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Archives for April 2006

Manchester Paralympic World Cup

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Crippled Monkey | 12:32 UK time, Friday, 28 April 2006

The Visa Paralympic World Cup kicks off in Manchester on Monday. 360 athletes from 40 countries are competing in the four events: track cycling, swimming, wheelchair basketball and athletics.

Some of the headlines ...

This week's big shocker is that the near-unbeatable Canadian wheelchair athlete Chantal Petitclerc has pulled out due to sickness.

Those of you who missed uber-Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson at last week's London Marathon will be pleased to hear that her absence wasn't due to illness, but because this year's training had been geared towrds the shorter distances she'll be competing in at next week's games. She's won the London Marathon six times before though, so we can perhaps let her off? The British winner of the men's marathon will be featuring too in the 100, 200 and 1500 metres wheelchair racing. Nineteen year-old Shelly Woods, who came second in the women's marathon, will be competing in the 200 and 800 metres.

Britain's wheelchair basketball team will be competing, but now without Ade Adepitan, who recently retired in order to put in more time into dancing on BBC ONE (we made that last bit up, though it could be true).

To stay up to date with the Paralympic World Cup, keep looking in on the BBC Disability Sport website. Sunday Grandstand will be at the athletics events on 7 May, with live coverage plus highlights from the week.

Free Audio Described cinema passes

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Emma Emma | 12:01 UK time, Friday, 28 April 2006

Your local cinema .com are giving away free stuff.

If you fill out their fully accessible audio description survey, you could win one of 10 sets of two cinema passes to any Vue, Odeon or UCI cinema.

It only takes a minute, and information gathered will be used to promote and spread awareness of Audio Description in the cinema. This service provides a running commentary on the visual aspects of a film. You pick up a headset at the box office and only you will hear it. Magic!!

Any visually impaired person I know who's tried it says that it has changed the way they watch movies for ever, and greatly increased their enjoyment and awareness of what is happening on screen.

So click here to fill the survey out, and it may not just be your carer who gets to go free.

For more information on all aspects of Audio Description in the UK, whether it be in the cinema, on TV or at the theatre or an event, please check out the recently updated Ouch Guide to Audio Description.

Blogging Against Disablism: another update

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Crippled Monkey | 11:15 UK time, Friday, 28 April 2006

News from BADD Central (BADD = Blogging Against Disablism Day, which Crippled Monkey is simply loving as an acronym) is that overnight the number of participating blogs broke through the one hundred barrier! There are now 103 blogs taking part in Monday's activities!

If you're a blogger - disabled or non-disabled - it's still not to late to sign up. Get yourself over to Diary of a Goldfish and add your site's URL.

Have You Ever Heard of Japan's Helen Keller?

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Vaughan | 10:41 UK time, Friday, 28 April 2006

Japan is about to see its first movie about a deafblind person. The film, the title of which translates as Have You Ever Heard of Japan's Helen Keller?, recounts the eventful life of a 74-year-old deafblind woman and her battle to achieve equal rights for people with visual and hearing impairments.

It's based on the story of an unnamed woman - her identity has been kept secret to preserve her privacy - who lost her sight and hearing in accidents in her early 20s. In 1964, she formed the first national group seeking to improve conditions for people with visual and hearing impairments, but after her mother died in 1975 she had to give up her job and her social life because she had relied on her mother for assistance. Since then, she has lived alone in a secluded house provided by volunteers, after local people pressured her to move from the home where she grew up because the building had fallen into a state of disrepair and the neighbours were worried that she might start a fire. (I've heard of being a 'fire risk', but that's ridiculous.) As the film's director, Setsuo Nakayama, says: "Local residents ... isolated her under the pretext of providing her with a better life. But actually it was to protect their normal daily lives".

The film's distributor, Sumio Yamamoto, was determined to get the movie made after meeting the woman at the centre of the story: "I thought her story should be made into a film at any cost ... I felt anger growing inside me. Why does a person like her, who is competent and passionate, have to be marginalized in society?".

Although due to be shown only in Japan at present, the distributors are hoping to take the film overseas in the future, so keep a look-out for it.

