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On buses, front wheel drive and American TV drama

  • Posted by Nicola
  • 30 Jun 07, 10:01 PM

I like to buy stuff; shiny stuff, indulgent stuff, deeply unnecessary stuff, occasionally useful stuff, all of it good. Yesterday I ventured into town having heard that a boxset of a US TV series involving a British comedian pretending to be an American cripple was on sale at a considerably discounted price. I’ll give you a clue, it rhymes with Mouse. Less than a year ago if you’d asked me which of Laurie and Fry was disabled I would have said “Why, it’s my second favourite manic depressive in the whole wide world, Stephen Fry.” It still is. Hugh Laurie, as his character Dr House, is only pretending. Even in my walking days I was never one for the straightforward limp, limping was accompanied by flailing arms and the inability to stop. Hence I am not the one to comment on the authenticity of Laurie’s chosen brand of crippledness, although I would like to know how the hell he can ride a motorbike. Answers in the comments section please. I would be one of those women simpering to Heat magazine that I had a ‘weird crush’ on House but then I would have to admit that crush actually started when I saw him in Blackadder when I was 11. And that just ain’t right. Nor is it remotely to do with disability. I digress…

I’ve recently borrowed my boyfriend’s old powerchair, it is several leagues above my own. Never have I spent an impulsive shopping trip gliding so smoothly over the cobbles, paving stones, tram lines and loitering Goths. But steering through a busy shopping street still requires concentration, whatever your turning circle.

On my way back to the bus station I realised I had to lower my seat. Knowing that if I stopped dead I risked some innocent soul crashing into me, possibly a goth with many delicate peircings, I had to pick my spot. A stall selling scarves was one possibility, but what if he thought I wanted to buy a scarf? I don’t want a scarf. Or do I? I might, I didn’t really like the shape of my neck that day. After much deliberation I stopped, lowered the seat and eventually emerged from the bus station subway, bewildered and scarf-less. Worse was to come, because when I go to the bus station it’s mostly because I want to catch a bus. In a wheelchair I had driven for less than a week. The bus company could combat sexism and disablism combined if they would just design a wheelchair space that was a. easy to steer into b. therefore didn’t invite quite so many ‘woman driver’ jokes. I know I should be happy accessible buses exist at all. For a freakishly long time I was, I still get the adrenaline rush and the beaming smile to this day, but that could just be exhaust fumes. But as it was, on this bus I got the back wheel caught on the helpfully placed yellow pole, nearly crippling an old woman wearing a headscarf and a terrified expression. If I'd hit her she could always get tips from Hugh Laurie. Like I said, it’s all about concentration.

Going for a spin

  • Posted by
  • 30 Jun 07, 08:46 PM

The road to truly accessible transport for all is a needlessly long one. But I am really glad to read below in Zephyr's post of positive action by the authorities and the effect of a very visable disabled presence in Vancouver.

Zephyr, could you write to Gordon Brown please?

I don't use my disabled travel pass here in the UK very often.

The reason being that a bus journey for me more often than not feels like what I imagine being shoved in a washing machine and put on spin may feel like. Going for a spin, indeed.

It is in part to do with how my impairments affect me in the big beyond. So it may just be that I'm not up to travelling by bus. A bus is something of an assault on my body and senses. It's noisy, it shakes, vibrates, lurches, leans...all things that hurt if you are already in pain or have sensory difficulties.

At present if I have to travel, I travel by taxi. Sometimes taxi drivers smoke, have the radio on loud or ask if you sleep naked. But it's one-to-one, so you can generally politely sort it out.

There are opportunities for disabled travellers to be supported with their travel needs, as I recently discovered through Marmite Boy on Toast.

I am planning a short train journey in the summer to see a friend. I haven't been on a train for probably four years. It will be a momentous ten minutes. The GOJO site (for young people who have difficulties using public transport) had all the links I needed to plan assistance at stations, the route, everything. And I got to reduce screen glare by turning the background pink :-) Go GOJO!

Buses, hmmm. Just not sure I can be persuaded. I'm not sure how much more accessible they could be in my case. They do drop to kerb level on my route, and when I was using them I normally found a disabled seat as I was travelling in off peak times.

Back at GOJO, you get to see what other disabled travellers think. Lack of room for wheelchairs because parents with pushchairs are in the space was one concern. Parents need room too, so surely there needs to be more room altogether on very busy routes. Longer buses. Like in Amsterdam. Trams even. Monorails elevated above the street scene would be good - a very smooth ride, so to speak.

But seriously, a lot of people were concerned about more accessible transport and more public transport options. Gordon are you with us? Um, not until about 2020 apparently.

And how about training for drivers? Whether you are disabled, elderly or a parent with a buggy, there is nothing worse than hectic driving. It is dangerous. And being greeted by bad manners or (even worse) disablist impatience is just not on.

A system whereby bad drivers can be reported would be good.

Or a button to press near your seat that delivers a loud and clear message. How about my favourite from childhood?

"When will we be theeeere?" Recorded in a high-pitched nasal whine with the instructions Press Repeatedly.

Ah, revenge would be sweet.

• Visit The Beauty Offensive

The Accessible Future of Public Transit?

  • Posted by Zephyr
  • 30 Jun 07, 09:03 AM

Today as I was riding the bus, I noticed there were a lot of other disabled people on the bus. In fact, that's pretty typical for riding the bus in my neighborhood. I live in an area that has a lot of students, lower income people, and low-rent co-ops. A lot of co-ops are accessible housing for PWDs. I live on the edge of the Downtown East Side - an area notorious for drug addicts and homeless people. It's also an area that contains quite a few disabled people on government income support. So I see a lot of folks with canes, walkers, scooters and wheelchairs in my area. As you move out towards the suburbs, this effect decreases. For many reasons, there's a high density of PWDs in my area of town.

I think it's awesome that we keep using public transit. I know there are some of us who aren't able to use public buses and trains, but for those of us who can, I think our constant presence is a great thing. It keeps us visible in society. It forces people to deal with us, to sit next to us, to exchange brief glances or words with us. I know that our presence also helps gradually increase accessibility on the buses. On Vancouver Island - which, by the way, Vancouver City is NOT a part of (confusing, ain't it) - in cities like Victoria and Nanaimo, there are a lot of elderly and disabled. They had so many PWDs using the system that eventually they clued in and upgraded to kneeling buses, buses with wider aisles, etc. I see the same thing happening in Vancouver and I rejoice, even though I wish it would happen faster.

