Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

A Disappointing Evening at Confoo

Despite a great time at Confoo’s speaker’s dinner last night, my evening left me feeling a bit shit. A compilation of things made the night “not very good”.

It started well enough when I arrived early with another attendee who was kind enough to help me make it through a couple of the trickiest sidewalks with the accumulation of snow. We arrived a bit early and were seated in an area with several seats for our group, on the ground floor. About 15 minutes later, the restaurant staff directed everyone else that arrived to the seating area upstairs. Turns out the staff wanted to fill out one area entirely before filling out the downstairs area to make their job easier with serving dinner. We eventually got a few people sitting with us. But for nearly an hour we were the only two people from our group in the downstairs area, and we both felt excluded.

Dinner itself was great. Food was awesome, and we had some great discussion topics, from comparing Ruby and Python to comparing the differences between American Sign Language and New Zealand Sign Language.

Towards the end of the meal, I mentioned a few times that I couldn’t have made it to the restaurant in the snow without Matthieu’s assistance, that the snow was falling steadily. We even spoke about my tyres and how if I lived here I’d have knobby tyres. I *really* didn’t want to have to ask for someone to accompany me back the few blocks to the hotel. I didn’t think I had to, really. But nobody offered. I got ready to go slowly. A few people from our group left the restaurant while I was putting my coat on. I ventured outside, it was still snowing and the sidewalk were slick with slush. I made it to the corner and promptly got completely stuck at the curb cut. I struggled to back up back onto the sidewalk but couldn’t get loose. Someone waiting in their car at a red light jumped out and helped me back on – that was kind and appreciated.

I struggled back to the restaurant where they called a cab. The first cab showed up and said “I don’t take wheelchairs, I have a bad back”, and drove off. The second cab just slowed down then kept going. The 3rd cab the same! Finally the fourth taxi picked me up and got me safely to the hotel. It cost $10. A cabbie in Chicago once told me that they didn’t like picking wheelchairs in the rain or the snow because it messed the upholstery in their vehicle…

As I arrived in the hotel lobby, one of the guys said they were having a drink in the hotel bar and I should join. That sounded like a good idea, so I went back to my room and dropped my coat and went back. Ordered a beer and sat in the lower level of the bar. The guy who invited me came by and chatted a bit with me, but after 5 minutes went to join the rest of the people on the upper level of the bar…

Yeah, by and large, the evening ended on a bit of a sour note. I don’t believe anyone set out to intentionally exclude me. But I certainly didn’t feel included.