Campaigner known for work on homelessness and disability

Born: May 6, 1948;

Died: September 18, 2019

CAROL Graham, who has died aged 71, was a campaigner and activist known for work on homelessness the rights of women with disabilities.

She was born in Alloa and moved to a small town in Ontario, Canada with her parents when she was a child. In her twenties she was encouraged to leave home by her mother who felt that as a young woman with cerebral palsy she was more likely to achieve independence away from home.

In typical adventurous fashion Carol took this advice perhaps a bit further than her mother had meant and was soon on a flight to Edinburgh where she knew no-one and where she started to carve out her own life.

Carol found herself a flat and a job with Shelter Campaign for the Homeless where she worked for 17 years often putting in many extra unpaid hours in addition to her paid work. She was also a volunteer worker for Women’s Aid on both the campaigning and practical side of the work.

She was a gifted raconteur. She developed this skill into writing scripts for herself and soon became one of Scotland’s ( possibly the UK’s) earliest stand up feminist comics whose act was full of humanity, humour and precise and pithy social commentary. She had a knack for telling people to get back in their box and managing to make them fall in love with her at exactly the same time.

With Edinburgh as a base, Carol was soon travelling the world. She spent time on a kibbutz in Israel, visited most of Europe and more locally organised the design of an adult tricycle to help her travel round Edinburgh where she was well known to many as she cycled everywhere to keep up with her own very hectic schedule. Lothian bus drivers in particular became skilled in adapting to Carol’s very own interpretation of the Highway Code.

Carol fought back against physical disability, and dealt with the prejudice that can so often surround that, with supreme compassion, wit and determination.

One of her many stories was about her time with the then named Spastics Society who, in their wisdom, allocated to Carol the task of cleaning the grout between tiles in the toilets with a toothbrush. Only Carol could turn this into an entertaining story, but tell the story, she did.

She also became a sought-after speaker on the rights of women with disabilities and spoke on radio, at conferences, and in newspapers about this cause which was so close to her heart. On one occasion, when she had been invited to speak about disability at a conference, she noted that there was easy access to the stage by means of a ramp. At the end of the conference, she equally noted that they were now dismantling the ramp. Carol immediately positioned herself on the ramp all the while remonstrating with the workmen and insisting that the ramp stay exactly where it was.

Carol had a great sense of humour and above all, was a humanitarian. She saw people as they were and welcomed them in. Folk who believed they had come to help her, would go away feeling better. She was one of a kind and will be sorely missed.