>’andicapp-ed

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I was intrigued by a throwaway line at a recent training session when Gail Robinson (our Lay Chaplain for Deaf and Disabled People) explained the origin of the word “handicap”. It dates back to the time before welfare when they would have to beg cap-in-hand. The plight of the “handicapped” has been politically corrected over the years as we have responded to the demands of people with disabilities to be recognised as people with particular challenges which need not be totally disabling.

Andy Capp statue
Photo of Andy by Stan Laundon


Andy Capp is a famous cartoon character whose name is a deliberate pun on the word “handicap” (please imagine a North-East Hartlepool accent). The creation of Reg Smythe, Andy Capp was always the (very politically incorrect) cartoon I turned to in the Mirror when growing up. Andy never had a job and his life seems hopeless and hapless. Rather than rejecting the caricature of people surviving on benefits and those who have to go cap in hand to anyone who might buy them a pint, the people of Hartlepool have taken Andy to heart by celebrating him as a hero for those who can’t (or won’t) work – or aren’t and don’t fit. His place in society is cemented by the statue in Hartlepool – pictured above. There’s more information from Stan Laundon here.


Political correction still has a way to go. Access issues remain. But many people are becoming more aware of their own situation of having a place on the different spectra – for example, autism, asperges, obsessive compulsive disorder and dyslexia. We are now able to diagnose different learning problems (and, as often as not, their compensating abilities), appreciate different personality types and celebrate different intelligences. But in a training room focusing on diversity and disability it is still the tendency to look outside the room towards disabled people, instead of recognising the different (dis)abilities within the group as various people showed themselves differently gifted at sign language, and not so cap-able when it came to coping with IT.


It was distressing to hear the apparent exclusion of people with learning difficulties from our churches and how stones often seem to matter more than people when churches are trying to improve access. But it was good to hear about the Causeway Prospects and other initiatives to include people who find it difficult to express themselves.


Henri Nouwen reflecting on his experience of ministry (back in ’89 when the word “handicapped” was still being politically corrected) within L’Arche writes in The Road to Daybreak

‘Handicapped people are not only poor, they reveal to us our own poverty. Their primal cry is an anguished cry: ”Do you love me?” And “Why have you forsaken me?” We hear this cry everywhere in our world: Jews, blacks, Palestinians, refugees and many others all cry out, “Why is there no place for us, why are we pushed away, why are we rejected?”.

4 thoughts on “>’andicapp-ed

  1. >I'm very happy to do so Hartlepool Monkey. It's a shame that the "credit" only comes up as the cursor moves over the photo. I've added a link in two places – they are great photos. The view from the back of Andy is a great idea.

  2. >Sounds good – I've never been to Hartlepool – but always supported the football team, probably because of their consistency in coming bottom of the 4th division. I'll buy you a beer if/when they make it to the Championship. Now, who's most likely to be buying the first round?

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