Bus drivers in general are pretty good about disabilities. Most of them will wait for me to sit down before they start the bus. Some drivers will even pipe up and ask someone to give me a seat. Most drivers lower the kneeling part of the bus without having to be asked. The worst thing that happens is that someone with hidden disabilities will be harassed for sitting in the reserved seating. But once you explain the situation, it's usually OK.

I hate the fact that a lot of impoverished PWDs have no choice but to ride the horribly inconvenient inaccessible buses, but since we have no choice, I'm glad that our presence is making changes happen. If only they would happen faster!

• Visit Arthritic Young Thing
*May contain adult content*

Give Him Back

  • Posted by Dave Hingsburger
  • 29 Jun 07, 09:56 AM

OK, today is our anniversary. We've been together for 38 years as of today. I like to joke that I was a June bride, but in fact, of course, that's not true. 38 years ago the idea of two men marrying would have sent people spinning. But this post isn't going to be about homophobia, though we've got plenty of stories about that involves that little word. What's been interesting is what happened to our relationship ever since I became disabled.

Between us, nothing's changed. I do feel badly that Joe has to lift my chair in and out of the car. That my disability has caused him more work in his day. But he's not a complainer, doesn't make me feel bad about it, never much mentions it at all. So we've just gone on as normal. Two guys getting older together. But, to the world, we have changed.

As I travel and lecture internationally, people have to deal with us as a couple. Joe does all the bookings, I do all the lecturing. When our hosts book hotel rooms, we ask, without flinching for one room with a king bed. In some cases you can almost hear people blanching all the way down the phone line. But we don't care. Diversity is diversity, believe in it or leave. No time for that kind of nonsense.

But now, it's changed. I didn't realize it until I was doing a session in British Columbia and one of the folks there noticed that I was pushing myself over to the washroom. A woman, part of the team hosting the event, rushed over to me and asked me if I wanted her to get my staff. My staff! I looked at her startled and said, "Pardon me?"

She pointed over at Joe who was working the book table and said, "Do you want your staff to help you?" I just told her that I was fine and she rushed off. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to sit there and explain that Joe wasn't my staff. That we had a (sexual) relationship and have had one for years. It seemed to be none of her business and yet something I needed to say anyways.

Then I realized that this has been happening ever since I've been in the chair. Suddenly I don't have a boyfriend anymore, suddenly we are back in the conceptual closet. We aren't challenging stereotypes now we're succumming to them. I'm a helpless cripple and he's a paid companion. Yuck, we've been pushed back into a closet that we've never really been in.

So now I have to work at being 'out' in a variety of ways.

But this morning, the morning of our anniversary, I intend on getting my staff to give me intimate care. It's a role play we've never done. Could be fun.

• Visit Chewing The Fat

Inhaling Alice in Wonderland

  • Posted by Lady Bracknell's Editor
  • 28 Jun 07, 09:11 PM

Ouch readers with long(ish) memories may recall being astounded by the work of sculptor Willard Wigan when I last wrote about him on the weblog .

I was very pleased to record the fact that Willard received an MBE for his work in the New Year’s Honours list on my own blog .

Not that I’m obsessed with Willard, or anything, but I’ve recently discovered a video interview with him on the 49abcnews site. (A video which you can apparently download to your ipod should your mastery of modern gadgetry be considerably greater than my own. Also, it probably helps if you actually own an ipod)

Willard can’t read or write. But he can produce sculptures so incredibly tiny that they can be accidentally inhaled. And he's intending to go smaller yet.

Look, I’m not going to bore you by repeating what I wrote about Willard last year. Just run the video. You won’t regret it.

• Visit The Perorations of Lady Bracknell

What's Cooking?

  • Posted by
  • 28 Jun 07, 08:05 PM

Three months into our new place and I have now added a working dishwasher to my various basic disability aids. The menu round here has improved.

Without a dishwasher, perching stool, grabby stick and so forth meals were noticeably, well, convenient.
Cooking can be a bit hit and miss when you aren't feeling up to it. But one fact remains a constant. No matter what state you are in, you still have to eat.

It's not so much a case of 'Can't Cook, Won't Cook' as 'Can't Cook, Have To Cook' for many people. So how to get round the great culinary conundrum that is making sure you eat well when you are not feeling well?

It is possible to eat good, nutritious food, even if you have to cook for yourself and others on a limited budget, quite frequently in pain, and not able to prepare more than one, simple course at a time. So I thought I would share here a few very quick and easy meals I have rustled up against the odds. And if you have any quick and easy meals to share, just pop them in the comments section and turn up to hi!.

Sunday for Monday Chicken...
Take one small chicken. Stick in oven (preferably heated, memory permitting). Cook for ooh, about a couple of hours. Go and lie down. Remove from oven before cremated. Cool. Refrigerate. Have something else for tea (this is one to do on a Sunday for a couple of easy start-of-the week meals)

Monday:
Cold chicken leg on a bed of watercress salad or spinach and new potatoes and butter
A dollop of goat's cheese yoghurt is fab if you like it.

Tuesday:
Chicken shredded and heated through with a fried onion and pepper and bunged together for a while with stock, bay leaf, a tin of tomatoes, served with rice or couscous

Wednesday:
Noooo! Give rest to cat, or someone else's cat. Never go into day 3 with chicken. I did once out of desperation. It was an error.


Grilled Mackerel and Mash
If you can't face mashing potatoes, just boil some. If peeling them is too much, then don't. Put them on to boil, and go and lie down. When potatoes are nearly done, grill mackerel for five mins. Serve with a bit of salad. If you can be bothered.


Pasta and whatever
Boil pasta. Lie down. Get up before it boils dry and sticks to the pan. I find that creates hard work later. Add pesto. Eat.
Also try pasta and baked beans, with a splash of Worcestershire sauce or vinegar.
Pasta and cheese. If you are really feeling grot, you don't even need to grate the cheese. Just slice as thinly as you can muster. Add black pepper and a splash of olive oil for interest.

