This week I’ve handed my blog spot over to an artist whose medium is being creative with the airways.
Her name is Merry Cross who, apart from being a presenter on Reading community radio, is also well known as a disabled activist and one of the organisors of the Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts movement.
Here’s her contribution:
Community Radio for disabled presenters
"Years ago, it struck me that radio is an ideal medium for virtually all disabled people, except obviously you Deafies!* I even drew up schedules for an entire radio station devoted to our issues, and tried, naively to float it (it sank without trace).
But then the internet and community radio stations came along and I leapt at the chance of a weekly show on Reading’s ‘Make Yourself Heard’ - blissfully unaware of how much work it would be! But I’m so glad I did it, because not only can it publicise local issues and give local Crips a voice, there’s nothing to stop it covering national issues too. And then there’s nothing to stop English speaking people from all over the world contributing or hearing it!
Also, not being part of a posh outfit run for profit by a bureaucracy, there is no pressure to support the status quo. FREEDOM! What’s more I’ve found some hugely supportive people through it, and formed many new relationships.
So, whilst I’d quite like never to have any competition (!) I’d recommend daring to take the step to anyone.
And of course there are some other disabled people doing radio shows, with 'Alan Commonly Known as Maglite' trying out Skype as his prefered medium. So I’ll just have to keep upping my game!
*And it’s finally dawned on me that I could at least make the scripts available on request, to make it somewhat accessible to Deafies."
You can find out more about Merry and her work with Reading community radio by clicking on this link.
I've had several messages concerning limited access to the forthcoming Paralympics. For the most part it's been about poor information provision but other issues are now coming to light, one of which seems to involve a strange interpretation of PA support.
A disabled mum of two, along with her husband decided that they would like to go to the Paralympics. Well, here's her story ...
"The London 2012 Olympic Games were brilliant. My family - particularly my two children - loved it. I decided I wanted to take them to the Paralympic Games to sample the once in a lifetime showcase of disabled sport in London.
"I'm a wheelchair user, with a four-year-old autistic son and a nineteen-month-old daughter. Naturally we wanted to sit together and, particularly as it’s the Paralympics, I assumed there would be adequate provision to allow for this.
"So I was stunned to hear that there was no way that this could happen as there is a policy that wheelchair users can only be accompanied by one other person, meaning that either my children or my husband have to sit far away from me.
"I cannot believe that this event, designed to inspire a new generation of athletes, has a discriminatory ticketing policy. It's essential that my husband sits with me as he helps me with things I need to do and clearly my kids can't sit separately.
"Aside from these practical considerations, I want to share this special occasion with my family, but I'm being prevented from doing so just because I use a wheelchair.
"Please join my campaign to get the organisers of the Paralympics to change this ticketing policy for these and future Games - so every family can share the Paralympics together. Thank you, Beth."
Beth has started a petition on Change.org calling on London 2012 to review this policy. Please click here to join her.
A further development has come to light regarding additional discrimination against disabled people who wish to attend the Paralympics. Click here to access the article.
Last week at the Shape media conference I had the pleasure of meeting Kristina Veasey. She has taken part in two Paralympics and talked about her own experiences competing as a disabled athlete.
For most of us non-athletic Crips, and in particular those of us involved in disability arts, the world of the Paralympian seems remote to say the least. We see them as single minded Super Crips with no interest or involvement in disability politics and protest. What we do hear about are those sporty wheelchair users with amazing upper body strength telling non-disabled people that they don't need ramps!
The media love them as well, providing photo opportunities of 'good' disabled people (as opposed to 'bad' disabled people who are scrounging on disability benefit and can't be arsed to find a job!).
All this media hype of course goes to reinforce the stereotypes of disability that Mr and Mrs Jo Public know and love. The acceptable face of disability versus the unacceptable.
But having chatted to Kristina after her talk, I learned a few things. For example did you know that all Paralympians have to sign a contract that specifically prohibits them from taking part in any political protest during the duration of the games?
