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Archives for December 2011

In with the old: New Year articles from the Ouch! Archives

Emma Emma | 16:43 UK time, Thursday, 22 December 2011

Champaign glasses with fireworks in the background

The countdown to 2012 has begun in earnest. While folk the world over are planning their New Year's resolutions, Here are some January gems from the Ouch! archives.

As 2004 drew to a close, Victoria Lucas took a wry look at the six things she'd quite like to change or improve about her self and her life. Being nice to non-disabled people, losing her outer Homer Simpson and learning to enjoy exercise made the list.

In a new year, a new you,Tom Shakespeare was much more specific in his goal. He resolved to tackle that age old problem, weight gain. As a person of short stature, Tom was worried about excess pressure on his joints and was determined to spend January 2007 battling the bulge.

Resolutions are a bit lower down on Laurence Clark's agenda as the inevitable count down to midnight begins. He was born early on New Year's day morning. This badly timed entrance into the world has kept his birthday presents and parties to a minimum, but that's not all. Laurence believes that a little too much party spirit in the hospital while his mum was in labour that New Year's eve night, is the reason why he has cerebral palsy.

And finally, at the end of last year, Disability Bitch looked into her crystal ball and made her predictions for 2011. We already know that DB is as grumpy and cynical as they come, but how accurate was she?

A very happy New Year to you all, from the Ouch! team.

Disability news round up

Emma Emma | 12:29 UK time, Thursday, 22 December 2011

Labour and NSP members of the Scottish Parliament are expected to turn down Westminster's consent request to implement parts of the welfare reform bill, in favour of making the necessary legal changes themselves.

They are due to vote against elements of the motion relating to the introduction of universal credit and personal independence payments. Other parts of the bill will go unopposed.

The Scottish Government will then need to bring forward its own legislation to ensure policies tied to the UK benefits system continue to operate in Scotland.

Elsewhere in the news

'Disability benefit' shake-up 'grinding to a halt' (BBC News)

Is the new disabled work benefit working? (BBC News)

No disability living allowance for me. Nowhere to turn for many more (Comment is free, The Guardian)

Disability benefits cuts: a disaster waiting to happen (Patrick Butler's Cuts blog, The Guardian)

The elderly couple who gained an extra £30,000 in benefits... thanks to a welfare adviser (The Belfast Telegraph)

Koran explained in sign language to help deaf Muslims (BBC News)

Beethoven music shaped by gradual deafness, say experts (BBC News)

'Deaf people can feel the music' (Radio 4 Today programme)

Specialist teacher training support for dyslexic pupils (BBC News)

I long for the day when someone with dwarfism reads the news (Comment is free, The Guardian)

Thalidomide class action lawsuit to be heard in Australia (The Guardian)

Talk point: Fighting the stigma of disability (The Guardian)

Christian Bale slammed by Chinese government for trying to visit blind activist - video (The Mirror)

Vic Finkelstein: Academic and disability activist - obituaries (The Independent)

BBC TV and radio this week: the Life's Too Short series finale and stress levels in the UK

Dan Slipper Dan Slipper | 10:19 UK time, Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Actor Warwick Davis

In the series finale of Life's Too Short, Warwick attended a charity event in the hope of hanging out with celebrities. However, in trying to impress pop star Sting he ended up spending more than he could afford.

Other highlights:

Listen - Radio 4 - All In The Mind
Claudia Hammond heard about the results of a BBC scientific study into stress levels in the UK and what they reveal about the origins of mental health problems.

Listen - Radio 4 - Can You Touch Your Toes?
Anita Anand investigated the new system designed to establish who is and is not fit for work. She followed four people with different disabilities and health conditions as they navigated the process, from filling in forms to the 'computer-led' medical, through to the results and the appeals process.

Listen - Radio 4 - In Touch
Peter White examined imaginative and safe ways to stir fry in the latest Can't See Will Cook segment.

Listen - World Service - Outlook
Businesswoman-turned-philanthropist Dame Stephanie Shirley described raising her severely autistic son Giles.

Listen - World Service - World Have Your Say
The programme explored whether you can ever fight cancer with a positive attitude?

Watch - BBC Two - See Hear
Award-winning filmmaker Sam Dore joined Memnos and Radha to review the latest cinema and DVD releases.

Watch - Cbeebies - Something Special
Entertaining regular educational series for four to seven year old children with learning difficulties.

Listen - Radio 4 - You & Yours - Weekdays at noon
The consumer affairs programme which regularly includes disability issues.

Coming soon:

Listen - Radio 4 - Am I Really Free?
When are mentally ill patients really free to make decisions about their treatment?

Catch up with disability radio and TV programmes on the BBC every Wednesday on this blog.

Christmas crackers from the Ouch! archives: part two

Emma Emma | 10:22 UK time, Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas tree decoration

As promised, here's a second helping of Christmas cheer, as we bring you holiday highlights from the BBC Ouch! archives.

Childhood Christmas

Childhood Christmases tend to be memorable for all sorts of reasons and sometimes, if you're disabled, your experiences may be a little different.