Sausage Thing
Always opt to ovencook sausages. Just put them in and walk away. Remember to come back though. Give them 20 mins or so. You can use vege sausages if vegetarian or unable to digest fatty meaty ones. Cut them up when cooked.
Bung in frying pan with onion, pepper, and a tin of tomatoes. Fry apathetically for a few mins. Add can of mixed beans (not for the windy). Cook a bit more with some added stock. Soak some couscous for a couple of mins in boiling water. Mix it all up and serve.

Toad in the Hole
Sausages as before. Batter is really easy. 300ml milk, slop in a couple of eggs. Whisk weakly, add flour and keep going (with rests) until it's just thicker than double cream. If you feel very rough, batter can be left to stand for 30 mins, giving you time to go and lie down.
Get sausages out, pour over batter (obviously, the sausages will be in a roasting tin, not on a grill...I did try this once. The batter didn't really go where I intended). Leave another 20 mins or so.
Serve with gravy and peas. Peas can be done in microwave.


Baked potato
Good emergency grub even if you don't have a microwave. Just stick one in at lunchtime for teatime. A multitude of fillings can be stirred from a dormant imagination with a bit of thought. Cottage cheese, cheese, mayo and celery, tuna mayo, baked beans, or just butter. All easy.

A Banana
For real emergencies. Like when you've no energy to cook. Eat a banana. Wait a few minutes. Proceed to kitchen. Always keep bananas near where you rest. In fact put them everywhere. You never know.

Porridge
Discovering that porridge oats come out better when microwaved has been a revelation. Add 300 ml milk. Four minutes on high. Great with honey, your fave jam, little tiny globs of dark brown sugar, whatever takes your fancy. Gives a massive energy boost. I sometimes have it for lunch.

Frozen Veg or Fresh Spinach
Equally easy to cook, equally packed with good things.

Equipment
You'll have noticed my love of my dishwasher and microwave. But a slow cooker is also a real bonus for the slow cook. Most recipes consist of chopping up whatever you want, bunging it in, putting it on low and leaving it alone for up to six hours! Now that really is convenience food.

• Visit The Beauty Offensive

Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)

  • Posted by Nicola
  • 28 Jun 07, 05:18 PM

Being the impressionable young soul that I am, I thought I’d follow Zephyr, The Goldfish and LB’s Editor and join in this news article lark. It has turned out to be a very graceful jump on to the accessible bandwagon. For, at the top of the website for my hometown’s local newspaper, was this.

“Disabled daughter's agony as power cut lasts 11 hours”. First of all, if I lived in Tilehurst I’d be in agony too, it smells funny. Or at least the house my paternal grandfather shared with his wife there smelt funny. More interesting than the smell of Reading’s suburbs (as they teach you in primary school, Beer, Bulbs, Biscuits and Bacardi Breezers) is the cripple ghetto they appear to be describing here. "Eleven hours without power is a long time but especially for a disabled community." Disabled Community. I can’t count the number of times ouch forum contributors have said ‘there is no such thing as the disabled community.’ And yet here we appear to have it, alive and thriving and in the Thames Valley. Where else? You can probably get the Bristol train from Paddington. And then a bus. Bring a picnic. Hoists! Stairlifts! Commodes! Osteoporosis! Fun for all the family.

The article moves on to some good points from Reading West MP Martin Salter about the relative, restrictive and, as we see here, painful effects of disabled people losing their power supply. He also says we are unable to eat takeaways, or something. Martin, my waistline begs to differ.

The post title refers to a song by Canadian band Arcade Fire about a power cut, just so you know.

Overseas Euthanasia

  • Posted by Zephyr
  • 27 Jun 07, 11:03 PM

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating Eric MacDonald of Nova Scotia for bring his wife to Switzerland for an assisted suicide.

Elizabeth MacDonald, 38, had a severe form of multiple sclerosis that left her in a wheelchair, unable to move. As well, her throat was beginning to paralyze.

Her husband said she feared becoming trapped in her own body and had tried to commit suicide herself a year ago.

I found this article from a buddy on LiveJournal, who says he hopes that Canada legalizes euthanasia soon. I used to feel the same way myself until I started reading the blogs of other crips who are severely disabled. Now I know that society prefers to euthanize the severely disabled, because it takes less work than actually helping them LIVE. If we kill 'em off early, they won't be a huge drain on the system and a burden on society, right?

I never knew that forced euthanasia had been a problem for the disability community. You see, even though I'm severely disabled, I'm still 'normal' in the eyes of society. I walk, though with a cane and limp. I have no physical irregularities or deformities. I don't have any intellectual or learning disabilities. Until I started using a cane, most people didn't even know I had a disability. My parents were never told to put me in an institution, or leave me on a mountaintop. I read stories of forced euthanasia and forced sterilization of PWDs and am horrified. This is actually news to me.

Personally, though, I always viewed euthanasia as a nice escape route if things got too bad. I've had some very painful periods where I knew I couldn't go on living that way for life. I still feel that way. I don't know how I feel about legalized euthanasia anymore, but I still believe wholeheartedly in good old-fashioned suicide. I'm fortunate that my religious beliefs don't dictate punishment in the afterlife if I take that option.

My main fear is that if assisted suicide becomes legal, every person who becomes newly disabled will run off to a euthanasia clinic and off themselves. I'm probably exaggerating, but I really hope that the laws would be quite stringent. I would hope that someone would have to live with a disability for at least a couple of years before being eligible for euthanasia. A couple of years with rehabilitative services, occupational therapy and assisted independent living can make a big difference.

• Visit Arthritic Young Thing
*May contain adult content*

A disabled Prime Minister?

  • Posted by The Goldfish
  • 27 Jun 07, 03:54 PM

As of today, the UK has a disabled Prime Minister. Did you notice?

Last year Gordon Brown was voted the UK's most influential disabled person by Disability Now Magazine. Following a rugby accident in his teens, Brown lost the sight in one eye and was left with partial sight in the other. This means that he needs some documents printing in large text.

