Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Overcoming Odds and Barriers with Education by Krystian Shaw

I am so excited. I have run my newspaper business for four and half years now. I've been told I have good writing skills, but I still need someone to edit my work. Most of the writing skills I have learned by myself because once I started grade 8, my teachers mainly focused on teaching me life skills. So I am going back to school to improve my skills for my business and career.

The public school district is offering adults from 18 and up to take courses to get there Dogwood diploma. My main focus is to get writing and communication skills so I can learn how to condense my writing. My goal is to say everything I want to say in as little words as possible. And I would like to improve my writing skills so very little if any editing needs to be done in my newsletter articles. For those who don’t know what my newsletter is about, please go to my facebook page at The Kamloops Self Advocate Newsletter/Diverse Abilities.

I am mainly concentrating on English and communication courses, but I will also tackle math and other important skills for my business called the Kamloops Self Advocate Newsletter. I register on April 24th for my schooling, but they gave me literacy tests such as math, English and reading comprehension in the meantime before I registered to know what grade level I am at.

The special education classroom in high school mostly focuses on life skills and work experience and they refused to teach me academics because they thought I couldn't do it.

Look at me now.

I run a business with little support. I want to be more independent, make my messages much shorter for Ability Online, as well as my business. I'm looking forward to improving my skills.

I would like to get my Dogwood which allows people to take university courses, but I don’t need it to reach my goals in life. Although, since I am a go-getter, I still want to keep that as my long-term goal. It’s referred to as street school and it’s free for all adults in the community who don't have their Dogwood and who were not able to graduate from public school.

If you want to upgrade to go to university, you can do that at a university. But they don’t offer you a Dogwood. You just get a grade 12 certificate. At Street School, you write government exams and will receive your grade 12 diploma once you complete all required courses, take the tests and pass.

I am grateful that free programs exist in the community, especially for those who were not offered the same education in school while growing up like me.

The educational system needs to realize, just because we are born with challenges, that doesn’t mean they should assume we are not capable. Give us a chance and push us to as far as we can go. We might surprise them and be capable of learning more than they ever thought we could. I will give an update after I register to let people know what grade level I do have without any formal education when I was young.

Don't "dis" my ability.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

My Time with Ability Online by Shandi Pace

Over the past three months, I’ve been interning for Michelle at Ability Online. As mostly anyone associated with Ability Online knows, Michelle works extremely hard every single day to ensure that this organization runs smoothly.

For most, Ability Online is a safe space where those with special needs can get the support they need in various parts of their life. They feel welcome and have the ability to connect with so many people going through the same issues that they are. Most places online are not regulated for anti-bullying and don’t offer the same protection that Ability Online does. Not only that, but it’s a place where people turn to when they need guidance, support and to build healthy relationships. Everyone supports each other, and everyone supports Michelle.

Personally, it has felt like these past few months have flown by incredibly fast. I’m graduating university now, as are the other interns that have helped Ability Online grow this year. Our time has been short, but unforgettable to say the least.

To start off January, a small group of us interning attended the Abilities Expo in Mississauga for the weekend. I had the chance to meet some of the members Ability Online has helped in the past, and possible members for the future. Ability Gives plays an important part in younger children’s lives and having the opportunity to meet Alex and to see where people’s helpful donations went to was incredible. We were also introduced to Rishi, the engineer behind Avra Labs Eye Control. He presented us with the technology of typing on a computer using just your eyes. Getting to see Sarah – a member of Ability Online – use the system was an unbelievable experience I could never forget.

The theme of my school’s magazine this year was success. Along the way, I’ve learned that success can have many different definitions.

Success doesn't rely on numbers. All that matters is if a product or organization can make a difference in people’s lives. Ability Online isn’t the largest charity, but the effect they’ve had on so many individuals has been touching to experience first hand. Whether it’s from participating in the live chat every Monday night or getting to meet members from the past and present at expos, meeting the real people behind the organization was inspiring.

Thank you to the Ability Online community for introducing me to new people and for putting up with my blog posts over the last few months. Thank you to Michelle for taking me on as an intern.

I'm not sure what I’ll do after graduation, but I do know I’ll always have a home with Ability Online.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Olympic Surprise by Danielle Pellerine

You hear these stories in the news of celebrities surprising teams and various other groups. You think, "Wouldn't it be cool if something like that happened to my sledge hockey team." You say "It will likely never happen to us," until one day, it does! Let me take you to that day...

The day was Wednesday, March 28th, 2018.  We were having our last sledge hockey practice at 2pm that afternoon, thinking that it was going to be just a usual practice. It quickly turned into something amazing!

We warmed up and did a couple of fun drills. We were just getting ready to have a short scrimmage to end our incredible sledge hockey season when suddenly, our former coach asks around about where I am because she wanted to show me something. She came over and pulled something out from her pocket that I wasn't expecting...an Olympic Silver Medal, from the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang! She asked me if I knew who Olympic hockey player Jill Saulnier was and I replied that I did. She pointed to a lady and told me that was her!

Jill was very kind, allowing us to hold the medal (or display it somehow if it was not physically possible to hold), which was so surreal. I actually thought I was in a dream!  It just so happened that I brought my camera that day, and I was able to get a picture of me holding the silver medal with Jill Saulnier! I will definitely be framing that one!

After our practice was done, I was waiting for my turn to get off the ice and was able to speak to Jill briefly. We discussed her first time trying sledge hockey just the week before. She also told me that she really liked our jerseys. All in all, it was an amazing experience for me and my teammates, one that will leave a lasting impact on our lives!

Jill, thank you very much for stopping by sledge hockey last week. Thank you to everyone else who had a hand in making this amazing experience possible.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Is The Shape of Water Offensive?

The Shape of Water led the way on Oscar night, winning four awards and taking home the biggest award of the night, Best Picture. The film is essentially a love story between a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory and a human-like amphibian creature. Now, this seems to be a bizarre choice, but it was one of the most highly regarded films this award season.

Although inclusion is extremely welcomed by the mainstream public, it seems that isn't the case with most award voters. The public wants an increase in minority roles and that’s why we see the success of recent films like Black Panther, Get Out – another Oscar-nominated film – and Wonder Woman doing well. It’s encouraging to see diverse, popular movies that are filled with minorities open up to a new, wider audience.

Why isn't this the case with the disabled community? Why aren't we getting real people that struggle with the disabilities being broadcasted for the world to see play these roles? Sally Hawkins was never going to win Best Actress – Frances McDormand had won almost every major Best Actress award this year – and in a way that’s a good thing. We shouldn’t be awarding yet another actor or actress when there are people that live with disabilities and get ridiculed for it.

Around half of all the acting Oscars have gone to actors playing characters with a disability or illness.The amount of actor’s awards that actually had disabilities that were similar to the characters they were portraying is two. Only two actors with disabilities have ever won Academy Awards – Harold Russell in 1947 for Best Supporting Actor in The Best Years of Our Lives and Marlee Matlin in 1987 for Best Actress in a Leading role in the film Children of a Lesser God.

Playing a character with a disability or illness is an almost guaranteed Oscar nomination, just for non-disabled actors. The problem with Hollywood is that the general public wants diverse stories, but the Academy will hardly recognize this. Greta Gerwig being the only female director nominated was a great example that it’s time to change. Coco won big on Oscars night by winning Best Animated Film and Best Song, which was a much-deserved win for the Latino community.

While The Shape of Water breaks down barriers in regards to sex (most Hollywood films have disabled characters as unattractive and asexual), there's still work that needs to be done. Society believes the white, able-bodied person as “normal” and until we include different and more diverse types of normal into our lives, this default will remain the same.