Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas Greetings


It’s been a great year here at PureshPower and I wanted to thank all of you for your continued support and readership. I have enjoyed sharing my views on all things disability – both the good and the not so good!

Real inclusive change will happen but the road is still long and we all have much to do throughout the journey. I hope you will continue to join me in supporting the efforts of all those pushing for positive change.

I hope you all have a wonderful festive season and that Santa brings all your Christmas wishes. May the New and Coming Year bring you every happiness and success in all your endeavours.

See you in 2010..............

Friday, 4 December 2009

Disabled Students


Back in August, I wrote about the issues that need to be addressed by disabled students who wish to attend University i.e. accessibility, access to appropriate care options etc.

On top of all these issues, it would appear that their worries are now being further complicated by the Student Loan Company (SLC).

Figures show that in addition to giving out £43m less in funds this year, they have also failed to provide the vital funding to disabled students with only one in every five receiving the appropriate funds needed for specialist equipment and assistants. Many disabled students are now struggling to cope and many see “dropping out” as a real threat. Yet it would appear that there is still tens of millions of pounds sitting unallocated some two months into term-time.

In real terms, this allocated funding means that approximately 12,000 disabled students are waiting for funds to support their learning needs as only 3,294 applications have been processed out of the 15,371 submitted. Campaigners believe it will take some 75 weeks to clear the backlog of claims.

The president of the National Union of Students, Wes Streeting, has said "This is a staggering amount of money and reveals how big the problem is. Students can't get by without that money. It's disgraceful that so many disabled students are waiting for their allowances."

Unlike previous years, the processing of applications, which are complex and need medical evidence, has been taken over by SLC and they are failing to deliver this vital funding. SLC have apologised to those students caught up in these delays and have said "We recognise that the work is more complex than general loan application processing, and so over the last two months we have doubled the size of the team working on the cases."

Unfortunately apologies will not help those disabled students struggling to cope without the specialist equipment and support they need – only real action can do that and therefore SLC need to sort this issue now and learn from their mistakes in preparation for the next academic intake.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

International Day of Disabled People

Today is the United Nations International Day of Disabled People which aims to promote an understanding disability issues, the rights of disabled people and the benefits that inclusion of disabled people in all aspects of life may have on our society.

Important facts to remember are:-

1. Almost one in ten people are disabled
2. 20 per cent of the world population living in poverty are disabled
3. Exclusion of disabled people is still prevalent in the world denying many
the basic rights of food, education, employment and access to health
services.

The United Nations International Day of Disabled People was originally instigated to commemorate the anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the World Programme of Action in 1982 regarding disabled people.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Disabled People is “Making the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) inclusive”

Social change can be achieved through various means but adopting the Social Model of Disability is paramount as this is a more modern approach to viewing disability than the Medical Model.

I ask three things of you today:-

1. You help celebrate the achievements of disabled people across the globe.
Disabled people make a rich and diverse contribution to the communities in
which they live and work;

2. You consider whether you are doing enough to support an inclusive society;
and

3. You reflect on how far the disability movement has come and yet how far we
still have to go in making long lasting changes.

Happy United Nations International Day of Disabled People to you all!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Cuts in Education Funding


The affects of a recession are numerous and can take its toll in many forms often hitting the most vulnerable within society.

As the Labour Government struggle to take control of the recession and its long-term affect, harsh decisions have to be made but some are just unacceptable!

It is with dismay that I learned of the plans of Lord Mandelson’s department – the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. These plans will see budgets slashed for courses aimed at both people with learning difficulties and evening classes for the elderly. Instead funds will be directed towards re-training opportunities for people hit by the recession.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I fully support our need to re-train people where appropriate but not at the expense of others.

It was not a shock to see that these plans were published quietly and without fanfare as the affect they have will be extremely detrimental to those people seeking qualification-free courses which are most commonly people with learning difficulties and the elderly. The budget cut of £150m in reality will see the student numbers shrink from 583,000 this year to only 213,000 next.

Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, told the Guardian: "These plans will come as a bitter blow to the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people who will see their courses disappear. It is incredibly cynical of the government to slip this news out in an obscure policy document and not be upfront about the impact that these cuts will have.

"While it is vital that we take a strategic approach to skills, it is absurd to stop funding courses which bring a range of benefits to individuals and wider society. Not only are they important in keeping people active but they can also work as an important stepping stone back into education for those who may have had a poor experience at school."

Lord Mandelson’s department have tried to divert criticism by saying that priority will be given to courses for people with learning difficulties but many within the disability rights arena see this as a continuation of previous longer term cuts in dedicated courses. I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with them!

David Congdon, Head of Policy at the charity Mencap, said: "We have strong evidence that courses are already being cut. If they reduce the funding further, it will have a devastating impact. These courses are vital to people's quality of life and if they are cut we are doing them a great disservice."

It is imperative that learning opportunities are maintained and, indeed, increased for all disabled people particularly in view of the Labour Government’s aim to reduce the number of claimants of incapacity benefit. Many disabled people already find it a big enough challenge to find employment opportunities so to reduce any form of educational funding will only hinder that process.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Disabled People on Television


I have spoken often about disability within media, particularly the near non-existence of disabled people on television. Over the past few months it has been encouraging to see a few characters appearing in our popular soaps such as Eastenders and Emmerdale. However, on many occasions, TV production companies lean towards employing non-disabled people to take on disabled roles.

Why?

Surely the best person for such a role would be a disabled actor – and rest assured, there are many out there. By employing a non-disabled actor in a disabled role the TV companies are in some way hoodwinking the general public and we are often left with the stereo-typical portrayal of disability. A non-disabled actor can never inject the true emotion and understanding of living with a disability no matter how good an actor they are.

Entertainment has come a long way over the decades and mindless stereotyping and discrimination are, on the large part, unacceptable to the viewers. Whilst in the 1920s and 1930s the public were willing to watch Al Jolson playing a “black” character in the film The Jazz Singer, it would most definitely be scorned upon now. Similarly, the public are no longer willing to accept the stereo-typical characters seen in the 1970s in shows such as Mind Your Language. Therefore, this attitude must now also be adopted for disabled roles and it can no longer be acceptable to push disabled people’s involvement to the background.


Research conducted by the Independent Television Commission showed that 79% of TV viewers would not mind if a disabled person read the evening news. In addition, six in every 10 viewers stated that disabled people should be seen in a wider variety of roles including that of presenters. Many viewers would also welcome better inclusion of disabled people within television advertising, particularly where it actively promotes positive images of disabled people.

Whilst these statistics indicate that the television audience show a very high and real acceptance of disabled people on screen, it would seem that the broadcasters must shed aside their shackles that make them more cautious and must be less concerned with the perceived audience prejudices, ratings and other constraints.

A sensible approach would not only give a fairer reflection of today’s society but also help educate on the real issues faced by disabled people in everyday life.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Mental Wellbeing

We have all had to deal with stress within our daily lives and many of us have felt the effects of stress at work but did you know that recent research has estimated that the cost to UK employers for work-related mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety etc is placed at £28.3bn per year and an estimated 13.7 working days per year are lost.

On this evidence all employers must make a conscious effort to improve the mental wellbeing of its workforce. In turn, the benefits to the employers will not only be financial but also productive.

