By Victor Schwartzman
September 7, 2015
Creating a Canadians with Disabilities Act (CDA) is a great idea because it would mean a FEDERAL access law with TEETH. Currently we are in the middle of a federal election campaign. Millions of voters have a disability and need an effective access law. You’d think the Parties would be lining up to announce their versions of a CDA! Think again. None of the Leaders will fully commit to a CDA. But those Leaders would change their minds if they knew the remarkable story of Gulliver.
Gulliver was enjoying an ocean cruise on the Poseidon. Unfortunately, there was a tidal wave. One thing led to another and soon Gulliver was alone in the water. Fortunately, he spotted a large island. He swam to it and as he sat on the beach, exhausted, he saw ants gathering near him on the ground. He started to brush them away.
“Watch it, big boy!” a tiny voice shouted.
Gulliver looked closely and saw the ants were actually tiny people in bathing suits. “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful,” he told them. “My name is Gulliver. I’m shipwrecked. I have nothing. Please, I need food, water and clothes.”
A tiny man wearing an expensive bathing suit stepped forward. “I am Premier of this Province of our great country. Welcome, but you cannot stay. We cannot accommodate you. We do not have enough food and water, nothing to give you food and water with, and anyway you don’t fit into any building. It’s against the law to sleep outside.”
Gulliver shivered. His clothes were wet. “My body certainly is different from yours but there are ways you could accommodate me. You must have a law that will help.”
The Premier shook his head. “Our country has separate Provinces, each with its own human rights law and commission. You can file a complaint, but it will take a year to have it investigated. None of the commissions can impose a penalty, so they’ll have to take the case to court because we’ll fight it, to avoid an expensive precedent. You can’t open those floodgates.”
Gulliver saw several skeletons his size farther down the beach. He knew he could not stay here. “I’ll die in days without water.”
The Premier sighed. “Can’t be helped. Sorry.” Then he thought a moment and brightened. “I know! No one else has done it but you could go to the Country of the Giants. It’s on the other side of those mountains. The Giants have a universal access law and we hear it works.”
Wasting no time, Gulliver thanked the Premier and started off. Fortunately, impassably high mountains for tiny people were only small hills for Gulliver. Soon he reached the peak of the biggest hill, looked on the other side and saw two huge eyes looking back! Gulliver realized he was looking at a woman at least one hundred feet tall, wearing a pretty frock. As she stood on the ground and he on the hill, their eyes were level.
“Who are you?” she asked, her voice booming even though she spoke quietly.
“I am Gulliver, washed ashore from a shipwreck,” he replied. “I need food, clothing and shelter. The people in the country behind me could not help, but their Premier said you can.” He looked at her hopefully.
The giant shook her head, not without sympathy. “I don’t know how we can accommodate your body problems. If I took you into town, sooner or later someone would step on you. You’d need an assistant with you at all times, so you’d have to apply for a grant but you’d starve before you got one. I don’t think we can make food small enough for you to eat or clothes small enough for you to wear. You would be naked, and that is against the law.”
Gulliver saw bad news coming. “But what about your universal access law?”
“Still doesn’t work.” The huge woman sighed. “We proclaimed one years ago. It ensured that within twenty years our country would have access everywhere. But when the deadline for universal access approached, nothing was ready. The politicians’ solution? Extend the deadline from twenty years to thirty, and then to forty.”
Gulliver was frustrated but saw no point being angry with her. The lack of the law was the lack of the law. “I understand but I’m getting hungry. What can I do?”
She thought. “Those hills separate our country from the last one on the island. Perhaps there you will find food and shelter. But I have to warn you. I’ve heard the country is ruled by animals.”
“Thanks, but I have no choice.” The giant woman gently picked him up and carried him to the hills. She reached up and Gulliver walked off her hand onto the hill top. He waved good-bye and as he walked down the gentle slope into the next country he saw a beautiful valley before him. Two horses grazed nearby. When they saw him, they trotted up.
“Are you all right?” one horse asked.
Gulliver was startled. “You’re a horse. Horses can’t speak!”
The horse turned to its companion. “Look, Fred. Did you know that primates can speak? Do you think it has anything worth saying?” Gulliver was embarrassed. The first horse looked at him. “Sorry,” it told him, “we’re just horsing around.” At that the second horse whinnied and snorted.
Needing their help, Gulliver tried to join in. “A horse walked into a bar and the bartender said, ‘Why the long face?'” The horses looked at him with new interest. “Look, I don’t want to be a nag but I need you to pony up.” Their ears perked. “I was shipwrecked. I’m hungry and need shelter. I need something,” he searched for the right word, “stable.”
The horses looked at him with admiration. Both stomped their front right hoof four times. After settling down, the first horse said to Gulliver, “Our society is not geared to help primates. You have different needs and diets. However, we have the Islanders With Disabilities Act. It is a federal law. If there is discrimination a penalty is imposed right away. As a result, we have developed ways to accommodate, and I’m sure we can find a way to help you.”
Gulliver was relieved and thanked the horses. They offered to take him to their home for food and shelter. Because he was tired, Gulliver asked the first horse, “How about a ride?” The horse replied “Sure” and got on top of Gulliver, but that did not work out for anyone.
Accommodation requires understanding on both sides, and is not always an easy ride.
Next: Another Parable Ripping Off A Better Writer! How About The Access Version Of Macbeth?
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 lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He has poetry and short fiction published, and has edited novels. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.