They're coming to take me away

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Crippled Monkey | 16:50 UK time, Wednesday, 26 April 2006

It's that old question again about who can laugh about disability, why should we laugh and when.

Listen to Radio 4 this Thursday morning for They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha. Actor and comic John Sessions - with a little help from his guests - takes a close look at how comedians have taken the subject of mental health and tackled it head on over the years. What's the fascination?

It first airs on Thursday 27 April at 11:30am or late on Sunday night, 30 April, at 12.15am. Both on Radio 4. After it's first broadcast you'll be able to listen again on the Radio 4 website. Amazing, really.

Is President Bush disabled?

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Crippled Monkey | 10:47 UK time, Wednesday, 26 April 2006

And now for a couple of mental health stories that recently caught Crippled Monkey's attention.

First, there's a bit of a scandal breaking across the Atlantic as it's revealed by US researchers that most of the experts who wrote the manual widely used in America to diagnose mental illness have had financial ties to makers of drugs. They're now calling for full disclosure of the relationships between companies and the medical experts who put togther the snappily-named Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Of course, this could be something that the US President himself might like to look into as, allegedly, according to a new book by Professor Justin Frank, an American psychiatrist, George W. Bush 'is suffering from serious mental illness'. So there you go. Er, allegedly. Again.

Professor Frank says that Bush exhibits classic signs of having paranoid schizophrenia, which lead him to "believe hs is omnipotent and able to operate outside the law", plus that he could be "driven by his medical condition to invent and then destroy enemies to demonstrate his power to the world".

The White House has refused to comment, other than offering a curt: "We don't do book reviews".

Abnormally Funny People

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Emma Emma | 15:59 UK time, Monday, 24 April 2006

Following on from their huge success at last year's Edinburgh Festival, Abnormally Funny People are back. This time, the show will take place in the Soho Theatre, London. from Thursday 27 to Saturday 29 April.

Along with token able-bodied comedian Steve Best, the bill includes our very own Ouch writer and podcast presenter Liz Carr, Simon Minty, and Canadian Tanyalee Davis. Replacing blind comedian Chris McCausland and deaf stand-up Steve Day are Gareth Berliner and Paul Bentley.

All shows start at 8.00pm, and Thursday is already sold out. So get your tickets while you can by calling the Soho Theatre box office on 0870 429 6883, or online here.

Blogging Against Disablism Day: update

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Crippled Monkey | 15:47 UK time, Monday, 24 April 2006

Last week on Ouch's weblog, Lady Bracknell revealed the exciting plans in the disability blogosphere (as all the cool kids now call it) for a Blogging Against Disablism Day on Monday 1 May.

Well, with a week to go until the big day, Crippled Monkey spoke this morning to The Goldfish (AKA Ouch messageboard reguilar DH Kelly), the brains behind the idea, to get an update on how it's all going. She told me that there are now an amazing 68 blogs signed up to be involved (a figure that's continuing to grow) - and that they hail from all points of the globe. The UK and the USA are obviously well-represented, but there are also several sites from Australia on the list, plus others from Sweden and Germany. Oh, and it's not just blogging either, as tabulas.com is promising a podcast for the event. Meanwhile, the organisers of Blog Against Racism and Blog Against Sexism have also given Blogging Against Disablism Day a mention.

What's promised for the day itself? Well, lots and lots (and lots) of posts from all across blogland about disablism, of course! And after the event, DH Kelly hopes to provide an overview on her blog of what people have been writing about. In the meantime, though, as a rallying cry she highly recommends checking out a post entitled One in Seven by, um, a blogger whose name may seem a little familar to Ouch readers ...

You've still got a whole week to sign up for Blogging Against Disablism Day, so get yourself over to Diary of a Goldfish and find out how to get involved.

My Baby: A Life Worth Living?

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Emma Emma | 14:19 UK time, Monday, 24 April 2006

In the BBC FOUR documentary, My Baby: A Life Worth Living?, Candida Harris explores the emotional and practical dilemmas faced by couples desperate for a family, yet all too aware of the implications of passing on their disability to their children.