As this is a 'reasonable adjustment' under the Disability Discrimination Act, it was argued that Brown was disabled, at least in this particular legal context. Indeed, having documents printed in large text is a simple adjustment, but not one which all people with visual impairments are able to take for granted. According to the RNIB Right to Read Campaign, 96% of published books and other literature are currently unavailable in large print or other accessible formats for people with visual or reading impairments.

Ouch readers may also recall that, in a move which didn't slightly threaten to destroy his entire political career, Brown subsequently incurred the wrath of the formidable Disability Bitch when he declared that he didn't really consider himself to have "a disability".

Over at Disability Now, Sunil Peck has written an excellent article - the first I've seen on the issue - about the potential impact of having a visually impaired Prime Minister.

• Visit Diary of a Goldfish

Fighting For Accessibility - It Ain't Just Me Anymore

  • Posted by Zephyr
  • 27 Jun 07, 12:12 AM

I am really cranky with the world today - OK, I've been rather ornery for the last few weeks. I've been reading and writing a lot about disability rights and feminism, and I'm toeing the line between being a passionate fighter for civil rights or a bitter shrieking harpy. Today, the bee in my bonnet is the lack of accessible spaces.

I'm planning to hit a local gay bar downtown to do karaoke with my friends tonight. I invited my disabled friends to come along. One of them drives a power wheelchair. This bar has a wheelchair lift, but I have no idea whether it works or not, and if I need a key, and who holds the key, etc. I've called them several times and emailed them once and no one has gotten back to me. I don't want my friend to come all the way downtown if she's not able to get upstairs to the bar.

I'm also politely arguing with a local Pagan group over holding accessible rituals. When I wrote to the list saying that every ritual should be fully accessible, several people wrote back replying that if I want accessible ritual space, I can always volunteer to organize a ritual. There are so many things wrong with that. I won't get into all of here, because I've already gone into detail on my blog, but I'm pretty steamed. I probably will organize a future ritual, because I'm perfectly capable of doing it, but I shouldn't have to in order to have access to one. All I have to say is - and forgive me if you're not Pagan or otherwise informed and don't get the joke - there will be no Spiral Dances in my ritual!!!

Haven't we been fighting this fight for decades now? It's amazing that people I like and respect Just Don't Get It.

You know, once upon a time, I wouldn't have said anything. Actually, last year I wouldn't have said anything. I would have figured that since I was probably the only group member with accessibility issues, it wasn't worth raising a fuss over. After all, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, right?

But since connecting with a diverse group of disability bloggers from all over the world, I finally realize that it's not just my problem. Even if I am the only disabled member of a particular group, the fight for accessibility is still worth fighting. I'm not just fighting for myself; I'm fighting for my friends, their friends, future PWDs, parents of PWDs, children of PWDs, the elderly, people with disabilities all over the world.

I'm really glad that I don't feel alone anymore. It's nice to be fighting in solidarity for a cause that unites many, instead of fighting alone, or suffering in silence.

• Visit Arthritic Young Thing
*May contain adult content*

Novel uses for a wheelchair ramp #1

  • Posted by Lady Bracknell's Editor
  • 26 Jun 07, 10:30 PM

This is pretty much a run of the mill news story about planning permission for a wheelchair ramp being refused. Except for one rather odd aspect….

The North West Evening Mail has reported that the manager of an Arts Centre in Grange has objected to the local council’s refusal to grant him permission to install a ramp outside his business.

The councillors’ concerns concentrate mainly on the planned ramp’s impact on the width of the pavement and on the business next door. Ok, so we may not like that, but we're unlikely to be surprised by it.

Councillor Tom Harvey, though, has an entirely different concern. He thinks late-night drinkers might use the ramp. “People will accumulate on there”, he said.

Erm, am I missing something here? As long as the business to which the ramp leads is shut for the night, what’s the problem with late night drinkers “accumulating” on it? In what way is “accumulating” on a ramp worse than “accumulating” on a pavement? Is there something particularly sinister about ramp-loitering? Or is there something so unbelievably magnetic about a wheelchair ramp that it would prove an irresistible draw to every drinker in the town?

The last wheelchair ramp I saw was sort of grey and hard and slopey. Functional, yes, but not a thing of beauty. Now, I’m not one for hanging about town centres late at night with a bottle of something alcoholic in the hand I’m not using to prod someone repeatedly in the shoulder and tell them they’re my best friend. But if I were, I can’t imagine that my eyes would light up at the prospect of having a ramp to congregate on. Not unless it was fitted with comfy seating and potted palms, anyway.

If you’re aware of any other bizarre planning objections to adaptations which would make buildings more accessible, I’ve no doubt the Ouch team would be thrilled if you’d recount them in the comments on this entry.

• Visit The Perorations of Lady Bracknell

Thoughts on Music. Not featuring the Spasticus Autisticus guy.

  • Posted by Nicola
  • 26 Jun 07, 10:23 PM

There’s not much of a space for the disabled person in pop music. I’m not talking about the usual problem of our perceived asexuality versus pop’s image obsessed industry, that’s peanuts. I’m thinking more along the lines of technicalities. For example, Justin Timberlake says he’s ‘gonna have you naked by the end of this song’ apparently. According to my MP3 playing device, the song in question (2003’s Rock Your Body, no I’m not ashamed) lasts four minutes and twenty nine seconds.

Not far short of the average Social Services care allocation then, but still problematic. I for one spend 5 minutes removing my socks it seems like, more if there’s something good on the telly to divert my attention. I can then spend indeterminate amounts of time wondering why I don’t cut my losses and wear alternating ponchos.

Here then are a few choice song lyrics I picked out:

Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance

“We can dance if we want to”

No. No we can’t. At least, not with everyone else down front, it’s a fire safety risk. If you dance on the wheelchair viewing platform you risk jolting people with spinal injuries, and that’s just not rock and roll. (I mean that seriously actually I saw a big argument about it. People cried)

Belle & Sebastian – The Model

“She met another blind kid at a fancy dress, it was the best sex she ever had”

I always suspected those dudes were good at stuff other than presenting radio.

Belle & Sebastian – The State That I’m In

“I was moved to kick the crutches from my crippled friend.”

Charming.

Buck 65 – The Centaur

I don’t have a quote for this, I just figured Centaurs would be disabled. Filling out the Transport For London Journey Planner requirements: I cannot use stairs; I cannot use escalators; I am part horse.

