MICHAEL: This film is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts. This is also an Accessible Films Production.
The Ontario Arts Council logo is a small letter o above and to the left of a large triangle shape. A sideways C makes the triangle into a capital A, to form the acronym OAC.
The Canada Council for the Arts logo is a plant shape sprouting out from the soil.
The Accessible Films logo is a stick figure person in a wheelchair rolling up the side of a film strip, which serves as a ramp.
MICHAEL: Sometimes, you just want to do things by yourself. Sometimes, you just want to do things by yourself without running it by somebody else.
Shari, a white woman in her 70s wearing glasses, a floral sun hat, a white and pink striped shirt, and dark pants, holding a long white cane, stands near a beautiful lake on a clear day. She turns and smiles at the camera.
Megan, a white woman in her 60s with short grey hair, wearing a face mask, a dark jacket, grey pants, and a blue backpack, is prompted by her seeing-eye dog that a subway train is approaching.
MEGAN: Who wants to go and do their banking, or go for a walk, or go shopping, or just do your personal things and need someone else to come along with you to help facilitate you doing it?
Megan speaks to the camera, sitting on a leather high-backed chair, with a bulletin board and a fireplace in the background.
MICHAEL: However, if you’re a person with a disability, being independent is difficult, because the infrastructure of our cities was not built with people with disabilities in mind.
TRAIN ANNOUNCER: Our next, and final stop, is Union Station. Again, this train will be out of service upon arrival at Union. Passengers that are continuing on from Union Station must change trains and take the next eastbound train.
A shot out of a moving train at the city passing by.
SHARI: I was just sitting and I couldn’t see everything around me. So, I didn’t know how many people were in the back of the bus, or whether I was alone on the subway.
Shari sits at a conference table with a blank wall behind her, and speaks to the camera. Her hair is in a bob style and she wears a brown shirt, a gold chain pendant necklace, and a couple bangle bracelets.
SHARI CON’T: And, then a woman took me by the hand and said, “Come with me.” I looked around, and I realized that, when I looked around, that there was absolutely nobody on the subway. I had no idea.
They were waiting. The subway wasn’t moving. It was waiting for, like, something. So, that was a bit strange. So, that would have been nice to have some support there, like, either a visual sign saying the subway’s being vacated, or something.
MICHAEL: Instead, there’s an ableist sign that tells Deaf and Deaf-Blind people, like Shari, to “listen” to the announcements.
(Train bell ringing)
MICHAEL CON’T: Shari and I both feel unsafe on the subway platforms, which do not have any fences. Not only is the subway platform a problem, some subways only have stairs to get to them. On rainy or snowy days, the stairs can become slippery. It’s not just subways though. It’s the curbs, the small traffic lights, the construction that often leaves debris everywhere. It’s the bicycles that come on the sidewalk, and the cyclists who yell at me for not moving out of the way. “I’m sorry. I can’t hear you!” It’s the rideshare companies that insist on calling you when you need to get into your ride, or otherwise they leave.
Close up of article on Michael filing a human rights complaint against Uber.
MICHAEL CON’T: Oh, right! I forgot to introduce myself. I do that sometimes. I get passionate, and then I get carried away, and I hate small talk. The weather sucks. What can I say? My name is Michael McNeely, and I am also Deaf-Blind. It’s nice to meet you.
Michael is a white man in his 30s with short brown hair, glasses, and facial hair stubble. He is wearing a blue checked button down shirt. He is sitting in an office chair and speaking to the camera, with movie posters, a window, and a fireplace in the background.
MICHAEL CON’T: What does an accessible city look like? It looks like a city where people with disabilities are welcome in all areas. According to a 2018 report by the World Federation of the Deafblind, persons with Deaf-Blindness represent up to two percent of the population and are less likely to be employed when compared to everyone else. As a result of being faced with barriers all their lives, many people with disabilities become advocates.
Close up of someone setting out copies of A Better Sense of Self, A Memoir by Dawnelee Rae Wright
MICHAEL CON’T: Every June, the Deaf-Blind community, myself included, celebrates and raises awareness of our needs. This is where we spread awareness of Advocacy Club,
as well as other programs and services for Deaf-Blind people.
Shots of Advocacy Club members setting up display tables and talking with each other in a large outdoor space.
MICHAEL CON’T: Advocacy Club, though, is special. Because, it is how I figured out that there was a community for me, where I found love and acceptance, and realized that I could determine my own life ahead of me. This movie is the story of a few of us in the Advocacy Club, how we met, and how we still work together. It’s also a story about how we need each other to be independent.
MICHAEL CON’T: Welcome to Advocacy Club.
Title of film shows on screen.
MICHAEL CON’T: We meet here, at the Canadian Helen Keller Centre, or CHKC for short. For such an important place in our lives, it is a bit anticlimactic, because it is simply a house. However, it is a house that has been refurbished to allow Deaf-Blind people to practice different skills, such as cooking and gardening, in a safe way. There are many workshops, clubs, and activities that come out of the centre designed to help us lead happy, full, and safe lives. Even as we get older, we do not want to stop learning about our world. However, it’s challenging to find accessible methods to learn.
Shots of the interior of the CHKC building, including a boardroom with long tables, calendars of events, and bulletin boards, a kitchen, and other programming spaces.
MICHAEL CON’T: That’s where CHKC comes in. That’s why we have Advocacy Club, to advocate for better opportunities for all of us. CHKC’s Advocacy Club meets in the boardroom once a month for two hours. We discuss a wide range of accessibility issues. Some examples of the topics we cover include public transit, ensuring effective communication with those we meet, the latest apps to help us go about our business safely, and how best to work with our support persons called “intervenors.”
Close up of a framed photo of community members and intervenors at CHKC. Close up of different CHKC pamphlets.
MICHAEL CON’T: At CHKC, one of the most important things for any meeting is setting up. Sometimes, that happens before the starting time, but mostly it will happen after we were supposed to start. The tables and chairs have to be just so, because every Deaf-Blind person who attends our meetings has specific needs related to their level of vision and hearing, and, as well as specific needs related to their method of communication.
MICHAEL CON’T: For example, Christine is here
Christine is a white woman in her 70s with short dark grey hair, wearing a white patterned blouse. She is speaking to the group while seated with her walker in front of her
–and she needs to sit next to her intervenor, so that he can speak into her right ear everything that is being said. Christine uses a walker, and needs clear routes to travel in and out. Other people need their intervenors to sit across from them, or adjacent to them. Because everyone has specific needs, it is sometimes up to those people themselves to say what those specific needs are. This is called, “self-advocacy.” If just one person is not accommodated, or just one person doesn’t feel comfortable telling others what they need, our mission has already failed.
MICHAEL CON’T: We have reached our first micro-intermission. Each micro-intermission is 30 seconds long, and they’re designed to give you a sensory break. I will begin each micro-intermission by asking a question. And, that question is just food for thought. Ultimately, what you decide to do with those 30 seconds is up to you. The first question is: What does an accessible city mean to you?
