I want to tell you about an amazing conversation. Joe and I went out for lunch with a couple of guys with disabilities we had met during one of our trainings. It had been arranged by a woman we all knew in common and she, we and they met at an Italian restaurant. It was a fun and easy time together. Conversation flowed naturally and covered a wide range of topics. These were guys with interests and who lived full lives - they also had the ability to be interested in the lives of others so our conversation ranged back and forth across the big pond.
Then, suddenly, they were telling us about going out to a pub one night and getting the sense that something was very wrong. They managed to call for a ride and leave the bar about a half an hour before a huge fight broke out. They laughed about their close call. Then they noticed the look on my face. I was shocked. At first I think they thought I was shocked because they had been out drinking. I wasn't, of course, not in the least. Good on them. A night out in the pub is, in many ways here, the epitome of inclusive community living.
I asked them seriously if I could change the tone of the conversation and ask a whole lot of questions. They looked at each other then me and said, 'Sure.' Then I set about asking them how they knew that there was something dangerous going on. What was there about the place, the people in the place, the atmosphere? When did they make the decision to call for a ride? They thoughtfully answered the questions, looking at one another to give assistance.
One of the fellows talked about the sense and sound of the place. The other fellow talked about how the people in the bar were changing, their body language, their faces hardening. Together they put their impressions together and made the decision to get out of there. And they did. They got out of there, missing the brawl, missing the police being called. They left safe and sound.
What struck me as remarkable here was that these two men had clearly been taught some significant safety skills. They were very, very, sophisticated in their ability to read a room and to read people in the room.
This is exactly what needs to be done for people with disabilities to live well and safely in the environment. They defied the 'they are so trusting' stereotype - instead of trusting others, though, they trusted themselves and each other. These are the kinds of skills that ALL ADULTS need, but as people with disabilities are seldom seen as adults they are seldom taught adult skills.
When my inquisition was over, we went back to our conversation, but not before I told them how impressed I was with their skills and with their ability to stay and keep safe. They smiled, not really understanding why I was making such a big deal out of it. Odd how people who have skills never seem to think that those skills are exceptional.
I'm impressed, again, writing this. Are you?