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As a woman disabled by a fistful of chronic illnesses, navigating Toronto is stressful and dangerous – not just because of potholes and construction-brutalized sidewalks, but because of transit, and people. Especially people on transit.

 I don’t always “look” sick. In 2012, 3.8 million Canadians (13.7%) reported having a disability. And if America is any indication, up to 95% of those with disabling chronic illnesses are categorized as “invisible.” That includes me. There are no visual cues that I might need assistance, or deference, in particular situations. I don’t wear the tell-tale chemo head scarf. I sometimes limp, but I don’t use a cane, walker or wheelchair. I likely don’t match any of the images called to mind by the word “disabled.”

Until I actually joined the club, I had a very short-sighted, Hollywood-shaped view of what it meant to be disabled. Some might call it “healthy privilege.” If I could hang on to the ceiling rail of a crowded streetcar, so could everyone else—everyone not using a mobility device, over the age of 65, or sporting a baby bump.

For those people, I was a vigilant seat-offerer. I would shame seemingly able-bodied persons suddenly so engrossed in their books that they didn’t see the person in front of them for whom their seat was reserved.

 And then I became a minority amongst minorities. While I might look A-OK, I am probably in a lot of pain, with very little energy or stamina. Medications compromise my mobility, senses, response times and depth perception. I get injured incredibly easily, resulting in painful-to-live-with, expensive-to-treat, long-to-recover from, misaligned organs, and dislocated joints and vertebrae.

With a mayoral election looming in Toronto, I read non-stop about cutting edge, billion dollar plans for new transit initiatives. That’s great. It’s important. It’s necessary. But there’s an easy way to improve existing transit for the millions of disabled, sick and elderly (all exponentially growing groups) immediately.

“Special Parking and Sh*t!”

You were surely familiar with handicapped parking signs and permits even before Kanye West recently demanded a seated fan prove he was in a wheelchair and getting “special parking and shit.” You can’t park in one without a valid permit, no matter how crowded the lot is. And if you’re caught in the spot, you’ll get a hefty fine because you’re breaking the law. Because those spots aren’t for you. This is a good system. It works.

It’s a simple process to get an accessibility permit for a car, but my life is far more difficult as a pedestrian than a driver/passenger. So why isn’t there an Accessible Pedestrian Permit to make it easier for people like me to travel—and to protect us from thoughtless, inconsiderate people?

You know who I’m talking about: people who rush closing subway doors, refuse to wait for passengers to vacate a train before they board, who squeeze themselves past people paying for tokens because they’re running late. And—maybe the worst—people who make themselves comfortable in seats clearly designated for the disabled.

Selfish people can’t be helped. Most of those issues will always be real for me. Still, my quality of life would be much improved if I were afforded the same accessibility as disabled car drivers and passengers.

Currently during a commute, I have two options on a full transit vehicle: I can ask someone sitting in a Priority seat to please give it up, or I can stand and endure pain and risk injury. I used to choose the first option, but I don’t anymore.

When you ask someone to give up a convenience (which is what handicapped doors, elevators and choice seating are to most able-bodied people) you had better have that walker, that head scarf, that seeing eye dog, that seven month pregnant belly. And, if you don’t have those things, you’d better be over the age of 65.

If not, you’ll get an interrogation about why you need that seat. You’ll be told that you look “just fine.” You’ll be called lazy, a liar. You’ll be condemned. In front of an audience. Often by the operator of the vehicle.

Telling someone “I’m medically disabled” isn’t enough. People want a diagnosis. They believe it’s their business because they got to that choice seat first. And they are unapologetic for being the Kanye West of public transit.

So I don’t ask for a seat anymore. Which means I am body-checked, pushed, shoved (there is a difference), and by the time I reach my destination, I’m in no shape to be there.