Panning overhead shot of a city, as a counter ticks down the seconds remaining of the intermission. The film will now resume.
MICHAEL: Let’s meet another Deaf-Blind person. Her name is Barbara and she is in her 60s. Barbara has Usher’s Syndrome, so she communicates through a variety of methods. She receives information through tactile American Sign Language, or ASL by touching the hand of an intervenor who tells her what is being said, and what is going on around her. To speak, she uses her own two hands.
Barbara is a white woman in her 60s with shoulder-length silver hair. She is wearing a white t-shirt, a smart watch, and a silver medical alert bracelet.
BARBARA: My name is Barbara Milner and I’m Deaf-Blind. I like to learn things and take workshops. Some I like, and some I don’t. I know CHKC teaches cooking, but I never went to those classes. I prefer my own cooking, because I like to do things in a different way. I like to learn other ideas, but it depends on my own interests.
She is seated on her couch at first, but then she shows different parts of her kitchen and the rest of her house, which is very neat and organized, with large labels on some things she uses often.
Blurred out shots of Barbara’s home.
BARBARA CON’T: My vision is really, really blurry. I can see the light from the window. You know, dark and light, but I can’t see really anything. It just kind of looks like nothing on the wall, but I know this place because it’s my house. I know I have things on the wall. I know where there’s blank spaces. I know where the glass container and other things are, but I can’t really see them. I just know where they are.
Close up of Barbara’s wedding photo.
Shots of a busy street, and then a close up of someone walking on a sidewalk wearing high-heeled boots.
BARBARA CON’T: When I had children, I could see enough to go out with my cane, and I could use my vision to know where I was going, but now that I’m fully blind I can’t go out by myself. I think it stopped around 19… I think when I was 30 years old. Maybe 1988, I stopped going out by myself. My husband said, “No, it’s not safe for you to go outside. What if you miss something? You have to stop this. I don’t want you to get hit by a car.” And, so I said, “Okay, I agree.” And, that was that. I feel that it has robbed me of my independence.
A photo of Michael as a young child, wearing a hearing aid. A photo oF Michael as an adolescent swimming in open water and holding onto a paddle board. A photo of Michael as an adult standing in a field with a seaside city in the background. A photo of Michael sitting in a canoe holding a canoe paddle.
MICHAEL: 1988 was the year I was born. I can’t imagine not being able to be by myself outdoors. But, I do realize that I have privilege. Everybody who is Deaf-Blind is different. I hope that Barbara doesn’t feel like she has missed out a lot in life. I feel that Barbara is still independent in a lot of ways, even if that’s
not what we think about independence as being. What does independence mean to you? Does it mean the ability to go out whenever you want? What does it mean to feel safe outdoors?
BARBARA: My mother found out I was Deaf-Blind when I was eight, but I didn’t know until I was 15, through a friend. He tried to get my attention by waving at me. I didn’t respond. I was just looking around. I thought that was normal. My friend tapped me on the shoulder and I said “What is wrong?” He tried two or three times and it was really frustrating. I told him to stop, and he said, “Can you see on the sides? Maybe there’s something wrong with you.” I said, “No, why are you asking me that question?” I thought I could see fine. Then I found out I couldn’t see from the side. I took off and went home crying. I was upset that my mom didn’t tell me. I didn’t know the word associated with it. Then my mom just said, “Watch out where you’re going. Just be careful.”
BARBARA CON’T: I didn’t really understand. I thought we were the same. Sometimes I fell, and I didn’t really understand what was going on. I finally realized that my mom and my friends could see more than me. I know my mom was trying to protect me, and that was normal, but I was getting into dangerous situations, and I had to be more careful. Like, I couldn’t see cars. I was lucky that nothing happened to me. I just had to accept it, and move on.
Close up of a photo of Barbara as a young woman.
BARBARA CON’T: I went to Metro Toronto School for the Deaf, and it was awful, that school. I grew up fully Deaf there. I think a lot of teachers didn’t care about bullying. The kids bullied me. The teachers didn’t do anything about it. They just said, “Oh, they’re just teasing you.” But, I said, “No, they’re bullying me.” I didn’t have any help with it, so I was always alone. I didn’t think I was different because of my vision.
Shots of a playground and school.
BARBARA CON’T: I grew up, and eventually I moved to Claire Lea School. I liked it. The people left me alone. They didn’t bully me.
BARBARA CON’T: But, then we moved to California when I was 12. And, I loved it there. The teachers were pretty strict. If other students bullied or picked on me, the teachers would stop it immediately. And, they said, “Respect Barbara.” I was like, “Wow, I really love this.” I felt better about myself. In Canada, the schools were not as strict as they were in the US. Students in the US were really respectful and nice. They would get punished if they picked on me. So, I really liked that. I stayed there for six years only.
Panning shot of Barbara’s kitchen.
BARBARA CON’T: I was really upset when we moved back, because I loved it there. I moved to Burlington, and got married and had a family. I went to school with four kids in my house. My kids were aged 6, 8, 18, and 19 years old. And, it was really hard, but I continued going to school. My husband worked at night. I needed help from him, but I didn’t get much. It was hard, but I passed with 97 percent.
Photo of Barbara wearing a purple and yellow uniform with several badges pinned on.
MICHAEL: Barbara only received two accommodations in adult school: a magnifying glass and reading glasses. This is significant, because when we think about accommodations, sometimes we make things more complicated than they really are. Sometimes, someone’s accommodations could be as simple as a magnifying glass, but not having that accommodation could mean the difference between being included, or not being able to participate.
MICHAEL CON’T: Welcome to the micro-intermission. Here is your question to think about. What kinds of things have you given up on and why?
Shot of a subdivision.
The film will now resume.
BARBARA: Before, I really wanted to find work helping people, but I’m limited with my intervention hours. I wanted an education, family, and school. However, I need to get paid. I can’t really volunteer forever, so it’s kind of hard. Yeah, yeah, I’ve been volunteering for about 18 years, and I haven’t been paid. I’m not sure where I can go to advocate about finding a job, or how best to fight discrimination.
A shot of an office space. A timelapse shot of a clock with the hands spinning around the clock face.
MICHAEL: Having a disability means that, for the most part, you’re more likely to be considered a volunteer, but not as an employee. This was one of the reasons why Barbara joined Advocacy Club.
BARBARA: I’m an advocate since 2000. I joined Advocacy Club because I had enough of barriers, and being told “No,” and being frustrated. I didn’t really have support at that time. I was getting a lot of oppression. I wanted to show people that I could do the same as them, and that we have a right to accessibility. Through accessibility, we can succeed. So, I joined to see everyone’s ideas, and learn how to break through barriers, and learn how to make accessibility possible for all of us.
