When I got on the WheelTrans van headed for work, it was already pretty crowded. In the back corner was a tiny little woman holding on tight to a walker that had been folded up. I asked her if she would mind if I sat next to her. She didn't answer but she didn't shrink away at the idea, either. We drove away in silence and I relaxed into the drive.
A gentle but insistent series of 'whooops' brought my attention back to my seatmate who was making quiet noises beside me. She caught me looking at her and silenced. I hadn't meant to admonish her but I think I had done just that. I almost apologized but realized how silly, 'Go ahead and whoop if you want to, it doesn't bother me' sounds. And, I knew, she would not understand the words or the intent.
She had been on the bus before me, continued on past the next drop off and we finally arrived at her destination. With great care she rose to her feet and she really used her walker getting out. The driver ensured that she was heading in the right direction and then he closed the door and we headed off.
This may not seem like the stuff of a blog, but it is the stuff of life. Her life. There was a day, not really long ago, where people with significant disabilities did not experience the dignity of independence in any form. There was a day when people would have found her sounds frightening, her difference alarming. There was a day when she would not have sat next to me on that bus.
That day has passed.