#DWP & #ATOS at it again please read! – #disability #ESA & #ATOS

I just read an article that has hugely saddened me, please keep reading and follow the link to get the full story.

A blind woman has been made seriously physically ill by ATOS and the DWP working in a way that totally disregards the Equality Act.

Having just read the facts of what happened I am so stunned that I really don’t know what to say.

The matter boils down to one of what’s sometimes called a print disability. The term print disability can be used to describe anyone who is unable or would struggle to read standard print. It’s an umbrella term and can be used to describe conditions such as total blindness, dyslexia and intellectual disabilities.

In this case the lady in question uses Braille or audio instead of standard print and ATOS & DWP are unable to produce this.

They then told her that she would have to find someone to fill out the form for her.

The stress of this landed her in hospital.

As I said at the beginning this saddens me you might think that’s a strange reaction, maybe it is but for me it’s personal.

As I’ve mentioned before my mum is almost totally blind her way of dealing with written correspondence is Braille.

My mum requested the same form as the woman in this story in Braille and got the response at the other end of the phone that said ‘I’m not sure if we do Braille but we should I will try and get it for you’.

The form the arrived in standard print with a deadline to have it completed and the threat that missing that deadline will result in loss of benefits.

My mum is lucky she got help from my dad and a local charity but for thousands of other people this is not the case.

I have also had help to fill out the form in question. I’ve also had the stress of trying to get it done in time for the deadline bearing in mind I get one hour of support a week!

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Laughing at mental illness – good news for Russell Howard

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Russell Howards Good News 3

I really enjoy radio and TV comedy and comedy clubs. As I tweeted a couple of weeks ago:

“I love laughing. And this comedy series with @RussellHoward always ends with an uplifting story.”

My tweet included a link to the BBC Three show Russell Howard’s Good News. This show, now in its eighth series, is written by Howard and is a light hearted upbeat sample of the previous week’s news stories. The show includes lots of humorous video clips and newspaper headlines, a mystery guest with a whimsical skill which Howard samples on stage, and ends with an unashamedly cheesy story. The show’s material is tested in front of an audience on Sunday, filmed on Tuesday then the show airs on Thursday. It’s the channel’s most successful entertainment show ever.

Last Thursday, to warm people up for the new series that started tonight, Howard’s 2011 stage show Right Here…

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The Insult of Disability

I’m not about to write a ranting raving blog post to you all about how awful it is to be a disabled person – its alright actually and its normal for me and I would not have it any other way!

What I am going to talk about is insulting and offensive words surrounding disability.

Recently I have gone back to being a guide leader after a 3 year absence and I was shocked by the language they used to insult each other, it appears the word ‘retard’ has come back into linguistic fashion as an appropriate insult for your 13-year-old mate.

I had naively hoped that ‘disability insults’ had disappeared from society when the disability rights movement moved out discrimination and in the Disability Discrimination Act (2004). I assumed that it was no longer socially acceptable to use an offensive slang term for a person with a disability as an insult – I am wrong.

It’s really got me thinking about language and its development and progress though usage in society, I have attempted to think back a decade and assess the disability related insults that were used in my school.

I have many unpleasant memories about my education; of bullying, harassment and verbal abuse. Although I was called a lot of nasty things at various points by people so insecure about themselves that they had to pick on someone to feel good (I REALLY pity them) I really don’t think any of the words used where on a par with ‘retard’.

I could be wrong but I think young people in my generation understood (even if they did not actually realise it) the history behind such words and that the use of them was socially unacceptable.

So I find myself challenging todays generation about their language and the way they insult each other and wondering what I can suggest they use that isn’t the dreaded ‘R’ word?

I also wonder what other offensive terms for disabled people will once again rear their ugly heads as playground insults; mong? spaz? cripple… I’m sure the list could be endless – Which I think says a lot about our society on the whole.

In the current economic climate I think its fair to say the DDA is not being enforced as much as it should be, money is getting in the way and proving yet another barrier to the access needs of disabled people, of which many argue that the DDA never went far enough to change the way society views disability.

I know form my own experience that discrimination against disabled people is still rife I currently feel that Southampton City Council have acted in a discriminatory manner towards me and continue to do so. What will be done about it or change it? Nothing unless at some point I can secure funding for a case under the DDA (something I admittedly have not looked into yet).

With the many cuts and changes to the benefit system effecting disabled people, in addition to negative news stories focused on how disabled people are apparently a drain on society and can contribute nothing to the wider world is it any wonder that our kids are turning to disability to get there insults?

Train Travel floored

I write this sat in a hotel connected to a garage in the middle of nowhere the hotel has wifi but charges a whopping £5 for one hours access – which I refuse to pay.I am in the middle of nowhere a £8 taxi journey away from Didcot train station, I am here unpaid on a course for the job I am doing at university this year.

To get here I got a volunteer to drive me to Fareham station where I met a support worker and got on a train to Southampton from there we got on another train headed for Oxford, we had to get off at Reading station and change trains again to get to Didcot.

