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Archives for February 2012

TV and Radio round up on the BBC iPlayer - Man struggles to adjust to rare eye condition and more

Linda Debrah | 09:59 UK time, Wednesday, 29 February 2012


In Midweek, Libby Purves talks to Dave Kelly, who lost his sight fifteen years ago to a rare eye condition, retinitis pigmentosa. After two years of struggling to adjust to his condition, he was inspired to set up Daisy UK, a charity promoting disability awareness in sport.

Listen - In Touch
Published writer Jane Copsey is joined by Guardian audio book reviewer Sue Arnold and writer Redmond Szell to discuss their favourite comfort reads.

Watch - Inside Out East
Sargy Mann is a painter. He had a very successful and productive career until 1979 when he became blind in his right eye and partially sighted in his left.

Listen - Mid morning with Stuart George - Radio Stoke
Paula White discusses a condition that affects one in 10,000 each year, and can quickly lead to blindness if not treated - detached retinas.

Listen - World Football
A former promising Australian player talks of his battle with depression.

Listen - In the Pink A profile of a unique organisation, Edinburgh's LGBT Centre, which caters Solely for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It's a community with greater than average health and well-being issues, especially in mental health.

Listen - Rubbish - Series 1
Comedy series by Tony Bagley about Martin Christmas, local government officer, cynic and manic depressive. 6/6. After his boss is suspended, Martin finds himself in charge

Coming up

The Lobotomists - Radio 4

Why were tens of thousands of people lobotomised in the 1940's and 50's in the UK and US?

'Someone demonstrates the footwork on my back with their hands': Learning to dance when blind

Guest Guest | 09:37 UK time, Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Continuing our occasional series on hobbies, blind musician Shaun Hayward explains what he gets from dancing and some of the challenges of participating in dance classes if you can't see the moves everyone else is doing.

I got my first taste of formal dancing in October 2010 when a friend asked if I'd like to go to a salsa class. I thought about it - music and women - and decided to give it a shot. I immediately fell in love.

When I was younger and could see a bit I didn't really take any notice of what dancers were doing, so when I came to this I didn't have much concept of what was going on. It can be difficult for a blind person to visualise dance movements and to grasp what the instructor is getting at when they shout "arms, legs, up, down" etc. But when you understand that the body can only move in certain ways, this helps you feel more confident and that you're doing the right thing.

After a couple of weeks of successful salsa classes I was invited to attend a le - roc or modern jive night. This was a very different experience to the salsa as there were many more people there, about 60, and so it had the potential to be less friendly and personal, not to mention more disorientating.

I would be lying if I said it was easy in either class, introducing myself as: "Hi I'm Shaun and I'm blind," was not one of my finest chat up lines. But everybody was so helpful and friendly from the word go, that I only needed to say it for the first week.

After learning four modern jive moves in half an hour, the group then goes into freestyle, where people ask each other to dance - that is when I got nervous. I thought: "oh god here we go, I'll just be sat in the corner". How wrong I was.

I must have been asked to dance a dozen times or more that night. Blind or not, that really helps your confidence. And you can throw getting super fit in as another positive. Going to a gym, which I did for years, doesn't even come close to the feeling of well-being I get through dancing.

Even though I am now totally blind, I still experience unnerving visual hallucinations, known as Charles Bonnet syndrome. I have become more mentally relaxed through dancing and while they haven't gone away, they are more easily ignored now.

In the middle of last year I decided to broaden my dance horizons and went along to a ballroom class. It felt like leaving nursery and going to big school, as here, there was much more concentration on your posture and correct movement than I previously had to deal with.

I get around quickly and independently but as the years pass by since losing my sight, walking into obstacles - an unavoidable side effect of being blind - takes its toll that bit more. As a result, I had become more hunched, holding my body differently as a defence mechanism. Ballroom dancing has encouraged me to stand up straight and with confidence.

The foot work can be quite complicated too. When you can't see, this throws up many challenges, leading to ever more creative ways of getting the patterns in to your head.

The best method we found was to have someone demonstrate the foot work on my back using their hands. This was a much more viable option than me getting down on all fours to feel someone's feet, which felt like I was doing a bad impression of a pantomime horse. Well the back end of one.

Learning to dance has been the most liberating experience of my life. The knock on effects have been mainly emotional but also practical.

Emotionally, I feel more attractive and have benefitted the regular physical contact that dancing brings.

In practical terms, I have become a better musician, as dance has given me a much clearer understanding of rhythm and timing. Also, my balance has improved and my feet and calves have strengthened, making me more agile and lighter on my feet. I can spring back more quickly on impact, so these days, when I walk into a lamp post, I generally give it a 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 cross body lead and then I'm on my way; but I do always thank it for the dance, this is the law.

Dance can really change your world, so blind or sighted, do yourself a favour and give it a go.

News round up: A third of SEN 18 year olds are not in education or employment

Linda Debrah | 11:48 UK time, Friday, 24 February 2012

MPs have expressed shock that almost a third of 18-year-olds with special educational needs are not in any form of education, employment or training.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee's report found the system is so complex some families are losing hope, BBC News has reported.