The only time I can leave my house and feel safe is when I’m with my husband who has developed the practices of a bodyguard in crowds and on transit. When I ask for a seat, all it takes is one look at my imposing partner for people to quietly oblige. But I shouldn’t need his protection. I should be able to use the same amenities and policies as everyone else qualified. And I should be able to do so with efficiency, pride and a relative degree of privacy.

When I ask a cab operator to mark “Disabled. Please allow extra time” or “Silent ride” on my account, I shouldn’t have to then justify it to the assigned driver who deems me too “young” or “pretty” to be sick, yelling about the money lost by waiting for me. I shouldn’t have to explain that I’m not pulling an Elaine Benes and faking a disability to avoid smalltalk, rather I’m nauseated from treatment.

Elaine Fakes Deafness in "The Lip Reader" episode of Seinfeld.

The need for this permit extends to venues like shopping malls, concert halls and stadiums. These places are legally required to have systems and training in practice to accommodate people like me, but use of such services is usually decided by staff. I rarely look (or sound) disabled enough for them either. Here’s an example:

On August 21st, 2014, I traveled from Barrie to downtown Toronto. I arrived at Allandale Waterfront GO Station with about a half hour to wait for my bus. As I commonly do, I found a staff member to explain to me the procedures or systems in place to assist me.

I was guided to a designated waiting area with priority seating next to the platform for my bus and instructed to request the driver’s assistance with loading and offloading the bags my 64 year old mother had been handling for me up to that point.

With time to spare, my bus passed me (the only person there) on the way to its platform and I rose from my seat, but before I could cross the short distance, he readied to drive away. I called out, I waved, I walked as fast as I could without hurting myself… and he left.

A passenger who arrived minutes later to find me in tears recommended I call GO customer service. The representative essentially told me it wasn’t the driver’s fault for leaving me behind, it was my fault for being too slow.

I used the last of my phone’s power to tell my husband I’d be an hour late, which meant he could no longer meet me at Union Station, so I’d also have to get my luggage home, aggravating my condition, and at the expense of a taxi, eating into treatment money. That’s not me being dramatic, it’s my reality.

The next day, I spoke with GO—to the direct supervisor of the customer service representative I had spoken to—and she confirmed that the driver had no reason to leave the way he did. She reviewed the call recording and agreed I had been treated horribly and unprofessionally. I was told GO’s policy for such situations is the provision of a taxi to my home at GO’s expense. When asked why she didn’t offer this service to me, the CSR reportedly had no good answer.

I received and accepted GO’s apologies with assurance that the incident would be used to better train staff to prevent future occurrences. That’s all I can really ask. Except…

Why did I have to go through all of that? The humiliation and stress of that day, the expense, the pain afterwards, any of it? The answer is simply that I am not treated with the same deference as someone with a visible disability. I am unseen.

With a mayoral election on the horizon in Toronto, I call on all candidates to support, wallet-sized Pedestrian Accessible Permits to ensure all disabled persons have equal access to services already in place to support them.

If I had one in August, I could have held it up from my seat on that GO station bench, silently indicating to the driver to wait for me. Both he and the customer service representative would be better equipped to do their jobs.

To all candidates: I respect your plans to improve the city, especially those that are immediately actionable. And this millenial would be sincerely gratified to hear your positions on working with the Ministry of Transportation to expand the use of Accessible Parking Permits in the City of Toronto to include pedestrians, and improve their ability to meet the challenges of their lives while actively participating in our community.

Thanks to all who read this. I would appreciate if you’d share it with your friends and social networks. I also welcome people to email me at DisabiltyAccessTO [at] gmail.com to share stories of mobility-based challenges, examples of how such an initiative might improve your life, or just to show your support.

Tara Lee Reed

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The Lovelorn Need to Get Out of Their Own Way.

by Tara Lee Reed on June 4, 2014

I’ve read a lot of dating books. A lot, a lot. You can’t write a novel about dating culture, with 60 endings and not read your leg length in advice. The idea for my novel, Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda came about during the He’s Just Not That Into You craze, which timed roughly with the release of Neil Strauss’ The Game, which men use a bible for picking up women.

