Brilliant Service and Technology Combined

In a previous post (April 6) I blogged about the pleasure I had of being one of three panelists at Dal Legal Aid’s A.G.M. Now I’d like to tell you about what I consider a brilliant service and technology.

For those who’ve never met me, I have a moderate speech impediment. I personally don’t think it’s any big deal but in a fair size room with white noise buzzing about, yeh, some people will likely have some difficulty understanding me, at least initially.

At this event I had my main attendant, Kelly, accompany me, as I knew the event would entail 4 or 5 hours including bus travel and therefore I would need washroom and other assistance.

Now, you have to understand Kelly. Kelly is incredible and totally awesome! She also happens to be at the very top of my cheer leading squad. She and I have been through such an incredible amount of good, terrible and everything in between (including my unexpected marriage breakup) during the 4+ years since I hired her. Yet Kelly would rather burro herself to the bottom of the earth than be anywhere remotely near a spotlight. So when one of the event’s student organizers, Jimmy, asked if she wanted to sit next to me at the panelists table, well, poor Kelly just about had 5 simultaneous heart attacks right then and there. She knows well how much I appreciate her. That’s never in question. So she and I quickly agreed that she was just fine right where she was – in the isle seat of the back row.

Knowing that Kelly was cool, I headed up front where we panelists and organizers were meeting each other and working out the logistics of our presentation. Earlier I had noticed Jimmy setting up some kind of laptop-phone combo and as I love tech toys immensely I was intrigued, but there wasn’t time for me to be my nosey self and soon the panel discussion was in progress.

As the other panelists spoke, I happened to glance behind us and I realized that our comments were being posted on screen. My only thought then was: “Huh. That’s cool. But it likely won’t pick up my voice.” Some time went by before I began to clue into the fact that each time I spoke, Jimmy would crouch down, come scurrying up, grab a cordless phone off our table, and go scurrying off to the back of the room. Again, I really didn’t think much about this at first and it wasn’t until we had finished the evening’s discussion that I learned of what was happening. When Jimmy told me about what was actually transpiring, I was completely impressed and blown away.

AB Captioning & CART is an instant transcribing service, headed by Sandra German, in British Columbia Canada. While we were speaking, a person in Ontario Canada, was transcribing our spoken words to text, which was then put up on the screen behind us. Each time I spoke, Jimmy was transporting the phone back to Kelly, who would repeat word for word everything I was saying. I was also extremely impressed with Jimmy’s quick thinking initiative to provide adaptive accommodations for me.

The fact that Kelly was at the back of the room made it much more comfortable for both her and I, and Jimmy was such a good sport about running the phone to her. It was perfect.

Back standing, left to right: Donna Franey, Sarah Boucaud, Nora MacIntosh and Jimmy Bray.
Front, left to right: Claire McNeil, Gerianne (Annie) Hull and Megan MacBride.

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A History Worth Mentioning

By: David Morstad

American historian and author, William Loren Katz, who has written extensively on the histories of both African Americans and Native Americans, has observed, “If you believe people have no history worth mentioning, it is easy to believe they have no humanity worth defending.”

While he was speaking of the importance of knowing the histories of non-Europeans in this country, his words have proven to be disastrously true for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well.

As communities of faith begin to open their doors to those whom they often understand to be somewhat unlike themselves, it might be helpful to know a bit of history. Because, if it looks as though there is something of a disconnect between those with and without disabilities, a certain struggle to find common ground, it may be something more than simply a perceived skill deficit. It may indeed be due at least in part to the weight of the story that people with developmental disabilities are bringing with them.
Eugenics and Institutionalization

This is a people who, in the 20th Century alone, faced the tide of the Eugenics movement which, bolstered by no less than a supreme court decision, turned their very bodies over to the state for compulsory sterilization; then, fewer than 20 years later, were the first victims of the Holocaust through Germany’s Aktion T-4 program that resulted in the extermination of over 200,000 people with disabilities. The official Nazi designation for them was “Lebensunwertes Leben”; in English, “life unworthy of life”.
Christmas in Purgatory

From “Christmas in Purgatory” by Burton Blatt

In the 1960s, institutions for people with developmental disabilities hit their maximum population in the US and conditions were, in many cases, deplorable. Burton Blatt’s 1965 book Christmas in Purgatory, provided a shocking revelation of the conditions in several state-run facilities. While the years since then have seen a steady decline in institutions, their legacy of separation persists to this day. In spite of our awareness of history and our commitment to justice and equality, we always seem ready to believe that people with disabilities are something other than us. Playing by different rules. Regarded with different values.
The 21st Century Disconnect

Stop the shockThese are not ancient stories with limited relevance to our 21st Century thinking. The well-established pattern continues. Torture in the guise of behavior management continues at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, waiting only for a government agency to decide that a device, unthinkable in any other environment in the US, should not be used to inflict intentional pain and suffering on people with disabilities at this facility. The FDA has been deliberating the question for more than four years; meanwhile, the torture goes on.