Although the government provides funding centrally, it is left to individual local authorities to decide how its spent.

In response, the government said they are working hard to make the system fairer and easier to understand.


Elsewhere in the news

Disability hate crime 'shouldn't be tolerated' - BBC News Lancashire

Sally Bercow on her son's disability - The Guardian

Young seek more mental health help - The Independent

App helps blind to send text messages - BBC News

Embattled head of care watchdog resigns as inquiry is announced - The Independent

MS patient threw herself into canal after begging twin sister to pay for flight to Dignitas clinic - The Daily Mail

New disability tests 'must prove fair and accurate' - BBC News

Government is not delivering on mental health - The Guardian

Community workers for Jersey blind people begin training - BBC News

A Nike accessory for the new age of Paralympic glamour - BBC News

Tanni Grey-Thompson talks about disability: transcript - The Guardian

The last of the glass eye makers - BBC News

She does know it's Tuesday (Disability Dads series)

Guest Guest | 13:27 UK time, Thursday, 23 February 2012


Four-and-a-half year old Amy Reyes has Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder caused by a faulty gene. Almost three years on from her diagnosis, her dad Eduardo blogs about the way she challenged and changed what he needs to be as a loving parent.

I loved being a parent first time round. After a few months of sleep deprivation, being a Dad seemed to be easy and intuitive on the whole.

It helped that our first was a total daddy's girl. She was easy to spend time with and, back then, I felt that I was hardwired for a sort of parental greatness.

Amy arrived in 2007 and did a lot to demolish that confidence - though she's also been responsible for rebuilding it in some good and different ways.

Rett syndrome affects mostly girls. Heartbreakingly, girls with Rett regress, losing almost all the skills they've acquired in movement and speech.

Amy never progressed as far as walking and talking before the deterioration started. Just before she was two years old, over a period of a few days, I found she had lost the ability to sit for ten minutes in front of CBeebies without toppling. "What am I doing wrong?" I'd ask myself.

I had the same question when she lost the ability to hold and chew a torn piece of baguette at the farmers market and, on one occasion, I stopped just short of angrily accusing a baker that he must have changed the shape of his loaf. 'On edge' doesn't quite capture how I felt.

Then, and now, she'd scream with discomfort for a portion of any day. When she was younger it happened a lot during the night too. I recall one episode in the early hours where her yawl had attracted a local Tom-cat who just wouldn't stop prowling outside the back door while I struggled to cope. A particularly low point, that.

I have always felt an incredibly strong instinct to protect Amy, but other stuff around parenting, the intuitive stuff that was so simple first time round, didn't come as easily.

Unable to direct most of her movements or speak, Amy is 'locked in'. She can't show me for sure that she understands what I say so I found explaining to her what she was going to do, or where she was going to go next, didn't come naturally.

Likewise, without a conscious effort in the early days, I was bad at taking the time to try and give her choices - too impatient even to wait and see if she took more interest in the cover of one story book over another.

The fear that doing something public with her just couldn't work, made me reluctant to arrange it. Last year I almost vetoed Amy coming to a Chinese restaurant for her sister's birthday dinner.

I reasoned it was often her worst time of day, that one of us would have to leave if she wasn't happy, and even if it worked well we'd be pretty fraught with the worry that it wouldn't.

But her sister was adamant Amy should be there. She was right to insist - Amy had a ball.

The restaurant is a pretty sparkly place, the tables are widely spaced (she hates to feel hemmed in), she loved trying different dishes, and thought me feeding her using chopsticks was hilarious; her laugh, when it's there, is infectious.

Choices, being included, horsing around - they all matter. We have to keep on passing a lot of exit signs and fighting the urge to turn to the privacy of home, instead of taking the time, and a few 'risks', to line up those nice moments where everything comes naturally. And even then, it doesn't always work!

One final thought on learning to 'get' a four-ear-old who can't speak or do sign language ...

On those few occasions when I've told people that Amy would "never walk or talk", and they've responded by asking "what do you mean never?", I've closed down their annoying line of questioning by darkly joking: "And she'll never know it's Tuesday, either."

A few months ago, I suddenly twigged that her special school had different colours up in reception each day of the week. They actually make quite a big thing of it. So, you see, she absolutely does know it's Tuesday, and I need to remember that.

Does your child have communication difficulties? How do you gauge what they want and how they're feeling? And how do you respond to unwanted questions about your little one?

The Disability Dads series continues next Friday.

TV and Radio Round up on the BBC iPlayer - In Touch with a new town and more

Linda Debrah | 10:04 UK time, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

In Touch this week looks at the challenges facing blind people when they relocate to a new area. How do you get to know your new home areaa and what help is available.

Presenter Mani Djazmi blogged about his recent move to Salford and was joined in the studio by David Aldwinckle from Action for Blind People, Damon Rose and Lee Kumutat.


Other highlights

Watch - Top Gear, BBC 2
Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May embark on an ambitious project to build mobility scooters that can tackle the wilds of the British countryside.

