through with this anyway, and that restores a bit of my faith in Hollywood.  Thank you, Noah.

And Thank You To Others That Have a Lot To Lose

And, as a person who would like to work in social services again and could therefore have a lot to lose from an arrest, I’d like to thank the teachers, social workers, health care workers, etc., that undoubtedly show up at protests like these. I know what you’re potentially risking for your beliefs. You truly rock. :)

ADAPT is taking National Action in Washington, D.C. until April 26, if anyone still wants to join.

More about ADAPT: http://www.adapt.org/

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I Don’t Need Easy – Julianna Russell

I love working with teenagers. Granted, sometimes their behaviour sometimes frustrate the hell out of me, buJulianna Russelllt we need to remember that even in the healthiest of teenagers, their brains don’t fully develop until their mid-twenties. It makes the achievements of teens like Julianna Russell stand out even more.

Julianna is another person whose achievements need celebrating this International Developmental Disabilities Month. Born with spina bifida, at age 16 she discovered that she didn’t have enough feeling in her legs to operate the pedals in a car. However, determined to get her driver’s license, she researched her options on the Internet. After taking an adapted driving course and having her car outfitted with hand controls, she was able to get her license.

She also started her own website, I Don’t Need Easy, to share with other youth with disabilities how she did it and to give them a place to network and share other experiences of growing up with disabilities.


Relating to Julianna Russell

When I read Julianna Russell’s story, I thought she was wonderfully brave.

I got my driver’s license at 16 without any problem. But after my brain surgery, I started having seizures. The surgery left some scar tissue that just sent my brain into spasms. The first little while they were large seizures that came on with little warning (although I could usually say within a couple of days that one was coming on) and caused me to lose consciousness. Gradually, as my doctors fine-tuned my medications, the seizures became rarer and rarer – but I’d be awake through them as they happened. Eventually they became tremors my arm or leg so small that no one but me knew that anything was happening. It was at that point that my neurologist declared that I could start thinking about driving again, and wrote a letter to the Ministry of Transportation for me.

But by that point I’d been over a decade without a license. It was a terrible drain on my independence, yes. My town had no public transportation. I had to rely on taxis and the good nature of others to get anywhere outside of town. Having no license put me out of the running for most jobs in social services in the area. But I sat on the letter and the opportunity to start getting my license back…for far too long…and I’m not really sure why.

I knew I’d have to start all over again after such a long period without driving, but that didn’t *really* bother me. Something else was holding me back and, like I said, I’m not sure what it was. I have the first stage of my license now, though, and will be able to take my full driver’s test in February 2012.

But I can relate to wanting the independence of being able to drive oneself around, instead of relying on other people. Kudos to Julianna Russell for finding a way to get her license and for using her talent and abilities to share with others how she did it! I actually used her site to investigate adaptations to car steering wheels.

I Don’t Need Easy

Julianna Russell’s website is here: http://hstrial-dischallenges.homestead.com/index.html

It’s obviously just getting started, and hopefully she’ll get some more people post some stories. But for people (not just necessarily teens) with disabilities that want to drive and the people that are going to be helping them, it’s a good place to start getting information. Great job, Julianna Russell! Keep it up!


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Welfare Benefit Reform protest…London makes itself heard

welfare benefit reform

Wheelchairs chained in protest of Welfare Benefit Reform at Oxford Circus in London, England earlier today. The protest is still going on…Twitter says that over 200 people have shut down Oxford Street and are now on the move.  Traffic backlogged past Regent Street.


Rock on, London!  I’m with you in spirit!


welfare benefit reform

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Bob Marshall and Why I Won’t Give Up

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea as I address remarks made by Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall in 2010…

I am not anti-Christian or anti-religious. Yes, I was raised a Christian and bob marshallchoose to no longer affiliate myself with that belief system, but I choose (as much as possible) not to align myself with any belief system. I have devout religious friends, including Christians, for whom I have a great deal of respect and affection…but I’ve also encountered attitudes from religious people, including Christians, that make me very sad, and sometimes very angry. I read about some of those attitudes from Bob Marshall this week.

Nature’s Vengeance

This goes back to a press conference in February 2010 against state funding for Planned Parenthood (still an issue for many politicians in this election season, by the way). Why bring up remarks from 2010? Because beliefs like these simply have no place in the 21st century:

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

Read the full story here: http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2010/02/22/83337/disabled-abortion/?mobile=nc

Sarah’s Anger

I’m a very patient, non-judgemental person. You have to be, in my line of work. But when I read statements like this…my heart starts to race, and I can feel the tears starting to build up behind my eyes, and my breathing starts to become ragged. Comments like this stay with me. I ponder how illogical they are, how scientifically unsupportable…

And eventually I cry over them, because I wonder how people with disabilities can ever hope to be regarded as equals, or hope to live a life of dignity and respect and full participation in community life, when there are still people out there that view them as a punishment.

