Monday, February 08, 2010

Make Her Stop

Scrolling through an otherwise innocuous twitter feed this afternoon, when up popped a tweet from Disability Now about the latest antics of Heather Mills.

Now, before continuing, it's only fair to point out that, generally, the online disability community regard Ms Mills as a bit of an embarrassment. Her grasp of disability politics is only marginally superior to that which you might expect of a concussed duckling. The major difference being that the duckling isn't trying to market herself as a disability spokesperson.

Usually it's easy enough to ignore her in much the same way as you might ignore a toddler who is acting up just to get some attention. But then every so often, she ups the ante enough to make me reel in shock that a person can be so stupid.

Yup, Heather says she is making a show where non-disabled celebrities pretend to be disabled so they can, in her words, "see what it's like to live with a disability." Worse, she then goes on to equate this with wheelchair use. All together now:

A Wheelchair Is Not A Disability.

A wheelchair is a piece of equipment you might use if you have any one (or more) of a thousand conditions which involve impaired mobility. Disability is what happens when, despite having appropriate equipment such as a wheelchair, you are still faced with more barriers to your day to day life than one person should have to deal with.

By voluntarily using a wheelchair for a week, you learn what it's like to use a wheelchair for a week, safe and certain that it's only for a week, and that if there was an emergency - or if you simply got bored of playing the game - you could just stand up and walk away.

You don't lose your job in a week. You don't lose contact with your friends in a week. You don't spend months on an NHS waiting list in a week. You don't have to try and co-ordinate moving house in a week. On the other side of the coin, you don't develop your upper body strength very much in a week. You don't become part of a community in a week, or learn the myriad tips and tricks for wheelie life.

In short, there is very little to be gained or lost through playing at "Cripples" for a week. At least, until Heather gets involved...

"We would also get a chef like Gordon Ramsay, blindfold him, and put him in the kitchen for a week."

Leaving aside what Ramsay himself might have to say about it if she tried such a thing - that's just dangerous. If you were to suddenly lose your sight, you would be rushed to hospital. You would be there for a while so that they could attempt to restore your sight, during which time you would slowly get used to the disorientation and to doing certain things by touch. If they could not restore your sight, you would (or at least, should) not be discharged until you've been assessed on how you will manage your basic needs at home, whether there is someone to help you manage, and referred to Social Services and an occupational therapist. You don't get dumped into the middle of a kitchen full of gas burners and sharp knives and told to get on with it. That's a reality-tv experience and has nothing to do with learning about disability.

A small glimmer of hope. The article tells us that "Although she said that the programme is in production, Mills did not reveal its transmission date or which broadcaster had commissioned it." So there is a chance that she's spouting pure, unadulterated rubbish. It's sad that this is the best-case scenario.

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