Thursday, 18 December 2014

Does my physiotherapist make me look fat?

I'm trying to get into the Christmas spirit, I really am.
But shit is going down and it's not pretty.
First, I got the flu, then I got pink eye.
Pink eye!
Sophie, get off my pillow!
Next, I gained back the 10 pounds I struggled to lose over the past year. That's because of my bunged up knee. Doctor Ben, that wizard of modern medicine, shrugged when I asked him about it.
Said it was arthritis.
Nothing he could
But I'm an Internet maven and I'm not about to take the word of a geriatric Belgian who even other doctors on RateMyMD are calling out, saying he needs retraining.
So I hooked up with a chiropractor -- because for the first time in a decade I have extended health insurance -- and she soothed and stroked my knee and applied all the latest methods of chiropractic, including something that looks like a carpenter's framing square.
What ever happened to old fashioned cracking?
Then the kinesiologist who sits right beside her gave me exercises and told me to keep going to the gym.
I was stoked, let me tell you, until I got up.
Still couldn't walk.
After eight or so visits, nothing changed.
So I traded up to a physiotherapist who also does acupuncture. She stuck me with all kinds of needles and applied a warm pack (opposite of what the chiro did). She gave me exercises and sent me home.
What she gave me was a big nothing.
Still can't take my dog to the dog park after about $200 worth of treatments.
This week, I went for my last treatment before Christmas.
Both wished me well.
I still can't friggin' walk.
It's a shit show, that's what it is.
Oh, I forgot.
Just before I left, I asked for a diagnosis.
The chiro smiled.
Dr. Ben was right.
The good news is that I can't do all the holiday baking.
The bad news is, I can buy it.
Twelve pounds of shortbreads have covered my hips.
Today, I went back to the gym after a month.
And I suddenly remembered all those other visits to the physio, the ones for tennis elbow and frozen shoulder. None of those helped me, either.
So I'm sitting here in my chair getting fat, eating bon bons, scarfing Rice Krispie squares.
I've watched all ten seasons of Grey's Anatomy in three weeks.
I could do a friggin' triple bypass.
I'm dreaming about McSteamy. Poor McSteamy.
Anyway, I'm done with the hands on experts.
Time to turn on Dr. Oz.


Thursday, 4 December 2014

First skates

It was Saturday morning, the one before Christmas, and Jordan knew she'd left it late.
She wasn't afraid that the gift she was planning to give her eight-year-old daughter would be sold out.
It wasn't the latest iPhone or limited edition American girl doll, the gift ideas she saw in the screaming ads on her app.
She hadn't had to jostle with all the other moms to get her gift on Black Friday.
There would be no Fed Ex truck, no brown guy with dead eyes coming to the door.
This present had to be bought in person.
She knew that the item would be there, in aisle 36, of Canadian Tire. It was there, she could see it in her mind's eye, in the spot these kinds of gifts could always be found near the back of the cramped store with the tiny aisles in a place marked "sporting goods".
Jordan hadn't been to Canadian Tire since forever but a visit there was always like coming home, first with the assault to the senses only a Canadian could understand, that weird tire smell, not like the smell at Costco, where the confused nostril got a whiff of a combination of tires and hot dogs, a smell that always kind of made a person sick.
No, Canadian Tire, it had the real tire smell, mixed with that same sort of oily scent she remembered coming off her Granddad when he came in from fixing up her mother's car.
Jordan could have gone anyplace to buy her gift, from a speciality shop, even, she supposed, to a grocery superstore. But Canadian Tire was the place. It had always been the place.
Jordan kissed her husband's snoring head, checked on Lisa who was already up watching an endless loop of Frozen.
Let it go, Jordan smile. Please, let it go.
"You, okay? I'm just going out shopping?"
Lisa waved her off, like she was swatting at a fly.