Shots of Barbara and other Advocacy Club members discussing in the CHKC boardroom.
MICHAEL: Part of the reason that Advocacy Club exists is to allow Deaf-Blind people to support each other, even if the hearing community will not. Barbara has needed to advocate for many things in her life, and she still needs to keep advocating for more. Let’s take a look at some of the things that Barbara has advocated for.
BARBARA: I use both the stairs and the ramp outside, depending on the situation. I didn’t always have the extra railings that you see outside. I had to get a special request for those. I needed those extra railings to feel safe when taking out the recycling. So, then it got approved. Now, I just follow the railing to take out my recycling and garbage.
911 OPERATOR: 911. What’s your emergency?
Shot of someone having a text conversation on their smartphone, at night with a busy city street in the background. Shot of an ambulance driving down the street with its lights and sirens on.
MICHAEL: Barbara also advocated for Emergency Intervenor Services, EIS, which is the ability to ask for assistance during holidays, or serious emergencies, after normal work hours.
BARBARA: A long time ago, I asked the government, “Why don’t you have EIS?” They told me that they did have them, and I said, “No, CHS has them. RCA has them. But, CNIB has nothing. And, we need it. I just can’t… I can’t depend on my kids during emergencies. It’s not fair to them. I’m stealing their work time. They have to leave work to take me, and that’s not fair. I said ‘Intervenors should be available.'”
BARBARA CON’T: There was a bit of a struggle and an argument there. I struggled for a long time as I waited for them to set up a committee. Around January 2010, the committee formed so I went to them again, and again, and again, and again, and I bothered them often. I continued bothering them until I found out that in August 2013, they were starting to set up the EIS program. And, I said, “Oh, this is awesome news! This is amazing. That’s great. Thank you so much!”
A close up of Barbara holding a small green device with several buttons (accessible alarm clock)
MICHAEL: Barbara also advocates for an accessible alarm clock which she brought up during Advocacy Club. Here’s a clip from that session.
Advocacy Club is in the CHKC’s living room where there are about 4 tables set up to make three-quarters of a square. Deaf-Blind participants and intervenors are sitting around in various positions, talking animatedly. Remember, the intervenors are saying what their clients are saying. Intervenor A is Barbara’s intervenor.
INTERVENOR A: Well, the first time I looked for a Braille clock I couldn’t find one. They didn’t make any more. So, I was stuck. I was searching and searching. I looked for about five years. And, then I found the Helen Vibrating Clock.
MICHAEL: The Helen Clock uses Braille and vibration feedback for the Deaf-Blind users to set alarms and to wake up on time.
INTERVENOR A: It’s not just for me. It’s not just for me being Deaf-Blind. It’s good for other people. But, like, what about other people? They don’t have anything. It’s not fair. You know, I want it- Okay, Barbara’s speaking. You can’t get funding.
INTERVENOR B: You can’t get…
INTERVENOR A: ADP doesn’t cover the price.
INTERVENOR B: ADP doesn’t cover
INTERVENOR A: It’s almost $1,000. So, can all of you afford that?
INTERVENOR B: Oh, it’s over $1,000. Can you afford that?
CHRISTINE: Oh! No, okay.
INTERVENOR C: Laurie’s speaking. $1,000?
INTERVENOR B: Laurie’s speaking. $1,000?
INTERVENOR C: I guess because it’s from another country, the cost increases?
INTERVENOR B: It’s from another country.
Back to Barbara’s house and her own scene.
BARBARA: I don’t want to be selfish. I want equality, accessibility for everyone, and for us to share. I am trying, but I haven’t found a way to get this for other people. I want Deaf-Blind people to be more educated. And, I want us to learn how to work together. I want us to respect each other’s opinions, and not just say, “It’s my opinion. It’s my preference.” I just want the Deaf-Blind people to know how to support each other.
Close up of Barbara using a braille keyboard to type on her computer.
MICHAEL: Welcome to the micro-intermission. Here is your question to think about. How do you know it’s safe to tell someone about your disability?
A shot of the exterior of Barbara’s home
The film will now resume.
The SouthEasthealthline.ca website, where health services for South-East Ontario are listed. Someone enters Doctor into the website search bar and a results page appears.
A shot of Michael attempting to connect to online mental health services. He becomes frustrated and walks away.
Michael: One of the things that really bothers me is when businesses or professionals only give you a phone number to contact them. For many people who are Deaf, phones are still a great obstacle to overcome. Many Deaf people no longer have TTYs, and instead use chat features online, or texting. Once upon a time, I was placed on a waiting list for mental health services. I told the social worker who placed me on the waiting list that I’m Deaf, and they should not phone me. They did, and then they assumed that I was not interested in getting mental health services, because I didn’t answer the phone. Thankfully, I was able to realize what happened, and get my doctor to fix the situation without much of a wait for me. However, it is important to consider having multiple methods of communication. This came up during one of our Advocacy Club meetings. Let’s observe.
Close-up of different telecommunications images and symbols, including a cellphone, a microphone icon, a text message icon, and an email icon.
CHRISTINE: I missed that.
INTERVENOR A: Michael says his doctor says
INTERVENOR A: his information won’t be secure online–
INTERVENOR B: Barbara has her hand up.
INTERVENOR A: –but I assume the dignity of risk.
INTERVENOR B (Speaking for Shari): Same with my doctor. They can’t accept e-mail appointments either. They say, “No, you have to phone.” Which means I have to wait for an intervenor to come because I can’t… I don’t have a TTY because I use Braille, right? And, that’s really expensive. It’s, like, $8,000 for a Braille TTY. So, I said, “Forget it. I don’t want that.” So, then I have to wait for an intervenor. It’s awful because I have to wait.
INTERVENOR C: Laurie’s shaking her head.
INTERVENOR C: Shari says… very few will accept e-mails. I go to a throat doctor, and they accept e-mails. So, those are my two doctors, and I explained to them that I’m Deaf, and I want to keep my independence, and I have a right to clear communication. I’m not a little girl. And, they said, “Okay.” And, I had to sign a consent. And, I asked them, “Do you mind if I sign a consent?”
They said, “Okay, no problem.”
MICHAEL: This is Shari. Shari is equal parts wise and mischievous, and is not afraid to speak her mind.
SHARI: I would like a cane that had a Taser. Yes, it would help people move over or get out of the way. Sometimes, I’m using my cane. And, a person in front of me, a man, would not move! I even, like, tried to get around him, and he would not move in front of me. And, I was getting my cane out, and I was, you know, working it, and he didn’t even care– I didn’t care that he was mad! I put it right up between his legs! Yes, I did. And, then he moved, and then I carried on my way.
I don’t care. He had no respect.
A shot of Shari out on the water in a motorboat. She smiles and waves at the camera.
