Thursday, May 11, 2017

lowered horizons

Yesterday,  when in the lobby of the hotel that the lecture was in, I asked for directions to the meeting place. It was a reasonable thing to do, a big hotel, lots of corridors, and a history of choosing the wrong one. I asked a woman who I was pretty sure would know and she happily pointed the way to me, and yep, I would have gone the wrong way. Then she asked me if I was attending the meeting and I told her I was the presenter at the meeting. She said, 'Oh, with great surprise, and then 'Really' with either astonishment or disbelief.

The automatic assumption of the impossibility that someone in a wheelchair would be at the front, have power and voice, be a person of authority and expertise is shown in her surprise and in the fact that hotels always set up podiums behind which I never be able to see the audience or they me.

The constant experience of 'lessness' in expectations, in possibility and in human status is wearing. I joked back when I didn't get it about how I liked to jump over low expectations. Now, living with them for so many years, I know that it's not about leaping over them, it's about carrying them. The experience of looking out the window and seeing a lowered horizon cannot be easily described.

Even so, I rolled to the front of the room, turned the chair around and got ready to speak, all the while hearing her surprise echo in my mind, because no matter what she thought, we own all public space, and we own all opportunities and we demand the right to claim what's ours, expectations be damned.

3 comments:

Unknown said...

the cruelty and bigotry of low expectations based on stereotypes and assumptions....words hurt.

clairesmum

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

She didn't cover very well, either - you'd think hotel people would be better trained. That's exactly what training is FOR: removing your foot from your mouth gracefully.

For example, "Ah. I see. Is there anything you already know you'll be needing?" or "Please let me know - here is my private phone number - if it's not all set up the way you need."

SOMETHING.

And the organizers. Aren't they supposed to make the speaker's needs known to the hotel before the meeting? And wouldn't that include the correct height for the microphone, podium, dais, and a ramp...? Presumably they know who you are?

Dave Hingsburger said...

Alicia, the thing of it is that the organizers did talk to them about the podium but hotel conference people just can't imagine not having a podium so put it in anyways. This wasn't down to them. The people who offer conference services in hotels need a lot of training about accessibility though ...