Don't Park Here

  • Posted by Dave Hingsburger
  • 26 Jun 07, 06:04 PM

Why is it that people who would never ever park in a disabled parking space have no difficulty using the disabled toilet stall. I don't know how many times I've had to sit in my wheelchair, desperately needing to weee while some normate is doing the crossword puzzle in the comfort of the bigger stall. Ummm, they didn't make it bigger so you could turn it into your own little apartment. They made it bigger for me and my chair.

I've taken to announcing my self as I sit in my chair. I talk loudly to Joe, who's usually with me, about having to wait for the disabled stall when all the other stalls are free. Usually that gets them to hurry up a little bit, finish the job and get the paperwork done - but sometimes it has no effect. Selfishness, now that's a disability.

But that's not what this rant is abouit today. I had to stop at the gas station on the way to work this morning and use the washroom. I'm over fifty, sue me. Anyways, this particular station has a separate disabled washroom like they have in the UK. I watched a non-disabled guy walk out, he saw me sitting there and smiled at me.

He actually smiled at me.

Like he was a nice guy, greeting me and all.

But when I went into the bathroom, that nice guy had urinated into the toilet without lifting the lid. There was a sea of urine. I had no choice I had to wipe up his pee so I could ... you know ... void myself.

EEEEEEWWWWWWW!!

I've got one choice in stall. I can't go from stall to stall to stall looking for a clean one like I sometimes had to do when I could still walk well. Now, I need the bars, I need the higher toilet, I need to wipe up some strangers leftover pee in order to toilet myself.

So if you don't park there ... don't park here.

• Visit Chewing The Fat

How late is fashionably late?

  • Posted by The Goldfish
  • 26 Jun 07, 11:38 AM

Hello! I am the Goldfish.

I live in rural East Anglia with my partner, my fish and our delipidated VW Beetle. I have been blogging at Diary of a Goldfish for two and a half years. It was something I started doing to get things out of my system; personal ups and downs, political arguments, reviews of books, films and music I liked, and the occasional bad poem.

Soon enough, I found myself to be part of a rich community of bloggers from all over the world, including others writing about disability. Blogging can be a wonderfully accessible soapbox and whilst not exactly mainstream, it is a medium in which we have complete control over our representation as disabled people.

Disability is an important part of my identity, partly because it took so long for me to recognise. Disabled meant broken, unchanging, hopeless. Curious as it may seem, I preferred to see myself as merely ill, regardless of the Blue Badge, wheelchair, the absence of gainful employment and everything else which spoke 'disabled' to other people. It was through the good people at the Ouch Messageboard that I learnt about the Social Model of Disability and began to understand that disabled people are united by our experiences, more than anything that might be going on in our brains or bodies. And having realised that some of my limitations were to do with attitudes and man-made obstacles - and therefore entirely adjustable - it became imperative to try and address them wherever possible.

• Visit Diary of a Goldfish

Introducing Zephyr

  • Posted by Zephyr
  • 25 Jun 07, 11:06 PM

I'm sitting here thinking of how to introduce myself to the Ouch! readership, and for the first time in weeks, I have writer's block. I'm having the blogger's equivalent of stage fright. It's strange and scary, introducing myself to whole bunch of new people who probably expect me to be witty, articulate and super-informed about Disability Issues. Well, two out of three ain't bad, I guess.

I'm Zephyr, I'm 29, and I've had Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritic for 23 years. I am living proof that arthritis is NOT an old person's disease, and my #1 Most Hated Thing That Able-Bodied People Say is "But you're so young!" The one part of aging that I'm looking forward to is never hearing that phrase again. Of course, then people will say "Ah, it's your age, I suppose." Grrrrr!!!

My fellow guest blogger, Nicola, wrote about how some people refuse to let their disability define them. I'm not one of those folk. When you have severe, full-body arthritis, it affects everything you do, believe me. I find that to be true of many folk with chronic pain disorders. It is hard for us to forget the disability because the pain is always there to remind us. My disability is ever-present in every aspect of my life; therefore, it really does partially define me. Of course, it's not the only thing that defines me, which is what we disabled folk would like the able-bodied to remember. Of course we're more than our disabilities! But my disability is a very important part of who I am, one of the most important parts. After spending most of my life trying to hide or downplay my disability, it's crucial that people recognize how much of my character has been shaped by having arthritis, and what a huge role it has in my life.

In fact, one of the reasons I called my blog Arthritic Young Thing was to embrace the personal adjective as a way of showing disability pride. I know a lot of PWDs prefer to be called a person with a disability, or a person with arthritis, to emphasize they are a person first. I couldn't agree more. But for me, I wanted to exhibit pride in using the word arthritic the same way I would use the word bisexual or Pagan to describe myself. The 'Young' part was to emphasize that young people can develop arthritis. The 'young thing' part was a play on 'pretty young thing' or 'sexy young thing'. *grins* Like many of my fellow PWDS, one of my focal blog issues is how you can have a disability and still be sexual, and sexy. That's not something I've ever had a problem with, but it staggers me to hear how many of my fellow crips battle being asexualized and treated like children.

I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada, and moved to Vancouver, BC, a few years ago. After living in an inaccessible wilderness of ice and snow, I can't get over how much more accessible and disability-friendly Vancouver is. It still has a long way to go, but for a gal from out port fishing villages, it's aces.

• Visit Arthritic Young Thing
*May contain adult content*

So who is this Seahorse?

  • Posted by
  • 25 Jun 07, 08:13 PM

The first thing I note about introducing myself is that I'm finding it a bit difficult.

I am somewhat changed from the person I was three years ago, which is when I became disabled. And yet blogging and communicating with people online have been an integral part of me recovering at least some aspects of myself, and progressing towards acceptance of my disability.

When I entered supposed 'care' systems the whole experience threatened to take over my life completely. Now I don't play ball so readily. I only see professionals who are just that. Those who understand my impairments, and at least attempt to understand the weird and wonderful place I call my mind. Yes, that's mine. Hands off.

According to the medical profession I have a bewildering array of syndromes and disorders. According to my sage of a psychotherapist, the medical profession IS a bewildering array of syndromes and disorders.