Disabled herself, with a 50 percent chance of passing the condition on to her child, Candida speaks to four different women and their families, who find themselves in a similar situation. One couple's only definite way of avoiding passing a condition on to their second child would be to get pregnant, then screen and abort if the condition is detected. The second family have a severe genetic condition which cannot be found during a screening process. Others have knowingly passed on disabilities to their offspring.

"What struck me most when speaking to the different families", recounts documentary maker Candida Harris, "is that even now, when there is so much more testing and screening available, it doesn't make the situation or decision-making process any easier."

The programme also explores new developments in reproductive technology - in particular, one technique which can produce a baby free of a certain condition.

We are reminded, though, by Candida that "even though there are many options available to lower the risk of having a child with a genetic condition, these avenues are certainly not open to everyone. In addition to this, even if methods such as PDG, a type of IVF where embryos are screened before implantation, are explored, the outcome isn't always good."

The documentary comes at the same time as scientists unveil a possible new method of screening unborn babies for particular conditions: read this story from The Guardian.

My Baby: A Life Worth Living? airs on BBC FOUR on Wednesday 26 April at 9.00pm. It is repeated three a half hours later at 12.30am.

Put on your bra with Naidex

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Crippled Monkey | 15:42 UK time, Friday, 21 April 2006

Naidex, the annual UK disability equipment show, is back with us next week.

On the first day they will be announcing the winner in their best new disability product awards.

The shortlist of nine finalists includes: a hearing loop that uses radio frequency, a hands-free hydration system, and a product that helps women with limited mobility put on their brassieres.

The event takes place at Birmingham NEC on April 25-27. For more details, go to the Naidex website.

Any suggestions for a piece of access kit you might fancy? You never know, some clever inventor science people might be reading this blog.

Fined for crossing the road too slowly

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Lady Bracknell | 13:01 UK time, Friday, 21 April 2006

Lady Bracknell is sure she isn't the only Ouch reader who rarely manages to make it all the way across a road before the lights change. She wouldn't, however, expect to be financially penalised for being mobility impaired.

But that's exactly what's happened in Los Angeles to 82-year old Mayvis Coyle, who has been fined 114 dollars for taking too long to cross a street. No, really. The ticketing officer told her she was "obstructing traffic".

Questioned about the incident, police sergeant Mike Zaboski said, "I'd rather not have angry pedestrians. But I'd rather have them be alive".

Would it, then, be entirely unreasonable of Lady Bracknell to retort that she would personally rather be angry than alive but stuck on the wrong side of the street?

• Visit The Perorations of Lady Bracknell

David Tennant to play builder with brain injury

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Emma Emma | 10:40 UK time, Friday, 21 April 2006

In a 90-minute drama for the BBC, likely to be screened in the Autumn, new Doctor Who David Tennant will play Alan, a building site manager learning to cope with brain injury after a car crash.

Written by Tony Marchant, the drama will examine issues of identity and the care afforded to people who suffer brain injuries.

To find out more, read this article from the Media Guardian.

This dramatisation of the issues facing those who have acquired such injuries comes 13 years after the BBC took a very different approach. The comedy series If You See God, Tell Him, broadcast in 1993, enters the life of Godfrey Spry, who - having been struck on the head by a plummeting wheelbarrow full of rubble - is largely immobile and has an attention span of only 30 seconds. As a result, he obsesses over TV commercials because they represent one of the few things that he can follow from beginning to end, and starts to believe everything the advertisers claim. Read more on the BBC Comedy Guide.

Alcohol and mental health

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Emma Emma | 11:10 UK time, Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Mental Health Action Week is currently in full swing, running from 16-22 April, and to coincide with this, the Mental Health Foundation has just released Cheers? This is a new research report outlining the relationship between alcohol and mental health. The report shows evidence that many adults in the UK are using alcohol to deal with feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, and that excessive drinking increases vulnerability to a range of mental health problems.

Here are just two of the worrying statistics found in the report:

• The UK ranks 22 out of 185 countries in alcohol consumption.
• 70 per cent of men who commit suicide have drunk alcohol before doing so.

