“How can you go in there in a f—ing wheelchair you f—ing…”
Well you can probably guess the next part. Needless to say it had four letters. Take out copy of Roger’s Profanasaurous and insert colourful adjective.
But that’s insulting to Viz Comic’s raucously amusing publication. There was nothing funny about the people hurling the invective. They meant it.
The above mentioned tirade came from an elderly gentleman using a similar conveyance to mine, except that his was motorised and didn’t have a pair of crutches attached to the back.
He was far from alone.
When I agreed to chair a couple of events at the Tory Party Conference for a disability charity I knew that things might get, shall we say, interesting. But I did not expect to have to run such a gauntlet. It was all the more galling to get it from other people with disabilities.
While I’d fiercely defend the right to protest, the snarling and spitting from them and their able bodied allies went beyond it into the realms of intimidation and out and out abuse.
Approaching the “secure zone” in a suit - people having been advised to conceal their lanyards but it didn’t much matter - meant you were fair game.
The protestors appeared to take particular exception to my presence, as if by being there I was somehow letting the side down. A traitor, and thus that much more worthy of a verbal hanging, drawing and quartering than were any able bodied attendee.
I’m not sure whether it felt worse coming under fire from from other people with disabilities or getting it from the able bodied.
“Hang on, I’m not a member of the party,” I said to one assailant who was in the latter category and had taken upon himself to express his feelings towards me in lurid Anglo Saxon.
I know the form is to walk on by, but by then I’d had enough.
I had to respond, not least because I have no more love for the Government’s current policy towards disabled people than do the protestors. And have said so in print.
My assailant’s response: “Well you shouldn’t be f-ing gong in there, you should be out there with us.”
Clearly the purple blob on my lanyard designating me as a “non party member” wasn’t going to do me any favours. Perhaps I should have added: “Look, the wheelchair I’m using is bright red. Think about it.” But I doubt that would have helped either.
Sorry “mate”, but yes I was right to be there and yes I was right to go in. My aim in taking a couple of days off work so I could accept the commission from the charity was to assist its people - and other members of the disability lobby - with the job influencing those attending. To put the case for making things better at the sessions I was chairing. The most important of which was on the issue of disabled unemployment, which is currently running at a shocking 50 per cent.
One thing is for sure, you’re unlikely to change anyone’s mind when you’re likening them to, well, pick any word with four letters.
One protestor, in a Stop the Cuts T shirt, did engage me in slightly more reasoned dialogue. But he was the exception, and it’s notable that he chose to question my being there while ignoring an able boded colleague who was with me at the time.
The irony, of course, is that there were far more people in Manchester like me, aiming to influence the policy of the governing party, hopefully for the better, than there were party members.
Along, of course, with other journalists, conference staff, cleaners, security staff and people who were just doing their jobs.
Sadly, that point appeared to have been lost on the elderly wheelchair user, the venomous protestor, even the slightly more articulate bloke in the Stop the Cuts T shirt.
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