Dear Mayor and Council
Congratulations on your new roles. I wish you every success.
I am writing to you in regard to my friends Lisa and Meliah, two Spirit Orcas and Victoria Special Olympic Athletes. I am asking that in your new role you help them.
My partner and I take Lisa, Meliah and our friend,Ben, for dinner every few weeks. It is an activity we all enjoy. After dinner our routine is to bring Lisa and Meliah to the #14 bus stop on the 1200 block of Yates and then bring Ben to the bus stop behind the Legislature. Lisa waits with Meliah until the bus comes and then she walks to her home nearby.
The freedom to move throughout the city has been paramount to Lisa, Meliah and Ben’s independence as adults. Without this they are often homebound, and at the mercy of parent and caregiver schedules. Being able to move freely throughout the city has meant they can goto work, plan their own activities, and meet with friends based on their schedules not someone else’s. It has also provided relief to family members who are called upon to help their adult children navigate the world.
On Friday, October 28 around 8:00 PM Lisa and Meliah were waiting at the #14 bus stop. The#11 stopped and the bus driver kicked a man off the bus. The man proceeded to harass Lisa and Meliah, taunting them. They asked him to stop and attempted to walk away. He followed them continuing to taunt them. They felt threatened a she got closer. They yelled for help several times, as loud as they could. The man continued to get closer, reaching out to Meliah who turned around and put her hand up yelling STOP! STOP.
One of the residents from a nearby building came out and escorted Melaih and Lisa to safety in a building lobby. We are so grateful to this person.
Lisa called her mom and Meliah called me so we could come to rescue them. They were terrified to leave the building. They could not tell if the man was still nearby lurking in the hedges. I will never forget the look of fear on their faces when I arrived. They were so afraid to leave the building. As soon as they did, they hugged each other and began crying, sharing how afraid they were. I escorted Lisa safely home while Meliah waited with my partner. We then took her home.
I have been coaching Special Olympic athletes for over 10 years. It is only recently that I am hearing of incidents like this, with this being the 3rd that has directly impacted the athletes I coach. One of the incidents was a fairly serious physical assault. We do not know what would have happened had someone not helped Lisa and Meliah.
It seems unreasonable to me that people with disabilities cannot move freely throughout the city without fear of being assaulted. There is clearly a public safety issue in Victoria that needs to be addressed. I am actively working with Lisa and Meliah to help them work through the trauma this caused. The first step was to file a police report, which they have done. Our next step is to find out from you, those who are in charge of our city, what steps you will be taking to restore the freedom and ensure the safety of Lisa, Meliah and others with disabilities in our city.