Paul Maynard, a British Conservative Party Politician, represents a significant step forward for the disabled community abroad by being elected to Parliament in 2010 despite the fact that Maynard suffers from Cerebral Palsy. Unfortunately, as is often the case, it seems that the disabled community has seen the world take two steps forward and one step back when Maynard was allegedly taunted for his disability by other members of parliament (MPs) during a commons debate this month.
(Paul Maynard – MP with Cerebral Palsy. Picture courtesy of guardian.co.uk)
Even recognizing that Parliamentary hearings are often lively, Mr. Maynard said, “They were constantly intervening, trying to put me off my stride, which may be normal parliamentary tactics. But some were pulling faces at me, really exaggerated gesticulations and faces. Only they know for certain whether they were taking the mick out of my disability. But it certainly felt like it. That is why politics is held in such low esteem.”
Members of the Labour Party accused of mocking Mr. Maynard have categorically denied that they were doing so, although they did admit that they were asked to calm down. Other MPs have expressed disgust over the incident.
A senior Labour MP commented, “What they did was disgusting. It was obvious that Paul was upset but they sensed a weakness and went for the kill like a pack of hyenas.”
Sadly, people with cerebral palsy make easy targets to such ridicule, because there is widespread ignorance over the nature of the disease. Because cerebral palsy is often accompanied by difficulty speaking or expressing oneself, people often jump to the conclusion that these individuals are “retarded” and therefore somehow immune to being talked about or mocked. While it is certainly inappropriate and reprehensible to mock anyone for having a disability, it becomes particularly sinister when the individual being victimized is completely aware of what is happening, but is simply challenged in expressing their hurt.
So what do you think? Is the mockery of a parliament member with a disability just fair play, because other MPs are often shouted at and mocked also? How far (or how little) have we come in respecting individuals with disabilities? Please leave your comments below. We would love to get your perspective.