Almost two years ago the man and I moved into our dream home. We were so excited, grateful and blessed to have found such an amazing community of beautiful homes nestled in the rolling hills of Simcoe County.
All the conveniences of the city such as a Starbucks on every corner or a subway and transit system that could get me anywhere I needed to be were non-existent up here in the country. I knew it would be a challenge at times as the man travels often for work and I would not be able to ride my bike everywhere I wanted to go, but it was worth it, as we wanted desperately to get out of the city. The move up here was surprisingly easy (minus the negative feedback from some about “how far away it was”) and we settled in nicely. We made what we feel will be life-long friends and we get outside in nature regularly. All the things we used to love about the city were forgotten and replaced with simpler things.
There was however, one “fly in the soup”, so to speak. It would seem that the builder of the community we so loved were…let’s say…ignorant in the ways of accessibility and inclusion of others. While they would throw around comments such as “we are as passionately driven about investing in communities as we are in every other aspect…” and “we incorporated some of our best ideas about how people would want to live and what they would want to experience.” They constantly talked about wholesome living and community, yet I feel they did not practice these morals. Here’s why…
The builder has a set of rules or guidelines regarding the exterior finishes on the houses. Clients could pick from a pre-selected set of colours, finishes etc that best suited their wants. Myself being legally-blind found it best if I chose contrasting colours for my exterior door so that I could easily discern my home apart from all the other “neutral” homes. I had spoken with the builders’ Interior Designer, their Head contractor and Project manager about my colour choice for my door and all of them agreed it was fine. So I choose a bright yellow for the door, as it was set against a dark gray and black exterior it was perfectly suited to my low vision needs. We even had the builders’ painter paint the door for us. BUT before the paint was even dry I had a message from the powers that be that I had to change it ASAP! It was not on the list of “approved” colours, therefore it had to be painted black like my trim. The WHOLE construction site was abuzz with the news and all day contractors and neighbours alike slowed down to see “The DOOR”.
I posted the issue and why we painted our door yellow in our community FB forum, it got positive feedback (high fives and thumbs up) some moral support, a few negative comments and one very accusatory and insulting comment which I had removed from the feed. I was deeply upset with the outcome and the comments, never before had I encountered such ignorance and hostility regarding my disability. It impacted my mood and I became a bit depressed about the whole situation. Then one day I found a lone sunflower sitting on my stoop with a very nice message attached. I almost cried with the nice sentiment. There really are some nice and understanding people out there.
Fast forward a year from this situation and countless emails, meetings and disagreements with “the Builder” and this is what I felt compelled to share on my own personal Facebook feed.
“I am NOT a patient person. I try to be. I am learning to be. It is so against my nature that to do so actually hurts me mentally and physically. It’s not a good feeling.
So with the past 11 months of this back and forth, back and forth, back and forth (you get the picture here I’m sure) with “the Builder” about the Yellow door has taken its toll on me and my loved ones. It wasn’t easy, and without the help of the man and in particular two very kind, knowledgeable neighbours (I am eternally grateful to you) I’m certain that the situation would have blown up in epic proportions. But I followed their advice.
Late yesterday afternoon “the Builder” presented me with several more colour options for my front door. The CEO that came to the house was clearly nervous and anxious. It was a side of him that I hadn’t seen before and trust me we have had some tense back and forths between us. It had gotten to the point where the owner of the company completely backed out of the conversation and the man had to step in as a mediator between us.
Ok, back to the presented colours…all, except one, missed the mark so completely that I wanted to rant and scream “WTF have you been doing during all our conversations?????” and then kick him in the gonads and walk away. But there was one yellow in the group that looked like it might work. It’s hard to tell because the sample is small and the computer generated image is just that, a generated image. So I agreed to try this colour on a trial basis only. The relief that washed over the CEO’s face and body was evident, even to a low-vision gal like me. Could it be that my fight to make them understand low vision/blindness finally got through? No, I don’t think so. I honestly think that the threat of further public scorn and a Human Rights fight made them hesitate and take a step back. They had gone to two law firms with the situation and both firms said it was a “grey” area. I had feedback from two experts as well and yes it is a grey area…if I chose to take it to Human Rights it would be a lengthy 5 year battle which I would undoubtly win but at what cost to me? To my loved ones? To my community? Remember- I have no patience! There are other options available but I’m not there yet.
In the meantime my door will be painted next week in Yellow! Time will tell if it will be bright enough for my needs. They have stated that if I need a brighter yellow then I will have to provide them with a doctors note to explain. At first I was disgusted. I have to PROVE that I’m blind? The words of a Low vision specialist don’t qualify? The fact that I get a disability pension doesn’t mean anything? The fact that I have a white cane means nothing? *shakes head*
But I realize now that they may never understand. Now I have to be the better person and continue to educate them on the matter and if that requires a doctors note then they shall have it.
Here is what they presented me with. Let’s see how it goes!”
Now as I sit here, almost two years after this ridiculous discriminatory, non-inclusive, ignorant situation, I will tell you this. I tried to make this Banana Yellow colour work. I have lived with it through rain, fog, snow, overcast and bright sunny days. Unfortunately it does not meet my low-vision requirements. So I have submitted to “the Builder” a doctors note stating a brighter yellow is required, to which “the Builder” has not YET acknowledged!
To be honest, I almost submitted to “the Builder” and just accepted what they offered just to keep the peace. But then I thought “Why should I deny myself and my disability something so small and inconsequential that would help me so immensely in feeling safe in my own community?”
So now I am an unwilling, public advocate for Blindness. I am not comfortable in this role as I don’t like sharing deeply personal things with strangers, but I am doing what I feel is best. I am trying to educate others on what it is to live with multiple disabilities and I will keep fighting…