Speaker 1 00:00:04 Hey, and welcome to free will. And with pardon podcast, I'm your host Carter and whack off disability advocate, wheelchair warrior. And we break down barriers for people with disabilities on this show, talking about stigmas and stereotypes and a doctor of equipment and all kinds of inventions. And we also talk about people with disabilities who are also just totally kicking butt in their community and helping to create the world a more accessible and inclusive space. And today with that, I have a member from Ontario, Canada, community Anthony for Zena, who has a passion for accessibility and inclusion. And he still lives in Ontario and was born there as well. He was born with spinal bifida and was privileged to adopt the person first mentality in his early years, which a mindset he currently embodies in his everyday life. Two quotes that inspire him to be the man he is today.
Speaker 1 00:01:06 Our adversity not only builds character. It reveals it. And it's not about the amount of times you get knocked down, but the amount of times you get back up, he currently works at Mohawk college as a student services representative at the square, and he can be found in his community representing be Rick Hanson foundation, be Catholic youth organization and painting international wheelchair parking symbols with the forward movement. Anthony is a true Testament of character, overcoming many obstacles along the way, breaking down and breaking through barriers so that he along with the next generation can enjoy an inclusive community and a community based fully on it. Ability. I also want to bring your awareness to a mobile app. I access life. Two of my great friends here in Atlanta developed it is an app that provides transparency in the built environment. So you can rate and review places on their accessibility, like restaurants and bars and bus stops and parks.
Speaker 1 00:02:13 And from things like the interior to the parking spaces, to bring that transparency, it's like the four disabilities. You can find it on the app store, Apple app store, or Google play for Android and use referral code carton, C a R D E N. My name you can find me on Instagram at Freewheelin with carton and please rate and review this podcast. Share it with a friend and let me know what you think you can DM me on Instagram or text me (470) 588-1215. All right, let's get to the episode. All right. Wonderful. Welcome Anthony. Back to another episode of freewill with carton. How's it going? Thanks for joining me. Good morning card. And how are you? Thanks for having me. Yeah. What a great day to talk about disability, inclusion and advocacy. And I'm really excited to get, to share your story and have listeners hear all the great things that you're doing to break down barriers for people with disabilities.
Speaker 1 00:03:18 But I mean, the things and the advocacy that we do for, I know it's generally specific to help benefit ourselves, but also the disability community, but it really just ends up benefiting everyone. So today is your time to just share. So I understand that you are living and have been diagnosed with spinal bifida. And so let's start out with that. So, yeah, so I was born with spina bifida and I used to be able to walk with each of the came I condition subsequently digressed to the point where they 12, I had a very, very heavy surgery that left me using a wheelchair there on after, but I never really viewed it as a negative. I just always continue to view it as an opportunity. Sure. Yeah. I mean, that's the thing I think with every disability, you always see it as, okay, well you have this obstacle and you learn to adapt and then you just, you know, that's your life.
Speaker 1 00:04:15 That's what it is. Can you speak that, that mindset shift and maybe you were so young. So do you not remember that or not at all as an adult? I mean, in terms of adapting, I mean, we all adapt one way, shape or form. I think the fact that when persons with disabilities adapt specifically wheelchair users or personal disabilities in general, you know what, the way we adapt may look a little unorthodox to the uneducated eye, but at the same time, you know, it's our normal, you know, we're in a time right now where we're all talking about a new normal, whereas people with disabilities kind of explore their new normal pretty much on a regular basis. So, you know, with this pandemic happening right now, a new normal is not necessarily something new for persons with disabilities. I love how you say that because I've actually had great conversations with some of my friends who also have disabilities.
Speaker 1 00:05:13 And they were like, for so many years, people with disabilities have been excluded from society in a number of ways. And it's almost kind of like an awakening for those who are non-disabled for this time of being in your house and not being able to go out and do things. It's a similar kind of mindset that you just can't be doing, what you used to love anymore. Right? I mean, it's, it's almost like people with disabilities need to adapt to society, not the other way around, you know, and it's, it's frustrating, you know, but at the same time through, uh, breaking down attitudinal barriers, educational barriers, that's the continued
Speaker 2 00:05:58 Mindset to build allyship. At least that's what I try to do in my community to help see the person first, rather than the disability.
Speaker 1 00:06:07 That's so important to see that, you know, it's not just, you're not Anthony who has spinal bifida or Anthony's spinal bifida, Anthony who uses a wheelchair. It's just Anthony, right? Who's out there, Megan making a impact in the community. And so I know you have done an incredible amount of work. The first one that I read about was the forward movement. So talk to me about that cause that's really cool.
Speaker 2 00:06:34 So the forward movement is in Canada, the version of the testable icon project that came from the States adopted by two gentlemen, Dylan <inaudible> and Jonathan silver. I immediately came on board when I saw an Instagram post from a friend of mine who was a former Paralympic athlete who was quoting with a symbol. You know, I immediately thought this was a game changer, you know, so I grabbed the guy's number and you know, the rest is history. We've done plenty of painting parties. We've done, you know, awareness, events, inclusion events, but it's more about increasing the conversation, being a catalyst for change, showing the person first, rather than the disability, we've painted a lot of parking, lots in the community, partnered with a lot of organizations to really get that symbol out there to the impact of what it can make in the community. I mean, a lot of people say, well, it's just a symbol, but it's not just a symbol. It's a powerful opportunity to evoke change that is desperately needed.
Speaker 1 00:07:38 Yeah. And so just to kind of add some additional clarity onto those who aren't familiar with that accessible international symbol, so, and easiest way that you can look is open up your phone and look at the emoji icons or the emoticons, and look for that blue wheelchair symbol, it's the wheelchair moving forward. And or if you see accessible parking, that blue logo that has the wheelchair, oftentimes you see it as a static image. So the wheelchair and the person sitting in the wheelchair is standing, you're sitting upright and the wheelchair is, is just very 90 degrees. But this forward movement, as you're describing is shifting the symbol from that very 90 degree static to a more 45 degree angle as if you're you're rolling forward because we are rolling forward very quickly. And that's awesome. And so, so many painting parties have, have happened. And I've also noticed how a number of notable companies, major companies have also signed up to make that change. Do you want to speak to that as well?