Listen - The Bottom Line, Radio 4

A young chocolate producer with dyslexia and dyspraxia discusses the headaches of getting his business up and running.

Listen - Outlook, Radio 4
We meet Jenny Sealey, a deaf theatre director who's taking on her biggest challenge - co-directing the opening ceremony of the London Paralympic Games.

Listen - Jeremy Vine, Radio 2
Jeremy talks to a man who went blind overnight.

Listen - File on 4, Radio 4
Diabetes costs the NHS nine billion pounds and causes over 70,000 deaths a year in England, of which up to 24,000 may be preventable. Badly controlled diabetes can lead to kidney disease, heart conditions, or blindness.

Listen - Saturday Drama - Freud: The Case Histories, Radio 4
Deborah Levy's dramatisation of Sigmund Freud's iconic case study 'The Wolf Man- The History of an Infantile Neurosis' translated by Louise Adey Huish.

Front Row - Sue Townsend, Charlotte Keatley, Black Gold, Radio 4
Three decades after publishing the first of her hugely successful Adrian Mole books, Sue Townsend talks about her new novel and how losing her eyesight has affected her writing process.


In touch with a new town

Guest Guest | 14:57 UK time, Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Mani Djazmi

Tonight's In Touch looks at the extra complications that visually impaired people have when moving to a new and unfamiliar town. The programme's presenter Mani Djazmi has recently 'relocated' and here he blogs about re-orienting himself.

Show me someone who enjoys moving house and I'll show you a masochist. The procedure is well known: schlepping around in search of somewhere habitable, packing and unpacking your belongings - inevitably losing and/or breaking something en route - and crucially here, striking out in exploration of your new manor.

Presumably I must have been responsible for some form of genocide in a previous life as I found myself in this very unwelcome situation just before Christmas.

I've moved from London to Manchester, as part of BBC Sport's relocation.

It wasn't until I actually started living there that my blindness made its presence felt.

I hadn't forgotten that I'm blind, I'm just not someone who dwells on my disability. It's a part of me, along with my black hair, for instance, or my exotic, Middle Eastern good looks. But life up north for the first month made me as conscious of being blind as I have ever been.

For a start, as I began the process of mapping out a new office, there was the weekly discovery of new pillars and sofas. They're big on soft furniture at touchy feely MediaCityUK. To confuse me further in my new office space, the sofas which I knew the location of were sometimes rearranged, giving the impression that more had been added. I had to ponder my way around them.

The sight of me bouncing and stumbling from pillar to sofa probably did nothing to project my desired image, that of the independent professional.

At home, my first surprise came on the first morning of going to work. There I was in my newly-ironed clothes, opening the door and confidently striding out ... into my airing cupboard.

Another consequence of living in an unfamiliar flat when you can't see is that it initially seems a lot bigger than it actually is. For a couple of days to begin with, I genuinely thought I had an extra room and enjoyed planning its use for guests. Then I realised that I'd just been walking around my living room a different way.

My highlight so far has undoubtedly been the achievement of getting a hair cut. The euphoria that swelled my breast with pride, after accomplishing what I would previously have considered a pretty mundane task, was only slightly subdued by the fact that I couldn't buy myself a celebratory pint as it turns out my local was shut at 5:30 on a Saturday evening.

I don't know if I'm just being impatient and whinging unnecessarily. Perhaps I'll get back to you after my next haircut. Who knows, the pub might even be open then, and I may even have made a non-work friend with whom to share a pint.

Listen to In Touch, Tuesdays at 8.40pm on Radio 4. Or download the podcast the next day.

News round up: Unlimited unpaid work or we cut your benefits

Linda Debrah | 09:27 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012

There's an interesting new twist in the push and pull politics trying to shape the new Welfare Reform Bill this week.

Mental health professionals and charities are worried about how some long-term sick and disabled people could be forced to work unpaid for an unlimited amount of time else have their benefits cut under plans being drawn up by the Department for Work and Pensions.

It is feared by campaigners that those deemed fit to undertake limited amounts of work under the controversial Work Capability Assessment could suffer further harm to their health if the plans go ahead.

The Guardian reports that ministers feel sanctions are an incentive for people to comply with their responsibility.

Elsewhere in the news:

NHS accused of putting 'do not resuscitate' notices on patients with learning disabilities without consulting with their families - The Daily Mail

Government dealt fresh blow over welfare plans - BBC News

'I used to sit there for a long, long time crying': Deaf woman tells how she was 'kept as sex slave in cellar for a decade since the age of 10' - The Daily Mail


'You won't be able to reach the syrups': Starbucks 'rejected job applicant because he had only one arm'
- The Daily Mail

Progressive blindness cases to rise by a third in a decade - The Independent

And twin brothers both face going blind within weeks of each other due to a rare genetic condition - The Daily Mail

How a nurse is fighting for the rights of people with learning disabilities - The Guardian

Blind paralympian Sue-Ellen Lovett asked to leave restaurants because of guide dog - The Daily Telegraph

Braille comes unbound from the book: how technology can stop a literary crisis - The Guardian

Do you hear us? Peter Robinson deaf in left ear and Martin McGuinness in right - The Independent

Community workers help to bridge treatment gap in mental health - The Guardian


From accident to rehab to fatherhood (Disability Dads series)

Guest Guest | 08:25 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012


Tim Rushby-Smith became paralysed and a parent at the same time. Six years later, he writes about his life as a wheelchair-using dad of two.