For many employees, there remains a stigma to admitting they feel stressed by their work obligations and workload. Many will suffer in silence rather than admit that they feel overwhelmed. It is therefore important for employers to recognise the signs of stress and offer help where necessary.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently issued guidance for employers on how to promote mental wellbeing at work and it is important that employers take a more proactive approach to this subject. It may be that the little things like introducing flexible working will make a major difference to the lives of employees.

As a summary, the recommendations made for employers include:

• Promote a culture of participation, equality and fairness that is based on open communication and inclusion.

• Create an awareness and understanding of mental wellbeing and reduce the potential for discrimination and stigma related to mental health problems.

• Ensure systems are in place for assessing and monitoring the mental wellbeing of employees so that areas for improvement can be identified and risks caused by work and working conditions addressed. This could include using employee attitude surveys and information about absence rates, staff turnover and investment in training and development, and providing feedback and open communication.

• If reasonably practical, provide employees with opportunities for flexible working according to their needs and aspirations in both their personal and working lives.

• Different options for flexible working include part-time working, home-working, job sharing and flexi-time.

• Strengthen the role of line managers in promoting the mental wellbeing of employees through supportive leadership style and management practices.

Is your employer doing all it can to nurture an environment of mental wellbeing?

Monday, 9 November 2009

Feeling Poorly!

Hello everyone, sorry for not blogging recently but I have been unwell of late but I’m fine now – recuperating at home. Unfortunately, I was admitted once again to St Helier Hospital, Carshalton. Treatment was generally better than in the past but far from ideal. I will update you with all my news and views over the coming week.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Understanding Disability - Physical Impairment


A physical impairment is the most visible of all disabled people and it is for this reason that people with a physical impairment often suffer from the most obvious discrimination.

A physical impairment can be defined as any condition which limits the physical function of limbs or fine or gross motor ability. Partial or total paralysis, stroke, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, amputation are just some examples of physical impairments.

It is not necessary to discuss with a person the cause of their impairment but it useful to be aware of the barriers that people may experience. For example, people may have: tremor or shaking; weakness; pain; reduced control of limbs; inability to sit upright or short or missing limbs.

Physically impaired people may use mobility aids such as wheelchairs or crutches. They may have assistance from other people in daily life and may use a range of assistive devices to control the environment, to manipulate objects or carry out tasks.

Misconception: People with a physical impairment are brave and courageous.
Truth: Adjusting to a physical impairment requires adapting to a lifestyle, not bravery and courage. Going to university, having a family, participating in sporting events and working in a job are normal not heroic activities for people with physical impairments just as they are for non-disabled people.

Misconception: People with physical impairments have lower IQs or cannot be educated.
Truth: People with physical impairments have a full range of IQs and academic abilities. The degree of the physical impairment has no bearing on a person’s mental capacity.

Misconception: People who use wheelchairs can’t get around
Truth: It may well be a fact that some people using wheelchairs cannot walk but others can. Many people who use wheelchairs do so because they tire easily or because their strength is limited and using a wheelchair makes it possible for them to travel longer distances, or to be ‘out and about’ for longer periods of time.

Misconception: People with a physical impairment always need help.
Truth: Many people with physical impairments are independent and do not always require assistance. And while anyone may offer assistance, most people with physical impairments prefer to be responsible for themselves.
There are many obvious things that society can implement to increase access for people with a physical impairment such as ramps, accessible transport links etc but it is often the hidden barriers that get forgotten.

Let’s think about this logically a ramp is of little use if the doorway is too narrow or if once inside, the area is not accessible i.e. no turning space for wheelchair users etc. An access requirement for a person with a physical impairment may be as simple as providing a comfortable chair or a wrist support for computer use.

As with all disability issues, it is best to ask the individual what access requirement they have – they know better than anyone else what is best suited to their needs.

Understanding Disability - Learning Difficulties


Learning Difficulties covers many different conditions including people with Dyslexia, Downs Syndrome and some behavioural difficulties.

A big part of the misconceptions surrounding Learning Difficulties is due to misinformation. Some of the common misconceptions are:-

Misconception: Learning difficulties are in some way environmental and therefore the parents are to blame.
Truth: Learning disabilities are not due to parental neglect. They are genetic, and therefore they are an inherited characteristic just like height, skin tone or eye colour. Just because a child's parent is dyslexic doesn't mean that a child will be.

Misconception: Learning Difficulties are all the same.
Truth: Not all Learning Difficulties are the same as there are many different types. Some of the most common include dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, auditory and visual perception impairments, and memory conditions. Some may well face similar barriers but that does not automatically mean they are linked to one another and therefore there is no uniformed approaches. In many cases, people with the same Learning Difficulty respond differently to learning, life scenarios etc. Therefore, it is important to focus on the individual rather than the Learning Difficulty.

Misconception: People with Learning Difficulties require special education.
Truth: This is not the case and a broad assumption should not be made. The type of learning required is very dependent on the person and in many cases learning within the mainstream schooling system is more beneficial. For those with mild to moderate academic requirements simply providing class-room assistance may be all that is needed.

Misconception: Learning Difficulties indicate a lack of intelligence.
Truth: Definitely not! Many people with Learning Difficulties are just as intelligent (if not more so) as everyone else. Whilst some people with Learning Difficulties may find it harder to process different types of information i.e. letters, numbers etc they may be more creative or possess improved memory skills. Learning Difficulties have absolutely nothing to do with intelligence just the way in which information is processed.

Looking beyond these misconceptions to the access requirements, it is important that we think less about the Learning Difficulties and more about the individuality of the person.

There are some access requirements that generally cover most people with Learning Difficulties i.e. ensuring information is presented in an easy way to understand; whether it is large and clearer print, easy read documents or pictorial. As well as this there are some people with Learning Difficulties who do not read and use an audio tape and for this we must ensure that the wording is easy to read and therefore easily understandable.

The best advice that we can heed when considering access requirements for people with Learning Difficulties is to remember that Learning Difficulties vary across the board and even though there are general things society can do, they do not catch everyone in the net. The surest way of being fully accessible to people with Learning Difficulties is to ask them and listen to what they have to say.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Understanding Disability - Hearing Impairment


1 in 7 people in the UK experience some form of hearing impairment so it is important that we understand what this means and how access requirements can be met.

People who are deaf or hearing impaired may be affected in many ways and losses may range from mild to profound. They may be conductive i.e. as a result of impairment to the outer or middle ear, sensorineural as a result of impairment to the inner ear or be a combination of the two. People with a hearing impairment may find that they have difficulty hearing in crowds or in group conversations or they may hear but not understand what is being said as they may find that words seem to be jumbled or just run together.

Some interesting statistics are that 71.1% of over 70-year-olds will have some kind of hearing loss; 41.7% of over 50-year-olds will have some kind of hearing loss and approximately 2,474,000 people aged 16 to 60 experience a hearing impairment.


Misconception: All hearing impaired people live in a world of silence
Truth: There are approximately 8,945,000 hearing impaired people in the UK with 688,000 of these people having a severe to profound loss of hearing.


Misconception: All hearing impaired people can lip read.
Truth: Only 30% of English words can be read accurately on the lips. For clear, concise and effective communication many hearing impaired people will use many techniques such as sign language/interpreters, lip readers, lip speakers and speech to text.

Misconception: All hearing impaired people can “sign”
Truth: There are approximately 8,945,000 hearing impaired people in the UK but only around 75,000 people in the UK use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first language.

