Day 72 & 73 – Rest Days/Detour to Gros Morne National Park

Have you ever seen a picture of a place that put a permanent desire in your mind; an everlasting hope at the back of your mind to one day stumble upon this place? I have.

There’s a classic picture that anyone can find on Google if they search Gros Morne National Park. It’s a picture taken from the top of Gros Morne Mountain looking down onto the fjord of Ten Mile Pond. Years ago—back when I was in grade 7 or 8—I was cutting through a stack of old National Geographic magazines for art class. I saw this stunning image of deep water sheltered between cliffs, and the distant ocean lying placid under a sky. I had no idea where this was, what trail to take to get there, the name of the park. I would figure some of this out, but I certainly didn’t know what was involved to get this view. When I did learn where the picture was taken from, I felt sad. I didn’t see myself or my family travelling there. That image went to the back of my mind for many years.

That image...except this one is my own 🙂

A year and a half ago, when I was planning my route for this bike trip across Canada, I figured that I could stop in at Gros Morne on the drive back from St. John’s. It turned out that the ferry from Argentia was much more time and cost efficient. Argentia is close to St. John’s. It didn’t seem that I would be able to go to Gros Morne on this trip.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Linda, Martin, and Robert, long-time family friends, had flown out to join me for the last leg of the trip. They were planning on visiting Gros Morne during their stay on the Rock. I looked at my schedule, and realized that I could pull of a side trip to Gros Morne. I sacrificed a rest day and added distance another day. Voila! I was 2 days ahead of schedule.

Our first day in the park, I spent some time skipping stones from a pebbly beach into the ocean at Baker’s Brook. It was a clear day. The rugged mountain sides fell into the ocean off in the distance. Later in the day, my mom and I took a cruise along with our family friends to see the fjord of West Pond. It was quite spectacular. However, as I would learn the next day, you don’t realize the scale of size looking up from a boat as you do looking down from the top of the cliffs.

Baker's Brook

The cliffs from lake level

We were discussing our plans for the next day over dinner at a cute restaurant called Java Jack’s. It’s a renovated house converted into an art gallery, bakery, and restaurant. We were figuring out what hikes would be good. I was quite set on doing the 16km Lonely Mountain (Gros Morne) hike. Linda and my mom were interested, but the rest of the crew decided not to go for the long steep hike.

It sounds silly, but on my rest day, I ended up doing a 16km trail run up and down a mountain. People are supposed to allot 6-8 hours for the hike. There was other stuff we wanted to do in our little time at the park, I had blogs to write, and my mom and I had to drive back to Deer Lake so I could begin cycling early the next day. We didn’t want to drive back at night because of the moose risk. There are 4 moose for each square kilometre in the Gros Morne area!  I wanted to see my place. I wanted to take my own picture. I didn’t want to live the image vicariously through Google Images. I was determined to make it happen.

The cliffs from near-summit level

I jogged most of the trail except for some gnarly sections where spraining my ankle would be a huge risk. The final 500 metres of the climb to the summit don’t really follow a path. It’s a steep valley of rock slide. There are small boulders and plenty of loose rock. You sort of make your own path up. I didn’t run up this. I stopped and talked to a couple fellow hikers on the way up. Eventually, I made it to the spot. I took the famous picture. I sat on a rock facing the view. I stayed there for about 10-15 minutes, ate my power bar, and sipped my water. I’ll never forget that view. I assure anyone considering the trek: it’s worth it. This was one of the most spectacular sights I’ve seen in my life.

I had the helmet camera mounted on my backpack. This was taken about 75% up the steep rock section. Notice the size of the people.

Notice where the same people are now 10 minutes later...if you can see them (lower left corner)...this gives you a sense of scale

A photo taken by another hiker on the trail. I have a new appreciation for the altitudes out west. I can't believe I went through a pass 500m higher than this. This seemed pretty high.

