Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 09 — “Don’t make me learn how to walk and come back there Sam!”

Okay boys and girls, this one is gonna be long–it’s been an eventful day. If I’m saying this is gonna be long, you can only imagine where this is going.

But before we do, I just want to make a quick shout out to an apparent fan of the blog, Sheri. I’ve been told the first thing she does at work is log in and check out the newest blog post. So hats off to you Sheri, I love facilitating procrastination whenever possible!

So we got up this morning and made a dash across Kitchener over to Mary Johnson Public School to deliver another school presentation. The kids were the cutest yet and had some incredible questions. Once again I was left speechless when a young boy asked if I was ever jealous of people who can walk. It was just one of those bizarre moments of absolute clarity, so much so that it was difficult to verbalize exactly what I was thinking at the moment, but eventually I was able to explain that I have never looked “down” on my disability–granted I don’t walk, but who honestly wants to do that? It looks like a lot of work and why walk when you can drive, am I right? On a more serious note, my perception is something along these lines:

I don’t see myself as being disabled. Disability means you are “lacking” an ability, you are dis – abled, and I’ve never found myself to be lacking ability. What is truly disabled for me is not the wheelchair I use or the Muscular Dystrophy, my disability is a society that demands conformity and marginalizes anyone who does not fall into lock step within the prescribed “standard” configuration.

After the presentation, as we were packing up our gear and getting ready to head out, some young students came over to shake my hand and were literally bouncing with excitement. It was definitely one of the cutest things I’ve seen in recent memory–if those students happen to be reading this blog, you guys definitely made my day!

After our presentation at the school we headed over to the Scotia Bank downtown. Unfortunately, there was a bit of confusion and we were given the wrong address, so when we arrived moments before 11 (right on time, booyah) we were greeted by a confused, albeit friendly, staff. Eventually we got it all straightened out and made a made dash over to the actual branch we were suppose to be at. We arrived shortly after 11 and had a really good chat with the staff whose dedication to accessibility in Kitchener over the past few years is breathtaking. This is yet another example of how members of our community can truly come together and find equitable and feasible solutions to help break down the barriers being faced by the disabled population.

Tonight we had a very special event that I’ve been trying my hardest to keep a secret (apparently in vein, but it was fun while it lasted). Caleigh, the young girl who helped raise money for the March, was awarded the Junior Citizen Award in Mount Forest for her efforts. I absolutely had to be there to see her receive her award and to congratulate her in person. So with the help of Christina, I have been meticulously planning out our arrival so that we can show up and completely surprise Caleigh, who was informed that I wouldn’t be able to make it.Jeff and Caleigh after the awards The trap was set and everything was going perfectly….until we pulled up with our pimped out Mobilize March van at basically the exact moment that Caleigh was arriving. So as we’re about to pull into the drive way I see Christina jumping up and down and flagging us off, so I freak out and start screaming “DRIVE, DRIVE, DRIVE, GO GO GO, DRIVE SAM DRIVE!” and in the confusion, she does what any good escape driver would do–cranks the wheel, floors the gas and blazes out of the parking lot…likely causing far more of an attention grabbing ruckus than if we had simply driven in and attempting to act casually. Having said that, I’m more than impressed by Sam’s driving under pressure. If I ever need a getaway driver, I now know who I’m going to turn to. So we bolt down the road and attempt to hide inconspicuously down a side road, when I get a call from Christina and apparently the jig was up–not only did Caleigh see us but apparently she knew we were coming all along: we had a bit of an information leak. Anyway, the award dinner was absolutely fabulous and it was great seeing Caleigh win the award–she certainly deserves it. This kid is an absolute superstar and is destine for some truly amazing things. Her dedication to her family and her sense of rightness and justice are unparalleled for a girl her age (only 11!) and I can honestly say I hope I can be as brave as her when I grow up.

Tomorrow we have an ultra-full day so I’m going to have to sign off. We’re getting up early to check out of our hotel and head over to City Hall where we’re meeting with Mayor Zehrs. After our meeting we will be talking briefly to the local press, followed by an invitation to the Kitchener Rotary Club’s lunch meeting. I’m pretty excited for our first opportunity to speak with some Rotarians about what we’re up to–the Rotary Club in Port Elgin has always been such an incredible supporter of myself and my family over the years and I know they will always be there for us in our time of need. After lunch with the Rotary Club we are taking to the road and making our run to Guelph. The weather is still looking questionable at best tomorrow, so the orange poncho is likely to make a repeat performance. Oh well, see you tomorrow night Guelph!

– Jeff

By Jeffrey Preston

Born with a rare neuromuscular myopathy, Jeff has spent his life dedicated to advocating for himself and others with disabilities. With a PhD in Media Studies from Western University, Jeff's research focuses on the representation of disability in popular and digital culture. Jeff is currently an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at King's University College @ Western University in London, ON.