UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Able Lives
Able Lives Able Lives
A celebration of the abilities and achievements of people with disabilities

Fiona Murdoch
ISBN 9781853906992 (1853906999)
Veritas, 2003

Category: Christian Life & Discipleship

In the preface to this book Brian Conley MEP writes, "All too often in discussions about disability the focus is on the disability itself and not the person. The label 'disabled' is seen as being all encompassing, a sum total of the person, which is not true for it misses the very point that, in all walks of life, each of us is nurtured and changed by our environment, whether by family, education, career or disability. In failing to see the essence of the person, we not only do a disservice to their individuality, but we also fail to capture the totality of their being."

Able Lives is a series of 17 essays written by Fiona Murdoch, a journalist with a special interest in human interest stories who combines her role as a journalist with motherhood. She compiled this book in 2003 for the European Year of People with Disabilities. In it she writes about the life experiences of Irish people with physical, sensory, and learning disabilities, their families and carers. The book is positive in its outlook whilst not minimizing the real difficulties of living with a disability day by day.

Lorraine Leake, a young mother with multiple sclerosis, describes the difficulties experienced by her young children who have to assist her with tasks like getting her wheelchair in an out of the car. Lorraine's story also highlights the physical limitations of buildings which are inaccessible for people confined to a wheelchair. As a mother she is unable to attend her daughter's school concerts because the concert hall is upstairs forcing her to sit at the bottom and rely on others to tell her when her daughter is about to play!

Quoting Rita Corley, blinded as a result of a car accident, Fiona Murdoch says, "Rita admits she sometimes feels sorry for herself and asks, 'Why me? At times I have been angry with God; sometimes I have asked myself is there a God at all?'"

"Disability throws down a challenge — it does not mean inability."

Given the context of this book, it's no surprise to find two stories that relate to people who have become disabled as a result of the troubles in Northern Ireland. One such is Samuel Malcolmson, an RUC officer wounded in an IRA ambush, who was one of the founder members of Disabled Police Officers Association. His tragedy was compounded by the fact that his mother died from shock at his bedside in the intensive care unit the day after he was shot. Describing his work with other disabled police officers, he said, "I tell them that disability throws down a challenge, it does not mean inability."

I would recommend this book, particularly to anyone with an interest in disability issues. To end with a further quote from Brian Conley, "What we have in all these pages is the strength and the inspiration of the individual, the ability of the person to achieve their own ideals as well as leadership to others. At the start of the 21st Century we should seize the opportunity to look at other people as individual human beings with individual rights, abilities and talents, which must be given the full opportunity to blossom."

Paul Greene, March 2004

Paul Greene works as a senior manager in the Social Services. An ordained priest in the Church of England, he has been disabled since birth and is confined to a wheelchair.


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