This means that if they did protest for the duration of the games, (against ATOS for example) they would have sacrificed years of training and would have to return any medals that they had won.
But some paralympians find ways around the system. For example Kristina told me that was why, as a retired paralympian, she became Amnesty International's paralympic ambassador during the Beijing games - "so I could give voice to protest."
Perhaps between us all - paralympians, activists, disabled artists - we could start to tear down the wall that the media & society have erected and start working together.
As ever the challenge is to be able to communicate more openly with each other and to be prepared to let go of those unhelpful stereotypes. I include myself in this as a veteran of creating and maintaining some of these stereotypes. My exchange with Kristina was a kick in my assumptions which I found very helpful and thought provoking.
Perhaps all disabled people, all working together could create a power base strong enough to bring this government and their draconian measures to a shuddering halt.
We can but hope.
BTW if you do have tickets for Paralympic events you may be asked to participate in an on-line survey. Why not use this opportunity to voice some of our concerns about the dichotomy between the experiences of paralympians and many other disabled people. Here's your chance to comment on the gap between the portrayal of paralympic athletes and the daily struggle against barriers that most disabled people face.
Not wanting to be accused of venturing into Medical Model territory too much, I've hung back from providing too much detail about the various health issues that I've been experiencing lately! However, as one of the issues impacts upon my art in a more direct way than the other stuff, I thought that I'd share some of my experiences regarding the deterioration of my eye sight with you.
My sight has been deteriorating for quite a while now and I'd put it down to the aging process. Well you do don't you?! I've worn glasses since I was about 12 (Ed: Hadn't realised that they'd been invented that long ago Dave?!) and every now and then during the past couple of decades I'd had to have stronger lenses fitted.
It wasn't until I went for my last eye test and the optician mentioned that my cataracts had got a lot worse, that I realised I had any (cataracts, not eyes!). This explained why I'd been having to cut down on my computer useage and was finding it increasingly difficult to drive at night. Apparently bright light can't penetrate the cloudy lenses too well and it just creates a dazzling effect.
It also explained why I'd lost the subtle differences between some of the colours that I use in my cartoon work. I'd been convinced that 'they' had changed some of the colour palettes on the arts software I use and had sent off a couple of grumpy emails to the software nerds at Adobe!
So, cataracts. No big deal. At least treatable, albeit a bit painful and involving laying down in a darkened room for a while afterwards with sandbags either side of my head (how wrong was this piece of information?!).
A letter duly arrives from the hospital inviting me to attend for an eye test and, after a few more appointments and examinations, I'm sitting up in the assessment ward having a cup of coffee and a chocolate digestive (ED: You sure this is the NHS?!). They've confirmed that my eyes are bad and that the left eye is worse and will be done first - say in about two months time as the current waiting list dictates. But then the crip fairy of good fortune intervenes ...
"Anyone turned up yet for today's sessions?" queries a theatre sister, bustling into the ward, "Only we've had to send Mr Smith home due to an eye infection."
"Nope, nobody due for another half hour" replies the ward Sister, "Although ..."
They both turn to look at me. "Fancy having your eye done now?!"
Five minutes later I'm laying on a trolley having drops put into my eye and having the procedure explained to me by the surgeon. I'll be in and out in 20 minutes he explains. No general aneasthetic (all done by eye drops), no pain, no discomfort, no laying in a darkened room afterwards. I should be driving my car tomorrow and getting used to being able to see without my glasses. So much for the very out-dated information that I'd got from the internet!
He would put a distance lens in my left eye today, then in a few weeks he'd put a reading lens in my right eye. Apparently the brain sorts out the signal from each eye and adjusts automatically from distance to near. Talk about science fiction becoming reality.