Jordan wheeled into the Starbuck's drive-through, ordered herself an expensive latte, and then snaked into the Canadian Tire parking lot. It was 8 a.m. and packed like a sardine can, like it always was. Didn't matter how many big box stores that came to Canada, there was always a certain element of Canuck who remained true to the Canadian Tire. Maybe it was the funny money with the odd Scottish fellow on the front, maybe it was the tire smell, certainly it wasn't the customer service.
But everywhere in Canada, people still gravitated to the iconic store where their granddads shopped and their dads shopped. And here she was the Saturday before Christmas braving the human carwash that was the annual pre-Xmas shopping ritual.
Jordan didn't worry, she'd be in and out. She didn't need a cart because she knew exactly where to go, aisle 36, sporting goods.
And true to form, she found what she was looking for under piles and piles of different sizes.
These weren't skates she remembered, they had posh fake fur around the top and names like BladeRunner and SoftTec. They weren't one-size fits all, as they were when she was growing up.
But miraculously, they were the very same price.
Didn't matter the cost.
It's what they felt like, smelled like.
Skates, brilliant white girls' skates with gleaming steel blades.
They weren't pink or blue, they weren't designer blades, they were simply girls' skates with the familiar new car smell.
Still white like a new born bunny.
Just as she remembered them.
In her Grandfather's memory, she was carrying on a tradition.

Every Christmas, Gramps would take her to Canadian Tire for a new pair of skates.
Well, they weren't new; they were, as they say, new to her.
Unless a girl was Barbara Ann Scott -- and let's face it, in the early 60s, there weren't many Barbara Ann Scott's -- nobody got new skates. This was the 60s, after all, and new skates were a waste. Used skates came as advertised, still gleaming white, laces still pristine as their first time out of the box, blades shimmering as the overhead neon gave them a show.
The used section was in the basement of the place, where the blade sharpening fellow made his living, and the place bustled. This was small town Ontario where people didn't have lots of money.
Not unlike his neighbors, Gramps was frugal, and didn't see the point of buying something new when used was perfectly good. It made sense to Jordan, too.
What did it matter? Who would see her skates, other than her brothers who were the only other tenants of Gramps' home made rink, in the back behind the barn.
Maybe the cat. Maybe a rat. Maybe, Penny, the golden retriever who liked to spend time pulling her around.
The first skate was always a bit rough for the only little girl. The rink was pockmarked and filled with the bodies of dirty, sweaty boys with hockey sticks and pucks, older boys who hogged the ice for hours after school.
The best Jordan could hope for was a little skate around the boards before, inevitably, she got an elbow or a shot to the head and would go in crying and asking for the bad, lumpy cocoa which was always on the stove.
As the sister of boys, Jordan learned quickly that her grandfather's rink, which he and her uncles braved wind and sleet to water morning and night, was no place for a girl, well, not a girly girl at least.
This didn't make Jordan sad, not at all.
She was after all, a farm girl. She grew up knowing that a stick was more than a stick.
With a little imagination, it was a sword.
Jordan had her places, spots even her granddad didn't know about.
Just after pancake dinner, the first night of the skates, Jordan would disappear. No one was really sure where she went.
And frankly, nobody bothered to look.
On that frigid first night, there was a full moon that was so bright, it lit the way clear to the back of the farm. This was a night to treasure, like a jewel found by the side of the road, planted there just for her.
Jordan bundled up her crimson coat, the one given to her by cousin Cathy, the one that wasn't quite warm enough for nights like this. She donned her mitts and hat, fixed on her winter boots and grabbed the gleaming skates for her first adventure.
It was a treacherous go, the path was spotted with patches of black ice.
Before long, she went down, sharp on her elbow, a blow that brought tears to her eyes.
Jordan dusted herself off and carried on for what seemed like a mile, but now that she's thinking of it, it was probably only a third that distance, until she found the sweet spot; it was lit perfectly by the moon overhead, a wonderful, large, patch of ice probably no bigger than her mother's tiny living room.
Good enough.
Jordan sat-fell down on her rump, quickly tossed off her mitts and fumbled with her unwieldy boot laces. Her fingers were beginning to freeze, so she needed to act quickly.
Skates were always a bother with what seemed like hundreds of laces to undo, then do, hard for a little girl who had just barely learned to tie her shoes. But she managed. She was determined.
She was Barbara Ann Scott.
Skates finally tied, well somewhat tied, she fumbled to get her mitts back on, feeling the stinging and the numbness of another Canadian winter, the kind the poets used to write about.
Frosty the Snowman had nothing on Jordan.

