Suddenly I was hearing a young voice, on television, talking about disability. He was seated with his mom, bursting with pride as she listened to him talk, and relating his desire to make people laugh and get people comfortable with the idea of disability. He was mature and well spoken. I stopped what I was doing to listen to the fourteen year old boy, who's name turned out to be Jack Carroll. The reason he was on the show was that he was one of the "Pride of Britain" Teen Award Winners. He stated plainly that he was surprised to have won the award but that he did want to use comedy as a means of getting people talking about disability in a different kind of way. He seemed really grounded, very funny, and someone who wants to make change. Yet, after all this, the interviewer turns to Jack's mom and uses the words Tragic and Tragedy to the mix. It was as if she wanted to amp up the discussion to make Jack something different - a freakish tragic accident that is doing well in spite of his suffering.
There is another world constantly associated with this story. Look his name up and you will see him described almost constantly as suffering from Cerebral Palsy or as a Cerebral Palsy sufferer. References will be made to his wheelchair, his difficulty with movement, his need or reliance on a mobility device. Suffering and tragic. Seriously.
Jack Carroll in the interview I heard, and in the interviews I subsequently watched, was funny and witty but he was also careful and conscious of his language. He sat in interviews listening to his birth as a tragedy and his life as full of suffering. He maintained a grace that was remarkable, he refused to answer any questions in kind.
I'm wondering what would happen if interviewers actually LISTENED to the answers of those they were talking to. It was like they simply couldn't hear what he was saying because their prejudice and their disphobic views on disability were so much louder than the quiet sensible words of a young boy who wants disability discussed.
This could have been the realization of his dream. National Television. National Papers. But instead, he found Tragedy and Suffering discussed. But not disability.
Jack Carroll, we will likely never meet, you will likely never make it over her to my corner of the blogosphere. But he's one disabled guy who heard your interview, saw what you were trying to do. So if you listen very carefully, you might hear the disability community applauding your achievement an acknowledging with you that it was a tragedy that you had to suffer fools.