The procedure itself was completely pain free. All I could see was the strong light from the microscope over my head and some vague shadows as the surgeon did his stuff. When I heard him say "Putting the lens in now", I was treated to an amazing display of colours as the lens unfolded and the light from the microscope lit it up. My "Wow" was greeted by a soft chuckle by the surgeon. "Good eh?!" he commented.
And true to his word, the next morning I was able to remove the plastic protective cover he'd taped over my eye for the night, and WOW ...!! (Sorry, but if you're from my generation you'll know that 'wow' is the ultimate term of amazement!).
For the first time ever (even with glasses) I could see into the distance with so much detail; colours were so bright and vibrant that it was almost unreal. Quite overwhelming I can tell you. If I closed my right eye (still murky from the remaining cataract) I got a Steve Austin (Bionic Man) type 'sight jump' and another meter or so of distance vision clicked in. And all this on the National Health!
So, for all of you out there who've been in touch wanting details of the operation (mainly because you're going through the same thing yourselves) I hope I've put your mind at rest regarding the lack of pain and just how uncomplicated the procedure now is.
The only down side, especially for someone like myself who relies for their living on being able to access a computer, is the wait between having the other eye done. At the moment, I can see the screen great from about two meters away, but can't reach the keyboard from that distance! I'm having to wear my old computer glasses and close my 'new' eye when I want to do any detail work on the screen, or keep scooting the chair back so that I can get a clearer picture of what I've just created. Not conducive to my usual style of working. Although it has given me a better insight into the sort of problems those of you with more permanent visual impairments experience.
I'm seeing the Consultant again next week and will hopefully have the other eye sorted in a week or so's time. I don't expect any problem, and I'll keep you posted.
Thanks for all of your messages and good wishes by the way. They've been greatly appreciated. :-)
A non-disabled heavy metal fan seems to have met his match when stumbling into a debate being currently aired on the Pesky People blog.
Having tried to establish just what arrangements had been made for access to the 13 venues that would be hosting a tribute to Heavy Metal music, our disabled sister Alison ran into a brick wall. Not literally, you understand, but an equally effective wall of silence from the organisors.
In the end, the only response that she did get was that she should check out each of the venues herself in order to establish just how accessible they were. Apart from the impracticality of her travelling around Birmingham and the West Midlands in order to see which venue she would be able to access, the response fell somewhat short of the legislation laid down in the Disability Discrimination Act (1996) and the Equalities Act (2010) regarding access to such venues – both acts clearly state that any service must make reasonable adjustments to make their service accessible and that any service must anticipate what those needs might be.
Enter our non-disabled Heavy Metal fan who thought that not only was Alison's request unreasonable but was in some way antagonistic! Had she not considered the feelings of the event organisors when posting about this ommission from their programme? How dare she?! He then went on to compound the situation by suggesting that Alison was being a Dick!
Bring it on my son... Needless to say quite a few fellow crips have jumped in with responses, including yours truly. But then I though, hang on, we should all have access to this debate, so I'm posting the link to the blog here and suggesting that you all join in! His name is Pete Ashton by the way ...
To join in the debate to access Pesky People's blog site please click here. It's worth taking the time to read the comments from the top down to the latest one in order to get the full picture.
So, over to you gentle readers. : -)
A Day of Mourning for the Welfare State, Justice and Equality has been arranged to co-incide with the royal wedding on Friday 29th April, 2011 at 1400 hrs. This is just one of the expressions of outrage being expressed by people effected by the cuts to education, housing, public transport, the NHS, the Welfare State and much more.
Whilst bankers and speculators celebrate another year of profit and Tory and LibDem politicians congratulate themselves on having continued to fool the vast majority of the public, students and school children, teachers and lecturers, trades unionists, disabled activists, mums and dads, grandparents, NHS staff, public transport workers, Local Government workers, etc., all continue to unite their voices in protest.
