Going Beyond The Harness: All About My Guide *Dog*

This post is going to give you a glimpse into the characteristics, likes and dislikes of my guide dog Izzy both on and off harness because there’s more to her then guiding.

On Harness: Izzy Loves The “Find” Command

Izzy could “find” things for me all day if I needed her to. From elevators, to escalators, to chairs, counters, sidewalks, steps, doors etc. to “finding the way” when we get ourselves into situations with lots of obstacles, or get ourselves lost- she loves to find things. I think “finding” things is her favourite part of her job, or sassing me when I tell her that she’s going the wrong way and then later finding out that she was in fact going exactly where I wanted her to go. It’s always awkward and fun to get proven wrong by your dog. I’ve also taught her to find some additional things that they don’t teach during guide dog training.

Off Harness; Izzy Loves “Where’s Your Toy”

If Izzy’s off harness and I say “where’s your toy” she gets so excited and will bring her toys to me. Sometimes she’ll put more than one toy in her mouth and run around with her tail in the air. I love it when she does this.

On Harness: Liver Treats

Need I say more? Typically when Izzy gets treats I am only allowed to use her own kibble, However, for certain situations, or if she’s getting a bit bored to spice things up a little, I’ll either use multiple pieces of her own kibble, or liver treats. On the occasion(s) she gets liver treats I can literally feel the extra spring in her step, the triumph mount, or the reluctance fade depending on the situation. Liver treats are her favourite.

Off Harness: Carrots

Izzy is not allowed human food ever as I have stressed many times, however on rare occasion, sometimes a special treat is in order. On those rate occasions, or if we’re doing off harness basic obedience commands (brushing up on the sit, stay, down, come etc.) which guide dog schools encourage us to do, I like to give her carrots. She loves carrots and it really cute to hear her crunch on them.

On Harness: Stopping at Steps and Curbs

We are pretty busy and we’re always on the move, but sometimes when Izzy stops at a step, or a curb we are able to share a special moment together. This includes me bending down to tell her what a good girl she is and her showering me with kisses. Most of the time when she stops at curbs, or steps, she gets a quick verbal “good girl,” a butt scratch (another favourite) and a “good girl”, or a treat and a “good girl”. However, when I think of it, I like to bend down and tell her how awesome she is and get showed with kisses in return. She also always looks up at me when she stops at curbs, steps, or any other obstacle as if to say “did I do it right?”

Off Harness: Blankets

If there’s a blanket made out of a certain soft material, she will go to any lengths to get it and claim it as her own. She likes to curl up on soft blankets and either sleep in a pretzel style with her nose tucked neatly behind her tail, or all sprawled out on her side. However, she has material preferences. The blanket can’t be a soft sheet type, it has to have a velvet soft feel to it. She’s picky, but she has a cute and fun personality.

A Genera Dislike: Getting In and Riding In Cars

Over two years ago, Izzy and I got into a car accident. In the months following the accident, Izzy was quite hesitant and showed signs of nervousness when getting in and riding in cars. We conquered this with lots of her favourite liver treats and excessive praise when she got in the car. While it has been over two years and Izzy rarely shows signs of hesitancy anymore, sometimes you can still tell that she is not a fan of getting in and riding in cars. Remember, car accidents don’t just affect humans, they effect pets and service dogs too.

A General Dislike: Working In The Rain

Izzy always tends to slow down in the rain when she’s working. I can only imagine her facial expressions when’s she’s soaked from head to paw by the rain. she still does a great job with her work, but you can tell she’s not very impressed with the weather as she doodles along the sidewalk at her own pace because “I’m not going to walk fast when you’re the one making me work in this wet weather.”

 

That’s all for now, but there’s so much more to Izzy then just being a guide dog. She is not a robot and whether her harness is on, or off she has likes, dislikes and preferences. Most importantly, she has a seriously strong personality and that’s just one of the many things I love about her.

Keely Grossman, BrockU student, guide dog user, activist and writer. Founder of A.B.L.E (Awareness Breaks Limits For Equality) @ABL4Equality 

Please show your support by “liking” and/or “commenting” on this post. Don’t forget that you can “follow” my blog as well. You can also follow me on Twitter @keelyg_95 for more. 

