Why We'd Never Publish A Photo Of The Queen In A Diaper

"An image of an incontinent Queen Elizabeth wearing a nappy has been published in a News of the World publication.

The Queen, who did not give her permission to be photographed, was sleeping at the time, wearing only a continence aide.

Buckingham Palace cleaner Anita Bath said that the use of the image was justified in the fight to improve the working conditions of cleaners across the United Kingdom.

'The image accurately depicts the condition that older people find themselves in, and consequently the hardship that is imposed upon underpaid cleaners across the UK,' she said.

'I have personally had to clean up not only the Queen's urine but also an occasional royal turd.'

The Queen was not asked for comment."

Funny, right? And it would almost certainly never happen. Why? Because the Queen does not have a disability.

This image is the cause of much current controversy between people with disability and carers. The image, which depicts sixteen year old Justin Lee wearing a diaper, 'depicts how being carers affects ageing parents'. And NPR argues that 'Justin is not in a position to tell them what he does and does not want.'

Isn't that a good reason NOT to publish the photo?

I look at the photograph, of a loving father carrying his son, and I think, 'You poor man. Your back must hurt, that boy weights 100 pounds. He's wearing a nappy - he is just like a baby. You have been picking him up like that since he was a baby. You poor man.' And that is what the image is supposed to invoke.

Nowhere in that image do I see anything of who Justin is. And why? Because Justin has a disability. This image portrays him as 'burden', rather than 'person'. Literally.

Dignity and privacy is a tradeable commodity. It is important that we accurately portray the plight of unsupported caregivers, so we will use this image of Justin in his nappy, being carried, helpless. Pity porn at its finest.

I wonder if Stephen Hawking would allow someone to photograph him wearing a diaper. His first wife, Jane, told the press that it was “difficult…to feel desire for someone with the undeniable needs of an infant.” They divorced in 1990.

And I wonder what would happen if Justin and his family were supported properly and if they were provided with an electric hoist. And if the 'need' for this kind of story was no longer there - would we then see a photograph of Justin in the surroundings that he loves best, wearing his favourite football jersey, laughing with other young people?

That's what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is supposed to do. Support people so that parents can be mothers and fathers, siblings can be brothers and sisters, people with disability can be individuals, rather than burdens.

I wonder what the story would look like if it was about Justin, not his physical care needs.

Let's find out.


  1. Thanks, Samantha. As an aging carer, I too find this photo and the thoughtlessness behind it offensive and damaging to our true needs, which can only be met when pwd are given the same respect as people without a disability.

  2. Respecting your opinion, I actually disagree with you. I don't think the image is there to stimulate pity. I think it appears to be loving, describing how enablement is done in that family perhaps (but I am not in the mind of the photographer, family or Justin).
    There are some people who can not provide their own consent, despite efforts to ascertain this - this is an uncomfortable reality perhaps. Should these people be excluded from having a public presence through photography or through representation by those who know them well.
    I want to share a third hand story. A prominent excellent disability organisation had some photos of a woman with her family. I do not think she consented on her own behalf. She is smiling, she is well dressed. However, I was told that moments before the photo her favourite toy was removed from her. I presume this was to fight off any image of her being construed as a child. I thought it was sad that her preferences had to denied in a charade of normality.


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