This book is one of those books that was published during 2021. I’ve met the editor, Carly Findlay and also follow her on Facebook. She’s a wonderful advocate for the disabled, always trying to learn more about other people and how they navigate the world. I have learned so much from her. I always knew I’d buy this book so I could learn about other people. One of the reasons I read biographies and autobiographies is to find out about other people’s lives.
This book contains a number of stories written by people who are disabled. Some of them have accepted the term from a very early age, others have come to accept it much later in life, while others are still considering whether it’s a term that should apply to them. I don’t identify as disabled, but many of these people made me stop and think about that. I have more chronic health issues than you’d want. Some of them are basic, such as my Geographic Tongue which gives me very little trouble until it flares up and then the pain is easily dealt with. Others give me much more trouble and I’m struggling to decide which one I should mention here so I won’t name any of them. So, if you read Astrid Edwards who asks the question near the end of the book ‘Who Counts as Disabled Anyway?’ you get some understanding of her struggle to decide whether she should identify as disabled. I feel it’s entirely up to her and her decision shouldn’t affect whether other people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) identify as disabled or not.
Fiona Murphy in her piece ‘Wired for Sound’ shows how hearing-centric teaching methods are and that when you’re teaching someone to read you need to make allowances for their deafness. Funny how you can’t figure out spelling by reading people’s lips. I enjoy reading, and took great pleasure in reading about Murphy’s enjoyment of reading when she finally got there.
The piece by Alistair Baldwin about his ‘Hippotherapy’ was great. He’s got a way with words. He had to ride horses in order to help his congenital muscle disease. I’ve never been on a horse so I can only try to imagine what it’s like. When he describes landing ‘wrong on the downbeat of a trot, I can say (in a slightly high-pitched voice)’ I can imagine him getting the gait wrong and ending up with what I will describe as a male injury.
But I’m going to take myself back to where I started using Robin M. Eames ‘Et Lux (also, light)’. There are two bits I’m taking from Eames piece. The idea that it’s possible to never know what normal is because your normal consists of pain, and that ‘The boundary between illness and disability is sometimes blurry’. I’m not saying I’ve been in pain all my life but I don’t really know what it’s like to be healthy as that’s something I’ve never been. I look at healthy people and wonder what it’s like. But should I identify as disabled just because I’ve never been healthy? I don’t have an answer, but I will refer back to the boundary between illness and disability. Have I crossed over? No idea.
One of the things this book does is to give life and normality to people with disabilities. It gives them a voice and helps us to understand what it’s like having a disability: being in a wheelchair and feeling as if that wheelchair isn’t necessarily a symbol of confinement; feeling as if that disability frees you up to be something more than you would have been with out it and; that sometimes, what they’ve achieved is not something that another person with the same disability will achieve.
I laughed, I cried, and my mouth dropped open on many occasions. I thank Carly Findlay for editing this work, for letting people give voice to their issues, even when some of their issues are actually other people’s expectations. This is the book we have needed for some time. I strongly urge you to buy your own copy.