BBC: "Point of View" - Disability & Happiness

I don’t know if anybody else caught it, but there was a very interesting and - I thought - potentially encouraging Point of View programme on Radio 4 this week.

In it, Tom Shakespeare (himself disabled) argues that the popular perception of the able bodied, that disabled people must be desperately miserable, is not borne out by studies! Even severity of disability does not seem to make much difference to how people rate their quality of life.

Admittedly, he does identify two different groups: those disabled from birth (never known any different), and those with acquired disabilty (like MS, or following an accident). The latter can experience profound depression in the period following their injury, or onset of their illness. BUT, in the long term, guess what? They learn to make the most of it, and report similar life satisfaction to other people! I thought this was hugely encouraging for anyone recently diagnosed, or who has just suffered a major setback (big relapse), and is still in the depression phase. The odds are that you will NOT always feel so down about it.

If you’d like to read a transcript of the whole programme, or listen to it on iPlayer, here’s the link:

A Point of View: Happiness and disability - BBC News (the link to iPlayer is in blue, about halfway down the page, below the picture of Tom)

Just thought it was interesting and thought-provoking, as many of these short personal programmes are.


That was interesting - thanks for sharing… Made me think of an interview I saw during the week with comedian Francesca Martinez (who has cerebral palsy and describes herself as wobbly!). She has a new book out called ‘What The **** Is Normal’. She was talking about the influence of society defines what is normal etc…

Francesca Martinez is also very good - and I’m thinking of getting the book (if not for the embargo on books until I read at least some of the ones I’ve got!) I’ve heard her interviewed recently, too. She was explaining that she had a passionate but ultimately disastrous relationship when she was young, with someone who turned out to be a bit of an ****hole; however, despite that, he’d done one tremendously important thing for her, which was to challenge her view of herself as not normal.

When she’d said something along the lines of: “Well, of course I’m not normal - my brain’s got something the matter with it”, he’d asked: “What do you mean, ‘not normal’? You’re totally and completely you!” Whatever his subsequent faults, this lesson had stayed with her.

I also thought it was interesting hearing her talk about the hard time she had at school, because their idea of “equality” was to completely ignore her disability, and expect her to do the same as everyone else - including P.E. If she tried to explain she couldn’t do certain things, she was told: “That’s all in your head!”

“Well, strictly speaking, yeah, but as my brain doesn’t work properly, it’s a bit of a problem…”

Had to laugh, as I had similar from my boss, who once memorably told me: “We would never, ever, take your disability into consideration!” - as if that was a positive thing (i.e. “We wouldn’t discriminate.”) Obviously blissfully unaware that ignoring the problem, and pretending a sick or disabled person can function on equal terms with everybody else is discriminatory!