Writers are not alone in observing people, pondering on their background story, or even inventing a whole life and family for them. I wonder how wrong our assumptions might be.
Out and about on holiday I saw two very different lives, two very different sons. Thanks to modern technology and perhaps thanks to fund raising friends or rich relatives, the disabled are able to get out and about more easily than ever.
Wheelchairs for those who cannot walk, or cannot walk far have been superseded by bespoke motorised thrones controlled by touch pads for the severely disabled.
Sitting outside a coffee shop, enjoying lunch and the scenery, the table next to us was soon occupied by a young man, perhaps still a teenager, and his carer, or was it his mother? He was a cheerful chap despite his obvious limitations. Chatting to them, they were locals having a regular but simple treat, coffee in a cup with a straw for the young man and a chocolate muffin shared with his mother. Then the son told us proudly he was leaving home tomorrow, his mother cheered, they both had a sense of humour. He was going to the National Star College near Cheltenham, a further education college for the disabled.
However dependent they are, however loving their families, I’m sure most disabled young adults want to be independent and move away from home when they choose, the same as anybody else. I wonder what the future will hold for that young man?
The next day found us at an air museum, where outside and in the hangars there was plenty of room and level access. I spotted a boy skipping alongside his father’s motorised chariot. Strangely, everywhere I wandered I kept seeing them and couldn’t help wondering whether disease or disaster had left the father so disabled.
At lunchtime they turned up near our table and someone brought them over huge plates of fish and chips that neither could possibly manage. The staff behind the self service counter had been particularly bored and uninterested when we were getting our food, so I hoped they had shown some patience and empathy with the father and son. All along I had been expecting a mother or wife to appear, or at least a responsible adult, but they sat alone at the table. We should not make assumptions about how independent disabled people are.
There was plenty to see and they were still exploring late into the afternoon. The son looked a cheerful cheeky lad, but obviously a child who could be trusted not to run off and get lost; a child most parents would be delighted with, who did not get bored, whine or beg to go to the gift shop. I wondered what the future held for them.