“Social Media + Traditional Media = Crazy Awesome!” Sponsored by Net Squared Greater Seattle. Location: Northwest Work Lofts, 3131 Western Avenue, Suite 303, Seattle, WA.
I’m trying to improve my social media skills, and I’m intrigued by anything advertised as crazy awesome. So I was game for this event. It seemed to be right up my alley. Up until the blockade. But let me back up, a little.
Like other wheeled wonders, I often encounter obstacles that, while not impossible to negotiate, pose a serious challenge. Past experience has taught me the value of research. But I can get a little lazy and chippy. Why should I have to call? Can’t I just figure it out? Okay. Uncle. I’ve preached the power of preparation. I often take my own advice. Expect when I don’t. I sometimes fall prey to denial when it comes to accessibility. But this event was in my general neighborhood. I was going with friends. How hard could it be?
Peter, his wife, Erika, a last-minute welcome addition, and I drive to the place and score a great parking spot. “Piece of cake,” I think. Then I balk at the wide, steep ramp going down to businesses below. Peter descends to do reconnaissance. No luck. I ask a passerby. No idea. Peter descends again and returns with bad news. “There’s no way around steps.” We spot a security guard who confirms Peter’s findings. Onward with resolve. I see the step. My nemesis. It is a substantial step: at least 8 inches high with no railing. I wheel to the edge, lock my brakes, heave myself up and grab the fire escape above. Peter brings the chair up. I shuffle forward and then plop back into it.
We enter the room. The chairs form a semi-circle, one that shuts me out. No designated seating for people with disabilities. I turn to Erika, “You can see how I feel unwelcome.” She nods. I find a place in the front where we could all sit. “This better be good,” I mutter.
It was good. Articulate guest speakers share practical experience born of deep work connecting non-profits to mainstream media. We break into groups to work through a scenario: ours focuses on my idea, increasing access to restaurants for dads with disabilities. We discuss media outlets to target, agree on a hash tag for Twitter, and create a plan I could use for Father’s Day 2014. In ten minutes, this exercise validates my ideas about access and the leadership role I can play.
I’ve learned to steel myself for awkward entrances, but imagine my desire to bolt. As I clung to that fire escape, I thought, “This sucks. But it might not all suck.” That’s about as optimistic as I could get at the time. And I was right. I don’t have the luxury of breaking the world into all-or-nothing categories. None of us does. Between a tough entrance and a frustrating exit, there just might be something you really need smack dab in the middle. I know I did. Push to get to it.