Maybe it’s me but with all the push for people with disabilities having employment opportunities, I wasn’t sure why disabled people weren’t the greeters at Canada’s largest show on disabilities. But never mind.
No, I take back that never mind.
From booth to booth, full of product to be sold to disabled people, that I went to and spoke with people, I invariably was speaking to non disabled people who would never have actually used the product they were selling. Oh, they probably, in the case of wheelchairs, had a ‘sensitivity training’ where they rode around in the products, but we all agree that a) that’s such a patronizing approach to disability awareness training that furthers hate more than it does understanding and b) five minutes in a chair facing barriers teaches you only about frustration not about the ability you will develop to find solutions and options. But, besides all that, where were the disabled people employed by companies that serve disabled people?
By the end, in fact, I’d met one. He was selling a cool product for adapting a wheelchair from manual to power. Because he was disabled, because he uses the product all the time, he was able to answer questions, informatively, intuitively knowing the information I’d want and two, he was passionate about the product because it changed his life. This guy was selling a product from a deeply personal connection with it. Cool strategy for a company, n’est pas?
I did meet other disabled people at booths there. The guy at the Abilities Magazine (which I hope you subscribe to and support) was great to talk to and they had this awesome campaign that was really disability positive and disability ‘in your face’ … the only real booth that used identity in such a incredibly powerful and positive way. I met a great group at Variety Village who were able to answer my questions about their gym and there facility. Also a great discussion with people with disabilities at a booth I can’t remember, but who had a radio station and were training people with disabilities in broadcasting. But all the groups that had people there were non-profit types, the for profit people selling vans and trucks and wheelchairs and walkers and grab bars, there was only the one.
I keep getting in trouble for making comparisons, but I have to .. can you imagine ‘Canada’s largest show for women and products and services for women’ having male greeters, having men at all the booths where products were sold and women’s participation found only at non-profit sector booths. I’m not sure many women would attend and if they did, that they would stay.
I found myself, early on, before I had noticed that disabled people attended but didn’t work the show, talking to a guy in a wheelchair at a wheelchair booth. He was demonstrating, quite ably, how the chair worked. Then I made a comment, I won’t repeat here, that I would have only said to another disabled person, and he looked at me oddly. I felt embarrassed but could have predicted that he’d do what he did, he stood up. Oh, my.
So, I decided to have fun.
I’ll tell you what happened next tomorrow.