Bob Marshall Will Not Stop Me

Sometimes when I hear comments like the ones Bob Marshall made, I wonder why I bother being a disability advocate and trying to make things better for people with disabilities. But then I’ll get a phone call like I did tonight, from a young man with an intellectual disability that I helped to get on his feet after he graduated from school. He just wanted to say hi. But hearing how well he was doing, and knowing that I had helped to get him to that point, made me feel like there’s good in fighting for these people that are *not* mistakes or punishments, no matter who says so.

I will not let Bob Marshall or anyone else take away my conviction that everyone has value in this world, not just the people who are “able”. I refuse to believe that the world…or God…operates that way.

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I Support the Spartacus Report


Disability advocate Sue Marsh put this report together, with the help and support of other people with disabilities in the UK. It brings to light some disturbing information about the direction that income support for people with disability is going in the UK, and the process by which the government made these reforms.  One of the blogs that I looked at said that people are already dying because of these reforms.

I have to admit that I only have a passing knowledge of what’s been going on in the UK, and that I didn’t know about this report until today. But I have friends with disabilities in the UK, and wanted to show my support. I fear that a similar situation could someday happen in the United States, or even Canada.

If you live in the UK, please sign the petition at the bottom of the linked page…thanks.

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Changing the World One Step at a Time

So, recently I’ve been watching a 2005 PBS documentary series from Netflix-on Demand about thechanging the world Holocaust. It’s called  “Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State”.

Because I’m Really Into Fun Television

As you might expect, a documentary series about the history of Auschwitz isn’t exactly…uplifting. I’m not even sure what prompted me to start watching the series in the first place, as Holocaust informational material really disturbs my “no evil people, just evil acts” philosophy of life and ultimately distresses me. My sister visited Auschwitz on her tour of Europe and didn’t really want to talk about it when she returned. I don’t know if I could go there. I think the energy of the place would be too much for me.

I can’t get my head or my heart around the Holocaust.  I can’t even begin to fathom the horrors that people lived through, and what made their captors hate so much that they could put others through those horrors. I listen to the survivor interviews, and think, “How do you cope with carrying all that?”

And the thought, “I’m ashamed to be human,” has passed through my mind.

Don’t Want to be the Same Species As Such Horrible People

It’s  not the first time I’ve pondered those things. I’ve thought them in response to hearing about hate killings of people because of their sexuality, such as Matthew Shepard. I’ve thought them hearing about acts of racism that people have faced over the years. I’ve even thought them in work, hearing about abuses that people with disabilities have had to endure from caregivers and supports (both paid and non-paid).

I’d like to believe that people aren’t evil. But some days it’s hard. And in my work, some days it feels like we’re a very, very long way from a society where people with disabilities are respected and regarded as equals.

Some days it gets easy to ask myself, “What’s the point? We’ll never get there…”

Another Perspective

I finished the fifth documentary yesterday, and one of the comments from the panel discussion is what has brought me here. Jerry Fowler, who worked for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. when the documentaries aired, said that from the Museum you can see the Jefferson Memorial. The Declaration of Independence is written on the walls of that memorial:  “All men are created equal”. Yet at the time the Declaration of Independence was written, Fowler observes, men owned slaves, and would for another century. For another century after that, there was legalized discrimination.

But “All men created equal” was a beautiful sentiment, even it wasn’t true when it was written, and it was definitely worth working toward…and still working toward today.  It would have been very easy at any given point in those next 200 years of legalized racism, “What does this mean for us, when it’s so obviously not true?”  However, it’s an idea that belongs in a space where everyone can see it and work toward it…even if getting there takes a long, long time.

(These are a paraphrase of Fowler’s words…Netflix won’t let me rewind this one and I actually had to let the documentary play through again to get to the interview a second time).

Changing the World

He was responding in general to a question about why we still seem reluctant to help countries that are struggling with genocide, even after all the lessons the West learned from its slow response to the Holocaust. I was encouraged by his idea that we need to be heartened by even the slow progress that humanity makes toward the ideal. I like the idea that the ideal *is* working toward, no matter how far away it seems.

On my bad days, when I ask myself why I and other disability advocates bother, I’ll try to remember his words and think of just one step that I can take that day to get us a bit closer to the world I’d like to see…even if it’s just a note to another disability advocate to say how much I appreciate their work…

Maybe that’s the real key to changing the world. One little step at a time.


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