Click here to read the Cheers? report in full.

Dwarf Kiss tribute band spat

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Crippled Monkey | 17:08 UK time, Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Heard the one about the rival KISS tribute bands both fronted by people of restricted growth? Well, check out these headlines: Rival all-dwarf KISS tribute bands not about to make up and KISS gets short shrift.

Joey Fatale, head of MiniKiss, denies he tried to get past security to confront Tim Loomis of Tiny Kiss at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas last month, for allegedly ripping off his idea for a smaller tribute version of the glam rock band. I was about to write that it's not happy in their neck of the woods, but realised that this could be some kind of subconscious disablism kicking in after having been subject to years of "they're just like you and me but smaller" cutesy coverage in newspapers and TV.

It's got Monkey thinking about what other bands would work well two feet smaller. And here's where I end this entry.

Blogging Against Disablism Day

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Lady Bracknell | 14:41 UK time, Tuesday, 18 April 2006

The Goldfish - whose blog was featured last week in The Guardian - has decreed that May 1st shall henceforward be devoted to blogging against disablism.

"Many of us blog regularly on subjects surrounding disablism and disability issues," says Goldfish. "But the idea is to see how powerful disabled people and the supporters of equality can be as a combined voice in the blogosphere. Are there as many people prepared to put their two pennies’ worth in on this subject as there are on sexier subjects such as Race and Gender?"

Well, are there? If you feel strongly about discrimination against disabled people and you've got a blog or some other corner of cyberspace you can call your own, don't miss this opportunity to be one voice among many, all simultaneously telling it like it is.

If you've been thinking about setting up a blog of your own, but haven't quite got round to it, now's a very good time to start. You don't have to be disabled to take part: anybody who objects to discrimination against disabled people is welcome to join in.

The Goldfish - better known to some messageboard users as DH Kelly - will be publishing a list of contributors on her blog. So, if you want your own post to be linked in, follow these instructions. It'll be more fun than sitting in a traffic jam on Bank Holiday Monday, and you'll be in good company.

• Visit The Perorations of Lady Bracknell

The Miracle Boat

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Emma Emma | 13:27 UK time, Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Tonight at 8.30pm on BBC FOUR, you can see The Miracle Boat. This is a documentary charting the success of the Hilwai, a floating orthopaedic clinic, established by the French charity, Handicap International. The 50-foot boat, manned by local people, seeks out those in need, stranded on the Philippines' seven thousand remote islands, and manufactures prosthetic limbs for them.

For a more in-depth description of what the documentary will cover, and to read a couple of the clinic's success stories, check out this BBC news story.

The programme will be repeated on Friday 14 April at 2.00am.

Train terrain is lame

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Crippled Monkey | 16:57 UK time, Monday, 10 April 2006

David Burrows is a wheelchair user . . . and hence not much of a train user. If he wants to get into the centre of town he has to book assistance to get to the right platform cos of the ruddy great inaccessible footbridge. When wanting to get to a decent pub, you can imagine the poor fellow's frustration. Pity would be a good word to use here - for a change.

He's made a film about it for BBC London's Video Nation pages, where you can find out how he eventually got to the pub.

If you fancy making a film for your local Video Nation project, take a look at their website to find out how.

Dyslexia made me big in tiny art

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Lady Bracknell | 10:17 UK time, Monday, 10 April 2006

When Willard Wigan, who has dyslexia, started school in 1962, he wasn't exactly blessed with forward-thinking teachers. He was considered illiterate by them, and his work was described as "disgusting" to the other children in the class.

"I was programmed to believe that everything I did was no good", he says, "and I believed that". As a result, Willard used to truant from school. He spent a lot of time in the woods, and started to build tiny props for insects. He then moved on to carving.

"I did little sculptures of the teachers. They made me feel small, so I wanted to make them look small in my child's mind."

Since that time, Willard's work has got smaller and smaller, and "he is now emerging as the most globally celebrated micro-miniaturist of all time" - at least, according to his website.

