Where’s Tony?

On Maundy Thursday I headed out with my companion Tony to my local supermarket, whilst there I bumped into my sister, or rather she bumped into me, Tony as usual remained quiet, my sister invited me to hers for tea.  So paid up and made a quick exit to my sister’s car, rushed into my house packed up a few things and promptly came back to hers for tea.  After a lovely evening I returned home only to discover Tony had disappeared, Tony who doesn’t make much noise, apart from a few gravelly ones had vanished from sight or hearing.

I was low, Tony who guides me through many obstacles on a daily basis helping me avoid bollards, and helping me find edges to pavements so I don’t walk into the road (how gallant of him).  Tony with his bright red and white suit lets motorists know when I’m wanting to make my journey across the road and to drive with caution.  I go into shop and he doesn’t have to say anything as his non verbal communication lets people know that I may need a little extra help or just to talk a little louder too me.  He isn’t heavy he’s good at waiting for me in shops he stands against a counter whilst I hunt for cash as I’m normally holding on to him.  At home he may stand for hours before we head out together and sometimes he likes to sleep in a folding position in my bag, yes indeed the importance of being Earnest does spring to mind.

I know people who have similar partners sometimes we meet and clash from time to time.  Tony has a habit of knocking people if they get in the way, some can even skip over his feet, some ignore him not realising who he is or why I have him in my life. Sometimes people avoid him when they see him or move so Tony and I can get past.  Oh I did miss him his familiar feel and constancy.  Whilst still on the hunt for him I had another companion Claire who isn’t like Tony she isn’t as tall for one and her feet don’t make as much noise, she doesn’t wear red either which is a hassle.

Well  I asked my sister if Tony had either been sleeping in her car or had been staying at her house, rather odd really as my sister really doesn’t need Tony in her life, well I hope she never has too anyway.

So yesterday Claire and I headed up to my local supermarket just on the off chance he may have stayed there, well I asked if they had Tony, oh well they thought Tony may have belonged to another chap who also has a similar companion (shock, horror).  Well there he was the staff treated him well, he is still in fine fettle.  Oh by the way his surname isn’t Blair even though he wears red and the fact that I found him on the day of the UK snap election is no coincidence is it?  Well just to let you know Tony wears red because he supports deaf people.  So now Tony my trusted red and white cane is sticking with me and is currently safely standing in a corner of my lounge waiting for my next trip out 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why being a visually impaired pedestrian is becoming a perilous,isolating nightmare

When I was a small child I remember walking with my mum in my local town holding her hand, we walked on the pavement and I felt perfectly safe, I couldn’t see very well but knew there was a road to one side and a step onto it would be dangerous for me.  I knew what traffic lights were and was taught the green cross code, it was simple.  There was a distinction between pavement and road, but now this is no more.

Over the years I’ve seen a large decline in safety for myself and other pedestrians.  It first started in the 90’s with the predestinization  of cities which although was brilliant, motorists and retailers didn’t like it, hence the arrival of retail parks, However predestrinized streets brought other problems, speeding  bicycles ; swerving pushchairs. Some mobility scooter users were going much faster than foot speed  would come at you from all directions.   At certain times of the day (not always knowing what times) some vehicles would be allowed through, and you wouldn’t know a vehicle was there until it was right on top of you from the front or behind.  A-boards and street furniture would appear in random spots, some of it small enough for me to walk into many a time.  When it got completely mad I considered getting a guide dog, that’s how bad it got in one town locally, a cane doesn’t work when people/things are speeding towards you.

In this century the idea of shared spaces/surface where anybody and anything can travel on the same space has made things worse, with buses now added to the melee of wheels, with their virtually silent engines it’s easy to miss a bus turning a corner and nearly being crushed by it or a van reversing unexpectedly; children running about; adults not looking where they are going as their eyes are glued to their mobiles.  Oh yes and the steps that appear from nowhere that I went falling down near our new bus station.  That’s just the streets in city centres.

In my own area where I live many things are taking up space on these supposed footpaths, numerous bins; large skips;  leaves not been cleared up for months which can cover up vital markings; cycle paths which you have to step on to avoid the rest of the clutter; runners not always clearly visable;  plenty of pavement parking by motorists who can’t be bothered to walk.  When pavements get resurfaced they don’t feel flat anymore either, many feel steeper or uneven underfoot possibly due to civil engineers can’t put their various pipes and cables deep enough underground. Some pavements are cracked due to trees roots growing from underneath, even overhanging trees or bushes can appear unexpectedly or from the side where you can get scratched. It’s concerning that pavements can get so cluttered finding space to walk on safely is a navigational nightmare. Even taking a regular route to my GPs last year ended with me taking a tumble.

