We had talked about it a few weeks before. Ann, one of the facilitators of the Vita Rights Group (a group of self advocates within the organization) came to me to talk about a dilemma. Each time Vita hosts a speaker in the Master's Series, a member from Vita welcomes the audience and at the end a member thanks them for attending. The Self Advocates take a great deal of pride in their role, as well they should, and it's really good practice for speaking up and speaking in groups.
Ann's dilemma was that two of the members who would really like to speak have a bit of difficulty with language and are quite shy about the whole process. Yet they really wanted to participate. We talked, Ann and I, and agreed that our job was to be creative and find ways for people to participate. After all, as an organization that supports people with disabilities - our expertise should be in supporting people with disabilites.
A while later, I was told that a solution had been found and that the two members would be able to participate. I was curious so I got a heads up about what was going to happen.
As the crowd gathered yesterday, I chatted with people but was very distracted. I saw the two members and I knew what was going to happen, I knew from personal experience what it was like to have one's heart beating in one's chest, I know what it is to look out over a crowd and just want to run away.
It took several people to make this happen. Ann and Carolyn, the facilitators spent the week helping the two self advocates slowly tape their talk onto a tape recorder. Then the transcription was given to Rose who put it onto a power point. Then the power point was given to Jon who had it set up. When the first self advocate got up, he stood, nervously before the audience and Carolyn stood beside him holding the mike over the tape recorder. Then he pushed the button. His voice boomed out through the speakers and his words, maybe only a little difficult to understand, appeared on the screen. When the audience applauded, his spine straighened just a little bit and he took the mike and spoke his speech, unaided, from memory. It was a wonderful moment.
The day was to end the same way, a woman with Down Syndrome had to wait for the entire day to say her piece. She seemed to enjoy the day and at the end when Amy, the presentor, introduced her she got up. Again, her words appeard on the screen and her voice came out of a tape recorder. Again, the audience willed her well. Magically, she too, made a decision.
She took the mike and spoke, saying her words out loud - live.
Isn't it wonderful that we get to see pride birthed right in front of us? Isn't it wonderful that people with disabilities, once thought unable, rise to challenges when given a challenge? Isn't it wonderful to be in the presence of wonder?
And to get paid.