They do like to make it hard for themselves, don't they? I suppose it's called justifying a fat salary. Me? I don't like doctors. But I am liking getting my life back.

I started my blog this year, just ahead of separating from my partner of ten years. Great timing! The aim was for it to be a little corner for beautiful things. A den. A safe place. Only now as it develops I find myself writing about the stuff I am trying to escape from. Ugliness. Systems. Isolation. Things that frustrate. Gosh, feelings even. And the whole process has started to unravel into a more direct discourse on disability.

Words that spring to mind about blogging: Enlightening. Moving. Entertaining. Thought-provoking. Challenging.

I generally have more respect for people online than those I encounter in real life. But then I can't get out and about much so the balance is tipped more into meeting people this way. I have witnessed the ordeals of others, and shared their laughs. Partaken in parlour games, and pondered things I would never have otherwise. Taken part in carnivals, posted on message boards and Blogged Against Disablism.

It wasn't so very long ago that I was unable to write a shopping list. Now I find myself with a guest spot on the site that really was a beacon for me in the early days, when I had no voice and no power to write. And alongside writers who were giving me my strength back before they even knew it. I am truly amazed. I am thinking that you probably are too. How was this allowed to happen? Who is this rambling Seahorse?

Okay, I'll wrap this up.

Life is better these days. I am writing again. I paint very badly, am keen on photography, and (saving the best til last) have a wonderful son and almost equally wonderful cat. Oh, and I do battle with health and social care bods along the way. And try to stay sane. I keep it all sticky-taped together over at The Beauty Offensive. Here? The state I'm in some days, who knows? But heck, I'm here anyway.

• Visit The Beauty Offensive

The Moment

  • Posted by Dave Hingsburger
  • 25 Jun 07, 07:24 PM

Whoa!

Suddenly I lost feeling in both legs from the hip to the floor. I was lecturing in the US, it was 10 in the morning, I knew something was very wrong. At breaktime I couldn't walk. To go to the washroom I had to put my hands on Joe's shoulders and have him slowly lead me there. The organizers, concerned for my health, told me to get in the car and go home. I didn't. I told them that I felt OK but it was definately odd about the legs. By two in the afternoon I knew that I had to get home. We drove for several hours home.

That night, I got up for a bathroom trip at about two in the morning. I forgot about my legs and stood only to promptly fall. I'm a very big man and it was a very big fall. I knocked dressers, television and side table to the floor. It was almost impossible to get up. The next day I decided against going to the hospital. Why? Because I'm a guy. The following day it was impossible to ignore that I couldn't really walk any more and I headed for the hospital.

I was put into a bed in the hallway and waited for a couple of hours. The doctor who examined me noticed an infection on my upper leg and blanched. He left and came back with four other doctors. They talked amongst themselves and then to me. I'd be in surgery within 20 minutes and I might not survive. Oh. OK. They let Joe into the pre-op holding place even though the sign said clearly, 'No Vistors'. We waited together.

Clearly I survived the surgery. But the ordeal wasn't over, I went into Intensive Care and was on this weird air bed with round the clock one to two nursing. I didn't really notice the days go by. It's amazing how small the world can get and still seem too big. It was day four when Joe came in smiling. He was pushing a wheelchair and he said, "Let's get out of here."

I plopped my butt down into the chair. Not realizing at that moment. That precise moment. I joined the disability community. I didn't see the chair as anything more than a devise to get me out of that room and downstairs for a cuppa tea. I had my blanket over my leg, a bag of urnine at my feet and a gentle breeze blew over me as Joe whipped me out of the room and down the hallway. I had never felt freer than I did at that moment.

Probably because of that moment, I saw the chair from the get go as a release from the captivity of legs that didn't work. I didn't feel confined by the chair, I felt liberated by it. I could move. Go where I wanted. Determine my own way again.

It was odd to me, then, that when people first saw me in the wheelchair that they said wierd things. "I'm so sorry you are in a wheelchair." is the consistent message. "But I almost died ... isn't the chair a step up from that?" I think. And it's been an amazing companion, my chair. As I lecture internationally. The chair has been all over the UK and Ireland, it's been through several of the United States, most of Canada ... and still people think of me as 'confined.'

I love my chair and the freedom it gives me.

But ... I really like my new community. I've discovered something that I haven't felt since the early days of the gay movement ... membership.

It is said, "membership has its privileges" but what I've discovered is that I'm privileged to be a member.

• Visit Chewing The Fat

I can't introduce myself as 'her in the wheelchair' on here, can I?

  • Posted by Nicola
  • 25 Jun 07, 02:28 PM

This first post is supposed to be 'introductory' so here goes. I am the blogger formally known as Turtle, I forget why I elected to use my given birth name during this project but I'm hoping the reason will transpire within the next few sentences. Turtle's Page of Joy was my main blog until about a year ago, and I write occasionally on a 'popular social networking site.' I arrived on Ouch out of curiosity about disability, having exhausted the potential of the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles, believing myself to be a rubbish disabled person.

To say Ouch has made me a better person, disabled or otherwise, would be a gross exaggeration. It would be a great advert, but a gross exaggeration. That said, it has made me more aware of the parts of my identity marked 'disabled' and how they relate with the parts marked 'everything else'. They don't always get along, sometimes they actively clash. For something with a 'disability' my disabled identity isn't half good at suffocating everything else some days. Not every day.

A mantra for some people seems to be 'I don't let my disability define me' but it's not something I personally need to remind myself of. I don't trust myself to do much, but I do trust any fixation on disability issues I wake up with to even itself out to reasonable levels come the lunchtime edition of Neighbours. Allowing it to come to the fore from time to time, I think, means that the issues and inequities we face as disabled people aren't forgotten or glossed over. Unless disability is your job, of course, then 'from time to time' doesn't cut it. Yes, I should emphasise that if you have Disability or Diversity or Activist or Wonky Looking People in your job title, working by my philosophy may well get you fired. If this has already happened, I can only apologise. Sorry.

I dunno, it's not something I do. I'm a history student, last time I emphasised disability in my line of 'work' it nearly got me chucked out of Gender in 20th Century France.