Misconception: Hearing impairment cannot be helped.
Truth: A large number of individuals with hearing impairment can be helped through amplification. In the UK today there are approximately two million people with hearing aids and 1.4 million people using them regularly. However, it is thought that another four million people could benefit from a hearing aid.

Access requirements vary and therefore it is important to remember to discuss directly with the person their individual requirements. However, some general guidelines would be:

• Before speaking attract the person’s attention unobtrusively i.e. by moving into their line of vision

• When speaking face the person so they can lip read and avoid moving around too much

• Speak clearly, don’t shout or over enunciate as this distorts sound and lip patterns and remember to give a clear view of lips: avoid covering the mouth with hands

• Use gesture and facial expressions

• Use normal language i.e. use short sentences rather than single words; use normal speech at a normal rate

• Try to understand and act upon the requirements of a person with a hearing impairment; this is one of the most supportive strategies you can adopt.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Understanding Disability - Mental Health Issues


There is a stigma attached to the subject of mental health which is mainly due to ignorance and the negative portrayal of people with mental health issues by the media. Here are some common misconceptions about mental health:

Misconception: Mental health issues only happen to other people.
Truth: 1 in 4 of the adult population will experience mental health issues in their lifetime.

Misconception: People with mental health issues are violent and dangerous.
Truth: The risk of being killed by a stranger with a mental health issue is roughly 1:10,000,000 which are about the same probability as being struck by lightning.

Misconception: People with mental health issues are poor and/or less intelligent.
Truth: Mental health issues, like any physical issues, can affect anyone regardless of intelligence, social class or income level demographic.

Misconception: Mental health issues are caused by emotional weakness
Truth: People do not choose to have mental health issues and it has nothing to do with being weak or lacking will-power.

Misconception: Once you’ve had a mental health issue, you never recover
Truth: People can and do recover from mental health issues. Medications, psychological interventions, a strong support network and alternative therapy treatments from cognitive behavioural therapy to improved diet and exercise habits are also very effective in leading to a complete recovery.

Access requirements are varied for people with mental health issues and it is important to ask the individual the exact requirements they feel will assist them. However, on a general note the following access requirements may be necessary:-

Time - Allow more time - a person with a mental health issue may need more time to process information etc. They may become confused or anxious about being given too much information at one time and how to prioritise the information.

Allow flexible working hours as a person with a mental health issue may have limited timescales. They may need to work part-time or it may find working afternoons and not mornings more preferable.

Regular Breaks/Quiet Time – it may be beneficial for a person with a mental health issue to take regular breaks in order for them to gather their thoughts together. Providing a quiet and relaxing room may be greatly appreciated.

Support Worker – the provision of a support worker can be very advantageous and will be able to assist with things like prioritising etc.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Understanding Disability - Visual Impairment


There are many misconceptions about people with visual impairment.

Misconception: Visually impaired people see nothing.
Truth: The majority of Visually impaired people have SOME useful vision - distinguishing between light and dark and only about 18 per cent of visually impaired people are totally without useful vision.

Misconception: Visually impaired people have special gifts and a “sixth” sense.
Truth: There are no special gifts or “sixth” sense and many visually impaired people have a poorer sense of hearing or touch than sighted people particularly as they grow older. It is just having the appropriate support and training together with good old fashioned common sense and practice that makes all the difference.

Misconception: All Visually impaired people feel other people’s faces.
Truth: A very small number of visually impaired people use touch to identify people. 77% of visually impaired people retain enough sight to recognise family and friends close up.

Misconception: All Visually impaired people can read Braille.
Truth: It is estimated that approximately only 13,000 Visually impaired people can read Braille fluently. Far larger numbers rely on large print and audio instead of Braille.

Misconception: All Visually impaired people own guide dogs.
Truth: There are approximately 4,800 guide dog users in the UK. This is a tiny percentage of the estimated two million Visually impaired people in the UK.

Misconception: Visually impaired people cannot work.
Truth: Due to the advances in new technology, such as speaking computers etc, there are very few jobs that a visually impaired person cannot do.

There are many things society can do to increase access for Visually impaired people. These include:-

* The use of large print and font size – best practice recommends Ariel 14
* Colour contrasting and tactile markings
* Use of audio

These are only a few general examples and you should NEVER assume. ALWAYS ask about access requirements – i.e. those things needed to enable us to take part in something.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Understanding Disability


As highlighted in my earlier blog, it is concerning to note that 53% of society view disabled people in a negative way. From my own personal experiences and through my work, it is clear that many people have misconceptions about disabled people and particular conditions. These misconceptions are usually formed from ignorance, fear, the traditional medical model and, most importantly, the media (at times they have a lot to answer for).

I truly believe that highlighting the positives of disability and re-educating people can, and will, make a huge difference to the lives of disabled people.

Over the next few blogs, I will take a look at several areas of disability and highlight the myths and misconceptions generally held within society. My hope is that this will help readers to understand these areas more and take a new look at their own misjudgements.

Often, when thinking of disabled people, society thinks firstly of those with a physical disability i.e. a wheelchair user but many fail to realise the broad context of disabled people and the conditions that they live their lives with. It is imperative that we first understand what the definition of “disability” is. This word that we hear so much about and which society bases judgements on seems to mean different things to different people.

So how do we define a disabled person?

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

However, defining a person by a condition/impairment is based on the Medical Model of Disability. Although this is the traditional way of defining disability, it is not very helpful and does not answer what we need to know i.e. how do we assist the person. The definition that I use is based on the Social Model of Disability which states that it is a person who has the loss of opportunity due to the barriers put up by society. There is a slight difference between the two definitions in that the former focuses on the individual’s inability to do things as opposed to the later which focuses on the barriers that are put in the way.

Arguably there is a need to group various disabled people together and the general groups would be people with physical impairments (including wheelchair users), people with visual impairments, people with hearing impairments, people with Learning Difficulties and people with mental health issues. It is useful to know the general access requirements for people within a group i.e. offering large print, Braille or audio tape etc to people with visual impairments. However, I must stress that these are only basic guidance and in all cases you should establish the access requirements of the individuals within their group.

I hope over the coming blogs that you will gain a better insight in to the various areas of disability and those access requirements that society needs to adopt.

Monday, 14 September 2009

London Fire Safety Week



The London Fire Brigade kicked off its first ever Fire Safety Week which will run from 12th to 18th September 2009. It is hoped that this initiative will raise fire safety awareness within the London area.

One area that the London Fire Brigade is hoping to highlight is the fire safety for high risk groups i.e. older people and disabled people.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “Our first Fire Safety Week will provide us with an excellent opportunity to get our safety messages across to those who are most at risk from fire. Our research and experience tell us that certain behaviours and social circumstances make some Londoners more vulnerable than others and we want to target those people so that we get to them now – before they have a fire”.

During the course of last year, the London Fire Brigade were called out to over 130,000 incidents in which 39 people lost their lives - 60% of those people were within the high risk groups. Even one death is too many!

From a business perspective, many business owners are not aware of the current fire legislations. In October 2006, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into force and with it came the largest change to fire safety legislation for over 35 years.

One of the main changes was that the RRO places a responsibility on management to ensure the fire safety, including the safe evacuation, of all users of premises and there is a duty to carry out a Risk Assessment for all non- domestic premises and common parts i.e. within blocks of flats etc.

It is important to note that the RRO moves the responsibility for evacuation away from the fire service to the employer/service provider.

