Does anyone really care?
Is it just me, or does the incident I experienced recently also shock others. I was so appalled by what I saw that I contacted The Hamilton (ON) Spectator newspaper, the ODS (Ontario Disability Services), the Hamilton mayor, Fred Eisenberger, Monique Taylor, NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain, and Scott Duvall, MP for Hamilton Mountain, to get their reaction to the event.
A letter of concern
By reading the following email I sent to those recipients, you will discover what concerned me:
“During the past twenty years, I have raised four grandchildren with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: a severe disability caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. So, you can imagine my horror when, on Tuesday, August 30th, 2016, I arrived at 119 King West with my granddaughter for an appointment, and saw a long line-up of people with disabilities outside the government building, waiting behind a sign clearly marked “ODSP Line-Up”. When I asked one person what they were lining up for, I discovered that ODSP cheques were being hand distributed due to the probability of a postal strike.
The area is precarious with heavy traffic, excessive noise, and bustling crowds, and that morning was no exception. Exposing people with disabilities to those elements in that manner undermined their safety and their right to privacy as ODSP recipients.
From my experiences raising grandchildren with mental health issues, I am fully aware of the intense disdain harbored by many in our city toward the mentally disabled. Such contempt makes them vulnerable targets in such situations. Given the intense challenges associated with organizing large gatherings of disabled persons, it only makes sense that outside line-ups on public streets should be avoided at all times.
I hope you seek the opportunity to ask the organizer of that planned line-up what they were thinking by putting convenience above the safety, and privacy of our citizens within the disabled community.”
I sent that email on August 31st 2016. On September 2nd, I received this reply from Mayor Eisenberger:
Thank you for reaching out to me and I am sorry to hear of your recent experience at 119 King Street West. I have copied MPP Horwath’s office as the office is in her riding, and please again accept my apologies.
He’s right, I should have contacted MPP Horwath, as the incident happened in her riding, but despite the mayor forwarding my email to her office I have yet to hear from her, and wonder if I ever will. Neither has The Spectator, the ODS, nor the MPP or MP answered my email. So my question–Am I the only one shocked by such disregard toward individuals with disabilities?–remains unanswered. Perhaps, you, my blog reader, can answer that question for me. If you are a person with a disability, or are involved with one, I would love to hear your comment on this matter.
If you have never been involved with an individual with a disability, you might not fully understand, nor share my concern, so I have put the situation in perspective through the following illustration. Note the signs forcing people to reveal their medical information to all who happen be in the vicinity, which is what the ODSP office did to their recipients.