What’s Considered a Faux Pas?

Never grab me, its my biggest hate, makes me jump and immediately puts me on the defensive.

diaryofamarriedblindwoman

It is understood that people are just trying to help sometimes. But here is a little insight to what should be avoided when in the company of blind people. First, please don’t grab (us or our canes). Imagine being blind folded and being grabbed by the arm. It’s very uncomfortable. Next, it’s perfectly acceptable to offer assistance. One blind person may need it where another may not. If they decline, don’t take it personally. A lot of us wish to do as much independently as possible. Also, there is no need to shout. While blind and deaf sometimes go together, they don’t in every case. Most people who are “deaf-blind” will inform you if they can’t hear very well. Last, if you plan to offer anything, offer an arm. If they want it, they will take it. If not, verbal direction may be what they’re looking for.

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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?

Wow Excitement at geekish levels!

Well I appreciate this post will bore most of you in to a stupor of non caring existence ant that your opinion of me will perhaps change to one that sees me as some who blows their own trumpet. This is a risk i am willing to take because I am proud of my achievements!

I should explain for the beginning – Way back as a teenager in secondary school I was started on a programme of touch typing using Mavis Beacon Teaches typing. I used this software once or twice a week to help me learn to touch type. At the time I hated it and sometimes sat at the computer on my own doing nothing except possibly eating the bar of chocolate I had stowed about my person, of course I quickly lurched into action if there was a teacher around! Some days the cheating was impossible and I kind of liked the idea of being able to type really fast without looking at the computer keyboard, plus my parents and teachers regularly told me how important the ability to type would be in my life – for all the skiving and the boredom I did take it seriously! Even back then I knew that my hand writing was incomparable to even my peers with the scruffiest writing, I often struggled to read my own hand writing and positively felt sorry for my teachers who had to read anything I had written in a hurry.

Progress was PAINFULLY slow but I stuck at it, my journey was helped greatly but the sudden emergence of (as it was back then) MSN Messenger, I guess this increased the amount of time I spent typing even if I was hunched over the computer keyboard looking at the large print yellow on black keyboard stickers!

Bare in mind at school and to an extent college I was expected to hand write during class, most homework assignments had to go into our exercise books at school, My typing was considered to be at to infant a level for me to be eligible to use a Laptop in classes, this is probably true it was probably not yet faster for me to type than it was to write but I perhaps feel for everyone’s sake it may have been easier for everyone to read if I had typed it. Eventually I must have been in year 9 or maybe even year 10 my typing was considered fast enough to warrant me being loaned a laptop, a whopping 37 words a minute (WPM) I belive. The first laptop I was given I eagerly carried home, turned on and it crashed, I got a blue screen of death and then it turned itself off. It was replaced a few days later by what can only be described as a BEAST of a laptop, it was incredibly heavy and brick like, the power pack was quite possibly the size of a standard house brick and equally as heavy.

So anyway back to the topic in hand since using a laptop more first at school, college and then full-time at university and for play my typing speed has improved greatly.

I got an incredibly sense of nostalgia when whilst wandering thought Apples new App store I came across Mavis Beckon teaches typing ’11 ultimate edition.

I was however disappointed to discover its impossible to make the practice fonts bigger in this new edition, meaning I made mistakes because  I could not read what I was supposed to be typing unless I hunched with my head very close to the screen which is not good posture for typing! As a result my average WPM scores were incredibly disappointing!

However there is a silver lining to the situation here. I discovered this evening that the Mavis Beacon software has a built in visual typing gauge that can be viewed whilst you type in any document or frame.

It has spent most of its time whilst i have been writing this sat around the 80 to 100 WPM mark, the scale only goes up to 100 WPM.

This is exciting! considering the adverse human being speaks at roughly 90 words a minute this is a very good thing.

Dragon Dictate

MacSpeech Dictate has now become Dragon Dictate and I have just, with in the last 24 hours updated period in fact I’m using it right now to write this entire blog post.