• On the 2009 December Ouch! Talk Show, actresses Julie Fernandez and Kiruna Stamell joined Mat and Liz on a walk down a Christmas treelined memory lane. Julie's abiding memory is recovering from surgery, while Kiruna spent the holidays on the beach in her homeland of Australia.

• In its a disability nativity conspiracy, veteran disabled athlete, and now Baroness, Tanni Grey-Thompson, wrote about one advantage of being a disabled child at a mainstream school.

She set out to prove through her own experiences, that the disabled kid gets all the best parts in the annual Nativity. Do you agree?

• From mainstream school to special school, where blind journalist Sunil Peck spent many a December in his childhood. In his article Deck the school with boughs of holly, he remembers how the arrival of Christmas meant the relaxation of the usually rigid residential routine.

• In Liz Carr's the ghost of Christmas past, she remembers how much Christmas day changed for her after becoming disabled at the age of seven.


One of our favourite Christmas tricks, particularly in 2004 it seems, has been to give some classic Yuletide tales the disability treatment.

• Ian Cook's the 12 days of disability Christmastook us on a journey through the festive season. This rather informative piece, tells you everything you could possibly need to know about disability and midwinter celebrations.

a Christmas tail, by Adam Hills, tells the story of Gimpy the one-horned reindeer. He had a very wonky horn as it happens and was having some difficulty coming to terms with this fact, until an incredible thing occurred.

• Moving forward now to 2010, and to last year's festive Talk Show. Liz Carr plays Tiny Tim, the main character in a sequel to the Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. Mat Fraser plays Scrooge, Tim's self-appointed live-in carer.

The Ouch! team would like to wish all of our readers and talk show subscribers a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Stella Young: knitting pretty

Guest Guest | 10:57 UK time, Monday, 19 December 2011

Stella Young knitting

Stella Young's love affair with needles and yarn began in childhood and continues to flourish today. In the latest of our series on hobbies, the Australian comedian, broadcaster and disability activist, writes about her passion for knitting.

I learnt to knit more than once. When I was about seven, I was taught by my mum. I made a pink and blue striped scarf all in plain garter stitch. It took forever. It was ok but I put down the needles as soon as it was finished and didn't pick them back up for a while.

When I was 11 and in Grade six at school, the ladies from the local branch of the Country Women's Association came to teach us to knit for an hour each Friday for a whole term. We each received a brown paper bag with a pattern, a ball of scratchy horrible acrylic yarn - the like of which I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole nowadays - and a set of needles.

As a kid who already knew how to knit, I was off and away. The pattern was for a beanie and I'd lucked out with scratchy yarn which had a hue of garish yellow. I made a beanie for my Dad but, unfortunately for him, I had not yet mastered the art of consistent tension and the result was more like an enormous Rasta hat than a beanie.

Despite the enormous sloppy result of my first project, I had begun to fall in love with the art of knitting.

I was a bright kid, and very competitive academically. But given I was also a disabled kid, I was no match for my classmates when it came to pursuits of a physical nature.

I jumped up and down in my powerchair and made running movements with my arms as I raced alongside them on school carnival day, I made a big production out of how 'puffed out' I was at the finish line, but I knew deep down I was a wee bit lacking when it came to being active.

With knitting, though, I felt I'd found something physical I could REALLY do. Not only could I do it, dodgy tension aside, I ROCKED at it. I took great delight in helping the other kids when their yarn got tangled, when they dropped stitches and when they confused their knits with their purls.

I knitted on and off as a teenager, mostly on my own during school holidays. Then, when I got to university, I was invited to participate in a group knitting project.

We were making a blanket for a friend's 21st birthday by all knitting squares and sewing them together. We'd agreed to each knit squares that were 30 stitches by 60 rows, and away we went, all using whatever needles and yarn we had.

When we reconvened and shared our handiwork, we had more of a dog's breakfast than a blanket. This is where the lessons I learnt about tension as an 11 year-old came flooding back to me.

For those of you who knit, you know what happened. For those who don't; because we all used different sized needles and different yarn with our different knitting tension, none of our squares were even remotely the same size. Or, for that matter, actually square.

It was then it occurred to me that knitting isn't just knitting, and it isn't just physical. It's scientific and it requires some real thought and planning.

With the help of one of our mums, my friends and I managed to stitch the blanket together somehow, and from that point on I was hooked. Well, needled really. Hooks are for crochet.

I discovered all sorts of amazing yarn - it's not all wool, you see, you can also knit with cotton, bamboo and other fibres - and I even found myself experimenting with non fibre materials. For instance, I once knitted a small bag out of plastic bags cut into strips and tied together.

I found I could make adjustments in order to accommodate my disability.

You know how you see hip young people knitting with huge, novelty needles? I don't use them. Having Osteogenesis Imperfecta, I'm a bit small; I use a wheelchair and those long unwieldy needles get stuck in its sides. So, to prevent this, I use what we refer to in the knitting business as 'circs" - two short needles connected by a long cable. These are much easier for my small hands and limited arm-span.

