dogs and disability advocacy

TEDx 2018

… with Lucy at TEDx 2018, Enabling Village.

It was good to read this article today in Mothership by my friend Cassandra Chiu about her experiences as the first female guide dog handler in Singapore, and the first (and still the only really effective) guide dog advocate in Singapore who has managed to herald in a new chapter of awareness, acceptance (albeit tentative) and even legislation for public access.

Yet, I still remember the huge fiasco at Ngee Ann City which attracted so much nasty criticism against Cassandra. I was in Sydney at the time, closely following Cassandra and Esme on their social media. I read with disgust the sick and heartless comments made against Cassandra, some grossly indecent and personal, and others just parochial, low-level jibes all too common among the average stubbornly uninformed Singaporean keyboard warriors that populate social media spaces. Even radio deejays got in on the act, calling her an “a**hole” on air. Yes, the radio station was fined but not for disability discrimination, mind you, the penalty was merely for using a censored word. Oh, and various online news articles seemed to delight in the “b*tch” word, probably because the half-baked ‘journalists’ just did not have the vocabulary to do better than that.

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crucial assistance

 

 

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Lucy came with me to the Arts & Disability International Conference today. It was a huge blessing to have her with me, well worth the small ‘inconveniences’, like having to take her outside for potty each time we had a break and thus missing out on food and beverage.

When we first arrived, I made the mistake of choosing to sit in a busy area where people were walking or wheeling back and forth, standing around chatting, and even striding over Lucy, who was laying on her mat next to me at my feet. The lights in the rooms were confronting, to say the least. Lucy took it all in with grace and quietude, and she kept a discreet whisker out for me all the time. I began to feel nervous and agitated from the constant noise, movement and frenetic energy buzzing round and round, and Lucy got up to indicate that we should move to a less busy spot. She led me to the far corner on the other side of the room, and we settled down comfortably there, until lunchtime. Continue reading

bump!

20161109_080817lucy-meltdown

Meltdown

It’s Wednesday. Midweek. Lucy and I hit a few bumps along the road today.

This morning, as if she somehow had an inkling of what lay ahead, Lucy was less happy than usual to get out of bed for her early morning breakfast. During our little walk around the block, she was sniffing around a familiar patch of grass, when she stopped, walked very deliberately to the gate leading to a gallery where I had held my first exhibition, and stood at the gate. She resolutely refused to move from that position, even turning away from her favourite lamb puff treat when I tried to persuade her. “It’s locked, honey, we can’t go in from here.” She usually understands this, and will follow me thereafter, but Lucy stood frozen to the spot, as if in a mini, silent meltdown. Her nose began to drip, another sign of distress. I checked her all over to make sure she hadn’t suffered any injury, or stepped on glass shards etc. All ok. Something must have triggered in her mind. A sensory issue? An olfactory memory? She seemed insistent on going inside via that particular gate. Or perhaps she was just reacting to the big change of being back with me after 2 months at ‘holiday camp’ with my lovely friends Jan and Pete, and their five dogs?  Continue reading

reboot

Four months of chaos, disorder, sensory assault and social dissonance. The autistic constitution can only be this much resilient. I wonder often how much an average neurotypical is able to endure the same dimensions, levels and consistent torture – and do so with the panache and persistence that many of us autistics execute on a daily basis?

Time to retreat and reboot. If only for a mere four and a half days.

Saturday bruncheon with Rick at our favourite Not Just Coffee – nourishing noshment and conversation, providing vim and vigour for the adventure ahead. It was so good to be back in our old neighbourhood of Paddington too.

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mindDog needs help!

For many people with invisible disabilities, an assistance dog makes the difference between living a richer life or one shut inside fear and terror. Without Lucy, I would not have had the amazing inspiration trajectories for my professional work, and I would not have the courage to keep going when overwhelmed by the cosmic maelstrom that I have found myself hurled into over and over again during this incredible PhD journey. I can honestly say that on more than one occasion, Lucy has saved my life in very concrete, palpable ways. An assistance dog is not only a beloved companion animal, but one trained to address specific disabilities in practical and essential ways. Continue reading

multi-textural ruminations

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A rainy week. Yes, the earth needs to be watered. We do understand. But we cannot help it if our senses recoil from the effects. Lucy hates the rain. I do not yet understand the specifics, such is the nature of purely sensorial non-verbal / semantic communication. There are always pros and cons, of course. I have a plethora of reasons for my revulsion, though. Physical pain in various parts of my corporeal anatomy (let’s skip the specifics, shall we?). Despondent depression, the colour and smell of mud mixed with vomit, woven into a heavy cloak, wrapped around my spirit. Two to go, is that illustrative enough yet?