It is impossible to separate the birth of our daughter from my spinal cord injury six years ago.

When I fell from a tree and broke my back, my wife Penny was five months pregnant. The imminent arrival of our first child was an ever-present focus during my rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville. As I struggled to come to terms with life as a wheelchair user and the other challenges that go with being paralysed from the waist down, I was aware that the clock was ticking.

It provided a powerful motivator that underpinned every physio session and gave me the drive to overcome my frustrations. I did well and was discharged from the spinal unit a week before Rosalie was born.

An enduring memory of my first month of parenthood is of reclining on the sofa watching the Ashes series cricket on television, a sleeping baby sprawled on my chest. The most comfortable and safe position for both of us at the time.

But while not being able to return to employment (I was a landscape gardener and tree surgeon) allowed me to spend hours holding the baby, the frustrations of my situation were profound and upsetting.

Many of my mental images of fatherhood were based around physical activities such as having my child sitting on my shoulders. Instead I had real anxiety the first time I was left home alone with the baby. An anxiety that was not eased when I fell out of my wheelchair. After the initial surge of panic, I heard Rosalie gurgling happily from the sofa, and realised that she was fine. All I had to do was get myself back into my chair in my own time.

As with many experiences of parenthood, one has to go through such trials to realise that the fear is often worse than the reality. As Rosalie has grown, we have learned together. She has a good grasp of what I can and can't do, and even accepts that I may occasionally run over her feet.

Six years later, I was working again and we had just got to a point where things were getting a little easier, when child number two came along...

Tim with baby Felix


Felix was born in April of last year and I found I had fewer anxieties. This was known territory. I'd been there, I had the t-shirt (the one that looks like it's been tie-dyed with mashed banana and unidentified gloop that's always bright orange).

But things are different this time around. There are undoubtedly compatibility issues that come when a living space is shared between a wheelchair user, a crawling baby and a six-year-old.

• Many of Rosalie's toys now contain detachable components that are a perfect size for her baby brother to swallow.
• The narrow margin where I can put stuff within my reach but out of his has become narrower still, as Felix gleefully pulls out the contents of drawers and works rice crackers into the DVD player.
• If Felix crawls under my wheelchair while I'm at my desk, he can effectively pin me in place until he gets bored or someone comes to the rescue.

These are minor issues; variations on the adjustments that most families go through with the arrival of a second child. But I am gradually realising that most of the serious frustrations I deal with now, are because of the changes in my expectations over the past six years. When Rosalie was born, I considered making a cup of tea and transporting it to another room to be something of an achievement. These days, I do most of the cooking in our house.

The other morning I was in something of a daze, making porridge to ward off the chill of a snowy day. As I stirred the pan and yawned, a tiny hand reached out from my lap and grabbed the cooker hob. Felix's fingers made contact for just a split second and I immediately thrust the hand under cold water. Thankfully, he only suffered a tiny blister on one finger, but the whole experience was upsetting.

I am unable to feel when something is on my lap. On reflection, I can't say whether I had momentarily forgotten that Felix was sitting on me or if I had under-estimated his reach.

Such instances are sobering but thankfully rare. Most of the time, while I am often working on the outer margins of what I can achieve, be it lifting a six year old with one arm or wrestling a giggling and wriggling toddler into a babygrow, the contrasts in my experience of parenthood this time around compared with six years ago are helping me to realise that perhaps I am closer to the father I imagined I would be before my accident.

The Disability Dads series continues next Friday.

Are you a dad or mum who uses a wheelchair? Tell us about your experiences as a disabled parent in the comments below.

TV and Radio on the BBCiPlayer: Less than 200 days until the Paralympics and more

Linda Debrah | 10:48 UK time, Wednesday, 15 February 2012

With just under 200 days to go until the Paralympics kick off in London, BBC London speaks to the people making it happen and the Paralympic stars of now and of the future.

And on Hard Talk, anti -doping authorities in Britain are planning to carry out more than 7,000 drugs tests on athletes at the London Olympics and Paralympics later this year. That's more than at previous games. How are they planning to do this and what is the reaction of the athletes? Tim Franks investigates.

Other highlights

Listen - In Touch
Peter White goes to Sheffield to talk to the people behind a new initiative designed to give blind people a better deal when using taxis. And Lee Kumutat visits a London shop which runs a knitting club and joins fellow Antipodean Pauline McKinnes who describes herself as a visually-impaired knitting addict.

Watch - My Life - Series 1, Karate Kids
CBeebies follows three young people who attend a pioneering school for disabled children in London and take up martial arts to help improve their movement.

