Berlin is great, Zurich not so bad, but Lausanne impossible. New York and Amsterdam are fine, but don’t even mention Venice. Cities, and indeed countries, look very different from a wheelchair. No longer is the language, culture or cuisine your main concern. Now, it is the gradient which determines your enjoyment of a location. Flat… Read More from On the level
One of the most troubling dilemmas that the advance of science forces us to face is that of prenatal diagnosis. Every potential parent now becomes a bioethicist, as they decide which tests to accept during pregnancy, and how to act on them. Continue? Or terminate? Having to take responsibility for making a choice makes life… Read More from A normal burden
Disability is often thought of as something rare and strange: a few unfortunate people who cannot walk or cannot see or who have mental disorders. But if you stop to think about all the ways in which human beings are let down by their bodies and minds – the vision problems, the hidden issues like… Read More from A question of attribution
Everyday, I need help.I loiter by the supermarket display, waiting for someone to come by, so that I can ask them to reach something down from a high shelf. Or maybe I need someone to push me up a steep slope. Do you think you are a good helper? I hope you make yourself available,… Read More from Can you help?
Do you recall the story of Chen Guangcheng? You know, the so-called “barefoot lawyer’? The self-taught advocate who fought against illegal sterilizations and forced late-term abortions in China? No? What if I called him by the description which was used in all the newspapers and broadcasts:“blind activist”? Ah, now you remember! The media coverage of… Read More from Can’t you see?
The fact that some people have disabilities challenges our sense of justice.It seems very unfair, and makes us feel uncomfortable.I think that’s why you sometimes hear the phrase “differently abled” being used. It seems less derogatory than “disabled”, a more charitable phrase. Everyone has different abilities and disabilities, we are told. Nobody is inferior. We… Read More from Spot the difference
In August, it was announced that a new prenatal test has been approved for use in Switzerland, allowing highly accurate, non-invasive fetal testing for Down syndrome in the twelfth week of pregnancy. Should citizens be concerned? For now, I think not, for three reasons. First, it’s nothing new: Swiss women are already testing their pregnancies… Read More from Difficult choices
Finding myself unaccountably single, and dissatisfied with that state of affairs, last month I decided to do what all middle aged middle class people do, and advertise. The website was quite particular. Lots of questions about interests and desires. I was about to put myself out there when a question arose. What to say about… Read More from Dating dilemmas
I was at a world congress in Agra, India, last month, talking about disability. As well as the value of interacting with 1200 delegates from developing countries, I eagerly anticipated the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort, Mughal India’s most renowned world heritage sites. Unsurprisingly, on the afternoon I made my… Read More from Wonder of the world
Growing up disabled, my mother’s view was that I should not draw attention to myself by my clothing. Look as much as possible like everyone else was her advice on minimizing disability. As a young adult, I decided that if people were going to stare at me anyway, I would choose punk clothes and haircut… Read More from Clothes make the man
I changed jobs last month, and went through all the usual rituals. I had my leaving party, I handed in my work mobile phone, I cleaned the walls… What do you mean, you don’t scrub down your office when you change employment? Ah, but then you’re probably not a wheelchair user. Let me explain. First,… Read More from Dirty handicap
I’ve started: new flat, new town, new job. My role is teaching sociology to medical students. I am excited about the possibility of improving their attitudes to disabled people. It’s a new medical school, only ten years old, in a new building on a beautiful leafy campus. I am sharing an office on the second… Read More from We have lift off!
Being distinctive has its disadvantages. When I was a child, I was disappointed that I could never be a mysterious spy or dashing criminal, because anonymity is a luxury that disabled people like myself cannot enjoy, whatever the disguise. But now it makes me feel a little special that a few months after moving to… Read More from Disabled celebrity?
Charles Dickens’ character Wemmick was always concerned with what he called “portable property”, and this month so am I. Do you use a bag or a briefcase to carry your wallet, keys, phone, papers or do you put it all in your pockets? Since becoming a wheelchair user, I have had a problem. Some folks… Read More from Portable property
Having changed jobs, I have had to learn again the key lesson of disability: that people are disabled by their environment more than by their bodies. I have mentioned the elevator before. Today, let’s talk about doors. In my previous workplace, I never once opened a door. The entrance was automatic, the corridors unobstructed, and… Read More from Disability opens doors
What do you do when people assist you, in ways which are not to your liking? I have been thinking about this because my neighbour sadly died of cancer last month. He was a very helpful person, as I learned 15 years ago, when I was living alone and confined to bed for six months… Read More from Thanks…but no thanks!
Having moved into a new house, I am starting afresh with gardening. A new compost heap, bulbs to plant, flowerbeds to plan. In some ways, gardens are inaccessible to disabled people. From my wheelchair, it’s more difficult to tackle the weeding (too low) or the pruning (too high) or the mowing (too much). I cannot… Read More from Waiting for spring
I went to give a talk in Bristol, England recently. I checked into a hotel on the Quayside and went up to my room. It was strangely familiar. Then I realized, it was exactly the same room that I had stayed in five ago, the last time I had lectured in the city. A spooky… Read More from Tried and tested
I’m very excited. By the time you read this, my new wheelchair will have arrived. Not only is it made of titanium and designed for my individual physique, it has also been painted in British racing green. It’s a big improvement. Not only is my current chair falling apart, due to rough treatment in dozens… Read More from Supermodel
At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Bob Dylan caused a storm when he appeared on stage with an electric guitar for the first time. When I go electric, I hardly think anyone will notice, but it might make all the difference to me. I am talking about wheelchairs again, not rock and roll. Since becoming… Read More from The times, they are a-changing
Ignorant people talk a lot of nonsense about disabled people being brave. In fact, patience is the one essential virtue that every person with disability requires. Patience, while you are waiting for your hospital appointment. Patience, while you are exercising in physiotherapy, slowly regaining function. Patience, while you are waiting for the painkillers to take effect. … Read More from Disability is a waiting game
Forgive me, if this month I tackle an impolite topic: public toilets. For those of us who use wheelchairs, a bathroom break is a lottery. When you make your visit, you never know what to expect. Will there be an acccessible toilet? Will it be convenient? Details matter. Space is important. In cafes or bars,… Read More from Talking of bathrooms
When bikers pass each other on the road, they acknowledge each other with a flash of fellowship. I also love the way that bikers thank a car driver for letting them in, by kicking out a leg in an upside down salute. Or long distance truck drivers flash their lights to greet another trucker. We… Read More from Gentlemen of the road
I have had nearly fifty years of having restricted growth, and I’ve been paralysed since 2008, and I think I know all about being disabled. But to my horror, impairment left me in disarray again recently. Let me explain. Since I became paralysed, I have been taking a daily dose of pills to tackle my… Read More from Not so independent after all
My daughter came visited for the weekend recently, bringing her boyfriend. My partner and I took them out and about. Just an ordinary family gathering. Except that this group included three people with restricted growth, of whom one also uses a wheelchair. Which makes a rather unusual sight. My average-height partner has become used to… Read More from Three’s a crowd
About ten years ago, I led a research project called “life as a disabled child”. Only after we began interviewing young people with disabilities did I realize how stupid our title was. First, none of the hundred teenagers we talked to wanted to be identified as “disabled”. They all saw themselves as ordinary kids. They… Read More from Who wants to be disabled?