Jordan struggled to get up.
And then she was down, smacking her head on the unforgiving sheet of ice.
The tears ran down her frozen cheeks, as she scrambled to her feet.
I'll never give up, never give up, never give....
Up, up, up.
And suddenly, she found herself upright.
Jordan moved one foot forward, then another. It was hard at first, but she had muscle memory. She was a veteran at eight, having done this since she was five.
Slow and steady, that was the formula.
I think I can, I think I can, I can, can, can.
And she did it.
Quickly, expertly, she was gliding around her little God-made pond in the middle of her granddad's fruit farm, around and around she went, lifting her leg, spreading her arms, the cold air freezing her nose hairs to attention.
The sweat beaded on her forehead and the light coat seemed hot, and bulky while her feet were like ice cubes and her hands numb.
She heard her mother's voice.
Time to go, child, watch the frost bite.
Don't want to lose those toes.
It was the siren call of sensibility, drummed into every farm girl from the dawn of time.
If you don't leave now, your toes will fall off.
Don't run with those scissors, you might lose an eye.
Rural legends designed to keep little girls safe.
It was time to go, but not before Jordan took time to survey her kingdom, the silhouettes of the peach and pear trees, the lights from the Houtby farm a mile down the road, and the twinkle of the Christmas lights on her favorite evergreen back at the farm.
She stopped, listened to the silence and began to sing at the top of her voice.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.

Then she was skating again, like Barbara Ann Scott, twirling and gliding, twirling and gliding.
And singing to the moon.
Baying at the moon, Gramps might have said.
Her heart was full and she couldn't wait to tell everybody about the pond in the middle of the farm she'd discovered, about the moon sending her down a personal spotlight, about the fact that she could skate like Barbara Ann Scott.
It was time to go. She'd already outstayed her welcome, already put her toes in peril.
She tried to act quickly, her hands wouldn't work.
There would be a price to be paid, but no matter.
Kids never learn.
The walk back to the farm seemed to take a century.

"Did you find what you needed?" asked the cashier, who met Jordan's eyes with a weary smile. "Just the skates?"
"Just the skates," she answered.
She ran her fingers over the big familiar box and accepted her fifty cents worth of Canadian Tire money, the weird and funny money that she used to save for toys.
And she shot through the doors and into her waiting, and now chilly SUV.
She couldn't wait to show Lisa the skates, and to take her out on the Rideau Canal for the first time in her little life. Couldn't wait to introduce her to BeaverTails and good hot chocolate.
That would be Lisa's memory of her first pearly white skates.
No two memories, or traditions, are ever the same, she thought to herself.
Nor should they be.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

My Christmas tree and the kindness of strangers

This afternoon, we will clear out my antique accountant's desk from under the front window, vacuum up all the dog hair that's been hiding under it, and put up our fake Christmas tree, the one we rescued from a neighbor's lawn, the one that had a sign on it that said "free to a good home".

We got that Christmas tree three years ago when we were so broke we couldn't afford to buy one. We were at our lowest point. Nobody in the house was working much, a baby was one the way and I was about to become a Grandmother, and the planning for Christmas had become more of a nuisance than a joy.

The previous few years hadn't been much better. Our video business had failed spectacularly in the midst of the digital boom. Our once profitable little enterprise had been crushed by a technological lightening strike enabling any teenager to afford an HD camera. Our expensive professional gear, meanwhile, was gathering dust in the corner.