SHARI CON’T: Some clients say, “You should have an intervenor with you at all times.” But, whoa! I’m strongly independent. I don’t want to walk everywhere with an intervenor. I don’t like the word “can’t.” I do ask for intervenors where I need them, but I’m also very independent, and I can do a lot by myself. I don’t have to have an intervenor at all times. You know, like, as if I can’t make decisions on my own, or do stuff on my own. No, no, no. I know some people will say, “You’re full of pride. You don’t want the help.” That’s not true. I’m not full of pride. I’m just… I’m not a baby. And, I don’t need someone to spoon feed me.
A shot of Shari posing on a beach.
MICHAEL: Shari is most definitely not a baby. There’s a tendency for many to infantilize people with disabilities. There’s a concept called ‘dignity of risk.’ Many of us can choose to take risks in our day-to-day lives. For example, we may choose to run across the street instead of waiting for a green light.
Shots of a busy city street.
MICHAEL CON’T: Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best example. However, a risk may be trying a new restaurant, or purchasing a new kind of food item. Sometimes, services for people with disabilities discourage taking risks. If it’s worked before, then it should work now. However, that makes life boring.
Photos of Shari as a young woman – on a basketball team, standing with a friend, sitting on a dock, posing with a hand-drawn sign that says “end oppression of the deaf!!”
MICHAEL CON’T: What Shari is saying here is that she wants the ability to make her own decisions. She’s pursued sports when she was younger, and is an avid fan of baseball. She’s also an activist, and not afraid to protest for what she believes in. She also did the Edge Walk on the CN Tower for her 70th birthday.
SHARI: Then, I started to go to school in Belleville. But, when I got to Belleville, I was so amazed because everybody was signing, not just me.
A class photo from Shari’s childhood.
MICHAEL: So, were you allowed to sign?
SHARI: Not in class, not in class. If we signed, we got the strap.
MICHAEL: Yes, I heard about that.
SHARI: Yeah, we had to hold out our hands on the table like this. And, if I even… if I even waved to another friend, just to get their attention, I’d get the strap. And, we’d get it right on the forearms and on the hands. And, I’d have to hold my hands out like this all class (Shari stretches arms out in front of her), and if we moved our hands, we’d get the strap. It was hard to learn anything that way.
Vintage footage of a classroom for deaf children.
SHARI CON’T: So, the one thing I hated most was we sat in a semi-circle, and we had to wear these earphones, and then there was a wire going around the classroom. And, this one boy across the room, he was hard of hearing, he had the earphones, and he understood everything the teacher said. And, I was having a hard time with these earphones. I could hear some, but I was having a hard time, and the teacher would jam up the volume thinking I needed more volume. So, if it was at one, the teacher decided to put it up to eight or nine, and it gave me such a headache listening to that sound. I would try to turn it down to two, and one, ’cause it was so painful. Even at one. I’d rather no sound. But, because the other kids couldn’t hear, and the one boy who was hard of hearing complained because he couldn’t hear the sound, and we were all hooked into the same system, so they jacked it up full blast. And, so I, eventually, threw them off, ’cause my ears hurt so much.
MICHAEL: Oh, I can imagine.
SHARI: I got punished for that, but what was I being punished for? I tried to explain it was hurting my ears, and the teacher said, “You’re pretending to be deaf! Stop it!” I’m like, “I’m not pretending to be Deaf.” That was really… that was the worst.
Vintage footage of a classroom for deaf teenagers.
MICHAEL: Schools of the Deaf have traditionally not been happy places. For many who are Deaf, those in their families don’t know how to communicate with them. Sign language grew out of Deaf schools, with students communicating with each other. However, just like in Shari’s case, sign language was against the rules up to a certain time. This meant that Deaf people were further isolated and more vulnerable because they could not report abuse to anyone that would listen.
Photos of Shari as a child, and as a young woman.
SHARI: My family moved to BC, so I was with them. And, we ended up moving to a school in Vancouver called Jericho Hill School for the Deaf, JHS. And, it was terrible. It was terrible. They didn’t have… I don’t even think they had grades. I don’t know. I don’t remember grades. It felt like you were just always repeating the same grade over and over for three years straight. We weren’t learning anything. And, again, the teachers were saying that I was pretending to be Deaf. I said, “Why is everybody telling me that I’m pretending to be Deaf?” And, it was because I could speak so well. “You should go to an oral school,” they said. “No, I’m Deaf. I can’t hear.” I don’t hear at all anymore, but I could hear some things, but I could never follow a spoken conversation.
Vintage footage of a teacher writing on a blackboard.
SHARI CON’T: And, when I was there, the teacher was writing on the blackboard. They wrote three questions that were supposed to help us when we graduated and went out into the world. One was, you know, a question about getting a job. “How will you get a job?”, and “Will you get a job?”, and “Will you go to Gallaudet?” So, they wrote these three things on the board, and I thought, “Ah, Gallaudet University! That’s my choice.” ’cause I knew I could learn a lot of things there. And, so, I put my hand up and I said, “My choice is Gallaudet.” And, the teacher said, “N-O. You cannot because you’re a bad girl. Your family has no money, and you can’t go.” I was stunned! I was just sickened by their response. And, I thought, “That’s it. I quit school.” I swore at the teacher. I said the F-word several times. I was so angry. I was so upset, and then I ran out of school and I cried. And, I ran to my mom and then she was so upset. I told my mom that some kids were much poorer than us, and they went to Gallaudet. Thanks a lot, school.
Shots of someone walking shoeless along a nature path, wearing a sundress.
SHARI CON’T: I didn’t have any counsel, or advisors, or, like, anybody to guide me through that process. I didn’t have anyone saying, “Hey, you can try this route.” “You can do this. Maybe you should try this.” No, I was just told I was a bad girl, and I shouldn’t go to Gallaudet. And, I was so bored at school, because they kept teaching us the same thing over and over. I was so restless. I wanted to learn. Maybe, that’s what made me a bad girl.
Photo of Shari as a young woman, holding her cat.
MICHAEL: So, did you ever get to go to Gallaudet?
SHARI: I never did. Often, I neglected myself. I have a big heart. I love people. I love helping people. So, I helped other people reach their goals. You know, sometimes I didn’t remember to focus on myself. So, I know people have rights and I want them to stand up for their rights, and I like to advocate for people. And, people sometimes would say to me, “You need to stand up for yourself.” And, I’m still that way. I’m still that way.
Shots of a snowy city street. Shari walks towards the camera wearing a winter coat and using her white cane.
MICHAEL: Welcome to the micro-intermission. Here is your question to think about. Have you always had support when you needed it?
Shot of a bird feeder.
The film will now resume.
Photo of Shari by herself, and then photos of her volunteering with different groups of people.
