“No wonder so many people want to be disabled – you can get away with blue murder,” says Daily Excess editor Ian Hornington, who, following criticism of his newspaper’s negative coverage of people with disabilities (see Blind Hatred), spent several days in a wheelchair in an attempt to understand the difficulties faced by the disabled. “This experience has totally changed my perspective on disability – I no longer see it as a handicap. On the contrary it is bloody brilliant! You get your own specialist facilities like disabled toilets – so much cleaner than those piss-soaked and shit-stained regular public toilets – specially reserved parking spaces, and you don’t have to work! The government actually pays you to be disabled! Plus, you can be as rude as you like to people and they aren’t allowed to retaliate!” Hornington’s wheelchair experience was arranged by a top disability rights charity which had been incensed by his newspaper’s reporting of disability issues. “The final straw came when they ran a story claiming that the mysterious injuries reportedly sustained by Professor Stephen Hawking were the result of his having taken a bloody good hiding from Christopher Reeve during some kind of ‘Robot Wars’ type gladiatorial contest for quadriplegics – apparently they have all sorts of mechanical devices fitted to their wheelchairs and Reeves’ automatic hobnail boots proved superior to Hawking’s giant spring-loaded boxing glove,” says Harvey Maim of Disability Action. “Clearly, it is quite unacceptable for the Excess to continually portray the disabled as figures of fun, completely robbing them of their dignity. We thought it was high time that Mr Hornington and his colleagues experienced the disabled perspective first hand.”
Hornington began his challenge in an ordinary wheelchair, pushed around the streets of Streatham by a Disability Action volunteer. “I ditched the volunteer as quickly as I could. I mean, it’s demeaning to the disabled to assume they need an able-bodied helper around at all times. Not only that but he was a right little goody two shoes – he just wouldn’t let me have any fun”, recalls Hornington, who proceeded to propel himself around Streatham’s pavements at considerable speed, scattering pedestrians and forcing women with prams and pushchairs out into the road. “It was fantastic, I could run over people’s feet or even collide with them and instead of shouting abuse at me, they’d apologise for getting in my way! There was one bloke, he was left rolling on the ground clutching his leg in agony – I think it was broken – and he just smiled weakly at me and said ‘My fault entirely, old chap’. Bloody brilliant!” Hornington’s wheelchair-bound exploits ended after he swapped with standard chair for an electric model, and was clocked by police travelling down a residential street at over forty miles an hour as he attempted to escape after mowing down three pedestrians on a zebra-crossing.
“Unfortunately, Mr Hornington seems to have missed the point of the exercise,” sighs Maim. “However, we thought we might have more luck with some of the newspaper’s other key editorial staff, so we arranged for his deputy, Harry Giles, to spend a few days as a blind person.” Armed with a white stick and a pair of dark glasses, Giles took to the streets of Camden. “It was far more enjoyable than I imagined it would be,” confesses Giles. “You can get away with thrashing that white stick around and smacking people in the face, whilst pretending to feel your way! Ironically, I nearly took some bloke’s eye out with it!” Giles found that other people’s perception of him as being blind brought many advantages. “You can get away with feeling up women on the pretext that you are just trying to find your way. Not only that, but you can wander through women’s changing rooms in shops and watch them trying on knickers and they don’t care,” cackles the Deputy Editor. “It’s a bloody good lark, this blindness! You can get people to read for you, cut up your food in restaurants, even get your dick out of your trousers and hold it for you while you have a pee!”
Inspired by the experiences of Hornington and Giles, various other members of the Excess staff began to take up the disabled challenge on their own initiative. Senior Copy Editor Mick Cotch, wearing a surgical boot and carrying a heavy walking stick, spent several hours disrupting traffic on Oxford Street by stepping out into the road several yards away from a pedestrian crossing, and proceeding to cross at a snail’s pace, pausing to shake his stick at irate drivers who sounded their horns at him. Veteran Excess journalist Jack Dash equipped himself with an incontinence kit – including catheter and rubber underpants – and proceeded to amaze fellow drinkers at his regular Fleet Street watering hole by spending six hours at the bar and downing over twenty pints without apparently having to urinate. “Pissing down my leg without getting my trousers soaked was a delightful new experience for me,” he later remarked.
Despite Disability Action having disowned the project, describing the Excess team’s efforts as ‘a travesty’, Hornington has promised a radical change in his newspaper’s editorial policy toward the disabled as a result of the challenge. “From now onwards we shall be celebrating disability and highlighting the many wonderful ways in which invalids are compensated for their handicaps! We shall be advising our readers exactly how they can benefit from disability and similarly enjoy such full and rich lives,” he explains, adding that the paper is also considering a follow-up investigation into the mentally disabled.
“We’re planning to pose as a group of mentally disturbed patients on a day out – we reckon we can get away with throwing violent fits, shouting abuse at passers-by and wrecking places without anyone trying to stop us! Bloody brilliant! I reckon it could be even more fun than tooling around in a wheelchair!” Hornington is also not ruling out a series of articles exposing the seriously ill: “Idle bastards – they get to lie in an NHS hospital bed all day being drip-fed morphine for their alleged pain, all at the expense of our taxes!” Indeed, Jack Dash is already investigating the long-term comatose, hooked up to various monitors and a drip in a London hospital. “It’s fantastic – fed through a tube, a catheter to piss into, pretty nurses to wash you and wipe your arse! What more could a man ask for? As long as they keep the telly tuned to Sky Sports, I’m happy,” he declares, through blinking his eyes.