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Newfoundland Coalition for Persons with Disabilities gears up for new campaign

Margaret Thomson lives in the west end of St. John’s with her husband and is seen here in her home, just after harnessing her guide dog, Gianna.
Margaret Thomson lives in the west end of St. John’s with her husband and is seen here in her home, just after harnessing her guide dog, Gianna.

After finishing an interview with The Telegram on Tuesday, Margaret Thomson headed to her front yard to chat with her neighbor about rose hips and wine. Another day, she might have headed out for a walk in Bowring Park.

She lives in the west end of St. John’s with her husband. The couple has a lot in common, one thing being their Scottish accents, but Margaret is keenest on a monthly calendar and on handling the finances.

He is the one strangers more often speak to first when they’re out and about.

On more than one occasion, a retail sales employee asked Jim Thomson if Margaret would like to try on an article of clothing, while Margaret was standing beside him.

And she has had some other disappointing experiences.

“When you’re working, or even when you’re with friends, people will say, ‘Oh, it’s just over there,’ and they’ll point,” she said.

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Thomson has been blind since she was a child, but the visual impairment doesn’t keep her from living. And when it comes to communicating clearly, she said, it just takes a thought that everyone can be included, plus maybe a little common sense.  

She said she recently called a local grocery store to congratulate them for employing a clerk who counted out change into her hand, instead of dropping coins and bills in front of her. Then, she went about her day.

Thomson doesn’t use a cane, but is active, making use of some assistive technology as she goes along. She currently has a guide dog, her sixth, Gianna.

She recently volunteered to take part in an upcoming initiative by the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities, to try to get people thinking more about common stereotypes and communication. Her personal interest is in encouraging basic understanding.

Working in St. John’s at the COD-NL office, living in Green’s Harbour, Nancy Reid is also taking part in the campaign.

A still taken from a video of Nancy Reid heading out in her open boat. Reid has just parked and finished releasing the back, driver’s side door of her truck, to grab her wheelchair. In the video, she heads alone from her truck to the dock and then out in her boat. The video is set to become part of the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities #EverydayPower campaign, launching in November.

Reid suffered nerve damage after a sudden illness in her late 30s, leaving her unable to walk. But she still picks up groceries, moose hunts and plans birthdays for her daughter, or whatever the day might call for. Regardless, she is a person.

“People with disabilities are not different. They’re people,” she said.

Reid is encouraging an equal attitude toward persons with disabilities.

“There are still a lot of individuals who have this ‘I’m so sorry’ thing. I don’t deal with pity very well, because I’m not something to be pitied. I live my life and I’m a voice for my daughter, who doesn’t have the same voice,” she said.

Her daughter was born with cerebral palsy and has multiple disabilities, including limited mobility.

Physical barriers for individuals with mobility do exist, Reid said, where anything from an automatic door opener to a level entry can make things better for everyone, but attitudes and assumptions need work right alongside the physical environment.

The COD-NL #EverydayPower media campaign is expected to be officially launched in November and will attempt to directly challenge stereotypes about persons with disabilities using videos made by coalition staff and, according to the plan, photo and video submissions from individuals throughout the province.

A call for submissions has already gone out and will continue throughout October, with full details available on the coalition’s website.

“Let’s see what you’ve got,” said executive director Emily Christy, in a statement provided to The Telegram. “Show us your everyday power!”

 

Call for submissions: #EverydayPower

The Coalition for Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador (COD-NL) is asking for more people to help end common disability stereotypes by sharing an action picture or video clip (no more than two minutes) of themselves, offering a positive perspective on their everyday life. It could be a common situation where they are overcoming an obstacle, or more generally challenging stereotypes.

Submissions will include entry for a prize draw, and entries will be considered for potential inclusion in an upcoming media campaign, aimed at encouraging more inclusive communities in the province and a change in negative attitudes.

The submission deadline for #EverydayPower is Oct. 27 at 4 p.m.

Full details are available through the coalition website.

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