I also avoid knitting things that are bigger than me. On the few occasions I've embarked on a big project like a baby blanket, I always reach a point where it becomes really heavy, and in order to work on it, I find I have to wear it. This is particularly unpleasant in the hot Australian summer. Yep, I knit through the summer too.

I know quite a few other disabled people who knit, and they have little adjustments they make to their craft as well. A friend of mine who calls herself The Reclining Knitter, as the name suggests, knits while lying down, with her elbows propped on pillows either side. Apparently there have only been a couple of face-stabbing incidents.

If you're a disabled knitter, come and find me on Ravelry; it's like facebook for folks who knit and crochet and my username is "dinogirl". Be warned, sometimes I knit rude things.

Stella Young is editor of ABC Ramp Up, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's disability website.

Disability news roundup: assistance dogs and an electric elf

Emma Emma | 15:34 UK time, Friday, 16 December 2011

A black labrador guide dog in harness

If the Ouch! article of old, won't you guide my sleigh tonight is to be believed, Santa's official alternative sleigh pullers are assistance dogs. These canine Christmas helpers have been dominating the disability news over the past seven days, presumably in order to raise their profile ahead of next weekend's big event.

Ramping up the pre-Christmas Disability cute factor is the BBC Hampshire story about Hounds for Heroes, a new organisation which has just started training six assistance dogs especially for injured soldiers.

Then there's the Mirror article on deaf-blind student Molly Watt. The special school Molly attends has banned her guide dog Unis from its dining room and assembly hall. Molly is unhappy with the decision, which is due to another student's allergy to the black Labrador.

And late last Sunday evening, Joanna Jones, faced an extra night in England, after easyJet refused her access to a flight from Gatwick to Belfast with her guide dog Orla. The airline required written proof of Orla's working dog status, something Joanna says that she has never had to produce in 12 years of making that same journey. On receipt of a confirmation email from the charity Guide Dogs, easyJet flew both passengers home the following morning, at no extra cost.

Elsewhere in the news:

Blind man dies in city-centre Metrolink tram collision horror

A wheelchair user is one of the Wallington 'elf-nappers' hunted over garden centre theft (BBC News)

Social care reform: Fears over funding plan (BBC News)

Welfare reform may see families lose homes (Joe Public blog, The Guardian)

Welfare reform testing NI's 'parity principle' (BBC News)

Dementia care: Hospitals 'must make improvements' (BBC News)

Learning disability units found lacking in wake of Winterbourne View scandal (The Guardian)

Gay marriage improves mental health (BBC News)

Abortion 'does not raise' mental health risk (BBC News)

Assisted suicide: General Medical Council to publish guidance (BBC News)

Mental health needs preventative care and early intervention (The Guardian)

How can rising suicide rates be reversed in the face of cuts to mental health services? (The Guardian)

Why we need to care for the carers (Joe Public blog, The Guardian)

Boy, 6, 'cured' of epilepsy after going from 45 seizures a day to none thanks to pioneering surgery (Mail Online)

A Teenage girl's account of living with ME (BBC News)

The singer who finds freedom from Tourette's (BBC News)

Combining the Paralympics and Olympics would be a disaster. Here's why... (Comment is free, The Guardian)

London Olympic hopefuls: Judith Hamer (Guardian Sport)

DR Congo election: Deaf anger at ban on texting (BBC News)

Guernsey has 'a lot more barriers' for disabled people (BBC News)

Disabled people finally given a voice on HIV and Aids (The Guardian)

Global development voices: Living with disabilities (The Guardian)

Christmas crackers from the Ouch! archives: part one

Emma Emma | 15:12 UK time, Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas presents

Each December since 2003, the Ouch! website has featured a range of articles about the trials and tribulations of being disabled at Christmas time.

Every aspect of the Yule tide season has been covered, from parties to present buying, from the school Nativity play to the challenges of spending the day with extended family. And for the past six years there's been a seasonal Ouch! Talk Show.

In the first of two instalments, here's a selection box of Ouch! festive treats.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Does your holiday buying spree involve braving the elements and the inquisitive public to brouze for items in-store, or do you tend to get the job done with a few mouse clicks from the comfort of your own home?

Liz Carr has tended to plump for the latter option, after a girly teenage Christmas shopping spree went very wrong indeed!

Laurence Clark is also an online Christmas shopper, a task made slightly more difficult by the presence of a small child. With "toy-shaped" boxes arriving regularly by post, instead of down the chimney on Christmas morning, things can start to get very complicated.

Whether purchasing gifts online or at the shops, Liz Main is constantly careful, always on the look out for signs that she might be embarking on a "hypomanic shopping splurge".

Another stressful Christmas outing is often the annual office party. The ever thoughtful Disability Bitch, who is mobility impaired, has assembled a disabled person's party survival guide, to get you through this difficult event.

And finally for this bout of Ouch! holiday cheer, there's Ouch's Christmas surgical stocking full of seasonal delights including podcasts, festive tales and an attempt to score a seasonal no. 1.

Check back on Tuesday to find out why as a child, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson was the result of Nativity envy.