SHARI: I just discovered that I had this natural interest in helping, and supporting Deaf people, and especially those who were learning delayed. It wasn’t a job. It was just something I did to help out. I was always volunteering as an intervenor. I was never paid. It was a Hell of a job, but I was not trained. And, then somebody told me, “You would be a really good intervenor.” And, I didn’t even know what that meant at the time. They could communicate. They had intellect, but they just couldn’t see and hear. So, that’s how I became involved in supporting people with any disability really.
Photos of Shari working with Deaf-Blind folks.
SHARI CON’T: Yeah. And, I worked as an interpreter-instructor teaching students, and what I would do is, I would bring Deaf-Blind individuals into the classroom, so that they could share their stories at different times. And, the students would have to practice communicating with them in different ways, depending on how that Deaf-Blind person preferred to be communicated with.
MICHAEL: Can you start talking a little bit about George Brown College, and how you started to get involved with it?
Shots of students practicing ASL interpretation.
SHARI: Okay, well, it started with the Advocacy Club. And, I started to complain. And, it wasn’t… It was a little bit about my frustration with the program at George Brown College, and they didn’t have enough ASL going on there. And, so, some of the intervenors who worked with Deaf-Blind clients in the area were also part of the Advocacy Club, were also frustrated with that. And, it’s been a long time. Intervenors have been working for a long time, and, still, their sign language is not improving. So, we were frustrated with that as a club. We talked about our need for more ASL, that Deaf-Blind people were not happy, and they were making… They were very unhappy with the level of ASL that the intervenors were coming out with. And, the Deaf-Blind community needed more ASL support, similar to what interpreters were getting. And, it wasn’t the intervenors’ fault. They were not getting proper training. And, Mike asked Betty Jean to join the program advisory committee, the P.A.C. And, so she sat in on that meeting, and it’s quite a large group of people, all hearing, one Deaf-Blind, myself.
SHARI CON’T: And… Different organizations are represented at the table, including Deaf-Blind organizations. But, I was sharing some things that the community was concerned about. And, one of the biggest concerns was medical signs, or medical words, being intervened, or interpreted, at the right level. And, that’s still the case. There’s just not enough experience, and enough training in that area.
Shots of a doctor consulting with a patient.
This recent spring, I went to talk to them about this issue. They extended the program by a couple of months. And, I felt like getting up and saying, “A couple months is not enough! I would say it’s better that they have two, or three, maybe even four years of training, similar to the Interpreter Training Program.” But, I didn’t feel comfortable getting up in a group of hearing people where I was the only one who was Deaf. I just didn’t feel like they would get it, so I didn’t stand up and say that. So, I think they still take the view that Deaf people, and Deaf-Blind people in particular, are to be pitied.
And, so, they still have that view that we’re, you know, inferior. You know, we need to be pitied. And, so, they feel sorry for us. So, I don’t know what I can do about that program.
Photos of Shari with other Deaf-Blind folks, and Advocacy Club members. Photo of Shari with Michael.
SHARI CON’T: Like, I want them… I want all Deaf-Blind people to see their potential. I’m 70, and, so, I don’t want the future to repeat– history to repeat itself in the future. That we’re not making progress, So, I’m really trying to work on that now. A lot of Deaf-Blind people are not self-directed, and, so, they
depend on hearing people to tell them what to do next, and they passively accept that direction, and they’re not thinking for themselves a lot of the time. And, they’re not saying, “No, nobody tells me what to do. I’m gonna decide what I do next. I’m gonna take direction on my own.” Intervenors do listen to Deaf-Blind people. They do listen to their desires, and their wishes, but, a lot of Deaf-Blind people aren’t independently making decisions on their lives, and on their daily lives. They’re very much dependent on their intervenors. They take one step and then they look back to see if the intervenor approves, and that’s what I’m observing in the Deaf-Blind world.
SHIARI CON’T: I just see such a pattern, and it’s really disturbing to me. And, I think there is support, and there is assistance, but it’s, like, Deaf-Blind people are waiting for these hearing people to tell them what to do. They don’t take that step into independence. They’re very dependent. And, I don’t blame them, especially the elderly ones. They’ve been trained in the old day by their intervenors of the past to listen to them, to wait for their intervenors to tell them what to do. So, I don’t blame them. It’s a learned helplessness. So, I’m trying to encourage Deaf-Blind people to be more independent, but I can’t force them.
SHARI CON’T: Advocacy is like… To me, advocacy is very similar to… encouragement, waking people up, helping them to accomplish.
Shots of a man with prosthetic legs in a locker room, and then on a running track. His coach encourages him from the sidelines.
MICHAEL: People with disabilities are told time and time again that their opinions don’t matter. You don’t actually have to say to somebody that their opinions don’t matter to make them feel like their opinions don’t matter. You simply just have to ignore them, or to impose your opinions over theirs. The magic of Advocacy Club, or the magic of advocating in general, is that you get to see that you have an opinion.
SHARI: I learned about culture, and I started to learn about rights and, so, those kind of things, as a young woman, and I started to become quite angry at the world. And, so, I decided to write poems, and, I shared it with some intervenors and some friends, and they said, “Oh, you need to send that
to the Helen Keller Centre and the CNIB. You need to share this poem widely.” And, I said, “Hold on. I won’t share it with just anybody, just those who I feel comfortable sharing it with, because it’s my perspective on my own personal experience and what I’ve been through.”
MICHAEL: Would you ever perform your poem on camera? (Shari ponders.)
MICHAEL CON’T: Welcome to the micro-intermission. Here is your question to think about. How do you find the courage to speak up for yourself?
Time lapse shot of a cityscape at night.
The film will now resume.
Shot of a black woman holding a tablet working in an IT server room. Shot of wires. Close-up of someone navigating a smartphone. Close-up of someone writing on paper with a mechanical pencil. Shot of someone using a stylus to draw on a tablet. A shot of the low-battery icon blinking on a screen.
MICHAEL: Technology is one of those things that can help you or hurt you. For example, technology can greatly improve accessibility, but, at the same time, it can also be unaffordable. Many of the ways we learn about technology are inaccessible. Just think of training videos without any captioning, or manuals that are in small print, or don’t have a Braille version. This means that there’s a big gap between technology, and those who could benefit from it. Let’s observe another Advocacy Club session on this popular topic.
Advocacy Club session is in session.
MICHAEL: ‘Cause Barbara- no? Okay. We don’t know if it does or not?
INTERVENOR A: I don’t know about the Braille.
INTERVENOR B: Have you heard about that app before?
INTERVENOR B: Have you heard about that app before?
MEGAN: No, I haven’t used it. I usually use the TTC transit app.
INTERVENOR A: I don’t know about the Braille because I don’t use that, but…
MICHAEL: No, Megan, do you use this app, the “TTC Watch?”
MEGAN: I haven’t used it.
MEGAN: The only app I’ve been using for a while is the transit app. I haven’t been using this other one that they just mentioned, but I should check it out.
MICHAEL: Yeah, please check it out, and then if it’s not accessible for those on Braillers we can always ask them to change the app.