But here’s what topped it off for me.  I think it was a couple of weeks ago I heard a  loud noise outside my window and discovered later there were some roadworks outside my home, I got a letter from the council a few days later to say there were road works being carried out.  It stated the times when the roads would be disrupted but didn’t give dates of start and finish of the said works.  But thankfully does give a feedback form which I fully intend to fill out here’s why.

Just this week I was heading out when it was very windy to catch bus I went back inside as it was too windy for me to breathe normally, I also had to make a cancellation.  I tried again later as I needed to get some shopping it had dropped off a bit so I was able to manage a walk to the shop, however when I got to the bus stop I noticed a large sign bus stop closed.  I checked later and nothing reported that my bus stops were closed, so if I’d managed to get past the wind I would not have been able to catch a bus no warning issued . No one has been able to pick me up during the day because of the road closure either so no access to transport whatsoever. Whilst the roadworks continue  it’s pretty isolating and no there’s no guarantee this will not happen again. How about the perilous bit, well one day on the pavement I saw a big truck parked right in the middle of the pavement, dangerous for someone totally blind, I have enough sight to avoid it but if it had been dark it might have been a different story.   Another truck was parked on the side of the pavement I needed to cross too. I didn’t know why that area seemed blocked by this truck, I discovered later why when I almost walked into a pink  barrier.  Whilst this work continues I’m potentially housebound for a large part of the day, I’m sure some of the other disabled and elderly folk around here will be too.

Now I’m increasingly concerned along with I’m sure many of my other visually impaired friends what unsuspecting  dangers  lie ahead once our feet head out the door and will it come to the point like a large percentage of visually impaired people that it’s just too dangerous and stressful to risk life and limb on this particular obstacle course of our streets which has no health and safety regulation attached to protect us.

 

 

 

 

 

A day to remember

A few months ago I was invited to a wedding reception by a couple of friends from my school days who were getting married, it was totally unexpected but rather nice.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to go or not, due to a number of reasons but particularly down to concerns regarding my recent health issues.  Nearing the time of the wedding reception although I was feeling better, I wasn’t sure about going as I was concerned about travelling alone.  Amazingly one of my friends was coming to my area on some business and said they would come with me all the way there and some of the way back on Sunday, so I accepted.  He got a good deal on a hotel too.

The day before we travelled to Blackpool I met my friend with mutual friends and their daughter in a local café where we put all our plans together, the couple offered to give me a lift to the station which was great too.  That evening I booked my assistance they said they couldn’t guarantee the help as it wasn’t 24 hours in advance which rattled me a bit as it’s not always possible to book ahead, plus I had done some last minute Christmas shopping which delayed my call.  The people I ring up at Journey care are fantastic though.

Our lift got us to the train on time and the assistance turned up, so that was a relief.  Although our train was on time it didn’t arrive on time at our change over stop which meant we missed the train we were to catch but fortunately there were more trains to Blackpool from that stop than I originally thought, so we hopped on the train and arrived in time to do a quick call in at our hotel to drop our things off and head straight to the wedding reception.

My friends daughter spotted me if I remember rightly and found a table with my friend Mrs Bubbles and her husband Benedict Bubbles, we were all rather hungry, I hadn’t eaten till early that morning, fortunately I had a few flapjacks with me which I had baked a couple of days earlier! I managed to go and see the bride who looked lovely in purple and white.

I looked around and spotted a woman from my school year and her husband who I spoke to for a while, when I was at school we had little to do with each other really, however,  we then had a great conversation, which is probably the first proper conversation I ever remember us having. Eventually they came over to join us.

Mrs Bubble, Una Stubbs  (the one I had a great convo with) and I ended up having a picture taken when Mrs Bubble suggested we all said pooh and wee. Mr Benn the groom came over to chat as well later.  Mr DJ came over to get messages to record for Mr and Mrs Benn which I thought was a lovely idea.

