By Victor Schwartzman
August 10, 2015
The Canadian federal election is on! I watched the debate between the Leaders of the four main national parties. It was two hours and they never stopped talking. Yet the words “access” and “disability” never passed their lips.
There was plenty of patronizing to go around, but the worst involved Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party. May has two disabilities. She leads the Green Party, which is not considered important and gets minimal respect from the media. Also, she is a she. Double whammy! During the debate, three CPAC analysts discussed the debate but May’s presence was barely acknowledged. Just like someone who has a disability, just like the AODA access law.
This all got me thinking, the results of which I usually enjoy more than anyone else. May’s situation represents an unusual definition of disability and a lesson to be learned. Perhaps to push access into the election we must open the box. Issues do not matter because if you present as who you are, you will be ignored.
How can access issues attract the attention of politicians and the media? Well the politicians like sexy. They want to talk about sexy issues. By sexy, I mean intellectually engaging rather than physical intercourse. Politicians do engage in a form of intercourse with voters, yes, but I’ve never heard of a politician giving a voter an orgasm. Moreover, politicians don’t like foreplay, they want to finish first, they want to go right to the next voter, and the morning after they win the election they won’t respect you.
How can we make disabilities sexy and appealing so they will be discussed during the election? Should people with disabilities wear exciting lingerie? No, sexist rather than sexy. How about porn–disability porn? Politicians could be offered inspiring stories of the pain people with disabilities endure so the politicians can know what it’s really like and yet be entertained and think “Thank God that ain’t me.” No, there’s plenty of that already. Leaders pretending to need a wheelchair for a couple of hours? For them, only a photo-op. None of that has helped people with disabilities achieve even basic human rights.
Perhaps access cannot enter the campaign by being something it is not.
How about activism instead? Could we develop a Robocop type of advocate? No. This is, after all, Canada. We have to be polite. At best, there could be quiet sit-ins in the candidates’ offices, but the candidates would just go somewhere else. Organizing people with disabilities? Their only connection is having a disability, so it ain’t like they’re on the same team. You could organize the advocates for people with disabilities, but advocates already go to enough meetings.
So after watching the debate and its total silence on disability and access issues, and having all these thoughts, I still was left pondering: how can access issues access the election? What else could we do to get politicians and the media talking about access?
Should we try the Atticus Finch fiasco approach?
The publication of “Go Set A Watchman” certainly has people talking about Atticus Finch, who had been a literary icon of decency. But “Watchman” is only a draft of a first novel. Harper Lee was lucky. Her editor rejected the draft but, inspired by some of the characters’ flashbacks, told her to start again with the narrator as a child. The result was the famous “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Many readers were disturbed by “Watchman’s” version of Atticus Finch. The “Mockingbird” Finch is a patronizing white man dealing with racial hatred. The “Watchman” Finch is himself a patronizing racist.
Perhaps this is an example advocates should take note of. We could create an earlier secret draft of AODA. In the first draft of AODA, people with disabilities are stripped of citizenship and forced into long term care institutions. Access would turn out to be a patronizing joke. That sure would create controversy, just like with “Watchman.” However, no: it would be a lie, and politicians already do enough of that.
So I am stuck. What about advertising? Perhaps disabilities could be given a new image. Pharmaceutical companies advertise medications for disabilities all the time. Why not advertise the disabilities themselves and improve their image? I contacted Don Draper, who works in advertising. His idea? To create a music video of a group of people holding bottles of Coke, standing on a mountain top singing: “I’d like to give the world access, to teach it harmony. I’d like to give the disabled a hug and keep them company! Disabilities–they’re the real thing!”
Guess not. This will take more thought. Fortunately we have time. This federal election will be like an advocate visiting Ottawa: a few weeks will feel like forever.
Next: This Wasn’t Supposed To Be! Even Though There Is An Election I’m Still Writing About Nothing Happening!! Damn!!!
Victor Schwartzman has contributed this weekly satirical column to Accessibility News and the AODA Alliance since May 13, 2013. Check out the first nine chapters of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for .99 on Kindle at
http://www.amazon.ca/King-The-Planet-Victor-Schwartzman-ebook/dp/B00NE0CCRC, or for free on Facebook. The unpolished first nine chapters got a “4 out of 5 star” review! He is currently polishing the novel. His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site,
http://www.redfez.net. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels and his email is email@example.com.