Wednesday, January 20, 2010

12 Steps, Me, I'd Rather Sit

My first lecture in a New Year is a very big deal. It typically happens after several weeks of doing other stuff. It's nice to have the break from lecturing but at the same time with every day that passes my anxiety goes up just a wee notch. It's like I begin to worry that I won't be able to do it anymore, that I'll forget all the stories, that my anxiety will overtake me. This is so much so that I can become quite skittish and distracted for a day or two before.

Yesterday was my first lecture in Oshawa and we were at a hotel chain there. Joe and I drove out the night before and stayed in one of our favourite hotels just a 3 kilometer drive from the venue. We didn't want to have to worry about winter falling all in one night or car accidents along the 401. We got up to a leisurely breakfast, I went over my notes a thousand times, panicking a little less than I expected.

We left ourselves lots of time to get to the venue and we a little surprised to see it was a hotel with 12 shallow steps up a steep staircase to get in. We parked in the disabled parking bay and Joe hauled ass up and into the venue. We were convinced there would be a rear entrance or a conference room down one side of the building. No, I was to come up the stairs. Yes they knew I was in a wheelchair.

Joe simply insisted that it wasn't possible and they got on the phone and found us a venue about 5 miles away. They said they'd send all the conference attendees along. We then drove to the next hotel convinced that people would just scatter off into their own days rather than try to find the new venue. But we were wrong, they all made it.

Everyone made extraordinary effort. Conference attendees were understanding. The hotel that misbooked found a new location, hauled food over to the new setting, were as accommodating as, well, they should have been. So we started a few minutes later. So we lost a few minutes.

These things are difficult because while I appreciate everyone's understanding, I didn't want it. While I was thankful for the extra effort made to find a room immediately, I didn't want it. What I wanted was simple. Accessibility.

Accessibility doesn't just mean I get easily into a building. Accessibility means anonymity. It reduces the need for compassion, understanding, special consideration, to Nil. It allows me to slip in unnoticed and set up quietly. This doesn't mean it masks my disability, it just makes it mean something very different.

The day went well, the audience was lovely, But in part of my mind I had the image of 'Dave as problem, disability as hindrance'. That's not fair because it's not true. But it's there, and I resent it.

11 comments:

rickismom said...

Good post! I can hear this as being very true.

OhWheely . . said...

Wouldn't it be great if disability was like hair colour or food preference?

Only standing out when the owner desires it.

Kristin said...

I'm so sorry there was the screw up to begin with.

ivanova said...

Maybe instead of the attendees seeing disability as the problem, the attendees might have gotten a lesson in how important a ramp/accessibility can be. Maybe it opened their eyes. Of course, I don't know who was attending the lecture, maybe they knew all that stuff already and don't need yet another example : ) !

Moose said...

There was an article in the NYT some years ago [I'm digging for the URL but the hamsters that run my network apparently haven't been fed today] which discusses restaurants in NYC that claim to be fully accessible and don't even come close -- and worse, that they don't even realize it. Many have steps, even if "just" one or two, going inside. Even if they don't have steps, or have a ramp, they often don't have accessible bathrooms. One of my favorite restaurants in my hometown (not NYC :-) has a wheelchair ramp and room between tables to get around but the bathrooms are down a steep flight of stairs. Another is all on one floor, no steps, but the tables are packed so closely together that the bathrooms are effectively inaccessible, unless you get 5 or more tables to move out of your way.

[aha! http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/issues-of-accessibility/ which is actually a followup & has a link to the original article. I don't *think* it requires a login to access; if it does, I apologize.]

Jan said...

Dave you do have a disability but the venue created a handicap for you. Sorry to hear about the hassle. You would think that after all this time more people would get it

veravoros said...

Dave, this so supports what we discussed in our agency couple days ago. Accessibility means more than just "getting around and through". Accessibility means accessing the services without all that hassle, without asking hundred times: "are you fully accessible?" and explaining what it means....

Kristine said...

Absolutely right. I would have resented it too. Yet, I probably would have ended up making a big deal about expressing my appreciation to everyone for changing everything at the last minute... and most of all, I would resent that about myself. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

wheelboy said...

resentment has become part of my make up. I hate making a nuisance of myself or having to fight people for my rights so I really resent it when it happens

Anonymous said...

"The day went well, the audience was lovely, But in part of my mind I had the image of 'Dave as problem, disability as hindrance'. That's not fair because it's not true. But it's there, and I resent it."

It's not fair! It's not true!

Hotel as a problem, ignorance as a hindrance.......is more like it!

theknapper said...

I suspect that someone at the hoteland/or someone who organized the conference is wishing he/she had thought this out ahead of time. They made the mistake. This isn't yours .....