On the way back down, I stopped and lounged next to a lake that was still quite high up. It looked over an ocean inlet and other mountains in the area although it was much lower than the summit of Gros Morne. Near this lake, I heard the rushing sound of a stream. A couple steps off the path on an overgrown path, was a little rock pond with water trickling in from a series of mini waterfalls that flowed from higher up the mountain. The water was clear. There was no soil or mud touching the water—just rock. I put some on my face. It was freezing. I cupped some water in my hand and took a sip. It was the cleanest, purest water I have ever drunk in my life.

The lake with the view

I made it back down the mountain by 1:30pm after starting at 10am. I took a shower in the RV. Then I realized how stiff I was. I wasn’t looking forward to the long bike to Grand Falls-Windsor the next day. There are no regrets. An opportunity was begging me. I saw a spectacular sight. Finishing at Cape Spear wouldn’t feel the same if I didn’t get to see the view from the top of Gros Morne. The stiffness will go away, but my memories never will.

Those were two truly remarkable days. I’m touched and delighted that our friends whom I’ve known nearly my whole life, are going to be with me for this final stretch. I’ve got some long and tough days ahead of me to compensate for this detour, but that’s all part of the rewarding challenge.

I may be drunk in dreams, but I would love for my brother to see the sight from the top of Gros Morne one day. Kerr, take a look at the pictures. We’ll dream, and perhaps one day, we’ll stumble on an opportunity and make it a reality. Dreaming is never foolish.

-Skye

July 29 and 30/11

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Day 69 – Ferry to Newfoundland

As my mom says, rest days on this trip are a bit of a misnomer. They truly are catch-up on blogs and email days. That’s what I did yesterday. Today, I didn’t have to bike; I didn’t have to write. I didn’t have any events. This was the first true rest day of the trip. Last night, as I went to bed, I realized this. It was wonderful feeling my adrenalin subside.

We packed up our campsite and were at the ferry terminal a little after noon. The ship was scheduled to set sail at 3pm, and we were supposed to be registered and on standby to board by 1pm. We didn’t board the ship until quarter after 3, and the ship didn’t set sail until a half-hour later. The lateness didn’t matter to me, because whether I was snoozing in a reclining seat on the ship, or snoozing in our RV, I was snoozing, and that’s what I wanted to do today.

I did wake up for the ship’s safety and feature video—how to get to the lifeboats, how to put on the lifejackets, and all that. I’m totally comfortable with being in the air. Speed doesn’t scare me at all. Water has always churned my sense of comfort. I do take the Atlantic Ocean seriously. I watched the instructional video.

The safety video transitioned into a “check out how cool our boat is” video. There was all that stuff about the restaurant, reclining seat features, kids’ play area, the TVs. I was secretly laughing at the teen zone part of the video. There was a clip of an elevator door opening. Out walked a skater-style dressed teen. He scanned the room, flicked his long hair to the side, smiled, and looked somewhat in awe. A bunch of other teens were sitting around in this area listening to their headphones, and reading magazines.

I decided to forego checking in at the teen zone.

It amazes me how about 10 tractor trailers, 15-20 RVs, and a countless number of cars can fit on this boat. What amazes me more is that it floats. The boat itself is steel, and filled with hundreds of thousands of pounds of things that would plummet into the depths of any water. Really it’s amazing how far our race has come. Dump 500 steel beams into the ocean: they make a huge splash and sink. Now, take that same amount of steel and put it together in a different form; in the form of a boat: not only does it float; it holds hundreds of thousands of pounds and floats. How you get a colossal hunk of metal to move at 30km/hr across choppy water, and then navigate through a narrow rocky channel to dock is a whole other matter.

The boat that amazes me

Humanity has these complex triumphs of engineering, almost always as a result of a collaboration of ideas facilitated by communication. I think that it’s safe to say that there’s an inspiration behind every invention. Perhaps a floating log inspired someone to make one of the first boats. Perhaps a monkey sucking ants out of a hole using a rolled up leaf inspired the human use of the straw. We now pump billions of gallons of oil out of the earth with ‘straws’. The typewriter wasn’t originally intended for commercial use or business. A man invented it to help his deaf friend communicate more efficiently.

