Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 41 — One last hill to crest

Laying in bed on May 4th, I thought about this very moment, the night before Ottawa, and wondered what I would be thinking about. I wondered what adventures I would have had, what I would have seen, how the March would have gone and what I would expect to see when entering Ottawa. Would the march be a success? Would the chair make it? Would anyone care?

The night before entering Ottawa, I have answers to some of these questions. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, this March has been a success in every sense of the word, specifically because people have cared. As I’ve made my way across the province I have met some amazing people, heard some amazing stories, and been a part of something truly remarkable—Canadian-brand democracy in action. I have seen the AODA in action, with active Accessibility Advisory Committees the province-over working toward a brighter tomorrow. I’ve heard commitments by many politicians to accessibility, announcing that accessibility is no longer a luxury or “specialty” service, but rather, it is becoming a core value in our governing mandate. I have also had the majesty and eye-popping beauty of this province laid out before me as my tires kiss pavement that has never before been tread by a wheelchair—something extraordinarily humbling to consider. I have realized that, fittingly, one of the most accessible places I’ve ever been are the roads of this province—paved for smooth riding and filled with courteous drivers happy to share the road with me and my cause. I have also realized the power of hope and optimism—if you believe in yourself and you don’t take no for an answer, it’s pretty astonishing where you may end up.

Currently, that tenacity and self-confidence has gotten me to Kemptville, over 500 kilometres from my home in London. The distance of my trip didn’t really hit me until today when I was editing the video of the last week. Holy crap I’ve gone a long way…it is absolutely shocking. Yes, it has been tough and this trip has been littered with emotional ups and downs, I am still really happy with how things have gone and genuinely will miss my time on the road after tomorrow.

And I’m not done yet.

Tomorrow morning we make our final push to Ottawa, where I’m hoping to be greeted by the citizens of Ottawa for a rally at Ottawa City Hall. I’ve never been to Ottawa, so I’m pretty excited to see the city and meet the people (not to mention get a peak at the Parliament Building). The weather is supposed to be nasty tomorrow but I’m really not concerned. Nothing in this world is going to stop me from finishing this trip, accomplishing my goal, and telling the politicians in Ottawa about the accessibility barriers facing the disabled community.

So what is on my mind right now? Am I excited? Nervous? A little…but more than anything I am left with a blissful and peaceful clarity. I sit here with the finish line in sight, one last obstacle to overcome, and by crossing that line, cutting through that finishing ribbon, I will tear through knots of misconceptions currently binding the disabled population, showing once again—in the tradition of great men like Rick Hansen and Terry Fox—that the disabled are not limited. Yes, we may do things differently, but we have hopes and dreams just like anyone else and if we set our minds to something, no matter how big or unlikely, we too will achieve those goals. Perhaps not the same way as everyone else, but we will overcome those obstacles with the same passion and dedication as someone without our perceived “limitations.” Ultimately, everyone has limitations, everyone has things they cannot do—it is how we overcome these obstacles that truly makes us who we are!

But more than that, tomorrow is a time to celebrate. For tomorrow will be the last day ever in this province that someone with a disability has to drive all the way from London to Ottawa, because gosh darnit, we’re going to change things.

And it all starts with a turn of a wheel, one step forward, moving together into a liberated future.

My entry into Ottawa may be rainy, but with every storm comes the promise of a sunny resolution and the future of this province couldn’t look brighter.

See you all tomorrow. We’ll cross that line together.

– 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.