Let's celebrate National AccessAbility Week - NAAW this May 30- June 5th, 2021, Canada
How can we celebrate NAAW at this time? We would like to celebrate the achievements and lives of persons with disabilities; however, we have some concerns about "getting together". This pandemic has challenged us and opened our eyes, ears, and hearts to the lives of others. Many of us would love to celebrate in person as we have learned more about the day to day challenges persons with disabilities face over the past 15 months. We have also learned about how persons with disabilities have been impacted even further by pandemic social isolation, challenges with communication (e.g. for those with hearing impairments who are missing out on the ability to lip read), and challenges with navigation (e.g. for those with visual impairments needing to touch surfaces to help locate one's bearings in the outside world). How can we celebrate persons with disabilities? By hands free volunteering!
Think back to a time when you volunteered your time and attention, and made a difference, in your life and someone else's. You felt good... even great about what you accomplished! Wouldn't it be great to kindly send that positive uplifting feeling of goodness to others in a hands free fashion; sending a different kind of wealth (the word wealth comes from the old english word - WEAL which meant - welfare and wellbeing). Volunteering is a different kind the currency, i.e., an exchange of goodness and service. During this pandemic we could all use a little more wealth and good fortune, especially those particularly hard hit during this pandemic. Some physical or mental health disabilities affect us in a temporary fashion ( e.g. a broken ankle, or elevated anxiety after an car accident) and some disabilities are permanent. Disability in some form or another will touch all of us in our lifetimes.
Weeks ago I dropped off bottles at Habitat for Humanity's bottle drive and noted the fatigued eyes of the handlers over their masks. I was grateful for their work and wondered how many people would love to be volunteering if they were little less worried about volunteering on a front line, at this time. I wondered if there was other ways we could volunteer and celebrate National AccessAbility Week.
Three non- touch socially distanced and powerfully positive activities came to mind:
A loving kindness practice that includes focused attention on self ( we all have had our moments of struggle) and others, e.g. persons with disabilities. The practice of loving kindness in traditional Buddhism is acting with compassion towards all sentient beings ( i.e., a creature that can feel pain and suffer). This practice varies, so please do some research. I like to take a quiet moment or two and sit, and conjure up positive feelings from positive memories I have had through an exchange with others. I focus and feel that positive feeling grow in my heart, feel it building and gaining momentum, and then I picture sending it first to myself (some days my inner critic leaves me weary) and then to my loved ones in my family, then my community, my city, nation, and the globe. It's a great feeling to know that you are helping others without leaving your quiet space.
A shared smile from behind the mask, given to persons in general - remember some disabilities are invisible! We are suckers for a smile. It is not surprising that Amazon has a wonderful convex line in their logo, signifying the bridge between A to Z. Their deliveries leaves a smile!
Advocacy - That is writing your thoughts down and sending them to some organization, government agency, and/ or someone influential, who is a changemaker, citing concerns you have about barriers you see in our built environment for persons with disabilities. Barriers come in many forms. Physical barriers - e.g. 1 step or stairs and no ramp to get into a business, the entrance for persons with disabilities is through the back door (not a lie, still happens- I saw a sign in the North Okanagan, accessible entrance at the back. I followed the sign and went down a dark side lane and around the back of the 3 story building to find it. I thought to myself, how many of us would agree to walk greater than 100 ft down a dark side lane to access a building?). Barriers in communication - e.g. no hearing loops in theatres (for those with hearing impairments), no alt text on websites ( for those with visual impairments), or small or decorative fonts that are hard to read, and signs that you have to bend down to read, to get the emergency contact # if you see a bear! I saw such a sign in our local greenway park. You get the idea. A place to start for your nibble fingers - https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/accessibility
Let's come together in spirit, to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of persons with disabilities, during our annual National AccessAbility week starting the last Sunday of the month of May! Volunteer positive and loving thoughts over the air miles from the comfort of your own home and meditation practice, share a warm smile and hello from behind your mask (ideally a mask that has a clear window so people can read your lips), and put your fingertips to the keypad to let influencers like yourself, know your concerns regarding the barriers you have discovered in your community, that can affect an individual and at times, the
whole family. Thanks ! EnJOY the week!