Ouch! Talk Show 80: Christmas Quiz

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 12:51 UK time, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Mat Fraser, Liz Carr and Rob Crossan

After Tiny Tim, who was Charles Dickens' other big disabled Christmas character ... and what did Wayne Rooney and IDS have in common in 2011? Presented by quizmaster Rob Crossan, with Liz Carr, Mat Fraser and Tony Garrett.

Listen or subscribe to the show by following this link

Read a transcript

• Rob Crossan presents our Christmas quiz with a disability theme.

• Featuring Dickens, Boxing Day, classic Christmas movies plus a host of questions about disability current affairs from the year gone by.

• The contestants are BBC Ouch! favourites: Liz Carr and Mat Fraser with sporty Tony Garrett keeping score.

Pod Talk

We've done all kinds of Christmas specials for Ouch! including a live one at the BBC's radio theatre a few years ago. This year it's a quiz. OK so we've done quizzes before and, yes, it's perhaps hard to conceive of any good Christmassy disability questions that don't have Tiny Tim as the answer, but we've managed it. Just about.

In the show, Rob refers to the fact that they have "lovely drinks" and are eating mince pies. I don't know if I'm pleased or saddened to tell you that this just isn't true. The BBC didn't provide anything from its excellent hospitality section ... and the team didn't bring any in either. It was perhaps the most austere Christmas get-together in the entire corporation. Rob was just trying to paint a warm glowing festive picture. They did have some water though because that's a health and safety requirement.

We recommend you save it until Christmas Eve and listen while the wind is whipping round your house outside, snow is starting to fall and you can just hear reindeer bells in the distance. Oh bless our hearts.

In the first few days of January we will have for you a New Year special featuring 7/7 survivor Gill Hicks, life coach Toby Mildon and comedian Francesca Martinez - an attempt to start 2012 in an outrageously positive fashion. Be there or be paralympicised.

BBC TV and radio this week: Tourette's Syndrome and how to set up a business if you are disabled

Dan Slipper Dan Slipper | 10:50 UK time, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

At 25 Ruth Ojadi had a promising singing voice and a place to study music at university.

Her GP put her blinks and twitches down to nerves but the symptoms became worse and soon she started swearing uncontrollably and blurting out inappropriate comments.

Ruth was then diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome and her life fell apart.

Tourettes: I Swear I Can Sing on BBC Three this week, caught up with her three years after the diagnosis. In this fly-on-the-wall documentary, Ruth decides to take her life back, Tourette's included, and return to performing live.

Other highlights:

Listen - Radio 4 - Woman's Hour
Jenni Murray discussed setting up a business if you are disabled.

Listen - World Service - Health Check
Dr Eamon McCrory from University College London explored why some children who have witnessed domestic violence grow up to develop mental health problems.

Listen - Radio 4 - You & Yours - Weekdays at noon
Last Friday, the consumer affairs programme featured a special report on dating. This included an interview with George Handley, who has Asperger's syndrome and is experiencing difficulty finding a partner.

Watch - Cbeebies - Something Special
Entertaining regular educational series for four to seven year old children with learning difficulties.

Watch - BBC Two - See Hear
Sign song artist Jayne Fletcher joined Memnos and Radha to chat about her latest project and her hopes for a Christmas Top 40 hit. The programme also discovered what one mobile phone store is doing to improve its service to deaf customers wanting to buy the latest gadgets.

Listen - Radio 4 - In Touch
Peter White explored why the RNIB is under fire about lack of consultation over changes to Standard English Braille.

Listen - Radio 4 - All In The Mind
Should you disclose mental health problems to your employer? Listeners gave their opinions and Seaneen Molloy, author of the Secret Life of a Manic depressive, spoke about her experiences of going back to work.

Catch up with disability radio and TV programmes on the BBC every Wednesday on this blog.

Martyn Sibley on travel: PAs, powerchairs and plenty of planning

Guest Guest | 11:42 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Martin Sibley and his suitcases

28 year old entrepreneur, Martyn Sibley, uses an electric wheelchair and requires 24 hour care from a personal assistant. Continuing our guest blog series on hobbies, he talks us through the epic planning process that goes into feeding his passion for world travel.

I have spinal muscular atrophy, a disability which means I cannot walk, shower by myself or lift something heavier than a book. My hobby, passion and dreams tend to all revolve around one thing - travel. An unexpected interest for someone in my position, perhaps!

I am lucky enough to have travelled far and wide over the years, first with my family and more recently, independently. I have been to the US, Mexico, Singapore, Australia and much of Western Europe. I don't know if it's disability related but I hate the cold, and love sunny beaches.

Beyond climate, I like the challenge of travelling far away, meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and getting a fresh perspective on the world. I often find travel de-stresses me, allows me to think more clearly and often provokes me into becoming more creative.

I've been going abroad since I was too young to remember, so it is hard to say when the travel bug first set in, or when the strategies needed to make it happen were learnt. But even with many family holidays under my belt, planning an independent overseas trip as an adult has been a significant learning process.

Despite all of the amazing things travel offers, there are so many barriers to overcome. Here's how I manage it:

The first holiday I took without my family was to Australia. I began planning 6 months in advance. Straight away, I had to ensure that the airline was ok with my wheelchair. I suggest always calling them immediately after booking.

