Transcript: Talking Accessibility in a Pandemic | Aug 07, 2020

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and burgundy tie.

A caption on screen reads "Ontario Hubs: Accessibility in a pandemic. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says FASHION MODEL RACHEL ROMU HAS BEEN BRINGING VISIBILITY TO DISABILITY, ONE RUNWAY AT A TIME. WE FIRST CAUGHT UP WITH HER IN 2018. HAVE A LOOK...

A clip plays on screen.

Music plays as a close-up shot shows a magazine title that reads "Rachel Romu, 'My cane feels regal on the runway.'"

As pictures flash by of a young woman with long blond hair posing with a cane, a female voice says THEY EXPECT ME TO BE IN SWEAT PANTS AND SAD ALL DAY. LIKE, SOCIETY EXPECTS ME IN SWEAT PANTS AND SAD ALL DAY. THERE'S NOT A LOT OF IMAGERY OF DISABLED PEOPLE BEING PROUD, BEING SEEN, BEING VISIBLE.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Rachel Romu: A spotlight on disability."

Jeyan says RACHEL ROMU IS A MODEL, AN ACTIVIST, A WRITER AND MUSICIAN. THE 24-YEAR-OLD HAS BEEN TURNING HEADS IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY, NOT JUST FOR HER HEIGHT OR LOOKS, BUT FOR MAKING DISABILITY VISIBLE ON THE RUNWAY.

Rachel sits inside a room. A caption reads "Rachel Romu. Disability Advocate."

Rachel says IT'S IMPORTANT TO ME TO HAVE IT THERE WHEREVER IT FITS AND WHEREVER IT MAKES SENSE BECAUSE THAT IS NOT ALL OF MY SELF CONCEPT BUT IT'S A HUGE PART OF HOW I NAVIGATE THE WORLD AND HOW THE WORLD VIEWS ME.

Jeyan says SHE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH A AIR GENETIC DISORDER WHICH REQUIRES HER TO USE A CANE AND WALKER TO GET AROUND... RARE. BUT THAT WASN'T ALWAYS THE CASE FOR THIS ONCE PROMISING ATHLETE.

Rachel says I DECIDED TO MOVE ON TO TRACK AND FIELD EVENTUALLY, HAVING TRIED IT IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, BECAUSE HIGH JUMP KIND OF FELT LIKE GYMNASTICS FOR TALL PEOPLE. AND IT PROGRESSED FROM THERE WHERE TRACK AND FIELD BECAME MY MAIN FOCUS OF A SPORT.

A picture shows a younger Rachel at the exact moment she's jumping over a pole.
Another picture shows her suspended in mid-air as she performs a long jump.
A third picture shows Rachel running on a red racetrack.

Jeyan says SHE WAS THE MVP OF HER TRACK TEAM FOUR YEARS IN A ROW IN THUNDER BAY. AND IN 2010, SHE REPRESENTED CANADA IN THE YOUTH OLYMPICS IN SINGAPORE. SPORTS HAD ALWAYS PLAYED A BIG ROLE IN HER LIFE, EVEN INTO UNIVERSITY.

Rachel says I WAS AT TRACK PRACTICE ONE DAY AND I WAS IN THE WEIGHT ROOM AND IT WAS A VERY EASY DAY, AND I WAS TRAINING WITH MY COACH AND I WAS TRAINING ONE ON ONE BECAUSE I WAS NOT VERY EXPERIENCED WITH WEIGHTLIFTING IN PARTICULAR, AND NOTHING ACTUALLY WENT WRONG THAT DAY. BUT IT WAS THE NEXT MORNING THAT I COULDN'T SIT UP OUT OF BED WITHOUT ONE OF MY LEGS GOING NUMB. I FIGURED SOMETHING WAS SERIOUSLY WRONG, SO I WENT AND SAW MY TEAM DOCTOR AND MY TEAM DOCTOR UNFORTUNATELY DIDN'T TAKE ME ALL THAT SERIOUSLY AND BASICALLY SAID, DON'T SIT DOWN FOR TWO WEEKS AND YOU'LL BE FINE.

