25 SEPTEMBER 1942, Page 9


By H. G. LYALL HE problem of the physically handicapped is a growing one. Although modern surgery, medicine and hygiene have done uch to reduce the crippling effects of disease on the human frame, eir beneficial work is much more than offset by the ravages of odern wars and modern traffic on the roads. Today, as in the ast, the tendency is to try to mitigate the disability by means of harity, pensions and " organised " help, but these will not solve the roblem ; in some vikys they exacerbate it, for it is more psychological an physical. Moreover; it is a problem which the handicapped emselves will have to take the major part in solving.

The greatest hardship of the maimed, crippled and deformed is of the pain or weakness that may accompany their state, nor their ability to take their full share in games and other physical activities ; is a feeling of being separated from the rest of mankind, excluded om the warm presence and equal communion of their fellow-men. othing more terrible can happen to any human creature than, from hatever cause, to be set apart from his kind, to feel cut off from e normal lives his fellows live, the love of woman, the begetting of hildren, the building of a home.

Frank Lasker, the sailor whose recent broadcasts aroused so much terest, gave a poignant reminder of this in one of his talks. One ight while in hospital recovering from a war injury which cost im a leg, he was suddenly overwhelmed by the thought of the uture that might be his in his now maimed condition, a future in 'hich the ordinary things like love and marriage might be denied

im. In black despair he caught at the night nurse as she passed nd said, " Sister, do you think any girl would ever fall in love with e—with one leg? " He records that she shone her torch on him d replied calmly, " Of course, someone will. I think I could." Much has been said and done about helping the crippled to ecome useful members of society by teaching them handicrafts and ther means of livelihood. This is right and proper, and no more an bare justice, but a good deal of what has been done in this irection has accentuated the main problem rather than solved it. t is anything but good for the physically handicapped to be herded 'gether in homes, workshops and colonies, for it fosters precisely at feeling of separation from the rest of humanity which, more than eir actual physical deficiencies, blights the lives of the handicapped. cannot too often be repeated that the burning desire of those hose cruel fate it is to go through life disabled is just to be one f the common herd, to live, as far as it is possible, normal lives. This is admittedly no easy problem. Crippled children, disabled diers and others often have to have special training to fit them earn a living, and at first sight the simplest and most efficient ethod of achieving this is to put them in homes, institutions and .orkshops where they can be trained together. This may seem ideal 'r the main object society has in view, viz., " to make useful citizens them," but in practice it is not so ideal as it may seem. It ay make them useful, but it does not make them citizens. It nds to the very opposite—to keep them members of another odd, the world of the physically deficient, and that is what blasts eir lives, not the loss of limbs or of sight, or some other deface- ent of the human frame. Time and again men and women have • own that these things need not, do not, of themselves blast, but spire rather to great and memorable achievements.

It argues no depreciation of the fine work that has been done by merous institutions all over the country to help the physically sabled, least of all of the self-sacrificing efforts of thousands of en and women who have given their lives to this work, to maintain at the main problem is how the handicapped are to be fitted to a living without the process isolating them from their kind. believe that this can be solved by industry in general taking a . Recently a striking article appeared in The Spectator on the y resting on industrialists to assist their young workers to continue eir education. Every employer should consider it equally a duty help the disabled to a means of livelihood and usefulness, not subscribing to this or that charity for their benefit, but by train- them and providing them with work. He would find it a paying position, for any man who, after facing the bleak prospect of a

useless life because of physical disability, is given the chance of doing useful work along with able-bodied men will strive with a savage determination to keep level with them. The average man or woman who has lost a limb or suffered some other physical mishap is capable of better things than the manufacture of paper flowers to be sold on the streets for charity, or a training in light handicrafts, again probably with charity lurking somewhere in the background. In the diversified activities of the modern business and industrial world useful jobs could be found for all but the completely helpless. At first patience and discrimination would have to be exercised by those in charge of the training of the disabled to fit them into industry. For a time the crippled worker would tire easily, and the first work he was put to might be beyond his powers. He should be given a choice of jobs and encouraged to keep on trying until he finds something he can do, and do well. The majority would in time become willing and steady workers.

I said earlier that the solution of the problem of the handicapped lay largely in their own hands. The Shakespearian " sweet are the uses of adversity " is nowhere more clearly exemplified than in the wonderful achievements of the physically handicapped. A catalogue of such achievements would be a long and inspiring document, telling of courage and long drawn-out battles successfully waged against great odds. All the world has heard of Helen Keller, the blind, deaf and dumb American girl who achieved scholarship and much else in the face of what seemed impossible odds, but only a few know of the humble citizen of an English town who, though similarly afflicted, is successfully cultivating an allotment, moving about amongst his crops by means of strings and threads laid along the ground. There is the airman whom the country took to its heart because, although he lost both of his legs in a crash, he learned to fly again, and not only became a good flyer, but a leader of the best airmen in the world. The eyes of the whole civilised world are today fixed hopefully for its future salvation on one man more than on any other, and he, as the result • of infantile paralysis when an adult, can only walk with the greatest difficulty.

The catalogue of disability is unending, from the Scottish watchmaker who had to do all his work lying on his back in bed to the Irish aristocrat, Kavanagh, who, though born without hands or feet, could write, draw, fish, shoot, ride, travel about the world, and in x868 became a Member of Parliament, and of whom it is recorded that "Gladstone, though opposed to him, respected him very much." These, and many thousands of others, have, largely by their own efforts, done the seemingly impossible. They have done these things because they were determined not to be excluded from the life and activities of the world in which they lived. To achieve that, they need resolution and patience and courage and a stem suppression of all bitterness and all envy of the fortunate and normal majority. They must fight the inevitable sense of frustration they will encounter at every turn in their efforts to gain a footing in the world of affairs, and determine to overcome that sensitive reaction to their physical condition which often makes them shrink from contact with their fellow-men. Unless they can do that, those most anxious to help them will be powerless.