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TX: 25.04.05 - Scope Oral History

PRESENTER: JOHN WAITE
Downloaded from www.bbc.co.uk/radio4

THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

WAITE
The disability charity Scope, which focuses on the needs of people with cerebral palsy, has just embarked on a major oral history project entitled Speaking for Ourselves . The aim is to provide an insight into the lives of disabled people during the last century and Alex White is the manager of the project. What sort of people and why Alex?

WHITE
We're looking for people with cerebral palsy just ordinary people like and me and looking at the extraordinary barriers they face when they are disabled by society.

WAITE
So you want people over the age of 50?

WHITE
Yeah.

WAITE
Because obviously things have changed a great deal in that last half century.

WHITE
Yes I think typically in the 1950s people were told, as you may hear in the clip later, to forget about their children, put them into residential institutions and they were also told that they weren't educatable. And unfortunately people have had to overcome those kinds of lack of expectation.

WAITE
Very painful experiences then, some of these oral histories will be.

WHITE
Yes, yes some of them are. People who found that there were being sent away to a school at a very early age and a long way away from their homes.

WAITE
Just basically written off.

WHITE
Yeah.

WAITE
What influence though will these people's life histories of the latter half of the last century - what influence will they have?

WHITE
Well I hope that it'll show that these sort of lack of expectations have actually been confounded and that people have gone on to lead very important lives and their contribution to society has been much greater than was expected.

WAITE
So they could be very inspirational.

WHITE
I hope so, yes.

WAITE
Well you already have recorded some 100 hours of testimonies and here's just a snapshot of some of those people who've already taken part.

ORAL HISTORY CLIP
I was born in 1945. Doctors said to my father that I would never ever walk. My father was an army man and he was a sergeant major and he said to my mother - I am not going to push him round in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He bought a horse on four wheels and a set of reigns and he stood me behind this horse and my mother moved my legs forward in the walking position and eventually I started to move my legs for myself. The old lady next door to where we lived told me that she was going to get in touch with the cruelty man because I was forever falling over and bruising my knees and things like this.

My mother took me to see a neurologist who after seeing me undress, held me upside down by my feet, watched the body movement when I screamed and said - This child is spastic. Take her home, forget about her, she'll never be any good - you're wasting my time, your time and everybody else's. My mother was extremely tearful and frightened and then her tears turned to anger. And she said - How dare this man say that you're no good and that you're to be taken home and forgotten about. We're going to try and help you to make your way in the world. And basically that's what she did.

It wasn't a school, it was like a day centre. Young males went in the mornings and the ladies went in the afternoons. They didn't want us to mix with the girls in those days, they were very, very strict in those days - wouldn't let disabled people mix together. These were called morning classes and afternoon classrooms where we used to make things and all that and do weaving and do embroidery work and do drawing and all that, whatever they think disabled people are fit to do.

My friend said put mum in a residential home it would be better. I thought I was betraying her by doing that because she'd looked after me all my life, now it was my turn to look after her and then it got so bad that our doctor came in on a Monday morning and took me into my bedroom and explained that they were going to section her on Friday, but I wasn't to tell her. Terrible.

WAITE
Colourful stuff. Well Alex White from Scope is still with us. You're looking for more people to take part aren't you Alex, what do you hope to do with the material?

WHITE
Well thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund we'll actually be making a resource pack for secondary schools which will go out to 4,000 secondary schools in 2006. The unedited interviews will also be held at the British Library sound archive, and we're also being subject of an archive hour documentary early in 2006, as well, on Radio 4.

WAITE
And there's plenty of time for people to take part isn't there because you've got two years to finish this project.

WHITE
That's right yes.

WAITE
Okay, well if you're interested, listening at home, in going down in history and having your story heard by generations to come, details of how you can take part are on our website. Alex White from Scope thank you very much.

WHITE
Thank you.

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