Disabled people are also taking to the streets like never before, fighting back against the claims that they are responsible for the state that the country is in by fraudulantly claiming benefits that they are not entitled to. Scapegoated once again by a government determined to distract people away from where the blame really lies. Which is why they view this royal wedding as such a good thing - more televised opiate for the masses!
Regular Crips, who used to look at Disabled activists as a different species altogether are now joining with us to protest against the unfairness of the government's slash and burn tactics. We need this new energy that these newcomers are bringing to the fight. Many of us, having been protesting and fighting for Civil Rights for more years than we care to remember welcome this infusion of new blood.
Unfortunately though, not all protesters see things this way. Although united in their stand against the ConDem's devisive policies, many non-disabled protesters still don't understand that Disabled people have just as much right to protest as they do. This has manifested itself in inaccessible venues being chosen for protest meetings, no provision being made to allow us to transcribe information into alternative formats, no accessible transport being arranged to travel with others to different areas of the country, etc.
If anything, we have more right to be on the front lines of this current period of protest. We've been the ones, albeit not receiving much coverage in the press, who have been fighting consistently against oppression in these forms since the first World War. We are the one's who, having amassed a great deal of knowledge around civil disobedience campaigns can bring a whole wealth of experience to this current fight.
We're not asking for 'special' allowances to be made, just that our right to protest with other members of society is acknowledged. Because, let's face it, this is basically what we're all protesting about anyway - the right for everyone to be treated equally, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, impairment, age or ethnicity and with full access to education, housing, health care, employment and retirement without a few fat cats siphoning off all the cream!
To all of you non-disabled protesters out there, look upon Disabled people as a resource, rich in experience and networked into thousands of other Crips all around the world.
Together we can change society into a fairer, more equal place to live.
UK citizens who were detained illegally at the US run Guantanamo prison in Cuba are to be paid millions of pounds compensation by the British Government.
And quite right to. Innocent people being locked away in an inhospitable place, away from their families and friends and all because they appear different to the rest of society should be compensated.
For someone to be denied their place in society and to be incarcerated in a place not of their own choosing must be a terrible experience to undergo. Imagine being treated as though you were not safe enough to be let out into mainstream society. Imagine having your right to a decent education, to travel where you want and socialise where you want taken away from you. Being kept segregated from family and friends and having your Civil Rights abused in more ways than we could imagine.
Thousands of Disabled people are being detained in this country under these very conditions. With no accessible alternative housing being made available to them, other than the care homes they currently reside in. Run and controlled by charities, many of these places are no further forward in their thinking than the work houses of the last century.
Unless we fight for the rights of our Disabled brothers and sisters who are being detained in this way, we are as bad as those who lock people up and throw away the key.
'Free Our People' (and a bit of compensation for them wouldn't go amiss either!)
For more information you can contact the Direct Action Network (DAN) by clicking on this link.
On Sunday 3rd October a huge protest march is taking place outside of the Conservative Party Annual Conference, which is being held this year in Birmingham.
The protest is about the cuts being imposed upon people who rely upon benefit payments and the draconian measures being taken by the current Coalition Government against Disabled people in particular.
The marchers will consist of representatives from Trades Unions, many groups and organisations involved in Welfare Rights, individuals and family members who are affected by the cuts, and Disabled people from all over the UK.
Disabled people involved with the Black Triangle protest group along with other Disabled individuals have also been asked to lead the march, which is expected to attract more people than attended the anti Poll Tax marches during the Thatcher era.
Speaking to Linda Burnip, one of the principle organisers of the march by Disabled protesters, she told me:
"As you may know, West Midlands police originally agreed that the march could go down Broad Street right past the Conservative Party conference, but then the Tory controlled Birmingham City Council refused to allow this. This meant that many Disabled people would not be able to participate in the march as the alternative route was not as accessible."
There then followed two lengthy meetings with the police and the City Council during which the case was made by Linda and her colleagues that Disabled protesters were being denied their basic human rights to engage in legitimate protest. Following the meetings Linda reported that:
"I am pleased to say the Chief Inspector of Constabulary for West Midlands Police, Denis O'Connor is very keen to make sure that we are facilitated to protest following the large number of complaints he had received."
