April 19, 2011
I saw something an hour ago you don’t see every day: a bloke with one leg going into the local knocking shop (a brothel). I spotted him from a long way away, stood there; his prosthetic leg showing - hesitating for a few seconds - then going in. Seeing such a thing makes the mind play out stories, wondering why he was there, why he hesitated.
It was funny as I’d only just that moment been thinking about sex and disability, well more sexiness and disability (said bloke wasn’t that sexy really).
Karen’s been picked for the 2012 Paralympic handbike team (British Cycling has two female hand cyclists), and so I’ve stepped in to try and help her towards that goal, becoming her sort of part-time coach and manager. The biggest task has been to try and stop her working too much, and give 100% to her training, and to those ends I’ve been on the corporate sponsorship trail, trying to drum up some cash to see her through to the event.
So far I’ve got nowhere.
Maybe it’s the recession, maybe it’s me, and that I had a skewed view of Karen and her story, thinking that any woman who’d biked from Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan, kayaked the inside passage, climbed El Cap, skied across Greenland, done the London Marathon 3 times, been Para-triathlon word champion AND had made it to the UK Olympic team, would stand out as one of the UK’s top female adventure athletes - and that’s BEFORE you take into account being in a wheelchair. Well, I guessed it would be an easy sell, and that Adidas or someone would snap her up.
But no one has.
This made me wonder if in-fact companies are afraid to be associated with someone with a disability, if in fact, it’s just not sexy, or even damaging to a brand. If she could walk I’m sure she’d be much more well known.
Would seeing someone in a wheelchair sell more trainers?
I always thought of disabled people as being fat and badly dressed - shame on me - but I guess a lot of people still think like that and think getting cushy parking bays probably makes up for it. We’re fine to open a door for someone, and pass them in the street, but how many disabled people have you ever talked to or engaged with? Before I met Karen me the answer was zero. I had no life plan about shacking up with a woman on wheels or meeting dozens of other disabled men and woman, going to events where I was the only one walking, making me feel uncomfortable and out of place; as I should, because you know what, it’s not them who have the problem.
When you get a disabled room in a hotel there is always just two single beds, and that kind of sums it up really.
What am I talking about? Not sure - maybe that I hope people like Karen, and the Paralympics help to make people with disabilities less marginalized; not in society, but in our minds, and also maybe go chat-up some in a wheelchair sometimes (it worth it for the parking if nothing else).
BTW Check out this little video.