Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 37 — Can…can I come in or…? No? Oh okay…

Fun fact to begin tonight’s blog. I have been on the road now for so long that I actually have to check the previous blog post to remember what day it is…it’s a sad fact, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Every single night I go to write the blog and have to right-click open the “View Site” link to see what day it was yesterday. I like to think it’s because I have more important things on my mind, but I’m pretty sure that’s a totally baseless excuse.

The plan for the day was get up early, make some phone calls and prepare for my meeting at Kingston City Hall this afternoon. Everything went according to plan, except the press beat me to the punch and called me first! So around 10pm we were out the door to meet up with a photographer from the Kingston Whig (keep an eye out for the story tomorrow, I’ll post a link). The photographer was a really cool guy and I think he got some really sweet pictures of me with some inaccessible busses. Hilariously, he took us to the local mall where there is a relatively large bus terminal with the hopes of finding an inaccessible bus. We didn’t have to look hard, as 6 of the 7 busses sitting at the mall when we arrived were completely inaccessible. Yikes…it was gonna be an interesting meeting with the Mayor in the afternoon for sure!

After getting some glamour shots snapped (I worked my dimples for all they are worth–eat it Prince William), the tornado’s in London decided to subside long enough to allow Sam to escape and return to us. We were a little lost without her, for serious. There are just some things two boys cannot complete without a woman’s soft touch. The team was, once again, complete…for about 10 minutes, when Pete left for London to attend his convocation tomorrow. I’m getting a little nervous being surrounded by all these graduates! My parents likely hope some of their “graduation” will rub off on me and I’ll consider graduating one day. Not likely!

After lunch, Sam and I headed off for City Hall in beautiful downtown Kingston. I haven’t been to Kingston in yeeeears and all I remember about my last visit was driving past the prison: it’s funny what will have an impact on you as a kid. Anyway, the downtown core is quite impressive with some very cool architecture. Unfortunately, the old (historic) buildings also bring a laundry list of accessibility issues–including City Hall. After arriving, Sam and I were left dumbfounded, starring at the massive front steps to City Hall and trying to figure out how to get inside. Even funnier, there is a huge wheelchair accessible bathroom sticker on the front door, daring me to try and get in…taunting me…

By the time we discovered a little map beside the stairs that directed us to a ramp around the back of the building, we were greeted by several members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee, who were quickly followed by Mayor Rosen himself. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this meeting, as Nicole had only written in my agenda to “meet on front stairs.” I assumed this meant we would meet at the stairs for a photo perhaps and then head inside for a meeting, but apparently they do things a bit differently in Kingston and we had our meeting right there on the sidewalk. It was actually kind of neat because we had a really good conversation out in the nice sunshine for everyone to hear. I like to think some passersby got to hear some interesting things about accessibility in Kingston and what the city is doing to help improve things for the disabled population–now that’s a participatory democracy. Once again, we discovered that the Accessibility Advisory Committee is actively tackling barriers and engaging the disabled population to partake in the political process. While there are definitely some problems here (only 50% accessible buses and no accessible cabs at all), this is a city in transition who have just recently committed time and energy to solving the transportation problem. Yes there are problems right now, but I am getting a real sense of optimism from the council that some solutions are in the works and the people of Kingston will be enjoying more access to transportation in the very near future. We had a great chat and I offered them some suggestions on solutions I have seen working elsewhere in the province. The committee members and the Mayor were excited to hear about some of my cost effective and functional solutions that I’ve been dreaming up along the way and I have no doubt this committee will take some of these recommendations, build on them, and enact some solutions that will work for this community.

Tomorrow is the Epic Drive. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not afraid of it anymore…I’m ready to stare down this challenge tomorrow. We were doing some number crunching tonight and it’s actually not going to be too bad. We’re going to leave early tomorrow morning and get to Gananoque by lunch, rest for a bit there, then drive in 2-hour bursts, essentially driving for 2 hours and then resting for 15 or 20 minutes. I think the key to this long drive is to take it in portions and keep the shoulder and neck rested during the breaks. Granted, I have not done a 70km drive yet on this trip, but I have done several 20s and even some 50s. So! If I break the trip tomorrow down into little 20km sections, suddenly it becomes far more managable…at least in my mind, which is have the battle, honestly. I have discovered along this trip that if you can convince your mind of something, the body just follows along, whether it wants to or not. Overcome those feelings of doubt and reservation and you can accomplish some pretty incredible things. Also, the weather is suppose to be SUPREME tomorrow! They’re saying it will be totally clear with a bit of wind, little humidity and probably only low 20s. Everything is coming up Jeff!

Well, I need to go lay down and rest my body. Despite my optimism, it is a long trip and I’m going need everything I’ve got to make through alive.

Almost there, 3 more drives.

– 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.