You will need to inform the airline of any assistance you will require at the airport, getting onto the plane and during the flight. They will often ask for the weight and dimensions of the chair too.

Unfortunately passengers are not allowed to take their own wheelchairs on to the plain. This means they have to go in the hold and, unfortunately, they are too often damaged.

I would urge you to be forthright, explaining exactly how your wheelchair should be handled, but sometimes damage will occur anyway. In that case, it's about finding a quick fix and claiming costs back from the airlines. Some people take their older, spare chair, to protect their main wheels.

The next step was to find two personal assistants (PAs) to accompany me. I also had to arrange their social care budget.

When planning the Australia holiday, a social worker was able to organise funds to pay my PA's travel and holiday expenses. This was six years ago and was possible because I was living at home with my family at the time. The additional money made available for this trip was allocated as an alternative to the more traditional residential respite break in the UK. Respite would probably not have been quite so fun or refreshing, and would also have been more expensive for the taxpayer. Instead, my two chosen assistants had their costs covered, they shared the workload and we all had a trip of a lifetime.

In my case, this was a one-off arrangement. For most trips, I offer PAs their usual wage, financed, as always, by my direct payments. But the deal is that the PA usually has to fund their own travel and living expenses. So for longer, more expensive trips, it works better if I employ a friend, who is happy to do the care for a one-off period on a sort of working holiday basis.

The final step in planning my Australia trip was to make sure that all hotels and activities were accessible, that planned internal transfers could cater for my needs and that I could hire hoists in 3 separate destinations. I used the services of a travel agent. To achieve this with certainty however, I also did my own online searches and contacted the potential equipment, taxi and tour providers directly.

The key to travelling with a disability is to identify your desired destination first, forgeting all possible limitations. Then look at your needs, find the appropriate solutions, add up all costs and only begin booking once you are confident everything is ok.

It may take longer to save up and to find the solutions, but believe me it is worth the wait.

I am yet to organise a trip to a developing country, something I hope to rectify next year. No doubt this will present a whole new set of disability travel challenges.

Watch a video of Martyn's travel planning in action, as he and his friends take a US road trip. Martyn writes about his life and work at his personal blog and co-edits the online disability lifestyle magazine , Disability Horizons. Follow Martyn on Twitter @martynsibley

Disability news roundup: Welfare reform in Ireland and bad news for disabled Australians

Emma Emma | 12:34 UK time, Friday, 9 December 2011

The UK is not alone when it comes to welfare reform backlash.

In Ireland's budget address on Tuesday, the government announced that disability allowance payments would no-longer be made to 16 and 17 year olds and payments to 18 to 21 year olds would fall from 182 to 100 Euros per week.

The decision was met with concern from backbenchers, disability organisations and families of severely disabled children.

On Thursday, while introducing the details of Ireland's 2012 social care bill, minister for social protection Joan Burton dropped the proposed disability allowance reforms. She said, "I am sorry if these proposals caused anxiety among people with disabilities and their families".

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a report released by Pricewaterhousecoopers at the end of last week, shows that Australians with a disability are at a greater risk of living in poverty and far less likely to be able to find employment than those in other developed nations in the OECD.

Tom Bridge summarised the report's key findings for the ABC Ramp Up website.

"The report said that 45% of people with a disability in Australia are likely to be living at or near the poverty line. The most horrific part of that statistic is that it places Australia at 27th of 27 nations in the OECD.

"Australia is still well and truly in the bottom half of countries when it comes to employment prospects, ranking 21st out of 27 OECD nations ... with only 31% of people with a disability in active employment."

Elsewhere in the news:

Abortion 'does not raise' mental health risk (BBC News)

Rare gene links vitamin D and multiple sclerosis (BBC News)

Bullied David Askew unlawfuly killed after 'years of torment' (BBC News)

Bullied council boss Christine Laird highlights mental health issues (BBC News)

Behind the music: So you like going to gigs. Ever tried doing it in a wheelchair? (The Guardian)

Ministers urged on Welfare Reform Bill (BBC News)

When having a baby can cause you to 'lose your mind' (BBC News)

Nottingham mother warns of disabled care pressure (BBC News)

Staffordshire council fined for stress of woman and autistic son (BBC News)

Blind man left stranded on Tube platform by staff (BBC News)

Disabled group calls for better UK cinema facilities (BBC News)

Conservative compassion seems to exclude the disabled and sick (Comment is Free, The Guardian)

No alternative to cutting disabled and ill people's benefits. Really? (Comment is free, The Guardian)

Merge Paralympics with Olympics, say 65% of disabled Britons (The Guardian)

Disabled people on benefits shouldn't have to fear being active (Comment is free, The Guardian)

The demonisation of the disabled is a chilling sign of the times (Comment is free, The Guardian)

Don't blow the Paralympics budget on opening ceremony (Joe Public blog, The Guardian)

Mental health claim at New Star hearing (The Telegraph)

'Gold standard' stem cells created by British scientists (The Telegraph)

Stem cell therapy poised to transform medicine as dozens of clinical trials show early success (Mail Online)

BBC TV and radio this week: brain disorders and the Government's disability strategy

Dan Slipper Dan Slipper | 10:34 UK time, Wednesday, 7 December 2011

In The Life Scientific on Radio 4, Professor Uta Frith spoke about her pioneering work which has changed the way we view autism and dyslexia.