All procedures should ensure the safe evacuation of disabled people, with assistance where required but many do not know what procedures should be in place. For example, there may be the need to ensure that Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) are in place. In addition, equipment such as evac-chairs or life-sliders may also be required especially in environments such as railway stations etc.

For many, when thinking about fire safety, their thoughts go no further than that of a smoke alarm but it is imperative that all businesses carry out risk assessments to ensure the safe evacuation of all – be it staff or visitors.

Is your organisation doing enough?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Scope Research

Research by Scope, published in June 2009, has thrown up some disturbing statistics with regard to the perception of disability and with over 2000 people taking part, the views cannot be ignored.

From their research, they have ascertained that:-

* 53% of society view disabled people in a negative way;

and

* 38% believe that disabled people are a drain on resources

Worrying to say the least and it is clear to me that these figures are borne from ignorance and stereo-typing of disabled people.

On a positive, we must take note that their research also found strong support for tackling disability with accessible transport, access to public buildings and tougher action for Blue Badge abuse being cited as areas for improvement.

I believe that the attitudes of society can be changed and we may all be surprised with the speed these changes could happen if only the right resources were available. Unfortunately, disabled issues always seem to be in the background and we all need to start pushing them through to the foreground.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Disabled Students and University

Record marks again in A-levels and yet more news that there are not enough university places for all the applicants.


Being an A-level student is never easy – you spend hours studying, even more hours worrying that you may not get your grades and then you have the daunting task of securing a university place! But take a moment to imagine you are a disabled student.........

Not only do you have to deal with all of the above but you have the added issue of ensuring your choice of university has suitable accessibility, that you can have access to appropriate care and that a support network can be to hand. No problem I hear you cry but don’t forget that the clearing system allows you less than a month to choose your preferred course and appropriate university together with looking at your access, accommodation and care requirements.

It can come as no surprise then that many disabled students feel they are at a disadvantage and are left floundering at this daunting prospect.

I can relate in many ways to this. I was lucky enough to attend the University of Brighton and I had no problems securing an offer of a place on the academic side. However, on a personal level, my parents had to sign a letter of declaration stating that they would be responsible for finding me suitable accommodation during the first two years of my study as the University did not have accessible accommodation until my final year. This was back in 1994 and obviously pre-dates the DDA and SENDA (which came into force in 2001). It is therefore disappointing to see that nothing has really changed.

A recent survey by Trailblazers revealed that:-

• One in four universities do not have rooms for hired carers, forcing disabled students to live at home rather than with their fellow students.
• 30% of university inter-campus transport is inaccessible to disabled students and, despite having disability advisors, one in ten universities do not have good links with local care agencies and support services.
• One in ten students will not have accessible accommodation, cooking and dining facilities which are fully integrated into mainstream university life.
• Only just over half of all UK university teaching rooms, study rooms and libraries are fully accessible to students with a disability.
• Nearly 40% of universities do not provide a freshers' guide to the university for disabled students.

As part of my business, I have worked with many universities to ensure that the full understanding of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) which came into force some 8 years ago is fully implemented. Unfortunately, I can only advise and recommend – I cannot force them to make all the changes that are needed. From this experience, I can safely say that many apply the gloss without the undercoat i.e. they may put in the signage and ramps but they forget about the hidden barriers.

There is a responsibility for all educational institutions to ensure that they look further than the physical environment. They must take into account attitudinal issues and be seen to actively promote disability equality in all areas.

Disabled students are frequently on the peripheral of educational life and are often made to feel “separate”. Drastic measures need to be taken to ensure that they are included into mainstream student life and can reap the just rewards of our educational system.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Unacceptable Care at St Helier Hospital


I spoke recently of my visit to the Accident and Emergency Department of St Helier Hospital and I thought I would talk some more about this and the unacceptable level of care I received.

After I went to A&E, the hospital decided to admit me for tests and they moved me into the clinical assessment unit (CAU) where I would stay for 24 hours to be observed and to undergo tests. However, after 24 hours, I was then moved to one of the general wards where I was welcomed in the most appalling manner.

First thing they wanted was to transfer me to one of the ward beds which did not have cot sides and these are essential for me as it puts me at risk of falling out of the bed if these are not in place. Eventually after about an hour of shouting and generally annoying them, I was finally allowed to stay in the bed that I came up to the ward in. Why could the medical staff not see the risk that was right in front of their eyes? Are they so blinkered as to forget common sense?

The second issue that occurred happened shortly after I was settled. The Ward Sister came into my room without even bothering to introduce herself or even talking to me at all. What ever happened to common courtesy?

She proceeded to tell a Staff Nurse “well actually he should be nil by mouth because that’s what his notes say”. I listened in horror as in fact, my notes did not say this at all. I had been removed from nil by mouth earlier in the day! Pointing this fact out to her resulted in the Sister looking at me in a condesending way, issuing me with what can only be described as a growl and then walking out of the room only to reappear half an hour later and state “well actually his notes say he does not need to be nil by mouth”.

Thirdly, and probably more worryingly, I require assistance with personal care including going to the toilet etc. However, the nurses would not offer assistance with this, nor feeding me food or giving me a drink or suchlike. They never once offered to assist me with any task apart from the usual dispensing of medication etc. I had my own personal assistant with me but this should not change the duty the nurses have to provide individual care based on the patients needs. This has been brought up in my earlier blog regarding Disability Equality Duty as the NHS are bound by this.

All in all, I was glad to be finally discharged but there are serious questions that the NHS and St Helier Hospital in particular need to address. Level of care must be to the highest standards for all patients alike and on this occasion, as in many in the past, they were sorely lacking.

A Recent Experience of Accident & Emergency


Following a recent incident, I had to go to St Helier Accident and Emergency department in Carshalton, Surrey where it took considerable time (well over an hour) to move from an ambulance stretcher to one of the A&E beds. However, I do use the word "bed" loosely as it was little more than a trolley with a bit of padding on it!

Whilst I do understand about the use of limited resources and lack of funding within the NHS, surely A&E beds should be one of the most important things that should be addressed. In fact, I feel it is a priority and certainly a necessity.

The other harrowing thing I found about lack of resources was that they had no spare pillows! Even I would have thought that funds were available to supply something so simple. This sort of practice is appalling and has given me an even worse of impression of St. Helier Hospital than I had in the first place.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

UK ratifies the UN Disability Convention


At long last the UK have finally ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

After much stalling on the part of our Government, Jonathan Shaw, Minister for Disabled People announced on 8th June 2009 that the convention had been ratified and that the government were fully committed to its full implementation. In a statement to the House of Commons, he said:

"I am delighted to announce that later today the UK will ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York. In addition, we aim to start the Parliamentary process for ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention shortly.

"There are an estimated 650 million disabled people in the world, including over 10m in the UK. The UN Convention is a powerful and explicit statement that they have – and must be able to enjoy on an equal basis – the same human rights as others. The Convention is therefore a very significant landmark, both for disabled people and for Government and society as whole.

"Ratification of the Convention is further demonstration of the Government’s commitment to equality of human rights for disabled people, and of our determination to achieve equality by 2025."

The Convention is a major landmark as it is the first human rights treaty of the 21st Century and will hopefully ensure equality for all 650 million disabled people across the world. The convention focuses on ensuring that all disabled people are able to enjoy fundamental human rights and thus participate fully in society.