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Justification By A Person With A Disability Is A Choice

My life is a whole lot of awkward, fun, hard work, perseverance and everything in between. However, it is also full of a whole lot of justification to able-bodied individuals. Everything I do seems to be gazed upon by the able-bodied in awe and wonder. Then they’ll either give me a rude, or downright strange response to what they see me doing that’s different, or they’ll ask questions. I’ve had to justify everything from not needing help, to how I work my guide dog, to why I shop for groceries in store as opposed to online, to why my vision is the way it is in addition to justifications surrounding my own body. I am constantly having to justify my actions, or my choices to the so-called able-bodied, both who I know and by who I do not know. Despite how annoying and stressful it can be, I justify. Justification, however is a choice. As someone with a disability, I always feel like I absolutely have to justify myself and able-bodied people tend to reinforce this in a way that suggests that I have to as well. Really, just because I, or anyone has a disability, does not make us products of justification because of your lack of education and ignorance. I choose to justify so that people learn and respect difference, but I certainly do not have to. Sometimes, I even choose not to, because why should I? Some contexts where I am put in that place of justification are inappropriate, or could also create spaces where I feel unsafe. When I choose not to justify myself, I’m making that choice for a reason- it could be one that’s complicated. to one that is as simple as not wanting to. Curiosity is a good thing, I encourage it, but please don’t treat me, or individuals with disabilities like we need to answer to it. For instance, I tend to get asked why I go around the grocery store without “getting help”. I do get help shopping from customer service, I justify, but when I have the time, I like to go around the grocery store on my own first to feel the packages that I can not read and look at the colours. Really, sometimes I want to give a simple “because I can,” but instead, I choose to give that long explanation, so that you’ll learn to experience the world the way I do. Realistically, what I do should be automatically accepted, but it isn’t and that’s a serious lack of progression on treating individuals with disabilities with a lens of autonomy. You’re welcome for choosing to justify my actions and even my existence to you.

Keely Grossman, BrockU student, guide dog user, activist and writer. Founder of A.B.L.E (Awareness Breaks Limits For Equality) @ABL4Equality 

Please show your support by “liking” and/or “commenting” on this post. Don’t forget that you can “follow” my blog as well. You can also follow me on Twitter @keelyg_95 for more. 

Accessible Activism: My Experience Participating In SlutWalkTO

On Saturday August 12th, Izzy and I participated in Toronto’s seventh annual SlutWalk. For those of you who do not know what SlutWalk is, it is a movement established as a response to victim-blaming, which was and still is being used as a means to justify instances of sexual assault/harrassment/rape. SlutWalk advocates for women’s right of choice for their bodies, consent and not to have their choices used against them for justification of another individual’s inappropriate behaviour. The focus this year was on the rights of sex workers and it also happened to be my first year participating in the event.

In the days leading up to the event, my friend happened to find an E-mail address for SlutWalkTO where you could reach out with regards to Accessibility at the event. I wasn’t going to E-mail them, but eventually gave in and decided to take a chance.

I contacted them and sent them a very short Email about how I would be going to the event with my friend and both of us had guide dogs, would someone be able to walk with us for the march?

Their response surprised me a little because it was so positive. I felt like I and individuals with disabilities in general were welcome at the event as their response was not a case of “oh shit, what do we do?”

