It’s Alright to Say No! by Terry Wiens

I had a little back and forth with an individual last evening that really brought the idea of entitlement home to me. I have spend the better part of my life fighting for and defending rights. Not just those of persons with disabilities but the rights of every Canadian. I find it very distressing these days that, as a society, we have become very reticent over voicing our concerns.

This was a peer of mine who is about 30 years younger but has grown up with his own mobility impairment. I make that distinction in age because it is germane to the discussion. It is particularly pertinent to the issue of entitlement. What is particularly bothersome is that it is an entitlement that isn’t even recognized by the individual or for that matter his whole generation. But then that is the nature of entitlement.

I don’t expect anybody to be me however don’t raise an issue with me if you are not willing to act on it. I want people to bring solutions to my attention, not issues. I am well aware of the issues and have been for many years. It’s the passive insecurity that bothers me. If you want people to see you as an agent of change then you can’t pick and choose when that happens. Particularly when it is something as basic as physical access. You can’t decide “well I like this group so I won’t make an issue” because the meeting you had hope to attend was being held in an inaccessible venue.

If these organizations have really bought into something as basic as physical access then they wouldn’t even be booking the venue in the first place. Personally I think you have to look pretty hard to find a meeting place these days that isn’t wheelchair accessible but it can happen. And every time we let that happen we are, as persons faced with access challenges, supporting the idea that accessibility is secondary as long as their heart is in the right place. If we can’t stand up, figuratively, for something as basic as physical access then we are not agents of change and have no right calling ourselves motivational.

It’s only my opinion but the most motivational people I know “live” their beliefs consistently. They don’t let people or organizations off the hook because “well they meant well”.

Meant well my ass. If they truly meant well a person wouldn’t be passively whining in a public venue about not being able to attend the gathering. If they were truly motivational they would be able to say to the organization “hey this isn’t right”. It does not need to be seen as an attack or denigration of the organization. Mistakes can be made so pointing it out does not have to be a conflict but excusing them outright is just enabling the problem.

It is almost forty years since the building code was adjusted to ensure physical access was protected. As I have mentioned in other posts we should be past the point of even having to remind organizations and community groups that physical access needs to be there. We should be long past the days of having to turn it into an issue.

Physical access

accesstovotingIsn’t this good enough for you?

However we now have a generation of persons with disabilities who have grown up with the protection that many of those who came before them fought for. I grew up in a time when something as simple as voting could be denied me from a physical access point. Polling booths did not have to be accessible. Even worse my ability to vote was based on the attitude of the polling station manager. This was the societal belief of the day (again not ancient history).

Prior to 1976 managers of voting polls had the authority to decide if someone with a disability was capable of voting. We encourage the return to those days by not making our voices heard when something as simple as physical access is allowed to slide. And the generation I am speaking of don’t do it solely because of complacency, they do it out of a sense of entitlement! They are prepared to “settle”.

The last municipal election I voted was in Calgary almost five years ago (not ancient history). My polling station was down eight stairs in a community gym. They moved one booth to the top of the stairs so persons with mobility issues could vote there. With that done anyone with a scooter or wheelchair now blocked the access to the stairs. The mobility impaired voter were constantly being asked to move aside so other voters could go down the stairs to cast their vote. Now this was Calgary and I was personally aware of at least six other venues within a two block radius that could have been used. To me that is second class voting and I am not a second class citizen.

As long as we allow this to slide we will continue to be second class citizens regardless of how motivational we would like to see ourselves. I am not a motivational speaker but I will speak out against injustice. Being denied something as basic as physical access is a huge injustice and if people fail to see that they really don’t understand what being motivational is about.

Just one man’s opinion

Terry Wiens is an active blogger from Canada. He survived polio as a child but the disease left him ‘architecturally impaired’ – a term he prefers over the label of ‘disability’. His experiences as a child and later as a health care worker have left him committed to the principles of social activism and social justice. Terry’s personal mantra is….


Read Terry’s blog here:


One thought on “It’s Alright to Say No! by Terry Wiens

  1. Hi Terry,

    Thankyou for this. It’s so easy for those of us without such challenges to overlook the needs of people who aren’t so able-bodied. Intending to be fair and equitable isn’t the same as actually having the presence of mind to do so at all times and in all places.

    Personally I think it’s good for able bodied people like myself to read an article like this that can remind us not to be complacent in our smug intentions. Without actual action such intentions are meaningless.

    I took this article as a metaphorical kick up the arse and I hope that others will take it in the same vein. Thanks for letting us share it in Care To Share.


    Stuart (Ed)

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