Open mindedness. Some of the best inventions were disbelieved, thought to be impossible, stupid, a waste of time. What would a world without airplanes be like? When our environments disable people, when our schools segregate, our policies act as barriers, and narrow-mindedness is the foundation of many attitudes, the sphere in which we all live is hindered from expanding.

-Skye

July 26/11

Day 67 – Linwood to North Sydney, NS – 152km

Something happens when a goal is in sight. The weather
doesn’t seem as relevant. Rain will dry. Winds; I don’t have to let them slow
me down. Time seems to pass by. Hills aren’t feared or resented. They are
merely another thing between where I am and where I want to be.

I pedaled on the narrow bumpy Highway 4 towards the Canso
Causeway—the entrance to Cape Breton. It was cloudy. I would enter a patch of
rain, get wet. Then it would clear up. The wind would dry me. When I wanted to
dry my gloves, I would take them off and strap the Velcro around my handlebar.
Hanging from the handlebar, they would dangle in the wind and dry quickly. The
wind was coming from the North, meaning that I had either a headwind or
crosswind depending on which way the road curved.

I knew Cape Breton was a special place from my first
glimpse of it. I came over a hill, and in the fog, I saw the behemoth mass of
rock and trees rise out of the sea. Big freight boats waited patiently near the
cliffs of Cape Breton. There are a number of mines on these shores. These large
boats wait nearby to take the mined rock to faraway places.

At the campground we stayed at last night, we met 2
cyclists travelling from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Halifax where they
live—Ron and Joe. Joe recommended a route for me to take. I was originally
going to take the Trans Canada (Highway 105) all the way to North Sydney. Joe
and Ron had taken Highway 223 which they recommended that I take. The only
tricky part is finding which side roads to take in order to get to 223. I took
Exit 4 off of 105, and then took a left onto Portage Road, which goes over to
223. It was actually quite simple.

Jen Kang from the L’Arche community near Whycocomagh,
Nova Scotia, had contacted us several months ago after her coworker, David,
spotted an article about Kilometres for Communication in the Toronto Star. We
had planned to meet several days ago, but our correspondence was loose.

Just by chance, I told Gail that I wanted to meet her
about 60-70km down the road (I leap-frog with the support vehicle).
Sixty-and-a-bit kilometres down the road was just off of exit 4 on the route
that Joe and Ron had recommended that I take. Gail pulled over in a closed gift
shop’s gravel parking lot. Serendipity: it just so happened that the gift shop
was part of the Whycocomagh L’Arche community!

I took an hour break from cycling and walked around the
L’Arche community. I met several people who live in the community. I met a
fellow named Trevor who was extremely interested in shoes. He was curious about
my bike shoes. He wanted to know if I had flip flops and a pair of rubber rain
boots. I wonder if Trevor has ever been to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. All
of us had a quick talk, but they were busy preparing for a birthday party later
in the day, and I had to get back on the road.

Not long after I got back on the road the clouds cleared.
Highway 223 was quite hilly, but it was beautiful. It followed the shores of
Bras d’Or Lake. Steep wooded hills fell into the deep blue of the lake. Along
some parts of the road, there were some extensive properties with impressive
lawns. As I passed these properties, I was pondering the amount of time that
someone spends cutting these lawns. I think some people’s pride grows
vicariously through their lawns. The ride was quite scenic and the time was
flying by. There are so many people who I wish could have seen the sights that
I saw today. Halifax was a special place, but it didn’t feel like a milestone
to me. I was expecting to feel a huge relief and sense of accomplishment when I
arrived in Halifax, but I didn’t; only mildly. Last night, 10km south of Cape
Breton, I knew that the ferry terminal at North Sydney was my goal; the place
where I would’ve cycled the mainland of Canada, the place where I would have
finished cycling my ninth of ten provinces. As I cycled today, I felt a strong drive
the whole day. I usually only get this drive for the final 20km of a day, when
I know I’m close.

