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Your inappropriate disability Christmas gifts

Hotch Potch | 11:49 UK time, Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas presents

So picture this. You're disabled, it's Christmas morning and everyone is sitting around with presents festively littering the floor.

You pick up a rather exciting looking box with glittery paper. All your family stop to look as you unwrap it. What can it be?

As the final piece of wrapping hits the floor, everyone can now plainly see that the thoughtful gift bestowed on you, a wheelchair user, is a step aerobics DVD.

This could trigger anything from tears to laughter amongst all in the room - depending on where you are on your personal journey of acceptance. A badly-thought-through present which you might toss to one side with a world-weary tut, could cause your mum to dwell on it throughout the festivities, it might even ruin her day.

Television producer and former Ouch! regular, Kate Ansell, is, shall we say, challenged in the walking department, due to her cerebral palsy. One Christmas, when she was a child, Kate received a skipping rope from a family friend. She recalls her brother also getting one and thinks they may have been hand made, to boot. "Clearly a ludicrous present to give a kid with CP", she says. "I don't think anyone really reacted, now I think back to it. I was quite pleased with the rope but gutted when I turned out to be rubbish at skipping.

"See also hula-hoop," she adds.

Receiving something wholly unusable is one thing, but what if the giver has seemingly put thought in and still managed to get it very wrong?

"I once received a set of juggling balls," remembers media consultant Julie Howell who has multiple sclerosis. "The giver told me they were to improve my coordination. Well-intended but ineffective - juggling is not a cure for MS."

She was annoyed and professes she'd have been happier with a more bog-standard Christmas gift: "I'd have preferred Maltesers. I can juggle [them], one at a time, straight into my mouth - up to 150 times in a row without breaking a sweat." Needless to say, Julie's balls remain unjuggled.

We asked our disabled followers on Twitter about inappropriate presents they have received.

Filed under thoughtless was @Razz70's Action Man tower. "Not being able to stand", he Tweets, "meant I couldn't reach the top of it!"

Others that by rights should not have made Santa's list but do make ours, include: Wheelchair user Lucy Wood who once received a push along Hoover. Dominique who tells us she received "a DuckTales comic and some David Hasselhoff posters" though she's blind and couldn't appreciate either. And Isla, who is hearing impaired, was surprised to have received a music combination CD.

As the hours went by, your responses wowed us in the office as they became steadily more and more, how should we put it, "thought free"? We had reports of wet room owners getting bubble bath (not great for a shower), chocolate for people with diabetes and printed books for people who can't see.

Some of the examples you sent us felt pretty poignant but whether you laughed it off or cried over your crackers, were lost to the minimal 140 character limit allowed in a tweet.

One dad, Graeme Cook, contacted us by Facebook. His daughter received a Pet animal for the X-Box Kinect that you work with voice commands but, he tells us, "She cannot talk". And Chris Parker told us why being asked, "What are you having for Christmas dinner?" touched a nerve: "I am not able to ever eat so why do they think I can eat on Christmas day." He calls it "V insensitive!"

Our tweets inspired Lucy Wood to write a whole blog post on the subject of inappropriate presents. The closing line of her post sums it up quite nicely: "If it is the thought that counts, then what were you thinking?" We'll close on that thought too.

If you've received a Christmas gift which hasn't taken your disability into account, tell us about it in the comments below.

You can follow Ouch! on Twitter and on Facebook.



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