by Tony Diamonti

Hello people!  Ladies and gents, boys and girls, so nice to live here in the heart of downtown Toronto, I’m Tony. 

I am a non-speaking man, with a severe form of Cerebral Palsy,... or so they tell me.   You know, that word “SEVERE” is quite ominous sounding, it sounds like I’m in a constant state of agony.   “OH THE PAIN, THE PAIN!! SOMEBODY PLEASE SHOOT ME, PLEASE SHOOT ME!!  OOOOOH, HA,HO,HO,HO, OOOOOOOH!!!”

“Or at least feed me a bunch of drugs, so I can’t feel depressed.”

There are people who have THAT kind of perception of us.  Hopefully I will be able to open their eyes towards the many people living here in the downtown district, so they can see our strengths and spirits that go way beyond our physical limitations.  If they can’t open their eyes to us, I don’t think they can open their eyes to themselves.  Leaving me asking myself, “Who are the people that are disabled?”

I’m a person with a very obvious physical disability, and I tend to scare other people with my SEVERE disability.  Whenever I push myself backwards along the busy sidewalks, I see these horrified faces staring down at me, as if to say, “OH GOD, HE REALLY NEEDS KAVORKIAN’S HELP!”

Then there’s those other people, with so called, strong religious faiths.  “BELIEVE IN THE HOLY BIBLE MY BROTHER, AND GOD WILL CAST THOSE DEMONS FROM YOUR BODY!”... I think to myself, “pal, you need to ask God to draw out those demons from your brain!”

I often ask myself, “what is a SEVERE disability?”  Is it really a physical state? Or is it in fact, a state of mind?

To be disabled, or NOT to be, THAT is our choice. As I look among the many people who are moving forward and leading their lives with a positive spirit, despite their seemingly profound physical limitations, I’d say we made that choice.  I’d say we made a conscious choice, NOT to be disabled.  
I myself, am here to represent non-speaking people.  I know some of you have heard me say this statement more than once or twice...O.K. so I’ve said it more than a hundred times, and I’ll say AGAIN!

Being a non-speaking man with a severe form of Cerebral Palsy, leaves me alone in my thoughts.   I am alone among other people.   My identity is often locked inside my mind, even when people do communicate with me.

Think about it for a minute, for all you people here who can verbalize, and express your feelings, emotions, and thoughts through free flowing interaction and dialogue.  What if you could only communicate through a slow, and inexpressive method such as a computerized monotone voice, or a display communication board, where you had to point to single letters or words.  Where you could not voice out any human emotions.  THAT my friends is the only real disability that I believe I have, and at the risk of speaking for other non-speaking people, I believe they also want to make this point clear.

Let us ponder this for a moment:  Is a person really disabled at all, if he/she is capable of leading a life with a strong will, a healthy mind, and a passionate soul?  No matter how their bodies may have so many physical limitations?

We can demonstrate how our inner power, transcends us through our physical limitations.  We are individuals with a PURPOSE, and I believe THAT purpose is... to lead the rest of society out of this ever present mundane, superficial, self indulging, monetary state, which so often devalues our own lives as physically challenged people. 

"Everybody" has a purpose in this life, as crappy as life may seem.   

Our lives are unique, productive, creative and, HELLO!!... WE ARE SEXUAL TOO!!  We too are just like the rest of the able-bodied society.  SURPRISE SURPRISE!

As we are in this new Millennium, let us all here today, move forward with our lives, and ignore the negativity that is so often projected on us by society, and its structured “normal way of life.”  

That word “NORMAL” is so damn contrite and BORING, it makes me wanna slip into a coma, and live out the rest of my life in a dream state...but I guess that’s another issue all-together.

I guess the bottom line here folks is, being proud of who we are, and how we live life with independence, dignity, creativity, passion and love.  We are here today to celebrate just THAT.

I hope I speak for other people who are also labelled as "severely disabled" in saying...    A person's strength of character and value are properly measured by the mind and soul, rather than the abled or disabled body.

As I look among you all here today, I do NOT see people with disabilities... I see people like me.  Strong, beautiful people!

Thank you.
(right hand raised, in a sign meaning love or peace)