I eventually arrived at North Sydney. A massive ferry sat
in the harbour. I had made it. I suddenly felt really tired. I knew that if I
had to cycle tomorrow, and the day after that, I wouldn’t feel as tired as I
did. However, I arrived a day ahead of schedule, our ferry to Newfoundland is
booked for the 26th, so I have two days before I have to pedal. My
body sunk into a relieved tiredness. I know that the adrenaline will kick in no
matter what the weather is the moment I set foot—set tire—in the final
province.

-Skye

Day 66 – Truro to Linwood, NS – 161km

I woke up early to get on the road at a good time, but
there was some really thick fog, so I ended up waiting around until it cleared.
I pedaled on Highway 4, the old Trans Canada, for about 60km. It was hilly and
twisty. I was enjoying the scenery and making decent time. I was thinking: perhaps I can get to my destination early
and catch up on blogs
.

I met up with the support vehicle about 70km into the
day, near New Glasgow, NS. Here, we called all the campgrounds in the
Antigonish area. It was a Saturday, and they all seemed to be booked. We found
a campground on the ocean, about 40km further along my route that had an
available spot. I agreed to pedal the additional distance in order to have a
nice place to camp. We had spent the night before in a little gravel lot in
between a road and a gravel multi-use trail.

I ended up pedaling the final 100km of the day on the
Trans Canada. It varied between wide paved shoulder, narrow paved shoulder, and
almost no paved shoulder. The highway was not a freeway for the stretch I was
cycling it. At one point there was a hill ahead. It looked like there was no
shoulder on my side. It’s one thing to have no shoulder going downhill, or on
flat ground with a tailwind. Cars take a while to catch up on an object going
40km/hr. Going uphill without a shoulder; that can be dangerous. There was a
wide paved shoulder on the other side. I crossed the highway and pedaled
against the traffic on the opposite shoulder. It felt strange, but I kept
telling myself that I was safer.

Twice on this portion of the Trans Canada, I saw cars that
had sped by me pulled over by police a kilometre or two later. I felt some
satisfaction as I cycled by them. There were lots of cops out on this stretch
of highway.

When we arrived at the campground, two other cyclists
coming from the opposite direction were just arriving. Ron and Joe were cycling
from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Halifax, where they lived. They had actually
cycled across Canada last year. They too weren’t so lucky and had headwinds in
the prairies on their trip. I was glad to meet them—they recommended a great
route for my day tomorrow, which they had travelled today. When I was planning
my route over two years ago, I had considered taking the route they recommended
(Highway 223), however I wasn’t sure how to get to Highway 223. I didn’t want
to take a ferry, and I didn’t know if the side roads linking the Trans Canada
to 223 were paved or gravel. As well, my paper map, Google Maps, and Blackberry
Maps didn’t agree with each other. They all gave different road names and
showed different side roads in that area. It was good to have that all sorted
out and confirmed. Ron’s and Joe’s route also shed about 15-20km off my initial
Trans Canada all-the-way route. Thanks fellas!

Tomorrow I’m hoping to make it to North Sydney, the end
of my mainland cycle, weather providing. That’s another thing I’ve learned:
weather forecasts often don’t mean anything in certain parts of the Maritimes. In
some places they don’t have a clue what the weather will be like in an hour. Anyway,
I’m hoping I’ll reach my milestone tomorrow. My goal is in sight. As long as
the weather isn’t atrocious, I’ll have the motivation to get myself there.

-Skye

Day 65 – Halifax, NS – Rest/Event Day

I woke up and got myself ready. Each time I’ve spoken to
media on this trip, I’ve been suited up in my bike gear, sweaty, and perhaps
unshaven. Today was going to be a little different. I felt I needed to look the
part for Breakfast Television on CTV. I spent a half hour grooming—shaving,
manicure, hair, all that nonsense.

