Rosie Jones is a comedian, writer, actor and anything else you fancy paying her to do. She’s also disabled and this is what she wants you, and women of the future, to know about disabilities…
I have Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, which happened at birth. I was starved of oxygen and didn’t breathe for fifteen minutes, which I really wouldn’t recommend.
Due to my CP, I walk slow, talk slow and write extremely slow.
I also can’t eat sticky ribs with somebody who doesn’t love me unconditionally (complete carnage).
During my twenty-eighth stint on this planet I feel like I’ve learned a lot about disability.
One thing I need to stress before I tell you what that is, is that I am not talking for all disabled people.
Funnily enough, we’re all different, with different experiences and different personalities. So please know I’m only speaking on behalf of this crossword-loving, dungaree-wearing, rib-eating disabled girl.
1. A disability doesn’t define you
The first, and arguably most important thing I’ve learned. Even I used to describe myself as ‘the disabled one’.
It’s easy, isn’t it? “Rosie? Rosie who? Ohhh, disabled Rosie.”
But there are so many more accurate ways to define me, “Foghorn, Leghorn Rosie” for one (I have been told that I can be, at times, exceptionally loud).
Even though I have always been confident in myself, I have been apologetic for my disability in the past. At my friend’s hen do recently I screamed, “I can’t use a bloody segway, I have Cerebral Palsy”.
That jazzy form of modern transport is just not built for me. Fortunately, the guy teaching us wouldn’t take no as an answer, and lifted me straight onto the segway and off I went. And, you know what, I had the time of my life.
I try to make sure that my disability never stops me from doing what I want to do. Now I glide around life, on my Segway, without a care.
If I want to do something badly enough, I’ll make it work, disability or no disability.
2. We’re not all inspirational
I have lost count of the number of people who approach me with tears in their eyes to tell me I’m an inspiration. It normally happens at the most inappropriate time, usually when I’m in the pub… who am I inspiring, exactly?
It’s a different story if they know me, and they are inspired by my career, or my attitude to life. But these are random people who think I’m inspirational just for leaving the house. It’s patronising.
So stop it and save that word for people who are genuinely inspirational, regardless of their physical ability.
3. We know our bodies better than anyone else
Please don’t tell me when to sit down; I’ll park my bottom on my terms thank you very much.
I completely get it, the world is full of good people who just want to help. But because I speak slowly, some people presume I have intellectual problems and try to tell me what I want and need.
I know my body more than you do, so trust me when I decline help. And actually, if we do need help, or a sit down, we’ll just ask.
The only thing you need to ask me is, “Can I get you a drink?” to which my answer would be, “Yes! Gin and Tonic! Double!”
4. Our ‘dick-dar’ is incredible
You read correctly, a ‘dick-dar’: I can spot a dickhead from a hundred yards away.
Unbelievably, I still get ignored, patronised, laughed at and insulted on a daily basis. It’s great! I never have to spend time getting to know somebody to then discover that they are a secret dickhead.
If you’re willing to get to know the ‘Rosie’ behind the disability, you are a decent human being and I like you.
5. We’re just like you
I drink too much. I spend my weekends with friends and my evenings watching Netflix in a philosophy face mask. I worry that I eat too much meat and drink too much coffee.
I think the country’s going to shit. My personality, and who I am, has got bugger all to do with my disability.
Disabled people don’t all come from a disabled planet, we don’t all have disabled friends and we don’t all marry disabled people.
I am not an expert on disability. I once walked a blind man into a glass door, right before he tripped me over with his stick.
Just treat us like anybody else and you’ll be fine.
6. Some disabilities are invisible
I feel lucky that what you see is what you get with me; I can do everything, just slower.
But a lot of disabled people are dealing with a lot more under the surface.
So please be understanding. Be a good friend and a good listener.
7. There are bad days
I am a very positive person, but even I have bad days.
If I’m on my fifth fall of the day, I’ve shredded every pair of tights I own and everybody’s talking down to me, it’s a bit hard to smile.
You just hope tomorrow will be a bit brighter and get on with it.
8. Everything’s fine, in context
As a comedian, I’m often asked where the line is.
Let me let you in on a little secret: there is no line. It’s all about context. Who’s saying it? Why are they saying it? Who are they saying it to?
We’re often scared of offending somebody, but it does all depend on context.
My brother calls me ‘spaz’ a lot. I love it. He loves me, I love him and by God I can give as good as I get.
But if I am called ‘spaz’ by a randomer on the street, that is not ok. Just judge the situation and I trust you to do the right thing.
9. Talk about sex, baby
This is the topic most people are fascinated by.
Yes, of course we can have sex.
There still seems to be quite a taboo around disability and sex; as if it is something we can’t talk about. I am trying to demolish that stigma once and for all.
Just because our minds and bodies are slightly different doesn’t mean we’re not sexual creatures.
I will be honest with you, and this is purely my experience; it’s a little harder to find a partner who is able to see past the disability.
I get it. It’s sometimes difficult to see a little, dribbly wobbler as a sexual being. And my slow, monotone voice doesn’t lend itself very easily to dirty talk.
I think it’s the same for everyone, disabled, able-bodied or otherwise. Finding somebody you want to have sex with is actually much harder than sex itself, but we should all be talking about sex with disabilities a lot more. So please do so.
10. A disability is not a disadvantage
Don’t pity me. I love who I am. If there were a pill to make me able-bodied, I wouldn’t take it in a million years.
My disability allows me to see the world in a different light and makes me stand out from the crowd. I’m not disabled, I’m Rosie.
I am also a stubborn bugger so if somebody ever tells me that I can’t do something; I will prove them wrong. I was dealt a poor hand, but I am going to play the best game I can with it.
And so far, my game is a winner.