Today we welcome Ray Ellis, a member of the Christian Horizons Advisory Council and his local Our Voices Matter advocacy group. Ray lives in Ottawa, Ontario. He was assisted by Chantal Huinink to write this account.

The camera is behind Ray and shows him sitting in his wheelchair using his computer.  A church service is on the screen.  His Dynavox computer is attached to his wheelchair tray and the alphabet is visible on the screen.  Ray has brown hair, and light skin.

I was born with cerebral palsy which makes it challenging for me to speak or use my arms and legs. I use a power wheelchair and Direct Support Professionals help me with personal care. It is difficult for me to express my thoughts and ideas to people who do not know me very well because many do not understand the way I talk or type. This takes patience and practice.  

Living with the risks and restrictions of the pandemic is harder than normal for everyone. I have worried about my support staff coming down with coronavirus or coming down with it myself and causing those who support me to become very sick since my personal support needs do not stop just because the province goes into lockdown. I have also worried about what will happen if I get very sick and I am not able to advocate for medical treatment. My Christian faith helps me remain calm through this time. Psalm 46:10 says “be still and know.” One of the things that I know is that God leads us, people who trust Him, out of trouble.  

Due to my challenges you might think that I am not very active in my community but my challenges motivate me to advocate for myself and other people with disabilities. I am at high risk of coronavirus so I must be careful but it doesn’t stop me from virtual connection with Our Voices Matter: a group of self advocates with disabilities. We keep informed of issues and challenges facing the disability community. We also work with allies in order to raise greater awareness of these issues and challenges. 

A current issue that concerns me and some fellow advocates is Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying legislation. If Bill C7 is passed in February 2021 it will be easier for Canadians with disabilities than Canadians without disabilities to use MAID. The new law would allow people with disabilities who are not actually dying to apply for it just because they have a disability.

This is not good because it does not treat Canadians with and without disabilities the same. It suggests that people with disabilities do not have as much of a reason to live as those without disabilities or that they would rather die than live as long as possible. More Canadians with disabilities who could lead long lives might choose MAID because they don’t want to be a burden to their families or be on long waiting lists for support services they need.  

The quality of life for Canadians with disabilities might improve a lot if health care workers and lawmakers would focus on making it easier for Canadians with disabilities to live, rather than making it easier for us to die. In the meantime, I want my support workers, my doctors, my family and my friends to know that as hard as my life may seem I have a purpose; I lead a full life and I do not want to die earlier than necessary. If you have disabilities and you feel the same way you might want to let others know that too. 

“…with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

I hope that my story may encourage others to keep going, even if they face challenges. If I can do it then you can do it too because all things are possible with God. Trusting in God helps me to have a sense of peace about the future, no matter what happens. God prompts me to pray about issues that are important to me instead of worrying about them.  

I draw a lot of strength from my Christian faith and my relationship with God. I am happy to rejoice in the Lord by singing with my voice, regardless of whether others understand me or not. I know that God hears me clearly. A song that encourages me and makes me feel happy is We Speak to Nations by Israel Houghton

Hear the sound
The sound of the nations calling
Hear the sound
The sound of the fathers crying
Who will go for us
Who will shout to the corners
Of the earth
That Christ is King

We speak to nations
Be open
We speak to nations
Fall on your knees
We speak to nations
The kingdom is coming near to you
Oh we speak to strongholds
Be broken
Power of darkness
You have to flee
We speak to nations
The kingdom is coming near to you
We speak to you
Be free be free

Hear the sound
The sound of the nations worshipping
Hear the sound
Of sons and daughters singing
We will go for you
We will shout to the corners of the earth
That Christ is King

A note from the author:

My name is Ray Ellis. I have a disability which means that I can’t speak or walk but I do enjoy having fun!