Speaker 2 00:08:45 Yeah. Individuals like, uh, Toyota have been on board with that and many other organizations in Hamilton where I'm from is also been on board with it, with the Ron Joyce children's health center, Hamilton tiger cats, and many more like we're about making that change, you know, showing the symbol as the opportunity to have conversations that are often overlooked and overshadowed as afterthoughts rather than part of mainstream conversation.
Speaker 1 00:09:14 How do people feel when you're talking to them about making that change? Do you ever find that people are like, well, what's the importance here and, and how do you help to change people's minds?
Speaker 2 00:09:27 Well, it's just about having that conversation about presenting as a person first and evoking the change as something that is very important to society that return on investment. So to speak, if people invest in people with disabilities, their return on investment is that insurmountable, you know, it's tenfold to the opportunities that we can have. It's something, access something as easy as putting a ramp in front of your one-step building so that people with disabilities you can get in it's, it's, it's easy. It's, it's so much easy to do. It's just getting people to be a part of the change, taking the effort, taking the initiatives to make these changes will ultimately benefit their company or their organization tenfold.
Speaker 1 00:10:13 And how do you approach these companies? So if someone was interested in helping out, how do you go about it?
Speaker 2 00:10:19 Uh, I work with a great team here in Hamilton. We have, uh, a lot of very willing partners, very, very willing organizations that are always willing to listen and always willing to understand when you use the numbers and the return on an investment portfolio and scenario, you, you seem to garner a lot more interest, but at the same time, there's a lot of really great people that are very, very interested in being partners with you and making the change. I do a lot of speaking engagements in the community and I, and I recognized it from the fact that we're using a youth platform to help create the case. So when they become adults, they'll really have all the information that they need to be more accessible and more inclusive and have that mindset.
Speaker 1 00:11:06 That's really cool. Can, um, can you talk a little bit about that youth program? Because that's the thing, I think a lot of people with disabilities growing up for myself, so I was a spontaneous mutation, no one in my community, or I would say a very low number of people in my community, how to physical notable disability. And if they did, it was just not talked about. And so I didn't really have any role models or mentors or anyone that could help tell me what is a wheelchair, how to, how to get, you know, different kinds of adaptive equipment. So that's really cool how you're helping to empower the youth.
Speaker 2 00:11:42 And, and well, as a, as a young kid, uh, my life changed at eight. You know, I was still walking with the use of mobility AIDS and whatnot, but, you know, I met a gentleman
Speaker 1 00:11:54 At Mary Dale park, which formerly was called camp Marydale and, you know, he offered a hand and he just said, welcome to camp Maryville. Now that was another game to hear from me. I'm still involved with the organization and we have subsequently built and opened Ontario's first, fully accessible park and recreational facility in Benbrook, Ontario. So from start to finish, it's completely 100% accessible and, you know, I'm forever, forever thankful. And I show a lot of gratitude to the medical teams and, you know, people in my life at a young age to help me get where I am today. So a lot of what I do and how I speak and how I conduct myself is through gratitude right now, right now. One of the things that I volunteer with, uh, unfortunately it's suspended due to COVID right now, but I volunteer with a group of young kids as cheerleaders, as a youth disability cure squad who's performed at events like Tad's games performed at Bulldogs games, group performed locally in Hamilton, uh, certain events, but you know, this 40 year old can, if this four year old can be a cheerleader, anybody can be a curator.
Speaker 1 00:13:17 That's awesome. And so is it, is it a group of people with disabilities who are the cheerleaders or is it you're just a part of it because you enjoy being in the community? Well, it's a group of young kids with disabilities as well, ranging from, I want to say four or five to approximately 21, 22. And, uh, it's just a great time, you know, to see the smiles and the laughs on everybody's face. You know, I get the opportunity to talk to them, you know, whether individually or with their families and let them know my experiences growing up. So when they're a young child, um, you know, grows older, you know, they can lean on someone like myself for support and happy to give that to them. Sure. That's great. I, I love how they've started adding that in the community because over time having that representation, they know, I mean, this is my personal belief. I think like people no longer see the disability. They see just, they're just people, they're cheerleaders. Absolutely. That's all part of your, your mission for this person first mentality or the world. I kind of want to dive a little bit more into your growing up and what that has been like, what are some of the things that spinal bifida pose, challenges, obstacles kind of a day in the life of Anthony? Well, you know, I kinda, you know, approach every day with a positive attitude. And if I proceeded challenge, I'll
Speaker 2 00:14:52 Try to overcome it one way or the other. I mean, a lot of challenges is transportation, you know, access from point a to point B with, with dignity and respect and integrity challenges, such as, you know, being able to do your job on a regular basis. I am a currently a student services representative that local college here and, you know, and combine that with all of my, uh, my community efforts. It's, it's busy, but it's also a lot of fun. It's challenges are sometimes, you know, waking up with a mother, be a little bit of pain or discomfort or anything of that nature that kind of hinders the day-to-day process. Maybe lack of sleep on a particular night because you're sore or whatever, or even just kind of going through your day to day life, you know, getting ready, making your breakfast, making your lunch so on and so forth. That, that does pose a little bit of a challenge.
Speaker 1 00:15:48 I was talking yesterday with, uh, another person about this theory called spoon theory. And that what that means is you have a certain number of spoons for the day, you know, say you have five or 10 spoons and each task poses, uh, is, it is a spoon or some tasks can be three or four spoons and take up your whole day with spinal bifida. Are, are there any, is there anything in particular that is very difficult, that takes a lot of effort and energy? Um, I'm more so just interested for myself.
