Most of my musings in this column space are about our two youngest, Rachel and Janneke. I’ve used my caregiver lens to focus on matters related to the girls, mindful of their disability. Yet there are six that make up our family, and my perspective is just one of several that helps to amplify Rachel and Janneke’s voices. Meet our oldest daughter, Emily. She is a third-year Humber College student, concentrating on a film studies major.
Emily: My earliest memory of my sisters is actually hard to recall. I don’t really remember a time when they weren’t a part of my life. I was four years old when Rachel was born, and life was a bit of a blur in those years. I do remember friends from school coming over and being uneasy around my sisters. You could tell they were not comfortable with disability. I learned from those friendships that we were not like other families.
Sara: When Rachel was born, I remember Ralph and I taking Emily and Soph to visit their new sister in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). They were four and two years of age, and they thought the hospital was a giant playground. But, I would agree with Emily: those early days were a blur for us as parents as well. I do remember a sense of profound grief after Janneke was born. We cried as we prepared to tell Emily and Soph their new little sister was going to be a lot like Rachel. That hurt our hearts.
As Em and Soph grew older, we didn’t want to lose sight of their familiar needs while we adjusted to the steep learning curves of Rachel and Janneke’s needs. We never wanted Emily and Soph to feel as if they had to be anything other than themselves.
“Disability inclusion is an essential condition to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security.”United Nations, International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3)
Interestingly, in the last few years, we’ve noticed Emily’s attention to disability advocacy. Recently she created a short work of art, a film featuring her dad and Janneke.
Emily: I was given an assignment of creating a short film inspired by the UN’s sustainable development goals. When I read through the goals, I wanted to see more ideas explicit to accessibility and disability. I chose to respond to the sustainable cities goal and created a short film that offers no words. For two minutes, you watch my dad push Janneke around parts of our city (St. Catharines). My hope is to inspire viewers to reconsider accessibility and safety, specific to disability.
Sara: Emily’s film is titled “In Their Wheels – an SDG short film” and can be viewed on YouTube.
May we continue to learn together and be mindful of what matters most, striving towards a goal of creating belonging and community.
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