There's Nothing 'Mock' About This

My first set of professional clothes hung off me. The collar of my white button up buried a barely visible neck, I tugged at my black skirt, my tights made my legs itch, and my dress shoes seemed to weigh about 50 pounds.

"You're going to have to really project your voice Sandy, the judge might not hear you otherwise."
"But won't there be a microphone?"
"There will be in the witness box, but I don't think you can get into it. Your wheelchair won't be able to get inside of it."
"But as long as you project your voice like we practiced you'll be fine!" 

It was the day of my first Mock Trial. For months the team and I had spent hours prepping the case, making sure our mock-witnesses knew their story, our teacher had walked the team lawyers through the procedures of a trial, we were coached on how to address the judge and how to ask the judge to "approach the bench..."
We were in the seventh grade and this was our middle school Mock Trial team. Each year thousands of middle and high school Mock Trial teams are given the same case and asked to prepare an argument for the defense and prosecution of the scenario - it was never until the moment the trial began, at the flip of a coin, that we would know which side we were on, so all sides had to be on their A-game
My task was to do a cross-examination of a witness and to be the closing-argument. Always good at thinking on my feet, these roles required an ability to think critically, to be ruthless, and to be good at summing up the most important factors while noticing the faults of the other team. For months I had learned how to cut members of the opposing team off (other 12 to 13 year old kids)
"Sandy, remember that in cross examinations witnesses can only answer 'yes' or 'no' so if your witness tries to sneak something in you've got to put a stop to it!" Mrs. H was forever reminding me.
At that age I loved it. It allowed me to take my incessant talking and forever interrupting other kids and teachers during the regular school day to PRODUCTIVE use.
We went through public speaking drills, and exercises that helped us to stop fidgeting; we learned how to give steely direct eye-contact, and to project our voices - how to carry an argument and to put emphasis on certain parts of an argument in our oral deliveries. I felt prepared, our team had worked hard to put the case together, all of my nervous energy was ready to give it my all - but of course there were accessibility logistics that I had failed to think about, and hadn't even known that I would have to prepare for.
In my 12 year old naivety I thought it's a court room - it HAS to be accessible right? How stupid would that be if it weren't? That would just be an embarrassment! Besides this is AMERICA. The justice system is accessible to ALL. 

I didn't take into consideration whether or not my chair would be able to navigate the narrow aisles of a court room, whether or not I would have to deal with other people staring/becoming distracted by my disability while I was presenting, would the judge hear and understand my pip-squeaky-ness? What if I had to approach the bench and was unable to hear what the judge had to say? For the 12 year-old me these logistics were beyond my control. The morning of the mock trial I confessed my doubts and worries to our team coach,
"I know that this is just all pretend, I know that it's a mock trial so nothing really even matters --"
"No, there isn't anything just 'mock' about this at all. No one might actually be going to jail, and no one will actually be declared innocent - but what we've practiced, the skills you've learned, and the teamwork everyone has learned together matters tremendously. It's now up to you and everyone else on the team to put everything together!" 

The moment came when our side, the prosecution, was to deliver the closing speech. Throughout the arguments I had jotted down quick notes, made amendments to the rough outline I had prepared, added in and taken out sentences - my note cards looked like they had gone through a violent war, but I knew what I had to say was ready and good. As I rolled up to the podium I quickly realized that it was too tall for me, so instead I parked my wheelchair in front of it and began,
"Your honor and members of the jury..... in the matter of... let me remind you of the undeniable facts that the prosecution presented today.." 
I remember that was the day I learned how to 'pace' around in my wheelchair, I gestured to emphasize a point, made eye contact with the judge, and even pointed at the accused -- it wasn't until then that I realized what our coach meant when she insisted that there wasn't anything "mock" about this at all.

There was nothing pretend about being able to face ones doubts, there was nothing mock about being able to prove yourself wrong, and nothing fake about realizing that moment 'hey, I am capable of doing this after all' -- regardless of the size of the obstacles in the way.

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