Since upgrading to Mac OS Snow Leopard MacSpeech Dictate failed to work as it was not compatible, forcing an upgrade at the time I decided against it as MacSpeech Dictate used to drive me mad with its lack of accuracy. I spent more time correcting MacSpeech Dictate then I did actually using it to be to dictate text the commands were difficult to master and the whole process seemed totally unnatural. Added to my frustrations was that I also had a US version which just seem to further complicate matters.

Previously I had to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Windows based computers and found this to be largely successful was completing my A-levels, some of my coursework was completed in its entirety using their software without spending hours training and constantly correcting it so my hopes MacSpeech Dictate were quite high; I was very disappointed.

I said quite recently that DragonDictate had been a huge leap forward in terms of speech recognition to the  Mac OS, I decided somewhat uncertainly that I would give it a bash and I must say I’m very pleasantly surprised!

After very little training the speech software is able to do a very good job of recognising my speech, it makes very few mistakes, and most of these I can tell are due to my own hesitation/slurring of words or commands (no I’m not drunk)!

My only criticism is that the processing speed seems quite slow, although this could be because I speak quite fast,  all because of my computers processing speed however I am using a 2008 MacBook Pro.

I have had the software less than 24 hours and still is fiddling around with the correct ratio between speed and accuracy, but I would seriously recommend it.

I have deliberately left in mistakes in this post as I wanted to give a real representation of the accuracy I am achieving after having the software less than 24 hours, so please forgive me! you are

Its A Tough Time For Me

As I sit and write this I struggle somewhat with how to start, in truth it has been an incredibly difficult few weeks for me on all kinds of levels.

For starters University is not going well, it’s not the fault of any individuals but in short I am not getting the disability support I need to be able to keep up with my able bodied peers.

Books are inaccessible, I can’t even find the books I need to look at in the library independently let alone read them.

I have library support time where support workers help me find the materials I need and the read the relevent content which I record as audio compleate with page numbers and all the referencing data one could ever need. From these audio recordings I can then make my own notes, copy down quotes word for word and complete my essays and other research just as well as any other student.

The current problem being that unfortunately The University’s disability support team are massively over stretched, understaffed and struggling to meet the demand.

I have in the last few weeks only been getting one or two hours a week of this reading support which has meant that I am seriously struggling to keep up with my workload in a big way. My lecturers are understandably concerned about my progress and my ability to cope alongside my peers and the whole situation is just leaving me incredibly stressed!

Aside from the academic problems I continue to have serious issues with where I am living, unfortunately for me I am in first year halls even though I am in my second year.

The freshers I live with are phenomenally selfish and have all year caused problems for Gus and myself. There have been weeks during this academic year where they have literally partied every night until around three maybe four in the morning. When they finally come home they are completely out of their minds on alcohol and who knows what else screaming their heads off. That’s not to mention the many times I have left my room to walk down the corridor only to trip over some shoes or another object that has just been left in the middle of the corridor or worst still discovered that they have broken a glass and not made any attempt to clean it up!

Recently things got to the point where they were finally given their final warning about the noise they make. Since this has happened things have improved slightly but I am still regularly kept awake at night.

Only being able to sleep for a few hours has a serious impact on my ability to function, I will be the first to admit that I need a lot of sleep to function normally and if I don’t get it I can struggle with even the most basic of tasks. A three-hour session on public relations is a serious test of my ability to stay focused after such a terrible nights sleep. I worry that the lecturers see me yawning my head off in sessions and think I am really bored or that I have been out partying all night when in fact I have been in halls tucked up in bed attempting to sleep through a heard of elephants running around the corridors slamming doors, playing loud music and screaming there heads off.

Last week things got particularly bad the freshers where having a loud evening and I had already called security earlier on in the evening who had ask the freashers to keep the noise down. It got to half past twelve and there were a group of them congregating outside my door already drunk making a right racket. I had had enough so poked my head out of my door in my PJ’s with no glasses on to explain that I had a nine o’clock lecture in the morning and that I needed to get some sleep. I then got what can only be described as verbal abuse back, very personally aimed around my disability. It’s nothing I have not heard a million and one times before, I reported the issue and it has been dealt with very seriously so I at least feel like I have closure on that particular matter.

