Friday 17 December 2010

Jeff Brazier Documentary

I watched a documentary today featuring TV presenter Jeff Brazier and his 25 year old brother Spencer who has Cerebral Palsy.

The documentary was following Jeff, 31, as he tried to regain an adult relationship with his brother and  help Spencer gain independence as he felt that his younger brother let their mother do too much for him as a disabled person.

Spencer has a different CP than I do; he has a normal I.Q, but cannot speak and has limited use of his hands. Jeff commented as he put it (Spencer) “Doesn’t have much of a lifestyle” which I first thought was quite a harsh observation. It later became apparent that both brothers were stubborn and the more Jeff pushed Spencer the more he would become angry and defensive at being forced to grow up and change his whole life effectively.

Spencer seems a lonely guy who wants more friends and to eventually marry and have children, his older brother couldn’t see why he wouldn’t take steps towards these goals and branded him lazy. Eventually, us as viewers and Jeff, could see that Spencer was scared of the change, scared of rejection I suspect.

I can talk (very well!) its mainly just my legs that limit my life but I still felt completely dejected when my first boyfriend dumped me, who else would take pity on me? It took a while to realise that my ex didn’t pity me he’d just moved on and other men wouldn’t look down on me, they would see me as equal just my family and friends do.

For Spencer it’s not as easy; meeting new people romantically or otherwise, he only communicates in Makaton sign language, he tried using communication software on an ipad but quite obviously hated using it and he actually came to say that he didn’t see himself as disabled.

It’s funny because I find that even though I use a wheelchair a lot, am on load of medication and have medical files thicker than a bible that I don’t always see myself as a “proper” disabled person. I can talk, I go clubbing, I have a boyfriend, I can’t possibly be properly incapacitated? But I am, and it’s hard to sometimes keep that in mind that no matter how many pep talks you give yourself or receive from others there are things I can’t do from a medical point of view, so I can completely see where Spencer came from; I can talk there for I’m fine he can walk and doesn’t need a wheelchair so he must be fine. Jeffs underlying message was that Spencer had to make the most of who he is and what he can do and not dwell and the negatives, that I completely agree with.

The documentary really was heartfelt and warming, I could see Jeff desperate to help his brother which would in turn assist his their mother to gain an independence that she had lost being Spencer’s carer, but in the end there was a fine line between being helpful and forceful and Jeff finally saw that he couldn't help Spencer unless Spencer wanted to change and it wasn’t going to happen within the few weeks of the documentaries making.

A genuinely brilliant documentary by Anna Keel and if you can catch it on BBC or on the iplayer please do its well worth the watch.

L x

Monday 13 December 2010

Lady GoGo’s guide to Disability Awareness - Part 2

Further to my piece on disability awareness month (Name calling) I want to look at disability and the actions of others. This week the Scottish Comedian Frankie Boyle and Channel 4 have come under fire for Frankie’s comments regarding Katie Price’s son Harvey. The 8 Year old suffers with autism, amongst other conditions.

I do not agree with the Scot’s harsh and sickening comments, Harvey is only a child and cannot defend himself. For all of Katie Price’s bad press she is still a mother and wants to protect her offspring from ridicule and bullying. There is a line between funny and cruel but sometimes that line is blurred.

I have been at the butt of peoples jokes, I take 99% of them in jest. Once I was at a comedy club and a Canadian act made a funny yet very un- pc disability joke. People didn’t know whether to laugh or walk out, I laughed! But to my horror (especially since I was hiding at the back!!) the comedian pipes up “I know we have a lady here tonight in a wheelchair, where are you?” The entire room turns to look. I flush instantly red.

Him: “Where you offended by that joke?”

Me: “No” *nervous laugh.

Him: “Some people here think I’ve gone too far I need you to do me a favour, on three can you tell them all to fuck off?”

Me: “Erm....”

Him: “1.... 2... 3....”

Me: *Silence.... hiding behind my hands laughing*

Him: “Don’t make me come over there I know you can’t run away”

Me: *Crackling loudly*

Upon seeing my amusement the room seemed to relax and laugh with me and not at me. Subsequently the joke was voted a year later The Most Offence by Paramount Comedy TV channel.