At around 5 we ate buffet food we all managed quite well considering there were many people who were visually impaired and some of them had guide dogs, as far as I know there were no crashes and bangs oh  sorrys said which can happen in those sort of situations.  I stayed with a friend sometime ago, who had other friends staying too, we all kept saying sorry to each other because of bumps and crashes, they named it the sorry house. Anyway there was a meat feast and some pizzas and quiche and desert to fill our bellys, I personally found the sweets a bit too rich for me but the rest of the food was great.

There was much laughter, people buying one another drinks (I don’t think I got opportunity to buy drinks) and  discussions varying from books to school and music.  The in house entertainment was a woman who could play various instruments  and sing which was quite good, I wasn’t sure whether it was all completely live or not but I certainly saw the instruments but it was very loud.  I think it was around 8 we had a meal I had lasagne, which was tasty.

The disco got going just towards the end, there was what I call a group karaoke going on, first with Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, earlier on we had Oliver’s army by Elvis Costello. I joined in with the singing but not the dancing till the last track came on.  Apart from being grabbed by one person to dance with me, which I found rather uncomfortable, it was enjoyable both the singing and the dancing.  After saying goodbye to those I could Father Ted and I returned to our hotel.

I surprisingly slept quite well but it took a while to get comfortable as the duvet didn’t quite reach my shoulders.  The bizarre thing about my hotel room was that there was no window. There was also a lot of banging, however I have the beauty of lying on my hearing ear to block out the noise.

The following morning Father Ted and I had a delicious breakfast which was well worth the money, ahhs and oos could be heard when we had entered the restaurant because of Father Ted’s dog who is a gorgeous black Labrador who is a force to be reckoned with. After breakfast  we  headed straight off to the station to catch the train home.  At the station we met up with several of the guests at the previous nights do, and travelled home with one of them, who I will call Dougal, I don’t know why that name, a nice man who had few words but gentle ones.  Father Ted and I went our separate ways and I caught the last leg of the journey home, I was pleased to find I didn’t have to wait long for the bus either.

I want to thank Mr and Mrs Benn for inviting me and everyone who I spent time with over that period of time, it was fun and a privilege to be with such lovely people and certainly a day to remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christianity and Disability

For some time now I’ve been thinking a great deal about this topic.  Just from different things that have happened.  I’ve wondered what is the best approach to talk about this subject or rather write about it.  I’ve come to the conclusion the best way to address it using the passage about Bartimaeus.

1 He cried out

Bartimaeus was on the side begging, but he heard a commotion, he asked what the noise was about and he was told it was Jesus, obviously knowing about who Jesus was, he cried out to him,  he cried out because he knew Jesus could help him.  The words he used was Son of David, have mercy on me.  Yes he was shouting to get Jesus attention because he wouldn’t have been able to find him easily.  But he could have cried out those words for another reason.  Particularly his reference to David.  Was he thinking about the story of Mephibosheth of which  he may have heard in the synagogue, this is recorded in 2 Samuel Ch 9.  David showed kindness to Mephibosheth even though it was his dead rivals sons relative.  Bartimaeus probably didn’t feel that he earned the right to sit at the masters table but asked for mercy anyway. Because he knew that David had shown kindness to someone with a disability.  David had shown kindness on the previous king’s relative by asking him to come to his palace and providing him a place to live and be seated at his table as if he was one of his own.  Mephibosheth was also given servants.  For this Mipobosheth had done nothing to deserve this kindness.  So Bartimaeus was appealing to the son of David’s kindness in the form of Jesus.

2 The people were stern with Bartimaeus

The people’s response to Bartimeaus cries were hostile and harsh telling him to shut up.  Why tell someone in need to shut up, why tell someone whose lived with debilitating condition for many years to shut up.  What is our response when disabled people complain or cry for help?  In fact thankfully in spite of the harshness of the people surrounding him he didn’t give up, he was single minded in his pursuit of Jesus, and had the courage to speak out all the more, telling someone to shut up can often lead to the opposite affect, nothing was going to deter Bartimaeus from receiving his sight not even the fear of man or peoples prejudice.

Before I go any further in this post with the different points of the story I need to say that from this point in the story by the two different accounts recorded in the Bible they diverge.  One accounts Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and  is called over by Jesus, in the other account, he tells those around him to bring Bartimaeus to him.  I’ve decided to go with the account recorded in Luke as I believe it better reflects Jesus character and actions and although I’m sure Bartimaeus threw away his cloak and , therefore throwing away his identity as a disabled person, I don’t believe because of his blindness he would have been able to make his way through a crowd of people to Jesus on his own, therefore I believe Luke’s account is more accurate.  Now I will proceed.