There was no reason to feel sorry for ourselves.

It's not like we had small children and a lot of mouths to feed and expectations to meet at Christmas, we were simply wallowing in middle age as a dual divorced couple, people who got together with nothing in hopes of building something. And we had. We had, and still do have, a loving house, Scott helped me raise three wonderful young adults, and our home has always been filled with warmth, laughter and the wonderful smells of homemades coming from the kitchen.

We weren't about money, not at all.

But something terrible came to our house the year of the free Christmas tree. Aside from the usual financial worries, we'd had to suddenly put down two of our precious dogs. Hannah, our beloved golden succumbed to cancer. Ming, the pug, died on the vet's table prior to dental surgery. And Gordie, the last pug standing, had had a stroke during that same dental ordeal.

In a blink of time, we went from being the owners of three dogs, to the caregivers of one, very, very sick dog.

It was almost more than we could bear.

We spent the year in a state of utter grief and mourning. Our house of cards had started to topple one card at a time.

We had both given up and were living in the same house, worlds apart, Scott chugging to his sketchy car job with the stricken look of failure on this face, me fumbling around the house, bouncing from the television to the computer to the kitchen, trying to rattle my brain and find my voice again.

I can vividly remember that Christmas three years ago, anticipating the birth of my granddaughter but dreading it still, wondering what kind of life she would have, fearing she would be raised like I was, in poverty and struggle, wearing hand-me-downs, and wishing for the one good toy that the Santa at the mall could deliver.

Somehow, we managed to cobble together enough money for a few presents for our family and for the nice home cooked turkey dinner, but the Christmas tree was another matter. We nearly became those old people who give up on Christmas, who either buy a dollar store tree or just do without a tree altogether.

That would have been the ultimate sadness for me, the single mom who was always able to pull out Christmas like a magician does a rabbit. And the Christmas tree had become a symbol to me that all was right with the world.

But three years ago, I had my doubts.

So, I asked myself, how was it now, when the kids were grown, that our Christmas wishes could have been dashed so totally that we couldn't even afford a tree?

I was hoping that if I just blinked, Christmas would be over.

And then came the miracle tree, found on the neighbor's lawn with the sign " free to a good home".

Scott found it on his daily walk and dragged it home. He put it up and it was the most beautiful tree I'd ever seen, even though it was man-made. It was plump and pretty, nearly new, with all its branches. Our neighbor had saved our Christmas, at least the Christmas that was in my mind's eye.

And we were Christmas whole again.

That's not the end of the story, not even close.

Last year, again a tough year, my son Nick was cleaning out the garage and he threw out all my Christmas decorations. There wasn't even a string of lights or a bauble, not a hand crafted and glittery home-made star from Marissa's public school collection nor a "baby's first Christmas" ornament.

You know the drill, ladies. You start out with nothing and collect them, a few baubles at a time. You carefully pack up your finds with tissue paper and gingerly put them in a box at the end of each season.

Now my collection was gone, all out in the trash.

I was livid and devastated.

The grumpy cat in me reared up and showed her claws.

"That's it," I cried. "I'm cancelling Christmas."

I put my fury all over Facebook, breaking my own rule not to post in a snit.

Then I left it alone, went for a walk to the mall and spent my last twelve dollars on lights that covered only one third of the tree.

"There," I said. "That is our Christmas tree."

Then, another Christmas miracle happened.

My neighbor called. She was moving. Could I use her old ornaments and lights?

I rushed across the street and she gave me bags and bags and bags of stuff including ones from her own family Christmases, the ones made by her grandchildren. She hadn't any use for them anymore, she said.

And so it was that our tree was filled with the wonder of the season again, from her house to ours.

What a wonderful seasonal surprise, even better than getting the free tree. What a kind gesture from a woman we knew only from brief conversations over the fence.

My heart was filled to the brim.

And the story's not done yet.

