By Richard Herring - 27th March, 2012
Richard Herring: Disability is an issue that confuses and embarrasses
Richard Herring tells how disabled children dressed as Christmas trees changed a vacuous pop song into a deep and meaningful one.
This Sunday, I am presenting Radio 4s weekly appeal. Its for the disability charity Scope. The disabled community is often ignored or even resented.Theyre all pretending to be disabled for the benefits and parking spaces, right? Those cheats cost us so much I sometimes worry that the bankers might not get their bonuses or that MPs will have to pay for their own pornography.
Disability is an issue that confuses or embarrasses many people and I can understand that. Its hard to know how to behave or what you can and cant say. Personally, I was always a bit uncertain about how to refer to people who arent disabled. I couldnt say able or normal, mainly because I dont feel I am either of those things. Yet the preferred term non-disabled seemed a bit clunky. I asked a wheelchair-user for advice and she said: We call you the not yet disabled.
I laughed. But then stopped laughing. Id never really thought about it but one day I will almost certainly be disabled we all will be. Well be in an accident or well get old. The only escape is dying before that happens, which might be seen as a somewhat Pyrrhic victory.
In Christmas 2007 I was invited down to one of Scopes schools to see the Christmas plays. I was nervous, knowing that many of these kids were severely disabled, fearing I might be unable to hide my shock. I was sceptical that kids who couldnt speak or move unassisted would be able to put on any kind of meaningful entertainment.
To begin with I saw the wheelchairs and disabilities. But slowly I began to see the children: some cheeky, others shy, some missing their cues, others playing to the crowd. Just like at any school play. Because, of course, they were just kids.
My favourite scene involved three eight- year-olds, with varying degrees of mobility, dressed as Christmas trees, dancing to Toploaders Dancing In The Moonlight.
Its not a song that I particularly like and nor, I imagine, did the person who wrote it envisage that those doing the dancing would be eight years old, have cerebral palsy or be dressed as Christmas trees. But the joy was infectious and inspirational. A slightly vacuous pop song became deep and meaningful. I wished that I had written Dancing In The Moonlight because it had created this wondrous moment.
Before, when I heard that song, Id have imagined young, drunk women gyrating around in revealing clothes, about to commit lewd acts with the members of Toploader and Id have felt slightly soiled. But from now on I will think of these three Christmas trees and remember what it means to be human.
Like the members of Toploader (I imagine), I was leading quite an empty and meaningless life at the time and these scamps helped me realise this. We all have things we arent very good at and most of us choose to not do those things. But having the balls to do something difficult as best you can is actually better than being the best at it.
If youre not disabled now, then one day you might be. When that happens youll want to go to the pub or get on public transport. Youll want to be seen as a person, not as a disability. Purely out of selfishness you should be fighting for disabled rights. If you dont, you are prejudiced against your future self. And your future self hates you and thinks youre a dick.
To donate to the Scope appeal, visit www.scope.org.uk/richardherring.
Follow Richard Herring on Twitter @Herring1967
Read more: http://www.metro.co.uk/lifestyle/894262-richard-herring-disability-is-an-issue-that-confuses-and-embarrasses#ixzz1qJmnTOr7