BBC Radio 4 In Touch
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Tuesday, 3 March 2009
20:40 – 21:00
0800 044 044
PROGRAMME ADDRESS.. 1
LEE KUMUTAT. 2
ANTHONY KAPPES.. 2
GENERAL CONTACTS.. 2
BBC Radio 4
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Lee Kumutat is studying journalism and In Touch hears some first impressions of what it’s like to be a visually-impaired Aussie in Britain.
AntHony Kappes, the Paralympic champion, who won golds in both the tandem sprint and the kilo time-trial in Beijing, is in to talk about his partnership with cyclist Jason Queally. Jason won gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
British Paralympic Association
40 Bernard Street
The British Paralympic Association (BPA) is a registered charity which is responsible for selecting, preparing, entering, funding and managing Britain' s teams at the Paralympic Games and Paralympic Winter Games.
105 Judd Street
Helpline: 0303 123 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
The RNIB provides information, support and advice for anyone with a serious sight problem. They not only provide Braille, Talking Books and computer training, but imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges. The RNIB campaigns to change society's attitudes, actions and assumptions, so that people with sight problems can enjoy the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities as fully sighted people. They also fund pioneering research into preventing and treating eye disease and promote eye health by running public health awareness campaigns.
HENSHAWS SOCIETY FOR BLIND PEOPLE (HSBP)
John Derby House
88-92 Talbot Road
Tel: 0161 872 1234
Henshaws provides a wide range of services for people who have sight difficulties. They aim to enable visually impaired people of all ages to maximise their independence and enjoy a high quality of life. They have centres in: Harrogate, Knaresborough, Liverpool, Llandudno, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Salford, Southport and Trafford.
THE GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND ASSOCIATION (GDBA)
Tel: 0118 983 5555
The GDBA’s mission is to provide guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services that meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people.
ACTION FOR BLIND PEOPLE
14-16 Verney Road
Tel: 0800 915 4666 (info & advice)
Tel: 020 7635 4800 (central office)
Registered charity with national cover that provides practical support in the areas of housing, holidays, information, employment and training, cash grants and welfare rights for blind and partially-sighted people. Leaflets and booklets are available.
NATIONAL LEAGUE OF THE BLIND AND DISABLED
324 Grays Inn Road
Tel: 020 7837 6103
Textphone: 020 7837 6103
National League of the Blind and Disabled is a registered trade union and is involved in all issues regarding the employment of blind and disabled people in the UK.
NATIONAL LIBRARY FOR THE BLIND (NLB)
Tel: 0161 406 2525
Textphone: 0161 355 2043
Trustees from the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and the National Library for the Blind (NLB) have agreed to merge the library services of both charities as of 1 January 2007, creating the new RNIB National Library Service.
EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (England)
0845 604 6610 - England main number
0845 604 6620 - England textphone
0845 604 6630 - England fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)
EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Wales)
3 Callaghan Square
0845 604 8810 - Wales main number
0845 604 8820 - Wales textphone
0845 604 8830 - Wales fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)
EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Scotland)
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
0845 604 5510 - Scotland Main
0845 604 5520 - Scotland Textphone
0845 604 5530 - Scotland – Fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)
DISABLED LIVING FOUNDATION
380-384 Harrow Road
Tel: 0845 130 9177
The Disabled Living Foundation provides information and advice on disability equipment.
The BBC is not responsible for external websites
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TX: 03.03.09 2040-2100
PRESENTER: PETER WHITE
PRODUCER: CHERYL GABRIEL
Good evening. Our guest throughout tonight's programme has come 12,000 miles to see us. Well that's not strictly accurate actually. Lee Kumutat, as they say on the immigration forms, state purpose of visit for us.
Purpose still as undefined but I've come to study in London for a year and see how things go after that.
Okay. Well later on we're going to be hearing some first impressions of what it's like to be a visually impaired Aussie in Britain, is there one word to sum it up?
Great, we look forward to that. First though a real boost for the ambitions of racing cyclist Anthony Kappes, not that he needs much of a boost, he's already a two time Paralympic champion - he won golds in both the tandem sprint and the kilo time trial in Beijing. But if you wanted to do even better what would be the best thing to do? Well you'd get an Olympic champion on the front - that's what - which is exactly what he's done. Anthony has teamed up with Jason Queally, who cycling fans and quite a lot of other people besides, will remember won our first gold medal in Sydney and that was before the time when we won gold at cycling as a matter of course.
Well Anthony Kappes went into our Manchester studio earlier today and I asked him how this partnership came about.