This year, I'd painstaking planned for Christmas, saved for our dinner with our Loblaws' points, put aside a little money every month so there would be no surprises.

And yet, there was still one to come, like God was rewarding me for being a good planner and saver.

A Facebook friend asked me if we could use some decorations, new ones she'd bought thinking hers had been lost. Turns out, she found her own, and had no need for the baubles and lights she'd bought.

How wonderful, I thought, as I climbed into the old car and headed out to meet her at her daughter's Ringette game. She opened her trunk and filled my car with gorgeous and delightful symbols of the season, ones that would replace some of the older ones that had been good enough last year.

In all the years of single motherhood -- twenty plus -- I'd never been able to afford ornaments that actually matched before.

This year, we will have a posh looking tree, thanks to the generosity of my Facebook friend with a loving heart.

As my mother might have said: "Look at you, Rose, now aren't you the Queen of England?"

Yes, mother I am. Maybe not the Queen of England, but Queen of the Christmas season.

This morning I will get busy, warm up the homemade quiche, put on a pot of coffee, and start my journey towards Christmas, assembling the bones of the borrowed tree from down the street, adding in the Christmas ornaments from my neighbor, the ones made by her grandchildren, and adding a dash of icing from the brilliant lights and balls provide by the other kind Ottawa neighbor.

 I will cherish them all, and one day, hand them down to another other family members once I'm done with them. And I will sit around the borrowed tree and tell the story to my grand-daughter, now three, as I hug my three dogs, Gordie, the blind, incontinent, stroked-out pug and my two new ones, Finnigan and Sophie.

The Grinch is a good story, I'll tell you, but I have the best story of all.

It's about a Christmas tree doesn't belong to me, the a community tree, made possible by the love, generosity and kindness by strangers, a reminder that just when you think you're at your lowest point, you are never alone.


Thursday, 27 November 2014

MPs behaving badly

Once, in desperation and fear of poverty, I nearly took a job as a communications director for Peter Goldring, the renegade Member of Parliament who is now advocating that male MPs wear Go-Pro cameras to guard against harassment charges by women on the Hill.

I interviewed for the job. I liked Peter Goldring, mainly because he was interested in affordable housing even though he was a member of Stephen Harper's caucus. (He was later hoisted for being moist and garrulous, which made me like him even more.)

I didn't realize he was a nut. He seemed genuinely sincere, and I accepted the position.

Then I walked out of his office and met his chief of staff who looked very much like a cross-between John Waters and Harvey Pekar. Brrrrr. As I was leaving the office, the secretary motioned me over, and gave me a warning about the chief  of staff.

He's weird, she said.

Minutes later, I texted Mr. Goldring and said: "thanks but no thanks."
Minutes after that, I met a former pal of mine of the Liberal persuasion and told him the story.
He gave me a contract, and made sure my kids could eat for the next three months.