I was right. The accessibility at the actual event, in my opinion, was fantastic. We met the person who they had arranged for us to walk with at the event and they stayed with us the entire time. They had individuals with accessibility needs at the front of the march to help set the pace (what a great idea) as well as a van so that individuals with diverse needs could participate in the march and choose which way would be best for them to do so. The person who they had helping us was also awesome, not assuming, or over-bearing. Their focus was on how they could help us best and they talked to us about how they could do that in a way that worked best for us. For the march we decided that my friend would take their elbow (this is the proper way to guide a blind person) and that I’d follow behind them. Everything went smoothly in my opinion.
As a person with a disability, I felt very comfortable at the event, which isn’t quite a common feeling for me.
Accessible Activism needs to be a priority and obviously from my positive experience, SlutWalkTO is trying to do just that.
SlutWalkTo’s Twitter account was also showing their effort to make the event as accessible as possible, with a call for ASL interpreters a few weeks before the event took place.
SlutWalkTO only started in 2011 so for them to be putting this much thought into accessibility definitely butchers the “but we’re a new…., we only started a few years ago” excuse. There might be barriers to new activism type events and organizations just starting out, but there is no excuse for not listening, or putting in effort. Maybe SlutWalk had a rocky start with accessibility initially when they were beginning too, but I can’t comment on that. I can only comment on how great things are now and that’s what matters- progress.
While this post is only touching on my opinion of the accessibility of the event, I wanted to close off by saying how amazing it was in other ways too. While I am not ignorant to the abuse that sex workers face, sex work isn’t something that has effected me, or that I’ve had experience with, it was a really great educational opportunity for me as I got to listen to some pretty inspiring speakers. The march itself, as they always seem to be, was an uplifting experience. I think its really great when people come together to fight for equality and a more just and accepting society.
Until next year, SlutWalkTO.

Keely Grossman, BrockU student, guide dog user, activist and writer. Founder of A.B.L.E (Awareness Breaks Limits For Equality) @ABL4Equality 

Please show your support by “liking” and/or “commenting” on this post. Don’t forget that you can “follow” my blog as well. You can also follow me on Twitter @keelyg_95 for more. 

Blind Travel: Three Days in Quebec City

Day One
For the next three days, Izzy and I will be in Quebec City with our friend, who happens to be another guide dog user. We tend to do a lot of traveling together, so I figured it was about time to document some of those adventures,

For our first day, we mainly spent on the train. We used ViaRail which is a train company that goes across Canada. The staff were fantastic and always have been from my experiences traveling with them. We took the train from Toronto to Montreal and then Montreal to Quebec City. Once in Quebec City, we checked into the hotel that we would be staying at and had dinner. Our hotel is kind of complicated with regards to taking our guide dogs out to relieve themselves and we’ve been needing to get help from hotel staff because the short cut to get to any grass involves going down in an elevator that isn’t able to be accessed unless you’re with a staff member. We have also been taking our dogs at the front, but its a bit awkward because of the terrain- which is hilly and there isn’t much room to let them go without getting in the way of people. It works, but my dog likes to walk before going so its not as ideal as the other place we go. The hotel staff have been really accommodating, friendly and great though. We really got lucky. People have been really nice here as well, I know a bit of french and my friend does not, however mine is very choppy. As I mentioned, Quebec City is quite hilly, which came as a big surprise to us and could be a bit challenging because of how narrow, or awkward they could be to go up and down. It really isn’t a big deal though, my guide dog handled them perfectly, so I’m grateful for her skill. Quebec City, without being able to see any of the buildings has a really nice, yet old feel to it. It seems to be quieter than Montreal, Ottawa, or Toronto. We went to a crepe place that was out of this world called Le Billig and I would totally recommend it to anyone planning on taking a trip to Quebec City. The crepes there are nothing like you would taste in other parts of Canada and their chocolate moose crepe dessert was probably the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted. The person who was our waiter was also very nice and gave great food recommendations. Coming back to the hotel afterwards wasn’t as great. We got very lost. Getting lost is basically second nature to me and while we ended up getting back, we also accidentally wound up at someone else’s house in the process. Awkward. So that is our first day, but tomorrow will be filled with more exploring and fun!

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Photo Description: This picture shows my dessert plate at Le Billig. Its dessert crepes, with chocolate and cheese (like the cheesecake type of cheese) with chocolate ice-cream. The plate is flat and wooden.