Laurie drove
my mom and I down to the CTV studio where we met Paul Doucet from the Speech
and Hearing Association of Nova Scotia. Paul had arranged the BTV interview for
us. We entered through the back door. It felt strange walking through the dimly
lit studio full of cameras and screens. Eventually, my mom and I moved from the
waiting area to our seats in the Breakfast Television Area, where we met our
host, Heidi Petracek. We chatted for a minute without the camera rolling; then
we watched the weather forecast finish up and waited for our cue. The interview
went quickly—it was about 5 minutes. I think it went well, but I’m not sure
because I never saw a recording of the show. Usually I don’t get to see the
media we’ve gotten because we move on to the next place.

CTV had asked me if I brought my bike. I hadn’t. I
probably could’ve shown up in my full bike gear with my Norco cross bike.

After the interview, my mom and I walked most of the way back
to Laurie’s and Dorothy’s house when
we heard a honk, and Laurie was there to pick us up. Back at their house I had
some cereal, toast, and fruit for breakfast. I was feeling full. Dorothy and Laurie’s
grandchildren, Jason and Joshua, were there that morning. Dorothy had made them
their favourite breakfast—pancakes with blueberry sauce. Jason and Josh decided
to save me a pancake. I was heading out the door to leave for our Halifax event,
feeling full, so I accepted their offering, but left it for later.

We arrived at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic just
before 11:30am. We walked around to the boardwalk at the back of the building,
next to the water. This was the lovely location of our event. There was lots of
tourist traffic. There were benches and some large boats were docked nearby,
adding to the charm of the harbour. The Speech and Hearing Association of Nova
Scotia (SHANS) was hosting this event. One of the main organizers of the event,
Renena Joy, was away on her family vacation, so I never got to meet her and say
my ‘thank you’ in person. Thank you Renena!
And thank you to the committee
of volunteers who made this event happen.

Strawberry Shortcake!

Members of SHANS were serving strawberry shortcake with
the donations going towards Kilometres for Communication. The event committee
had managed to get a large quantity of fresh strawberries donated by two
farmers. They had also managed to get Sobey’s to donate a gift card to buy the
shortcake and whipping cream. There were examples of AAC symbol boards for
people to use to order their strawberry shortcake. Some people who stopped by  were curious about our cause, and asked
questions; others didn’t, they just wanted their strawberry shortcake. Next to
the strawberry shortcake table, my mom and I sold Kilometres for Communication
T-shirts and talked to people about our cause.

Mark Cameron and Brian Baker

Well-respected local musicians,
Mark Cameron and Brian Baker were strumming and singing. The kids loved it.
Some came and sat right in front of the musicians. One 5-year-old, Everett, who
speaks with a communication device and gets around with a walker which
surrounds him and has 2 large wheels, was dancing all over the boardwalk.

Everett talking with his mom using his communication device

Everett introducing himself to me

There
was a third table with a display on Kilometres for Communication and AAC. At
this table there were some more examples of AAC for people to try out.

The "try a form of AAC" table

To everyone who made the event possible, to everyone who
came out, thank you! I met several people with whom we had been in touch
online, but had not met. Partway through the event, Gail and I spoke about
Kilometres for Communication and why it needed to happen. A lot of our crowd
was tourist pedestrian through-traffic. People had stopped to get food or
listen to some good music. Then we began to talk, and if they were intrigued,
they hung around, listening curiously.

Just as we were finishing off the event, Global News
arrived. Nicole, the reporter, interviewed myself, Penny Kitchen, and Sarah, a speech
language pathologist experienced in AAC. I was excited. Normally the news
coverage is quite quick and to the point. Nicole, the reporter, got about 30
minutes of footage. Yes, tons will be cut out, but this footage was promising.
Often it’s tough to educate people through media because we only have 1 minute.
That’s just enough time to explain What,
How, and a brief Why. Penny used her eyes to spell in this interview. A microphone caught
the voice of her attendant, Tiffany, saying the letters, and the camera was
focused on Penny’s eyes as she indicated what letter she needed to spell her
thoughts. (I explained how Penny communicates in yesterday’s blog)