INTERVENOR A: Here, Megan, Shari’s showing you her phone.
INTERVENOR A: It’s just in front of you here. It’s the bottom middle two.
MICHAEL: Megan is our tech expert, and she tells us about the latest technology, both the good and the bad. She also runs the iOS club at CHKC, helping us all to stay up to date. Here, she’s talking about a mobile app for public transit users.
INTERVENOR B: TTC Watch.
MEGAN: Watch, Watch, yeah, I haven’t tried that one. I’ll have to check it, but, um… But, no, it does need to be checked to see if it’s accessible because if the text is on it in such a way that it can be navigated with the screen reader, the built-in voice-over, then it can also be navigated with the Braille display. I’ll download it and see what it looks like.
Megan walking up the stairs of a stadium with her white cane and her guide dog MICHAEL: Megan is probably the closest to a professional athlete that the Deaf-Blind community has.
MEGAN: I always went to regular schools, so it was a bit of a challenge because I didn’t always hear what was going on in the class. So, they had me using things like FM systems and, um, but still I needed to lip-read. So, it was especially a challenge if the teacher would walk around the room, and then I couldn’t be able to see them, or, they would turn their back to write on the blackboard. That was a big challenge. And, I wouldn’t be able to hear the conversations and discussions in the class, so, I depended a lot on reading the textbooks.
Shots of a school corridor, and a close up of a backpack with blurred out students walking in the background. Students working at desks.
MEGAN CON’T: But, then, yeah, once I was in college though, and I was a bit older, I mean, I was better at, ummm… talking to them, and discussing what I needed in order to learn, to get what I needed so that I could be successful at learning. So, at that time, my big thing was always playing sports.
Photos of Megan jet-skiing, then skiing in the snow. A photo of Megan’s hockey team.
MEGAN CON’T: So, I’d always be off doing things with the hockey team, or the baseball team, or going skiing, or… And, I used to drive a motorcycle, before my vision got bad, so, and I used to love bike riding. I started with the blind hockey shortly after I got my first orientation and mobility training when I was about 33. That was after I went to the… our first RP and Usher’s social in North Carolina, and the orientation and mobilities instructor told me about the Ice Owls, because she happened to know about
the team. ‘Cause I joined in 1998, and, so, I’ve been playing since then. So, I just finished my 19th year playing with the Ice Owls.
Shots of a blind hockey team on the ice.
MICHAEL: Blind hockey uses modified rules and equipment. For example, the puck is made out of steel that makes noise, and is larger than a traditional puck.
(People yelling and cheering)
MAN: Go, go, go, go, go!
(People yelling and cheering)
Dark shot of a motorcycle. Then shots of a busy city street.
MEGAN: So, as I got into later in my 20s, and then into my 30s, I was getting… It was a lot more difficult. Like, the more my vision deteriorated, it was just, like, the less I could do. Like, you’re losing the ability to drive, and then you’re… and then you’re, as your vision gets worse, then you’re losing the ability to get around independently without using a cane. So, it changes a lot of your self-perspective of who you are, I guess. And, so, like myself, a lot of people have a hard time making that adjustment.
MEGAN CON’T: I found that, when I was using the white cane, is that people were walking more carefully around me. They would see that, and they wouldn’t just cut right across in front of me. So, it made a huge difference, and, of course, then I’d be, like, “Why didn’t I start doing this earlier?” And, a lot of people go through that.
A photo of Megan with a group of people outside. A blurry shot of a snake.
MEGAN CON’T: But, this one woman, she basically frog-marched me out into the hall of the hotel, and handed me her cane. And, I was like, “No, no, no, I don’t wanna do this.” And, I’m like, I sort of, like, I swear. She’s holding this cane in front of me, and she’s fixing me with this glare, like… You know, like– (Laughing) And, I’m looking at that cane and I’m thinking, like, I’m sure that cane handle turned into a hissing serpent that was about to bite me. I mean it was, like, just kind of, like, “Oh, I don’t wanna do this.” But, she pushed it into my hand, and basically, I ended up walking down the hall of the hotel using her white cane, and she was giving me some tips on how to use it.
I mean, and I have to admit that it was… it did help.
A shot of Megan throwing a frisbee into a lake for her dog to retrieve.
MICHAEL: Now, Megan also uses guide dogs to get around. Here, she’s playing with her first guide dog, Billy, at the beach.
MEGAN: For me, like, having, Billy, my first guide dog, it was, like, a huge new advancement in my mobility, because it just made it so much easier, because the dog learns your routes, and they learn. They guide you around all the obstacles. The dog can see in the dark. I mean, there’s just so many things that the dog does for you. So, Billy worked for me from August 2006 to March 2016. And, then, the day after I retired Billy, I went back to Leader Dogs to get Kajun, who is my current guide dog. So, I’ve had
him since, uh… So, I’ve had– Kajun, you’re pulling on this a little bit. Let me loosen it. So, I’ve had Kajun, here, since March 2016. So, we’ve been a team for two years.
Photos of Megan with Billy. A photo of Billy and Kajun.
MICHAEL: Does he behave himself?
INTERVENOR: Does he behave himself?
MEGAN: Oh, he’s a good boy. (Laughing) He’s pretty good. He’s pretty good. He’s still a young guy, so there’s some times I have to correct him, but it was the same way with Billy when he was a young dog. I had to correct him more, but he, Kajun, is a smart boy. And, he knows I’m talking about him. And, he’s a smart boy, and he’s learned a lot of my routes really quickly. Come on. Sit down. Down. I know. Come here. Come here.
A close up of a page showing Leader Dog graduates from the class of 2016. Kajun is circled in yellow.
MICHAEL: Welcome to the micro-intermission. Here is your question to think about while you enjoy a clip of some cute puppies. How much independence do you really have?
The film will now resume.
MEGAN: Um, so… And, when I first started, like, using intervenors, it was, uh… I was kind of resistant to it, because I was in denial about… I mean, I was in denial about the idea of having someone, you know, going with me all the time, going with me whenever I do my business.
Close up shots of hourglasses.
MICHAEL: In Megan’s story, we see a trajectory from when she did not consider herself disabled to when she became willing to use accommodations. This is a typical pattern, for someone who has a degenerative disability, or who becomes disabled later in life. We don’t like change, and we’re afraid of the future. One of the responses to an uncertain future is taking control of it.
MEGAN: In a lot of cases, when you’re advocating for something like intervenor services, you may get some small improvements over time. So, for example, um, when… when they… When we were able to get funding for, to provide, I guess, what you would call “the standard level of service,” for people who are Deaf-Blind, who get to have up to 10 to 12 hours of service a week, and continuing to advocate for more than that, because that’s still a very low amount.
An external shot of a court building. A shot of someone going over a form with two seniors.
