Sir John and disabilities

Ed Smith
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Sir John and disabilities

I don’t talk much about disability. I write more about sex than of the various physical and mental challenges life throws at us. I used to talk a great deal about sex. No less a person than the Hon. John Crosbie said so at a banquet attended by the rich and famous and me.

He was funning, of course, in his own inimitable way. He also said, while holding a copy of The Telegram in his hand, that he was sitting in the smallest room in his house and looking for my column. He found it, he said, on page 997, and was about to employ it for the purpose in which it had the best possible use.

That’s when he made the comment about sex in my writing. He did not make me out to be an expert in either field. There were others on that occasion who noticed the same thing. One was Other Half, who pointed out how insightful he was.

I paid little attention to either of them. He’s her cousin, for Pete’s sake, and I’m a mere husband. You have to forgive me for referring again to that fact concerning her relationship to the Lieutenant-Governor, but otherwise I have little to commend me to the higher echelons of society.

And I really do admire the man. When will someone suggest that he be Sir John?

If that great lover of seal hunts, Paul McCartney, and that great financier, Conrad Black, can be knights, Sir John and Lady Jane should already be seated at the Camelot roundtable.

I did not intend to devote the contents of this epistle to Sir John (oops! I really would like to see that happen), his relationship to OH or to sex. I mention it to show that I talk about the latter only occasionally.

I intended to talk about disabilities, especially mine, because mine is the only one I have. To be completely honest and forthright, my mobility problem is the only one of my disabilities one can see. There are those who will happily give voice to the opinion that I have other disabilities having more to do with the mental than the physical. I myself do not subscribe to this view.

But I digress, and not for the first time.

The fact is, in this column I should be advocating a great deal more that I do for people with disabilities of all kinds. I just don’t want to bore you with that. Those of us who live with “challenges” know how boring life can be — and how the water in the St. Lawrence Seaway is boiling hot in February.

Sure, I can wax comedic about the fun and games of being quadriplegic or vision impaired or hard of hearing, just to name a few of the physical impairments that flesh is heir to. I closed that last sentence with a preposition (supposed to be bad grammar) because Shakespeare also did it in the Hamlet soliloquy, and who am I to misquote the Bard of Avon? I’m only the Bard of Springdale.

Far as I know, Shakespeare didn’t even have a physical disability. Of course, a lot of famous people did. Moses had a speech impediment, according to the Bible. Zacchaeus was height challenged. President Roosevelt was crippled with polio. President Clinton had a deformity ... OK, enough of that.

I’m digressing again. To get back on track, let me say it’s nothing new for me to be upset with the federal government. But I’ve been sort of holding off on the current provincial crowd of the same stripe.

I’ve heard it said that there are roughly 71 different agencies in this province helping to train and provide employment opportunities for people with differing disabilities. The organization of which I currently have the honour of being chair of the board of directors, the Canadian Paraplegic Association (NL), is one of them.

We have several offices and instructors across the province, including Labrador, who are doing exactly that sort of thing with several hundred individuals. Not all of them are mobility impaired, but we help whoever comes our way.

This is accomplished through service contracts with the provincial government. If you’ve been listening to the news lately, you must be aware of government’s implied intention to cut back on everything from bathrobes for MHAs to travel allowances for the premier and her staff. Unfortunately, we at CPA are caught in the middle of that.

I don’t mind the loss of the bathrobes, but I have been worried sick that we would lose all those contracts that are up for renewal at the end of March.

That would mean the people we would be helping to get employment through training for jobs suitable for their specific disability would now be thrown on the garbage heap, or should we say waste disposal site. Not funny. I agree, definitely not funny.

We heard last Friday that we have a stay of execution of six months before anything is done. So, what do we do in the interim? That may be largely up to you.

I understand some cuts have to come, but not at the expense of those who are among the weakest of our society and have difficulty looking after themselves. And no, I don’t know how this is to be done, but that’s not my job. There are those much better suited for that, and better paid.

Someone has said, it wasn’t me but someone of equal brilliance and insight, that a society is judged by the degree to which it looks after its weaker members.

The Dunderdale government will be judged very harshly if it removes from people with disabilities their opportunity to get employment and support themselves and their families.

On the other hand, perhaps the government will get away with it because it matters to no one except the disabled.

And hopefully one or two more with loud voices.


Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.  His email address is

Organizations: Canadian Paraplegic Association, NL

Geographic location: St. Lawrence Seaway, February.Sure, Springdale

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