Speaker 2 00:16:24 Oh, absolutely. I mean, um, I ha time management is key for someone like myself, you know, somethings that may take somebody five minutes may take me 20 minutes and that goes part and parcel with the disability, the ability to have to pivot certain things that I do from one day to another, or just kind of getting ready at my own pace or doing things at my own pace so that I'm comfortable for the particular day. You know, routines often change day to day based on how you feel and how you cope, how you adapt. I'm fortunate enough to be in an environment where my core circle, my friends around me, my family, my sport actually understand. And, you know, know that, you know, this is affecting me today and I may have to, um, pivot certain things, but we'll make it work, you know, planning ahead.
Speaker 1 00:17:21 Sure. The spinal bifida, does it continue to get worse or is it, is it just, you know, general aging progression
Speaker 2 00:17:32 Progression, a lot of, uh, body aches, a lot of pain in certain areas tend to be more prevalent depending on the usage of the body, what you can use, what you can't use, how you use it, your body mechanics in terms of maneuvering from one place to the other, you know, for myself, it's in my lower spinal area. So I have a lot of strength in my upper body to compensate what my lower body can't do.
Speaker 1 00:18:01 And then so to basically do what you gotta do every day, right? We all, I mean, I personally have adaptive equipment in my house. Things like a shower chair and, you know, roller things. Is there any adaptive equipment that you love having and that you rely on?
Speaker 2 00:18:18 I D I have a shower chair myself. I've got a lot of bars in my condo to help raise me up from certain angles. I have to make sure certain what, not, not equipment, but certain things during certain places so that I can adapt easily here. He's here. Um, my counters are lowered. I have a lot of grabbers. Thank goodness for the dollar store. I'll tell you that much because you can get them there. Grabbers are phenomenal. And then even like more, um, stronger ones to help hoist me up on a certain platform or so to speak. But yeah.
Speaker 1 00:19:02 Do you have a voice lift? That's something that is going to come my radar probably. And I could probably see a few years
Speaker 2 00:19:12 At this point. No, I don't. I'm using again, my body strings to get me from point a to point B.
Speaker 1 00:19:20 Got it, got it. And going from point a to point B, you're talking about transportation and not posing challenges. Do you rely on mass transportation or do you have a car?
Speaker 2 00:19:31 I don't drive. I drew up, I reside on a public paratransit system.
Speaker 1 00:19:36 Okay. And how, where you live?
Speaker 2 00:19:39 Oh, I could go into that. Doesn't sound good. There's definitely room for improvement, but it's definitely getting better.
Speaker 1 00:19:55 Oh man. Okay. So yeah, I don't, I don't have a car, so I rely on mass transportation right now. I'm still kind of skeptical with COVID, but relying on mastery, even though I know they're super heavy on, on sanitation and everyone wearing masks and it gets more so just an anxiety thing, but I will say our bus system is, is, is great. We don't have like bus rapid transit or anything of that nature. So Atlanta traffic is horrible generally. So the buses are late just as much as a car would be. So I think there's a lot of room for improvement there, but the buses really go everywhere. The trains, not so much, we just have a, a cross right down the middle and right up and down the middle. And then, um, right in the middle side to side. So the trains don't really take you really anywhere and it gets you to like a neighborhood area.
Speaker 1 00:20:48 And then usually it's usually I have to go an extra mile or two to get to where you actually need to go. So that's where the bus has come into play. So I don't. So our paratransit is connected with our mass transportation and you can only qualify for it if you don't use the regular buses and trains. And so, because I use the regular buses and trains, I don't have a paratransit available to me. So I can't just, you know, call and schedule someone to come and pick me up. I have to rely on the regular schedules and such. So, and that's the thing, you know, how do you dictate who and who doesn't qualify? Yeah. Like how can you dictate that, like in terms of disability, they should qualify based on disability. Right? Exactly. I, I feel the same way. That's a whole nother topic of conversation, transportation.
Speaker 1 00:21:43 Well, I mean, something that is, is really been fascinating me in the last year is, is really getting involved in the community city planning and transportation planning. And so I'm on now, the writers' advisory council for our w we call it Marta. Marta is our rapid train and bus system. So we're working on that to improve it. And so just countless giving feedback on how can we make this better for people with disabilities, because you're so right. How do you get to decide who does? And doesn't get paratransit. It's, you know, I have a disability and I'm living with it every day. It's not like it's going to go away tomorrow. I, to reside on the advisory committee for persons with disabilities here in Hamilton. And what are some of the things that you've given feedback on? I just think a lot of it is, you know, they don't really recognize people with disabilities as people like international day of persons with disabilities. December 3rd is not really, I know today that needs to be more prevalent in communities. Um, just in terms of housing, accessibility, access to housing, access, to transit, proper maintenance of roads and sidewalks. Are you talking my language?
Speaker 3 00:23:02 Yeah,
Speaker 1 00:23:05 No, it's, um, it's a constant struggle, but I believe the way I've gone about it is been the right way. And I am seeing progress the end of the day. I don't tell perfection. I celebrate progression. I like that. One of the models that I use in my community is what I've developed is called the mice method. And my method is motivation, innovation, inspiration, celebration, education, and empowerment. Cool. I like that innovation celebration and inspiration innovation sell it to
Speaker 2 00:23:46 Two eyes. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:23:50 Hmm. So you're motivating people being innovative, hiring people and educating education is huge. And also, I think education and innovation are really early key, but you can't. I think, um, the motivation is kind of the first, because if you don't, if you can't get people motivated to actually do and implement those things, then the rest of the letters kind of don't really matter. I mean, I think motivation and education go hand in hand, right? In order to get people motivated, you have to educate them.
Speaker 2 00:24:28 Absolutely. And you have to do so in a fun way so that they believe in what your presenting, I don't want people to believe in the, I want them to believe in the opportunities that we have around us and Canada. The percentage of persons with disabilities is about one in one in five, one in six. So 78% are able-bodied 22% represent, uh, you know, people disabilities that are identified that are identified, that we know in Hamilton, the percentage of persons with disabilities, where I'm from is greater than the provincial and national averages. So
Speaker 1 00:25:12 Huge opportunity for making your city in your area or your region territory. I'm not sure what you all call it in Canada to be more inclusive or disabilities. And something that I saw on Instagram the other day was it was like, access gets you in the door. Is it like diversity gets you a seat at the table? I think this, I took this from here, Instagram. It was like, diversity gets you a seat at the table. Inclusion allows you to speak. And then belonging is being seen, heard and valued.