It is my opinion that the UK government took far too long in agreeing this Convention and I wholeheartedly supported the criticism directed at them for seeking a number of opt-out clauses regarding immigration, education and the armed forces. It would now seem that by ratifying this Convention, the Government has accepted their legal obligation to ensure that all necessary laws are passed.

Implementation now looms and this will be a challenging process that must involve the disabled community as a whole. Their voices must be heard in ensuring that equality becomes a standard rather than a privilege.

Monday, 22 June 2009

A Newsletter of Worth

My company, DP Consulting (Disability Equality Services) Limited regularly assesses how it can increase inclusion to mainstream activities and I believe that raising awareness of disability issues does just that.

As a new medium we have implemented an innovative E-Newsletter which, in our first issue focuses on Disabled People and Work. Firstly, we take a look at the situation with the Incapacity Benefit Reform. And the second article examines Disabled People's Job Prospects in a Recession.

As disability equality consultants, we are very keen for disabled people to live and work on an equal footing with their non-disabled counterparts. So these issues are very important to us.

Please take a look and I do hope you find this informative. If you wish to receive our E-Newsletter on a regular basis please contact murali@dpconsulting.org.uk with E-Newsletter in the subject line.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Disabled People’s Voice Becomes No More Than A Whisper – The Danger of The Equality Bill

The Government has published a single Equality Bill for the UK. If passed, this will bring disability, gender, race and other strands of discrimination within one piece of legislation. The proposals for the Bill also include some major changes to disability discrimination law but not necessarily for the better.

For many disabled people, the Equality Bill is oppressive and demeaning to disabled people. Our voice is lost in the confused and incoherent message caused by the integration of equality under one heading. What the Equality Bill fails to recognise is that whilst the strands of equality have a common aim, they are all very different and require many different approaches. The understanding of discrimination on the grounds of race or gender is far more known in the public domain than that of disability and under the Equality Bill, we have a real danger of the disabled people’s voice becoming little more than a whisper.

It has taken many campaigners many years to get where we are today with disability discrimination and changes have been slow to come. I, like many, doubt that I will see true equality for disabled people in my lifetime but I am determined to do all that I can to raise inclusion for all. The UK was very much forced to bring in the DDA but it has its limitations i.e. a requirement to make buildings accessible, but there was a more than liberal get-out clause and even more liberal lead-in times which allowed business managers to skirt around the issues. There has been little decisive action taken against offenders and we are still in a position whereby large areas of goods and services are unavailable to disabled people - some by direct discrimination i.e. non-accessible buildings and others by indirect discrimination such as no dropped kerbs etc.

The proposed Equality Bill attempts to level the playing field for all inequalities but somewhat leads to inconsistencies and there are ‘priority battles’ that have not been properly ironed out. The Equality Bill fails to address the many areas that disability reform requires and in doing so can only push back disabled equality rather than move it forward.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Assisted Suicide - A Personal View

Assisted Suicide” is the process by which an individual, who may otherwise be incapable, is provided with the means (drugs or equipment) to commit suicide. In some cases, the terms aid in dying or death with dignity are preferred. These terms are often used to draw a distinction from suicide”

Another emotive subject to say the least and this issue always provokes persuasive arguments on both sides of the debate with the difficult subject of disability and assisted dying often being raised in the media.

In 2008, the number of assisted suicides in Holland went up by 10% when compared to 2007. An annual report by five regional euthanasia vetting committees stated that 2,300 cases had been reported and that they expected a further increase in 2009. This clearly shows that there is a demand for this type of policy but is it right for us as a society to be accepting of this practice?

Often the pro-sided will argue that this allows someone to end their life with dignity and we should respect their decision. However, the issue with this type of policy is that you are effectively asking someone, usually a doctor to kill you and therefore the decision can no longer be just about “your choice and your life”. It very much involves other people namely a doctor, your family & friends and indeed society as a whole. Has society become that heartless that we allow a life to end under the disguise of compassion?

Looking deeper, as a society we have to establish why people consider this action and ultimately decide it is right for them. I understand and support every person’s right to choice and the freedom to live their lives how they see fit but I strongly believe that assisted suicide poses a real danger to disabled people. The focus has to be on the disabled person’s quality of life and who has the right to make decisions about their importance to society. It is a real concern that pressure or intimidation may be used to “force” disabled people to consider assisted suicide when we should, in fact, be supporting them to understand how invaluable they are and how they can reach their true potential.

Quality of life is very individual and ultimately it is more about our frame of mind rather than the things we have but this is not unique to disabled people but all of society. As we travel through the journey of life, as humans we regularly re-assess our lives and our priorities change – what once seemed important becomes less so and things we thought we had plenty of time to do suddenly become imperative.

Living with a disability needs a time of reflection but no more than experiencing a divorce, the death of a loved one or even redundancy. The timescale of this reflection is personal with some needing longer than others but after this process we are left with a sense of our own self-worth – of knowing our own importance – and re-defining our self-esteem.

It is easy during our darkest moments to look for a “get out” clause and I believe that assisted suicide may just be that. The sad and cold hard fact is that once you take this route there is no turning back. It will be too late to realise just how we impact on those we care about and society in general.

In an ideal world, we would all be able to be “James Stewart” living “Our Wonderful Life” moment and seeing how our very existence is intricately woven into the lives of others but in real life this does not happen and we have to embrace the challenges that life throws at us – the very good and the very bad.

Grab life and live it to its fullest.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Stem Cell Research


Stem Cell Research is a very emotive subject and for many it falls down to the ethics of the research but I want to look at the idea of this type of research from someone living with a disability namely ME!

Firstly, we have to establish what Stem Cell Research actually is;

“Stem cells are thought to hold huge potential for treating a wide range of disease and disability. Scientists around the world are working on techniques to refine stem cell therapy. Theoretically, it should be possible to use stem cells to generate healthy tissue to replace that either damaged by trauma, or compromised by disease.

Among the conditions which scientists believe may eventually be treated by stem cell therapy are Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, burns and spinal cord damage”.(Source)


Secondly, we have to establish a view point. Whilst I appreciate the advantages of this research for people who wish to benefit from this type of change, for me personally, I am “against” the idea. But why?

Surely this type of research may find a treatment to my condition?

Stem Cell Research falls very definitely into that of the Medical Model of Disability. The perception is disabled people experience a medical condition and medicine is for treating people who experience illness. As a disabled person, I am perceived as being ill and must be treated. The Medical Model of Disability creates the perception of ‘normalcy” but why should we all be the same?

What it fails to consider is that my disability is me. Without it I would not be who I am or why I am. My disability has developed my personality and the growth of me as an individual. I am part of a community and part of a culture. Stem Cell Research may well be able to “cure” me but I don’t want to be “cured” and I do not want to see the eradication of the disability community.

Instead of Stem Cell Research, we should be trying to establish the Social Model of Disability and Accessibility far more widely in our society. The support of equal rights for all disabled people is a far more worthy direction to take than Stem Cell Research.

I find myself unable to support Stem Cell Research for the very reason that my disability is ME. Take away my disability and you take away the very essence of who I am.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Why Businesses Need to Understand the Disability Discrimination Act

One of the main services my company offers is that of “Access Auditing” for all manners of organisations be them small, medium, large or public/private sector and it always amazes me just how little many businesses know about the Disability Discrimination Act and their requirements. It is somewhat worrying that many do not understand that they do have a duty under this Act and that they are often placing themselves in a position where they could face legal action.