I'm already on the squad having ridden for the past sort of three, four years now for GB team. Jason Queally, as most people will know, is Olympic champion for the kilometre from Sydney. Jason's always been on the GB team ever since, obviously, he wanted to go to Beijing as part of the able bodied squad and I think kind of the results in Beijing kind of indicated just how strong the competition was to get on that squad to go. Jason sadly didn't, well sadly for him, not so sad for me. So the Paralympic groups as a tandem pilot was kind of a logical step I guess for him, because it allows him to do what he loves, which is ride bikes.
And what about you because you were a relatively late starter, I mean you lost your sight relatively late, can you just explain how you got into cycling?
I've got RP - Retinitis Pigmentosa - and I was diagnosed when I was 21 and did absolutely nothing about it. Now before that I had always run and weight trained and enjoyed it and I never stopped doing that until I was 30, 31 when my eyesight took a turn for the worse and I lost quite a lot of my depth perception, so I started running into stuff, which isn't healthy as it turns out. So I started casting round for something else to do, found out about the tandem racing and stuff, thought well that's worth a go because I didn't want to do Paralympic running. What I loved about running was the whole freedom of the thing - the ability to actually be on my own, do my own thing. So to try to emulate that somehow with a guide runner just didn't appeal to me, so I thought well let's do something completely different and tandem racing is like that, although you are completely guided as to where you go, it's not like running, so it's a great way for me to get that exercise buzz that I craved.
So what's it meant getting into it and having this degree of success?
The big thing, and I've had quite a long conversation with Jason about this and he's very similar minded, is the success is a result of finding out just how good you can be. So really aiming for gold medals and successes is kind of by the by, it's like a by product. Mostly what I want to find out is just how good can I be at this sport.
So how much of a cyclist were you before you lost your sight?
Oh nothing - the last time I rode a bike, in anger if you like, was the last day of my paper round when I was 14 or 15 years old and then I hadn't really touched a bike until - yeah I'd been 30.
And can you just explain how the combination works - I mean what's a good match? Clearly having an Olympic champion's not a bad idea to start with, but what is a good match, do you have match in terms of height and reach and all that kind of thing?
Yeah it's quite an involved question that because there is so much to it. But the basis of what we do is you're trying to make a result which is bigger than the sum of the parts. So ideally you'd love two riders who are identical - if you can imagine if you could get two Jason Queally's on a tandem the thing would fly ....
Or two Anthony Kappes.
Well the one on the front might be a bit dangerous but mostly that doesn't happen so you're never going to get a perfect match. So mostly what you're trying to do is bring your strengths to the bike without getting in the way of the other person on the bike because after all on a tandem you're physically linked together. So if you start cycling backwards the other guy can't cycle forwards.
Well that was my next question really because presumably you have to be well matched in terms of physique - power etc. because people have rather chuckled about this and said oh well he's got an Olympic champion on the front but I mean could you just sit on the back and let him get on with it?
I wish, that would be great wouldn't it.
So how does it work?
Given his extraordinary ability, Jason is a true natural athlete, he still can't tow twelve and a half stone of me round the track, it just doesn't happen anymore. Way back when they used to do mixed racing and really it was the case that they would get the biggest sprinter they could find and put the smallest petite girl on the back and hope she could stay out of the way of the pedals and it would be competitive but the times that are happening now you can't do that anymore. Of course I'm biased in this but yeah I do have to contribute 100% of what I can give.
So clearly you'll be expecting this is going to continue your successful career, which has already been very successful, I mean what's the high point been so far, it must be Beijing?
Yeah well I think Beijing is the high point for the reasons that Paralympics only come round every four years but it's not been the high point of my career. My high point so far has been our first World Championship jersey because we won the very first one ever. So a little bit of history in there. That was far more satisfying to do that - Beijing was special because of the occasion.
And what was it about that occasion which was rather special?
The Beijing Olympics and the Paralympics the Chinese just didn't hold back at all, nothing was done quietly, the spectators were extraordinarily noisy, the atmosphere was great, the facilities were great, wonderful stuff.
Clip from Beijing Olympics
Two laps to go. Great Britain lead by a bike length from Australia. They've already won race one of three, if they win this one they're gold medallists in the tandem sprint. Anthony Kappes on the back of the tandem, Barney Storey his sighted pilot in front of him and they're in front of the Australians Demery and Hopkins, and they're going to win gold, the Australians have lost the pace and Barney Storey has completed a gold medal double for the Storey partnership, his wife Sarah won around half an hour ago and he and Anthony Kappes have added to it and made it 11 Gold medals in the Velodrome for Great Britain.
Now can you just explain the rules about when you two can actually be an item, as it were, in full competitive terms?