Jeyan says SHE ENDED UP TEARING TWO DISKS IN HER LOWER BACK, WHICH LATER LED TO THE DISCOVERY OF A TUMOUR NEAR HER SPINAL CORD. IN 2014, SHE HAD SURGERY TO REMOVE IT. BUT THINGS ONLY GOT WORSE FROM THERE.

A picture shows Rachel from behind, with a long scar running vertically down the middle of her back.
In a short clip, she takes pills from a bottle.

Rachel says MY LEFT ARM WAS GOING NUMB A LOT AND I WAS DROPPING THINGS IN MY HOUSE, SO AT THAT POINT I KNEW IT WAS MORE COMPLICATED THAN I WAS ORIGINALLY WILLING TO ACCEPT. TODAY THIS MANY TYLENOL EVERY DAY FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS...

Jeyan says FOR MORE THAN A YEAR SHE URGED HER DOCTORS TO LOOK INTO HER PAIN FURTHER. SHE WASN'T ABLE TO WORK AND WAS FORCED TO DROP OUT OF SCHOOL.

Rachel says I'VE NEVER FELT SO BETRAYED BY PEOPLE I'M ASKING FOR HELP FOR, IT'S THEIR OBLIGATION TO HELP, BUT ALSO BY MY OWN BODY BECAUSE AS MY REALITY IS BEING DENIED, I'M LOOKING AT MY BODY, OOH, YOU SHOULDN'T HURT. ARE YOU CRAZY? LIKE, WHAT'S GOING ON WITH YOU, RACHEL? LIKE, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU? THEY'RE SAYING NOTHING'S WRONG BUT WHY CAN'T I GET OUT OF BED THIS MORNING? IT WAS JUST THIS REALLY UNNERVING EXPERIENCE ON SO MANY LEVELS.

Jeyan says RACHEL NEEDED A SECOND SURGERY. ALL EIGHT OF THE SCREWS FROM HER FIRST ONE HAD FALLEN OUT. FOUR OF HER VERTEBRAE'S WERE FRACTURED, AND IN 2016 SHE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH EHLERS DANLOS.

Rachel says IT IS A CONNECTIVE TISSUE DISEASE THAT AFFECTS YOUR COLLAGEN PRODUCTION. IT AFFECTS MY CIRCULATORY SYSTEM WHERE I HAVE SOME HEART RACE-Y DYSFUNCTION, GOING FROM LAYING TO SITTING UP, MY HEART RATE WILL ALMOST DOUBLE.

A picture shows Rachel in a competition, jumping up in the air with her arms held up.
Then, in a black and white picture, Rachel poses in a black dress.

Jeyan says EHLERS DANLOS ALSO AFFECTS HER JOINTS WHICH, LIKE HER HANDS, SUFFER FROM FREQUENT DISLOCATION. ANY CHANCE SHE HAD OF A CAREER IN TRACK AND FIELD WAS OVER. SO RACHEL HAD TO REINVENT HERSELF. SHE PURSUED MODELLING IN HOPES THAT SHE COULD DISPEL MISCONCEPTIONS OF DISABILITY CREATED BY PEOPLE LIKE KYLIE JENNER, AN ABLE-BODIED REALITY TV STAR WHO APPEARED ON THE COVER OF A MAGAZINE IN A WHEELCHAIR.

In a picture, Kylie Jenner poses in a wheelchair wearing a tight black dress.

Rachel says I FELT SO ALIENATED BY ALL THESE FALSE IMAGES OF DISABILITY, ALL THESE ABLE-BODIED PEOPLE PUTTING ON A MOBILITY DEVICE LIKE IT'S A PROP OR A COSTUME AND THEY COULD TAKE OFF AT THE END OF THE DAY WHEN I COULDN'T TAKE MY DISABILITY OFF AT THE END OF THE DAY.

