Fighting for Inclusion: Some Days the Battle is All Uphill
There are days where you hardly notice you have a chronic illness or disability. You move through your day effortlessly a, whatever accommodations you’ve made are by now second nature and hence unnoticeable. Wherever you go, people are helpful, removing barriers to make sure you are included
Last Saturday was the opposite of one such day.
I’d submitted a claim to my private insurance company for hospital cash for last year’s medical adventure. Trying to limit the amount of back and forth, I first checked what supporting documentation was needed. Oh, the agent said, just a letter from the hospital confirming admission and discharge date. I got this ($30 fee) and sent it in.
Nope, not enough. They also wanted to know how many days I’s spent in a private or semiprivate room (they don’t pay for this). New letter, another $30.
No again. Now they wanted a letter from my doctor with the diagnosis that led to the admission. To ensure (I assume) it didn’t have anything to do with my pre-existing conditions.
Then I spoke at some length to a supervisor about this clusterf*** and also verified it would be considered an open case. My doctor was on vacation and the letter would arrive after the one-year anniversary of discharge, which is how long I had to submit the claim.
You can see where this is going, can't you?
Last Saturday, we picked up the mail when going out. There was a letter from my insurance company rejecting my claim rejected because it’d been submitted past the due date.
You know how much I love Sugar Beach. It’s one of my favourite places to be, to relax, to de-stress. There is a wooden dock is there that goes out into the sand and which is designated for people who use mobility aids. It was built after my initial meeting with Waterfront Toronto where I advocated for greater inclusion of people with disabilities. And it is used a lot by individuals in the community who use wheelchairs and scooters. Unfortunately, the City has had to make it very clear that it’s for people in wheelchairs, first attaching little plaques to the sides of the dock, then adding a very visible sign asking people to please respect this. That helped.
Last fall, the sign was taken down and within a day or two, visitors to Sugar Beach had dragged one of the Muskoka chairs up on the dock. A couple of days after that, there were two chairs, and that was the end of people with disabilities being able to use the dock.
I decided to wait until the spring to do anything about it, because I was tired and besides, I thought maybe the City would get back on track on its own.
Last Saturday, we wandered down to Sugar Beach. There’s an accessibility sticker on the umbrella, which judging from the two chairs part next to the umbrella wasn’t doing much good. I then looked down and saw this
Apparently the City had ensured that nobody would remove the two Muskoka chairs placed under the umbrella and in so doing officially blocked the ability of people who use mobility aids from enjoying the dock. Which is the only place they can enjoy the beach area. Because wheels and sand don’t do well together.
Deliberate exclusion always feels like a slap in the face. Given that this dock was created specifically for people who use mobility aids, and has been identified as such quite prominently, this felt even more like a punch.
But never mind. We were meeting my mother, my sister, and the Tinks for lunch and that always puts a smile on my face.
Not so fast. I could smell the problem the minute I turned the corner to the area we’d be using. We were sharing the space with a bridal shower that had booked it for breakfast. At the other end of the room there were four large warming platters. At least one of which contained eggs. To which I’m allergic. To the point where even the fumes will make me sick.
The Boy and I left, leaving the rest of the family to have lunch. The kids had looked forward to the treat, so we’d meet up with them later.
And at this point, it is quite possible there were some tears.
There are days when the fight to be included is never-ending. When previous wins are taken away from you. When people (and organizations) seem to do their very best to take your rights away.
As someone who is lived for decades with chronic illness and disability and who has worked for decades as an advocate, I’m used to it. It stings, it rankles, it infuriates. But you learn to roll with it, to fight back, to be an effective change agent. To use your limited energy to be included.
But when three such things happen not just in one day, but within the space of a few hours, it’s a bit much.
The claim situation has been fixed after another phone call, and I need to contact the City about Sugar Beach, as well.
Just as soon as I’m less tired.