We went south to meet up with a friend for coffee. He goes to a gym and had suggested that we have coffee in the small coffee shop in the gym complex. I was interested to take a look at his gym to see if, like mine, they had the same range of accessible equipment. They didn't. We had our drinks, green tea for me, and chatted and laughed and caught up.
When it came time to leave, I pushed by the swimming pool towards the door. I waited at the door for Joe to go get the car and then I would roll down to him. It surprised me to see that the pool was taken up by a small group of people with disabilities being supported by their stafff.
There were 6 people with disabilities and 2 staff. One of the staff, a young man, was playing catch with 4 of those with disabilities, they were having fun and he clearly knew how to engage people and all were laughing and grabbing for the ball and generally doing what people do in pools. The other two with disabilities were in the hot tub. Two staff were there two, both, again, young people. Those two staff just talked to each other. It was like they were in their own little world.
The two people with disabilities, a woman beside the female staff and a man beside the male staff sat, not existing, while they laughed and talked and enjoyed each other's company. It was clear that they were busy with each other and completely unavailable to those they were with. Not once did they glance at or speak to those with them, not once did they notice the their colleague was working, having fun and communicating to each person their about their value and worth and the respect he held for them.
Outside the pool beside me sitting on a bench were two women my age. Just as Joe pulled up one of them said, "Do you think it would be safe to be in the pool with them? The one fellow seems to think so but those other two look a bit scared to even talk to them."
People watch you.
You communicate value.
You communicate respect