Day Two
Today was awesome! We wet to the Musee De La Civilisation where we had a tour of the history of Quebec exhibit. It was interesting to hear that they were able to preserve the medicine bottles, with medicine still inside from the 1700s. I also like how they mentioned the women’s movement in Quebec (including Feminism and then the 2012 tuition protests). It just was not tactile. Then we walked down and had lunch at a lovely bistro called Bistro Le Brigantin. It was down by the Quebec port and they are apparently known for their smoked salmon. So I had a sandwich with smoked salmon, red onions and cream cheese. The food there was amazing too. We then went on a walk down to the Quebec Port and did a boat tour on the St. Lawrence River. It was Izzy’s first time on a boat and she did great. She laid down and at some points was watching the water, as if she was taking in all the scenery, too. It was very cold on the water, but the sun peaked through a tiny bit at certain points. I really found it to be an informative and interesting tour. We went to a pretty fancy restaurant for dinner called Aux Anciens Canadiens which took us an hour and a half, instead of twenty minutes to find. The food also wasn’t as good as the other two places we had eaten at. We figured it would be a neat place to try since it is located in an old historic house and is traditional French Canadian food. Way too expensive and I don’t think we should have eaten there- it just wasn’t worth it. I also could not visually identify the historic attributes of the house. Izzy was truly incredible and navigated the Quebec City streets like the superstar she is. We got to meet a few really nice people today, just from being lost and needing directions. It ended up being a really great way to meet people and have conversation. Tomorrow will be our last day here and we’ll only have the morning to cram things in before heading on the train back home.

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Photo Description: Guide dog, yellow Labrador Izzy looking into the camera with the water on the left side of the photo. Izzy is sitting on the floor of the boat.

Day Three
Today we ate breakfast at a little cafe called Cafe Petit Pre after not being able to find the actual one that we were looking for. The food was average, but the people were friendly and the atmosphere was very relaxed. Then we went to Epicerie J.A. Moisan, which is the oldest grocery store in North America. This was my favourite part because it was so tactile. At first, I thought it was a candle smell because to me, it didn’t have the typical grocery store smell to it. I got a chocolate bar with cocoa beans in the middle made from Quebec, maple sugar that is in a harder candy for also made in Quebec and tea that was also made with leaves specific of the eastern townships of Quebec. I literally tried to feel as much as I could in that store. Everything was just so cool and interesting. A lot of the stuff there was also made in Quebec, France, or in another part of Europe. After that. we strolled the streets of Old Quebec and just went into random shops to browse around. All of the shops felt like they were also located in really old buildings. Since we couldn’t read any of the store signs, we figured it would be fun, instead of trying to get an app on our phone to read it, to just go into each individual store and ask what they were. We found two really nice people from Australia who helped us back to our hotel and one of them and I had a great chat about guide dogs, Australia and Autism. I also had to put my very choppy French to the test when someone approached us trying to help us (we weren’t looking for help, we were relieving our dogs) and I had to try to explain to them that we were okay where we were. In the end, she insisted on taking us somewhere else to relieve our dogs and then taking us to the train station (which was just diagonal to us. She meant well and she was trying, so I went along with it. I also really appreciated the opportunity to really speak french with someone. Then we went back on the train and said goodbye to Quebec City. My dog was great on the train, but earlier that day, she was a bit mischievous when she insisted that she absolutely had to smell something and superglued her nose to the pavement. Other than that, everything was fine. Back home, we did get discriminated against by cab drivers refusing to take our dogs and driving off on us. It really is disgusting behaviour on their part. It was past midnight and we wanted to get home so we didn’t make a big deal about it. The person from ViaRail stayed with us until we got in a taxi and once again, ViaRail proved to be an excellent company to travel with. They escorted us to each train, helped us with taxis and took us to spots to relieve our dogs. Overall, a short yet solid trip to Quebec City.

 

Below is a link to a website where I got some great ideas for places to go and eat and I thought others planning to travel to Quebec City would find it useful as well. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/north-america/canada/quebec/ten-must-try-restaurants-in-quebec-city/

 

Keely Grossman, BrockU student, guide dog user, activist and writer. Founder of A.B.L.E (Awareness Breaks Limits For Equality) @ABL4Equality 

Please show your support by “liking” and/or “commenting” on this post. Don’t forget that you can “follow” my blog as well. You can also follow me on Twitter @keelyg_95 for more. 