A short clip shows Rachel walking down a runway during a fashion show, using her cane. She wears an orange crop top, a knee-length metallic red skirt and red sneakers.

A woman says SHE HAS A REALLY NICE LOOK. SHE HAS AN ALIEN VIBE TO HER, WHICH I LOVE, AND ALSO SHE IS JUST SUCH A GENUINELY NICE PERSON HERSELF.

Jeyan says HAYLEY ELSAESSER IS A TORONTO-BASED FASHION DESIGNER AND IS KNOWN FOR HAVING DIVERSE MODELS ON HER RUNWAY.

A caption reads "Hayley Elsaesser. Fashion Designer."

Hayley, in her thirties, with long straight hair dyed in hues of pink and blue, says WHEN I CAST FOR MY SHOWS, IT'S HALF ABOUT HOW A PERSON FITS THE CLOTHING AND HOW THEY LOOK AND THE GENERAL VIBE THAT THEY HAVE, IF THEY HAVE SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT HOW THEY LOOK, BUT ALSO ABOUT THE PERSON THEMSELVES.

Jeyan says THIS PAST SUMMER, RACHEL GOT HER CHANCE TO WALK IN TORONTO'S FASHION WEEK. SHE WAS THE ONLY MODEL WITH A VISIBLE DISABILITY.

A short clip shows a group of models, including Rachel, rehearsing a runway walk.
Pictures taken at a fashion show flash by showing Rachel in a purple jacket and pink trousers.

Rachel says HAYLEY WAS THE ONLY DESIGNER TO BE OPEN TO SEE ME, AND I DIDN'T EXPECT ANYBODY WOULD BE OPEN TO SEE ME, BUT I THOUGHT THAT THEY WOULD, YOU KNOW, LIKE LET ME COME THROUGH AND SAY LIKE, HI, NICE TO MEET YOU, AND STILL NOT BOOK ME, BUT HAYLEY WAS THE ONLY DESIGNER TO LIKE DIRECTLY REACH OUT TO ME, BEING LIKE, HI, I'M HAVING A CASTING. I WOULD LOVE FOR YOU TO BE THERE. I REMEMBER GETTING OFF OF THE RUNWAY AND I WAS SO GRATEFUL, I ONLY HAD ONE LOOK THAT DAY BECAUSE IT WASN'T NECESSARILY THE FACT THAT I WALKED DOWN THE RUNWAY A NUMBER OF TIMES BEFORE BUT JUST KNOWING WHAT THE EVENT MEANT AND KNOWING THAT I KIND OF FELT LIKE I WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE THERE BUT SOMEHOW STILL WAS AND FELT LIKE I CHALLENGED PEOPLE AND CHANGED THEIR MINDS AND I SAW PEOPLE LIKE CLAPPING AND IT WAS JUST VERY OVERWHELMING. I'M SO THANKFUL TO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO BRING THAT KIND OF VISIBILITY TO DISABILITY.

Hayley says IN GENERAL, FASHION IS VERY EXCLUSIVE, WHICH I HATE. IN THE PAST I KIND OF FELT LIKE AN OUTSIDER. I'VE ALWAYS BEEN SOMEONE A LITTLE BIT BIGGER AND I HAVE TATTOOS AND COLOURFUL HAIR. SO I'VE NEVER REALLY FIT INTO THE MOULD OF THE TYPICAL FASHION PERSON. SO I CAN KIND OF UNDERSTAND NOT FEELING LIKE YOU BELONG.

Rachel says EVERY TIME I HEAR THAT CAMERA CLICK, I THINK, THIS IS ANOTHER PHOTO THAT PUTS MORE DISABILITY VISIBILITY IN THE WORLD.

A song says I CAN'T FORGET THIS NOW...

An animated slate reads "The Agenda in the Summer. 2020 Update."