All was going well until we reached our second train, upon boarding it became apparent that the train was hideously in accessible. We asked where the wheelchair area was assuming there would be more space, on getting there we discovered that it was literally an empty space with a small table off to one side.

The train was rather busy and full of older people, who where insistent on sitting down first and finding there reserved sears.

This created a battle field incorporating train staff, my support worker, me Gus and a million grumpy old farts that where fully prepared to pushed there way forward not caring who they ran over with there suitcases or stepped on.

My support worker put her bag down on a chair closest to the wheelchair bay only to turn around and discover a woman had picked it  up and was about to move it somewhere else. There was carnage in the carriage, people and bags everywhere refusing to move to let other people past because there booked seat was that way and they wanted to sit in it now.

The train was delayed by 6 minutes whilst the gridlock continued with train staff and other passengers shouting at large amounts of old farts to move out of the way and let other people such as myself past.

Eventually after much shuffling and complete disregard to other people the large groups of old farts sat down.

Then I discovered that the wheelchair seat had no seats around it, basically there would be space for Gus but not for me. None of the seats around it had any room for Gus to lay under them so what was I supposed to do?

In the end I sat in the wheelchair space on the floor for over an hour and a half, I spent this time having poor Gus being stepped on even after I had warned people that he was there, I was also stepped on, people tried to block us both into the space with bags and even tried to wheel them on top of us.

I remain utterly disgusted by this, I was basically a piece of luggage, one particular old fart of a commuter stepped on Gus  after I had already warned her that he was there, I pointed this out to her and then she patted me on the head and apologised, I was fuming!

Then the guard came through the train and I asked him a question he turned around and answered talking to my support worker instead of to me, referring to me as she and stating that they have special assistance “for people like her”.

I snapped I told him to talk to me not about me I was on the verge of rude but I had had enough by that point.

I have never had a train journey that bad, I am honestly appalled by it I have heard horror stories from other disabled people that have had horrific train journeys, but I have always felt positive about travel by train and enjoyed it as a largely stress free experiences, but now the tables have turned, my journey was utterly horrific thanks to the train company for not training its staff as to how to talk to disabled people, not making there trains accessible and the other passengers being horrible old farts who only cared about themselves with no consideration for others – I hate people that are so selfish!

BBC NEWS -Airport security ‘humiliated’ man

BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Airport security ‘humiliated’ man.

My own experence at airports and various other places with tight security has been interesting. Security staff simply don’t know what to do if you are disabled and as a result don’t know how to help.

At Berlin airport I was asked to remove my supportive boots compleate with orthosoles, stood on one leg. I explained that I could not stand on one leg  let alone stand on one leg and remove my boot at the same time. I asked if I could get someone to take my boot off for me, this was not allowed, I asked if they minded me sitting on the floor this was not allowed. In the end the person I was travelling with had to physically hold me up whilst I removed my boots and orthosoles, A very humiliating experence, when the time came to put my boots and orthosoles back on,  I was given a chair!

That’s the only really negative experience I have had other than being accused of being drunk and the walking through the gates with no cane or guide dog taking a leap of faith.

Interestingly Gus has never been security searched however my long cane has been, I was asked to fold it down so a security guard on the London Eye could check there was nothing illegal inside!

when to give up

Its a question I am asking myself, when do I give up trying to help members of the course team understand me?

I have been studying the universities student complaints procedure, I don’t want to use it, but I am seriously running out of options.
It would be true to say that right now things have reached a crisis point, things should not have got to the stage where a lecturer and myself are shouting at each other across a lecture theater. I am sure many of you reading this are fully aware of the situation I was put in on Wednesday, I am not an aggressive person, but when I am shouted at because a so-called lecturer does not possess any understanding of my disability I have to defend myself.
The access issues I have faced since being at university have somewhat surprised me, I always knew that I would face challenges and access issues but I  hoped that lecturers would work with me not against me to smooth any issues.
I am having one final attempt at solving these issues informally. Next week I will be having a number of meetings with members of the course team, if things cannot be sorted out then it will be time to start the formal stage of the official complaints procedure.
I am going to end this blog entry with a somewhat desperate plea, I consider myself to be an independent person but I cannot continue the way things are at the moment, I would  ask others to speak out about the way I am forgotten if they witness what is going on.
I do this in understanding that many of you do not feel able to speak out on my behalf for fear of being patronising, I promise you I will not take that view point, if you feel able to act please do. I need as many people to hammer the message home, if lecturers will not listen to me or the disability support people then my only hope is to irritate them into compliance.

Climbing barriers repeatedly

This year at university has been great, but filled with issues and problems and barriers to my learning.

