She came in, walking carefully, even more carefully led. Her body allowed her to walk, slowly, carefully and with assistance. A chair was found, she didnt bend well, but she managed to get comfortable. She looked up at me. Despair filled her eyes. She was used to being underestimated, used to being unincluded, used to having life happen around her. Strangers always saw her disability - and it was front and center to see. Carers, others who knew her, knew different. But she saw me, looking at her, and guessed that I saw what everyone else did. Her face went slack.
The day begun with a rousing chant and we were off. Throughout the day, various people came up to do role plays, to read facts, to demonstrate their skill. All were roundly applauded by the group. Then came a role play that I knew, I just knew, had caught her interest. I pointed to her and asked if she wanted to come up. She had little intellegible speach, but she could indicate assent and then suddenly remembered that she needed help. Someone else with a disability noted that there were no 'carers' in the room - so she wouldn't be able to go up.
I said, "No one cares here?"
"I do," a faint voice from a shy woman who got up and gently took hands in her and gently guided a willing woman up to the front and onto a chair. She sat looking at the audience. She realized that she was at the front. Tears filled her eyes. A shout of excitement left her. Then it was the role play.
She did brilliantly.
I think she surprised herself.
She certainly surprised the group who didn't just applaud her success, they cheered it. Tears flowed down her cheeks. Her assistant with a disability came and helped her to slowly walk back to her seat. She stopped, half way, and turned to me. She said the only clear word that day.
I almost started to cry. Tears filled my eyes. I was grateful that I had to wait a few more seconds for her to return to her seat. She sat down a changed woman. She cheered for others, paid attention to every little joke I made and laughed riotously.
Begins at home.