Sandra Webster of the Scottish Socialist Party comments on More Than a Left Foot by Bob Williams-Findlay.
I learned so much and must thoroughly recommend this book. It is a book about where our politics come from and the experiences of an activist who gently tells his life story which is backed up with interesting sociology.
My first job was working for the Scottish Council For Spastics, similar to The Spastics’ Society school Bob Williams-Findlay refers to. Thankfully these terms are not used so often today, though I heard “mongol” and “window licker” recently. I was lucky to work in centres where those who lived there had their own representative councils and they taught me so much. In one centre which had demeaning practices, residents told me that four people, both male and female, had to use the toilet at the same time, In the 1980s after the disabled person’s act, I worked in a centre for independence.
I was intrigued by the book’s title. “MORE Than A Left foot. We will always remember Christy Brown’s autobiography and the film My Left Foot. Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Brown. Many actors with disabilities such as Nabil Shaman, who helped fund Theatre Graeae, raised the issue that an actor with an impairment should have played the role. I remember conversations with acting students who agreed that blackface was wrong but “disability blackfacing” was on. Like Bob, a younger me had many interesting conversations around these issues.
Bob challenges some of the social model of disability, saying it is more than societal and attitudinal attitudes alone. He discusses Identity and how we see ourselves and how others see us. I am currently reading the writings of Kidd, who Bob quotes in the book. The book also questions who decides if we have an impairment. In The Guardian a year or so ago, he spoke about the dreaded interviews and his concerns to be able to continue to drive. In Glasgow, these centres are called Lourdes-without-the water-bath.
Bob was like me involved at the beginning of the current disability movement, but also joined others in different struggles. I hope Bob does not find me calling him by his first name, but I applaud my fellow disabled comrade on his writing and for making me think further. I also congratulate Resistance Books for publishing this book. It is a subject we on the left must have further conversations about. I especially worry Post-Covid what maelstrom in cuts will be coming our way. I received four dreaded brown envelopes from the state today; it seems business-as-usual will continue unless we fight.
Apologies for the shortness of this review but after reading it, I wanted to give it my support and urge you to buy this book. I will write further on this topic in future but for those of us facing the challenges, time is difficult at the moment.
With best wishes for the launch.
Sandra Webster, Scottish Socialist Party member, parliamentary candidate and former National Co-spokesperson. Disability rights campaigner. Sandra has an impairment and supports her sons who both live with impairments.
22 June 2020