“What a year!” is indeed an understatement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a wrench in everyone’s plans this year including many events and celebrations that our little amputee peer group here in Toronto has planned. When the pandemic first hit us in March, we all hoped that we will be back having events including celebrating 3 years as a group by summer. Now it is the end of the year and we have just entered our second lockdown as the number of cases of COVID-19 rise.
But there is one thing you can count on. Our little group is based on resilience – resilience of the very members of this group. Adapting to new norms is what we do and we quickly adapted our ways of supporting one another in the best way we can. Here are just a few highlights:
We quickly adapted our monthly meetups virtually since meeting in person poses not only a risk to the health and safety of our members, but to also abide by public health guidelines to maintain 2 meters of social distancing and not meeting in large groups. At the same time, many places we would have gone to do events were also ordered to close for gatherings. Not only were we able to maintain our monthly meetup this way, but we were also able to extend them to amputees across the province, and in some virtual meetings, across Canada as far as Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Join us on our Facebook group for details of our next virtual meetup.
April Limb Loss Awareness Month
April Limb Loss Awareness Month was not missed at all this year despite the lockdowns. Mayors across Ontario has sent their greetings, congratulations and proclamations of making April as Limb Loss Awareness Month in their respective cities. We also held two very successful Limb Loss Education Days that were attended by thousands of viewers across Canada and the United States. Peer Support Leader, Todd, hosted various guests including Jeff Tiessen (Paralympian), Mandy Pursely (Cinderella with a glass arm), Joan MacDonald and Mary Anne Jackson (entrepreneurs). You can watch Part 1 and Part 2 on our Facebook page.
We also had the Toronto CN Tower lit orange again this year to celebrate Limb Loss Awareness Month. It was broadcasted live on EarthCam so that it can be viewed across the globe without leaving the comforts of our own homes.
3rd Year Anniversary
2020 also marked Amputee Coalition of Toronto’s 3rd Anniversary. We usually hold a BBQ to celebrate but again in order to follow public health guidelines, we celebrated online during our monthly virtual meetup. That will have to do for now to keep everyone’s safety and health as a priority. As soon as we are able to be in groups and have access to establishments where we can be hosted again, we will definitely be celebrating in person!
No pandemic could stop any advocacy. In fact, it has been very much needed this year.
At the beginning of the pandemic, The Ontario Assistive Device Program offices was closed the the provincial government as they were considered “not essential” service. That left many of our friends who rely on mobility devices such as wheelchairs, and life saving therapy products like oxygen tanks “out to dry”. We joined forces with other advocacy groups and we were able to have the government re-open the ADP offices so their services can continue and operations to operate. Amputee Coalition of Toronto founder, Aristotle Domingo, was even quoted in the Toronto Star.
But that’s not all. Our request to proclaim April as Limb Loss Awareness Month in the City of London, Ontario was met with challenges in City Hall. Mayor Ed Holder struggled to agree with council to proclaim April Limb Loss Awareness Month in his city since the city has tightened its rules on proclamations. The Mayor doubled down on the rules of a new city hall policy for proclamations. Amputee Coalition of Toronto was the first test of it. We won eventually but not without a fight, and the City of London proclaimed April as Limb Loss Awareness Month. You can read the article here on the London Free Press.
Another one to note is Amputee Coalition of Toronto co-signing a motion for the Federal Government and the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, to provide a similar COVID-19 relief for persons with disabilities similar to the relief provided for those who lost income due to the pandemic. After months of deliberations, a $600 COVID-19 relief payments were made to those who qualified in the fall.
But what all of these tells us, albeit successful, is that the vulnerable communities are continuously ignored [or an after thought] and we must continue to advocate for ourselves. Pandemic or not, advocacy is a lifelong commitment and we must never give up.
Looking forward to 2021
As we say goodbye to 2020 and look on to 2021, let’s remember friends, families, peers near and far whom we’ve lost due to the pandemic. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers and they may rest now in peace.
Let’s continue to be grateful for every blessings, regardless of how little they may be, and remain positive during these uncertain times. Celebrate our accomplishments. Celebrate and encourage one another. And most of all, be kind to one another. Remember that you are not alone in your limb loss journey. We are here for you. Until then…
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Wash your hands. Physically distance. Wear a mask.
From your friends at the Amputee Coalition of Toronto…may you have a happy and healthy New Year!