Full Details - For information about attending the protest please click on the following link which will take you to the Protest web site.
Virtual Protest - For those of us unable to attend the protest in Birmingham, we have been given an on-line alternative. Click on the following link to access the virtual protest web site and leave your comment which will be read out during the march in Birmingham.
I would like to add that on behalf of Disabled people throughout the UK who will be affected by the cuts, our heartfelt thanks go to Linda, Eleanor, Debbie and Tina for all of their hard work in organising our participation in this important event.
A recent survey shows that society has completely fallen for the latest piece of CONDEM misinformation that millions of pounds are being claimed fraudulently, especially those benefits that are designed to assist Disabled people to compete more equally in the work place. They also endorse the use of paid Bounty Hunters to track these alleged cheats down.
The fact that the government’s own figures show that this fraud claim is a complete nonsense and that millions of pounds lay unclaimed by those people who are entitled to them, doesn’t stop them from continuing to spout out this dangerous rubbish.
Disabled people have once again been identified as being either frauds and not entitled to the benefits they are claiming (and this particularly applies to those of us with a hidden impairment) or as being vulnerable members of society that need caring for (us crips having been lumped back in again with the ‘vulnerable members of society’ definition!).
So much for all of the hard work that has gone into identifying the disabling barriers that exist within society; the attempts to make society a more level playing field with Disabled people having an equal opportunity to live, travel, work and play along with our non-disabled brethren.
What next - licences for Disabled people to beg in the streets as ‘deserving poor’ as was the case a hundred or so years ago? With this lot in power nothing would surprise me!
PS. It looks as though there will be the biggest turn out ever of Disabled people and their allies for the planned protest outside of the Tory Party conference on 3rd October. Watch for some quick changes in the law as the CONDEMs declare us all terrorists and ban everyone from the streets during that week!
One of the groups of Disabled people I enjoy producing artwork for are the editorial team of Discover magazine, the ‘voice’ of disabled people in Cornwall and the quarterly publication of Disability Cornwall.
Not for them the black and white photocopies of several A4 sheets, stapled at the corner and containing inaccessible text and artwork (often my cartoons, which I produce in full colour, end up looking like an indecipherable mass of greys and blacks with no real clue as to their content!)
Each issue of Discover is professionally produced in full colour, containing news and views from the many disabled people living in that part of the world, along with photos and illustrations that can be easily accessed.
Here’s one example of a cartoon I produced for the summer 2010 issue and involves a tale of frustration from a disabled reader regarding her attempts to obtain a new prosthesis!
For more information about Disability Cornwall please click this link.
Back from a three week break which has included a visit to Belfast's Disability Arts Forum (of which, more to follow) Crippen resumes his blog with news from the West country.
I've had what some would ironically call a well deserved acolade!
Having recently moved into a new, purpose built set of offices, Disability Cornwall agreed to hold a competition to decide what to call their all singing, all dancing suite of accessible toilets and changing rooms.
Care to guess what they came up with?
Yep, you've guessed it. 'The Crippen Rooms'!
The puns and funny comments may now start ...
PS. Jane and her colleagues have very kindly framed about a dozen of my cartoons which are now on display throughout the centre. They also asked me to create a giant cartoon banner for them which is now hanging over the main entrance. Call in if you're passing, they'd love to see you.
Our old friend George is carrying a useful piece of advice in his current blogspot which relates to the sorts of underhand techniques that some sales persons resort to when selling to Disabled people.
Having worked in the dim and distant past for Motability in Harlow and then as a mobility consultant for several vehicle converters I can verify that many of these companies are only focussed on one thing - to get you to part with your money.
I doubt that the standards have improved very much but I can remember one company that literally tested new products on their unsuspecting customers and then washing their hands of any responsibility when vehicles inevitably fell apart or failed to provide the access that they were supposed to.