Professor Frith came to Britain from post war Germany in the 1960s, when research into these conditions was in its infancy.

At the time, many people thought there was no such thing as dyslexia and that autism was a result of cold distant parenting. But Professor Frith was convinced that the explanation lay in the brain.

Together with her students, Frith developed the idea that people with autism find it hard to understand the intentions of others, known as theory of mind.

She also revealed through neuro-imaging experiments that there is a region in the brain which is linked to dyslexia.

Other highlights:

Listen - Radio 4 - You and Yours
Winifred Robinson discussed the Government's disability strategy.

Listen - Radio 3 - Composer of the Week
Donald Macleod told the story of Bedrich Smetana's final years in which he lost his hearing, became unemployed, experienced marriage woes and wrote his most famous work.

Listen - Radio 5 Live - Stephen Nolan
A discussion programme in which mental health charity Mind condemned comments by Jeremy Clarkson.

Listen - Radio 4 - Unravelling Eve
Clare Dolman met women who have suffered psychotic illness following the birth of a child. They talked about recovery and their participation in a groundbreaking art project.

Watch - BBC One - Life's Too Short
In the latest episode of the sitcom, warwick Davis moved into a new apartment and sought election as chairman of the Society of People of Small Stature.

Watch - BBC Two - See Hear
An in-depth look at how mental health issues are tackled within the deaf community.

Watch - Cbeebies - Something Special
Entertaining regular educational series for four to seven year old children with learning difficulties.

Listen - Radio 5 Live - Victoria Derbyshire
An exclusive interview with Christine Laird, a former council chief executive, whose employers tried to sue her for £1m after she failed to reveal her history of depression on a job application form.

Listen - Radio 4 - In Touch
Michael Bristow tried to visit Chen Guangcheng, the blind man on house arrest, who is fast becoming a symbol of civil rights protest in China.

Listen - Radio 4 - All In The Mind
Dr Nick Stafford described a new pilot project in Leicester to screen for Bipolar Disorder.

Listen - Radio 4 - Dishonour and Depression
Yasmeen Khan investigated the high rate of depression among South Asian women in Britain, looking at the underlying social and cultural factors and talking to those affected.

Catch up with disability radio and TV programmes on the BBC every Wednesday on this blog.

Chris Selway: from bikes to Blokarts

Guest Guest | 12:42 UK time, Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chris Selway

Eight years after a motorbike crash left Chris Selway paralysed from the ribs down, he is now one of the country's top Blokart racers. Here he tells how this rather inclusive sport fulfils a need for speed and a thirst to compete.

In my second year of teaching at a village primary school, I decided to spend my summer half-term at the Isle of Man for the TT-Races. As an avid biker, the chance was one I couldn't miss.

On the very day I arrived (the infamous 'Mad Sunday') a simple, stupid lapse of concentration led to me being thrown from my bike into a whirl of noise and pain.

The moment I stopped sliding I knew that I had broken my back and that I would never walk again. Then I passed out.

The next six months were very tough. After nine full weeks of lying in a bed, staring at the ceiling at Salisbury's Spinal Treatment Centre, I started rehabilitation; eventually leaving hospital for a new, accessible home that December.

In January, I went back to work part-time. It was challenging, but the staff and students were welcoming, adaptations had been made to the building and I was getting used to teaching from a wheelchair.

However, my wife could tell that I was having trouble coping with my new, more sedentary lifestyle. So she packed me off to Keswick for a Backup Trust Multi-Activity Course.

The Backup Trust show people with spinal cord injuries that you are more limited by your attitude to life than your physical condition.

During that week, we rambled over hills and flew along zip-wires and I started to feel more positive about what could be achieved.

One of the activities offered was completely new to me; Blokart sailing. I was told that a Blokart is a type of mini-landyacht that you steer with your hands and that they are very good fun when it is windy. An environmentally friendly go-kart, if you like.

As only hands are needed for Blokart sailing, I decided to give it a shot.

My fellow Backup participants and I arrived at a disused airfield with a good 20+mph breeze blowing. I was helped into the three-wheeled kart, which was fitted with a sail to suit the wind speed. Within 5 minutes of having been shown the ropes, I was hooked!

We whizzed around the course giggling like children and soon enough the impromptu racing started. They had to prise me out of the kart at the end of the session; it was the most fun I had enjoyed for a very long time and most definitely the highlight of my week.

But that wasn't the end of my love affair with Blokart sailing.

When I got home, I picked up an ex-demo Blokart. I sailed it occasionally over the next few years; until I found out about the British Land Speedsailing Association. They are keen to promote Blokart sailing among disabled people, because of how inclusive it is. I have since become an instructor.

After a while, I started taking part in some racing events and found, to my surprise, that I was not too bad at it.

