I have literally just started presenting and facilitating workshops from my wheelchair. Last year I deliberately didn’t take on much work as I needed time to heal and adjust. I am ready to start taking on more work again and in the last couple of weeks I have gone back to leading workshops, facilitating and presenting.
I had forgotten how much I enjoy it! I guess that’s a result of being a teacher, you can’t really do that job unless you like leading and facilitating people’s learning.
I had been really worried about doing that from my wheelchair. It’s not just vanity and pride, although there is a lot of that in there…
When you are leading a group, you need to take control from the beginning, you have to be able to hold the room, create a safe space, create an encouraging and supportive enviornment. It doesn’t sound very nice, but there is a certain amount of commanding the space.. And part of that is standing when everyone else is stiting. That’s not just about being power mad, but it is a basic drama technique of levelling – if you are standing you are the high spot and people will naturally look at you. That’s all taken away when you are leading from a wheelchair.
The other thing is I have never stood still while presenting, I walk around the space, even when I am at the front of the room, I move to tables and to individuals during workshops. That also becomes a lot harder in a chair.
I gesticulate a lot when I am talking and as I found out last week (my first time presenting) that can cause your chair to roll backwards. Most disconcerting. I had to put down the booklet I was referring to and put my brakes on. It wasn’t a big deal, but it threw me and made me lose my place. I am sure as I get used to doing this again I will get into the habit of flicking my brakes on and off again as I want to move around the space, but moving from side to side at will is no longer an option.
I know that I will get this all figured out and it will go back to being a really natural part of how I present, speak and facilitate, but right now it is an extra thing to think about and how it affects my work,
The reason I am sharing this is I am really open and honest about my life, and I want other people who have had to start using a wheelchair to know that there are difficulties and things you have to figure out, but you can do it. There is a certain amount of priviliedge in my writing, I work in the arts which is possibly the most accepting sector to work in, I haven’t encountered any discrimination, however I also haven’t applied for any work with NEW clients since this started. All of my work has been from existing clients who know my capabilities and what I can bring to an organisation. I do wonder if this story will change now I am starting to apply for new work. I will, of course, blog about those experiences.