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!