So what should all businesses know about the Disability Discrimination Act............

Firstly, all businesses must wake up and realise that they need to know about the Disability Discrimination Act and that ignorance could mean they face a legal action for misconduct in the future.

From the personnel stance, the main thing to consider is that any business with less than 15 employees must not and cannot refuse employment to someone due to disability. It is a requirement that all reasonable adjustments are made to your business premises and business practice to ensure that it is accessible to all.

From the customer stance, making your business accessible can only be good. Recent research by the Equality & Human Rights Commission found that whilst 1 in every 10 businesses would prefer not to alter their premises to make them suitable, 8 in every 10 believed that by doing so they would have a positive impact on their business. Figures also show that the spending power of disabled people is estimated to be around £80 billion per year (Source DWP). Can you, as a business, afford to discriminate against potential customers?

As a business, the best and most effective action to take is to conduct an Access Audit by a qualified Auditor. This will result in a full report that will highlight what barriers exist and what action needs to be taken.

Concerns about adjustments are usually founded on misconceptions – the main one being that implementation of adjustments will cost a lot of money. However, this is rarely the case and simple and effective changes can be made at little or no cost at all. An effective Auditor will take into account your business annual turnover and all recommendations will take into account what will be deemed reasonable for you and your business.

As an idea, adjustments can be made simply by:-

1. Removing barriers i.e. removing an unnecessary step etc

2. Alternatives to existing i.e. adding a ramp, providing clearer signage etc

3. Avoid a potential barrier i.e. a simple change to the internal premises

4. Provision through other means i.e. larger print, web accessibility etc

There are very few exceptions to the Disability Discrimination Act and you are required to make reasonable adjustments even if your business has no disabled employees or customers. Whilst some buildings may have restrictions on alterations i.e. listed buildings, they are not completely exempt and solutions are expected to be found.

Like many, you could choose to ignore the Disability Discrimination Act but the consequences are far reaching as the Act makes it unlawful to treat a disabled person less favourably and DDA claims are on the increase and figures show that last year an average of over £33,000 was awarded (Source: Employment Tribunal Services).

Can your business afford to do nothing?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

And the Winner is......................

Last night’s awards managed to both dazzle and impress me .The size of the event - the d├ęcor, attendees and the presentations – far exceeded my expectations, and really displayed the high calibre of businesses within our area.

One highlight of any black tie event is the dinner. There is almost something deliciously indulgent about sitting down at a table with white tablecloth and gleaming glassware/cutlery. As the servers began to weave their way through the throng of tables, the distinct aroma of each course signalled that moment of unadulterated escape for our taste buds, from the light Pimms dressing on the Poached Scottish Salmon to the Chicken wrapped in Parma Ham and finally the pleasure of the Trio of Cheesecakes (pecan, raspberry, double chocolate). Delicious!

People watchers were in their element. The men in their black-ties all appeared so dignified but there were also one or two that tried to add their own flair of individuality be it with a bright coloured bow-tie or an elaborate cumbabund.

The women were dressed to impress with an equal balance of short cocktail dresses to long gowns. Whilst the majority were black, a glimpse of colour regularly caught your eye to brighten the event.

And so on to the Awards themselves...............

Cheers rang out around the marquee as each category and the relevant short-listed finalists were announced by the Capital Gold DJ, David Jensen. With 12 categories and mine being the eleventh, nerves did begin to settle in but finally the “Entrepreneur of the Year” sponsored by South London Business was being called. All of the short-listed companies:- Alchemy Events, Boogles, DP Consulting (Disability Services) Ltd, Independent MindBodySoul Ltd, JP Creative and Le Cassolet were introduced.

Unfortunately, I did not win but was awarded “Highly Commended”. The winner of the “Entrepreneur of the Year” category was awarded to Independent MindBodySoul Ltd.

Whilst I would have been delighted to win, I am both extremely pleased to have been short-listed and to have been awarded “Highly Commended”. Myself and my team work hard to promote our company ethos of “inclusion for all” and whilst at times it is challenging to make the improvements we envisage, it is most definitely worthwhile and awards such as these reinforces our belief in what we do.

The awards presentation was followed by a prize draw, photographs and strutting our stuff on the dance floor – though not everyone had the natural ability of John Travolta!

May I say congratulations to all those companies throughout the night that were short-listed, awarded Highly Commended and the actual Winners. Well done!

An excellent evening all round.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

South London Business Awards - Tonight!

Tonight is the night for the South London Business Awards Ceremony which is being held at Selhurst Park Stadium and as you all know, I am a finalist. As you can imagine I am both excited and nervous. Excitement about the event as a whole but nervous about the result!

For the gentleman, our black ties are at the ready and a more dapper group of men you will never find and for the ladies, their posh frocks have been chosen and their shoes and handbags co-ordinated.

With our fingers and toes crossed, we all look forward to a splendid evening and I will of course let you all know the result!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Equality Bill 2009 & the Existence of Inequality

On 27th April this year, the current Government released the Equality Bill 2009 with the intention of simplifying and harmonizing existing legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act, Race Relations Act, the Sex Discrimination Act, the Equality Act 2006 and many other anti-discrimination legislation.

With so much equality legislation in force, it is sad to see that we still have an increase in terms of actual inequality.

Ronald Dworkin, a political theorist, based his theory of equality on the principle that “every person is entitled to equal concern and respect in the design of the structure of society” and “real equality of opportunity can only be measured by its success in creating equality of outcome”.

He further argues that if everyone, regardless of physical and mental ability, are to have genuine equal opportunities, then an equal opportunity must exist for all participants to end the race at the same time whether they need more considered or continued support or not.

The Disability Discrimination Act is currently the only equality legislation that requires anyone to invest financially into real equality of opportunity but this in reality is minimal as the Act states that only “reasonable” changes can be expected at a “proportionate” cost.

For many employers and service providers accessibility is considered low down on their list of priorities and even the simplest of adaptations such as ramps, induction loops etc are rarely considered.

Only time will tell whether the new Equality Bill will make significant changes to providing genuine equality of opportunity to people with disabilities but it is my belief that until fundamental changes are made to people’s perception of disability, we will not see true equality.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Those MPs and Their Expenses Claims

Wow what a week or so it has been for our elected Members of Parliament!

As expressed by many living in the real world, the expenses situation is out of control and needs drastic action to take place immediately.

As the Director of a small business, I cannot see how the present system has been allowed to exist as there are clear and concise rules as to what can be legally claimed in expenses. The system is somewhat complex and dealing with it can take a lot of effort. Myself and all my employees know that no expenses will be paid unless receipts and a full justification is present – I have no choice but to make sure everything is in perfect order as if not, as the Company Director, I could end up in prison for tax fraud.

All our salaries are liable for income tax and the existing rules clearly define that we can only be reimbursed for genuine expenses incurred when carrying out our contracted jobs i.e. travelling expenses, hotel costs when working away from home and so on. These expenses do not have a net income and therefore they cannot be taxed. You cannot claim travel between your home and your regular place of work i.e. your commute and personal vehicle use is regulated and limited to 40 pence per mile and claiming for anything above this is illegal under the tax office rules. Any provision of goods deemed to be beyond what is reasonably needed for your actual work falls into the category of “payment in kind” and therefore becomes taxable. May I suggest that the Inland Revenue make arrangements as quickly as possible to investigate underpayment of tax from those Members of Parliament that have flouted these rules.

