Carol gave me a fist bump over the table of her knitted goods.
I was doing Ambassador Rounds as one of the team of sign language interpreters, going vendor-to-vendor, letting people know we were here and available to interpret if they wanted to converse with any Deaf folk attending the celebration of the rights of people with disabilities to reasonable accommodations and accessibility to the goods and services of our society.
Carol and I are about the same age. She told me she’d been knitting since last year’s event so that she would have enough stock today. Like me, it took her twelve years to complete her college degree. Unlike my path of fits and starts however, her effort required a persistent negotiation of train stations, bus schedules, and much more that she chose not to tell me. In the middle of her story, these details popped out:
I was a little girl, run over by a truck. Comatose for three to seven and a half months. One and a half years of hospitalization. And then I ran out of challenges.
They sent me home and I was left to my own devices.
Most of the wheelchair users I’ve had the chance to get to know have been tenacious and optimistic. Carol called it PMA: Positive Mental Attitude.
I also met Martina Dianne Robinson, author of Set on Freedom, six volumes of poetry on various identities. Martina gave me a copy of the acrostic poem she wrote last year in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
All across nation
Members of disability community
Remembering the days before a more
Acted to ensure civil rights for disabled and
Non-disabled alike the
Summer I was 13
We had a dance
Inside/under the main summer camp pavilions
That evening. I remember
Delighted the young girl who was me
In that moment
Surely in this new land of
Access, she could
Become anything she wanted,
Impairment or not. So much
Laughter and joy
That evening. How was that
Idealistic teen to know that
Even civil right laws didn’t
Stop bigots from being bigoted?
After all we’ve learned in the 2 decades, we still
Celebrate and commune
Read more by Martina Robinson:
- Matters of Justice
- Breaks in the Verse
- Finding the Muse Together
- Weekly Western Massachusetts Calendar for People with Disabilities
- National Disability News
Celebrate the Promise
Stavros Independent Living Center