Listen - You and Yours
Should everyone be forced to donate their organs? You and Yours delves into this emotive subject.

Watch - BBC HD Film Shorts
BBC Film Network and BBC HD present five short films from some of Britain's most exciting filmmaking talent. Bro is a drama about a young teenager coming to terms with his brother's disability, Fragile X syndrome.

Listen - Victoria Derbyshire
The parents of a woman who was let out of a mental health unit and a day later took her own life have won a long legal battle to get the authorities to admit their failings. They tell their story to Victoria Derbyshire

Listen - Lives in a day, BBC Ulster
Completely blind by the age of 22, Mark Pollock rowed at the Commonwealth Games and completed marathons and polar expeditions. Natasha Sayee finds out how Mark stays positive following a more recent accident which has left him paralysed from the waist down.

Ouch! podcast extra: would you date a fellow disabled person?

Emma Emma | 08:47 UK time, Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Rob Crossan and Liz Carr

What are the pros and cons of dating someone with a similar or very different impairment to your own? Can a non-disabled partner ever fully understand your needs? Liz Carr and Rob Crossan discuss.

Download this podcast or subscribe to the Ouch! Talk Show feed here

Click to read a transcript

Rob and Liz reveal whether they have ever gone out with a disabled person and discuss whether seeing someone with a similar impairment would be a recipe for disaster, or the stuff of dreams.

They share their personal dating experiences and tackle this sensitive issue head on in a very honest Ouch! Talk Show Podcast Extra.

From Ouch! with love

Emma Emma | 13:55 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Love it or loathe it, Valentine's Day is almost upon us, putting romance and relationships firmly on the agenda. The ups and downs of dating when deaf, with OCD and with bipolar disorder, have all been tackled on Ouch! over the years. Below is a further selection of articles from the archives about love and relationships.

•In Desperately Seeking ... someone, fan of the personal ad, Laurence Clark, wrote about the varying ways in which disabled people sell themselves on paper, particularly when bound by a low word limit.

•In 2006, Tom Shakespeare explored the darker side of searching for romance via print or online ads, in his column, hopelessly devoteed to you. A devotee is a non-disabled person who is particularly physically attracted to people with certain impairments, usually amputees.

•In My Accessible Place or Yours, Kate Ansell explores what happens "when the weirdness hits". tongue firmly in cheek, four disabled dating nightmare situations are imagined, each with a helpful predicted outcome.

•70 talk shows ago on Podcast 12, Rob tried internet dating and Mat and Liz spoke to a specialist sex worker.

•And disabled ladies, take our completely unscientific dating etiquette quiz to find out your personal dating style.

For more like this, check out the relationships tag on the archived Ouch! website.

Three members of staff from the Winterbourne View Care Home plead guilty and keeping safe in the snow

Linda Debrah | 12:15 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012


Three members of staff from the Winterbourne View Care Home near Bristol have pleaded guilty to the ill-treatment of residents.

Abuse at the home for people with learning difficulties was exposed by the BBC's Panorama programme last year. The film showed patients allegedly being physically and verbally abused.

Publishing their findings following an inspection of WinterBorne View, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported a "systemic failure to protect people" at the care home.

This is the first case to be heard, a further eight people are yet to go before the courts.

Plus with the recent snow falling around the country, Living Streets, who campaign on behalf of pedestrians in the UK have launched a campaign to get councils to pledge to keep pavements safe. But why are pavements not treated the same as roads in bad weather?

In other news

Benefit cuts are fuelling abuse of disabled people, say charities - The Guardian

If public opinion is turning against the disabled, disability charities have only themselves to blame - The Daily Mail

Deaf girl, 10, kept as 'virtual slave' in Eccles cellar - BBC News

Medical 'miracle' as doctors recover blind woman's sight by putting a tooth in her eye - The Daily Record

Alzheimer's brain plaques 'rapidly cleared' in mice - BBC News

Bus subsidy 'must have' for blind people in Stoke - BBC News

Maidstone Hospital £10m payout over birth mistakes - BBC News

Benefits cheat caught playing golf - The Sun

Deaf Dad (Disability dads series)

Guest Guest | 15:05 UK time, Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Charlie Swinbourne on some of the things that could only happen to a hearing-aid wearing dad.


Every night, shortly after dinner, I become a human climbing frame. My daughters Martha (three years old) and Edie (15 months) take turns jumping on me and climbing up my back, while giggling their heads off.

Sometimes they'll playfully try to catch hold of my hearing aids. To them, trying to get the beige plastic things Daddy wears in his ears is fun, but in order to protect NHS property, you understand, I'm forced to perform my mildly scary dad's tiger roar to fend them off.

My wife and I are deaf, while both our children are hearing. So in auditory terms, we now live in a mixed household.

When Martha came along three years ago, we suddenly had to keep the noise down - something that doesn't come instinctively to us, you'll understand. So, flushing the toilet at night, watching the TV with a high volume and speaking too loud (my main habit) were quickly banned when we realised they disturbed her, and the neighbours (presumably) rejoiced.

