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.

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