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I’d gone on a nightmare date with a guy who turned out to be studying The Game himself. That’s when I realized that as much as women get and apply advice to their dating lives, men do, too. Not as often, or in the same volume, but things were changing, again, and it struck me that playing games was going to take on a whole new meaning, but nobody would really have a clear idea of the rules, so to speak.

My background in gaming morphed that notion into the concept of a Role-Playing Game. Or a First Person Dater. But in a book. Like a choose your own adventure novel from when we were kids. And I loved the idea. I even bought and read copies of The Game and The Rules. Then I got sidetracked  in a new relationship with my now partner, but did end up picking up another book the first time we hit a bump in the road. This one was totally different from the others I’d read. Wildly.

It made me dislike myself – almost as much as the person it wanted me to become. It wasn’t about finding love, it was about finding a man and how to manipulate him to stay. At the wise age of 26 I knew that this was a book on how to wind up in a loveless marriage or even divorced.

Let me state clearly, I’m all for advice books. They’re a great, anonymous resource for when we want objective help. And I continued to think they were great after I’d finished my fifteenth for research. What they had in common, however, was that they didn’t have much in common at all. While there were really great ones focusing on niche aspects of relationships, many focused on how the reader needed to change herself to find unconditional love. Taste that irony. And none of them made room for our individual experience.

So when I picked up dating expert Kelly Seal’s book Date Expectations: A Guide to Changing Your Dating Life and Finding Love, it was refreshing. Right there in the title, she’s not asking you to change, just to change the patterns that clearly aren’t working – or you wouldn’t be reading her book.

This wasn’t an offering that told me, “Well, no wonder! It’s your fault! You’re going to wind up settling if you keep being you!” And it didn’t tell me I was a special hybrid snowflake-unicorn who deserved perfection and that anything less was, you guessed it, settling.

Date Expectations understands that the common denominators between dating advice books are the individuals buying them. Individuals with different goals and experiences. Some who have the equivalent of emotional carry-on and others who’ll be paying extra for a giant suitcase that doubles as a Heartbreak Box. People so dedicated to learning how to find their one [true love, night stand, who got away] that they outsmarted themselves. Many treating it like a business transaction remniscent of dowries  and the renaissance era.

And I loved that she understood that so well. In truth, we are hybrid unicorn-snowflakes. It just doesn’t entitle us to anything anymore than it does the work for us. Men and women are looking for each other, but mostly, they’re look at each other.  They’re limiting themselves with “lists,” and “types” and “deal-breakers,” and acting like it’s just them setting their standards. And they are – their double standards.

jenemehDF
We don’t want to be rejected for our perfect imperfections anymore than he does, but we rule each other in or out after a ten second physical assessment, or a few minutes into a conversation – almost always for superficial reasons, a lack of immediate spark, or no obvious clue this person checks all the boxes on that list. Then we say we hate dating, only to saddle up and get back out there the following week, doing exactly the same thing and expecting a different result. We are Insane Daters.

That’s who Date Expectations is aimed at. Not literally batty, of course. No one’s accusing you of bunny-boiling. Kelly Seal’s a friend dishing tough love when she sees you getting in your own way. Because she’s been there. A former speed dating host to thousands, she’s had a front row seat to how both sexes can strategize their way into loneliness. And when she changed her patterns, but not herself, she found her guy.

It’s an easy, fun read with non-tedious exercises that encourage you to reevaluate what it is you’re looking for and the ways you may be closing yourself off from finding it. And, yeah, sometimes she’ll straight up call you out on those double standards. She encourages you to stop making snap judgments, to give yourself some time to get to know someone before you decide it could never work. That’s what you’d want, right?

For anyone already in the thick of it, and definitely anyone dipping their toe into the date pool following a coupled-up hiatus, Date Expectations is a one stop resource that clearly lays out the modern dating terrain, from which online dating sites are best for various objectives and how to maximize engagement, to the newly emerging (and not going anywhere) dating applications taking over our smartphones, like Tinder.