I volunteered to participate in a study on autism related empathy. It was on a Tuesday morning. Driving rain. We sallied forth regardless. I have taught myself to press on, regardless (as far as possible) of my own sensory state, for the sake of that thing called commitment and honouring one’s word. I do not always apply this principle wisely or to my own advantage, though. Fluidity is a struggle for my brain. Lucy was an Angel, she trotted on valiantly, despite the assaultive rain. It must’ve been that much louder for her senses, the water splattering on her raincoat, and the affect all the more severe? I pressed on, we were brave soldiers, Tally Ho! Continue reading

si bon

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Here was my week in visual snapshots. The images speak better than words, in some respects, but here are my words anyway.

This post by Alex on Married, With Asperger’s made me smile. I am happy when good things happen to good people. I had a great week too. At last. A truly, fully, fruitful and rich week. No, not pain free, though I long for a life without this high level of pain, I have learned to focus on other things that bring joy and pleasure, and find grace within these. When I say it was a good week, I mean that I have achieved the measure of calm, tranquility, productivity, creativity, intellectual stirring, and even social satisfaction that adds to my Beingness. Continue reading

intervention and resolution

 

Fragmented modality today. Language will follow suit too. Brain unable to extend enough for proper grammatical prose. I should apologise, in neurotypical manner, but I shall not. Neurotypicals do not often maintain neurotypical manners (etiquette) anyway. Why should I? Not now, when I am in autistic modality. I am too trained, though. I am still performing neurotypicality. We shall have to meet halfway. I know. Verbal language is necessary. How else to communicate with this much convenience? Continue reading

chromatic meltdown

Chromatic aberration of a different dimension. Multiple X-rays in the morning. Then the Rheumatology clinic. Throbbing headache – was it the radiation or the combined sensory assault of the strange environment, sonically and visually disturbing whirring machines, flourescent light and gasping for fresh air in the stuffy waiting rooms? Maybe it was the $500 total bill?

Lucy – my only one constant. Calm. Tranquil. Trusting. Faithful. Warm vanilla. Sleek black silken velvet. Beautiful serene elegance. Deep amber eyes. My sensorial oasis in the dry, crackling, electrostatic riddled desert highway. There she was, lying in the corner by the chair, in the waiting room, in the imaging room, in the rheumatologist’s consultation room, wherever I was, there she would be. Continue reading

assault

Angel Lucy [Disability advocacy is a long and uphill road, but this is why it is important to have laws in place to protect the rights of people with disabilities and differences against discrimination, because it cannot be left to the sole discretion of individuals in society to treat differently abled and diverse members with respect, kindness and dignity. Imagine the same scenario where there is no avenue for complaint and no laws to make sure that such attitudes and actions are strictly discouraged? After this experience, I am even more filled with admiration for disability advocates in my home country, where there is no enforcement against this kind of bigotry and discrimination, and I applaud their tireless efforts to educate and champion the cause of inclusivity. I also thank Cath Phillips and Gayl O’Grady from mindDog Australia, who have been supporting Lucy and me in wonderful ways. MindDog is not merely a service dog organisation, we are a family!]

I was assaulted last night. No, thankfully not physically, but it was a shocking and humiliating verbal attack, and from someone whose duty is to protect and keep me safe. A senior security officer on duty. (In case anyone might jump into the wrong conclusions that this was a racist attack by a bigoted Australian, I’d like to state that this man is Asian, and spoke with an accent that sounded like he is from the Philippines. I have heard so much negative criticism against Australians that are absolutely contrary to my own positive personal experiences, and I feel I needed to clarify this detail here, so as to prevent misinterpretation.)

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