 

The Accommodation Email I Wish I Could Really Send My Professors

Awhile back, I was sitting down to write an Email to the professors that I’ll have when I start my Masters program in September with regards to my accommodations as a blind student in their class and I, instead found myself thinking about what I wish I could really say to them. So, here it is:

Subject (An Incoming Student)

Message:

Hello,

I’m going to be one of the many students in your Masters classes next year and I absolutely have to write you this Email. You see, I was born stamped with this tattoo called “advocate”. Its an invisible tattoo, so you won’t be able to see it, but it plays a huge role in my life. Many other people are also born with this tattoo as well and while I’m not complaining its the main reason I’m writing to you. Maybe I should have written this at the beginning, told you straight out, but I’m blind and this is why I’m writing to you.

I don’t want to have to write to you though, I’m not ready for you to know, for you to make your assumptions and pre-judgements, but you need to know. You need to know because there were a few people who convinced me to write to you because they care about me and my academic success, you need to know because I care about my academic success too. So here I am putting myself out there- not because I want to, but because I need to.

I had always said during my undergraduate that I was going to switch to a different university, but when I got accepted to that different university- the school of my dreams, there were reasons why I couldn’t take that plunge and make the change. So its not a fresh start and instead, even though I’ve never had any of you as a professor yet, it’s likely you already know me, or at least have heard of me. You might have seen me in the hallways with my guide dog, or heard about me through my advocacy work on campus, maybe you’ve even come across a blog post of mine… either way, there’s a strong possibility that you know of me, but I don’t know of you. That means you might have formed an opinion of me already (maybe you were one of the many people I’ve told off for petting my guide dog while she was on harness and working), but here’s the thing, I’ve already started to judge you too. Not in the way that is negative, but in the way that is full of anticipation and hope. I’ve read each of your areas of research online and have a few of you who I am particularly looking forward to meet. You might be my first choice for my Masters Thesis supervisor, or committee member, or someone who I’m just interested in talking to further.

You’d never guess that I’m shy- especially if you’ve seen me around, you won’t even believe it when I talk non stop about the reading, or get into a heated academic debate about a topic I’m totally passionate about. But, I am and sending this E-mail to you is totally awkward, both for me and probably for you.

So with all that aside, what accommodations do I actually need?

It really isn’t that complicated, unless you make it out to be, but I’m hoping you’re not one of those professors. Like the professor I had in third year who kept handing me print paper that I couldn’t read for example.

Firstly, please make sure course material will be available electronically. This is so that my computer can read me the material, or I can enlarge it using my computer’s “zoom” function. Please allow the length of assignments to be measured by word count instead of page count (there’s a story behind that one, for another day),

Secondly, please make sure videos are transcribed if they aren’t in english and there are subtitles. This is because I can’t see the screen to read the subtitles on videos. Finally,  if there are charts, or diagrams you’re showing to the class you’ll have to describe them for me. This is because charts and diagrams can be very visually hard to comprehend, even if I were to have them on my own computer.

Phew, I think that’s it. I hope I don’t come across as to demanding, but if I do, then I’m not sorry. You ned to understand that this is the way it is, these are just little things that will mean I’ll be able to engage with the course material and learn with my peers.

I hope we’ll be able to work together and have good dialogue if there are any accommodations, or issues with accommodations that need to be addressed.

Please don’t be that professor,

Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, or concerns- I promise I don’t bite.

I am truly looking forward to meeting you in September, along with the rest of my peers.

Thank you,

Sincerely.

A future Masters student who doesn’t really want to be known just yet.

Keely Grossman, BrockU student, guide dog user, activist and writer. Founder of A.B.L.E (Awareness Breaks Limits For Equality) @ABL4Equality 

Please show your support by “liking” and/or “commenting” on this post. Don’t forget that you can “follow” my blog as well. You can also follow me on Twitter @keelyg_95 for more. 

 

My Top 7 Guide Dog User Pet Peeves

Travelling with a guide dog means hat I get to hear some pretty interesting comments from the public. It also means that i run into some pretty awkward and interesting situations as well. Here are seven commonly occurring comments, or situations that I tend to encounter while I’m out and about that are truly annoying.