Whilst many of the items these MPs have claimed for are verging on the ridiculous, I suspect it is the rules that are at fault and not necessarily all of the claimants. They just took advantage of the situation and therefore their ethical and moral judgements must be questioned.

Unfortunately, it is clear that if the expenses policies had not been created by the MPs themselves, many of them would not be in the chaos that they are now.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Breakfast Speech by Dr Vincent Cable MP


What a week I have had last week! Busy to say the least.

On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending a Business Breakfast Budget Briefing hosted by our local MP, Paul Burstow. Our guest speaker on this occasion was the Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Dr Vincent Cable MP and I really enjoyed his insight into what this quasi recession mess that we are in means, why we are in it and how we can get out of it.

It was refreshing to hear that Vince truly understands what it is like ‘on the ground‘ and he proposed changes that would make a real difference. Some harsh decisions are necessary and in particular an holistic approach to cutting public spending is required.

A Questions and Answers session took place after his talk and an enthusiastic audience of local business owners posed many fascinating questions for Dr Cable – he dealt with these very effectively and his answers were clear and concise.

Whilst it is clear that some businesses have continued to trade effectively, the vast majority face new struggles on a regular basis ranging from cash flow pressures to retaining/obtaining banking facilities. We are all having to make decisions to ensure the survival of our businesses in these difficult times and with a deluge of information being thrown at us about how long this economic climate will last and how best to survive it, we sometimes struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I cannot provide any pearls of wisdom that will prove enlightening to all, other than to hunker down and just wait out the storm. Plan now for after the upturn so that you are in the perfect position to make strategic growth decisions and re-embrace the marketplace when the “sunnier” days come back.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Hillsborough Disaster


On 15th April 1989, an FA Cup Semi-Final being held at Hillsborough, home to Sheffield Wednesday, between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest was abandoned six minutes into the first half. What is now known as the Hillsborough Disaster resulted in the deaths of 96 football fans and it remains one of the worse stadium-related disasters in Britain.

Today, marking the 20th anniversary, the fans of all sides will gather at Anfield to pay their respects and at 3.06 pm there will be a two minute silence in remembrance of this tragic event.

As a football fan myself, I too will be thinking of this tradegy.

Today we have to remember that football is fairly insignificant in life but it can produce events that stay with us our whole lives. My thoughts, as I am sure those of every football fan in the country, go out to Liverpool today - the club, the players past and present, the fans and most importantly those families who had their lives ripped apart by a simple game of football.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Easter


At Easter, we are lucky to have two public holidays: Good Friday and Easter Monday. This gives us all time to enjoy a long week-end with our family and friends.

For the young Easter is all about chocolate and bunnies whilst for the “young at heart”, we forget the bunnies and gorge on the chocolate!

Being a mind of trivia, I thought I would share with you some facts about this celebration:-

• Easter always falls between March 22 and April 25.

• The name Easter owes its origin from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess who symbolizes the hare and egg.

• From the earliest of times, the egg has been considered to be the most important symbol of rebirth.

• Originally, Easter baskets were made to look like bird’s nests.

• The original recipe for chocolate eggs originated in Europe in the 19th Century

• Every year over 90 million chocolate bunnies are made.

• In a recent survey, 76% of people said they preferred to eat the ears of chocolate bunnies first.

• If you have time on your hands, Pysanka is the specific term used for Easter egg painting.

Whatever your understanding of Easter is, be it religious or cultural, may it remind you of the beauty, joy and peace of the Easter Season. It is a time of hope and often starts new beginnings in life.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

RBS South London Business Awards

Exciting news – I have been shortlisted for the Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the RBS South London Business Awards.

This recent piece of good news is the latest in a series of successes for me on a personal note. Last December I was shortlisted for the Radar Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year Award but missed out in a very competitive field. And earlier this year I was appointed a member and an ambassador for the London Football Association Equality Advisory Group. So this shortlisting is another feather in my cap.

The winners of the RBS South London Business Awards will be announced at an Awards Dinner and Ceremony at Selhurst Park Stadium on 20 May.

I will keep you updated on the event and of course, the result!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Event - Railtex 2009

I attended the Railtex 2009 conference held on Tuesday 9th March 2009 at Earls Court Two.

Although the basic access was acceptable, I must point out to you that I feel strongly that I was discriminated against on the grounds of my disability. As a wheelchair user, I had a very difficult and troubling experience when I went to purchase and consume my lunch at lunchtime.

Firstly, my colleague and I walked around the whole exhibition hall (taking approximately half-an-hour) and noticed that the vending counters were all on the ground floor together with very limited seating(for between 5 and 10 people). All the counters had signs pointing towards a stairway stating that additional seating was available upstairs. On further investigation i.e. walking around the exhibition hall again and asking a number of staff at various vending counters where the lifts were, I received a negative response. I went on to ask a further six venue staff who like the vending staff, did not know the location of an appropriate lift. The outcome of this situation resulted in me being unable to have lunch and drew a very poor picture on Earls Court which is meant to be one the world’s leading exhibition centres. This is a clear issue where disability equality training and access auditing are needed. Although I am not legally qualified, this would appear to be a violation of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which makes it clear that reasonable steps (including physical alterations) should be made to enable disabled people to access goods and services to the same standards as any other person.

Taking into account the numbers of people attending events within Earls Court and bearing in mind the minimal amount of resource needed to rectify this situation, I can see no obvious reason why these access works have not been implemented.

I have written to both Earls Court and to the Railtex organisers, asking for an urgent reply.

Watch this space!

Disabled People and TV

I thought I would repost a previous blog which may be of interest. Cherrie Burnell appeared on the One Show on BBC1 last night and spoke about the lack of disabled people on television and her recent experience of discrimation from some parents.

Official statistics show that 98% of British homes have a television and the average adult spends approximately 24¾ hours per week watching - be it the soaps, quiz shows or current affairs.

But how are disabled people represented on our screens?

There is a general lack of representation of disabled people from mainstream programming and when they are, it is usually in the role of a disabling stereotype. Many current affair programmes concentrate on issues related to the traditional medical treatment or look at stories under the banner of “triumph over adversity”. Many of our fictional programmes portray disabled characters as being powerless and victims further reinforcing the misconceptions of disabled people.

I strongly believe that better representation of disabled people in all forms of the media would provide an instant educational tool and provide an ideal opportunity for people to learn more about disability. Genuine portrayal of disabled people would remove the many myths and stereo-typing associated with disability.

In the 21st century it is hard to comprehend the small-mindedness that still exists in our society and I was shocked to learn that the introduction of a disabled television presenter could cause the floodgates of complaint to open.

Cerrie Burnell is a children’s television presenter who recently joined the CBeebies channel. The important questions here should be “can she do her job?” and “does she entertain the children?” Unfortunately, these seem to have taken a sideline to “but she is disabled” and a vicious campaign has begun.

Parents across the country are complaining about her role and claim their children are traumatised by her disability. The BBC has been accused of “political correctness” and “trying to meet employment quotas”. Both statements are extremely wrong on all counts. How can a disability be classed as “political correctness” and there is no such thing as “employment quotas” any more.

There are many things in our world today that can and do cause worry to children but disability should not be one of them. Parents must have a duty to educate their children and instead of using Cerrie Burnell as someone to be vilified they should be using this opportunity to remove the “stigma” of disabled people. Children are now introduced to all manner of information from an early age and why shouldn’t disability be one of them?