Jeyan says THAT WAS THEN. HAVE THINGS MOVED FORWARD SINCE? AND WHAT ROLE DOES THIS PANDEMIC PLAY IN THE LIVES OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES? WE'RE PLEASED TO CHECK IN WITH RACHEL ROMU, WHO JOINS US THIS EVENING FROM THUNDER BAY. WELCOME TO THE SHOW. PLEASURE TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

The screen splits to show Rachel, who appears with a caption that reads "Thunder Bay, Ontario." She's wearing a sleeveless blue blouse.

Rachel says THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

Jeyan says SO LET'S PICK UP KIND OF WHERE WE LEFT OFF. HOW HAS LIFE BEEN SINCE THAT VIDEO AIRED ON TVO IN 2018?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Rachel Romu. Fashion Model."

Rachel says LIFE HAS BEEN SO WILD. IT'S ALMOST LIKE THAT VIDEO SORT OF SHOWED MY CAPABILITIES TO LIKE A WHOLE DIFFERENT SET OF PEOPLE AND IT ALMOST ACCELERATED MY CAREER IN CERTAIN WAYS AND IT'S BEEN INCREDIBLE TO FIND MYSELF NOT ONLY IN NEW SPACES IN FASHION BUT ALSO IN NEW SPACES AS A MUSICIAN AS WELL. I'VE GOT TO PLAY IN NORTH BY NORTHEAST, PRIDE, AND A SOLD-OUT SHOW AT THE HORSESHOE TAVERN IN SEPTEMBER OF 2019.

Jeyan says I WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR MUSIC AS WELL BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, A LOT OF IT IS SUPER EMOTIONAL, A LOT OF THE LYRICS YOU WRITE. THERE'S THIS SHOT THAT I HAVE IN THAT VIDEO WHERE YOU'RE WRITING LYRICS DOWN. THESE ARE VERY IMPORTANT LYRICS TO YOU AND MUSIC TO YOU. TALK TO US ABOUT KIND OF THE PROCESS AND WHERE DO YOU KIND OF SEE YOURSELF AS A MUSICIAN?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Rachel Romu. Disability Advocate."

Rachel says AS A SONGWRITER, I'VE TRIED TO FOCUS ON SORT OF A LITTLE BIT OF SELF-CARE WITH SOME OF THE THINGS I'VE GONE THROUGH, AND DISABLED WOMEN ARE LIKE DISPROPORTIONATELY AT RISK OF EXPERIENCING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE BECAUSE OF THE WAY IN WHICH WE ARE OCCASIONALLY DEPENDENT ON OTHERS, THE WAY IN WHICH ODSP IS STRUCTURED WHERE WE LOSE A LOT OF SUPPORT AS SOON AS WE END UP IN A COMMON-LAW OR MARRIAGE-TYPE PARTNERSHIP, SO I WANTED TO SPEAK TO THAT IN A LOT OF MY WRITING AND SPEAK TO THAT HONESTLY, AND AS WELL AS JUST SOME OF THE POSITIVE AND MORE JOYFUL EXPERIENCES AS WELL. BUT IT'S JUST ABOUT BEING AS TRUTHFUL AS I CAN BE ABOUT WHAT IT'S LIKE MOVING THROUGH THE WORLD WITH THIS BODY.

Jeyan says NOW, I WANT TO TALK ABOUT KIND OF YOUR MODELLING. OBVIOUSLY THINGS HAVE SLOWED DOWN SIGNIFICANTLY WITH COVID-19. BUT WHAT WAS YOUR LAST MODELLING PROJECT BEFORE THINGS KIND OF SHUT DOWN?

The caption changes to "Rachel Romu, @RachelRomu."

Rachel says YES, THINGS HAVE SLOWED DOWN FOR SURE, BUT MY LAST PROPER SHOOT WAS IN FEBRUARY, AND IT WAS CREATIVE. IT ENDED UP FINDING A HOME IN THE SUMMER 400-PAGE EDITION OF LA OFFICIALE. I'M EXCITED ABOUT THAT BECAUSE IT'S PART OF THE TIME I'M IN A MAGAZINE NOT PURELY ABOUT MY ADVOCACY BUT JUST FOR BEING REALLY GOOD AT MY JOB, AND IT'S INCREDIBLE TO HAVE THIS HUGE, HUGE, HUGE MOMENT OF BREAK THROUGH SUCCESS IN THE YEARS THAT HAVE COME.