When I finished writing my book, I told my guy he could never leave me because the world was too different from eight years ago. But thanks to Date Expectations, I’m pretty convinced I could be rebounding by the weekend.

Tara Reed is the author of Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – the choosable path romantic comedy inspired by dating advice books. With 60 good, bad or inexplicable endings, you’ll always have another second chance at love with Mr. Wright. www.doorflower.com  

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(Spoilers be ahead)

If you look at the internet today, there’s a very familiar soapy divide between (and among) fan bases within the Arrow fandom in the wake of last night’s pretty epic Season 2 Finale.

Some Olicity shippers are livid, they feel they were toyed with and used by the producers and writers to create hype. Why? Because they got “The moment.” A much, much bigger moment than anyone was expecting: Oliver telling Felicity that while Slade thought he had the woman he loved (Laurel), he didn’t, because Felicity was that woman; followed up with an “I love you,” and a “Do you understand?” And it was a really gorgeous moment, but it didn’t last long.

I’ve been saying that the reason they released photos of Felicity, Laurel and Slade was that we were in for a gigantic head-fake. Initially we figured Laurel was a red-herring, because Slade was spying on/through Felicity, but didn’t anyone wonder why a show so careful about spoilers released the biggies a week out? My guess was that Felicity had the cure on her, so I was right there, but I went a step further, thinking she’d offer herself up because no one would suspect her/to take the choice from Oliver. The point is, we built it up in our heads. We’re supposed to. It’s how this works.

Olicity shippers felt collective heartbreak after Felicity, who hates needles, did in fact stab Slade in the neck, curing him and freeing herself like the brave little badass she is. And then we see the flashback footage of post-I-love-you Oliver handing Felicity the cure in a syringe as he asks, “Do you understand?”

And twitter blew up with rage. “You used us!” “He put her in danger!”

Come on, guys! This was a gigantic gift! And you did get played – beautifully. You did your jobs. They wouldn’t have done this if you didn’t love Oliver and Felicity so much. They did it because they love Oliver and Felicity, too.

It’s TV law that if you bring two characters with great chemistry together too soon, you ruin it and likely the show. It also happens when you try to force relationships. The beauty about Olicity is that their chemistry is so natural you can’t escape it. You can’t even write around it. It just is. That makes them a beautiful time bomb.

This entire season has been about Oliver and Felicity’s path from new friends developing trust, to genuine friendship and partners. It’s also been about Oliver wanting her close but pushing her away. This episode was a huge payoff for episode 6 when he tells Felicity he can’t be with someone he could love. Which says a lot about Sara, who he was bedding weeks later – the most toxic choice he could have possibly made, and the one right in Felicity’s face all the time. 

But did he love Sara? I think not. Or why didn’t he tell her? Why didn’t Slade try to kill her? He had multiple chances. She’s here and Shado’s not. But then Sara takes a page out of the Ollie-Handbook when he suggests cohabitation (with a very notable absence of those three little words). Does he love Laurel? Yep. He’s said as much this season, but he’s not about Laurel right now. Basically, Oliver might be different, but he’s not clear of his past as Ollie.

Ollie would have hit it and quit it on Felicity by now. He’s never had a female friend. This is part of why Felicity’s so special to him. She never cared about or wanted his money, she saw him for him and didn’t accuse him of being a murderer like his best friends and closest family had. She doesn’t try to change him, she tries to help him see who he already is and find that again. She’s the only person who truly knows him – at least as well as anyone can.

While Felicity wears her pure, untainted love on her sleeve (and in her innuendos), Oliver wears his through deflection, shoulder touches, heavy sighs and creating distance. My favourite example of this is the episode where Barry Allen appears, provoking Oliver’s jealousy. Though we’ve seen that The Arrow can grin and bear some major pain (like when sewing up his own bullet wound), after Barry starts sniffing around Felicity, he growls like a jaberwocky when she gently applies first aid to his ribs. Thatwasthegreatest!

