If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


For my sins, I am a member of my country's Citizens' Panel, which means that I have been especially selected by someone, and once every couple of months they send me the link to an online survey. There are always questions on local policing, to which my answer is always the same - yes, please, we would like some. And questions on GPs and pharmacists and local services and libraries and waste collection and would I lke to attend meetings with local councillors and youth offending team representatives (ooooh, yes please!) and would I prefer to have information on the local Reading For The Blind Initiative delivered by email, leaflet, website, local paper, and would that be in braille, Sir?

(The one I loved was the question:

What type of internet connection do you have?

a) Broadband
b) Dial-up
c) Don't know
d) None

Er, it's an online survey, dear.)

It's stultifyingly boring, but I feel if they are asking the questions, I might as well give them an answer. I get bugger-all chance to say my piece to anyone otherwise. So tonight, I got in from work, logged into my emails, and there was another one. Much the same as before, but this time there was a question on Disability. And the first question said:

The following questions are part of the Council’s work to develop its Disability Equality Scheme. The aim of which is to ensure equal access to the Council’s services, buildings and employment, as well as celebrating diversity and disability.

Well, I knew it was compulsory in NuLabour Britain to celebrate diversity (one of those phrases, like 'vibrant community' that has me reaching for my shotgun), but now we are supposed to celebrate disability too?

Listen. Disability is horrible. It hurts and it is inconvenient. It's blindness and deafness and loss of mobility and the most normal things become a challenge like climbing Everest. People often don't consider your needs and treat you like a vegetable. It's crap. If I could wave a magic wand, I would abolish it entirely, and have the whole world able-bodied and fit and happy. So what the hell is there to celebrate about it?

I know, let's celebrate blindness. How wonderful it must be to be challenged by not being able to see. How great and heart-warming it must be to have to ask for help to cross the road. How ennobling to know that you will never see your grandchildren or your lover's face ever again.

Let's celebrate being house-bound by wonky legs and a bad back that means you can't drive and there's no sodding bus service.

Let's celebrate walking with a stick or having to use a wheelchair, which is so wonderfully, you know, diverse and we all feel so good about ourselves by celebrating it and don't think for one second about how bad it must be to actually live with it.

Seriously, what planet are these people on?

Do they seriously think that people want to be disabled, or that they would, in a million years, want to celebrate it?

Ask any disabled person which they would rather have:

1. A 23-year-old social work graduate patronising them with talk of celebrating their disability, or

2. To be able to walk unassisted.

Answers, on a five-pound note, to the usual address.


1 comment:

  1. endemoniada_8823 July 2009 at 13:44

    Difficult and emotive subject, that one. Not least because people seem to assume that having a pop at the ridiculous language and PC attitude equates to having a go at the disabled themselves. Or perhaps, more accurately, will often deliberately be misinterpreted in that way in order to demonise the original speaker.

    I always find the Paralympics to be a disturbingly typical example of the whole patronising culture. For a start, it's an utterly artificial construct. Under no circumstances would the Greeks, who were pretty much the original body and health fascists, have considered allowing the disabled to have their own showpiece. Quite the opposite, in fact: so the whole "Olympics" part of it is a nonsensical soundbite. But that's OK, because whilst the civilised modern world does allow the event to happen, it's always left until after the proper Olympics are done and the cameras have been turned off.

    Truth is, it leaves the impression that there is a desire to pay lip service to equality, but not actually be confronted with the results.

    There again, I suppose if it was true equality, one would actually be able to say aloud that watching, for example, wheelchair basketball, is like watching people who aren't - in real terms - very good at playing basketball. It may well be a tremendous individual achievement for them (and I am not denigrating that in any way), but as a watchable mass-market sport, it doesn't really cut it.

    But to return to the original point: people do not, as a rule, want something as simple as dribbling a ball to be a tremendous personal achievement. They'd prefer to be able to just do it, like anyone else, without having to "celebrate" how the arbitrary cruelty of a random disability has made it into the equivalent of climbing Everest.

    Mind you, although British athletes in the Olympics largely produce a very mediocre set of results, the UK always seems to clean up in the Paralympics. Perhaps that means there's something in all this celebrating stuff...?


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