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Disability Bitch: thought control

24th February 2011

• Disability Bitch is published every Thursday.

Oh, readers! You know I hate being the bearer of bad news, but I'm sorry to report there's been another scientific advancement which is going to improve the lives of disabled people. And, yes, I know this happens every week.
Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square
Today, the BBC's health news pages proclaim there's going to be a 'Bionic Revolution'. Well, I hate to get all political on you, but, of all the revolutions going on in the world at present - Egypt, Libya, Bahrain - this Bionic one might be the one for which I have least enthusiasm.

According to the report, new scientific innovations mean wheelchair and prosthetic limb users will soon be able to control their mobility devices with their thoughts, sort of. I'm not going to pretend I understand the biology of it. Actually, maybe it's physics? I haven't got a clue, I got chucked out of GCSE science when I almost burnt the school down after an accident involving a lit Bunsen burner and an ill-timed cerebral palsy startle reflex moment, but I'm over that now.

The gist of this revolution is that, via the medium of nerve surgery and some extremely questionable headgear, at some point in the future a physically disabled person's brain signals will be harnessed to power mobility aids so we no longer have to use wheel rims, joysticks or those able-bodied pushers.

So far, so Tomorrow's World.

Well, you know what, I HATE SCIENCE.
A phd student uses their mind to take the wheelchair for a spin
Seriously, what has science ever done for us, the disabled fraternity, except give Stephen Hawking a regular wage? Admittedly it was science that saved my premature little life when I forgot to breathe during the whole business of being born. That's great and stuff, but it's been nowhere to be seen since.

Where was science when I had to apply for benefits, get up six flights of stairs to attend job interviews or have an extra three hours in bed because the whole process of life is exhausting if you're disabled? Eh?

Actually science did offer me one thing: I was given a little packet of pills to reduce spasticity in the hope that I'd be perkier. They made me more sleepy, and robbed me of the ability to drink alcohol to boot. They had to go.

So, in order to help disabled people move more efficiently, they want to harness our thoughts, do they? Have they considered the consequences?

I can only assume these white-coated boffins have no idea of the dark and bitter pent-up thoughts lurking at the back of the mind of all disabled people (yes, all of them). Turning our previously hidden semi-evil desires into physical actions will surely only lead to trouble.
One small step for robot... a walking robot's legs cast a shadow
For a start, I wouldn't use my mind for anything as mundane as powering a mobility aid. I'd quite like to invisibly control a robot, though. To 'think it' into places. That way, if I were to encounter a flight of stairs I couldn't ascend, I'd send the 'bot up on my behalf to remonstrate with the staff and block all the exits until an elevator and ramp system had been installed. Perfect.

Likewise, I'd stay in bed while my robotic self tramped out to the corner shop for doughnuts and milk, and maybe also get it to fill out my Disability Living Allowance application form; let's face it, you need a brain the size of a planet to do that correctly.

As an alternative, if scientists wanted to do something helpful for me, they could always focus their efforts upon reprogramming the minds of the felons who routinely discriminate against me and flout equality laws as I go about my business. Then, science, I'd be impressed.

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This week on Twitter, I've asked Tanni Grey-Thompson if she can wangle an invite to Prince William's wedding so she can feed back disability-based royal gossip to us. She says she's not been invited but I'm sure that's an administrative oversight. If, like Tanni, you want to be my friend, follow me on Twitter. If you prefer your social networking old skool, become my fan on Facebook.

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