These blogs will be influenced by the understanding of disability I have developed in my 22 years on this planet, juggled with the dissertation I am writing over the university summer vacation. I will try not to veer into how much I hate Katie Melua, but it's not something I can guarantee. Because I do. I really, truly do.

That was an introduction, right?

I hope to be bringing a brand new blog out soon, because my parts of my old one date from a 'dark time' . You can look through the archives of what has never been called TPoJ, i'm reasonably sure the last entry was about the indignity of eating nachos. That wasn't the dark time, by the way.

• Visit Turtle's Page of Joy

Introducing Lady Bracknell's Editor

  • Posted by Lady Bracknell's Editor
  • 25 Jun 07, 10:28 AM

Hmm. It says here in my handy guide to being an Ouch guest blogger that I'm to introduce myself to you, the Ouch readers, in any way I want. You will, apparently, want more information about me than I've already provided. Possibly you are labouring under the false impression that those of us who have been invited to write as guest bloggers live inherently fascinating lives, the sparkling details of which will amaze and astound you. Whilst I can't, of course, speak for the other five, I wouldn't hold your breath if you're expecting my own life to be full of incident. Because I can assure you it's not. (Although I did once serve Harry Hill a pint of beer.)

If you've been reading the Ouch blog for a while, you may have spotted that this isn't my first stint as a guest contributor. Although it is my first time writing as myself. Previously, I wrote as the redoubtable Lady Bracknell: this time, I'm coming out from behind my fictional alter ego and writing as me.

I live in the North West of England, and I'm a civil servant who has spent large portions of the last ten years fighting for equal rights for disabled staff. I also act as a business mentor to a disabled student from one of the local universities every year. I'm too frail and creaky these days to pursue any active leisure interests outside work, but I do have a great and abiding love for the theatre.

I've been blogging since September 2005. I had to be cajoled into setting a blog up, because I was quite convinced I had absolutely nothing of any interest to say. Three hundred and five blog entries down the line, I've barely stopped to draw breath. Blogging is important to me because it provides me with one of my very few ways of meeting new people. I wouldn't, however, describe my blog as "a disability blog". Committed though I am to disability equality, it's not the only thing I ever think about.

Here are some very kind things which some very nice people have said about Lady Bracknell's blog:

• "Come for the smarts, stay for the snark"
• "Both very clever and very funny"
• "The new Saki". (I am really not worthy.)
• "Your wit is something to be aspired to"

Frankly, I suspect they're confusing me with somebody else. However overrated they might be, though, I'll do my best to bring those same qualities to my contributions to the Ouch blog.

• Visit The Perorations of Lady Bracknell

Say hello to Ouch's guest bloggers

  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 25 Jun 07, 08:28 AM

Things are going to be rather different here on Ouch's blog for the next few weeks.

Over the last two to three years, we've noticed that the world of disability blogging has really taken off. When we launched Ouch's own weblog at the end of 2002, there weren't many of you out there - now there's a huge number! On Ouch, we want to reflect as much of what's going on in the disability community as possible - including in the blogosphere - so we've invited six disabled bloggers whose words we've loved reading to guest here on our blog for a few weeks.

So, I can hear you asking, what will they be writing about?

Well, everything they normally write about - their lives, their thoughts, things they've seen on the web and in the news, and maybe even other stuff they have spotted on Ouch. However, this will definitely bring more of a personal tone than you're perhaps used to reading from Crippled Monkey and the rest of the Ouch team at BBC Towers in sunny west London - though we'll still be adding the occasional post if we spot something you simply have to see.

We're really, really excited about this little experiement. We hope that you all enjoy the next few weeks, and support our six guest bloggers with loads and loads (and loads) of comments. Don't be shy - if you've never commented here before, why not join in?

In their first posts, our team of six are going to be introducing themselves, but if you want to find out a little more about them instantly, you can check out their profiles.

And with that, it's over to our guests ...

This is a 'thinking' blog!

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 21 Jun 07, 02:45 PM

Seaneen, who writes a blog called Pole to Polar: the secret life of a manic depressive has nominated this humble blog you're looking at right here as a 'Thinking Blogger'. It's the latest meme going round the net, for "blogs that make you think". Crippled Monkey is very honoured, and will now go away and think of some thinking bloggers that he'd like to nominate. However, I'm thinking a little slowly today, though, so it might take some time ...

Heavy Metal disability?

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 20 Jun 07, 02:34 PM

It's official (well, it's official in Sweden, anyway) - liking long hair, ripped denims, twiddly-twiddly guitar solos and heads-down, no-nonsense RAWK music is a disability. No, really. It is. Pay attention to Crippled Monkey, readers.

Roger Tullgren, a Swedish heavy metal fan, has won a case to claim disability allowance because he is a fan of hard rock. This follows a psychological analysis in which it was judged that his love for all things Heavy and Metal dominates so much of Tullgren's life that the local Employment Service has agreed to pay part of his salary so that he can play loud rock music at work - which is a local restaurant where he washes dishes. (Er, but what about health and safety rules for the other employees?)

Crippled Monkey contacted hairy rockers Status Quo for their thoughts on this crucial story, but sadly they were unavailable for comment. (And, er, to be honest, I didn't really contact them. That was just my little joke.)

Get out and about with GOJO

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 19 Jun 07, 03:39 PM

Big news, readers. Crippled Monkey has been getting rather fond of buses of late. Really. And as my friends know, I've always been a fan of trains. Not that I'm a trainspotter. Ahem. No, definitely not.

Here on Ouch, whenever we publish an article about public transport, or whenever a post about the subject is left on the messageboard, it gets a lot of feedback. A lot. Quite rightly, it's a subject close to disabled people's hearts. Yet despite the fact that changes to the DDA introduced in December last year gave disabled people the right, for the first time, to fair treatment on public transport, many younger disabled people say they still lack confidence in using buses and trains compared to their non-disabled counterparts.

Launched in May by the Disability Rights Commission, GOJO is a campaign to encourage younger disabled people, especially, to get out and about on public transport, particularly if they have difficulties or fears about using it. Its launch featured stand-up comedy gigs on buses by the Abnormally Funny People group, which you can watch for yourself on everyone's favourite video-sharing site, YouTube.