Although Martha isn't deaf, we signed and spoke to her from birth. When she was ten months old, she copied us and signed "duck" in the bath. Sign language gave her a head start in communication.

Naturally, at three years old, speech has taken over. Now our biggest challenge is gently reminding her that if she runs around the house chattering away without looking in our direction (making it hard to lipread her) we won't understand a word she's saying.

Edie has only just started walking and is still at the point where she communicates visually. She's gradually beginning to copy sounds she hears, but for now we joke that she's our 'deaf baby' (arf) because she signs all the time. In true deaf person style, she's constantly waving and tapping us, in order to grab our attention.

Meanwhile, Martha is getting used to Daddy occasionally mishearing things. The other day, we were all driving home on the motorway when I was shocked to hear her say "Speed camera, Daddy".

She had to repeat herself a few times before I realised she wasn't warning me that I'd get a ticket - she was actually trying to say she was hungry. What I should have heard were the words "Cheese sandwich, Daddy". Whoops.

We're friends with a lot of other deaf parents who have children of the same age, but now Martha is going to pre-school, we've recently been meeting up more with parents who are hearing.

Communication isn't as clear with this new crowd - without the luxury of signing, you're mostly depending on lipreading - but as we attend more toddler birthday parties, we're rather enjoying the occasional escape from the 'deaf bubble' because copious amounts of chocolate and cake get consumed. By the parents, mainly.

The one thing I find awkward is the first question some people ask me when I mention that I'm a father. It's not whether my kids are male or female, a typical first question perhaps, but whether they can hear or not. Once, someone asked if my children had "caught it".

My view of deafness has never been negative - I'm deeply proud of sign language and the deaf culture I grew up in.

Jo and I both have deaf relatives, so there was a small chance Martha and Edie might have been born with some level of deafness. This might surprise some people, but we wouldn't have been devastated if that had happened - as deaf people, we have all the tools we'd need to give a deaf child the best start in life.

As it is, being able to sign and speak effectively means Martha and Edie are bilingual, and their experiences of communicating with both deaf and hearing people will stand them in good stead as they get older and approach new situations.

Although our experiences are different because we're deaf, in every other way we're just a normal family, doing things slightly differently. Like other parents, we want to give our children the happiest childhoods we possibly can, along with, naturally, all the human climbing frames they could ever have dreamed of.

The Disability Dads series continues next Friday.

Are you a deaf dad or mum? or perhaps your parents were deaf? Tell us about your experiences of parenthood or childhood in the comments below.

TV and Radio on the BBC iPlayer - Deaf Teens and more

Linda Debrah | 09:38 UK time, Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The BBC Three documentary Deaf Teens: Hearing World explores some of the difficulties deaf teenagers face when they enter the big, wide hearing world for the first time. The film illustrates what it's like to go to a music festival and not hear the music, how hard it can be to keep up with conversations and make friends, but also the joy of silence.

Deaf Teens Hearing World follows five deaf teenagers, highlighting how not all deaf teens want to be able to hear and are often defiant against being part of the hearing world, but also the lengths some deaf teenagers will go to to improve their hearing.

Watch a signed version here

Other highlights

Listen - Discovery
Angela Saini explores the revolution taking place in the streets beneath our feet as she reveals the story behind a new urban design movement called shared space.

Listen - Victoria Derbyshire programme
Katie Piper, who was left partly blind in one eye and with a facial disfigurement after an acid attack, has had her sight partially restored following stem-cell surgery.

Listen - The life scientific
Psychiatrist Robin Murray explains why he has changed his mind about the cause of schizophrenia.

Listen - In Touch
This week, the Radio 4 programme for blind and partialy sighted people discusses York Blind and Partially-Sighted Society, which is facing cuts of £36,000 from the local primary care trust. Plus Tony Shearman reports on blind cricket.

Watch - Our World
Advances in technology are allowing scientists to understand the human brain as never before. Susan Watts looks at new approaches to dealing with mental illness, and whether brain-enhancing drugs can actually make you smarter.

Coming up

Watch - Top of the digital world - Episode 2
A series of nine short films about digital media literacy. Topics covered include accessibility, blogging, developing online games, marketing online, and gaming addiction.

Watch - BBC One - My life - Series 1
Documentary series following three children who attend a pioneering school for disabled children in London and take up martial arts to help improve their movement.

House of Commons overturns Lords amendments to welfare bill

Linda Debrah | 13:18 UK time, Friday, 3 February 2012


It has been a week of political ups and downs in benefits and social care.

Coalition plans to cut payments to families with disabled children were rejected by the House of Lords in a seventh defeat on Tuesday.

Neil Coyle, Director of Policy at Disability Alliance said:

"The government's decision to continue on a path which will deny help to thousands of disabled people and leave many more families in poverty is a bitter blow. It is hugely disappointing for the many disabled people and their families who have raised concerns with MPs and charities in an apparently vain attempt to ensure their voices were heard".