Somewhat unsurprisingly considering all the stress I have been under I developed a virus that I have really been struggling with in the last week mainly I have just been rather nauseous but it has had one slightly more unusual twist. It caused me to break out in very bad hives, the skin on pretty most of my body turned bright red puffed out and developed little bumps that almost looked like insect bites. By far the worst part of this was the incredibly intense itching. It is incredibly hard to concentrate on Harbermas’ theory of the ‘public sphere’ when all your mind is really thinking about is how much you would like to rip off your skin in the hope that having no skin would help the itching – of course this is totally irrational! I can however draw a line under the whole affair as yesterday I saw a very nice doctor who gave me a very strong prescription for some antihistamine which has totally cured me and for this I am incredibly grateful.

As well as all of the above my life has run very far from smoothly, Gus and I had a serious incident that had the potential to end his career as a guide dog, luckily as of yesterday this is all sorted now and Gus will all being well continue to be my guide dog for a long time to come. Gus was also ill for a week with various infections, he had to have a week of very light work and was utterly miserable but is now once again fighting fit.

The relationship I was in has ended, we still intend to stay friends as we are already booked in to see Jon Bon Jovi at Wembley Arena in the summer and as we play on the same cricket team.

I am once again having pretty serious issue with my shoulder from September to January I was undergoing physio. I have now been booted out by the physio department for missing an appointment. It was totally out of my control as I had a really bad fall and could barley walk let alone trek for 30 minutes to get to the appointment, but rules are rules. Honestly in my opinion the physiotherapy was doing my shoulder absolutely no good whatsoever, I spent an age every morning and evening making sure I did my exercises to no avail. If anything my shoulder is currently worse than it ever was, nerves are being pinched which is as painful as it sounds.

So all in all I have had a very rough time of it all recently and in truth it has seriously got me down, there has literally been one problem after another and I am just hoping everything will turn out ok in the end. I am incredibly stressed which does not help matters one bit so I am trying to remain calm and not let the world around me bother me too much!

I’m Still Here

I have not quit blogging, died or had some terrible accident that has resulted in the lack of posting – I have just been very busy.

A woman with a white guide dog sat on her left

Mum and Tara

University is as hectic as ever, things still fail to run smoothly it seems like the rest of my formal education at university is going to be an uphill struggle against inaccessibility, primitive attitudes towards inclusion and a complete lack of organisation that runs through the place. In short its not going to well, is very stressful but also interesting/fun.

Whilst on the subject of education I did not escape the funding crisis of the student loans failings. Admittedly I applied late but I am still to reciee my student loan. There have been multiple phone calls to my LEA (Local Education Authority) and I am assured it will al be sorted within 6 weeks. Here’s hoping I get some money soon it has been a seriously living on the breadline.

A lot has happened since my last post here, my eye condtion has stableised which was a nice surpise, I never really know how long that will last but its  a bit of a relief.

I now confess to having a bit of a caffeine addiction. I have discovered the wonder that is an expresso and its good! I love a good coffee more than I ever have before. Redbull and other highly caffeinated drinks have got me through some seriously dull lectures and for this I am thankful.

My mum’s Guide Dog Ian has retired and she has trained with a new guide dog called Tara. So now as I am home for Christmas we are a 3 dog household which is a bit of a shock to the system for all of us dogs included.

I have a job! I work 10 hours a week from home or uni or wherever I am really. I am a community executive for a word of mouth project at uni. I recovered from the train journey to get to the training and the 5 days of basically being stuck at a service station in the middle on nowhere with internet at £5 an hour!

Mark and I

I am in love, for those of you that don’t stalk me on facebook I am now in a relationship with a fantastic guy from the Hampshire VI Cricket team called Mark. He also did the Guide Dogs sponsored event that I roped him into.