MEGAN CON’T: So, there’s been several cases where people, um, where people either had court cases, or went to mediation, or whatever, to fight for the right to assume dignity of risk, to fight for having the right to choose to fly by themself– to assume the dignity of risk for themselves, to educate people that, just because someone cannot hear very… cannot hear, cannot hear very well, who cannot see, or
cannot see very well, does not mean that they are incapable of traveling by themselves, with… as long as they are provided with the basic levels of accommodation that other passengers could be expected– could expect to receive.
Michael is holding a small model plane.
MICHAEL: After a number of complaints, and court processes, Air Canada finally changed its policy allowing Deaf-Blind folks to travel independently on their airlines. Prior to the change in policy, Deaf-Blind people like myself could not travel independently, and, therefore, the Air Canada agents would not book us on planes by ourselves. Megan has also advocated for an accessible emergency response system in Canada.
Shots of emergency responders at a crashed car.
MEGAN: The TEXT with 911 in Canada, it’s a system for people who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability. Like, so, for speech disability, it could be someone who has a condition that, for whatever reason, they are unable to speak, or are unable to speak clearly enough to be understood.
A shot of people in a call centre speaking on head sets. A shot of a man sitting on his bed trying to communicate on his smartphone. He is frustrated and holds his head in his hand.
MEGAN CON’T: For some who do not communicate orally, it’s compounded by the fact that they cannot use their voice to speak clearly to provide information. So, that’s a complete communication breakdown. You know, you’re in an emergency situation, and you need help immediately, and you really need to have the ability to communicate clearly with the 911 operator immediately. I have a hard time really even fully
envisioning the… what… a dream for the future, because my biggest dream would be to have my vision back, because, then I would have my personal independence. I mean, I’m not even sure right now what I think the future is going to look like. I think the only thing we can really do is keep our minds open to the possibilities of what could be happening.
Shots of an airplane lifting off, then flying above the clouds.
MICHAEL: Welcome to the last micro-intermission. Here is your question to think about. Do other people stop you from living your life on your own terms?
Shots of clouds.
The film will now resume.
A shot of someone walking into the CHKC building and entering the Advocacy Club space.
MICHAEL: Working for CHKC gave me the first real chance to meet other Deaf-Blind people. I admit I was scared of meeting other Deaf-Blind people, because I didn’t know what it meant to be happy and Deaf-Blind. What if someone else’s idea of happiness was different than mine? For example, what if I
didn’t want to marry someone? What if I didn’t want to be a poet? What if I didn’t like blind hockey? What if? What if? What if?!
MICHAEL CON’T: But, from talking with people like Barbara, Shari, and Megan, I feel less scared about things. Their hopes and their dreams do not need to be my own hopes and dreams. We are different people, and like different things. Being Deaf-Blind does not make us all the same. I do understand their dreams and their worries for the future. I have some of those, too. I, too, am scared of losing my independence, my ability to do whatever I want. This is the Advocacy Club. We meet once a month, come rain or shine. Some of us can’t make it all the time, but that is okay. We know that we are here for each other.
MICHAEL CON’T: The act of coming together is important, and resonates through the Deaf-Blind community, even if we don’t know it at the time. Sometimes, we don’t feel that we are a community, as we are isolated from each other by inaccessibility. It is an uphill climb to pursue our passions in life when we face inaccessibility in our day-to-day lives. Because we want different things, it seems like we are on our own quests to achieve our goals for ourselves. From listening to other Deaf-Blind folks, I have learned that even though we’re all on different journeys, we can still support each other. I can support them on their journeys, and they can support me on mine. We all have to work together in order to make the world a more accessible place, and to ensure that Deaf-Blind people can lead successful and happy lives. Thankfully, it’s not just the Deaf-Blind community
that are working on that, though. There are those outside of the Deaf-Blind community that are trying to help us, as well.
A shot of the TORONTO sign in Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, Ontario.
Kristyn is an Asian woman with short black hair, wearing a white dress shirt with a black vest. She is standing outside with city buildings and some pedestrians in the background.
KRISTYN WONG-TAM: My name is Kristyn Wong-Tam, and I’m a city councillor here in the City of Toronto. I also am the Chair of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee. What advocacy means to me is the effective lobbying for social change. So, that means change around policies, government processes, things that we are looking for. And, in this case, around the issues of greater accessibility and accommodations, advocacy is absolutely critical, because government’s not doing everything right. And, we need a lot of help, and a lot of pressure from the outside communities to help us make sure that we can deliver government services, and meet people where they need- their needs are.
A photo of Barbara in the water with another woman, both wearing swimsuits. They are touching a dolphin who is swimming next to them.
MICHAEL: People who are Deaf-Blind also need personal support, and those services can be in short supply.
A photo of Shari walking through the woods.
A photo of Megan and her guide dog Kajun wearing Ice Owls hockey jerseys.
MICHAEL (to Megan): All right, you’ve told me about the challenge of advocating when you don’t have enough intervention hours.
MEGAN: Yeah, well–
MICHAEL: And, the fact that you need intervention to advocate.
MEGAN: Yeah, well, exactly. That’s the big thing. The big thing about being Deaf-Blind is you need, in order to advocate for intervenor services, you actually need intervenor services in order to fight for them. That’s one thing that a lot of people don’t quite get. Because, you know, if you take, just for example… Just, for example, say, you had 10 Deaf people who wanted to advocate for better services. Now, if all those 10 Deaf people, they’re sighted. If they want to advocate- meet and advocate, they can just pick a spot to meet, and then they can all get there independently, and then, they can be all there signing away, because they can all see each other signing, and it’s totally private, too. Like, they don’t have to- nobody else has to even know that they’re meeting. But, for people who are Deaf-Blind, if we want to have a meeting to advocate for something, it’s really- it’s a challenge. Because, um… And, especially for those who have no, or very limited intervenor time, it’s a challenge, because in order to before we can even meet, we have to get there.
Shots inside CHKC, including a calendar of events, and a braille bulletin “graffiti board”.
MICHAEL: People who need support can become dependent on those who provide the support, especially if those who provide the support control how that support is provided. Advocacy Club is not just about fighting the powers that be, though. It’s about being vulnerable, and allowing others to share in what it means to be human. For example, Christine Nichols, another participant at the club, had something to say during one of our meetings.
At Advocacy Club now:
CHRISTINE: What is important? Do you know one thing that did happen here in this Advocacy Club, Michael? Um, last year, sometime, it was when there were more people coming all the time, and I suddenly had one of those moments where the lights went on.
CHRISTINE: “Eureka!” The light bulb turns on in a comic book. Um… We are all terrified of something different, but it is the same. I think I said this. Laurie may remember. Barbara may remember. When you’re blind, you are terrified of losing your hearing. When you’re totally deaf, you are terrified of losing your sight. So, we don’t understand everything about the different worlds we live in, because which is the main, or the dominant disability but, what we can understand each other, is that it’s painful, and it’s frightening. So, we can understand that. We share that. We don’t share the exact same thing, but we understand the fear of losing the second sensory input method. So, that is something which we can share which helps bind us together.
