By Victor Schwartzman
December 1, 2014
In a media conference which, technically, did not happen, Minister Brad Duguid introduced journalists to his dog. An adorable white poodle, Fluffy’s hindquarters were in a harness with wheels. “Recently there have been some rather nasty attacks on me personally,” Minister Duguid began.
“I realize it is political satire but it hurts to read that I have learned from Neanderthals or that I am oblivious to the problems of people with disabilities. Well, anyone who knows me knows that I am a nice guy who has always tried to do the right thing. Build a career, build a family, build a future. A future for myself and for other people, even people with disabilities.
“So I wanted to show you my dog. Fluffy. Fluffy loves me. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because I understand disabilities.
“In three years, I’m now the fourth Minister responsible for AODA. We are still early in the implementing process, although technically we are halfway through and by the end of next year most businesses are expected to have AODA plans in place and staff trained. To date, most businesses have not yet filled out the forms. I certainly appreciate there are concerns about our progress in implementing AODA.
“But the criticism has become personal. As a politician you’re in the public eye. These days especially, with the internet, you read all sorts of vicious attacks. Attacks which I know are unfair because I know what the attackers don’t know, and if you knew what I knew, you would know what I know which is that that they do not know. Every politician thinks, if only I could tell them that!”
Fluffy barked. Minister Duguid patted her head. “Fluffy is our family dog, an eight year old poodle. To show you that I’m a regular guy, and that I care, and that I understand about disabilities, here is my dog. A year ago Fluffy developed serious genetic hip problems. Now she cannot walk. We bought this special device. When I look at my dog in its wheelchair, I know I can tell you I understand people with disabilities.
“Fluffy wants to live and work, just like a regular dog. Guarding the house was her job. Of course, once she was in that wheelchair I didn’t expect her to work. I mean, she can’t walk. She can bark but she’d have to wheel from one room to another and that takes time. If there was an intruder on the second floor, we taught her how to work her chair lift, but that also takes time. Barking wasn’t enough anyway, she’d have to attack. So I had no expectations and installed a security system. Problem solved.
“But because I am kind we let her think she still is doing her job. The wheelchair has really helped her get around and she still thinks she’s the dog I want, even though she’s different. She’s the family pet and we accommodate her because she deserves to think she’s still as good as she used to be.
“In that we are just like those families of people who have disabilities. Their families feed them and look after them and take them out for walks. Whenever I see a man or woman in the park in a wheelchair, being pushed slowly, I often have a wish. And that wish is that it should be possible for the people in wheelchairs to have dogs.
“Not a dog like Fluffy, of course, because if you’re in a wheelchair or have any kind of disability you can’t do very much, certainly not feed and care for a dog.”
A journalist noted that dogs are often used as animal assistants by people who have a disability, including sight impairments.
Minister Duguid smiled. “Yes, I understand that when you are blind, all of your senses are heightened, and in effect you develop a sixth sense. I used to think that meant the blind saw dead people. Now I realize the blind have a sixth sense which allows them to care for a dog. I think that is the case. Or perhaps they use a monkey animal assistant to feed the dog. But then who would take the dog for a walk and feed the monkey? No, the blind develop a sixth sense which allows them to care for a dog.
“This is just another example of why often problems with disabilities are resolved by people and not by imposing laws. The blind are able to care for their guide dogs. Maybe regular dogs, too. Fluffy needs a walk and we don’t have a trained monkey? No problem. We have me.
“People solutions to people problems, that’s what AODA implementation should be all about, based on this kind of understanding.”
Next Week: Back To Nasty Satire
Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly column to Accessibility News. Buy 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 read the earlier drafts and current chapters for free, on the King Of The Planet Facebook page. It has a “4 out of 5 star” review already!
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 also contributes to http://www.targetaudiencemagazine.com. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels and hosts two writers’ circles. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.