Writing of cricket I should also mention that I am now joint player welfare officer for Hampshire VICC. I am sharing the position at the moment because I have to do a few courses in child protection before I can officially take on  the role but it’s still great stuff.

This first term at uni I have also found faith in the man upstairs, I go to the christian Union at uni most weeks and also go to Life Church Southampton. The CU guys are a fantastic bunch and very kindly brought me a large print bible which means the world to me. We also went Ice skating together Just before christmas I can’ ice skate but went along anyway and it was a great evening dispite it being really cold!

Heres a few of us in Winchester, I’m not quite sure who took the photo, if I was I would attribute it but hey ho, it’s originally from facebook in the public doman so please don’t sue me people!

A Group of people

CU and Friends Iceskating 09

Braille: A necessity for a modern day VI journalist?

Since my right eye deteriorated so suddenly I have been solely reliant on my left eye for every single day to day task, from reading large print resources to putting on make up one eye must to the job of two.

As a result I am getting more eye strain than ever before which tends to make life a little tricky, hopefully over time my eyes and brain will adjust to the way things are now but there is know way of knowing when or if that will completely happen.

As a result my university lecturers  have strongly advised me to learn braille and they are not just saying this out of the blue, they have been doing there research and have spoken to several blind journalists who have all have stated the importance of braille for VI journalists and have declared that it is a crutial must have skill.

The issue of course is that I have absolutely no experience of learning braille and will have to learn it from scratch, something that I know will be very difficult  considering how late I will be starting to learn.

In addition I can’t afford the price of even a basic Brailler something that is quite essential in order to learn how to write braille, I have been trawling the web already trying to find a cheap model or a second hand one but have so far come back with nothing. if anyone thinks they may be able to help with this please get in touch!

I also have to find a Braille tutor to teach me, I have absolutely no idea on where to start looking or who is going to pay for the lessons as cost is going to be a serious issue even if I do get a part-time job.

I really do see the possible benefits one thing I have learnt through the whole process of my right eye deteriorating is that nothing is guaranteed and all though it is a cliché nothing should be taken for granted. With this in mind I defiantly need to start learning Braille so I guess I will keep you posted.

BBC – Ouch! – Best days of your life?

BBC – Ouch! (disability) – Opinion – Best days of your life?.

School – for me it was not the happiest days of my life, in primary school I was isolated and ignored by my class mates, I had no friends was often bulled and did not have enough support for me to be able to access everything that went on in class.

Secondary school saw me make friends who accepted me for who I was, I had about 10 or so friends. The rest of the school saw me as an easy target and I was bullied, abused  and assaulted. As if that wasn’t all bad enough I had the teachers to deal with and the stigma of having an adult sat next to me in every class.

Then there where all the little problems that come up in class, having someone read to you in a room that is silent, having to sit right in front of the video to try and see it, missing out on posters, news and important events thanks to not being able to see them.

College was supposed to get better and at first support wise everything was a lot better I had more choice as to when I did and didn’t want support, but there where serious issues with members of staff. One such member of staff did not treat me well as a result of my disability, it was constant verbal abuse, that has damaged me forever.

College also saw my isolation return, for the first 2 years at college most days I had one of my best friends to keep me company at break and lunch times. By my third year I spent all breaks and lunchtimes either sat in the library, wandering around the campus in circuits or I just left and went for a walk.

It’s actually painful writing this post, there are many events during my education what I simply cannot write about, I have kept this post to the bare minimum but at the same time I feel I  have to convey what as a disabled kid I went through and now I feel thoroughly depressed!

Better Teaching for disabled kids

Teaching children with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) | Education | The Guardian .

 

Although this artical focus’s on childrens services for children and young adults with PMLD, it throws up a wider issue.

Teachers are not getting enough education to enable them to effectivly teach people of all ages who are disabled.

I have lots of living proof of that in action at all levels of my education.

Often, right through from infant school to university I have been disadvantaged and not allowed to fulfil my full potential because of teaching that is not inclusive.