You could tell that this was the place. We pulled into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn in Trenton and every disabled parking bay was full, there were serveral people with disabilities outside the door having a smoke. The line up waiting for rooms and registration was abuzz with humour and excitement. I'd been looking forward to this for awhile. The conference is one that is aimed at developing skills in the self advocate movement.
As we made our way through the crowd there were staff I knew and we waved or briefly chatted, there were self advocates that I knew and we did the same. It's cool being in a place where everyone looks just a little bit different. We got our keys and made it to the room only to find out that we'd been given an inaccessible room.
Back to the front.
More people were there now. They'd set it up such that those attending the conference got their conference registration, materials along with the room key from a group of volunteers at a table just inside the door. Those registering for the hotel, but not the conference, went straight to the regular registration desk of the hotel.
Two army type guys came in to register. The first thing they registered was 'Whoa, this isn't your usual lobby," before they could recover a woman with a disability gave them a huge grin and said, "You need to go to the desk over there." Military trained, military manners, they said "Thanks, ma'am." She, the ma'am, in this case thought that being called 'ma'am' was very, very funny and burst into the kind of laughter that is unrestrained.
Their faces looked impassive but I'm convinced the younger one wanted to giggle. I don't think of military men giggling but I'm sure they do.
They proceeded to the desk and were checked in shortly. But not before another van load of people with disabilities had burst through the door. Then I saw that the younger guy was now wearing an open grin.
They didn't notice me sitting in my chair, looking like Jabba the Hutt on vacation. I heard the younger guy say, "You know, this is kind of what we are fighting for isn't it. Freedom for everyone. You've got to admit this is cool ..."
And they were gone.
I don't know what they teach in military school here in Canada - but they get the most important word about inclusion in the english language.