When you work on Parliament Hill, and you are a woman or a very nice looking gay man, you have to have your wits about you, and attune your spidey-senses to the environment lest you lose your panties in some very unfortunate circumstances.
It's been happening for decades and decades.
MPs have always behaved badly -- even ugly bulldog looking Prime Ministers -- and fending them off has become a rite of passage for many women.
And yet, some fail to learn.
Like the poor NDP MP who found herself whipping out a condom as a last ditched effort in disease control after a Liberal colleague somehow had his way with her, at 2 a.m. at his place after a pitcher and a half of margaritas.
Or the other NDP MP who claims another Liberal chased her home and ground his crotch against her after a party.
These are terrible allegations, it is true.
And these men are oinkers of the first order who deserve to nurse blue balls for the rest of their lives.
Some people are saying: what are women thinking? How do they get themselves into these predicaments in the first place?
I suppose it's because women who work on Parliament Hill start off there thinking that it is a noble place, filled with people who, like them, want to change the world. And the residents, particularly the rats, are ever-so charming.
So it makes sense, and it should not be unusual, that debates on veteran's rights, the fight against Ebola, and other matters, should be continued at Hy's or Darcy's and other watering holes. And it also makes sense that people get lonely, so they should be expected to share drinks in the offices of fellow MPs, or play topless Frisbee, or whatever.
But Parliament Hill is not a normal place.
It is not filled with normal people.
Some of its inhabitants are creepy and narcissistic and are into all sorts of weird behavior, like working naked in their offices and exposing themselves to Sparks Street.
Even more of them -- even the nice ones -- are fueled by alcohol which is easily found in their desk drawers to get them through those long debates.
All of them are away from home, wives and kiddies, livin' large in the Big City.
Finally, most of them are men, a lot of ugly men, intent on getting as many blow jobs as possible out of sight of the security cameras.
Boys will be walking hormones, as they say.
We can institute all the rules and regulations we like and this behavior will not go away unless the women smarten up and begin to act defensively.
Even banning alcohol on the Hill wouldn't work as there are tens of bars -- and hotel rooms -- within a stone's throw of the Parliamentary Precinct.
So what's the solution?
Concealed hand guns.
No, I'm kidding, kidding.
Women who work on Parliament Hill need to be schooled as soon as they get to the place.
There should be the sexual equivalent of a defensive driving course for them to help them navigate the treacherous waters.
I could teach it.
I come from the school of hard knocks.
It took me a while, but I learned that the best way NOT to get in trouble is to make sure you stay out of trouble's playground.
Beware of Christmas parties, Wonderful Wednesdays, out-of-town sojourns, anything after hours.
If you must attend, drink soda water. Carry hand sanitizer to throw in the faces.
Never go to the bathroom without a friend.
Never let an MP take you to a second location.
Always discuss policy in the daylight, in public, with both feet firmly on the floor.
Sure it's no fun, but it's safe.
I have a few other suggestions if you want to be more extreme.
Wear a hidden microphone in your bra.
Attend comedy or improv school. Learn to deliver snappy one liners to wither any wandering dick.
Learn the arts of martials.
Of course, a woman can't be too careful and sometimes she finds herself cornered.
What to do?
Employ all available tools: high heels, large diamonds and briefcases.
Inuit carvings.
And, of course, your handy Blackberry.
Nothing says lovin' more than a Vine video!
Hit them where it hurts.
Don't be like Jian Ghomeshi. Leave a mark, a tramp stamp to show everybody you mean business.
Prosecute within the full extent of the law.
No exceptions.
A good offence is better than a good defence.
When all else fails, get a real job.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Portable hearing loop comes to Ottawa. Hear! Hear!

It doesn't look like much, does it?
Kind of looks like a heating pad.
But my husband Scott Troyer and I are hoping this little gizmo will change a few lives.
It's a portable looping system that can be used in cars, boardrooms and living rooms. The pad fits under or on the seat of your chair and microphones are placed strategically so that a person who has hearing loss can actually understand what is going on around them -- instead of taking their hearing aids off because they are frustrated by all the noise around them.
So the driving snowbird can actually hear his partner on the long drive to Florida. Or a child with a cochlear implant sitting in the backseat can talk to her mom on the way to hockey practice.
It's not perfect and not for everybody but isn't it nice to know that those hearing aids you paid a few thousand bucks for will actually do you some good while driving around town, or watching the Superbowl on the big screen with your family cheering along?
This solution is now available in Canada and is reasonably priced.