1.”I know she has her harness on and I can’t pet her, but…” *starts petting anyway*

Firstly, how disrespectful can you get? This isn’t a situation where the individual is being ignorant and needs educating, this is a situation where the individual knows better and knows the rules, but chooses to disrespect them. To me, this person is saying “I know petting a guide dog while they have their harness on is a safety issue, but I don’t actually care.”

2. Parents Who Pull Their Kids Away From Us 

Its common knowledge that parents as a whole don’t tend to do the greatest job at teaching their children about guide/service dogs, so naturally its us as the handlers who have to do that job for them. I personally love it when parents want me to explain about guide dogs to their kids. However, there’s a common reaction that parents have when their kid starts petting my dog that I find somewhat troubling. Its when their kids start petting my dog and when I notice them, or when I try to educate them, the parents grab them and whisk them away with no explanation. most likely out of fear (cause ya know, difference is just so damn scary-not), or embarrassment. If you’re not going to own up to your kids actions and either educate them yourself, or allow the handler to educate them then you should be embarrassed. But really, don’t be embarrassed, kids will be kids, we understand that and many handlers have children of their own too. Here’s why the above is such a pet peeve of mine though…pulling your kid away with no explanation teaches fear and doesn’t open dialogue. My heart sinks every time this happens because not only is talking to kids one of the best parts of being a guide dog user, but a perfectly good opportunity to do some practical education to build awareness and break down the fear of difference in kids has been missed. If you’re worried we’ll be angry and while I can’t speak for all guide dog users, most including myself wouldn’t be. With that said, remember, we don’t have to put up with, or be open to doing the job that you should be doing with regards to teaching your kids about guide dogs, its a choice that I and other guide dog users make. Take advantage of it and don’t treat us like we’re not on the same level as you are.

3. “Its okay if she sniffs me” or similar statements

People seem to be quite bothered by the fact that as a guide dog, Izzy has certain rules that she needs to follow while out and about. Depending, these rules also need to be enforced when her harness is off. A big one, while she’s on harness at least, is sniffing. Guide dogs can’t be sniffing while they are working because it distracts from their work. Not to mention that they aren’t supposed to greet a person while their harness is on, even if its just a little sniff. I am pretty strict with rules (as I should be) and when I tell Izzy to “leave it” if she sniffs you, I mean it. If I have to give her a quick snap in the leash, I will do that too. You, as an individual who hasn’t been through the training, have no place to stick your nose in and say otherwise. No, she’s not allowed to sniff you. I say so, her guide dog school says so and telling me otherwise promotes this all to familiar discourse that individuals with disabilities are incompetent to make the appropriate judgements for themselves, a pet, a guide dog, or a child. Of course, when she’s off harness, she can sniff and say hello, but there are other rules that still need to be enforced. The biggest one is no eating food off the floor. Whether Izzy is on harness, or off harness she is not allowed to eat food on the floor. Whether on, or off harness people again tend to get pretty bothered by the fact that she receives a correction if she tries to, or does eat food off the ground. While you may think its fine to give your pet dog people food, or an excessive amount of treats it isn’t healthy. So when you say “but she’s just…” you’re disrespecting my authority and my choice to maintain a healthy guide dog.

4. Pet Dogs Not On Leashes 

Having your pet dog off leash is extremely dangerous when not in a fenced in area. Its dangerous to your pet’s well being and its dangerous to the wellbeing of service dogs too. Pet dogs that aren’t on leashes run serious risk of attacking, or interfering with a service dog’s work.

5. Teasing My Guide Dog Isn’t Okay

Okay, so now I’ve told you not to pet my guide dog while she’s working and explained to you why you can’t pet my guide dog while she’s working, but now you’re getting in her face, making eye contact with her and doing that annoying squealing thing that people (including myself) tend to do when we see a cute animal. Relax, take a deep breath and stop. You’re not petting my dog, but you are intentionally teasing her and that’s not okay. You can comment on how cute she is, even go “awwww”, but if possible, say it without getting in my dog’s face.