Take a look at some examples of his art. Most are so small that they can't be seen by the naked eye.

In order to carve in such painstakingly minute detail - where even the slightest tremor in his hands would be catastrophic - Willard has taught himself to slow down his breathing and heart, and to work in the spaces between heartbeats. He can keep still for 22 hours without moving.

In an interview with Liza Tenzin-Dolma, Willard says:

"I have now carved a ship on an eyelash. A girl in the eye of a needle. A village on a speck of dust - with trees and everything. I've done a cottage with a garden on a pin-head; a camel in the eye of a needle; Samson splitting a human hair. I've done Stuart Little in the eye of a needle; Adam and Eve on a pencil head; Goldilocks and the three Bears on a toothpick. And Elvis Presley in the eye of a needle.

"Now I'm being appreciated, accepted, recognised - not for being dyslexic, but for who I am as a person, and for my skills.

"What was done to me, being made to feel small, has made me greater."

• If you'd like to see some of Willard's work up close, it's currently being exhibited in the Harvey Nicholls store in Manchester.

• Visit The Perorations of Lady Bracknell

Goldilocks in BSL

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Vaughan | 12:16 UK time, Thursday, 6 April 2006

One for younger (much younger) Ouch readers here. The BBC's Tweenies site has a new user-generated story - it's Goldilocks, and it's all told in British Sign Language by the children of Blanche Neville School in Haringey, London. It's a charming and entertaining piece of video, which will enchant deaf and hearing children alike (as well as 34-year-old web geeks, actually).

Showing non-disabled people how to love

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Lady Bracknell | 15:06 UK time, Wednesday, 5 April 2006

Lady Bracknell, who was recently granted temporary sick leave from these pages by the Crippled Monkey, is back with what may well be her most cringe-inducing 'news' item to date.

If you've ever stopped to ponder the eternal question of why you were put on this earth, Daniel Allott, writing in Human Events Online, has the answer. (Well, it's an answer. Of sorts. Depending on your point of view.)

Yes, the good news is that disabled people offer "something invaluable in today's world". Would that be our resilience, perhaps? Our sense of humour? Our problem-solving skills? Er, no. The purpose of our otherwise pitiable lives is, apparently, to show non-disabled people "how to love, and thus, how to live".

"People with disabilities awaken our hearts because in order to care for them properly we must do more. Our hearts must enlarge for them or the love dies, and often they die."
The assertion that we'll all die if non-disabled people don't love us enough has come as rather a nasty shock to Lady Bracknell, who is far from convinced that she is intrinsically loveable and is now a bit worried that she may, on occasion, have behaved in a less-than-suitably-subservient manner towards those people on whom her continuing existence would seem to depend. And that it may be too late for her to change her ways.

Mr Allott's paean of praise to us goes on:

"Loving the disabled is not simply about doing good deeds but also about being open and vulnerable to them, in order not only to give love but also to receive the genuine love that they yearn to express."
Lady Bracknell can't help but suspect that the average Ouch reader may at this point decide that, while there is definitely something they are yearning to express for Mr Allott, that something couldn't accurately be described as "genuine love".

• Visit The Perorations of Lady Bracknell

Eden Project: disability embarrassment comments row

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Crippled Monkey | 15:10 UK time, Tuesday, 4 April 2006

A senior Eden Project member of staff has resigned after saying that they like to hide their disabled employees away from public view.

Horticulture Week reported last Thursday that Sue Minter, now former Director of Horticulture at Eden, said that the image of horticulture was "bad enough already". Specifically the comments were about people with learning difficulties.

She told a recent Green Skills Seminar: "We place the disabled behind the scenes. We have a responsibility for professional horticulture’s image."

Yahoo News today reports that Eden chief steps down over comments, saying that: "The Eden Project denied the claims and said the project was about 'acknowledging diversity and using people's strengths'."