Speaker 2 00:25:49 Absolutely. Absolutely. It's, it's such a strong, empowering message. It's something that I, I take wholeheartedly and I, and I want to continue to preach that message too. That can be to our community and communities across the world, just to allow people with disabilities, to have their voice. You know, uh, one of the things that we say in the disability community is nothing about us without us. You know, it's, it's often pushed by the wayside. You know, these focus groups they'll do these meetings, they'll do these events and then, uh, go pure one 80 the other way. So it's often misrepresented, but I often look to ensure that it gets represented in my circle. Sometimes all you can
Speaker 1 00:26:44 Control is what is your immediate circle? I mean, I know we all have inspirational goals to, to tackle disability inclusion for the entire world. Sometimes we got it, take it a step back and think, okay, let's start out, chipping away here. And that's something I've really been working on in the city of Atlanta and Georgia is that, you know, a lot of it was city planning and sidewalks and transportation and getting on these committees and these boards to say, hello, don't forget about us because when you design with inclusion in mind and the sense of belonging, and also when you're designing with disabilities first, you really end up benefiting everyone. Things like ramps, benefit, everyone, elevators, rubber help everyone, you know, low sensory and natural light generally is good for most people. So I think a lot of times, a lot of planning and decision-makings happen and they think of disability inclusion as an afterthought. Yeah. It's very reactionary.
Speaker 2 00:27:56 It's, uh, you planning an event, you know, make sure you have any materials that you're handing out to people in large or in grail, or, you know, have events where the washrooms are on the main level silly like that choosing a facility where the carpeting is very easily. Yeah. To be able to traction around having PSW, both male and female available to people if needed, you know, it's all having that, you know, closed captioning, live captioning, you know, describe video, it's all part and parcel to community. You know, it's all part and parcel to everybody being allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.
Speaker 1 00:28:44 Sure. And kind of breaking that down because there's a lot of really great words. I know what they are, but maybe not everyone else says. So when you're saying, um, audio description, so what that is is when you have a video or movie being played is just, or even a presentation really it's, it's, you're describing what's on the screen, but you're also describing what's happening. So if there's a movie, you're actually, you're saying what's happening. So, you know, X person comes in and sits down on the chair, looks angry and you know, flips a cup or something. Um, and for the close captioning versus live captioning, the closed captioning is usually done afterwards. And it's edited. The live captioning is you have a live capture. So you have a person that you've hired that is actually transcribing what is being said and is visible on the screen or on their device, or, you know, wherever they're accessing it. Yeah. ASL
Speaker 2 00:29:42 Interpreters, the same thing.
Speaker 1 00:29:44 Yeah. An ASL interpreter is an American sign language. Someone who signs, who are deaf or hard of hearing, sometimes he's a assigned interpreter. So yeah, those are all great things to add in, in any type of event to make it inclusive for all. And,
Speaker 2 00:30:05 And I think part and parcel, um, piggybacking off that is to promote that rather than say, rather than having a person with a disability, fill out a form on lines to where you ask for certain accommodations so that you can provide it, have it proactively done that, you know, just represents more of a benefit for that person with a disability to say that, okay, Hey, they're thinking about that stuff. That's really great. So that is more inviting to that person to want to attend that event rather than saying, well, what can we do to accommodate you say, this is what we have. Is there something we're missing? Definitely.
Speaker 1 00:30:46 Yeah. I think that's, it's easy, you know, to have the thought accommodations form and ask, but it's even better if you have that accommodations form they're asking for a captioner or an ASL or, you know, whatever it is, a smooth path of travel or a sensory reduced area, quiet space that you've already included that it's no stress on you because you've already thought about it well in advance and kind of segwaying into some more of that other advocacy work that you're doing. You created a, a local television show. I tried Googling it to be able to watch it. I guess it's only local and in live, I have that. Right. Okay. I would love to watch it.
Speaker 2 00:31:29 Well, I'll give you the address. It's www.cablefourteennow.com. Okay. I apologize. And it there's a listing of when it could be on I it's right now, we're currently working on a third season. Nothing has been aired yet for the third season, but you know, first two seasons were great and you know, it's been exciting to see people in my community say, Hey, you're the above and beyond guy. Thank you for being that advocate, celebrity it's part and parcel to that. But you know, it's, it's a lot about sending the message out that many people are, you know, don't necessarily have the voice or the, the confidence or the empowerment to, to spread it. You know, it's, you know, I may, at the end of the day, ruffle a few feathers along the way, but at the same time, you know, You have to ruffle a few feathers to get your point across. And it's something that I take in high, you know, it's, it's something that, you know, some people may not understand, but, and that's okay, let me help educate you. Let me help you understand why this is happening because you know, this is about the change that is overdue. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:32:55 What are some of those topics on your, maybe your last season that you've talked about and do you have, what's the style of it, the format. Do you have guests that come on and do you talk about it or is it just you out of just talking about stuff that is related to disabilities?
Speaker 2 00:33:09 A lot of it, I don't speak to one specific, uh, topic that we actually just kind of finalized. Last week, we had a young lady on the show who wanted to create an accessible platform swing in the community. So he went online and she started to go fund me account. She raised so much money, a local counselor caught wind of it. And, you know, recently said, you know, accessibility shouldn't be fundraised. Um, so over this past year, there was the consultation with the design company and the organization. And this past weekend, we unveiled a platform swing for wheelchair users.
Speaker 1 00:33:57 I've never been on one. And that sounds awesome.
