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Aaron Williamson explores stories about disability and money... / 9 April 2010

In the course of this project – which, roughly, is about the interface between begging for money and worshipping meteorites for their being lucky bringer-ons of ‘pennies from heaven’ – I’ve recalled, or been told, darkly amusing, rueful stories about disability and money.

Firstly though, a bit of background theory. Historically, receiving charity has been overwhelmingly the most prominent source of monetary gain for disabled people. Most charity advertising (even to now) has a simple design and effect.

Using black-and-white photography and featuring a model looking pleadingly to the viewer, the message is simple: this person lacks colour, joy, life, happiness and health, but most of all s/he lacks your money – there’s something missing, please give.

Of course it wouldn’t do for a charity ad to show a group of psychedelically luminous crips getting hammered on champagne, scoffing sushi and begging for ‘more’, but that brings me to the first quick tale.

Katherine Araniello and I were working as the Disabled Avant-Garde in Liverpool late last year when we went to a rather smart restaurant and very much enjoyed a couple of bottles of a pretty decent vintage bubbly that we couldn’t really afford, to accompany some also-pricey cordon bleu cooking.

At the end of the meal we requested the bill with some trepidation but it transpired from the waiter that a local businessman had been watching us in fascination all evening from a nearby table and had insisted, 10 minutes ago, on paying our bill anonymously on his way out. . .

Another disability artist friend, Liz Crow – who I’ve met here in Bristol – was out shopping and was drinking a coffee from a paper cup in the street while her friend went to the loo. As she sat waiting for her friend to return, a chap strode passed and flipped a fifty pence piece into her coffee...

A few years ago I was making my way home from a friend’s birthday party in the small hours when a young man jumped in front of me brandishing a knife. I handed over what cash I had but the man continued shouting in my face.

As I couldn’t lip-read what he was saying, (and speechless with fear before his knife), I gestured the sign to tell him that I’m deaf. This stopped the mugger in his tracks and by turns he looked baffled, then embarrassed and finally contrite before handing the money back to me and running off...

It can be quite amusing - and mind-boggling sometimes - to enjoy the general public’s philanthropy (or gullibility if you prefer), and supposed well-meaning towards disabled people. If you, the reader, have any other tales to share then in the spirit of the editor’s desire for more commentary on this blog, please do tell us about them below.