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.