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ss triple helix - Easter 2010,  Defying Disability The lives and legacies of nine disabled leaders

Defying Disability The lives and legacies of nine disabled leaders

Mary Wilkinson
Jessica Kingsley 2009
£17.99 Pb 224 pp
ISBN 978 1 84310 415 5

This book examines nine high-profile disabled people and how their achievements influenced British disability politics over the last 40 years. It provides remarkable insight into those disabled lifelong with a range of conditions. As a disabled doctor, I anticipated a source of inspiration, yet struggled with this book and only diagnosed why near the end.

The book profiles well-known personalities including Jack Ashley, who defied deafness to become an MP, and Tom Shakespeare, the achondroplastic academic. Shakespeare made a film about his daughter, who of course inherited his genes, only to hear a colleague say 'How could Tom have gone and had a child knowing there was a strong possibility she would be disabled?' A recurrent fear underlies: 'How disposable are we, the disabled?' Unsurprisingly, most are against eugenics and euthanasia.

The struggle for acceptance runs through the book. While I admire the determination of these nine people, it left me sad that wheelchair Olympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson concluded that to be accepted, 'performance was what counted'. How much stronger would these remarkable people be if they found that Christ's estimate of everyone, 'disabled' as we all are, is that each of us is priceless?

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