Yeah, the UCI here are our governing body - Union Cyclists International - have just clarified the rules for Jason's eligibility and this goes along for any prospective tandem pilot. Now because Jason competed for the Great Britain senior squad, the able bodied team, in February last year, he can't now compete Paralympically for two years - 24 months - so he'll be eligible in February 2010. Had he ridden the Olympics he would have had to have taken three years out.
So what's the first big event where we'll see you together?
As part of the British Cycling Nationals, which are held in October at the Manchester Velodrome. We're hoping to have put on an open able bodied tandem kilo championship. So of course Jason, because it's an able bodied championship, we can both ride. But Paralympically, which I guess is more important, it will be the Manchester World Cup in 2010.
Anthony Kappes there.
Lee Kumutat is still with us. Lee did you enjoy us beating the Aussies there?
Absolutely loved it - not.
So the big outdoors is what we associate Australia with so have you ever taken to the tandem?
I own a tandem at home, it's about 25 years old - it's big and heavy - and so if you stop pedalling the bike basically falls over.
Right, and have you been the petite woman on the back avoiding the pedals?
No, no definitely not.
That's not exactly you?
No it's not me at all.
Anyway primarily we invited Lee in to give us her personal take on coming to Britain alone as a visually impaired visitor. She's here to do a journalism course so appropriately enough this is Lee Kumutat's call.
I moved to London from Sydney just over six months ago and I know that six months does not a native make but it is enough time to spot more than a few differences especially when it comes to giving assistance. I have needed many kinds of help in this time. I was warned by Aussies and even other English people that the British are nowhere near as helpful as Australians because of their famous reserve so you can imagine my surprise and relief when discovering this not to be true on my first solo trip to London. My score so far is five for an impromptu pavement conference to discuss the best way to share a road. Yet once we had achieved our goal and were bonded by our success they said an abrupt - Alright now? - and just disappeared. In Australia if we achieved such a positive outcome together then that means we're now firm friends, we would immediately head off to the pub for a beer and exchange cards every Christmas. Maybe that is evidence of that British reserve.
The English might be good at everyday kinds of assistance but Aussies are better in a crisis. This may be due to our unfortunate over supply of natural disasters. During my first weekend in London I ventured out for a walk after psyching myself up to it all day and not having a clue about the area around my new home. Dog and I stepped out feeling confident, five minutes later a torrential thunderstorm hit, all sound cues were immediately obliterated by the roaring of the rain. Royally lost and soaked, umbrella inside out, confidence now around my ankles, do you think anyone stopped in response to my admittedly rather pleading - Excuse me? Eventually someone did and the bad news is their accent was not British.
On the other hand the English are much better at giving succinct verbal instructions. I haven't had to ask people many times at all to explain what over there means and I love the greeting in the form of a question - You alright? - because I can choose to mistake it for a caring enquiry and collar my victim accordingly or I can as easily choose to misinterpret someone's over zealous - Are you okay? - for that nod, smile and go merrily on my way.
A definite plus in the England column is the service provided by the London Underground. Whether it is to find a platform or next connection its staff are well trained and listen to how I want the assistance to work. They will also go out of their way. Once deciding to go to Portobello Road market on a whim I asked a staff member for directions from the tube station. She said she needed a break anyway and just came along with me. I'm sure I would not get around London as much as I do without them. They're mostly always up for a chat too. I have had some of the most informative and enjoyable conversations, passing the time, while waiting for a train with not even a hint of that dreaded reserve. Maybe it's simply a matter of training.
Lee Kumutat thank you very much indeed. I think I can beat your five actually for a pavement conflab. The biggest I ever had was in Paris where they also get very excited by that idea. I think we had about 18, although I couldn't really count them.
So why do you think the Underground is so good, have you figured out what it is, because I agree with you?
I really do believe that they are exceptionally well trained and I think part of that training has to be that it's been drummed into them that the blind person will tell you how they think - want things to work. I also think that their staff selection process is just fabulous, they seem to find people who are articulate and who generally just like people and I think that makes a big difference.
Well I think I must say I think that's fair and we should perhaps find out a bit more about where they get their training from. And just finally, what decides whether you stay or whether you go in Britain?
I think I decide basically. I have decided I would like to stay on a little bit longer, originally it was a year, I'll probably go back for a holiday to Australia in July and then I will return and probably pursue some more studying I think.
Okay, thanks very much indeed.
Now I've had my six and four year old grandchildren staying with us over the past few months, not that I've seen much of them, at least not since they had something called the Wii for Christmas. I don't know much about this except that it happens on computers and is the perennial excuse for not coming down for tea, going to bed or doing anything else you've been asked to do. Mani Djazmi though can tell us more.