Jeyan says DO YOU FIND THAT'S A CHALLENGE THAT, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE LOOK AT YOU AS SOMEONE WHO IS AN ADVOCATE, AS A DISABILITY ADVOCATE, AND THAT'S ESSENTIALLY WHY YOU FEEL MAYBE SOMETIMES YOU GET THE WORK YOU DO, OR IS THIS KIND OF THE CASE WHERE, HEY, I AM GOOD AT WHAT I DO?

Rachel says IT'S COMPLICATED BECAUSE A LOT OF THE PLACES THAT I'VE BEEN MAGAZINE-WISE HAVE FEATURED ME AS AN ADVOCATE BUT HAVE YET TO FEATURE ME AS A MODEL, AND THAT'S PART OF WHY I'M AN ADVOCATE. IT'S ABOUT THE EMPLOYMENT EQUITY ASPECT OF THINGS, WHERE I TALK ABOUT HOW ACCOMMODATING FOR DISABLED PEOPLE MEANS. WE CAN DO A REALLY GOOD JOB AT OUR TASKS, BUT I HAVEN'T ALWAYS BEEN ABLE TO GO FROM INTERVIEW SUBJECT TO MODEL IN THE MAGAZINE YET, BUT THIS WAS A BIG STEP TOWARDS THAT.

Jeyan says I WANT TO TALK ABOUT TORONTO FASHION WEEK. IT HAD A HUGE IMPACT ON YOUR CAREER. BUT EARLIER THIS YEAR, IT WAS ANNOUNCED THAT THIS YEAR'S SHOW WOULD BE CANCELLED. NOW, FOR REASONS UNRELATED TO COVID-19. HOW DID YOU TAKE THAT NEWS INITIALLY WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCED IN JANUARY?

Rachel says I WAS HEART BROKEN WHEN TORONTO FASHION WEEK WAS ANNOUNCED TO BE CANCELLED BECAUSE IT NOT ONLY BROKE MY CAREER, BUT MANY OF THE PEOPLE I'VE GOTTEN TO WORK WITH AS DESIGNERS AND OTHER MODELS AND ALL THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES PEOPLE HAVE BECOME FRIENDS AS WELL, AND THEY'RE ALL OF A SUDDEN OUT OF WORK OPPORTUNITY OR A PLACE TO SHOWCASE THEIR DESIGNS. AND I BELIEVE THAT THERE WAS DEFINITELY SOME ISSUES WITH THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE CANADIAN FASHION INDUSTRY. WE HAVE SOME INCREDIBLE DESIGNERS THAT HAVE YET TO BE RECOGNIZED ON A WORLD STAGE, AND WITH FASHION WEEK CANCELLED, IT MAKES IT ALMOST MORE DIFFICULT FOR DESIGNERS, MODELS, AND EVEN EVENT PRODUCERS TO BREAK OUT OF TORONTO AND HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THE EXTRAORDINARY THINGS THEY ARE TOTALLY CAPABLE OF.

Jeyan says I WANT TO PULL BACK THE CURTAIN A LITTLE BIT BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, YOU KIND OF GET THAT GLIMPSE OF THE CANADIAN FASHION INDUSTRY. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OR WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT THE INDUSTRY FACES IN TERMS OF TORONTO FASHION WEEK VERSUS PARIS, MILAN, AND SO FORTH?

