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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Friday, November 03, 2006

The sympathy vote

When the majority of one's closest friends happen to be disabled, one can sometimes lose touch with the dubious opinions about disability held by the majority of temporarily non-disabled people.

This thread on the BBC's Points of View messageboard has served as something of a wake up call to Lady Bracknell. (Readers who keep up with the Ouch messageboards may recall a similar opening post from the same gentleman who, unfortunately, can neither spell the word "strictly", nor articulate his point with any degree of clarity.)

The burden of the original poster's song appears to be a wish that a programme should be made in which the professional dancers from Strictly (or, as he would have it, "Stricky") Come Dancing teach disabled people how to dance. On the Ouch board, his suggestion was met mainly with confusion, as respondents were unable to unravel his actual intent. By the time his message was somewhat clarified, the thread had died of inanition.

Over on the Points of View board, however, its sister thread is still going strong. Amongst a welter of messages which, in a circumlocutary manner, effectively say, "Oh, God, no! You have got to be kidding! That would really put me off my tea!", message 24 stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to being particularly ignorant and offensive.

"People less-able have my sympathy ALWAYS but to suggest that those in wheelchairs could provide even minority "entertainment" is absolutely ludicrous."

Firstly, Lady Bracknell does not appreciate Croydon George's implication that the fact that she is disabled makes her universally "less-able" than her non-disabled counterparts. Admittedly, if the concept of being "able" were to be predicated solely on a capacity to dance, she would be somewhere near the back of the queue. But she is willing to wager that she is far more able in certain other areas than the man from Croydon.

Secondly, Lady Bracknell neither merits nor welcomes sympathy* from non-disabled people. In fact, far from welcoming it, she has a tendency to respond in an uncharacteristically (cough) tetchy manner when it is proffered. Any person attempting - even metaphorically - to pat Lady Bracknell on the head does so at his or her own risk. Why should impairment automatically provoke sympathy? Lady Bracknell's own life is immeasurably richer since she acquired her impairment, and she can cite without difficulty innumerable disabled friends and acquaintances who would say the same thing.

Thirdly, perhaps before making sweeping statements like, "It is complete nonsense to suggest that dancing in wheelchairs is viable in any way", Croydon George might wish to familiarise himself with the work of the
Candoco dance company, or the blogosphere's very own aptly-named Wheelchair Dancer.

* Lady Bracknell is reminded of an anecdote relayed to the editor by her friend Pop. After spending an entire morning training trade union officers on the differences between the medical and social models of disability, Pop was approached by one of the officers who confided the following to him:

"The social model is good, isn't it? It's more ... sympathetic.".

Presumably the abrasions on Pop's forehead were the result of him banging his head against the wall in frustration...


Blogger Mary said...

Aargh. That made me so angry I replied to it. Despite thinking that like it or not, a person with no legs will be extremely hard pressed to do the footwork which is kind of the lynchpin of ballroom dancing. A hundred other beautiful, creative and elegant dances, yes, but not a quickstep. And certainly not one that can be learned in a week and judged by the same criteria (was this and this and this level of steps included? were the posture and hold correct?) as every other contestant. They could be included in the competition, but if the assessment was truly level rather than "special" rules for the disabled person, they would probably not be in it long.

Except for those "sympathy" votes.

12:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Should Curious George ever find himself in the middle of the road when the Rolls Canardly is driving through Croydon, he may find he has a whole new outlook on how distasteful wheelchair dancing really is!

Whilst it is beyond reasonable doubt that the proponent of the “Stricky Come Dancing for PHABs” idea is utterly Dagenham East, that is no excuse for this kind of Cripophobia.


12:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your cogent analysis of this important topic.

I was shocked to read many of the opinions in this thread. I have created a link to your post on my humble site and have cut and pasted some of the more pithy remarks.


6:46 pm  
Blogger eclectech said...

Oh my. Can I offer the possibility that posters on BBC message boards might not be representative of "the majority of temporarily non-disabled people"? I stumble across discussions on many topics there following odd links to my site and am frequently aghast at what I read but my experiences with people in the real world have never filled me with *quite* as much gloom.

Some gloom, I admit, but not as consistently as message boards which seem to attract extremes.

Yours in optimism,

9:36 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Eclectech makes a good point. The Points of View board is awash with "single issue" contributors who bang on at tedious length about e.g. the damage caused to the nation's innocent children by their being forced to watch scenes of (shock, horror) two men kissing.

Middle England at its worst.

Lady Bracknell notes that our friend George from Croydon has compounded his original offence in his latest message, number 47...

Congratulations are due to Mary on her own calm and reasoned message which, unsurprisingly, has been wholly ignored.

Thanks go to Wheelchair Dancer for spreading the word further. (Although Lady Bracknell is not convinced that her own post was particularly cogent, given how enraged she was when she composed it.)

10:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is possible that the original poster of the message has in fact hit upon a quite brilliant concept, but made a typographical error. Surely it should read Sticky Come Dancing ?

I refer her Ladyship to the Greek Stepping section of the excellent Clear Canes website, & await my invitation to join a troupe with much amusement and not a little trepidation.

12:03 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Amused as Lady Bracknell was by Dame Glossop's suggestion, the excessive sniggering emanating from the editor would tend to indicate that "Sticky Come Dancing" might have an alternative meaning which Lady Bracknell herself - being pure of mind - cannot fathom.

12:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dame Honoria is shocked!
(and cannot stop giggling)

1:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(or, as he would have it, "Stricky") Come Dancing

I read it as a joke - a cross between "Strictly" and "Sticky" - just cos it's the sort of thing I might come out with on a bad day.

I never clicked on the link to read the thread (on Ouch that is) to get an idea about how good/bad the posters spelling/typing is, which will usually tell you if a misspelling is deliberate or not.

9:24 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Lady Bracknell can assure Lisy Babe that, from the general standard of spelling, punctuation and command of the English language displayed by the gentleman in question, she considers it most unlikely that he was using "Stricky" for humorous effect...

5:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lady Bracknell, so pleased to make your acquaintance. Young David has introduced us to you by way of his Disability Carnival #3. We have a lot of exploring to do there, but we will be back to visit with you. Over tea perhaps!

1:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lady Bracknell, so pleased to make your acquaintance. Young David has introduced us to you by way of his Disability Carnival #3. We have a lot of exploring to do there, but we will be back to visit with you. Over tea perhaps!

P.S. Forgive me if this posts twice. I may have goofed.

1:48 am  

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