Did you ever see that documentary called Rosie Jones: Am I a R*tard? 

14 Jan 2024


I’ve put the coy asterisk in for those short on irony at the back. 


It was on Channel 4 and it was a sobering look at the abuse funny girl Rosie gets as a disabled woman who just happens to be on the telly. 


She’s also gay and, in her words, a bit of a pr**k - so “a triple threat” then. 


Oh come on, you didn’t laugh at that? Triple threat? See, because she’s a lesbian who’s also a bit of a prat AND has cerebral palsy. Geddit? I laughed out loud when she put it that way as it’s screaming ‘just got a local authority grant to put on an inclusion show through the medium of contemporary dance’ written all over it. Box ticking gold.

The addition of the word “r*tard” caused a bit of a stink, not least because it dared to stick the Vs up to polite society and then gave them the middle finger for good measure. 

But Rosie defended it, explaining that she wanted people to “think twice” about using the word.

As she said: "I get it, a lot of people will find this word very shocking and upsetting. But in my opinion, society doesn't take this word and other ableist forms of language as seriously as any other form of abuse from any other minorities. 

“So, I said to Channel 4: 'Let's do it, let's tackle the problem head on and use that word in the title and then, hopefully, people will think twice about using the word and other ableist slurs ever again’.” 

The film is about what it is like for Rosie as a disabled woman in the public eye. But her armour of fame, notoriety, talent, dungarees and bovver boots doesn’t protect her from the viciousness of the outside world.

Because people, you see, can be cruel. Especially to others who aren’t like them. 

 

But eventually, we got into the swing of things and we zoomed around like a pair of pros. 


We shopped, we chatted, we laughed, we piled bags up on her lap and balanced more on the handles of her walking sticks.

And I did what I always do when I’m unsure of my footing and the precariousness of her confidence when outside the safety of her home: I pretended to be OK and in control. 


What I really was, though, was exhausted and baffled. 


Exhausted because it’s hard to push somebody around town in a wonky chair that’s built for a ‘normal’ person and not one with extra weighty bits and bobs added to their already incalcitrant body. 

I know because my mother is the D word. Yep, daughter, delightful, delicious, devoted, dependable, deserving, doting…. and DISABLED. 
When it comes to filling in complicated medical forms and grabbing the best parking spots, my mother is an invalid.

But never INVALID. Go on, say those sentences out loud to yourself and note the difference. Okay? Good, we can move on now and I can carry on with telling you about the personal reason we’ve launched InYourCorner over on InYourArea.

(Notice a theme? I’m nothing if not predictable!) 

Some 24% of people in the UK have a disability, but you wouldn't know it from media representation. And when disabled people are featured, too often their stories are told by people who don’t have lived experience of it. 


So on International Day for Persons with Disabilities - which was on December 3 - we created a space on our website and app to highlight the issues, stories and support networks that matter to the marginalised 24%. 


And I thought what better way to start doing this than with Mam Jones.

 

She is a Blue-Badge-For-Life kind of incapacitated that affects her every waking moment and has done so for as long as I’ve been rattling about. In fact, my birth exacerbated much of her condition but I’ve not got enough tissues on me to go into that right now. 

Mam Jones will not thank me for talking about her and the D word but as she’d never be able to catch me anyway - oh, come on you lot! - I’ll take the risk. 


If she didn’t have two “gammy legs”? Not so much.

As a 24%-er she can be overlooked, something which never struck me until we went shopping in Cardiff one day some years back. 


With very limited mobility but an unlimited interest in who’s selling what and for how much, my father and I emotionally hounded her with this fact until she relented to have a wheelchair to go potter around John Lewis and Marksies. 

Refusing to have one she could drive herself - “You’ve got to be joking. Have you heard the noise they make when they reverse? I can’t go backwards in the car so I’ll be damned if I’m going to run the risk of running over some fella’s toes whilst announcing it at the same time” - we rented a wheelchair. 

What with me being useless and her being proud, getting our rhythm going whilst negotiating tiny lifts and crowds and bumps in the road took a bit of doing.

And baffled because this beautiful, bright, sparky, curious woman was totally invisible.

 

She was reduced to next to nothing, or at the very least a hindrance people had to get around. 


I’d never clocked this before, the way people pushed past us, moved around us, huffed and puffed their annoyances because maybe we’d stopped to look at some tat in the indoor market. 


I’m not overstating it when I say that it felt perilously close to a silent form of hate speech. 

 

Luckily - I hope - she was oblivious to this quiet kind of harassment, the seemingly inoffensive bullying of social impatience. 


I noticed though. 


I noticed everything. 


Yet I’d never noticed the way people treated her when she was sitting in that wheelchair before. It was as if being lower than them physically put her beneath them in other ways too. 


And that’s - in my mother’s parlance and 100% mine too - a bit crap.

What can be done then? We can, of course, start by having a laugh and normalising “different” like Rosie wanted to do. 


Luckily I come from a funny family, one who pokes fun at OUR shortcomings, OUR insecurities, OUR uniqueness. And we’re too busy doing that to have enough time to aim it beyond our own front door. 


That’s not to say we’re perfect and take any kind of moral high ground when it comes to talking about disability. 


We’re not a family of campaigners or placard wavers. That’s not our style. We’re just a mother, father and daughter who often think about what could have been if only we’d been dealt a different hand of cards, then gets on with stuff anyway.

 

Of course, there are down days. 


There are days of frustration, of pain, of weekly trips to get dressings changed and skin calmed, of not being able to walk to the kitchen, of watching me try on a new coat in Monsoon with a kind assistant holding up the phone, so she can give her seal of approval on WhatsApp when she’d rather be there with me and gets upset by that. 


There are days of wondering why her, why us, of sleepless nights in pain, of feeling hurt or robbed in some way. Of days when the world has shrunk down to a reinforced armchair and the days are marked off with an Asda delivery. 


But they never outweigh and out-burden the good days. 


They can’t. 


It’s not allowed.

 

So here I am. 


The daughter of The Best Mam. I know that’s true as she’s got a cup with it on. 


The Best Of Everything Mam who, as she puts it with a twinkle in her baby blues, “can’t ever work out if they’re gawping at my two gammy legs or because I’m having a bloody amazing hair day.

 

Hannah Jones 
Editor-in-Chief of InYourArea, 4 December 2023

PS For advice on reporting a disability hate crime, please visit Scope. You can find InYourCorner here. And to hear me reading this newsletter because that’s the best way of accessing it for your needs, you can do that here.