3  Jesus  stopped and commanded “Bring him to me”

Jesus stopped, why because he heard someone cry out to him.  Not just anyone, Jesus didn’t just ignore this man or his disability, in fact he stopped and listened, not only did he stop and listen he also responded. In fact he commanded those around him to bring Bartimaeus to him, he didn’t expect Bartimaeus to try and navigate to him on his own in the huge crowd pressing on him.  He honoured him, he knew his limitations and gave him dignity.

4 Jesus  asked him what he wanted

It may seem strange and it may seem obvious that this man wanted his sight back, but no.  Many disabled people sit in churches and the people assume if they need prayer its because they want prayer for the healing of their particular disability , or that’s the only prayer they need.  NO NO NO.  People with disabilities have the same needs as everyone else, provision, relationships, and emotional health.  so don’t assume when a disabled people come up for prayer its physical healing they want.  Jesus was showing the man respect, he may have already have known Bartimaeus needed physical healing but he needed to ascertain what he wanted at that particular time.  Jesus asked him in order to demonstrate the principle of not assuming you know what someone needs just because it’s obvious.  Also there is more to a disabled person than their disability and this I’m sure he wanted to demonstrate in his actions to the people around him these points that I’ve written here.

5 He responded to his request

Jesus did heal Bartimaeus.  But I want to point something out that may not be obvious. When did Bartimaeus get healed.  You might think it was when Jesus laid hands on him.  I believe it was far sooner than that.  I believe it started at the point where Jesus commanded those around him to bring him to him.  Once those people around Bartiemaeus responded to his command and  brought him to Jesus that’s the point where I believe healing began, because it was a demonstration of love, which I believe is a prerequisite for healing or at least the start.  As soon as Bartimaeus saw Jesus loving response and the immediate kindness from those around him he was able to throw away his identity as a disabled person and become someone with a disability.  Once he reached Jesus then Jesus did the rest.  Bartimaeus became a man who was blind but now could see.

So what does this passage teach us about disability and those of us who are Christians?

1 Listen to people with disabilities  when they cry out for help.

2 Don’t rebuke a disabled person asking for help.

3 Seek to understand what they want and not dismiss their issues and concerns as mere complaining.

4 Ask others to come and assist that individual but be willing to be the one to ultimately help that person if necessary.  Much of the time a disabled person just needs to be heard and understood and ultimately loved the same way as any able bodied person would.

5 Pray for them but ask what they want prayer for.

I may write more on this issue, because I know there are issues that have not yet been addressed. So don’t be surprised if I do another part to this in the future.  Please feel free to ask questions or comment. Thanks 🙂

Letting Go

I was sitting on a train home following a visit to my friends and I thought I saw someone I knew, only from behind, I kept wondering is it them or not, my curiosity was really strong, I was thinking I wish they would turn round then I would know for sure, I wouldn’t want the embarrassment of mistaken identity which is a common thing with Vi’s.  But it got me thinking laterally about other things. my plans and dreams, I knew that I’ve got work to do once I returned home in relation to those things, but I found myself thinking  specifically about the need to let go.  Letting go of the fact that some of my dreams and plans may not come to fruition.  The application form for a course I want to attend I may not be accepted on, this blog may not flourish, the new fb group I’ve created may not gain the momentum I want it too, my current voluntary work may not lead to anything more than it is, therefore it was time to let go.  Also time to let go of not being able to be the kind of friend I want to be to some people, to let go of my expectations of others, of not being the most charismatic individual around.  The list goes on.

Of course I’ve had to let go in the past sometimes I’ve been in no other position but to do so, the death of my mum in 2012, my job when in 2013 the company I worked for went bust.  Believe me those were painful experiences.  But this time on the train I felt these were just clear choices.  The thought was in my mind does it really matter if these things never come to fruition or bear fruit.  So what if I don’t get accepted on the course I want to do would it really be the end of the world?  What about the relationships I have with those around me and my expectations or theirs is it such a big deal?  The fact that I don’t always feel valued and understood by those around me is it really necessary that I need to explain or make myself understood and be valued?

