As a child I used to dress up for Purim and go to my sister’s school. One year I was Metal Mickey, another I was ’99 Red Balloons’. However, in recent years when people ask me what I am dressing up for Purim, my response is generally nothing and I then drive off in my chair. I have, for many years been the Scrooge of Purim – and now I am sharing my reasons why.
I was inspired to speak out after seeing a post written on Facebook by my cousin, who works in a centre for people with disabilities in Israel.
In the post about Purim celebrations, she said: “Purim is a time when we dress up and put on masks. At our centre, we focus on what’s behind the mask”.
This particularly resonated with me.
I was born with Cerebral Palsy which, for me, among other things, means I am unable to walk or use my voice to talk.Instead I use an electric wheelchair and speak through a voice synthesiser or an Ipad voice app.
People like me, with obvious disabilities, have trouble getting others to look beyond the wheelchair and see the real person.
Even though I am well-educated, have a marketing degree, enjoy reading crime fiction and am very proud of doing a skydive to fundraise, people just see my chair and my disabilities and assume I am stupid and have nothing to offer or contribute.
My chair is not me. It is simply my tool to help me get around.
What makes things more difficult is that communicating with me requires time, my ipad attached to my chair is my means to communication. It requires patience, something that due to our busy, modern lives many people seem to be short of.
I spend much of my spare time speaking to volunteers at Jewish Care, as well as pupils in secondary schools about disability. I do this in the hope that I will make a difference to both their own and society’s attitudes towards people living with disabilities. I try to help them to look beyond my chair and see me just like everyone else.
A person with my own interests, family and feelings. My chair is the mask people don’t look beyond.
So why is this Purim going to be different from all others for me?
After my usual opposition, and with some persuading from my colleagues in Jewish Care’s fundraising and community engagement team where I volunteer on a full-time basis, I have reluctantly agreed to dress up this year.
With the help of my sister I will be wearing an AWESOME costume.
I am confident I will be a serious contender for Jewish Care’s best costume prize and because of this I don’t think my colleagues will encourage me to dress up next year.
This year, the Scrooge of Purim past will be celebrating the festivities while speaking out to encourage people to look beyond the mask and see the real person.
- Simon is a Jewish Care volunteer