Meanwhile, quiet citizen petitions (largely unsuccessful) continue the nagging mythology that people with disabilities will somehow make the rest of us unsafe in our neighborhoods when, in fact, they are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators. Quieter still, prenatal testing is steadily providing the information many will use to stop the birth of people with certain genetic characteristics all together.

If faith communities are to place themselves in a position of advocacy – to literally defend the humanity of their fellow believers – we may do well to gain a greater understanding and sensitivity to the burden of their “history worth mentioning.”

Enjoy more of David Morstad’s articles at:

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Jesus: the Disabled God

“Jesus: the Disabled God” is an intriguing new book by my friend and associate in Australia, Jenny Cox. Contact and order info are on this image.

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Believe in Yourself

Not always easy to do but so vital to do.
Thanks TeamWork for this reminder.

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“Gerianne” Turns 38 Today!

Well “Gerianne” turns 38 today! No, not me. I’m much older than 38! (Although I feel around 38!) “Gerianne” is 38 today. “But…. YOU’RE Gerianne.” This is very true!

For those of you who hate the name you were given when you were far too young to protest and since that day you truly believe you’re “stuck with it” for the rest of your life, I have very good news for you…… YOU’RE NOT AT ALL STUCK WITH IT! Yaaaay!!!

I occasionally get asked how I got the name Gerianne. Who gave it to me? When I answer “I did.” I either get a very confused look, or I’ll get a response of something like “Ohhh, Gerianne’s not your real name.” Then when I reply with “Yes, Gerianne is my real and legal name.” then the really confused looks start coming.

Ok, so an explanation is obviously required here. First let met say that, yes, Gerianne truly is my legal and rightful name, but that hasn’t always been the case. I was actually Christened/Baptised Geraldine ( which was chosen by a relative whom I don’t at all get along with) Beatrice (which was chosen by my mother) Anne (which was my mother’s name.) [Boy, what a mouthful!]

When I came into my early teens in Ontario, people started calling me Gerry for short because Geraldine was considered “too old fashioned.” In addition Flip Wilson’s comedic character “Geraldine Jones” brought on another branch of unappreciated teasing to my life.

Then when I was nearing twenty I went through a delayed and severe stage of grieving, in really missing my mother, who had died of cancer when I was just seven years old. I decided that I wanted something of her’s that would be a constant part of my life and that I could have with me every single day of the rest of my life. Since Anne was already my third name, I thought of the idea of combining it with the “Gerry.” (Honestly, at that point I had never heard the name Gerianne ever before. I thought I was coming up with a truly one-of-a-kind name.) I then sat down and typed out (on an electric typewriter) all the different ways that I could think of to spell Gerianne. I think I came up with 264 ways of spelling it. I may still have that list somewhere. I’m not sure. It included G’s or J’s, one r or two, hyphen or not, double n or not, with or without an e at the end, etc. I decided that I liked the way my chosen spelling is the best. It’s all one word and looks nice.

But I knew that if I just starting calling myself Gerianne I would have acquaintances and others saying “I don’t have to call you that. That’s not your rightful name.” So I made it my rightful name – legally. On April 16, 1980, I went to court and had my first name legally changed to Gerianne. Unfortunately, I still have a few relatives who are stuck in their ways and still call me either Gerry, or worse Geraldine, (which is a real pet peeve of mine – I hate both immensely) but I realize that I can’t convert everyone.

The first other Gerianne I’d heard of wasn’t an awareness gained under the best of terms. My then husband was reading a Newfoundland newspaper and read about a Gerianne (spelled the same as mine) who was murdered in St. John’s NL. The article really upset him for a long time.

I later did a search on the web once for Gerianne and I was really surprised to see how many results came up – varying spellings of course. I forget which search engine I used but it was interesting. I also “met” a Gerianne on the net who was named after St. Gerard – the patron saint of pregnant women. She was living in Alaska when we “met” online.

These days I also go by Annie, which was what everyone called my Mom. I’m honestly very comfortable with both – Gerianne and/or Annie; and yes I really did meet Tim Horton – although the captions are just for fun. (But I don’t remember what we talked about, so ya never know….. maybe! Haha!)

The Kabalarians website give the following analysis of the name Gerianne, which actually seems fairly accurate:
The name of Gerianne creates a friendly, sociable, charming nature, but causes you to be too easily influenced by others. While you find it easy to meet and mix, and can appear agreeable and compromising in conversation, you can become dogmatic and forceful if pressed too far. Others learn that you cannot be told what to do and you seldom change your mind once it is made up. You prefer situations that allow a degree of independence, but are reluctant to take on a demanding work-load or responsibility. In a position dealing with the public, you could do well because of your friendly personality, interest in people, and desire to please. When asked, you are able to give others good advice that you would probably not follow yourself, but must guard against being too opinionated in controversial matters.

The physical weaknesses due to this name, centre in the fluids of the body and the senses of the head, causing headaches, eye, teeth, or severe sinus conditions; also, kidney or bladder weaknesses.

You can get information your name at the Kabalarian Philosophy™, website, at: Try it for fun. You might learn a little more about yourself.

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