Strangely I felt a smile spread across my face at the thought of letting go, because letting go can mean letting other good things in, there are no limits, we often think our options are limited if we let go,  our fears are that if we let go nothing else will come in its place, hmmm.  Does this mean I should not do what I can to make things work such as this blog and the rest, of course not, my passion for the things I have in the pipeline are still valuable, but passion fuels me to do what I do but it doesn’t rule me.  So I’m  left with a sense of peace about my future after all often we are afraid of the future and what it entails.  I can still make effort with my relationships with the people around me without allowing what I think they need from me to control me.

I rather see my life being like a tree, a tree cannot grow new leaves without shedding some dead ones, but in the place of those leaves new shoots of life replace the dead leaves.  In other words my life has stuff that’s not right  or good in it those things get shaken off and new things or better things come in their place.  I just have to trust that when things die or don’t work out new green shoots will form and grow and produce life and if things don’t work out it means better things are ahead or adaptations need to take place.   Another analogy is the passage where Jesus talks about the seed that has to fall into the ground and die before it bears fruit.  In my case I’ve seen that happen.

In Feb 2000 I got offered an opportunity to do some work for a company I wanted to work for, but it came to nothing, my then pastor mentioned that scripture I mentioned above  that was already confirmation to me, I let it go.  Nine months later I got offered a job at that same company and stayed there for 13 years.  So letting go can be a good thing and it brings peace.

Ok so back to my original  starting point.  So now you maybe wondering did I get to find out if who I saw on the train was the person I thought it was?   Well when the  train finally pulled into my final destination , the assistant met me just at the door of the train, he walked me to the bus stop where I could wait for my bus.  I’d been standing there for a few seconds then I looked to my left, walking away from me was the assistant talking to the person who I thought I recognised on the train, unfortunately again it was from behind so I have no way of knowing whether the person I saw was who I thought it was, and it could have been a different person entirely to the person I saw on the train  so that will be a mystery to me and something I have let go of , so now you will have to let go of knowing who It was I thought I saw 🙂

Independence Part 4: Interdependence

In my previous blog posts we have covered what independence is, the irony of it Co-dependence and now we are covering interdependence.

If we want to be independent but we can’t be truly independent what are we left with.  The answer is interdependence, which is mutual dependence.  A friend of mine got confused with the terms when they thought co-dependence was interdependence.  The difference between the two is that co-dependence is over dependence or reliance on someone else and it’s not necessarily mutual.  Mutual dependence means that  you assist one another in becoming independent by supporting the other person or people where dependence is necessary.

I think a great example of this is in a good working community where everyone understands each others strengths and weaknesses.  For example there are two people one is a middle aged man the other an elderly lady.. The  gentleman  is extremely good at gardening but can’t so a button after his wife died, the elderly lady is no longer able to garden due to arthritis in her knees but she can still sew.  The man who can do her garden will equally be supported by the elderly lady’s ability to sew some trousers or buttons on a shirt. It could be that the elderly lady can teach the gardener to sew themselves and the gardener can show the elderly lady other ways to garden independently without bending down, this could mean the gardener can landscape the garden so there’s very little bending involved, or only have a garden with trees or hanging plants in.  This kind of example could be practised in other ways throughout the community.  A parent who has a car can give a lift for someone who doesn’t have a car in exchange for baby sitting duties.  If the person getting the lift was a teenager they can be taught to drive by that parent and the teenager can assist the parent on maths or IT if they are at adult education classes.

I personally think one of the reasons why so many people rely on welfare or rather have to rely on welfare is that the notion of community has largely disappeared in our modern world, although I believe it seems to be desired.  I know that churches and organisations are setting up projects within neighbourhoods, towns and cities in the UK in an attempt to address this shortfall.  But one of the reasons this is not happening is probably down to trust, can we trust someone to assist us who we barely know?

The place to start I think is in the family unit and try and extend the interdependence model outside of the family unit.  If your not a part of a family unit try and join a community project where your skills and strengths can be utilised and also get support for the things that you need support with, or the things you can teach others.

Now one important thing I want to address, disabled people are the ones that are often seen being the ones that need help, but apparently have nothing or little to offer, this is nothing further from the truth.  Many disabled people are crying out to be integrated into their communities, they have an awful lot to offer, life experience, flexibility, problem solving skills and that doesn’t account for the many other things.  Many of the disabled people I know are more than willing to give to their communities and some have had the opportunity to do so, one of my visually impaired friends, runs a choir for children in their community for instance.