We got the idea because Scott is a car salesman at Ogilvy Subaru in Ottawa and he has a good number of customers who wear hearing aids. The Bluetooth is fine for the phone, but it just doesn't cut it for the rest of the car. So we went looking for a solution and found it at Advanced Listening Systems out in Victoria. Company head Tim Archer, who installs looping systems for businesses, governments and churches, sent us our kit just this week and we will be testing it with Subaru customers.
I will be sharing the results in an upcoming video blog.
Scott is hoping to lead by example to make Ogilvy the first hearing friendly car dealership in Canada, offering solutions for people who wear hearing aids. He will put up the T-coil sign at his desk identifying him as a hearing friendly car salesman. That's important because many people who wear hearing aids feel self-conscious. A lot of them don't like their hearing aids or simply don't want people to know they are wearing them.
We're hoping, in our own small way, to change that.
All they need is our little heating pad gizmo and an active T-Coil in their hearing aids.
So, Subaru drivers, Turn on the T-Coil.
You know you want to.

People with hearing loss should be loud and proud and stick up for their rights.
Starting in January, businesses and not-for-profits with more than 20 employees will be obligated under the Ontario Disabilities Act to better serve people with disabilities, and to ensure that their staff are sensitive to their needs.
Our little gizmo -- I haven't invented a name for it -- would work beautifully in all environments, not just cars. And people with hearing loss won't have to wear a loop around their necks advertising to the world that they can't hear as well as the rest of the population.
They won't feel frustrated sitting in a boardroom, and decide not to speak up.
Maybe they'll get out in the world a little more.
Maybe they'll stop falling asleep in church.
There is simply no reason that Canadians with hearing loss have to suffer in silence, while the rest of the world is able to walk around museums, take taxis, and do their grocery shopping with the benefit of hearing loops.
Let's get with the program, shall we?
You can demand to be served by your government in both official languages, but in the past,you had no right to be served in a hearing environment.
Until now.
It only took Ontario fifty years.
But it's here, so let's take advantage of the new laws.
So come out and support us.
If you're in Ottawa, look Scott up. He'll be in the Subaru with the gizmo.
Come take it for a spin.
You can contact Scott at 613-294-6217.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Ontario Disabilities Act: Are you being served?

By January 1, 2015, businesses and not-for-profit organizations with more than 20 employees will be required by the Ontario government to provide accessible customer service and train their staff on how to serve people with disabilities.

That means that a dance studio must be able to provide information materials in an accessible format like a website, not just on paper, so that clients who have vision loss can read them with screen readers. It also means that a clothing store must either provide fitting rooms to accommodate wheelchairs, or provide an exemption to a no return policy if their wheelchair bound customers cannot try the clothes on beforehand.

It makes sense that, finally, in this modern age, businesses will be required to find better ways to serve the more than 1 in 7 persons with a disability in this province. It also makes sense from a business standpoint considering that ageing Ontarians and people with disabilities represent 40% of total income in Ontario. That's worth $536 billion to the Ontario economy, according to our government.

And yet, people who suffer from hearing loss continue to be the silent minority.

While the new government directive encourages the use of assistive devices -- pieces of equipment that a person with a disability can use to help them in their daily living -- it does not go far enough for people with hearing loss, many of whom have difficulty negotiating the world with hearing aids alone.

Assistive devices such as hearing loops are in use only in a small corner of our society, in churches mainly, but not in businesses, government service centres, hotels, transit or recreation facilities. (There are some exceptions, such as schools which utilize expensive FM systems which use microphones and transmitters to connect teacher and student.)

Nor are they in use in hospitals, conference rooms or many seniors' facilities. Nor are they offered as an "add-on" in new building construction.

And yet, hearing loops provide a cost-effective solution to many of the difficulties faced by people with hearing loss.

What are hearing loops?

Put simply, a hearing loop is a system of wires and microphones that are placed in a room or a designated area. People who wear hearing aids simply turn on a telecoil in their hearing aids or cochlear implants and can hear most of the sounds in the room just as a person with normal hearing does. (They don't work for everybody, but they do provide significant improvement in a person's hearing in a noise environment.)

Hearing loops are enormously popular in Europe where, for more than two decades, they have been installed in museums, taxicabs, even the London underground. And yet, they are rarely used in North America.

Recently, New York City has begun to encourage business to use hearing loops and now they are in all NYC taxi cabs. Even Yankee Stadium is looped!