6.Whether My Dog Does Something Good or Bad There’s No Need To Stare 

Whether my dog is doing something pretty amazing like “finding” something for me, or something bad like pooping in the mall, its okay to be curious and look, but it isn’t okay to stand there and stare. It is very anxiety provoking when we’re trying to work with our dogs- to be in the process of praising them, or correcting them and to feel people’s eyes constantly on us.

7. Taking Pictures Of My Guide Dog Without Permission 

My friends with vision are constantly telling me about how people are taking pictures of my dog. Obviously with being blind I have no idea that this is happening. This has happened in the grocery store, the bank and restraints among other places. I don’t really have a problem with people taking pictures of my dog, if they ask me first. Not asking permission is a total invasion of my privacy and something I don’t want happening while I’m trying to do my grocery shopping, or while I’m doing other things that people normally do.

So there you have it, my top guide dog user pet peeves. I’m so fortunate to have a guide dog who is incredible at her job and loves to work as well. I hope learning more from the perspective of the person at the other end of the leash I hope really puts things into perspective. To often the dog is seen and not the person that also makes up the team. Its important to have respect for both the dog, the handler and the guide dog team as a whole.

Keely Grossman, BrockU student, guide dog user, activist and writer. Founder of A.B.L.E (Awareness Breaks Limits For Equality) @ABL4Equality 

Please show your support by “liking” and/or “commenting” on this post. Don’t forget that you can “follow” my blog as well. You can also follow me on Twitter @keelyg_95 for more. 

 

 

The Ideology Of ‘Equal Opportunity’ Employment

Please note: this blogpost is based on my experiences and observations only.

 

Many job applications and job descriptions have the magic, policy abiding line that reads something like “Insert name here is an equal opportunity employer…” and then the statement typically goes to mention the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA) and the commitment to offer accommodations where needed (in one cases at least).

So now we can all breathe, because they’ve written that magic statement, they are accepting, they are committed and they won’t discriminate right?

 

Wrong.

The thing is, many job descriptions use other language that suggests otherwise.

 

What I’m referring to specifically, from my experiences is jobs in the fundraising, event planning, or not-for-profit areas.

From my experiences, the job descriptions in these areas tend to have that celebrated line of ‘equal opportunity’, but their descriptions also tend to add that they require a drivers licence and whenever I see this, my heart sinks.

 

I get it, there are some jobs where you *need* to have a drivers licence e.g. emergency services etc. However, the jobs in the sector that I mentioned above do not *need* to have that requirement. It automatically is a way of saying “sorry, we’re not actually an equal opportunity employer because wen’t open minded and we stereotype”.

It is suggesting that they are ignorant towards how blind people get around and even more unsettling is that it suggests that blind people can’t get around.

But we can and the language in job descriptions is discriminatory.

How would we get around if we were to work in that fundraising, event planning, or non-profit sector? Hmmm…lets think… Bus, taxi and in some cities, the subway, or street car.

So what these supposed “equal opportunity” employers need to have in their job description is something like “must be able to be responsible for their own transportation” that way, they aren’t automatically shutting down an entire group of people, while claiming that they are “equal opportunity.”

Additionally, we tend to celebrate equal opportunity as if its the solution to all of our society’s problems and prejudices, again it is not.

 

Equal opportunity employment puts far too much trust in employers to hire diverse groups of individuals and while some may argue that this allows for greater accountability, I slightly disagree.  We are diminishing the possibility for employer accountability for actually practicing equal opportunity employment when employers don’t need to provide a rationale for lack of hiring, when the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is so high and when we aren’t questioning the lack of diversity in companies and organizations.

Certainly we are making progress with initiatives like the Canada summer jobs program where federal funding is given and for their being greater emphasis on diversifying the workplace, but we are far from achieving and implementing “equal opportunity” employment.

Keely Grossman, BrockU student, guide dog user, activist and writer. Founder of A.B.L.E (Awareness Breaks Limits For Equality) @ABL4Equality 

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