Speaker 2 00:34:00 So it was awesome to experience this past weekend. Um, know, you know, the process was phenomenal. This young lady is very inspirational, you know, and I use that term in a way that her dedication to her craft and her and her powerful commitment to what she does is something that, you know, you know, resonates with me because of the equal passion that I have. She's also created mannequins in storefronts with people
Speaker 1 00:34:35 That's so cool mannequins and storefronts with disabilities. How cool I actually, you know, has to be like physical disabilities. Right. But that that's really cool. There's no representation in mannequins. And here, at least in Atlanta, I've never seen a wheelchair mannequin or, you know, a mannequin with crutches or canes or walkers or scooters or, um, anything that's done,
Speaker 2 00:35:01 Even if something like as simple as attaching a medical bag to them, you know, uh, you know, a trache, a tray,
Speaker 1 00:35:10 Yeah. A Drake or even a cloth me bag still.
Speaker 2 00:35:15 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:35:16 I'm trying to think of like a lot of, and it's sure I know it's a lot of representation as on the physical aspect of it. Um, but that also, you know, gets people thinking about that there that is normal. Like these are, these are people.
Speaker 2 00:35:32 Absolutely. And
Speaker 1 00:35:34 Breaking down that stigma that I have for a long time and, you know, this is me being enabled <inaudible> person with a disability. I always thought that the traits and those bags were, you know, ugly and not cute. And, but to think, you know, that's kind of the, the tray could be something that cause the muscular progression that I have can affect lung function and thinking, you know, well maybe, maybe in 10 years I'll be using one who knows. And so I think really normalizing disabilities, that's cool. And having that visual, there's not a negative it's I get an opportunity. Right. And putting it in, in such a spotlight that is so commonly seen, you know, something isn't Melissa mannequin in the storefront, people are walking by it all the time. And even if they, they aren't really stopping and looking at it, it's their subconscious and you know, their side-eye and their peripheral vision if they have that is seeing that. And then those images over time, if you continue, what is it like 15 times, if you see and repeat something or do something over and over again, it, it ends up sticking with you. Absolutely.
Speaker 2 00:36:51 And, you know, even when people just visualize it and see it, you know, out of the side of their ISU, as you alluded to, you know, they're talking, they're going to talk about it, you know, and, and it's going to evolve and it's going to grow and it's going to continue to make an impact. I mean, I've seen even stores like target and the U S represent people with disabilities on there,
Speaker 1 00:37:13 Say on their website
Speaker 2 00:37:14 And in their imagery and, uh, in store. And, you know, and that's, that's part of the growth, that's part of the process. That's part of what needs to happen.
Speaker 1 00:37:23 Yeah. Target worked with read article that target works with Disney to add a whole line. Um, so they had a little bit last year, but this year they added a whole new line of adult costumes for Abel, specifically who have physical disabilities, um, notably with wheelchairs because, you know, a seated dress or a seated costume lays on your body way differently than, you know, someone standing or walking the movement is so different. And I often find, you know, dresses and clothing to just be difficult to find, because if you're in a, in a 90 degree position all day long, you want that comfort. Yeah. And also just the ease of getting it on. That's a whole nother story,
Speaker 2 00:38:19 Reaching out to local designers that I know here to help create a line of accessible clothing, you know, even such things as Barbie, for example, they have a wheelchair Barbie,
Speaker 1 00:38:32 Oh gosh, I saw that, um, on Twitter and I nearly almost cried cause I was like, Oh my gosh, it's a Barbie that looks like me. And how cute. And there was this, the picture that was on Twitter was a girl, a little young girl who was using a wheelchair and wheelchair Barbie was sitting on a window sill and the young girl was just like, so elated, her hands were up in the air. And she was, I was like, Oh my gosh, that gives me two years because I love how companies, notable companies are starting to normalize it and add it. And that, that's something that they're thinking about. It's important.
Speaker 2 00:39:10 I know that exact photo you're talking about, you know, and I was as a male, seeing that I was elated for that young lady to see that even for myself, you know, I approached that binary and I have that proudly, proudly sitting in my condo because I was the representation of what it means. I have those hot wheels that I purchased in a local store. You know, I want that imagery displayed in my condo to continually remind myself why I do what I do, what I do and don't need a reminder. But for me, that's just kind of like a, a motivator,
Speaker 1 00:39:58 Right. And it also gives you a little bit of hope and reassurance that there are companies and there are people that are starting to think about this kind of stuff and everything that they do definitely, which is important. And, um, and it's motivating other companies to also get on the train and, and do this because you can't say that you are designing for people and that you're making clothing for people when you're missing a huge opportunity and a huge percentage of the population that wear clothes, just as much as any other non-disabled able bodied person. So Yeah, there's some really great companies that are doing things. I think that's all accessible, the place sets, having a bigger place that, you know, how, how cool and, and to see how children are seeing that and experiencing that at a young age is so critical for their development and their meds.
Speaker 2 00:41:09 There's so wide-eyed, and seeing all these, uh, new opportunities and, you know, it helps them build their character for their few cure, as you know, adults, you know, to be more accepting of, uh, relationships and belonging and people with disabilities,
Speaker 1 00:41:29 Right. And that feeling of someone thought about, or the type that I am,
Speaker 2 00:41:36 You can't put a price on it. It's invaluable.
Speaker 1 00:41:40 And not to, I mean, if we're going specifically to children, not only is it great for adults, but at that young age is just so critical and in what you're seeing of the world and how you're experiencing it and why it is considered normal and not normal, but the relief I'm sure how parents are feeling as well. That, you know, they feel that their children are being seen and heard and valued and that they can participate just about as equally as any other child can. And I think that's all that parents really want for their children is to not feel so excluded from society. And,
Speaker 2 00:42:16 You know, I tried to live as normal, as possible as life as a kid. You know, I played baseball, I played sledge hockey. You know, I participated in, uh, sporting events like any other kid growing up and, you know, that's the way my parents, uh, I grew up with my parents, like, you know, you know, there's, if there's a will, there's a way they'll be able to find it one way or the other. And we, um, we played, uh, we actually got to go down to Cooperstown in New York to play on majorly. We put, we were the first, uh, team with a disability actually play on that field. And, um, you know, I played the game a little way. I was, I was a little younger and a lot thinner in those days. So I had a little bit more flexibility and mobility and, you know, I would always like throw myself out of my wheelchair to, you know, make it to a particular base. I'd always come up, Come up with a dirty uniform, you know, laundry every night, one night I had a baseball game, you know, that's just, that's my character. That's just who I am
Speaker 1 00:43:22 So extra and love it.
