Friday, 1 May 2009

It Should Have Been Me

May 1st is Blogging Against Disablism Day, a highlight in the disability blogging calendar, if you can imagine such a thing. Here is my contribution.

There I was, flicking through the pages of Mobilise, a magazine promoting mobility for disabled people, something I'm sure we'd all agree is a good thing. (Promoting mobility I mean, not flicking through the pages of a magazine. We disabled folk are notoriously sedentary.) Anyway, there I was, gazing at adapted vehicles with sexy aluminium ramps and scooters with five wheels for extra stability, when there between an article about a kid taking his local bank to court over access issues and one about Naidex '09, a conference promising innovative features, new products and educational seminars (wow!), there was an article that might change my life and give me a bite at the reality TV cherry. BBC 3 are looking for wannabe wheelchair dancers. Sign me up.

“BBC 3 seeks wheelchair users”, the article read. “Would you like to try something new?“ it continued. “Fancy learning to dance?” Would I ever! “If so, BBC 3 would like to hear from you. We are searching for wheelchair users to get involved in an exciting new series.” This could be my breakthrough moment. Dancing on wheels. I had Polly phone the contact number straight away.

The conversation started well. I have a history in the the arts, I'm married to an actor for crying out loud. I am disabled and I use a wheelchair! I'm articulate. Okay, my speech is a little bit slurry but the subtitles would be a hoot. The nice young man at the television production company was starting to sound excited. He obviously was beginning to think he had found his Ray Quinn, or at least his John Sergeant. (Sorry if you are reading this outside of the UK, you'll have to take a guess at the cultural references.) Polly told him she assumed they were looking for couples and was preparing to assure him she could hoof with best of them when he told her they intended to partner the wheelchair dancers with able-bodied professionals. I felt disappointed for Polly but stoically imagined myself partnered with some nubile, Lycra-clad beauty, prepared to perch sensually and artistically on my foot-plates for the sake of entertainment. I heard Polly tell him she imagined I wouldn't mind too much but that she hoped my costumes would be particularly lurid and skin-tight so as not to be out shone. “He'd like lots of sequins and colourful feathers,” she assured him whilst smiling at me malevolently.

I was mentally preparing to sign on the dotted line and was jiggling my joystick to a Latin rhythm in anticipation of reality TV fame and hoping that readers of this blog would vote to keep me in week by week, when I was dealt a devastating blow. I heard Polly say, “an electric wheelchair, a Samba Quickie... Oh.” I could tell from her face that she was not hearing good news. “No, he can't use a manual chair any more.”

After she put the phone down she explained that, simply put, I am too disabled to appear on a disability based reality TV show. How unfair is that? I mean, my chair is named after a dance! But oh no, they want able-bodied disabled wheelchair users who can whirl and twirl on two wheels and who don't need recharging after every Foxtrot and Argentine Tango. The show will never amount to anything without me, mind you. My Bosa Nova on four wheels would have been a televisual water-cooler moment in history. It hurts me to know you'll never see it.

But then, to rub salt in the wound, Polly was told they are hoping that wheelchair users will come and be in the audience. I ask you! Who would want to see a bunch of cripples roll around a dance floor when one of them isn't me? I'm thinking of pitching my own idea for a reality TV programme, Wheelchair Death Race, where wheelchair users slalom down a steep hill knocking over celebrities en route. Now that's entertainment.