I even supported one customer in court when we discovered that her American vehicle, which had been converted to RH drive in this country by a bunch of cowboy access converters actually caught fire, trapping her in the automatic wheelchair clamps as the electrical circuits burned out around her. Very scary stuff, especially when her only means of access, the automatic wheelchair ramp also failed to work!
Many of the companies who converted vehicles for wheelchair users, whether as drivers or as passengers, failed to alert their clients to the fact that by cutting away significant areas of the base vehicle, moving the fuel tank (and sometimes fabricating a replacement tank of their own), this invalidated the base vehicle warranty.
Let's face it. Are the Ford Motor Company going to stand by their safety warranty when the integral strength of the vehicle has been compromised and replacement petrol tank has been installed in the wall alongside of the rear wheelchair passenger? The original petrol tanks are subjected to every test possible, including crash testing, whereas the replacement tanks, made to an inferior design and of an inferior material could only be 'crash' tested by the customer!
Hopefully the rogue converters have all been rooted out and the reputable companies are the only one's allowed to convert vehicles for wheelchair users now.
I certainly hope so.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is writing to all primary and secondary schools in England inviting them to become Academies and therefore independent of local authority control. This could mean thousands of schools leaving local authority control.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT (Teachers Union), argued that it was wrong to stop local authorities from having a say in proposals for new schools, and that [the proposal] represents a costly and unnecessary solution to a problem that simply does not exist. She added that such "Academies and free schools are a recipe for educational inequality and social segregation".
She's hit the nail on the head there ... For example, how many of these Academies are going to want to continue with integrating disabled children into main stream education when there'll be no financial incentive? Remember, these schools will be looking towards their local business community as part of their funding drive and these funders will expect to generating some form of profit from their investment. I wouldn't think that they'd take kindly to forking out for additional tuition and support for disabled children.
There's also going to be an emphasis on presenting as a school of elite learners and achievers, a 'corporate image' that will attract more high achiever pupils and investers. This is just an old Tory strategy dressed up as an exciting new way of looking at education in this country. We'll soon end up with an even bigger divide between the rich and poorer members of the community, and with the remaining state schools loosing their best pupils and teachers to the cash rich Academies.
It will be interesting to see what this government comes out with regarding disabled people specifically, apart from the general changes that they are proposing that will have inevitable consequences on our lives. Be sure that I'll keep my ear to the ground and report back on anything else that comes to light.
Please leave a comment at the end of this blog and let me know what your thoughts and feelings are about this issue and the others that are coming out of the woodwork.
Has anyone else noticed that having adopted our social model language, the big charities and government departments have started to twist the wording around so that the 'problem' is back with us crips?!
For example, a recent press release from the Department for Work and Pensions contains the lines: 'It is clear that the current assessments are failing to pick up on people with major barriers to work' (this refers specifically to Disabled people). Now we could be charitable and say that this misrepresentation of the Social Model concept is down to a lack of understanding and ignorance on their part. Or you could see this as yet another example of how 'they' are always going to label 'us' as the ones with the problem!
Still don't get what's happening here?!
Well, traditionally Disabled people have been seen as the ones with the problem and that we have to either be cured or fixed in some way in order to fit in with society. Along came the Social Model understanding of disability and the concept that 'it was society that was throwing up the barriers that disabled us' was introduced. As well as taking the 'blame' away from us crips it was now a much easier task to focus on society and identify and remove those barriers that were disabling us. Eventually this understanding was introduced into mainstream thinking and began to replace the Charitable Model understanding so loved by society and the many charities that had been set up to represent us, and also the Medical Model understanding which put the specialists in charge of our lives.
As I see it, this subtle change back to Disabled people 'owning' the barriers means that we've now come full circle, allowing society to opt out of its responsibilities once again and with us crips being at fault!