Rachel says IN MY OPINION, SOME OF THE TORONTO FASHION WEEK FOCAL POINTS AREN'T NECESSARILY THE DESIGNERS THAT HAPPEN TO BE ENDING UP IN LARGE DEPARTMENT STORES AND THERE'S A LITTLE BIT OF A SENSE OF TRADITIONALISM, WHICH IT'S IMPORTANT TO HONOUR THE FASHION THAT WE HAVE KNOWN AND GROWN FROM, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I WASN'T SEEING THE SAME AMOUNT OF SHINE PUT ON SOME DESIGNERS THAT WERE DOING MORE DIFFERENT THINGS. WHETHER IT WAS A STREET WEAR COLLECTION WITH A SOCIAL-POLITICAL THEME OR EVEN JUST TRYING A DIFFERENT CUT OR EXPERIMENTING WITH HAVING PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT BODY TYPES AND GENDER IDENTITIES ALL OVER THE RUNWAY. IT WAS ALWAYS KIND OF NOT ACCEPTED AS WHOLEHEARTEDLY AS I HAD HOPED.

Jeyan says NOW, WHEN WE WERE TALKING EARLIER THIS YEAR, YOU HAD MENTIONED POSSIBLE PLANS OF WORKING IN THE U.S... THIS IS BEFORE THE PANDEMIC, OF COURSE. WHERE DOES THAT STAND AND WHAT WAS KIND OF THE ALLURE?

Rachel says THE ALLURE TO WORKING IN THE U.S. WAS THAT ALL THE BIG BRANDS THAT HAVE AMAZING e-COMMERCE CONTRACTS THAT ARE INCLUSIVE ESPECIALLY TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES EXIST THERE. MOST OF THAT WORK WAS IN THE UNITED STATES. HOWEVER, YOU NEED TO HAVE AN O-1 VISA TO BE ABLE TO WORK IN THE STATES IN THIS WORLD, AND THE CRITERIA IS EARNINGS ABOUT 30,000 dollars IN THE INDUSTRY OR HAVING AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE TALENT, WHICH IS WHY SOME OF THE PRESS ABOUT DISABILITY ADVOCACY WAS IMPORTANT. HOWEVER, THE U.S. IS CURRENTLY LOOKING A LOT MORE LIKE A NIGHTMARE AND ALSO I IMAGINE VISA PROCESS IS MORE STRINGENT AND REJECTED THAN USUAL.

Jeyan says I AM CURIOUS. YOU HAD TALKED ABOUT SOME OF THE RETAILERS THAT MAY NOT MAKE IT PAST THIS PANDEMIC. YOU'VE BEEN SLOWLY LOOKING AT GIGS AND ALREADY THINGS ARE KIND OF CHANGING IN THAT ASPECT. BUT WHAT DO YOU SEE THIS LOOKS LIKE AFTER?

Rachel says I SUSPECT THAT MALLS AS WE KNOW IT WILL NOT EXIST. I SUSPECT THAT OUR PURCHASING HABITS THAT WE CURRENTLY HAVE AS CONSUMERS IN NORTH AMERICA WILL DRASTICALLY CHANGE DUE TO AN ECONOMIC CRISIS. AND I SUSPECT THAT A LOT OF FASHION THAT IS MORE FINANCIALLY ACCESSIBLE TO FOLKS PERHAPS WON'T BE AS READILY AVAILABLE. IT'S A BIG QUESTION MARK.

Jeyan says I AM CURIOUS ABOUT THE GIGS THAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT AND BOOKING. TALK TO ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT'S ON THE HORIZON AND KIND OF HOW YOUR AGENCY AND HOW THE INDUSTRY IS KIND OF ADAPTING RIGHT NOW TO IT ALL.

Rachel says MY AGENTS, PACINO MODELS AND PEGGY HAVE BEEN SO WONDERFUL, NOT JUST FOR ME, FOR PROPER SANITIZATION AND PPE. I HAVE A SHOOT COMING UP FOR A MAGAZINE, I'M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT. IT'S ACTUALLY INCLUDING AN ADAPTIVE CLOTHING LINE SO IT'S THE FIRST TIME A DISABILITY-CENTRIC CLOTHING LINE IS SOMETHING THAT I GET TO DO IN A MAGAZINE STYLE SHOOT. MIND YOU, I'M A LITTLE BIT TERRIFIED BECAUSE I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT I MYSELF DON'T GET SICK BUT ALSO DON'T MAKE ANYBODY IN MY COMMUNITY UNWELL AS WELL. I'M BASICALLY GOING TO HAND SANITIZE UP TO MY ELBOWS.

