Edmonton Sun — January 18, 2018
By CAM TAIT
I was waiting for the other wheel not to drop, but fall off.
It’s been months now the daily news cycle has been grinding a regular diet of steamy stories — allegations, of course — of high-profile media personalities and politicians sexually harassing, and worse yet, abusing people.
I live with cerebral palsy. I have sat back and wondered when the day would surface when someone with a disability would make such a claim.
Coming out publicly to admit sexual harassment of abuse is one thing if you are mobile and can ignite into the 100-yard dash when they see the person they are talking about. Oh, sure: there are sophisticated power wheelchairs which can zoom around town at high speeds. But they can’t jump fences, scamper up staircases or hide in a gully.
When you live with a disability, you find yourself in vulnerable situations and unable to defend yourself against suggestive verbal communications and, significantly more dire, physical or sexual abuse.
I thought we would have heard more from people with disabilities.
Then there’s the flipside — someone with a disability being accused of harassment.
On Thursday Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who was serving as minister of sports and people with disabilities, resigned from his cabinet post because of allegations of making lewd comments towards to a female colleague while working as an MLA in the provincial legislature in Edmonton.
In a strange twist of equality — it even sounds strange, doesn’t it? — Hehr’s resignation makes an interesting and compelling point of inclusion of people with disabilities. Hehr himself lives as a quadriplegic, following a 1991 shooting in Calgary, ending his successful junior A hockey career and starting a new journey, trading in his skates and gloves for a power wheelchair and attendant care.
Now 48, he has accomplished a great deal: persevering to get his law degree, becoming a MLA in Alberta, and then rolling into federal politics and being appointed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, first as minister for veteran affairs and then, most recently, the minister for sports and people with disabilities.
But, now comes a different look at inclusion. I think the general consensus is when people with disabilities and inclusion are muttered in the same breath, we see the person with the disability — and, maybe just because of pure optics — as someone who needs to be propped up … someone who needs to be included because of living in a minority with, perhaps, standards which are not on the same playing feel as other citizens.
And that is a noble, compassionate, community way of thinking.
Yet, people with disabilities can be mean, or worse. I know I can be a jerk at times. Just because I live with a disability, doesn’t make me a saint or a good person.
We all want to be good people, I think. Sometimes, we fall short.
Kent Hehr will be the first to tell you inclusion is one of the biggest things people with disabilities ask.
The claims against him have taken inclusion of people with disabilities to a new frontier. And it must be understood to be fully included.