Sad, pathetic charity case

The picture shows a young man in a yellow-framed wheelchair. He has spiky blonde hair, and is wearing a black shirt, black trousers, black shoes, but a vibrant red tie. He has a moody expression on his face. In his right hand, he is holding a small globe of Planet Earth.

Ladies and gen­tle­men, I want to intro­duce you to Steph­en.

Steph­en is a piti­ful young man who is suf­fer­ing. I’m sure you can tell that, just by look­ing at his pho­to­graph on the right. He is suf­fer­ing from a ter­rible afflic­tion, with which he is afflic­ted twenty-four hours a day, sev­en days a week, three hun­dred and sixty-five phys­ic­ally and emo­tion­ally wound­ing days a year. Some­times he is even afflic­ted twice a day at week­ends. It’s quite, quite tra­gic.

I’m sure you’ve spot­ted Stephen’s awful, tra­gic and tra­gic­ally awful afflic­tion by now. That’s right. Steph­en has blonde spiky hair, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the full hor­ror of the per­ox­ide bleached mid-1980s, when ter­ri­fy­ing beasts such as Limahl from Kaja­goo­goo, Howard Jones and that bloke from A Flock of Seagulls stalked the Earth in rabid packs, prey­ing on young and inno­cent Smash Hits read­ers. Steph­en, who remains stoic­ally cour­ageous in the face of such an unfair lot in life, also wears a red tie as the single sig­na­ture col­our of an entirely black out­fit, pre­sum­ably because he thinks it makes him look sharp and styl­ish. It doesn’t.

Oh, and whilst I remem­ber, Steph­en is also a wheel­chair user. He’s dis­abled. A dis­abled per­son. Which isn’t a tra­gic afflic­tion at all, cer­tainly not one on a par with a lik­ing for tinny syn­thpop and toy­shop drum machines circa 1983. But non­ethe­less, I thought I should men­tion his dis­ab­il­ity, just in case you were too dazzled by his coif­fure and cou­ture to have clocked it in the first place.

So. Yes. The wheel­chair. It’s that chair thing with wheels that he’s sit­ting on. Not so sure about the yel­low frame myself, but for­tu­nately he’s once again suc­cess­fully dis­trac­ted us from such a lur­id choice of shade by adopt­ing a moody facial expres­sion and hold­ing a small globe in his right hand.

But why, you might well ask, is Steph­en bran­dish­ing that rep­lica of this fair plan­et before him? Let’s turn to the man him­self for a far too detailed explan­a­tion:

“Plan­et Earth, right, is my play­ground, right? I don’t let my dis­ab­il­ity stand in my way, y’know? See the abil­ity, not the dis­ab­il­ity. Got it? My wheels, right, are my legs, and I use my legs — in oth­er words, my wheels — to explore the world. Com­pren­dez?

“I am an adven­turer, y’know? A cru­sader. I’m here to show, like, all dis­abled people that they don’t have to, like, sit on their arses all day eat­ing bis­cuits, claim­ing bene­fits, and whinging about bloody inequal­ity, right?

“There are no bar­ri­ers except the bar­ri­ers of the mind, see? Man, that’s deep. I got that off a med­it­a­tion tape in Goa, when I was com­mun­ing with the hip­pies.

“Any­way. So, like, what I’ve been doing, right, is break­ing records. My busi­ness is record-break­ing. And that’s got noth­ing to do with the fact that I can’t get a prop­er job because they boot me out the door as soon as they’ve seen my wheels. Oh no, abso­lutely not, mis­ter. Do not, as they say, believe the hype, ‘cos I enjoyed work­ing in the crisp fact­ory after I got my degree in Com­mu­nic­a­tion Stud­ies. Indeed I did.

“So I was the first wheel­chair user to cross the Saha­ra single-handed, right? And, like, you won’t believe this, right? But just to make it more dif­fi­cult for myself, I tied three cows to the back of my chair. They died of chron­ic dehyd­ra­tion and mal­nu­tri­tion on the way, of course, but I sol­diered on like a — well, like a sol­dier, but in a wheel­chair — and pulled their decay­ing car­casses to the oth­er side. The pic I got in The News of the World, with the head­line ‘Super Stevie Is Wheely Won­der­ful’ just made me cry buck­ets, you know? Though not like a baby, right? ‘Cos I’m hard as nails, got that?

“So after that little bit of fun and frol­ics, I decided that ‘des­pite my dis­ab­il­ity’, I would go white-water raft­ing — in my bloody wheel­chair, right? — over the Niagara Falls. And I thought it would be a right laugh to take a hod of bricks with me too. Just to add to the drama, y’know? I think I was the first per­son to do that as well. Like, ever. Won­der why?

“That bold, brave and not at all stu­pidly dan­ger­ous stunt — no mat­ter what my bor­ing mates say — got me on the Oprah show in the US, on a spe­cial pro­gramme she did called Heart­warm­ing Cripples are Humans Too. I mean, it was Oprah bleed­in’ Win­frey, right? And she pat­ted me on the head and told me I was inspir­ing. I said ‘Not the hair, Oprah. Not the hair’. And we laughed. Well, I laughed.