Speaker 2 00:43:25 You got to go above and beyond. See it writes itself,
Speaker 1 00:43:30 Hence the name of your TV show above and beyond. And the only reason I know about Cooperstown, it's funny because my brother was on a traveling baseball team growing up. And so we, Oh man, we would be all over the place. And so they went up and played at Cooperstown the championship. So at that time I was, I was running, I was playing competitive sports as a child. So that wasn't something on my radar that I thought about, but it definitely came in high school. So a little bit of a shift in just the way that I thought about the world and inclusion and how I felt about how other people looked at me and treated me. And I think it was difficult in high school because, so I have lordosis and it got, it started progressing when I was in high school. So I definitely had a gate.
Speaker 1 00:44:22 And when I was walking and all, a little bit of a sway back and it made me look that I was pregnant and because just because the way my, my stomach protruded and all the time in, when I would go to grocery stores and I would still be walking, you know, people would give me dirty looks and bad looks. And some people would be like, Oh, when are you expecting? And I think that's just so weird, you know, just because someone looks a little bit different, we auto assume that, you know, someone is pregnant or someone looks bad or that's not what, how someone should walk. And it was like, you know, I may watch funny, but I got around where I needed to go.
Speaker 2 00:45:10 Absolutely. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. And you know, that's what, you know, we've got a, let's say no that, you know, we're people too. And that, you know, we belong, this is how we belong. This is what we require. You know, there's a lot of discrepancy between needs and wants, well, they want this or so-and-so, well, no, we need this to be an equal member of society. You know, we need this to occur. We need this to happen. We need a ramp. We need, uh, an accessible door opener. We need dignity and respect the way we need to dictate it to you to ensure that, you know, we're equal members of society. You know, often things are overlooked and overshadowed by people making assumptions. And when people with disabilities are, you know, growing and growing and evolving, you know, it's the, I don't want to say able-bodied community. It's, uh, it's the community that flatlines us to say, okay, well, David, you've done enough. You know, when it's never enough, we continue to need to grow. We continue to need to empower one another. We continue to need to relay that message. Now more currently with above and beyond, I'm now starting a not-for-profit charity to enact upon the words that I preach.
Speaker 1 00:46:33 Oh, cool. That's awesome. Do you have a name for it or is it still going to be called above and beyond? Okay.
Speaker 2 00:46:40 So going to be called above and beyond exactly. That's what it is. Now. It's a brand, you know, you know, things that, you know, I've evolved and been doing over the last couple of years is, you know, creating a, a book, writing a book that's in the process of being published. I've got children's book, that's in the process as well. So that messaging with above and beyond from the talk show has evolved into its brand. Now it's it's, and it's something that people recognize me for, because it's not a, it's not a nine to five as a lifestyle. That's what people have to understand.
Speaker 1 00:47:24 Having a disability is not a nine to five being an advocate. It's not a ninety-five. Oh, yes. That is so true. It is an all day, every day. And I don't know what, uh, if anyone asks you this, but I get asked often. Oh, so when I go on interviews, they're like, Oh, so what are some of your hobbies? And I'm like, my hobbies are making the world better for people with disabilities. Like that's what, and they're like, and it's almost like they don't understand that that is like a full time. That is like a five times full-time job. Um, and they're like, so doula, I mean, think of like traditional hobbies. I'm like, that's the thing is I'm not traditional extraordinary.
Speaker 2 00:48:08 You nailed it. You know, and that's the thing, you know, I'm always thinking about above and beyond. And I'm building relationships with people. I'm building powerful relationships in my community to ensure that people get it. You know, it's one thing to tell me, you get it, but show me that you get it. You know,
Speaker 1 00:48:27 I actually making change or telling people about it.
Speaker 2 00:48:30 Absolutely. You know, be, be a leader that you'd be the leader that you are and help make that change that is necessary.
Speaker 1 00:48:40 Sure. So many great nuggets of information that we've been talking about. I've really enjoyed this conversation. It's been different than a lot of my other podcasts, which has been, we've talked a lot more on the disability, stereotypes and stigmas and breaking down barriers. And I love that because it's, it's a conversation that needs to be had definitely things like, you know, the, your, your mice method and motivating and educating and innovating
Speaker 2 00:49:09 Companies,
Speaker 1 00:49:10 Companies are really doing awesome work, breaking down those barriers. And though, yeah. Anything else that you want to share? I mean, we can talk for, I can talk for hours about this. I mean, you, and I know this is our lifestyle we can continue to go on. So how's your day going?
Speaker 2 00:49:30 One of those things where, you know, you just continually evolve when not at eight years old is when my life completely catered to that. You know, even though I was still undergoing a lot of change, I stabilized after that surgery at age 12, but then I realized that, you know, this was my opportunity to give back and I'll give you a quick story. One of the other jobs that I do in this community is being a standardized patient. So basically, uh, Oh, OTs, PTs students that are learning nursing, you act as their quote unquote Guinea pig for, you know, and it's, and it's something that I value quite a bit. So in learning the one day, I actually had the opportunity to go to a classroom and the instructor was one of the individuals on my medical team going up
Speaker 1 00:50:22 No way.
Speaker 2 00:50:25 So essentially the why I do, why I was doing it was to say, thank you to those kind of people that helped me growing up. So to be able to say, thank you to that gentleman. And the person was something that I'll never forget.
Speaker 1 00:50:41 Yeah. That's awesome. Full, total, full circle on that. That's really important to be thankful. I think a lot of times when we're doing the work, it feels so slow and like nothing ever gets done, but it's those small milestones. Every time that, you know, a new curb cut comes in, or, you know, one small change has made, or someone adds a signage here it's as the chipping of the way of the iceberg to just create that transparency and that feeling. So that those that are out in the world can thrive and not have to worry about like the Atlanta is, is difficult in the built environment. It's getting a lot better, but that their sidewalks are, are horrible, are horrible. There's a lot of missing curb cuts in, in certain sections of the city. It's really good. And then there's other sections where it's like, I, I'm not even going to go over there.