It reminded Crippled Monkey of the uncharitable comments made by the former Aussie Vice President of the Commonwealth Games, Arthur Tunstall, in 1994, just before the integrated Games in Victoria, Canada. He didn't like the fact that disabled events were being held alongside those for non-disabled athletes. He said:

"It's got to be an embarrassment because people are going out of their way to assist them, and the able people are a little bit embarrassed to have them around. I can tell you back in Australia people feel exactly the same way."
Those were the unenlightened dark ages of disability though, because Mr Tunstall didn't resign. But he was 82 and a bit of an old codger. He later drowned in a solo yachting accident ... just a few years before the Paralympics committee banned athletes with learning difficulties, a ban that still exists today. Hmm.

David Beckham OBE, OCD

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Emma Emma | 11:24 UK time, Tuesday, 4 April 2006

You really would need to have been wrapped in cotton wool, bless, over the past couple of days to have missed David Beckham hitting the headlines again. However, it wasn't for scoring the winning goal or due to reported relationship problems. No, it was his admission to having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

In an interview with Tim Lovejoy, to be broadcast on ITV1 in the run-up to this summer's World Cup, David Beckham said:

"I have got this disorder where I have to have everything in a straight line or everything has to be in pairs. I'll put my Pepsi cans in the fridge and if there's one too many then I'll put it in another cupboard somewhere. I'll go into a hotel room and before I can relax I have to move all the leaflets and all the books and put them in a drawer."
Unfortunately for David, he doesn't seem to be heaped with support from family and team-mates. He told Tim Lovejoy that Victoria calls him a "weirdo" for his behaviour, and he keeps his disorder a secret from fellow players at Real Madrid.

He recalls regular teasing by Manchester United players, while with the club at away games: "I thought they were just coming in for a chat. But then they'd go out and I'm thinking, 'Something's different here'. And then all the magazines would be all wonky."

Luckily, David need certainly not feel alone or uncomfortable with his OCD in celeb land. The press have managed to put together an extensive list of stars who are reported to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, including: Paul Gascoigne, Woody Allen, Harrison Ford, Emily Lloyd, Michelle Pfeiffer, Billy Bob Thornton, Natalie Appleton and Winona Ryder. And from earlier eras: Howard Hughs, Charles Dickens and Marcel Prouste.

And of course there's Ouch! We'll speak to you about OCD any time, Mr Beckham, and our regular columns by OCD'er Julia Kite are essential reading.

If you want to avoid tabloidy headlines such as: 'Straighten it like Beckham', and 'Count it like Beckham', then check out the Daily Mail's 'The obsessive disorder that haunts my life' or 'Beckham reveals his battle with obsessive disorder' in yesterday's Independent.

Glaucoma Hymn

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Crippled Monkey | 18:36 UK time, Monday, 3 April 2006

This is a quick nod towards a bizarre bit of disability cool on the web. Everyone in the Ouch office appreciated what we thought was eye disease irony but, on reflection, we think it might be for real. Not that it matters, because it's great ... oh, read on and see what I'm babbling on about. The next paragraph will make more sense. Honest, it will.

If you visit The Association of International Glaucoma Societies website, you are immediately treated to a highly produced musical number entitled Glaucoma Hymn. Here are the lyrics:

"Glaucoma, Glaucoma, Glaucoma
Constricting vision slowly
Halted by progress of science
Vision of a world united
Beyond all science knowing."
Soprano Melanie Greve delivers a near operatic rendition of the above.

I Love Being ... Mad

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Emma Emma | 13:42 UK time, Monday, 3 April 2006

They're sick of just being medicated and marginalised. They're as mad as hell and they won't take it any more. I Love Being ... Mad, broadcasting tonight (Monday) at 9.00pm on BBC THREE, investigates how and why the rights of people with mental illness are being as vociferously defended by some, just as much as gay rights and multi-culturalism.

The programme focuses on three people, all with a strong history of mental illness, and highlights Creative Routes, a South London-based organisation, staging a variety of events which try to highlight the creativity of so-called 'mad' people.

According to the programme's website, I Love Being ... Mad offers a rare insight into some of the alternative lifestyles of people with a mental illness, where they remain in control with or without medication.

The programme will first be shown tonight at 9.00pm, with repeats on Tuesday 4 April at 12.55am and Thursday 6 April at 2.35am.

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