Jeyan says I UNDERSTAND IN TERMS OF THE MODELLING INDUSTRY, A LOT OF THIS IS CASTING CALLS, MODELS COMING IN, DOING THEIR WALKS. YOU KNOW, THERE'S A LOT OF HIGH TRAFFIC. HOW HAS THE INDUSTRY CHANGED THAT? ARE YOU DOING EVERYTHING VIRTUALLY OR...

Rachel says FOR THE MOST PART, THE CASTING PROCESS IS ENTIRELY DIGITAL NOW, WHICH I KIND OF LOVE TO A DEGREE, BUT IT'S IMPORTANT TO HAVE A WORKING AND GOOD CELL PHONE. SO THAT'S A FEATURE THAT'S MADE IT I GUESS A LITTLE BIT MORE ACCESSIBLE AND A LITTLE BIT MORE FLEXIBLE ON MOST PEOPLE'S SCHEDULES BECAUSE YOU CAN KIND OF TAKE YOUR DIGITALS OR FILM YOUR CASTING SEGMENT ANY TIME THROUGHOUT THE DAY.

Jeyan says NOW, I WANT TO ASK, OBVIOUSLY IN THE PIECE THAT WE AIRED EARLIER, WE TALKED ABOUT EHLERS DANLOS SYNDROME. HOW ARE YOU DOING? YOU LOOK WELL. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN FEELING WITH THAT CONDITION?

Rachel says I'VE BEEN FEELING A LOT BETTER COMPARED TO THE TIME IN WHICH WE MET. MIND YOU, IT'S BECAUSE I SORT OF UNLOCKED A FEW OTHER FACETS OF EDS. I WAS HAVING SOME ADDITIONAL ISSUES THAT I SAW AN IMMUNOLOGIST FOR, SOME MASKED CELL STUFF AND CELIAC THINGS. NOW THAT I'M ABSORBING FOOD PROPERLY, I CAN REALLY, REALLY TAKE ON THE WORLD IN A DIFFERENT CAPACITY BECAUSE I HAVE ENERGY THAT I DIDN'T KNOW I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE.

Jeyan says I AM CURIOUS, FOR SOMEONE WITH A DISABILITY, HOW HAS COPING BEEN DURING THIS PANDEMIC?

Rachel says A GLOBAL HEALTH CRISIS HAS DEFINITELY BROUGHT BACK SOME HORRIFYING MEMORIES OF A PERSONAL HEALTH CRISIS. SO I'VE BEEN EXPERIENCING I GUESS WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS, PLUS MY OWN BAGGAGE AT THE SAME TIME. BUT I THINK SOME OF THE EXPERIENCES I'VE ALREADY HAD JUST WITH MY OWN HEALTH HAVE LED ME TO BE UNFAZED BY STAYING HOME AND ISOLATING AND WORKING FROM HOME BECAUSE THAT WAS MY LIFE FOR MANY YEARS PRIOR TO THIS.

Jeyan says HAVE YOU HAD PEOPLE REACH OUT, FRIENDS AND STUFF, AND KIND OF EXPRESS HOW FRUSTRATED THEY WERE WITH BEING COOPED UP AT HOME AND NOT BEING ABLE TO GO OUT AND KIND OF HAVING TO TELL THEM, HEY, THIS IS KIND OF MY REALITY FOR THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS?

