Not Just in Canada

By Donna J. Jodhan

Hello there! My very first editorial for Accessibility News International (ANI) and I’d like to thank Geof Collis for giving me this opportunity to communicate
my thoughts to you. Today I would like to ramble a bit on our need to keep on fighting the good fight.

Last Wednesday as I along with many others celebrated the International Day for the disabled, I had to marvel at the same theme that kept coming through
as speakers around the globe and indeed in our beloved country spoke. A few years ago, the United Nations designated December 03 as the International
Day for the disabled and since then this day has become part of our box of things to remember on an annual basis. I along with hundreds of others gathered
at a well-known hall in Toronto to celebrate and for me it was the first time that I had done so. While the cold Canadian winter had fun outside, others
inside listened and agreed as consecutive speakers reiterated similar messages. Several thoughts raced across my mind as I listened attentively and at
the end of it all I came away with renewed energy and a recommitment to follow my belief to keep on fighting the good fight.

It does not matter if we live in Canada, the United States, some far off land in Europe, Africa, or Asia, some sunny spot in the Caribbean, or anywhere
else; we need to keep on fighting the good fight. It does not matter if the stocks on Bay Street or on other stock exchanges around the world go up or
down; we must continue to fight the good fight. It does not matter what the outcome of our present political crisis here in Canada turns out to be, or
what newly elected American president Obama promises for the future; we have no choice but to continue to fight the good fight. In short, as special needs
persons around the world, we owe it to both ourselves and to the children of the future to keep on fighting the good fight.

Many individuals choose to fight with their fists and feet but the type of fight that I am referring to here, is one of example. A fight where we use our
soft weapons to do the job. To fight through example, through actions, and through words and deeds. We are here today because others before us made the
decision to fight for a better future for us and in turn we need to do the same for others. We would probably not be around to reap the fruits of our
hard labour, but that’s okay. Those before us are in the same boat. A thankless job you ask? Not at all! If I can indulge you to cast your minds back
to about 20 years ago.
Around 1986 when the world was yet to discover the joys and wonders of the Internet, when blind and visually impaired persons were still using the earliest
versions of screen reading technology, and when almost everyone was practically dying for some big breakthrough to take place. Since then many breakthroughs
have taken place but for Canada and the rest of the world, there are some very daunting statistics that continue to haunt special needs persons and these
are: Over 80% of persons with disabilities continue to be unemployed. Over 70% of persons with disabilities in Canada continue to live below the poverty
line, not much better for the rest of the world. Blind and visually impaired persons still have the greatest number of unemployment in their midst.
These statistics continue to haunt us despite the many improvements and breakthroughs that have taken place over the years and if we are serious about wanting
to be conduits of change then we will take this time to recharge our batteries and refocus ourselves. We need to think of it like this: Commitment, continuance,
and creation. As I see it, we really do not have much of a choice. If we are really serious about wanting to improve our lives and those of others, then
we will take the personal oath to commit, continue, and create. If we choose to do nothing then there goes our chance to do something great for others.

Strength lies in numbers and we can use our constructive efforts to put our stamp on the future of fellow disabled persons. We don’t necessarily have to
go out there expecting to do it all at once. Instead, we first need to change our expectations and then start tackling the tasks at hand in small well
defined steps. We need to concentrate on breaking down the attitude, physical, and technological barriers. We need to spend time developing ways to create
awareness both on and off the Internet. However, before we can even think of starting off on this path there is something very important that we need
to do and this is: We need to believe in ourselves.

If we believe in ourselves then what I am saying will come more easily but if we do not then the task will become very difficult. I know it is very easy
to give up and give in, but trust me when I tell you that standing up is a lot more rewarding. There are days when I myself flirt with the temptation
to give up and give in but then I think of my brother Robert who succumbed to cancer in 2007. When he discovered that he had cancer he told us that he
would fight to the end. He never complained; he fought the good fight and his very last words to his wife and doctors as he slipped away were: “Somebody
do something.” These words will forever linger in my mind.

Your time is now! Either put up or shut up! Two very well defined paths from which to choose. Not just in Canada, but an opportunity that stretches well
beyond the borders of your homeland where ever you are.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your freelance writer and reporter wishing you a terrific day.

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