If they are so effective, why aren't they becoming more available in Canada?

Part of the problem is that there is a general lack of awareness about hearing loops and what they can do to improve the quality of life and service for people with hearing loss. Right now, they are used only in churches and by some consumers who order them over the Internet from companies in Europe. There is also a lack of installers in Canada who are qualified and knowledgeable about microphone placement. Finally, there is a lack of buy-in from audiologists and hearing instruments professionals to promote their use. Some consumers report frustration that audiologists don't even bother to turn on the telecoil, which virtually renders hearing aids useless for use with hearing loops.

What is confounding is that hearing loops are very inexpensive, costing between $3,000 and $5,000 for a large conference room, as an example. Portable loops for use in homes, offices and cars cost less than $1,000 installed!

Those numbers are much cheaper than building wheelchair ramps and new dressing rooms.

And yet, such a simple fix is being ignored instead of being included in a business's accessibility plan.

There are a number of things that need to happen in Ontario in my opinion.

First, consumers must begin to demand these services from governments and businesses. They need to walk into their banks, hospitals, government kiosks and recreational facilities and ask why they are not being properly served. They need to stand up for their rights, under the Disabilities Act. Simply put, they need to start a dialogue.

As for businesses, they need to realize that installing hearing loops is good for business. In the U.S., where the Loop America campaign is in full swing, businesses are encouraged to become more hearing friendly and carry the sticker above, which indicates that their needs are being met.

If businesses, governments, hearing providers and consumers become engage, the change would be nothing short of miraculous.

It means a person with hearing loss could speak to the bank teller, ride public transit and hear the driver or hear their spouse while driving in a car equipped with a portable looping device. And it means that a person with hearing loss could talk to the nurse in emergency and save precious time.

Most importantly, if hearing loops were installed in more places, it would give people with hearing loss back a sense of normal.

If you would like to learn more about hearing loops, visit this site.

Remember, in Ontario, the use of hearing loops is no longer a privilege, it's are a right.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bell Canada has great customer service said no one ever.

Dear Bell Canada:

Thanks for following me on Twitter.
You must be greatly interested on why I cancelled your home phone service today, so let me illuminate.
Two years ago, we got Bell Fibe. We were one of the first customers in our area happy to get rid of Rogers once and for all.
Unfortunately, we hated the Fibe service.
It kept cutting out. The highlight was when it cut out at the end of the Canada hockey game during the Olympics. It was also constantly cutting out during the good bits in the movies.
So we cancelled, and I wrote about how Bell Fibe sucks in my blog. Six thousand people have read that blog.
A lot of them agree with me.
But not wanting to put all my huevos in one basket, we decided  to keep the home phone.
After all, Bell is the granddaddy of phones. I've had a Bell phone since I was a kid, when dialup meant you actually had to dial up your granny.
Because we have smartphones we only use the home phone for bill collectors, telemarketers and the occasional call from a relative who doesn't believe in smartphones.
Also I do all my interviews on a landline.
I'm old fashioned that way.
We asked you for the lowest price with minimum services. We were told we could pay $20 which was about right and we were happy.
Then we decided we needed caller I.D. so we upped our service to $40 a month.
This week we got our first bill and it was for $130 which included a $25 phone call to Vancouver.
We called you today to find out why our home phone costs $95 instead of $40.
We were told it was because we didn't have a bundle with Bell.
We have a bundle with Rogers so we called them.
As of this writing -- because we cancelled your ass -- we will be paying 50 bucks which includes long distance, call display and answering.
For your part, in your quest to keep us as customers and on the off chance you might one day get us back (hey, you can always dream) you have told us you are charging us for five weeks service because we cancelled BEFORE the CRTC decision, which comes into effect on January 1st. This ruling will make it impossible for companies like yours to swindle us if we don't like  your service.
In the meantime, we will have paid you $300 for service which should have cost us let than $100.
Hey Bell, we have news.