After the event, Penny took my mom and I for a walking
tour of downtown Halifax. Tiffany and I took turns pushing Penny up the steep
hill from the harbour towards the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. Penny
would indicate with her head and eyes which way she wanted to take us each time
we came to an intersection. After walking through the Halifax Citadel National
Historic Site, Penny took us down a road where the sidewalk zigzagged around
bar patios, often becoming a boardwalk on the road. Then we walked through the
Public Gardens and eventually into the Camp Hill Cemetery. Earlier in the day, I
had gone by the Alexander Keith’s Brewery. I’ll return for a brewery tour on
another trip. We strolled through the cemetery. Penny and Tiffany pointed out
an impressive grave monument—the gravestone of Alexander Keith. There were two
rows of Keith’s beer caps sitting on an edge of the grave marker. Another gravestone
had the name of a man and both his wives on the same stone.

Keith's Gravestone

The tour ended at Penny’s home. She and her sister,
Patricia, had a decent sized house renovated into two separate units. Penny’s
unit has two stories, an elevator, and a bathroom with a hoist track from her
bedroom. It was a nice set-up. Penny has her own living space, and she can live
independently, yet she isn’t far from her sister if any emergency were to
arise. Sometime in the next decade, Kerr (my brother) and I will have to figure
out a free-feeling living situation (for my brother). I find it interesting to
see the solutions that various families have come up with to avoid the
institutional option.

Penny, her parents (Dorothy and Laurie, Patricia (Penny’s
sister), Tiffany and Jessica (Penny’s attendants), my mom, and I sat in Penny’s
living room talking over tea, water and cake. Eventually, after a tough goodbye
we left Penny’s house, and drove back to Dorothy and Laurie’s home for supper before leaving Halifax.
I had my pancake with blueberry sauce from earlier as a pre-dinner snack. It
was delicious—thank you Josh and Jason. We had the TV on Global for the 6 o’clock
news. We watched the entire news. There was nothing from earlier. We were disappointed.

My mom and I got ready to drive back to Truro. I would
leave from Truro to cycle up to Cape Breton the next day. Just as we were about
to leave, my mom received an email. The news story was going to air, just not
tonight. This was great news, but once again, we wouldn’t get to see the piece.

Halifax was a wonderful city. I definitely want to return
to experience some of the city’s culture. Penny, it was a delight to finally meet
you. Your tour was a memorable part of my trip that won’t be forgotten. Dorothy
and Laurie, your hospitality and generosity won’t be forgotten either. Most of
all, I want to thank you for sharing your experiences—I learned a lot. The
stories and perspectives you shared were profound, enlightening, frustrating, funny
and sad.

On to the last leg of the trip!

-Skye

Day 64 – Truro to Halifax, NS – 100km

I had set my alarm for 7:30am. I was dozing half-awake in
bed, trying not to let myself fall back asleep. I was stretched out in the
comfortable queen bed. I felt the perfect temperature. My body felt stiff, yet
momentarily relaxed when I flexed, stretched out. My pillow was one with my
head.  I didn’t feel restless. I felt a
plethora of relaxation and laziness that a pampered cat might feel.

I had a strange mental deliberation. I really wanted to
get myself down to the dining room for the breakfast which D’Arcy and Anne (of Belgravia
B & B, where I was staying for the night) were preparing. I knew it would
be good. I was hungry. I had read an entry in their guest book about fresh strawberries.
At this point, only hunger could get me out of bed. I lay in bed, trying to maximize
my time drowsing, trying to figure out the latest time I could possibly roll out
of bed.

After procrastination, I forced myself to get up. I
changed into my bike gear and made my way downstairs to the dining room. There
was a large bowl of fresh strawberries, a basket of muffins, and there was more
to come. D’Arcy and Anne brought out a plate with Canadian bacon, eggs Florentine,
and an extra helping of scrambled eggs to accommodate my large calorie intake.
I don’t normally eat this well on the road.

Janice, Gail, and I well rested, about to leave Belgravia

Leaving Truro

After further procrastination and relaxed conversation,
Janice and I were outside with our bikes and ready to pedal. We took Highway 2
to Dartmouth, cut through Dartmouth on an arterial, and took the bike lane
across the MacDonald Bridge to the Halifax harbourfront where we finished our
pedal. Other than a 6km stretch of construction on Highway 2, it was an
enjoyable ride. Actually, not quite, we hopped onto the sidewalk in Dartmouth
to avoid more construction. The last 30km before Halifax, Highway 2 winds its
way along the shores of lakes and basins. It was quite pretty.