So in conclusion look out to help others and be mindful of the fact that others are willing to help you, but don’t become dependent on people and do things not expecting anything in return no one likes people doing things for ulterior motives. But if someone has helped you in the past be sure to find ways of supporting them in return somewhere down the line, hopefully they weren’t looking for anything in return. Let’s hope we can learn in the future to find ways to not fear to depend on one another without becoming users or becoming over dependent on people. Not to be afraid of asking for help either, knowing that we may be able to do something in return in the future.

I hope this blog post and my others have given people food for thought.  My next blog post will be the last post in this series it will be on coping with losing independence as a result of illness or disability and how to adjust,

4 Es of disability inclusion

Just last week I read this news article from the Disability News service https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/equalityact?source=feed_text&story_id=1172245556134915, which got me thinking about the confusion and miscommunication within the government and lack of real understanding of what is needed to help the disabled be integrated fully into society in whatever sphere it maybe whether it be entertainment, sports and access to city centres and public services.  It then struck me that there were 3 Es to inclusion, a friend of mine came up with the 4th.  So here is my solution using the 4 Es,,

1.    Education

Education in all its forms is vital from the school system teaching children about disability to Disability Awareness Training being provided in the workplace, I believe this should be mandatory for all HR practitioners if it isn’t already, and be part of courses in relation to employment or education.  The public sector should be leading the way in this field.  At the same time those of us with disabilities, should find opportunities where possible to educate those around us, when questions are asked no matter how irritating/embarrassing/nosey/stupid the question, answer in a calm manner as possible.  I believe charities should encourage more educational advertising and TV documentary’s.  Hopefully that may at least lessen the ignorance and discrimination surrounding disability and encourage integration.  However, I do believe that people with disabilities are often the best teachers in this field as they have to educate people pretty regularly on what should or shouldn’t be done.   So if any of my disabled friends are wanting a new career direction try teaching!!

2     Enforcement

The DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) now Equality Act, in theory is a great tool to encourage integration by stamping out discrimination and inequality, however these acts don’t really carry much weight, for instance employers seem to be more frightened of health and safety legislation than the Employment Equality legislation, how is that possible.  This is simply because there is little consequence of breaching it and discrimination can be hard to prove in certain circumstances.  If the Lords are questioning the power of the DDA/Equality Act its not surprising given slow progress in so many areas.    But then it begs the question what is the best way of enforcing these Acts, should the rules be tightened or boundaries broadened what constitutes discrimination.  I personally believe there should be both a carrot and stick approach in these regards.  If the other 3 Es I’m writing about are not supported then this is a last resort.  No disabled person wants to drag able bods kicking and screaming to offer us services or employment without reservation or discrimination but it seems to me that’s where its  heading in light of the fact the Acts have had so little effect on inclusion, particularly in the area of employment.

3. Engagement

This is probably the best way to encourage inclusion, just by the  able bodied community showing their openness  with the disabled community looking to engage in different matters, whether it be of public interest or social interaction.  By involving disabled people in discussion groups, meetings and policy making decisions, it gives the disabled person a voice in the community, the able bodied will see the way disabled people use their transferrable skills they’ve learnt to deal with their particular disability, their problems solving skills, adaptability in difficult circumstances, their ability to think outside the box and level of experience, compassion and wisdom  that can be offered in all matters not just concerning disability.  By engagement and exposure the able bodied people can learn how if in the event they or their family members would overcome obstacles, problems, and learn the new techniques needed to live amongst the able bodied, this would also blast the fear of disability amongst the able bodied and also make it seem more ‘normal’ and liveable, as the biggest problem with being disabled is being rerated with equal value in society.   Communication for disabled people is vital to feel a part of society whatever form that takes whether it is written or verbal.  That would be the first step to encourage engagement.  Most people who engage with a disabled person find that after a while they forget the person has a disability and can see past it.

