Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 11 — “Sam in a Jeff Preston mask”

Hey everyone – the “infamous” Sam here, filing in for Jeff who’s too tuckered out from a record-breaking day of presentations and meetings to type. So, we started today bright and early.

Well, to be fair, we’ve realized that 8:30AM isn’t actually all that early for the rest of the world… but that doesn’t stop us from being exhausted when we’re forced to rise at any morning hour with only one digit. Or me from needing to down the largest cup of decent-tasting java I can find before I can form a sentence.

Anyway, this morning we pulled ourselves out of bed and made our way to Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute, the former high school of our very own Mobilize March Sponsorship Coordinator Mr. Alex Paterson. Alex had pulled some strings—pretty long strings I might add, stretching all the way from Malaysia, where he currently is—to get Jeff in to speak to a couple classes on pretty short notice.

At Centennial we met up with our documentary crew Aaron and Armand, who stuck with us all day and filmed basically everything Jeff did. The room we walked into that morning looked to me to be designed for theatre classes, with a dark stage area and tiered seating arranged around.

The perfect place for a presentation, but the whole stadium-style also necessitated some serious muscle to help Jeff down the few steps leading to the front. One of the benefits of being the only female in Jeff’s entourage is that I get to play the “no upper body strength” card on occasions like this, allowing me to supervise comfortably while the guys broke an early morning sweat lifting the 350pound + Jeff wheelchair up a few inches.

But I’m getting off topic (clearly I’ve been spending too much time with Jeff).

After talking for a half hour or so to the three classes the filed in to fill the room, we sped off to find a quiet place for Jeff to do a phone interview with The Beach radio station in Port Elgin—which turned out to be the back of our van in the Centennial parking lot.

Following that interview, we made our way to Guelph City Hall for a meeting with Mayor Farbridge of Guelph, as well as members of the city’s accessibility committee. While we were driving, we got a call from Rogers TV asking us if they could meet us at City Hall and interview Jeff.

Being the ego-manic he is, of course Jeff said yes. So within fifteen minutes or so, Jeff was once again where he is most comfortable—in front of the very public City Hall, surrounded at every angle by the four cameras trained on his every word, explaining the mission behind the March and his impending meeting with the mayor.

Rogers TV and our own documentary crew followed us into the meeting with Mayor Farbridge, which also included three members of Guelph’s accessibility committee.Jeff being interviewed by Rogers news in front of Guelph City Hall Mayor Farbridge was very receptive to Jeff’s ideas, and we heard a lot of great things about what Guelph was already doing, such as the fully accessible public bus service the city already has in place. All in all, it was very encouraging to hear about the efforts—and extremely successfully efforts at that—that Guelph is already making towards making their city a truly barrier-free community. Which is, of course, what the Mobilize March is all about.

After we departed from City Hall, we headed back to the hotel for a quick nap before I split ways with Pete and Jeff. At about two o’clock, they headed back to Centennial Collegiate for another presentation while I remained behind to tackle the mountainous task of contacting every media outlet in and around the GTA. A couple hours later, after being runaround, redirected and rebuffed by automated answering systems and real people alike, I was more than ready for nap: round two. Which is basically where the whole productivity part of my day ended.

Tomorrow morning, we’re tackling a rather long leg to Hamilton. Hopefully, the weather is drier than yesterday (I don’t think I could survive that long a drive with Jeff in that ridiculous orange poncho… ten minutes and I’m already laughing too hard to steer properly!) and the long weekend traffic is bearable.

Providing he’s not even more exhausted after driving for 5-ish hours, it’ll be back to your regularly scheduled programming with Jeff tomorrow evening. I’m sure he’ll describe to you in great detail all of the shenanigans I missed during his second presentation at Centennial, as well as all of the trouble we’ll undoubtedly get into on the road tomorrow!

Until the next time I have the pleasure of writing to you while Jeff’s too busy drooling all over his pillow (or, when this whole “fame” thing Jeff is pushing takes off and I overtake him in newsworthy-ness… whichever one comes first), take it easy and see you on the road!

– Sam

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.