Speaker 1 00:51:41 It's just so bad. Like it's totally unaccessible for me and I'll just be rolling in the street. And I can't just hop a few steps to going to the, um, like the pizza shop or something like that. So with that it's, and I don't even, I have totally lost track of where I was going, but I think, um, Oh, the day in the life kind of thing is working with community leaders and city advocates, um, Sydney council to, to really try and make that change and something that I am on, I started a task force on the true woman in the city of Atlanta to help provide accessibility in our city hall, in city halls, engagement and outreach in their, um, like when they're posting public meetings or when they're doing things in the community. And then also the technology that they're using for meetings and making sure that they have those things like closed captioning and real-time captions. And, and I think, I, I don't think I've gotten a hundred percent support of like, okay, this is so important. Like we should be investing a lot of money in this. It's almost kind of like trying to prove to them that it's important. And I'm wondering if you could try and some more helpful tips on, on how to get people to really care, especially those in power that have the ability to make the change. But aren't quite there.
Speaker 2 00:53:11 A lot of it is really based on accountability, you know, holding people accountable to change to the opportunities that it can present itself to be a more inclusive community, to be more accessible. I mean, there's pros and cons to doing quote unquote a day in the life of somebody who uses a wheelchair. Um, so we've been told that about, but there's other options in just kind of getting people to see you as the person, once they see you as a person, they're more, more inclined to be on board with the image that you represent, you know, going to committee meetings, being a face, being recognized, being, being listened to before you can be heard, you know, we deserve to be heard at the end, but once people get a sense of who you are as a person, you garner that respect in that community to help relay the message of, you know, you deserve to be an equal member of this community, and this is how we can do it. And you, you you're heard one of the things that I'm, I'm currently proud to be involved with is, uh, the 20, 26 Commonwealth games where I'm the, uh, as the accessibility advisor. So we're still waiting for a formal approval of the games we see, I I've promised to ensure full accessibility and full inclusion, like never before. These are the only games in the history of, uh, international games that represent both able-bodied sport and pair of sport at the exact same time.
Speaker 2 00:55:03 How cool on these opportunities? That sounds awesome. It's networking, it's building relationships with people, you know, it's people, you know, knowing who you are, you know, and, and I don't say that as an, as a negative thing or a bad thing, I just continually attempt to make my presence known exactly known. And, um, you know, there's people that may not like me in terms of how I do certain things, but, you know, those, those get overshadowed by the positive impacts that we continue to make that progression. You know, I tell it the power of progression through a local, um, teacher provider here at Hamilton through Hamiltonians and as well-known he's helped me, uh, uh, create the t-shirt that says Hamilton is accessible. Cool. Yeah. The, the brand itself is called Hamilton is home, but the true Hamiltonian gentlemen helped me create Hamilton as accessible, again, to shed light on the progression. You know, it's not about perfection, you know, we're not telling full accessibility, we're telling the progression of where we need to go, the momentum that needs to be undertaken, the momentum that needs to be continual. You know, we can't stop. We have to build that progression, that momentum to keep going to alleviate all those assumptions based my stereotypes and stigmas.
Speaker 1 00:56:35 That's cool. And so the work that you're doing, do you ask people, do you have your services paid for when you do a lot of it pro bono?
Speaker 2 00:56:47 I do a lot of it pro bono. Um, a lot of it is, uh, you know, volunteer, but again, it's to evolve into that, that area, you know, um, you know, with, um, with everything that I do, I do it with passion and I do it with pride. I mean, people have asked me to do assessments on buildings to help make it more accessible. It's a great, like, you know, we've done that.
Speaker 1 00:57:14 I actually really do enjoy that. It's, it's really great to be able to do that. I love when people ask me to do
Speaker 2 00:57:19 Yeah, yeah, no, it's a, it's a really humbling feeling to be asked it's, um, you know, even in October is disability employment awareness month. So, you know, it's about educating people to hire people with disabilities, you know, even, uh, during an interview in disclosure, there's no need to disclose or if the person chooses to disclose how to disclose, uh, when to disclose, you know, it's, it's PR it's personal choice, but, you know, at the end of the day, yeah, it could be a benefit to that individual to disclose. And, you know, it's finding the opportune time to disclose. And, you know, as you know, somebody who, you know, uses a wheelchair, you know, to get into that job interview, you know, I have to disclose that the facility must be accessible, you know?
Speaker 1 00:58:10 Yeah, exactly. One of those mindset shifts that I was speaking to internally at the company, he worked at a former company and he was a recruiter and he remembers interviewing, you know, setting up an interview for someone and they never disclosed that they had a disability or that they used a wheelchair. And, and I, you know, whether or not that's on fault of the person with the disability or the recruiter, it's almost, it kind of, it's both people. But so the, I remember his mindset shift and the he's, the recruiter is a non-disabled, you know, able-bodied person and the guy who uses a wheelchair didn't show up for the interview and he emailed, you know, four hours later or something, and was like, I, I couldn't, I couldn't get into the building because there wasn't an elevator and there wasn't a ramp and cruder. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:59:10 And it's just like that small mindset shift that the recruiter was like, I never even thought about that. And it, it almost, it does sometimes take people with disabilities to, to show that and to have those experiences that sometimes aren't great to be like, wow. You know, I, I didn't even think about that. And so now that's something that's in, always in his conversation of, you know, describe to me any accommodations that you need regarding the building. And, or even if you don't even ask, you can just say that proactively, you can say, you know, the building as pushover, muttons, there's an elevator, or you take it up to the fifth floor and that's where the interview will be held. You don't even have to ask if someone has a disability, you can just provide that in the notes.