INTERVENOR A: Yeah, Laurie is, yeah, agreeing with you.
CHRISTINE: Yeah, so…
INTERVENOR B: Laurie’s saying, “Yes, I agree with Christine.”
MICHAEL: Yes, I… Two or three years now– What? No, it’s been five years. Oh, dear God. Um, over the time I’ve been here, it’s gotten better, because I’m not as afraid as I was before. But, it is still quite frightening sometimes, and we pretend to ignore it, I think. We make jokes, and we talk about other things. But, the reality is that we have a disability, and, you know, we have two disabilities sometimes. So, thank you for sharing that. And… did you… Did you write that out, in The Spectator yourself, about that specific issue?
CHRISTINE: Not in the journal, no.
MICHAEL: No? I think maybe someday you–
CHRISTINE: I’ve talked about it before, you know, but, because my… I have been so lucky because my vision loss did not start until I was, or that I was aware of, until I was 25 or 26. So, I was… I was a Head Nurse, in a hospital, of the Hematology unit before I discovered that I had a vision problem. So, I then suddenly had to make decisions about what to do, where to go, you know? I had to make a career
change, obviously. But, I had the… I had a regular education. I went to regular, normal schools. I didn’t have to go to special schools. I was also lucky because I had a supportive family. The luckiest thing that happened to me was that I met a man who sort of said to me, “It’s not…” “It’s not so much how much you can see or how much you can’t see that’s important.” He said, “What is really important is what you
do with what you have. With everything you have learned in school, in your work, in your career, in your life experience, it’s what you do with what you have that is the most important thing.” That was what helped me pull it together. Um, and… So, I gradually lost more and more vision, and but, it was okay. And, I had- (chuckles) I married him, okay? So, I had somebody there who was my anchor, my support, um, my biggest fan, and my best friend.
CHRISTINE: And, a lot of people who are Deaf-Blind have never had that opportunity to meet somebody like that, who can be their rock, and the glue that holds them together. So, I’ve been lucky. I’ve had all of those experiences. And, my world fell apart again when he died, you know? But, again, one of the last things he did for me, was to find a website which had a phone number, and a name of an organization, because I was losing my hearing. And, I was aware that- we were all aware, my hearing was deteriorating. And, um, so, he said, “Well, this is another option you might want to explore.” And, so I did. Talked to Marta, but, I didn’t do anything about it, and then he died. And, so, the- (chuckles) I called again. Marta remembered talking to me two years earlier. She remembered talking to me on the phone. Within a week, she was there visiting me. “Um, yep, we could help this way.” So… that was two and a half years ago. And, so, for the second time in my life, sort of, what was a shattering event, somebody helps me pick up the pieces and put it back together again. Most people aren’t that lucky to have that happen twice, when you’re at a crisis in your life. So, yeah, I do understand about being frightened, Michael. It’s… yeah. Sorry.
MICHAEL: Thank you.
Having an accessible alarm clock helps Barbara regain her independence, and as she says, everyone should have one. When Deaf-Blind people gain employment, they will not be late.
Megan continues playing hockey, providing technical expertise, and working to improve services for Deaf-Blind individuals.
Shari is still young at heart, has an infectious laugh, and is working to improve communication between all humans.
MICHAEL (to Shari): Would you ever perform your poem on camera?
MICHAEL: Spoiler alert. Shari did perform that poem. And, we are about to show it to you. It all happened one beautiful, summer day at Berczy Park, downtown Toronto. And, we noticed these statues created by Luis Jacob, and the statues are actually of hands. So, we thought, “What better than to put Shari in front of one of those hands?”
MICHAEL CON’T: Because, ultimately, I think the hands can stand for the magic of sign language. And, so, before we begin with the poem, I just want to teach you a few signs that I’ve just learned about myself. And, these signs are important ones in the poem.
MICHAEL CON’T: The first is the word “growing.” And, so, with “growing,” we can think of a flower. Ultimately, with your dominant hand, the hand that you write with, you can close the fingers, so they represent a flower bud. And, what you’re going to do is, you’re going to raise those fingers, or raise your hands, and open them as you go up. So, that’s essentially a flower growing. With the other hand, the non-dominant hand, that represents the ground. So, you can sort of pretend to grab your wrist, and sort of move the flower, or the growing part, up and above the ground. So, I’ll do that one more time. The closed flower bud goes up, and opens up above the ground. And, that is “growing,” essentially.
MICHAEL CON’T: The second sign that I’d like to teach you is “weeding.” “Weeding” occurs when we want to get rid of something, we want to throw it away. We want to get rid of the weeds. And, so, with this sign, you extend your dominant hand, and you pretend to grab the thing that you don’t want, and you yank it out. So, you’re pulling it towards yourself. One more time. You extend your hand. You grab the thing that you don’t want, and you yank. So, without further ado, those were the two signs I wanted you to take home with you today.
MICHAEL CON’T: And, please enjoy the magic of Shari Bancarz.
Shari signs the following, and it is voiced over by interpreter Rosalie.
I love dandelions.
I see an analogy between dandelions,
and persons who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, or with any disability.
They grow beautiful on the earth.
Beautiful, yellow flowers blooming everywhere.
And, they are like persons with disabilities of all kinds.
They are innocent, and happy, and humble.
Just like dandelions grow naturally on the earth,
we are like them. Dandelions spread everywhere.
The gardener sees dandelions all over the place,
but detests these dandelions.
They yank them from the earth.
They pull them.
It is like how we are treated.
People detest us because we are Deaf, or Deaf-Blind.
And, yet, dandelions continue to grow.
And, when they become mature, they become a pollen puff, that children like to blow into the wind,
and the seeds spread to the earth.
We are like that.
We are born anywhere, and grow all over the earth.
We are like dandelions. We travel everywhere. And, when we land, we grow. Like, a new generation growing up in the earth.
We can come up. We can take root anywhere.
Just like the dandelion.
Dandelions never stop growing.
They never disappear.
They are persistent,
and so are we.
We will never stop.
The gardener looks around his garden, and sees this weed and tries to cleanse his garden, by yanking up the dandelions.
We are treated the same way.
Persons of all kinds of disabilities, whether they are Deaf-Blind, or Deaf, or any other disability, are detested.
Must we be cleansed from the earth? How can we learn and grow?
The gardener thinks that the dandelion is a weed.
But, it is not a weed! We are not weeds.
We are not handicapped. We are not detestable.
We are a normal part of the Earth.
We are a normal part of the world,
and we will continue to fight for our rights.
We will continue to fight.
We are beautiful, just as the dandelion is beautiful.
Pity the narrow-minded gardener, who detests us.
END CREDITS – Available upon request presently. To be added here later.