“So then I chose to become the very first wheel­chair user in, like, the whole of his­tory ever and ever and amen to fly a micro­light plane across the Atlantic, with no food to sus­tain me dur­ing the jour­ney ‘cept for two Snick­ers bars and three hun­dred and sev­enty-two Pro Plus tab­lets. Man, I was speed­in’. I got in The Sun for that one, snapped with a bevy of page three babes. One of those saucy minxes, right, bent down and pat­ted me on the head with her …”

I’m sorry. I had to stop Steph­en there. Cut him off in his prime, you might say. I prom­ise to apo­lo­gise to him later about plas­ter­ing a taut length of mask­ing tape over his mouth. But it was either that solu­tion, or pla­cing him at the top of a very steep hill, let­ting his brakes off and giv­ing him a push. Harsh but fair, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Steph­en may ooze bravado from every pore, but the sad truth is that whilst he’s trav­el­ling the world on his many escapades — get­ting in the news­pa­pers and prob­ably caus­ing a sniv­el­ling, moist-eyed Esth­er Rantzen to explode in a fit of warmth at see­ing the plucky dis­abled man con­quer­ing every chal­lenge he sets him­self — all that our ‘have a go hero’ really wants to do is use pub­lic trans­port in Lon­don without it requir­ing almost mil­it­ary levels of plan­ning. He would quite like to get into his loc­al pub too, without hav­ing to exper­i­ence the dread­ful indig­nity of being lif­ted up the two steps at the entrance by a pair of moan­ing, grudge­ful bar staff. If they can even be bothered, that is. And as he gets enjoy­ably bladdered, Steph­en would then like to be able to empty his full to burst­ing blad­der in that same down-at-heel drink­ing estab­lish­ment. Regret­tably, the graf­fiti-strewn con­veni­ences and the mal­func­tion­ing con­dom vend­ing machine are at the bot­tom of a nar­row flight of stairs — so it’s excep­tion­ally for­tu­nate that while wheel­ing through the jungles of Ecuador to raise money for dis­abled kid­dies, he learned the mys­tic­al art of super­hu­man con­tin­ence from a friendly pygmy. It comes in very handy after sev­en pints of lager.

This Blog­ging Against Dis­ab­lism Day, I’m look­ing for your help to get all the incred­ibly annoy­ing dis­abled adven­tur­ers such as Steph­en off our TV screens and out of our news­pa­pers. For good. All it would take is truly access­ible pub­lic build­ings and a com­pletely access­ible pub­lic trans­port net­work, and Steph­en would nev­er again feel the des­per­ate need to bun­gee jump over a water­fall, shuffle up a per­il­ous moun­tain on his bot­tom, or wheel across the Arc­tic tun­dra wear­ing noth­ing but a t-shirt emblazoned with the phone num­ber of his char­ity dona­tion hot­line.

“So my next chal­lenge, right, is my biggest yet. It’s going to make people’s jaws drop. They’re going to say, like, that I’m crazy, yeah? Off my bleed­in’ trol­ley, right? It can’t be done, they’ll say. Steph­en, it can’t be done. But nothing’s beaten me yet, cer­tainly not this bloody wheel­chair. It’s in yel­low, y’know, ‘cos it looks cool and young and hip and hap­pen­in’. But it hasn’t beaten me, and nor will the sod­ding Lon­don Under­ground. And that’s what I’m going to do, got it? The whole tube net­work, right. Amer­sham at one end, through to Upmin­ster at the oth­er. All the way through the cent­ral zone. True, I expect there’ll be, like, a few awk­ward stair­cases to go up and down, but how hard can it be, right? How hard can it be?”

Make him stop. For God’s sake, make him stop.

Blog­ging Against Dis­ab­lism 2008

Comments: 15

    Nice socks

    pete | 05.01.08, 21:32

    I wheely love your take on this stuff. Thanks for remind­ing me that it’s BAD day, that’s the first of my May I? prob­lems solved!

    Angelalala | 05.01.08, 22:20

    Like it. Far, far too clev­er of course but then I think we sort of expect that round here.

    seahorse | 05.01.08, 23:12

    Very clev­er. Only a ped­ant would point out that he’s hold­ing the globe in his right hand, of course.

    A Pedant | 05.01.08, 23:55

    LMAO! love this post,

    Ruth | 05.02.08, 02:46

    A Ped­ant — Ahem. So he is. I should have acted out the pose for myself. Duly changed to the right hand. Which is right. Thank you for your ped­antry.

    An Unreliable Witness | 05.02.08, 06:53

    Isn’t that what they do at Aard­man Anim­a­tions? They all gath­er round and act out each scene before mod­el­ling it in clay, just to be sure they are being accur­ate. I would actu­ally be quite inter­ested to know if they did this when cre­at­ing Creature Dis­com­forts. Could you find out for me please? Ta ever so :-)

    seahorse | 05.02.08, 13:14

    Point well made. This blog witty entry’s style reminds of Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

    blueseaurchin | 05.02.08, 15:03

    I liked this a lot. I’m not a “super­crip” and nev­er will be, but I’d sure like more access­ib­il­ity. That’s what would make me inspir­a­tion­ally teary.

    fridawrites | 05.02.08, 19:05

    I don’t know, I think Stephen’s kind of hot. Is he single?

    Ani | 05.02.08, 19:07

    Oh, I really pity this poor man. That hair is truly tra­gic. Poor dear. Dog bless him.

    I must con­fess: I do like the wheel­chair. Sorry. I think it’s styl­in’.

    Sara | 05.03.08, 17:16

    On per­us­ing the main photo a second time. I find I am reminded some­what of a cer­tain char­ac­ter por­trayed by the late, great Peter Sel­lars Esq.

    Who was it mmm?

    Ah yes Dr..

    Black suits you sir

    pete | 05.03.08, 18:46

    You’ve made me cry now — I hope you’re happy.

    (I am!)

    Timmargh | 05.06.08, 11:43

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