On Wednesday, the Bill with amendments from the House of Lords was overturned in the House of Commons. In the next stage, we will see the Bill back in The Lords possibly for an old-fashioned upper and lower chamber game of ping pong. Convention tends to dictate that the upper chamber will eventually concede to the will of the lower elected chamber. Charities have been out in force condemning the government for its actions.

Ministers argue the money saved will be spent on providing additional support to the most disabled adults.

In other news

All disabled people deserve the care Rick Santorum's daughter gets - SE Smith, The Guardian

Syndrome without a name: Living without a diagnosis - BBC News

EasyJet profits, while disabled passengers lose - The Guardian

Disability app designed by London terrorism survivor - BBC News

Why do some people never get depressed? - BBC News

Disability charity bus stolen in Manchester - BBC News

New study sheds light on why autism diagnosis can be so difficult - Huffington Post

">'Hollyoaks' bosses to cast deaf teenager - Digital Spy

Cinema opens up for Morocco's blind - BBC News

Autism: Brainwaves 'show risk from age of six months' - BBC News

Alastair Campbell: MPs should talk about mental health - BBC News

Measures 'reduced suicide rate' - BBC News

London 2012: Disabled artists tackle Olympic challenge in medieval town - BBC News

My Down's Decade (Disability Dads series)

Guest Guest | 12:02 UK time, Friday, 3 February 2012

Stan Palmer has Down's Syndrome. As his tenth birthday draws closer, his dad Steve blogs about the first decade in 'Down's world', for the first of our series on dads and disability.

Ten years ago, my sometime blokey self was looking forward to a date later in 2002 when I imagined both of my perfect children, my three year-old and my yet-to-be-born son, would be sleeping through the night and everything would be going smoothly. But, now I know what I know, I'm grateful for Stan, arriving - with an extra chromosome - like a juggernaut through my hopes.

I would probably have hit middle age with an air of unattractive parental smugness had it not been for him. It's amazing what a massive change of perspective can bring.

Flash forward. On New Year's Eve 2011, a totally different me, with ten years Down's dad experience under my belt, I found myself in a pub disco with Stan, dancing to the camp classic 'It's raining men' by The Weather Girls. And I was blissfully happy.

So, how did I get from 'pipe and slippers' to becoming an active and positive 'disco dad'?

It's 2002. I'm holding my son and I've just been told he has Down's Syndrome. I place him in his cot, and I'm a bit shocked ... I'm not sure I can deal with it.

I've always been haunted by this memory - at the moment he most needed me, just after he came into the world, I appeared to be rejecting him.

When I think about how we reacted on the day he was born, I feel silly. After being told, I spent the first few hours in a denial phase, looking to see if the fold in his hand went straight across - apparently a sure-fire confirmation of the syndrome - when in fact I just needed to look at his face.

A day later, the silliness stopped. I had my 'get it' moment in Homebase. I don't know why I'd nipped out to the DIY superstore with all that was going on around me, but I did. And I fell in love with Stan whilst there.

I was at the till when I suddenly realised that I had two sons now, not one, and that Stan needed me. I got my act together just in time. Right there, amid the tools and hardware, Project Down's Dad had begun. I was on The Mission. 'The Mission' was to achieve the best life possible for my son and to teach people along the way.

If the ghost of birthday future had appeared and listed what Stan and we, his family, would accomplish in the following ten years, I wouldn't have believed it.

• When Stan was four, our experiences were turned into Petal's story on EastEnders, when a child character with Down's was born to Honey, one of the main characters on eastEnders at the time.

• He's been the star of two Christmas pantos.

• He's conquered electronic devices with ease.

• He's been horse riding.

• He's received many awards at his school.

• And more besides.

A mate of mine reminded me today that when he heard Stan had been born with Down's, he was concerned, but that he knew that I was the man for the job. You know, Down's Dad. And once I'd had the DIY store / road to Damascus moment, I suppose I just got down to it. The Project. The Mission.

In the last ten years, I've written blogs, appeared on radio shows and generally been a Down's activist much like Eva Longoria from Desperate Housewives, but without the looks. But it's equally important to have a normal family life, and to be seen to be having one.

If we all go out to eat, Stan isn't the centre of attention. He tries to be but he is included equally, one part of our family. The extended family all love Stan; they've all watched him grow up to be a cheeky, exasperating, lovely boy and they contribute to his life.

We also have support from a local group. It's great that we can all get together and share ideas, and, at times, our worries.

Looking back at this decade, there is one thing I'm particularly proud of, that's bonding with other Down's dads.

A group of us now regularly go out for a curry and it's just a really good time to have a chat, about non-Down's stuff, and about Down's stuff.

Those dad conversations have been perhaps the most intense and satisfying discussions I've had about the issue.

I've written on my personal blog about why it's important for men to have their own time to discuss issues. We lads can be a bit backward in coming forward, and it's important for us to be fully involved with schools, hospitals, doctors and all the appointments our kids tend to have. And the really good news is that, this year, Stan has a male teacher too.

The other good news is that the Mums are so impressed, they're now doing their own curry night.

At Stan's tenth birthday party, many of his classmates will be there. We use to worry that he'd never have any friends but, these days, they're queuing up. And why not? We're so proud of both of our children.

