Home > Features > Disability is everywhere: brothers, bond and Dubai

Disability is everywhere: brothers, bond and Dubai

by Simon Minty

16th August 2010

Scratch the surface and you'll find that there's a disability link in most things. Simon Minty brings you up-to-date proof of this theory with his latest dispatch.
Francesca Martinez
August is here and so arrives the Edinburgh Festival, apparently the largest of its kind in the world. I'm a huge fan, especially of the Fringe. To have so much art, culture, creativity and inventiveness all crammed in to one fabulous city for a month is downright inspiring.

Only at this festival is it perfectly normal to foot tap at a music concert, laugh at a comedy gig, be uplifted by an author speaking and get lost in a film, all in one day.

My affection for the Fringe started in the late 90's. There was a bunch of us there including Francesca Martinez, at the time an actor, budding television presenter and now an established comedian.

Francesca has cerebral palsy and she'd brought her younger sixteen year old brother Raoul along, and he helped her 'as and when'. I recall him being a really pleasant, engaging and unpretentious young man.

I stumbled across his name again in July and was intrigued to discover he's an artist, a serious and highly accomplished painter. Amongst other accolades, his portrait of Alan Rickman is currently hanging in the National Portrait Gallery as part of the BP Portrait Award 2010. Pretty impressive stuff. He's only twenty six and clearly hugely talented.

On his website there's a brief biography of Raoule Martinez written by Caroline Casey. I know Caroline professionally as she founded the Kanchi charity, a disability organization in Ireland. She also completed a 1000km trek in India on the back of an elephant. Caroline is visually impaired.

As far as I know Raoul doesn't have a disability ... however, he certainly is surrounded by it.
Author jeffery Deaver
From oil on canvas, lets move to pen and paper. Writing a basic James Bond story you might imagine is quite easy: it's a well-known formula often including a baddie with a disability or impairment if you prefer. Ian Fleming's estate is, however, understandably quite picky about whom they give permission to try out for the internationally renowned spy franchise.

Sebastian Faulks did a reasonable job a few years back and Charlie Higson has had huge success with his Young Bond series. Next in line is Jeffery Deaver, the most recent author to be given the privilege. Deaver is already a successful fiction writer, particularly with the thriller series featuring criminalist Lincoln Rhyme, the best known of which is The Bone Collector which was also turned into a film.

Rhyme is a quadriplegic, due to a beam crushing his spinal cord years ago. I like the fact that there's a lead character with a disability and so wonder if we'll see a positive disabled character in a Bond novel for a change?

Deaver was interviewed on BBC Radio Five a few weeks ago and I was a tad disappointed when he said his knowledge of disability was aided by him going around in a wheelchair for a bit. I'm reliably informed that the Lincoln Rhyme novels clearly have much more research than that though, with frequent references to such niche delights as pressure sores. Hopefully if he does include an evil genius with a disability, it will leave me stirred rather than shaken.
Dubai Skyline
Ian Fleming famously used to write his later Bond novels at Goldeneye, his estate in Jamaica. In a rather poor attempt to emulate this, I am writing this Ouch article sitting in a hotel room in Dubai.

It's pleasing to notice, amongst the bronzed and well-shaped bodies here at my hotel, I am not the only 'disabled in the village'. Several people around the pool have a visible impairment or two.

At my hotel there are ramps wherever there are steps but I quickly realised they're not for wheelchair access, they're to help staff push trolleys around more easily. The gradient is about 1 in 4 ... so, hard to climb in a wheelchair but great fun coming down.

Prior to my trip, I visited a local supermarket in north London and was dead chuffed to see a member of staff speaking to a customer in British Sign Language, and everyone else thought it very natural.

It only became awkward when I realised they were blocking my path and my cries of "excuse me" were not heard. A nudge and a polite smile cleared my path.

So from Edinburgh to Jamaica, London to Dubai, disability seems to be everywhere.

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