This year, conditions have been great for Blokart-sailing and I have practised more than ever. I won two rounds of the National B-Series of races resoundingly and managed to attain overall first place in my class against a fleet of 17 able-bodied pilots.

I am now hoping to get some sponsorship to help fund a trip to Nevada, USA, where the Blokart World Championships are to be held next Easter. (It's also where the Blokart speed-record was set at an astonishing 62.5MPH!).

The level of competition will be very high, but it will be great to take part in such a large international event against able-bodied sailors and to compete on a level playing field with them.

For everything you'll ever need to know about Blokart sailing, visit The British Land Speedsailing Association and if you have paralysis and would like to give it a shot, visit Sportability.

Ouch! Talk Show 79: Warwick Davis likes caravans

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 15:13 UK time, Monday, 5 December 2011

Mat Fraser, Warwick Davis, Rob Crossan and Emma Tracey

We're joined by Warwick Davis currently of Life's Too Short fame. Find out about the latest paralympic controversy where a blind judo thrower is excluded due to having too much sight. Also, should art and craft remain firmly in the day centre? Mat Fraser presents.

Listen or subscribe to the show by following this link

Read a transcript

• It's not quite Christmas and this is not quite a festive edition. Mat Fraser and guest Emma Tracey learn how to make their own Christmas cards as directed by Liz Carr. Actress and campaigner Julie Fernandez now owns her own craft shop and centre, Bee Crafty, and is on the phone to give guidance.

• Warwick Davis, star of Return of the Jedi, Prince Caspian, Harry Potter, Willow and now BBC comedy Life's Too Short, joins us to answer some of the nittier grittier disability questions that arise from the show. He also helps us word a home made Christmas card for BBC boss Mark Thompson.

• Warwick also plays vegetable Vegetable or Vegetable, our parlour game where we guess what's wrong with a disabled caller on the line. Does he get it right? Listen and find out.

• Tony Garrett joins us to look at the specific issue of 'classification' in disability sport after a visually impaired female judo thrower, the only one in the squad, is excluded from London 2012 due to not being blind enough. We explore whether Paralympics are as 'elite' as we have been led to believe.

• We play out with the carol Gaudete recorded especially for us by the Open Arts Community Choir from Belfast who you may have seen on the televised heats of Last Choir Standing on BBC One in 2008; they're an inclusive and diverse bunch.

Pod Talk

it was all sorted. Liz and Mat were due to present the show together and then, suddenly, Liz goes and calls in all sick n'everything. But, trooper that she is, we managed to include her in one part of the show over the phone.

It's probably a good thing Liz didn't come in actually because we'd booked the only disabled parking space for Warwick.

It's a 'warm up to Christmas' show, for want of a better way of putting it; it's not quite Christmas so we're not quite in the mood yet. Our main Christmas fun comes soon with a special quiz presented by Rob Crossan with familiar contestants Mat Fraser and Liz Carr playing against each other. Watch out for that, we expect it to go live around December 15.

Teatowels and bright yellow tape: Jane Copsey on her favourite low-vision gadgets

Guest Guest | 14:37 UK time, Friday, 2 December 2011

Jane Copsey with her telescope

The theme of this week's In Touch, the BBC Radio 4 programme for blind and partially sighted people, was gadgets.

Part of an occasional series called Blindness for Beginners, the episode focused on gismos of most use to people who have recently experienced sight loss.

Visually impaired journalist and author of mystery novels, Jane Copsey, was one of those giving advice. Here, she explains that sometimes, rather than spending big on specialist kit, a little initiative can go a long way.

We all know that gadgets aren't the answer to everything, but they can be an enormous help. This is especially true for people who've recently lost all or most of their sight.

Having the right piece of kit at the right time can make day-to-day life easier, and so help people get back their confidence and independence.

Visit any well-stock blind resource centre, and you'll see devices for everything, from pouring out a mug of coffee to matching up clothes by their colours, talking kitchen implements like microwaves, and a plethora of clocks and watches to announce the passage of time. For those, like me, who have some useful sight left, there are magnifiers of every shape and size, from simple hand-held lenses to reading contraptions with CCTV cameras that can enlarge documents up to 70 times.

They're great, go for them if they help. However, I find that apart from a powerful reading-lens mounted in a spectacle-frame, and a strong monocular telescope (like half a binocular) for seeing things at a distance, I hardly use any.

Instead, I try to take advantage of whatever's around.

Bright colours and strong contrasts work for me. In my kitchen, for instance, most of our coffee mugs are white inside, ideal for making instant coffee - pour on the water and the dark liquid shows up well. They're OK with paler liquids like milky tea, but I've one or two dark mugs too in case I fancy drinking a glass of milk.

Outside in the garden, I have the problem that all gardeners have of losing my tools if I've put them down on a flower-bed or lawn.

To combat this, the handles of my favourite trowel and pair of pruners have bright yellow bands of sticky tape on them. I suppose I could still mislay them in a bed of daffodils.

This same yellow tape comes in handy when I'm travelling. My usual grey suitcase looks much like everyone else's grey suitcase when they're piled together in a train luggage area, so mine has bright yellow around the handle.