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The reason everyone is so taken aback is the fact they see (like everybody with eyes does) that he does love Felicity. But the reason we should be happy is that he knows he’s not ready for her yet, and he’s not toying with her. It’s odd how there’s a double standard of how she can be inadvertently overt about her feelings for him, but not act on them while denying them to others, but he can’t do the same.

That moment in the mansion felt true because there was truth in it. We’ve been watching Felicity be the reason Oliver stays in this fight, reminding him that he’s got her, that she trusts him and believes in him. This was Oliver proving the same is true of him for her. He gave the bravest person on the show the bravest job. A dangerous one. An unthinkable one.

But first, instead of letting her in on the plan, giving her the syringe in the car and telling her to sell it in front of the cameras, he used the opportunity to tell her he loved her – and she believed him. That’s the feels right there, because Felicity always knows when Oliver’s lying, and so do we. He didn’t have to say it. He could have left it at “he took the wrong woman” and she still would have caught on when he gave her the syringe. He wanted to say it.

Most wanted “The Kiss” during the scene on the Island, but it would have been bad. Very, very bad. The equivalent of sex before the third date (or third season) bad. What was great, was that Oliver, who hadn’t genuinely smiled once before meeting Felicity in season 1, and who pretty much only smiles genuinely around her now, was nothing but enigmatic grins from ear-to-ear when Felicity told him she almost believed him. He was one happy camper. Oliver Light. ON THE ISLAND. 

Oliver Queen’s love life is not free and clear. Sara just split (and passed him to Laurel along with a leather jacket), Laurel is the unresolved supposedly epic love who “knows him to his bones” but didn’t realize he’d been cheating on her for, like, ever, or recognize him under a hood. He’s conflicted. His mother just died. His sister is gone. He’s broke.

But he’s not broken. He’s got his team, but he’s also got Felicity – a girl you commit to once, and he knows that. He’s not going to toy with her, or get in the way of her personal life. He doesn’t even know if he deserves her, but he’s the only one. It was in capitals letters, bolded and underlined by Sara’s break up speech, which mirrored both Oliver and Felicity’s lines in their Why-Isabel chat. With Felicity literally waiting in the wings, no less.

So, Olicity fans, rejoice. You were given a gift last night. For 10 minutes you got to feel all the shipping was worth it (and it was!) and then you got it taken away. We feel like we do because (and this is gonna get meta) we ARE Felicity! We felt what she felt last night.

So when it does happen, maybe end of Season 3 into Season 4 (I don’t think they’ll rush it), it will be all the more satisfying. And if we’re lucky, Felicity’s going to have a romantic diversion of her own next season. That’s the soapy goods!

And about “him” putting her in danger – can we stop being sexist hypocrites? When has Felicity not insisted on being the bait? Or just gone ahead and taken on an Arch Nemesis by herself? He also gave her a chance to back out when her gave her the needle, but she didn’t -  because she’s his partner, she trusts him and they were all going to die anyway.

(P.S. How are you not jumping up and down about the fact that Laurel was the equivalent of green screen in that episode? There was no pointed dialogue or monologue about her before during or after the fight. Nada. That’s a win. Take it.)

So, Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Joseph Patrick Finn, Andrew Kriesberg, the Arrow Writers Room, Stephen Amell and (the always growing) Emily Bett Rickards…thank you – for not wrecking this ship.

My 10 cents,

Tara

Looking for me on Tumblr? Now you’re not.

Tara Lee Reed is a writer from Toronto, Canada – not that chick from Sharknado. Her first novel,  Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda - the interactive romantic comedy with 60 Mostly Unhappy Endings – is available in ebook and paperback now. Find more information about it and other titles in the Once Upon a Theme series at www.doorflower.com. 

 

 

 

 

 

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