Janice and I arrive at the Halifax Harbour

Take II

Janice and I finished our pedal on the boardwalk near the
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Last night, Janice, my mom and I were joking
about the funny pictures on the RV. We talked about doing certain poses with
them. Janice hadn’t forgotten this conversation. She insisted on taking the
photos of us posing next to the tacky picture of kids peering out the fake
window on our RV. I thought it was funny, but after a 100km ride I just wanted
to sit and sip my recovery drink. I did eventually pose for those silly photos.

We've made it this far!

Tacky RV photo #1

Goofy RV photo #2

My brother and mother had met a woman at a conference
several years ago. Her name is Penny Kitchen. She raises her eyes to say ‘yes’.
She lowers her eyes to say ‘no’. She raises and lowers her eyes to say ‘maybe’
or ‘I don’t know’. She can also spell quite quickly using her eyes. Her
communication assistant will ask her: “first, second [half of the alphabet],
vowel?” Then, using a chunking system and saying the most frequently used letters
first; Penny will indicate the letter she wants. It sounds slow, but Penny is
able to communicate at a remarkable speed considering the method she is using to
communicate. It’s quite fascinating to witness. Penny also communicates using a
communication device. She is currently trying to obtain a communication device
which uses eye-gazing technology.

My mom and I were staying with Penny’s parents, Dorothy
and Laurie.  Penny and her assistant,
Monique, joined us for a spaghetti dinner at Dorothy and Laurie’s house. This
was the first time I got to meet Penny. I had only heard about how she spells
with her eyes. I was told she was quick. I didn’t realize how fast she is.

I heard many stories from the Kitchen family. I think there’s
a valuable lesson that can be learned from each and every one. Penny received
her university degree in business from St. Mary’s University in Halifax. She
lives independently; however, in order to do so, she needs to have an attendant
24-7, and  receives funding for her
attendants. Once she received her degree, a social worker told her: “Don’t
bother looking for a job because you’ll lose your attendant care funding”.
There’s clearly a huge flaw when policy prevents someone from working who is
able and wants to work. The money Penny would earn from a starting-position job
would not come near to matching the funding she requires to pay her attendants.
Perhaps if provincial policy allowed Penny to work and collect a good portion
of her funding, she could work her way up to a higher-paying job and eventually
not have to rely as much on funding. Simply put: the “if you work, you don’t
get funding for attendants” policy is completely absurd. Penny is brilliant,
and because of this policy, she literally can’t afford to work.

That was just one story. Many experiences were shared
between our families. It’s sad that these stories exist. It’s frustrating.
Hopefully policymakers can learn from these stories. Hopefully people’s
attitudes will change to assuming ability. This is why we’re doing what we’re
doing. We get media, I write my blogs, we tell the stories, and hope that lots
of people will listen or read.

We never tell all the stories. There are too many. Some
of the stories are dark and cannot be told for personal privacy or political
reasons. I’ve learned more in the last 2 months than I’ve learned in an entire
year at school. A lot of what I’ve heard is tough to swallow. It makes me sad. It
makes me angry. I hate that these things have happened. I hate that they are
happening. But I see hope. It’s easy to get caught up in all the dark, sad
negatives. There are lots of positives. The perseverance of many people, such
as Penny and her family, has been inspiring. Barbara Collier’s  (from ACCPC) Proposed Communication Bill of
Rights (http://www.accpc.ca/BillofRights.htm)
could make a significant difference in
the lives of many if put into practice. If Canada signs the Optional Protocol,
the U.N.  Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities (http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/documents/tccoptprote.pdf
) could finally have some teeth in Canadian policy, ultimately improving lives
of Canadians who are differently abled.

That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow we’re on CTV Breakfast Television
bright and early.

-Skye