Friday, March 12, 2010

The Accessibles

Over the past few weeks, the one thing I have not shared with my student lovelies is the amount of physical pain I've been dealing with as I've been travelling through these exciting Olympic Adventures. The sciatic pain of walking and standing has made my travel to events and venues a major challenge. However at the same time, it's also made it significantly more interesting!

Over the past few weeks, I've become an Olympic "Accessible"!

I haven't needed any special piece of paper, Handicapped Parking sticker, or note from the doctor to show at the door. By virtue of not being able to walk or stand in long lines without considerable pain, I've been allowed to freely use the many services which are being provided to make it possible for people like me to attend and even enjoy the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Over the past few weeks I've travelled the back-roads of elevators and accessible shuttles, bypassed painfully long 45 minute line-ups to SkyTrains and buses, used seats reserved for the disabled and elderly, and even had a volunteer roll me in a wheelchair to the "Accessibles" seating area: center-ice, front-row seats at the Men's Curling Competition. (I could reach out and TOUCH the cute Danish and American men curling up and down right in front of me! Kevin and his Canadian crew were only one sheet over. My pride may have taken a direct hit, but the thrills of that front-row priviledge will last a lifetime!)

And in doing all of this, I've become an "Accessible".

I love it! May the term "Disabled" be forever banished from our vocabulary!!

Because, travelling around Vancouver this past month, and up to Cypress Mountain and the Whistler Olympic Sliding Center, I have watched all kinds of people in wheelchairs take REGULAR buses and subways to work and play -- COMPLETELY on their own!!! I've seen a whole new vision of a world where people who were once truly and cruelly confined by prejudice and building restrictions within institutions and private homes now freely live their lives amongst us all. Before a knee replacement, I had already begun one of them, and I had also begun to experience the trials and prejudices and limitations of the people and that world.

as these 2010 Winter Paralympics begin,
those amazing world-class athletes who have braved and stared down fear and fatigue and depression and pain to achieve such physical prowess, approach a world stage we open for them.

But will the many hearts and minds of unfamiliar Joe's ALSO be open and accessible to them?

How many people will see the striving human beings long enough for the disabilities to disappear?

Will "The Disabled" be replaced by "The Accessibles", and will it come to stand for more than ramps and wheelchair transit?

I can't wait to see what the next 10 days bring.

Today the Parallel Olympics,
MY Olympics,

More later,
from my smiling

Why Can't the Future be NOW?

Photo courtesy of C. Jagoe, KPRDSB

Last week, I had the very cool experience of seeing and talking with my entire school, as we set up a video-conference between myself here in Vancouver, and 500-odd staff and students gathered in the school gym back home.

I had great fun, watching all the kids file in and wave at the picture of HenryHudson Bear and myself which was being projected on the big old screen on the stage of the gym. The kids asked all kinds of naturally young kid questions -- no, I DIDN'T get to meet Sydney Crosby yet, and no, I didn't jump down on the ice and take his hockey stick and gloves! But yes, HenryHudsonBear DID enjoy having to take a bath yesterday after all!

It was incredible fun, but I really have to say that the experience reminds me so clearly of the times when I was a kid (yes, my lovelies, back in the dark ages) when we all gathered around our new black and white television set, and watched the first transmission of pictures and sounds from astronauts travelling in space -- the pictures all out of focus and gravelly, the sound coming through filled with static and echoes. But that new experience of communicating with someone at such an unbelievable distance right in front of our own eyes, nonetheless always elicited huge excitement and joy in that new "This-is so-cool-that-they-can-actually-DO-this" ability!!

And I can picture these very same kids 30 years from now telling THEIR kids the story of how they once sat on a hard gym floor and participated in their school's very first school-wide live video-conference -- and know they will be telling them "how archaic" it was!!! The picture all out of focus and gravelly, the sound filled with static and echoes, they all had to be VERY very quiet so the teacher at the Olympics could hear, and how some questions had to be repeated 3 TIMES before she could actually make out the question. "And can you believe at the time, we thought it was so COOL?!?"

Because I completely believe by that time, they'll all be carrying a single piece of technology in the palm of their hand which instantly provides seemless real-time picture and sound (and smell and feel?) connections, which will allow them to communicate with anyone around the world OR in outer space. I'm totally convinced, and I'm not nuts, that they'll have access to their entire lives through one single small device which connects them with family and friends around the world, educational and recreational activities, business and commercial enterprises, transportation systems, homes and 4- and 5-D virtual realities, where life-skills technologies operate through the same little one single tool (oh, to be able to order a home-made dinner cooked and ready at precisely the time you get home!!!)

"Your imagination is the preview to life's coming attractions." AE

So if I can imagine it, why can't all of that future just be transported here right NOW ?!?
Think of the things we could do, and the FUN we could have!!!

But for now, fromVancouver,

yours, in all my present-day limitations,
my apparently backward smiles (-:
and my pure technological impatience,

cb/beachcat11/Miss Beach ( =