It happens, on early mornings like this one, that I find myself reliving a particular moment of my life. I was just starting out life as a wheelchair user and was dealing with the changes that came along with my new status as a disabled person. The physical part of it was fairly simple. I'd worked, in the long ago past, with teens with physical disabilities, I knew about the physical barriers and I knew that I'd need to learn the logistics of navigating a world that still considered access a gift given in charity to those who don't quite deserve the generosity. That I was prepared for.
What I wasn't prepared for was the automatic assumption that a huge part of my life was over, simply because I was a wheelchair user. I clearly could not travel anymore. I clearly would have to give up lecturing and consulting. I was trying to fit this into my head. Why were all these people, people who work with people with disabilities, telling me to simply give up and move on? These were the people who were supposed to be my support as I reentered the world as a disabled person. I got the message that I should be glad that I was alive but I should realize that being alive wouldn't mean as much as it did before.
Joe and I had a trip scheduled to the UK. I went to see my doctor and asked him about the trip and the travel. He saw no reason for me to be grounded. We talked a bit about energy and rest. We talked about some common sense things that I'd have to think about in terms of my own care and care for Joe. He simply didn't see the obstacles that others clearly saw. We went. Four weeks, eighteen lectures, fifteen cities. I was tired but exhilarated. I'd loved it as much sitting down as I had standing up.
On the night before travelling home, I was up, like I am now. Thinking about those non-disabled specialists in disabled living and how they wanted me to simply expect less of myself, less from the world ... less would be the new normal. They were right in some ways. Some organizations, while negotiating to bring me to train, on finding out that I was a wheelchair user backed, gently and quietly out of the negotiations. They used words like 'logistics' and 'mechanics' ... meaning of course that there was no way they wanted to consider or be bothered with access. So, I lost part of my business.
But they were very much in the minority. Others, most, just took it in stride. I'm now a few hours car ride from home, I've been in 5 cities, done 7 days across those cities, and I've travelled nearly 5000 kms to do it all. I enjoyed the work, the people and the challenges that each day brought. Completely.
And here I sit, not being able to sleep because of the excitement of going home. Where, by the way, I will do my first International Webinar this week. This week I'll be working with the folks in England about my trip over in the Spring - like we've done every year. I wonder, not at doing what I've always done, but at why those who first spoke to me about my disability were so insistent in having me adopt the 'role' of helpless and the 'status' of lesser? Few were encouraging, most were wanting me to have the 'big realization' that my life would be 'forever changed.' They never said, that I was now 'confined' to a wheelchair, but their words whispered the message.
So I'm here, typing quietly in the dark, on the morning we go home. This is tradition. It is now tradition for me to be doing this in my wheelchair, but it's been my tradition since I began this work several decades ago. Going home is exciting. And, in a small way, proving those voices wrong, is equally pleasing.