Its sounds apocryphal – but similar little dramas of folk’s awkwardness and daft misconceptions about disability are common in our society. I’ve met a wheelchair user who frequently finds would-be Christly souls laying their uninvited hands on him. Another woman I’ve encountered, who has a bone anchored hearing aid, recounted to me similar experiences of the lunatic pious and their busy hands. Although not every member of society thinks they can personally instil divine energies, our more general, powerful discourses about disability continue to emphasise medical models, the dramatisation is one of tragedy and the thing devoutly to be wished is not social change but the dim and anticipated mysteries of cure. The politics of disability has striven to reject these tales and these policy priorities, and instead ask – what does society do to make impaired people’s lives more difficult? What does our built environment assume about the modal characteristics of its users? How can we plan our social life more effectively, both architecturally and procedurally? In what ways do our attitudes pose barriers which are unfair, unjust and unnecessary?
Among politically active disabled people over the recent political past, forging common cause among those who have been disabled by social choices has been a central rhetorical device. Implicit in this argument is a public and properly unembarrassed avowal of your status as a disabled person. It is in this context that I’m interested in how folk have been talking about Gordon Brown’s retinas – and more sharply, how Brown himself has historically contrived to conceal his disabilities in a reactionary way, pandering to the stereotypes of a clueless and gormless public. I wanted to start us off with a piece I found on the
Watching the political coverage, I was surprised by the vocabulary Brown used to discuss the issue with Andrew Marr. On subsequent Politics Show Scotland pieces,
They’re not. They’re grotesque. By peddling vindictive and patronising stories about disability for purely political purposes, in their pursuit of one stodgy man, they trample on the public involvement of innumerable other visually impaired people in
The answer to such narratives is not limp citations of privacy. It isn’t distasteful. Rather, the whole spun tale is an unmitigated assault on the stature of visually impaired citizens of the