You never know where you'll find something that isn't exactly a gadget, but can solve a problem for which it wasn't intended.

When we lived in London, I could never get a tube map big enough to read. Then, one day in a market, I found a tea-towel showing the whole Underground in glorious Technicolor and lovely big print. Meant for tourists - but perfect for a short-sighted Londoner!

So I wouldn't knock gadgets, not for a minute. But I would say, remember there are often other methods of solving your problems. All you have to do is find them.

In Touch is broadcast every Tuesday at 8.40 PM. on Radio 4. The gadgets episode is available now on the BBC iPlayer or to download as a podcast.

Disability news round up: a Government U-turn and counselling while waiting for a bus

Dan Slipper Dan Slipper | 10:40 UK time, Friday, 2 December 2011

Ministers have announced a U-turn on controversial plans to axe some benefit payments to disabled people living in care homes.

The government had planned to axe the mobility part of Disability Living Allowance for those in residential care but following criticism from charities, the decision has been reversed.

Disability groups hailed the decision to withdraw the plans while emphasising the "need to urge the Government to listen" and suggesting "this is the start but it is not the end" of their campaigns.

Elsewhere in the news:

Phone for psychological help 'while waiting for a bus' (BBC News)

Deaf-blind photographer Ian Treherne in London exhibition (BBC News)

Paralysed man seeks right to die (BBC News)

Watchdog NICE says no to eye drug Lucentis for diabetes (BBC News)

Brazil ballet school for the blind and visually impaired (BBC News)

Brain find sheds light on autism (BBC News)

Lung transplant 'gave me 20 more years with my husband' (BBC News)

Social networking can lighten the darkness of depression (Comment is free, The Guardian)

Mental health discrimination is coming from the top, not the public (Joe Public blog, The Guardian)

Privatising care will inevitably lead to lower standards (The Guardian)

Disabled tenants stranded in inaccessible housing (The Guardian)

Asthmatics given new hope with new air cleaning machine (The Telegraph)

Swearing can beat pain: research (The Telegraph)

Where disabled people can take life by the reins (The Telegraph)

Help for the visually impaired in Bangladesh (

Deaf man suing after being jailed for 25 days 'without a sign language interpreter' (Mail Online)

Britain's carers face financial ruin and stress, survey reveals (The Mirror)

Your favourite disability gadgets

Emma Emma | 15:23 UK time, Thursday, 1 December 2011

An Ouch mug

We asked Ouch! Twitter followers and fans on Facebook to tell us about the gadgets which make life easier as a disabled person. And they did.

Before long the hashtag #disabilitygadgets had been created and hundreds of responses were coming in thick and fast. A few people chose to nominate their assistance dogs, husbands and other family members.

The remaining answers are as eclectic as expected: some were mainstream and some specialised, a mix of high and low-tech, they cover a range of disabilities and price brackets. Here is a summary.

In the kitchen, hot drinks dispensers, including the classic kettle tipper and carriers such as lidded thermos mugs proved popular. Much love was expressed also for the various gismos which aid the opening of tricky food packaging.

Yvonne Ivey wrote on the Ouch! Facebook page: "The best thing that I use is a plastic can and bottle opener. Its a must in the kitchen as it aids the grip in the hands".

@narco-sam Tweeted to nominate his slow cooker, explaining that he "can separate effort of preparing from eating".

Sticking with domestic chores, @batsgirl suggested that robot vacuum cleaners should surely make the list, "for those of us who spend more time doing carpet inspections than we'd choose".

Adapted cars, computers, assistive technology and the free-standing teatray were hailed as invaluable, but most often, suggestions were for gadgets to help with personal care. The list appears endless. Shower seats, hair washers, and velcrow clothes and shoes all got a look in - as did a reaching, grabbing device called the Bottom Buddy.

@biotumbleweed nominated her two essential reaching aids: "My must have #disabilitygadgets are a dressing stick and a long handled hair brush. I'd be ridiculously dependent without them."

For the uninitiated, a dressing stick is a stick with hooks on either end, used to manipulate clothing when reaching is difficult.

Whether talking about white canes, grabbers, walking sticks or crutches, the stick features highly on your list of disability gadget must-haves. And if it folds, even better.

Moving from physical impairment to sensory, eye defenders, ear defendors, talking tin lids and a daylight desk lamp also made the list. So too did the classic blind person's gadget, a liquid level indicator.

This device is placed over the top edge of a mug and emits a beep when liquid touches a sensor. It lets the blind hot drinks maker know when to stop pouring, avoiding burnt fingers.

But while most of the above is specialised, many of the gadgets chosen by Ouch! Twitter followers and Facebookers are every day products, which just happen to work for a particular person or impairment.

Jessica Thom, @touretteshero, has Tourette's syndrome. She experiences a number of physical tics and relies on low-tech, mainstream items to keep safe. "Kneepads and boxing gloves save me a load of pain. Also, big up sports caps & camping cups with lids, keeping me dry".

Is something missing from this list? Use the comments box below to tell us which gadgets make your life easier as a disabled person and why.


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