Disabled people are helpless in Nunavut
I am writing to explain my situation and describe how I have been struggling for a very long time as a person with a disability.
I lost my strength in April of 1958, and in those days, planes were very slow. I don’t recall anything even when we arrived south. That is how ill I was, I had no escort, because in those days we used to have no escorts when we travelled for medical reasons.
I was in the hospital for two years. I was back in Iqaluit in 1960 and I stayed there for about three more years. Back then, in 1960, Pangnirtung didn’t have any doctors.
Back in those years, from 1960-1997, I used to walk with canes in both arms. But when my doctor got worried about my bones, I started using a wheelchair. I am in a wheelchair now, and it is even harder than before.
I cannot enter any building easily. The only way that I can enter is if they have wheelchair ramps. I cannot go to places when I want to. When you are in this situation, you feel so different that you have to cry your tears away.
It’s even a struggle when I travel on the road in my wheelchair. It is too bumpy and there is snow, so that makes it even harder. It is dangerous too.
For example, in the South, or in Yellowknife, it is very comfortable to go about when you are in a wheelchair. It seems as if you are in a different world, because the roads are so comfortable.
When you are disabled, it is a struggle to use a door, trying to get in and out. In the south, you don’t even have to touch the door to use it.
I am telling you the truth because that is the position I am in right now, that is my living. When I go south, it seems as if I have entered another world altogether. That is what I think, “I am in another world.”
What can we do to be as comfortable here in the Arctic, for those of us who are in wheelchairs? How can the authorities help us disabled people in Nunavut. What can we do to make them believe us?
The Nunavut government should be able to help us to be more contented in our lives. They should assist people with disabilities. People in wheelchairs should be able to get help with transportation.
Another example is that when a person in a wheelchair arrives in Iqaluit, if the person in a wheelchair didn’t go there for hospital and-or medical reasons, he or she is on their own, because there are no means of transportation for disabled people.
There is a vehicle in Iqaluit that can assist people in wheelchairs, but it is only for people going to Iqaluit for medical purposes, but there is not even one taxi that can take people in a wheelchair. When you are taking a cab, even the cab drivers get put off when your wheelchair can’t fit into their cab, because the wheelchair is too big.
I even think, “if I travel to Iqaluit without an escort, without someone to assist me, if I travel alone without bringing someone to push me, and I don’t have anyone during the winter, maybe I am going there to die because I don’t have help with me.” I assume these things will happen to me because Nunavut doesn’t have any means of transportation for people in wheelchairs.
Here in my home town of Pangnirtung, if I go out alone, I am already in death, because without help, I cannot go in my own door by myself and I can’t even go to other houses because I can’t get in alone. We are not getting any support in communities for those of us who have disabilities.
I even assume that people are thinking, “he doesn’t have to be anywhere outside, he can’t even open the door himself, it would be better if he just stayed inside the house all the time.”
I even think that is what the government people think of me, and you can even see it in their faces. When you are disabled, you are very passive and that goes for every disabled person, because they get scared very easily. Even when a person doesn’t speak, you see it in their faces. That is the reason why we need assistance and that is why we voice our concerns as disabled persons. Thank you.
Davidee Arnakak is chair of the Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society.