This coming weekend sees the culmination of GOJO's activities in the five cities and local areas on which they have focused their activities - Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield - which coincides with The Longest Weekend. It's the weekend with the most daylight hours, running from the Summer Solstice on Thursday June 21 to Sunday June 24. And they're encouraging you to get out and about and do stuff. Which sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?

You can find out what's going on in each of the local areas using GOJO's Events Guides. Plus they have teamed up with local venues and attractions to provide a range of special offers to encourage general getting out and aboutness with so many daylight hours to fill. These include two for one cinema tickets, free travel tickets and discounted meals. It's a good geographical spread across the country, so hopefully you'll be able to find something going on near you.

Finallly, GOJO are also publishing travel diaries on their site, containing your personal experiences of using public transport. There are prizes for the best entries too - not that you need that sort of encouragement, do you? Nope, you don't.

So Crippled Monkey, being a younger disablified type myself (no snarky comments, thank you), is going to be getting out and about this weekend, and suggests you do likewise. I'll see you on the buses. Or on the train. Though probably not on my bike. No, definitely not on my bike, in fact.

A blind slip-up

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 16 Jun 07, 03:38 PM

Okay, in Ouch's continuing mission to bring you the silliest disability-related video clips that it's possible to find on YouTube, here is the latest offering. And this is by far the silliest (and most embarrassing) yet, as a US newscaster makes a bit of an unfortunate slip-up. Ahem.

Note: If you can't see the above video, you can also watch it here on the YouTube website. But be warned! Comments left by other YouTube users can sometimes be very offensive and contain strong language.

Gearing up for Glastonbury

  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 14 Jun 07, 08:38 PM

By this time next weekend, those festival-goers lucky enough to have prized tickets for Glastonbury will either be loading up their backpacks or already arriving on site. And although this festival has a reputation for being a mudbath, that doesn't mean it's not accessible to disabled people. Oh no, definitely not.

Five years ago, only a couple of weeks after Ouch launched, we proved it by sending two hardy souls to Glastonbury - you can read about their exploits in our Summer Festivals Guide. However, since this dates from 2002, much of the information about disabled facilities has since changed. So what you should also do is consult a seasonedl disabled festival-goer who has been there, done it and bought the t-shirt. And more than once. Like Flash Wilson, in fact. Part of her personal website is called Glastonbury Onna Stick!, and it details all you need to know about equipping yourself for your stay on Worthy Farm for the weekend. Well, everything apart from where to get the best veggie burgers ...

And don't forget to check out the festival's own website for the official round-up of information for disabled people. Have a good time, if you're going!

Disability in North Korea

  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 14 Jun 07, 10:46 AM

One of the subjects that interests us here at Ouch is the lives of disabled people in countries that, for various reasons, not so much is known about. Last year on Ouch, we brought you Stephen Hallett's One eye on China series of articles, and more recently on the weblog we posted an entry containing some shocking discoveries about disabled people in war-torn Afghanistan. But what about possibly the most secretive and cut-off nation of them all - North Korea?

In an article published yesterday on the Radio Free Asia website, it's revealed that "rejected and marginalized by a regime that has only recently begun to acknowledge their existence, disabled North Koreans live under effective house arrest and are routinely expelled from the capital, Pyongyang", according to defectors and aid groups. In North Korean society, it is apparently acceptable to routinely use derogatory language about disabled people, and there is almost a total lack of social services facilities available to them.

Click here to read this genuinely fascinating article.

Aussie college film mocks disabled people

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 12 Jun 07, 11:44 AM

A first year Ph.D student at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia has caused a furore by submitting a film which mocks disabled people as part of his thesis, reports today's Times newspaper.

The film, made by student Michael Noonan, has the title Laughing at the Disabled (well, no one can accuse him of subtlety, can they? Talk about doing what it says on the tin!) and features two men with learning difficulties who were sent into a bar to ask if there were any women looking for romance - this leads to one of them getting severely beaten by a drunken woman. Elsewhere in this 'hilarious' film, Noonan asks one of the men - who has Asperger's Syndrome - what he would do if one of the women fancied both of them. The man's difficulties with social skills, as a result of his impairment, leave him twitching and unable to answer - something which provoked raucous laughter from the audience.

What's surprising and annoying Crippled Monkey though, having read the report, is how little of the scandal this film has caused seems to be down to the disablism of its tone. For instance, two senior academics who criticised the film have been suspended for six months without pay, accused of threatening the "artistic freedom" of students. They had slated the film as being an example of a culture where it's a case of "the grosser, the better" and - get this! - that "the project showed the amoral influence of postmodernism within the university’s creative industries faculty". Ooh, very highbrow and academic - but what about the disablism? To criticise the film may indeed be threatening the "artistic freedom" of students, but there doesn't seem to be any mention of the freedom of disabled people not to have fun poked at them for nothing more than laughter. Hmm.

If any Ouch readers Down Under have glimpsed this film, we'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Head out on the highway!

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 8 Jun 07, 01:42 PM

I don't think there has been a day within my recent memory when I have received quite so many messagea about one story. My inbox has been bulging, my voicemail overflowing, and people have even been coming up to me in the office and saying, "Monkey! Have you heard about THIS? You've got to blog about THIS!"

I am, of course, talking about the Michigan wheelchair user who took a high speed ride along the highway after his chair became tangled up in the front grille of a truck. A TRUCK!

The vehicle went on to reach speeds of 50mph (that's 80km/h, if you prefer). Wow, now that would really be a way to feel the wind in your hair.

The wheelchair user, it seems, survived his white-knuckle ride without a scratch. In fact, cool as a cucumber, his only complaint was that he had spilled his soda.

Ben Carpenter - for services beyond going faster than one really should in a wheeled mobility aid, Crippled Monkey salutes you and awards you the Order of the Ouch Banana. (Not that I have any Ouch Bananas to give away, you understand. But if I did, you would be the very first recipient.)

Oh, and please, readers - whatever you do, don't try this at home. Okay?

Welcome to Ouch's blog, where we bring you posts by disabled guest bloggers from around the web, plus entries by members of the Ouch team on disability topics big and small. Bookmark us, and be sure to add your comments too.

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