I made it to the room I was going to present in and pulled myself into the table at the front of the room. I was getting my notes ready for review when I saw her come into the back of the room. She was part of the hotel’s team that was providing service to the conference. She saw where I was sitting and said in a voice that I could tell she’s used before on conference goers who didn’t quite know what to do or where to go, “Oh, that table is for the teachers, everyone else sits here,” she said pointing to the other tables. I would have thought that was obvious but I’ve been to these a thousand and one times, I know first time attenders can get quite thrown off.
“I know,” I said, “in this case I am the teacher.”
She stopped and gaped at me after a second she said, “I’m so sorry for staring but I’ve never seen someone …” she was lost for words. So many people simply don’t know how to refer to someone’s disability and she didn’t want to offend me. She took a breath and dove in “… someone in a wheelchair sit at one of those table. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve never seen someone, um, you know, teach here.”
“Well, it’s about time, then, isn’t it,” I said laughing.
“Far past time,” I’d say she said, “far past time.”
Then she wished me good luck on what I was teaching and started out, she stopped again and said, “the world has changed for lots of people, I’m glad it’s changing for you too.”
I think that was one of the kindest things anyone has said to me in a long, long time.