The last couple of days I've been away from home and using my manual chair. As I've mentioned before I'm using my power chair more often and, as a result, I've been doing exercises aimed at keeping up my upper body strength so that when I do have to use my manual, I still have the power to do so. Well, the good news is that it's working. Even though it's been a fairly long while since I've had to push long distances on carpet, I was able to do so fairly easily. I was really pleased with this as I've a couple of long trips coming up where I'll only have the use of my manual chair and I didn't want to have my mobility even more limited because I'd lost the strength to push myself.
But, this story isn't about that.
I was pushing myself to one of the rooms I was going to present in, the floor was a good floor for pushing and I had got up a good speed. A woman called out my name, saying hello, so I grabbed my wheels and swung round in the direction the voice had come. The voice belonged to a woman with an intellectual disability who was there to hear me speak, we'd met each other before and she wanted to greet me and catch up.
Parenthetically I'd like to say just how much things have changed. I thought of this change as we spoke. She told me about her life, her relationships the things that she had going on. It was interesting to hear what'd happened over the few years that had passed since we saw each other. Twenty years ago, if you ran into someone with an intellectual disability that you hadn't seen for a couple years, they would have precious little news to tell you. Lives, in those days, were determined by systems and run by others. This is no longer true for so many (while it is still true for many, many more). Anyways, I was pleased that she had a life to tell me about.
But this story isn't about that.
I said, at one point, that I needed to get to the room in order to get ready. She piped up and said, "Let me push you there." I said, "No, thanks, I can do it on my own." She said, "OK." Then she walked along side me chatting saying, "People should listen when people with disabilities say 'no' shouldn't they? They should respect what we say." I told her that I couldn't agree more. "People like you and me understand that don't we?" I said that we did.
"Someday other people will to," she said ...
... not with hope, but with certainty.