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The Independent Culture
A few weeks ago the BBC series The Invisible Wall (BBC1) handed video cameras to disabled people and allowed them to make short films about their day-to-day experience of the world. The results were mixed - revelatory both about the frustrations of negotiating a world designed for the average body and about the sheer genius for grievance displayed by some activists. "When I use the London Underground," lamented one deaf participant, "I often ask people for information about the trains and sometimes I get the wrong information and get the wrong train." Well so do I sometimes, and it gets me down too, but I'm not sure society can rectify the problem. While much of the world is mendable - the sort of casual prejudice which leads to disabled drivers being charged higher car insurance rates, which consigns wheelchair users to drafty guard's vans, which neglects the simplest adjustments to public access - it isn't mendable instantly and there will always remain a recalcitrant core of unfairness - the prejudice of gravity against those who can't use their legs, the discrimination of books against those who can't use their eyes.

The Invisible Wall used secret cameras for many of its reports - obviously in the belief that human responses were at the heart of the matter (after all a difficult kerbstone isn't suddenly going to become amenable just because it knows the BBC have come to film it). The results hardly supported the favourite cliche of disabled activists - that it isn't their disability that is the problem but the attitude of others. In fact, most of those encountered were broadly sympathetic and helpful (though that in itself seems to constitute an affront on occasions), struggling themselves with the disabilities that bind us all: too little money, too little time, too little thought.

It would be interesting to know how those involved in The Invisible Wall responded to Over the Edge's (BBC2) film about disabled people in Fiji, a country in which the struggle for equal rights is still in its infancy. A group of disabled people in Norwich had sent a video letter to their counterparts in the Pacific and this was what came back in the post. The English narration, almost inevitably, was burdened with the Newspeak of activism. The Fijian group, we were told, had "devoted their energies to making a reply" (it's generally a bad sign when people "devote their energies" to something rather than just getting on and doing it) and their film represented the "diverse, multicultural society" of which they were a part. The prejudices were certainly diverse and multicultural: "Because I was born small like a rat my mother wanted to kill me," confessed one woman. Another man, paralysed in both arms, told a strange tale of kava beer and witch-doctors, his disability apparently the result of maternal spite. "I can live with my parents but they don't like me," he said later, explaining how he scraped a living doing odd jobs here and there. Attitudes clearly have some way to go - one speaker was headlined as being from the Suva Crippled Children's Home. Much of what was said would presumably be familiar to disabled people here - stories of casual hurt and admirable resolution. What was blessedly absent was the rhetorical evasions more familiar in this country, the generalised indignation which fails to distinguish between culpable injustice and blameless cruelties of life.

Fourmations (C4) concentrated last night on desk-top computer animators. Some of the results were extraordinary, particularly Robert Bradbrook's End of Restriction, an uncanny monochrome vision of an English village, which mixed real photographs with digital modelling. "So you can see it is possible to make a film without leaving your bedroom," read the title at the end. "If you want to stay in your bedroom for a year, that is."