Wowza. What a day.
Today began like most but would quickly take a turn for the awesome. As planned, today we headed out to Halton Hills to see a good friend (and closet Leaf fan, I think) Bryan Lewis. Everything was going swimmingly until the clock struck 9am, then cue the insanity.
The cell phone began ringing nearly off the hook with assistants for MPPs calling and scrambling to arrange meetings. It appears Joe Dickson’s email last night made a world of difference. I am going to be unbelievably busy over these last few days in Toronto, which is definitely really exciting. This is another huge step forward! I’ve now heard from the Minister of Health, the Minister of Community and Social Services, the Directorate for Disability and many more to come. So I’m going to be back to Queens Park tomorrow, bright and early, for a meeting with MPP Deb Matthews. It’s going to be great seeing her again and it’ll be nice to have a little slice of home after being away from London for nearly a month now.
Despite answering my extremely active cell phone, we managed to arrive in Halton Hills on time for a 1:30pm meeting with the Mayor. Bryan greeted us at the front door of City Hall and walked us in for a great meeting, despite the fact I was surrounded by Montreal Canadiens fans. After the customary hashing out of rivalry lines we got down to work, explaining to the Mayor my concerns about transportation followed by hearing about what Halton Hills is doing to increase accessibility. One really interesting moment that came in this meeting was when it was explained that Halton Hills council use a closed captioning device to allow citizens with hearing impairments to participate in municipal government. I found this quite remarkable (and commendable), especially considering how difficult it was for the TTC to provide a similar service at the information session run last week.
Following this meeting, Bryan took us out to lunch, which was a lot of fun. By this point I was beginning to think Bryan had set up a bit of a gauntlet of Canadiens fans for me to run through–I swear, for a team who were knocked out by Philly, there were a lot of bold Canadiens fans out and about in Georgetown today! I guess I shouldn’t talk…I don’t even remember what it’s like to have a team in the playoffs…
Luckily, reinforcements arrived during lunch–possibly the only Leaf fan left in Halton Hills. Bryan invited his friend Gerry Gore to join us and show us around Halton Hills, which was fantastic! Gerry showed us his custom car, with hand controls so he can drive it, which he has loaded up with the blue and white. He has even got some custom paint work done under the hood of his car to boast his support for the Leafs. This was my kind-a fellow! As it turns out, Gerry wanted to take us on a sight seeing tour outside of Georgetown, specifically to “The Badlands” located just outside Terra Cotta. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into, but I was excited because one of my favourite songs of all time is “The Bandlands” by a band called Gatsbys American Dream. While I’m reasonably sure this song was not in any way inspired by the Badlands around these parts, it was a pretty incredible sight. Since I’m not exactly able to explain what a “Badland” is, I’ve instead decided to post some photos and let you decide for yourself.
As the information plaque explains at the top of the hill, the Badlands is a clay hill that was formed through erosion, creating these incredible fissures and rolling hills. Apparently this site is incredibly popular during the summer and fall months, with cars lining the road and kids running in and out of the crevices playing tag. This seemed like a perfect backdrop to get some more documentary footage, so Gerry and I found a nice place and began answering questions for Aaron from Azeus7 Studios (www.azeus7.com). The entire time we were talking, all I could think about was driving around the hills in my chair, which most observers thought was likely not a very good idea. Of course, this didn’t stop me. Letting my inner child out, Pete and I took a run down the hill, bobbing and weaving my way through the unlevel and semi-treacherous and wooded paths to the bottom of the mountain. This stop was incredibly fun and exactly what the doctor ordered. Whipping in and out of the forest paths reminded me of my time in Port Elgin, playing in the forest behind my parents house with friends and it was great to feel young and carefree again. After laughing and joking and being left breathless by the view, it was time to pack it in and head back into town for our after-dinner events.
We began at the local Lions Club, who were gracious enough to allow me to come speak. Being the blabber mouth that I am, I used up almost half my time just getting started on my presentation and had to pick up the pace a bit, but the group was extremely receptive. This event, combined with what came next, has only once again affirmed how important this trip is and gives me all the motivation I need to keep going and keep struggling through any obstacles that get in my way.
After our quick chat, Bryan whisked us back to City Hall for a presentation and reception following the town’s Accessibility Advisory Committee’s meeting. This group was actually suppose to meet tomorrow, however they decided to bump their meeting to tonight in order to spend some time with me. I cannot thank them enough for enduring this inconvenience–I cannot say how much it means to me to meet all of you and personally thank you for all of the tremendous work you have done in this community to advance the disability rights movement and actively engage and emancipate the disabled population here. The presentation went off without a hitch and the reception afterwards was tremendous, filled with snacks and cake (they knew the way to my heart for sure!). It was great chatting with this group and as I said earlier, chatting with these wonderful individuals just fills me with so much hope. I owe it to all of them, who have sacrificed so much to make this community accessible, to keep going and do my part to make things better. Furthermore, their dedication and passion only assures me that universal accessibility is within our grasp and much like all great things, strangely enough, it is coming out of rural, small-town Ontario. I cannot thank them enough for this.
I am just brimming with optimism and enthusiasm right now, which is good because I have another super long day ahead of me tomorrow and Thursday. My efforts, and the efforts of the entire March team, over the past 8 months are really paying off–people are learning, politicians are hearing, and change, she be a-comin’.
Thank you again to Bryan, Debbie, Ron, Gerry and everyone else who were so instrumental in putting together this fantastic day. I look forwarding to coming back and seeing you all again.
More updates soon!