Ms. Alisha Lee

My lovely niece, Alisha, passed away several months ago. She was very loved.

Whenever I think about Alisha, even when she was alive, I get very upset because of how unfair the world was to her. I don’t mean unfair in the sense of the severe physical disability she had to live with her whole life — that sucked, but was a random thing that happened and was no one’s fault. I mean unfair in the ways the world around her treated her that were completely unrelated to her disability — or at least should have been unrelated to her disability.

An example: When Alisha was trying to work a way to attend York University — which is technically in Toronto, right at the Steeles border — she was unable to get wheeltrans service to the university because York Region wheeltrans isn’t allowed to leave York Region borders. Hard as she tried, she was unable to find a reasonable workaround this issue — and why the fuck should she even have to spend her time doing that? Sigh. Alisha didn’t want special treatment or accommodation — she just wanted common sense. All that was needed for this non-problem to go away was for one bureaucrat in the wheeltrans system to recognize the intent of the rule, that this was an exceptional circumstance where the rule did not apply, and to turn their head the other way and stamp approval. Just one person in the long chain of approvals needed to have that little bit of courage, and little bit of empathy. Alas, bureaucrats are incentivized to follow rules — very rigidly — nevermind the intention.

There are countless examples I can give similar to this one, occurring at many points in Alisha’s life, whether in the education system or health system or legal system or transit system or even the tax system, and which I don’t want to discuss here. These obstacles were never related to Alisha’s disability directly, but were the result of misaligned, one-size-fits-all, know-it-all systems. Too many people in the cog resolving: “That’s not my department. Hey, I don’t make the rules.” No empathy, no courage.

Nobody wants special treatment or special accommodation — people just want empathy. And it’s not fair.