Speaker 2 01:00:00 Exactly. That was goes part and parcel to what we talked about earlier with event planning, being proactive, rather than, you know, that helps people get a job like January 1st, 2021 here in Ontario website, accessibility has to be 100% compliance,
Speaker 1 01:00:17 No way. That is so awesome.
Speaker 2 01:00:20 So, you know, being accessible through PDF screen readers, being able to access a website from a fully accessible, a corporate website, a business website, organizational websites, all has to be wikag web, um, website compliant, accessible. The, uh, the acronym fails me at this point, but, uh, yeah, Allie ha yep. I'll have to be compliant by January 1st, 2021.
Speaker 1 01:00:52 That is amazing. And so those listening, what website accessibility is, is, you know, for those who use assistive technology to see and use the website, they have the screen read out to them aloud. So it's called jaws, or even voiceover on a Mac versus windows. And it reads out what's on the website. So I'm looking at right now, I have a website that says squad cast. So it would, it would hover over that and say, squad cast, and then the next heading would be recording session. So it would, it would read aloud with the page. It's a text to speech kind of thing. And it allows users to be able to use the worldwide web, just like anybody else. And, and the challenges that face our websites are just not built in over in a type of format that's required. There's bad contrast on colors, which is everywhere. It's just, Oh, I see it so bad. I see like yellow on white. And I like cringe. I'm like, Oh, I can't read that. Even I can. And I'm excited. I filling out forms, you know, when you're requesting information, if you can't hit the go button with your keyboard, that's a problem. So,
Speaker 2 01:02:06 Or having, you know, having be able to, um, put the information in like on a form, as opposed to having to print out the form, right. The information it, and it's a lot more work, you know,
Speaker 1 01:02:25 And again, going back to that same narrative that when you design for accessibility, for people with disabilities, you benefit everyone when you can. I mean, I don't know if it maybe listeners, if you've ever just hit the enter button to hit, go to, to load a page, to hit, submit, to hit, send if you've ever used a keyboard to, to navigate down the school bar. So using the down arrow or the affair or the tab, that's all part of web accessibility using the keyboard as, as the ability. So if you don't have the ability to use your mouse, you have to use the keyboard. So yeah, I'll, I'll, that's really great. I wish it in the United States would be more proactive in that sense. That's, that's really awesome. Who's the inside the government that
Speaker 2 01:03:18 We accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities act.
Speaker 1 01:03:21 Mm. Okay. So that's your Canadian like your equivalent American. Okay. What is it called again?
Speaker 2 01:03:30 The accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities act.
Speaker 1 01:03:34 Oh, so it's specific to, to your territory, Ontario.
Speaker 2 01:03:36 So Ontario. Yeah, Ontario. And then last, I want to say two years now we unveiled the accessible Canada act.
Speaker 1 01:03:47 So the ACA yeah.
Speaker 2 01:03:49 Huh. So I mean, a lot of things with the ax, the AODA and the human rights and whatnot, unfortunately aren't as police as they should be, you know, not enforced as the same. And that's, that's the problem. Um, in terms of this, uh, the continuum like Ontario supposed to be fully accessible and fully inclusive by 2025,
Speaker 1 01:04:21 The built environment website is how everything built
Speaker 2 01:04:25 Environment, procurement of goods and services, technology, communication, everything is supposed to be streamlined AOD compliant by 2025. And we hold, you know, the problem is, you know, we don't hold people accountable where we thought we were accessible. We, you know, that, you know, and while I agree with the AODA, there is some wiggle room for accessibility because at the same time, there's universal accessibility, personal accessibility, you know, it's, you know, a lot of strengths-based approaches, you know, are based on individual needs. Like even going back to the discussion we had earlier about the paratransit service, you know, they're considered a quote unquote door to door service. Well, I personally don't need to access or to be walked to the door I can get on and off the vehicle on my own. If I need assistance, I will proactively ask for it. The wheelchair is an extension of who you are.
Speaker 2 01:05:26 If you're going to touch a wheelchair, you ask first there's that language, that communication that is misrepresented in the fact that all you have a disability here, let me, you know, it's almost that baby talk, so to speak, like, yeah, let's take that. It's a, there's different models of how people view disability. And not one that you're describing is that tragedy model of you deserve you have pity on you and feel sorry for you. And that we all require a hundred percent help all the time. And I mean, there are, there are individuals that do require a hundred percent help all the time.
Speaker 2 01:06:08 And so, but it's different for every person. So it's finding that fine line between everybody, especially when you're, when you're a certain company or you shouldn't organization that could really use that and really understand what the AODA is about what human rights is all about. Yeah. I think the other thing to consider is that accessibility and helping people with disabilities, it's not a checklist. Okay, got the captioner, got the ramp, got the elevator we're done here no more. It's, it's a continually evolving thing. And again, those individual needs are different for everyone. And so that's why it's important to have asking, asking what, what accommodations do you need? Because it could be different for every person when you're planning events that could be difficult to provide, you know, if you have a 200,000 person event, which I've been on helping plan for the accessibility, you can't meet every single person's exact need, but if you can bucket it and then do the best that you can just for scalability wise, that's, that's important as well. But also it's important to also recognize don't do something because it's easier to take the time to be innovative. If you're doing something for individuals, you know, take the time to know that person and know their skillset and know that you can help that person individually by doing this, this, and this versus the universal approach where you're denying somebody's dignity and respect by that universal model. Right.
Speaker 2 01:07:50 It's been heavy, man. Wow. This is awesome conversation. And I just, I really appreciate your time and your expertise. No, this is great. Yes, this is awesome. Yeah. I'm excited to air this episode. Well, thanks again, Anthony so much for your time and we'll stay in touch on Instagram and yeah. Anything
Speaker 1 01:08:16 I can do to help you guys, you let me know and uh, we'll go have a lot of fun. Thank you so much. All right. Take care. Take care. Thanks. Bye. Bye.
Speaker 2 01:08:28 Thank you friends for listening. Please rate and follow this podcast or text card at (470) 588-1215 with comments and suggestions tune in next week for another disability topic.