Mustn’t Show Photos of Wheelchairs

Most events come with an official photographer, or at least a lot of people with camera phones. And I’m sure a lot of the attendees check out the web page / facebook group / whatever a couple of days later to see if they’ve been recorded for posterity. But have you ever noticed how rarely these photo show someone in a wheelchair?

I know I don’t have the prettiest of faces, but rumours of camera lenses broken by taking my picture have been greatly exaggerated. So how come, event after event, there are no photos of me in my wheelchair – even when there are a lot of group photos?

The exception, of course, is when there is a political statement to be made. If the organisers want to be shown to be inclusive. I’ve even been at events where I’m grouped with the token non-white person and the politician who invited me. Or included in the background of a single photo, where I’m as far from the camera as possible. Minorities are there to be seen on photographs, but only when there’s a reason for including them – not as a normal member of the public.

I recently attended an event where the photographer appeared to follow me round – apparently so he could stand beside me to take photos of the rest of the attendees. That’s a good way to ensure I wasn’t in the photos. One shot which featured me was posted on Facebook, but I made the mistake of tagging myself in the shot – and it was promptly deleted. I’ve even known people to lean on my wheelchair to steady themselves to take a photo – which doesn’t work as I tend to move away from people leaning on me.

So what’s wrong with showing someone in a wheelchair? Are people so offended by the sight that such photos have to be destroyed? Unless, of course, someone wants to make the point that their event was open to everyone – even if they’re from an ethnic minority or the disabled community? Interestingly, people seem to make more of the fact that they’re accessible when the event was only partially open to people in wheelchairs.

So I’ve been struggling to negotiate the one-third that is open to (full fee-paying) wheelies and then get photographed to prove that the organisers were happy to have disabled people there. I get a lot of criticism for suggesting that a discount should be offered to people with mobility difficulties and have even been told that it would be discrimination to charge less for disabled people! (The person who told me that was arguing that it was my choice not to go round the exhibition in an inaccessible part of the castle which was part of what I paid for!)

Wheelchairs are only in group photos if their disability is relevant. Either because it was an event for disabled people, or the token wheelchair is used to prove that it was all-inclusive. Even when it wasn’t.

Or am I being too sensitive?