I do hope that the BBC treats this matter with the sensitivity it deserves and continues to support not only Cerrie Burnell but many other disabled people. On many occasions, disabled people are introduced not because they are ordinary but precisely the opposite and for this reason we need to change our mindset.

Monday, 16 March 2009

I have been accepted on to The London Football Association Equality Advisory Group.

Good News!

I am a Director and Senior Disability Equality Consultant in a Cheam-based disability equality practice, DP Consulting and I have just been appointed a member and an ambassador for the London Football Association Equality Advisory Group.

I set up DP Consulting (Disability Equality Services) Ltd with a view to increasing the inclusion of disabled people in mainstream activities, so this latest appointment is very much in keeping with my core values and my desire to see disabled people play a greater role in society on an equal footing with their non-disabled counterparts.

In addition to my work at DP Consulting – whose main disability equality services include access auditing and mystery shopping – I will now have a say in how the County Football Association plans to deliver equality in London.

As a Disability Equality Consultant and an avid football fan, I am delighted and honoured to be a part of the London Football Association Equality Advisory Group.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Gordon Brown, His Recession Plans and Access

Previous recessions have been dealt with by different governments in different ways. I am not alone in saying that the depth and predicted duration of the current recession is extremely severe. In the past, as they were minor in comparison they were dealt with by changes in fiscal policy i.e. changes in interest rates, VAT, income tax rate, personal allowances and so on. It has been clear that changes to fiscal policy alone would not work to get us out of this hole we are in. Therefore, further stronger and what can be seen as more radical tools need to be used.

In Gordon Brown’s latest effort to boost the economy he has decided to spend billions of pounds of the tax payers monies on not only “bailing out” the banks but also trying to bring forward public expenditure on capital projects but in the spirit of my blog, I need to bring this into the access arena.

I am concerned that when these projects are being forward, often and more so recently, the access considerations are being scrutinised even more closely and then cut back or not done at all. Therefore, it is all well and good saying build these millions of buildings but then the developers look at where they can trim their costs. Once again access issues get overlooked and disabled people are again pushed to the sidelines. This is a clear issue which needs to be addressed and the Government must spell this out and if necessary the force of the DDA needs to be felt by the violators. Maybe this is a topic that the Equality & Human Rights Commission needs to look into.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Artwork by Disabled Artists




The final piece in our series of artwork by disabled artists is "A Representation of Disability" by Andrew Milne.

Andrew is a member of the local arts group run by Sutton Centre for Independent Living and Learning.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Disabled People & Television (Part 2)

In a previous blog, I bemoaned the fact that disabled people are sorely under-represented on our goggle-boxes. And this is still the fact but I was delighted to hear that a presence will be seen in one of our soaps shortly.

Actress and comedienne Kitty McGeever, is to be introduced to the prime-time soap Emmerdale, which can be seen on ITV1, as a character called Lizzie Lakely. Her remit is to bring “remorseless bad behaviour and mischievous antics” to the village.

With Kelly Marie-Stewart now established in Hollyoaks, we can only wait to see which of our remaining soaps follow suit.

I have only two wishes on this:- firstly that all characters are given more realistic and dramatic roles; and secondly, that one of them introduces a disabled male character.

Whilst it may seem that the introduction of only two disabled characters into programmes that are seen by millions is small, we must ensure that programme makers take note and dip their toes in the water!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Artwork by Disabled Artists




The next in our series of artwork by disabled artists is "A Representation of Disability" by Linda Marshall.

Linda is a member of the local arts group run by Sutton Centre for Independent Living and Learning.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Disabled People and Television

Official statistics show that 98% of British homes have a television and the average adult spends approximately 24¾ hours per week watching - be it the soaps, quiz shows or current affairs.

But how are disabled people represented on our screens?

There is a general lack of representation of disabled people from mainstream programming and when they are, it is usually in the role of a disabling stereotype. Many current affair programmes concentrate on issues related to the traditional medical treatment or look at stories under the banner of “triumph over adversity”. Many of our fictional programmes portray disabled characters as being powerless and victims further reinforcing the misconceptions of disabled people.

I strongly believe that better representation of disabled people in all forms of the media would provide an instant educational tool and provide an ideal opportunity for people to learn more about disability. Genuine portrayal of disabled people would remove the many myths and stereo-typing associated with disability.

In the 21st century it is hard to comprehend the small-mindedness that still exists in our society and I was shocked to learn that the introduction of a disabled television presenter could cause the floodgates of complaint to open.

Cerrie Burnell is a children’s television presenter who recently joined the CBeebies channel. The important questions here should be “can she do her job?” and “does she entertain the children?” Unfortunately, these seem to have taken a sideline to “but she is disabled” and a vicious campaign has begun.

Parents across the country are complaining about her role and claim their children are traumatised by her disability. The BBC has been accused of “political correctness” and “trying to meet employment quotas”. Both statements are extremely wrong on all counts. How can a disability be classed as “political correctness” and there is no such thing as “employment quotas” any more.

There are many things in our world today that can and do cause worry to children but disability should not be one of them. Parents must have a duty to educate their children and instead of using Cerrie Burnell as someone to be vilified they should be using this opportunity to remove the “stigma” of disabled people. Children are now introduced to all manner of information from an early age and why shouldn’t disability be one of them?

I do hope that the BBC treats this matter with the sensitivity it deserves and continues to support not only Cerrie Burnell but many other disabled people. On many occasions, disabled people are introduced not because they are ordinary but precisely the opposite and for this reason we need to change our mindset.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Artwork by Disabled Artists



Continuing our series of artwork by disabled artists from a local arts group run by Sutton Centre for Independent Living and Learning, I give to you "A Representation of a Tea Lady" by Julie Killick.

I do hope you are enjoying this series of work and would welcome your comments.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Local Authority and Services for Disabled People

At this time of year, we see local authorities and companies alike start to announce their budgets for the forthcoming year. Whilst sometimes any reduction in spending can be quite minimal, it is in times of recession where these cuts make a real impact particularly on services.

It would seem that the standard for local authorities is to slash services whilst upping our council tax revenue. We often hear them bleating on about the demand on their revenue and how services need to be reviewed or cut to balance their books. Invariably the services affected are those for the most vulnerable within our society and therefore, disability services are always hit the hardest.

My own local authority, London Borough of Sutton, have already begun to enforce cuts. The most recent being to reduce transport services for disabled children. They stress that there is a need for costs to be re-assessed as the spend value for this service in 2005/2006 was £2.8 million but in 2008/2009 this will have increased to £4.3 million.

When looking at these figures, it is easy to say “wow that cost has increased” but we all need to look at the historical facts on local authority spending. Every year, we see huge reductions in services for the disabled and elderly. Do the local authorities see these groups as easy targets or do they look at their spending objectively?

Sorry to say but I feel it is the former.

Past spending by London Borough of Sutton include:-

£600,000 on a bus stop
£20,000 on two totem poles in a public park
• £4 million on building a “Sutton Life Centre” when no funds are available to run it

It would seem that objectivity does not come into it.

It is estimated that London Borough of Sutton has £5.5 million frozen in Icelandic accounts and an additional £11 million sitting in its purse for a rainy day. May I suggest they take a look out the window – the rain is torrential!

Instead of cutting services for disabled people, it may be the case that better money management is needed.