Well Pete you need to get with the programme because everyone knows what the Wii is, including me now because I became acquainted with it yesterday when I went to visit the blind opera singer Denise Leigh and her family. They've been playing on the Wii for a good long while and just to explain what it is before we hear how it works. It's a console - games console - manufactured by Nintendo and unlike your traditional computer games consoles it's not operated by joysticks which are connected to the TV or a computer unit. The way you use a Wii is by manipulating remote control type devices really which aren't attacked anything. And they've got the usual computer game buttons on them but also you have to put in some effort yourself, for instance in Wii boxing it's not just a matter of pressing button A to make a jab or button B to faint to the right or left but you actually have to make the boxing actions and get up on your feet and break into some kind of sweat if you want to win. As I say Denise and her family showed me how these games work, her family consisting of husband Stefan, son Sam and Sam's friend Lawrence. And we began with a trip to the bowling alley.
Okay Mani what we're doing is we've got the Nintendo Wii set ready to go and then we're going to play bowling and we're going to serve you a kind of [indistinct word] or something.
Okay, whatever that is. So who am I up against - me, you, Sam?
Me, you, Sam and Lawrence.
Right you'll need this for when you're playing. And you have to put this - you have to put your wrist through there.
It's a strap so you don't let go.
So this is 10 pin bowling essentially isn't it.
Yes it is, yeah, without the backache.
So I've got a remote control in my left hand and it's got a key which resembles a cross, so it's north, east, south and west I imagine, a button below that and a button above that and some more buttons below that. So Sam what do I need to do with this?
Right, press A, the one at the top, and now you hold down that one at the back and then you have to swing your arm.
As if I was bowling.
Yeah and then you have to let go when you get to a certain point, when you think ...
So I let go of button B when I ...
When you get to the front - the furthest forward point of your throw.
Okay, here we go then. Mind your backs, bowling ball coming through.
I'll stand back.
Oh it's a good one, was that an eight - oh nine.
Oh look at that, oh he's got his touch. Right Denise there you go.
Well I must say Denise and Stef visiting you here has taken me right back to when I was about 10 or 11 and I was playing on the computer with my sighted brother and it's great isn't it because it gives you an opportunity to really share in what your kids are doing, doesn't it Denise?
Yeah because there are so many, quotes, accessible games, which are only accessible obviously for visually impaired people, I mean for example there's one or two games on the computer that I thought oh I can play these with Sam and you can't because there's no visual output, I think there's only one, I think it's called Shades of Doom and the kids call it chasing box because basically what you do is chase what looks to them like boxes, little squares. And Sam's little friend will say there's a box coming after you. So you know it's quite limiting. So yeah this is one way that you can actually take part in what they're doing.
It's not completely accessible is it, the Wii, because you still needed people to tell you who was on the leader board and what your score was after whatever you were doing, but I suppose, in a sense, for you guys, being a family, that just makes it even more inclusive doesn't it.
Yeah it does because the kids would not think twice about doing that anyway, especially the boys, boys are very - they'll comment on your score and tell you whether it was pathetic or not.
There's only one game we have that does tell you what score you get and I must face divorce proceedings due to having it. I thought it might be a great idea to get PDC Championship Darts for Christmas, which is fab because I've never thrown a dart in my life because well - anyone with any sort of sense wouldn't allow me to play darts. You use your remote control as a dart and you throw it using the same hand position as you would holding a dart. It's frustrating, even for sighted people, I mean the website that I bought it off I read countless pages of reviews of frustrated people who'd returned the game saying I can't do it, the controls are impossible. But the advantage is that there's a fantastic commentary track behind the game by Sid Waddell, who's the voice of darts essentially, and if you get a no score with your three darts he'll throw one of his stock set of about 20 different insults out of the commentary track.
Me granny could beat that blindfold.
It does get really competitive because all your scores are stored.
But more worryingly perhaps a lot of the scores seem to be stored in your heads.
Like the wonderfully legendary day when I got 227 on bowling.
Oh never forget that day Denise.
Mr Waddell finishing that all off. Actually I'm feeling rather guilty now because I think I should have obviously tried to play with my grandchildren instead of staying sniffily downstairs. Mani you're coming back next week, what with?
Yes next week I'll be looking at why so many mainstream games, computer games, are inaccessible to visually impaired people and if there's anything that can be done about it.
Okay that's it for today but do call us with your comments and queries, you can call us on 0800 044 044 or you can e-mail the programme at bbc.co.uk and then find your way to In Touch via the links. And of course there'll be a podcast of today's programme as from tomorrow.
That's it from me, Peter White, the joyfully returning producing Cheryl Gabriel, our guest Lee Kumutat and the team, goodbye.
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