(sent to the Telegraphs letter editor on 3rd August 2004 but not published)
Sir, In his letter to your paper (3rd August) Dr Dermot Ward the Chairman of the Society of Clinical Psychiatrists from Chichester, W Sussex referred to Leslie Burke as this sadly suffering man. This vividly illustrates how members of the medical profession perceive disabled people and why Mr Justice Munbys judgement in favour of Leslie Burke was so important.
I was born with one moderately severe disability but forty five years later found I had acquired a second disability that was progressive. Now nearly four years later I am more disabled than Leslie Burke with the prospect of a similar untreatable degeneration to Leslies. Does that make me sadder or suffering more than Leslie?
If you answered Yes to that, going to wash your mouth out with salt while taking an ice cold shower wouldnt be punishment enough. I am far from suffering and I know Leslie well enough to say that he isnt suffering either.
Contrary to what people appear to think, having a disability isnt the end of the world. If we were given everything we needed to overcome our impairments, we could do more. If we were not subjected to attitudes that say we are worth less, are able to do less and are unable to aspire to normality, we would no doubt achieve more. But that doesnt mean we find it impossible to achieve. It may take us longer and we may have to work harder but boy are we going to get there!
I have been married for twenty-seven years, have a degree from the University of Sussex, have two grown up sons, have had some success as a fine artist and have run a successful local theatre company for seventeen years. So please save your pity. My disabilities are very much part of me and Im proud of who I am