Thursday, May 5, 2011

Guest Post from Carl Thompson

Carl talks about jeans, super star signers and 'mocktails' at the NDCC...... oh and if you squint at the pic below, i'm pretty sure you can see a dude wearing jeans... he's standing behind the guy in the black suit facing us....



Being an Adult at The National Disability and Carer Congress

Being an adult is something new for me, but I had my first real attempt at adulthood during the National Disability and Carer Congress yesterday. As it was my virgin experience attending an adult conference I was excited for potential highbrow mingling, cocktails, and of course the discussion itself. Many aspects of my first conference lived up to my expectations, and one or two things didn't.

The speakers were great, I won't lie. And I'm including the politicians when I say the speeches were exciting, something not normally said in today's tightly scripted political climate. The standout speeches though were made by those directly involved with the issue of disability and their carers. It was obvious that these speakers had lived experience to draw upon, and this was palpable in every word spoken.

But as mentioned, even the politicians inspired confidence in me that real reform in the disability sector may occur. Still, as many fellow people with a disability would attest to, politicians have often pledged support but failed to deliver. Yet in this case we have what they promised on camera.

I am not going to talk further about the content of the congress in this blog entry, no doubt it will be covered thoroughly at ABC Ramp Up, and hopefully the general media. Instead I'm going to discuss the many strange things that piqued my interest. I'm sure if you have read my blog before you'd understand that I am not really normal, so you wouldn't be surprised that I notice some strange phenomena and made some odd observations. The conference was no exception.

Firstly, it was a bad move for me to wear jeans. Now I'm not one for fashion, but being at a height level with many people's legs I noticed what was worn by the vast majority of those attending the congress. No one was wearing jeans, except for me. Major fashion and decorum suicide there on my part.

Secondly, interpreters proficient at sign language are definitely the most amazing people in the entire world. I'm ashamed to say I tuned out when listening to some of the inspiring speeches and instead gazed at the awe-inspiring interpreters with a permanent smile on my face, marvelling at their manual dexterity and drama skills. Seriously, one lady deserves a starring role in a blockbuster film, and a job as a professional juggler - preferably both at once.

Thirdly, I have never seen so many wheelchairs in the one place in my entire life! Neither had the majority of staff I would hazard a guess. Thankfully, and contrary to many electric wheelchair driving stereotypes, there were no major collisions that I could detect, and it was actually relatively easy getting around Etihad Stadium.

Finally, unfortunately I came to understand that the cocktail party at this function did not actually involve cocktails. We were instead served rubbish beer and house wine in their place. You can't make cocktails without spirits or liqueurs, fact.

But with that said, the cocktail party was definitely the most productive part of my first adult conference. Beer and wine are social lubricants that encourage people to chat and mingle, often with complete strangers. After a couple of wines people must have forgot I was wearing jeans and they began chatting to me. It was great meeting new people and forming new connections.

Even better than the stirring speeches and amazing interpreters was the face-to-face human interaction with other people passionate about the issue of disability rights and reform in Australia. This aspect was definitely the highlight of the National Disability and Carer Congress for me, and I can safely say for many others.

On the whole it was a good experience being an adult, I just have to remember not to wear jeans next time.

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