4     Empathy

The words I most often hear from people with disabilities is “they should walk a mile in my shoes”  Probably after engagement this  is the best way to integrate us into society.  How can you help a disabled person without understanding them.  How can one judge without understanding.  How can anything be really improved without empathy and compassion.  Here’s an example many disabled people struggle with shared surfaces, they are not confident in using them, particularly those who are sight/hearing impaired.  Although vehicles are slower they are quieter, with other competing noises unless you have excellent hearing you haven’t got a chance to get out of the way if a vehicle suddenly appears from seemingly nowhere, a taxi driver just the other day swung from behind to the left of me, I didn’t hear it behind me.  It only takes one bad move by the unseeing, unhearing pedestrian to end up coming into contact with another vehicle.  How can empathy work here, well literally take a blind fold and ear muffs, stick them on the head of an able bodied person and see how they manage without help, they will soon understand the health and safety risks involved, they will soon understand things from our point of view and will LISTEN and respond to what’s required to improve safety whilst walking on foot.  There’s nothing like empathy to really know the implications of living with a disability, without empathy there is no action.

In conclusion

The 4 Es I’ve listed above are just brief descriptions of what’s needed to integrate the disabled person into society, without Education , Engagement and Empathy there will be no action and the walls of discrimination, resentment, and ignorance towards people with disabilities will continue, and the law of enforcement will have to take over which may not be so desired even by those with disabilities, so I would encourage anyone reading this who is able bodied to put these things in mind particularly if you are involved with any organisation, business or public sector, consider using the 3 Es to show above all that you value people with disabilities and you are willing to show that they are valuable to the able bodied people around them.

 

 

Independence what does it mean to you? Part 1

Recently I was listening to a woman talking about the issues she was having looking after her husband who has some form of dementia, obviously looking after someone with this illness is difficult at the best of times.  I was listening to her sharing her frustration about her lack of sleep, the fact that her husband keeps waking her up during the night as he keeps getting lost. The following day she ends up tired out, amongst other things she was sharing.  She felt alone, abandoned, at her wits end, frustrated, angry, and most importantly trapped. I am certain her husband feels many of those things too, angry, frustrated, alone, confused and above all trapped.  They are both trapped for different reasons, one for being ill and the other for being in the role of carer.

The thing that came into sharp focus for me is the thing that upsets them both the most, the one they both share  is their loss of independence.

Independence to me is  the ability to do anything without restrictions from others or circumstances. Well this begs a questions. What does independence mean to us? and do we value independence?

Sometime in the first year of my life it was discovered that my life would be different from that of others, my parents discovered I was blind.  This meant some changes which would impact my life for good.  My parents I’m sure wondered how I would get on in the big wide world, what adjustments would need to be made in order for me to live my life as independent as possible yes as independent as possible.

From the day we are born we are learning and are encouraged  to become independent, to gradually learn to navigate our own way in the world, everything from feeding, clothing ourselves, to move around on our own, making important decisions about our future etc.  We are forever progressing towards independence.  But how many of us ever considered that there is a strong possibility that once we gain independence that we can lose it in an instant or gradually and how we would cope if that was lost, how many of us have really faced that possibility.

I’ve been in the position that although I have some form of independence, it is hindered.  I can’t drive so I have to rely on a good transport system and have to plan my journeys more than most, accounting for time allowance, busy periods, cost, engineering works if it’s a train journey.  I can’t go abroad on my own unless it’s to see my relatives, or an expensive travel service, other groups aren’t disability friendly the mobility problems are magnified if I tried to go on my own.  In other words I do have to rely on others, services etc to be truly independent.

Anyway I don’t want to make it sound like my life is terrible it isn’t.  The point is I VALUE the independence and freedom that I have, and I know some people have it worse.

I think that so many people don’t consider what it would mean to lose their independence, they take it for granted, and some particularly dare I say our Government see no problem in removing anything or anyone that helps people who are sick or disabled to live their lives independently.

When people lose their independence I find most people can’t handle it and few really come to terms with it.  They’ve never thought it would happen to them or refused to face the fact it could happen to them.

When my lovely nan was unable to walk into town anymore, she had to rely on my aunt to get her shopping for her and would soon get upset if my aunt got her the wrong things, she couldn’t do her own shopping anymore, she didn’t have the freedom of choice she used to have and her frustration and resentment of not being independent would boil over.

For those who are independent now think about what you are free to do now on your own without having to rely on anyone else, think about what you would do if you lost it.  Finally don’t take your independence for granted you don’t know how long you’ve got it for.

This is looking to become a 4 part series.  The next blog entry will be addressing the irony of independence.