Friday, April 20, 2018

The Spot at The Table

Something rather wonderful happened last night. I was scheduled to have a dinner meeting with several people who I work with on a committee. I was a tad nervous because I'm new to the committee and really only know the person who invited me to participate. Also, I'm a bit socially, um, inelegant.

As is my habit, I arrived early. We always leave time to get lost even though with modern technology that's less and less likely to happen. Joe parked and we went up the elevator to the floor where the restaurant was. We talked details about where we would meet afterwards for Joe to drive us both home.

Then he and I went into the restaurant and gave the name of the organization hosting the meeting. We were guided to a small private room and when the door was opened I saw something amazing. Lovely amazing.

Exactly in the spot which was most accessible at the table, there was no chair. I could roll and pull right into place. No pulling a chair out, no wait staff to wrestle the table into an inconvenient spot. It was the perfect thing to do to demonstrate welcome.

My reaction may sound silly as if I'm exaggerating my reaction. And I acknowledge that it shouldn't be a big deal, but it is. It's never happened before. Ever. I've had business meetings in restaurants before, but never, ever, have I arrived without fuss.

This mattered to me.

A lot.

I write this simply to demonstrate how simple gestures matter. Non disabled people expect to arrive at a table with chairs. Disabled people expect to arrive at tables with bother. But not this time.

Because I was made welcome.

3 comments:

Girl on wheels said...

This has happened for me a couple of times and it is an incredible feeling. However both times were at my BFFs’ weddings, and they both went out of their ways to make everything easy for me. Including one of them not booking her dream venue because it wasn’t entirely wheelchair accessible.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Only one problem with this lovely approach: you didn't get to pick WHICH spot at the table you would like. People who use chairs get to pick.

In most cases, it doesn't matter. In others, you might have some reason for preferring a different spot. This is the same as movie theaters setting aside certain seats - it's kind of fun to go to the movies and choose where you'd like to sit, and people with wheelchairs don't get this choice. Small point, but if you'd wanted a different spot at the restaurant, you would have had to ask. I don't know if there's a solution, other than asking the waitperson - and arriving early for that purpose.

Other than that, it's perfect.

And I'm really surprised that this is the first time. It should not have been - and should not be the last, either.

Also wonderful of the person who automatically arranged this.

clairesmum said...

"A seat at the table" is often used metaphorically, in identifying the persons/points of view that are included in decision making meetings or gatherings of power brokers in a particular settings.
That 'seat at the table' is not just a metaphor - it is a very real statement about presence, physical presence, and the reality of that inclusion.
WC users often have to 'fight' for a seat at the table - or rely on others to rearrange furniture for them to get to the table they are supposed to be sitting at - highlighting the few tasks you cannot do and disempowering you before you even get to the table.
Other 'disempowered' groups have the same challenge, as you know well.

The personal is political, the physical reality and behaviors help create/reinforce our world view. Actions speak louder than words.
This group sounds like a great group to be part of. That sense of belonging that we all need.
Glad this happened for you, Dave.