Joe and I joked, as we drove away, about how many people were out after dark! We go to bed, pretty much every night, at eight in the evening. We had decided to go the "Abilities Award" which were being held in celebration of International Day of Disabled Persons. When we arrived we had to wait a bit as there were several accessible vehicles ahead of us, all with passengers to let off. There was a buzz of excitement about the place. It felt like it was supposed to: a gathering, a coming together, of a community.
Once in greeted the host of the event Jaime Castro and shook a bunch of hands and chatted with a fair number of people I knew. The room was full of people with disabilities and the first sense I had, beyond the buzz of 'fun' was the sense that I was in a safe place. A place that had been made purposefully welcoming, purposefully respectful. This is a rarer experience than it should be.
Justin Hines opened the show, I love this guy, with a couple of songs - and as always, he was brilliant. Then, the award show began. I had settled back into just enjoying the experience and then, when the second award was given for "Exceptional Disability Advocate in the city of Toronto" my name was called. Yikes! I didn't know I'd been nominated, I was there for the spirit of the event, I had no expectation of actually receiving an award.
Luckily we, award winners, were not expected to give a short speech. I did what was expected, went up, got the award, got my picture taken by those who'd announced the award - two city councillors from Toronto - and then zip back to my seat. It felt good to get the award from my own home community - the acknowledgement of peers.
The evening continued and there were an amazing array of dignitaries, politicians and leaders in the room who had come to join us, to participate with us, and to celebrate our achievements. There were people with a variety of different disabilities there - for an evening it seemed to be that the 'disability hierarchy' had been invited out of the room allowing us to be as inclusive within our community as we want the community - out there to be.
It was a lovely evening.
I was surprised and honoured to win the award.
What a way to end the International Day of Disabled Persons.