And yes, in this blog I've left out some of the difficult times because, today, we celebrate ten years of a life less ordinary. He's survived two heart operations - a common complication in Down's - he's established himself in a school where he's part of the furniture, and he's single-handedly educated a whole swathe of people about Down's just by being himself.

At the disco on New Year's Eve, the other members of our party abandoned the dance floor and it was just me, Stan and The Weather Girls. And I had one of those dad-son moments that I dared not to dream about ten years ago.

I'm going to have to break off now. I've just got into trouble for not taking Stan his drink. Instead of being the great Down's Dad on The Mission and getting mucked in, I've been caught writing a blog entry about it.

Stan says hello.

The Disability Dads series continues next Friday.

Are you a dad to a disabled child? Do you have a support network like Steve or do you go it alone? Tell us in the comments below.

Talk Show 82: Ruby Wax finds her people

Emma Emma | 12:21 UK time, Thursday, 2 February 2012

Ruby Wax with Rob, Liz and Emma

Comedian Ruby Wax pops by to talk about her new social networking site for people with mental health problems. Kevin Mulhern pulls apart the latest on welfare reform and Meet Jody Cundy, top GB Paralympic cyclist. Liz Carr and Rob Crossan present.

Listen to or download the show by following this link

Read a transcript

• Liz and Rob discuss living life in your head when physical activity is not an option. Does it do your head in? They get sporty with Tony Garrett and speak to the fastest Paralympic cyclist in the world, Jody Cundy who talks about his decision to switch from swimming to cycling in 2005 and what he and sprinter Oscar Pistorius have in common.

• Comedian and TV personality Ruby Wax joins Liz and Rob in the studio. Ruby remembers the moment she came out as having a mental health problem. She talks about Losing it, the successful two-woman stage show which followed and introduces blackdogtribe.com, her new social networking site for people who experience mental illness.

• Ruby stays with us to play the Vegetable Vegetable or Vegetable game, where we guess the disability of the person on the line. Lets just say Ruby takes to the game like a duck to water. But does she get it right? Listen and find out.

• Blind TV producer and disability commentator Kevin Mulhern reviews the month in disability news. Nothing if not opinionated, he expresses views on the welfare reform bill, budget airlines and press reaction to so-called miracle cures.

• Meet Kalyn Heffernan, MC and producer with the US hip-hop group Wheelchair Sports Camp. She explains where the band name came from and introduces her track, Smells Like Funk.

Pod Talk

You may imagine that our meetings are full of pastries and delicious coffees from the BBC budget, sadly this isn't the case. But this month, I did take some sweets along to our recording for the first time . They went down a treat with presenters, producers, guests and facilitators alike. It did however result in some lines having to be repeated due to excess crunching, sweet bag rattling and sugar induced hyperactivity.

We did record some enlightening and intriguing extra bits, so look out for a valentine's themed Podcast Extra later in the month.

In the meantime, cosy up warm and enjoy Ouch! Talk Show 82.

TV and Radio on BBC iPlayer - RNIB sue Bmibaby for having inaccessible website and more

Linda Debrah | 09:50 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2012

On this weeks' In Touch programme, low cost airline Bmibaby are being sued by the RNIB for their website's lacck of accessibility for blind customers.

The airline say they are taking steps to improve the situation and are offering customers the option of a low cost phone number until problems with the website are resolved.

Hugh Huddy from the Royal National Institute of Blind People wants website designers to make sites accessible from the start so that blind and partially-sighted people are not excluded from booking flights as and when they choose.

Plus Bristol's M Shed museum wins an award for a money saving initiative to make information accessible.

Other highlights

A list of radio or TV programmes which include disability this week, all available on the BBC's iPlayer service.


Watch - Protecting Our Children

Follow Bristol's child protection teams. Newly qualified Susanne tries to help a family care for their son who has learning difficulties.

Listen - Kenneth Cranham on the Water, a short story by Roy Apps

With the help of his son, a recently disabled man gets his confidence back to go sailing.

Listen - Andie Harper's Mid-Morning, Radio Cambridgeshire

Andie Harper hears from a disabled businessman from Cambridge who was ejected from a flight because of safety concerns. What are the rights of disabled travellers?

Watch - The One Show

Ade Adepitan introduces a film showcasing some of the top Paralympic sports and athletes and explains why people should be buying tickets to the Paralympics.


Listen - Health Check

A court will decide this week whether a group of psychoanalysts are misrepresented in a film about how autism is treated in France. Epilepsy medication in Kenya. Why feeling groggy can help in a test.

Listen - Newshour

The current affairs programme from the BBC World Service Asks how a new medical technique for detecting autism in babies can help parents.

Towards London 2012 - Olympic and Paralympic programme

The BBC London show speaks to a Paralympic tennis star aiming for a gold medal this summer and finds out what it feels like to run on blades.

Listen - Discovery

Depression. Geoff Watts meets researchers trying to find a new way to fight depression by studying those who never get it.

BBC iD

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