Where do we go from here I wonder?!
All this business about opening the tendering process for Social Care Commissioning to groups and organisations of Disabled people has brought in some interesting mails from fellow crips who have started to enquire about the process.
As the powers that be have included the words 'fully accessible' in the information explaining about the process, one would be forgiven for thinking that applying to tender for any of the services would be a completely barrier free experience.
Think again. In one Local Authoriy area the first hurdle we are faced with is the application form itself. Seventy four pages long, it reads more like a manual for dismantling ... something that's difficult to dismantle (!) than something that's supposed to be the open door to an accessible process! 'Fully accessible process', I think not!
Be interesting to see what else surfaces as we delve deeper into this new venture. If I was an old cynic (Ed: surely not?!) I'd begin to suspect that they didn't really want us to jeopardise the cosy relationship that they've had with all of the groups 'for' disabled people!
My mate Dawn has continued this debate on her blog. Click here to read on ...
I've created so many cartoons over the years regarding the bottomless pit called the 2012 Olympics. Bottomless insofar as any and all available funding is being systematically sucked into its gaping maw, with nothing of any long-term substance being generated for Disabled people within the UK.
OK, it's great if you're one of those who enjoy participating within the spectacle know as the Para-Olympics with all of its associated terminology about achievement and overcoming adversity etc. But if, like many of us, you see it for what it really is, you'll have already worked out that the money thrown at it could fund hundreds of groups and organisations of Disabled people and have saved those that have already had to close their doors due to lack of funding.
So, with Boris terminating the project to make the underground accessible and plans to change all of our main shopping areas into shared environments (an accessibility nightmare), we're left with just some tokenistic changes whose main aim is to ensure that we have access to this one-off political event.
When the term 'full access' is subverted to only mean being able to travel between Olympic venues and to enjoy the Olympic process, then something has gone sadly wrong. Surely it would be a more sensible investment to use these funds to identify and remove ALL of the barriers within our society which will continue to effect us long after the Olympics have come and gone.
Fifty years after the one of the worst disasters in medical history, hundreds of survivors of the thalidomide scandal have finally got an apology from the government and a new £20 million compensation package.
Mike O'Brien, minister of health, recently announced a new funding scheme that will help survivors cope with the changing needs of age. He also offered what campaigners said they wanted even more – an apology.
"The Government wishes to express its sincere regret and deep sympathy for the injury and suffering endured by all those affected when expectant mothers took the drug thalidomide between 1958 and 1961," he told the House of Commons.
"The apology is just as important as the financial settlement," said Guy Tweedy, one of those leading the campaign for a better deal."The money will help people to buy wheelchairs and adapt their houses and cars for a phase of life they were never expected to see. "They didn't think we would be alive today. They thought we would all be dead by 2007," he added.
In 1957, the World Health Organisation had warned the UK that its lack of adequate pharmaceutical regulation was courting disaster. It took the thalidomide disaster to reform the system, bringing in the sort of regulation we have today. The Medicines Act 1968 laid down stringent standards that had to be met for the safety and efficacy of drugs.
Members of Disability Action Wyre Forest (DAWF) are angry at the fact that the lifts to the recently built footbridge at Kidderminster Railway Station are only open between 6am and 7pm, effectively creating a curfew for Disabled travellers.
This is due to “safety issues” a spokesperson for the station explained: “When there is no staff at the station (when the booking office is closed) the lifts aren’t in use. This is in case anybody got trapped in the lifts if they happened to malfunction and there was no-one there to help them.”
Mark Lawley, Disabled activist and DAWF Chair say visits to the station are made “very difficult” and are “causing major problems” for Disabled passengers. He explained that if someone with mobility problems arrived at the station on the Worcester-bound platform in the evening not knowing the lift was closed, they would be “stuck”.
He added: “It doesn’t encourage people to use the train if they are going to find it difficult to get off the platform when they get to the station.”
