Born with phocomelia, no arms
Born with a rare chromosomal disorder called phocomelia which is not unlike thalidomide, Alison Lapper did not have any arms and had only very short legs. She refers to her condition as: “limb deficiency”.
She is a remarkable lady in many respects. She has coped with her disability, put herself through university, raised a perfectly healthy son, established a successful career as a talented artist and won the respect of very many people.
She began life, from a very early age, at Chailey Heritage School, a residential home for the severely disabled, where she would stay until she was 18 years old. At the time, Chailey Heritage was regarded as a centre of excellence for the care of the seriously handicapped. It was here that she met the boy who would become her life-long friend, Pete Hull.
Pete is also severely handicapped, having no legs and very shortened arms. Pete and Alison, when they were old enough, would swim regularly. Pete went on to swim professionally and won a number of gold medals. Although the picture below may look like Pete is diving, he is, in fact, swimming underwater.
Alison lives in Shoreham Beach and receives an income from The Mouth and Foot Painter’s Association, an International Cooperative of Artists which produces cards and Calendars. She graduated from Brighton University with a first-class honours degree in Art, and has since had numerous exhibitions of both paintings and photography. Alison’s main subject, for her art, is herself. She is very confident with her body and with her sexuality, and very happy to pose nude for the camera as you can see. She is happy with her body and considers it to be different and beautiful. She can be quite outspoken and thinks that people are very often narrow-minded about disability and sex.
Alison is also fiercely independent, refusing to wear any form of prosthetic limb.
In 2000, after a brief relationship with an able-bodied man she says: “I quite unexpectedly, and quite happily fell pregnant, and he ran a mile”. Alison became a single-parent to a boy she named Parys.
In the summer of 2003 in Madrid, Spain, Alison attended a Women and Disability Conference where she spoke on motherhood and maternity. Prior to this she visited Buckingham Palace at the Queen’s invitation to receive an M.B.E, for her Services to Art.
A sculpture of Alison has won a competition to occupy the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square. The statue will be created by sculptor Marc Quinn and will feature Alison naked and pregnant.
Over the past five years Alison has achieved public recognition as an artist and a champion of the disabled, but it’s still being a mother that is the focus of her life.
Alison Lapper on Wikipedia (amelia or phocomelia)
My Life in My Hands – Alison Lapper, Guy Feldman