It is important to mention at this point that there have been some fabulous people, and some committed and brilliant lecturers who never fail to meet my access needs and think of me in every circumstance.
Then there are those people who don’t help at all, who for  a time could not possibly produce a large print hand out for me… until of course they were reminded by me of a little something known as The DDA (Disability Discrimination Act). After that shocker people started getting me large print handouts, and copies of power point presentations as they happen so I actually know whats going on. (finally)
That was one major issue resolved for the most part, it took 8 weeks but hey-ho sorted now.
There have however been countless issues…. one after the other in a near constant stream. Every issue is another barrier for me to battle to clime over, wonky legs and all!
Climbing over these barriers and battling to insure that people understand, is quite frankly wearing me down. 
Most of the issues I am facing could be avoided, a little extra planning could go a long way or a little organisation!
The most recent thing that has happened is the start of semester 2, it starts on Monday and I am expecting another bumpy ride at least in the beginning. The time table has completely changed, I have new staff teaching me and new rooms to find. All of this is going to throw up issues,  I am expecting that there will be glitches and I am fine with that.
To try and smooth out issues before they happen I have asked that all my new lecturers see something called a ‘faculty form’. Basically the faculty form states what ALL of my disabilities and conditions are, it states what I need in lessons and spells out the basics. 
I would much rather people know that I am disabled before I walk through the door it allows them time to plan there lesson and avoids embarrassment.
Well I emailed the people concerned as a little don’t forget to look at my faculty form, I have now received a email, that I was copied into from the faculty office with a word document that I produced at the begging of the year that concerns my visual impairment, I was at the time trying to simplify things purely relating to my VI.
Everyone always forgets my other conditions they may be marginally less significant than my Visual Impairment at this moment in time but that will not always be the case, I would rather people where prepared.
There was no mention of my bone condition (the wonky legs and hyper-mobile joints), the one that makes standing still in the same place for periods of time difficult, makes me wobble and makes stairs tricky.
There was no mention of my mental health, I may be in recovery right now but I am still receiving treatment on my way to being fully well again without medication.
I have come to the conclusion they either don’t understand what my faculty form is, or that its filed away somewhere and they can’t find it.
I don’t get it  the faculty form is the most basic and simple of things all I want is for all my lecturers to see it, surly it s not that difficult.
It may be wearing me down but I will just have to keep climbing over the barriers.
Can I also say a big thanks to all the people out there who have ever tried to remove an access barrier from any ones path, your actions make all the other barriers seem achievable and remind those of us who have to climb the barriers that there are people looking out for them.

Difficulties

It’s not been the easiest of weeks back and first off I should explain why I have not yet posted about the models of disability as I promised a few weeks back via the joy that is Facebook!

I had 2 big deadlines on Monday of this week so the majority of my time has been spent on that, I have started the post on the models of disability, but as it is a complex topic with many areas of debate I wish to make sure what I do upload is balanced and honest yet informed so I shall not be rushing it!
So far this week has not been a particularly good one, on Saturday (as many people will already know) my toaster blew up, which is devastating, being the independent woman that I am I got my mum to buy me a new one and she is bringing it down on Thursday!
Then literally minutes later my computer mouse stopped working, its fine again now but it was very frustrating! (and rather random)
I also feel the need to portray that I am sitting here writing this at 1AM because there is a drip on my roof, dripping more than once a second and making a great deal of noise, I would really love to be asleep, but its constant and very irritating; aside from that there seems to be an incredibly large number of drunk people about which is not helping matters. I start work at 9AM this morning I don’t think I will get much sleep.
I don’t like writing to much about my course but I feel I have to, of late things have not been going to well, actually there have been a lot of glitches regarding my inclusion.
The university is very inclusive as an organisation, and does a very good job of promoting diversity and inclusion. It is now not only the place where I study but my employer, which I think says a lot about the place.
So far the inclusion on the course itself has not been great, I think unfortunately this is down to peoples attitudes, lack of consideration and the general disorganisation of the faculty I am in.
There have been countless problems, It took me pointing out to a lecturer that he was in breach of the DDA (disability discrimination act) meaning I was within my right to take legal action for him to produce a large print handout, I should not have to do that, it should not take 6 weeks of me repeatedly telling everyone and then me losing my temper to get is sorted out.
There have been numerous issues over course content, I have had to endure attempting to create a visual design scrapbook which is as inaccessible to a visually impaired person as its name suggests. 
I have sat in lessons for 2 hours doing nothing because I cannot use the video editing software that is used, it would have been a better use of time to sit at home doing work instead of sitting in a room with no alternative given and simply being told we would be working in groups so I would not need to edit.
I had a trip to court on Monday, which I was told about on Friday not giving me enough time to book note taking assistance, leaving me incredibly venerable, anxious and generally like a confidence sieve.
I, and my needs have been forgotten on countless occasions.
We are in the last week of semester 1 and have just come back from the christmas break but already I have had issues, and the member of staff I booked a meeting with was less than supportive, I seriously wanted to cry (and very nearly did).
I am not indestructible things do get to me, I do get warn down by the continuous flow of issues and right now If you cannot already tell by the tone of this latest blog entry I am not happy.
I am fed up of speaking out alone about these issues-others witness but do not act, I am fed up of the lack of understanding or even the lack of willingness to understand.
I have had enough!