Ironically, the long-awaited bridge, unveiled last spring, was intended to improve disabled access at the station.
“We were delighted when the lift first opened and we presumed it would be opened 24/7,” Mr Lawley added. “It feels like this is one step forward and three steps back now.”
Having been in a similiar situation myself, I empathised with an email I received the other day relating a story about a sadistic Occupational Therapist (OT).
The bottom line was that the crip in question was being denied the use of a wheelchair because her OT considered that it would make her lazy. The fact that by using a walking frame rendered our crip totally exhausted everytime she used it, also meant that any time she had between periods of travel were spent recovering for the next part of the journey.
Never mind that a wheelchair would make the travelling around easier and therefore allow her to spend the times in between doing something more productive!
Unless she can raise the money herself to buy a wheelchair privately, our gatekeeping OT is sticking to his determined course of 'therapy' because he 'knows what's best for her'.
So if you see a young crip draped over a walking frame fast asleep, try not to wake her up...she's probably just got back from another visit to the OT department!
Unfortunately, due to problems with t'internet I'm a bit late with this cartoon which was intended to come out during the recent Children in Need event on BBC Radio and TV. Still, better late than never ... and the idea of a Trojan Pudsey rather tickled me!
Needless to say, us Crips are still campaigning against this charitable farce. Our message is loud and clear and asks why do Disabled children still have to rely on this type of humiliationathon AND have to appear sufficiently grateful in order to get what should be there's by right (and to make the likes of Terry Wogan feel good about themselves)?!
When we were young, most of us had to endure this form of gate keeping as pretty well everything we needed to live within a hostile and non-accessible environment came through the charitable concerns set up to represent our particular form of impairment. We were expected to play the game and allow so called celebrities like Jimmy Saville to pose with us as we gratefully received our wheelchair or mobility aid.
Enough already ... give today's Disabled youngsters EVERYTHING that they need in order to achieve a level playing field. This includes access to an inclusive education, a fully integrated and accessible transport system, respite care for parents and siblings, access to free mobility aids and adaptations, full grants to make their property accessible, etc ... and all without them having to jump through these out dated and humiliating hoops!
I recently received a message from Fahim Khairy who writes about the conditions for Disabled people in Afghanistan.
“In the third world countries, as example in Afghanistan where I came from, the word disability has a very different meaning. People have unlike perceptions about it and always see it in more negative light.
“The day when an Afghan is hit by a rocket and falls down bleeding, people will immediately forget that situation and say the person is under God’s punishment. Although God did not fire that rocket so it’s the person’s fate receiving the punishment through God’s will for his or her bad actions. It’s the culture. Unfortunately, it's not easy to change.
“When I travelled to Afghanistan after seven years I anticipated seeing everybody enjoying the new democratic regime however I disappointedly found out the opposite.
“I really wondered why I couldn’t see wheelchairs in the streets, markets or any part of the cities despite the fact that there were millions of disabled people living in the country. It was clear that lack of accessibility ruthlessly forced every wheelchair use to stay at home.
“Being in a wheelchair in Afghanistan at every new and old building, the person needs to be carried by four or five people, in order to get up the stairs. I almost forgot being a disabled person after starting a new life in America although as soon as I arrived at Kabul Airport, I suddenly realized that I am a needy person. Now I have to look for others sorrowfully to help me get up any staircases.
“How can we fight this misery when no disabled person is able to come out from his or her home and moreover discuss the matters with leaders and politicians? I assume that if every disabled Afghan had a computer, a power wheelchair like me, they conclusively would stand next to me to fight for a change.
“I had the opportunity that allowed me to educate myself learning a new language and the use of technology. I have been learning English since I came to the US in 2003. I certainly believe that if we had these opportunities in Afghanistan, every disabled Afghan would be able to live a life without affliction and poverty.”
You can find out more about Fahim and his involvement with other Afghan Disabled people on his Facebook site