Rachel says YEAH, THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF CONVERSATIONS WHERE I'VE LITERALLY JUST SAID, "WELCOME TO THE CLUB." MIND YOU, FOR THE LAST YEAR, I'VE BEEN A LOT MORE OUT AND ABOUT JUST BECAUSE MY HEALTH WAS GETTING BETTER. BUT IT SORT OF PROVIDED A WINDOW INTO ABLED PEOPLE'S PSYCHE WHERE THEY CAN SORT OF SEE WHERE DISABLED PEOPLE HAVE BEEN LIVING AND SOCIALLY INTERACTING FOR THIS ENTIRE TIME.

Jeyan says NOW, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN PRAISED BY SOME FOR THE CANADIAN EMERGENCY RESPONSE BENEFIT, ALSO KNOWN AS CERB, AS A RESPONSE TO LOSS OF INCOME FOR CANADIANS. BUT IT DOESN'T DELIVER FOR ALL, PARTICULARLY THOSE WITH DISABILITIES. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT? I KNOW YOU'VE BEEN ADVOCATING FOR THAT, FOR A CHANGE IN THAT. TELL ME KIND OF WHAT YOU KIND OF FIRST SAW WHEN CERB WAS OUT THERE. I KNOW YOU'RE ALSO ON ODSP AS WELL, SO SEEING THAT KIND OF DIFFERENCE AND CHANGE. FOR OUR VIEWERS, I WANT TO MAKE SURE I GET THE NUMBERS RIGHT. FOR CERB YOU OF COURSE GET 2,000 dollars. FOR SOMEONE ON ODSP, YOU GET JUST UNDER 1200 dollars.

Rachel says AND YOU ONLY GET JUST UNDER 1200 dollars IF YOU'RE ABLE TO WORK AND GET THE BONUS 100 dollars. BUT TO ME IT'S ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING THAT SOMEBODY SAT AND MADE A CALCULATION THAT THE BASIC NEEDS REQUIREMENTS ACROSS CANADA WAS APPROXIMATELY 2,000 dollars, AND THAT'S FOR WORKING CLASS PEOPLE THAT MAY HAVE SAVINGS, THAT MAY HAVE A RAINY DAY FUND, THAT MAY BE HOME OWNERS, THAT MAY HAVE MORE FLEXIBLE HOUSING NEEDS BECAUSE OF THEIR ACCESSIBILITY NEEDS NOT BEING SOMETHING THAT DISABLED PEOPLE HAVE TO INTERFACE WITH. SO IT'S BEEN REALLY TOUGH TO DIGEST FOR MANY PEOPLE ON ODSP, THAT THE NUMBERS ARE, WE NEED 2,000 dollars TO SURVIVE, BUT WE HAVE NEVER, EVER, EVER BEEN GIVEN THE NUMBER THAT IS THE NECESSARY AMOUNT TO SURVIVE. IF ODSP WAS DESIGNED FOR US TO LIVE, THEN PERHAPS WE WOULD ACTUALLY HAVE THAT NUMBER MET.

Jeyan says I WANT TO QUICKLY ASK YOU... IT'S KIND OF A BIG QUESTION. BUT IF THERE WAS ONE THING THAT YOU COULD SEE CHANGE THAT COMES OUT OF THIS PANDEMIC, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Rachel says I'M SEEING A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO WERE TOO BUSY AND BURNT OUT TO BE POLITICALLY ACTIVE REALLY STEPPING UP, AND THAT'S SUPPORTING MANY ISSUES REGARDING SOCIAL JUSTICE, COMMUNITY SAFETY, AND I THINK THAT THAT'S INCREDIBLE. I FEEL LIKE WE WILL HAVE A MORE ACTIVE COMMUNITY WORKING WITH OUR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT, OUR FEDERAL, PROVINCIAL, AND EVEN OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS DEMANDING CHANGES THAT SUPPORT OUR COMMUNITIES, KEEP US ALIVE AND THRIVING.

The caption changes to "Producer: Jeyan Jeganathan, @JeyanTVO."

Jeyan says RACHEL, IT'S A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU ON THE SHOW AGAIN. IT'S ALWAYS GREAT TO SEE YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TONIGHT.

Rachel says THANK YOU.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Talking Accessibility in a Pandemic