It’s hard for the general public to know how to react to anything “different” or “unusual” from ourselves. Just like any other person, I have my good and bad days, on the days I’m feeling sensitive any off comment or action can make me feel inadequate and other days when my hair looks fabulous, I’m wearing new out fit (and after a few ciders!) I sometimes like the attention, I just tell myself people are staring at my shiny brown bob in envy.

I enjoy going out as much as "Normal" People! lol!

For example; I have had people tell me “Well Done for coming out and being normal” – on a good day I cheekily reply “Ah thanks, you going to buy me a congratulatory drink” on a bad day I automatically feel awkward and as thought I’m being felt sorry for.

Another one is when I’m chatted up. Apart from being sickeningly smitten with my guy Mike, any of my close friends know I hate being chatted up, not as a disabled person but as a woman. I see myself as the ugly duckling and again that is just a woman’s inadequacy, nothing to do with my wheelchair.

There are two camps; the positive who when told “I’m sorry I have a boyfriend” after denying to giving them my number who say “Lucky Guy” or “Well if it all goes wrong *wink*” and then there’s the awful including one guy who said “You should be grateful for any attention you get” luckily I was feel fabulous and quipped back “Your lucky I’m even talking to you buddy!”

I’m generally laid back overall, I like being offered help, I don’t mind asking for it either, I don’t mind being asked what happened to me nor even “Can I have a go in your chair?” other behaviours I find slightly odd.

Being patted on the head is just weird, people getting hold of my chair whilst I’m browsing the shelves and moving me out of their way without even asking is just plain rude and others telling me I have put their lives into perspective or I’m like a second coming, is just worrying, those few need counselling!

But what I see as okay other might not, it’s a mind field for non disabled people to know what to do or how to act, my advice is act like you would to any other person, should you be asked for help don’t tut and roll your eyes and should you be told off for not offering help off your own back just smile sweetly and say nothing because those disabled people are the ones in the wrong not you.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Snow - it almost makes no difference!

Well the UK has ground to a halt once again. In the case of white stuff vs Britain – we lose! But I can’t help but be a tad smug about the whole situation. When it snow’s every non disabled person has a glimpse into a disabled person’s life.

Before I reason with you, let me point out that the thought of homeless people being out in this terrifies me, emergency services unable to reach those in need leaves me cold (I do not excuse my very truthful and yet ironic pun there!) and feel awful for those, including family and friends who are stranded in airports and at work conferences! But for the 38 people on my facebook within the last 24 hours proclaiming to have cabin fever and being driven mad having to stay at home, is for myself and many others a daily feeling.

Those who know me, will know that I get out and about quite happily with some careful planning and thought, especially since the arrival of the GoGo, but what about people who are worse off physically than myself?

Before my GoGo arrived I would regularly curse having to wait in for people or help with something (I know – I should just be grateful and don’t get me wrong, I was/am when I receive a bit of assistance). The GoGo has given me freedoms I’ve missed since I was a child, getting my own milk, when I have once again let it sour, feels like a treat, yet I still find myself desperate to go that little bit further than I now can. I suppose it’s almost like wanting the holiday we can’t afford, New York (my dream Holiday destination) will be there waiting when I save, but unlike my friends for me London is still just that bit out of reach.

Going back to those worse off than myself, I have a wonderful network of friends, family, neighbours even my postman offering me help with my shopping or some company. For those who don’t have that luxury, sitting in with just your TV, a book and/or your own company is lonely enough when it snows but what about the rest of the year? With all the impending cuts to care services and medical aid, I can’t help but wonder if more people’s lives will be just that bit more frustrating.

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom, snow is beautiful and only adds to the excitement of Christmas only days away now. So make the most of your days off, the peace and quiet of no annoying visitors and go build a snowman (or a ten foot male appendage as one of my facebookers threatened!) as us being a nation of complainers we’ll only moan when it’s all gone again.