To party is a basic human right... even for the disabled

Instead of meekly accepting less than the bare minimum for disabled people we should demand much more - and that includes access to arts and a social life

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The Independent Online

All Troy Hitchins wanted to do was go to the pub and have a drink on a Saturday night, but that’s too much to ask, apparently. The 20-year-old wheelchair user was carried out of an upstairs bar in The King’s Head in Birmingham by bouncers who allegedly said he could stay only if he stood up. It wasn’t a pleasant way to start the evening, as you can imagine. “I felt really embarrassed when door staff carried me down the stairs,” Hitchins said. “I felt everyone was watching me.”

Humiliation of this sort has become a routine occurrence for disabled people in austerity Britain. A sustained attack on the welfare state has forced anyone who needs government support – and who doesn’t, from time to time? – into the indignity of defending their right to exist. In this climate, the freedom to go out and have some fun with your mates is unlikely to figure high on many campaigners’ lists of priorities. But why shouldn’t disabled people be afforded the opportunity to enjoy life as well as merely survive it?

This is the guiding principle behind the new social enterprise Why Not People, which aims to give the disabled access to live music and entertainment. “It is a chance for us all to party with the people we should have partied alongside all along,” said founder and Radio 1 presenter Jameela Jamil. Sadly, this inspiring message is being drowned out by the busybodies who, emboldened by “benefits scrounger” headlines, feel qualified to decide whether people they’ve never met before, people whose lives they know nothing about, are deserving of a social life.

Chief spokesperson for the know-nothing busy-bodies is Katie Hopkins, who this week criticised her Celebrity Big Brother housemate Katie Price for accepting government assistance with transporting her disabled son to and from school. Harvey, who is blind and has a complex range of other learning difficulties including autism and ADHD, was placed in a south London special needs school miles away from the West Sussex family home.

According to Price’s management, there were once suitable schools in the local area, but – surprise, surprise – these have been shut down. That’s the sort of context which Hopkins isn’t interested in, not that it’s any of her business, anyway. “I just kept quiet because I don’t want to argue,” said a weary Price later, “I don’t feel I have to.” And she’s right, she shouldn’t have to.

The King's Head pub in Birmingham from which Troy Hitchins, a wheelchair user, was carried out

A properly functioning society is one that provides all its citizens with education and healthcare, paid for by progressive taxation. If the Government no longer fulfils this basic duty that’s not because humans have suddenly become less deserving; it’s because the Government is failing. So why waste your breath defending the principle of universal benefits against anti-welfare propaganda, when it’s the whole disingenuous argument that needs reframing?

Instead of meekly accepting less than the bare minimum for disabled people we should demand much more – and yes, that includes access to arts and a social life. Sometimes, as the Beastie Boys said, you’ve gotta fight for your right to party.

All because women said no?

Do jihadists turn to violence because “they are not making it with girls”? That’s what Boris Johnson suggested in a typically florid speech this week. “They are literally w***ers. Severe onanists,” he told The Sun newspaper. It was entertaining, comforting even, but alas using sexual frustration to explain male violence isn’t a useful new insight into the minds of killers. It’s just more of the same old rubbish.

This, after all, is the exact logic that killers use to justify their own actions. “Virgin killer” Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who went on a shooting spree in California last year and Ben Moynihan the 18-year-old who stabbed three women in Portsmouth, both blamed their murderous rampages on women who rejected their advances.

While Johnson didn’t directly suggest women who don’t put out should take responsibility for the homicidal urges of men, his words reinforce the same flawed value system. According to this world view, men are masculine and powerful only in proportion to the notches on their bedposts, and as for women, they’re the notches.

In fact, getting some action does not constitute being “adjusted in their relations with women”, as Johnson would have it. The special something which prevents most people from going berserk with a machine gun is not orgasms, but empathy; the ability to conceive how your actions might hurt other humans. “Other humans”, for the avoidance of doubt, is a category which also includes women, though you might think otherwise if you’ve been immersed since birth in a Page 3 culture in which women exist only to titillate.

Jihadists and other teenage misogynists don’t need more women in bed; they need more women as friends, more women in boardrooms and more women in the Cabinet. And so does Boris Johnson.

I’m in Depp despair

If you’ve seen Johnny Depp’s latest film Mordecai, first off, my condolences. Second, perhaps you had an inkling as to the reason why the actor didn’t show up to a press conference this week. He must have been too embarrassed to show his face, right?

Actually, he had a cold, or at least that’s the excuse the movie’s publicists eventually gave assembled journalists. The following day, Depp came out of hiding and offered up his own, much more entertaining cover story. “I was attacked yesterday morning by a very rarely seen or experienced animal called ‘chupacabra.’ I fought with it for hours,” he said.

I, for one, believe him, but one question remains: where was that conveniently obstructive beast when it came time to sign the contract for Pirates of The Caribbean 4?

Child’s play

Social media, I have realised much too late in life, is all about showing off and getting away with it. Kudos, then, to the Obamas who promoted Obamacare this week by sharing cute pictures of themselves as children, accompanied by the tagline “You’re not young and invincible forever”. As every #ThrowbackThursday fan knows, but would never admit, posting a pictures of yourself as a child is the smart way to do selfies. It doesn’t come across as vain, plus everyone looks their best aged 10 or under. Never mind, “Earlybird”, youth is the most flattering Instagram filter there is.


Demand more for disabled people

Boris’s unlikely sexual equation

Johnny’s battling with his demon

The cool way  to use selfies