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Ouch Podcast: now double award-winners!

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 30 Nov 07, 12:03 PM

We have hardly had enough time to build a lovely mantlepiece in the office for our last award for the Ouch Podcast - the Royal Television Society Innovation Awards in the Community category - before winning another one!

Yes, last night we headed out into the bright lights of "that London" to the BIMA Awards 2007 (it stands for British Interactive Media Association), where we took home the gong - well, it' more heavy, shiny, silver and metallic, actually - in the category of Most Outstanding Achievement in Accessibility.

We're so proud - *sniff* - although, personally speaking, I am once again a little miffed that your faithful blogging correspondent Crippled Monkey was left at his desk eating a sad, solitary banana, whilst the rest of 'em quaffed the free champaigne. I'm not bitter, though. Really I'm not.

Northern Rock - and disability?

  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 28 Nov 07, 12:16 PM

Here on Ouch, we sometimes have a little saying: "disability is in everything". It allows us to take that sideways look at the subject that has become so characteristic of your favourite disability website. But even we didn't imagine that it would somehow feature in the ongoing news story of the troubled Northern Rock bank and, in turn, the global credit criss that has been hitting the headlines almost daily since September. However, it seems that we were wrong.

A story tucked away in the Business section of The Guardian today reveals that the offshore trust that owns three-quarters of Northern Rock's assets was originally set up to benefit charities - in particular, a small organisation for children with Down's Syndrome. So small, in fact, that it's run from a semi-detached house on the outskirts of Newcastle. Curiouser and curiouser.

Yet Down's Syndrome North East - or DSNE - remained completely in the dark about their role in all this. Whilst the volunteer-run charity was getting by on small donations, little did it know that it was supposed to be one of the beneficiaries of a trust whose turnover ran into billions (yes, I said billions) of pounds. Since this story came to light, Northern Rock has promised that the charity will receive a donation in the future - but nothing has been forthcoming yet due to further complexities in the situation.

If, like me, you're not particularly up to speed in your knowledge of the intricacies of financial institutions and markets, this can appear to be a rather bewildering report, but it's definitely one worth reading. And it certainly goes to prove, once again, the old Ouch belief that disability really is in everything.

Christmas Podcast tickets: update

  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 27 Nov 07, 10:26 AM

I hope you're getting as excited as we all are in the Ouch office about our splendid forthcoming Christmas Podcast recording in the fabulous surroundings of the BBC's Radio Theatre in London on Tuesday 4 December. That's only a week away now, so if you haven't done so already, be sure to get your FREE tickets via this page on the BBC Tickets website. If you prefer, you can also call 0870 9011227, fax 0141 307 5770 or Minicom 0141 307 5701.

Additionally, we've received some queries from Ouch readers and Podcast listeners who have already booked, concerning whether you've been successful in obtaining tickets, because it seemed rather unclear during the booking process. Well, the good news is that you WILL get your tickets, and they WILL arrive in the post before show day. So be sure to arrange your transport needs for getting to the venue now, so it's not a last-minute thing.

If you haven't booked yet - why ever not?! - then you can do so up until the day of the recording and your tickets will be available at the venue on the night. Whichever way you do it, the helpful staff will let you know whether your tickets will be sent out or you should pick them up at the doors.

And just a reminder: do please tell the BBC Tickets Unit about your access requirements, as that will ensure that any assistance you need runs smoothly on the night.

In the meantime, if you have any queries, do drop us a line at and we'll get you an answer.

We're hugely looking forward to seeing you next Tuesday, if you can make it. It's going to be a Christmas extravaganza you'll never forget!

Independence vs. assistance

  • Posted by Jemma Brown
  • 26 Nov 07, 12:32 PM

This is something that’s got me thinking a lot recently. I am soon to be making that transition from life in my safe college bubble, out in to the big world of university, a nerve wracking prospect for any student, despite all the fun and frolics that lay ahead.

As a student with a disability I’m looking forward to the experience, but as with everything (It would seem) there is so much more to worry about if you have a disability.

I approach the time with care, a lot of thought goes in to what I am going to need at uni, thinking of every department I am going to have to talk to in order to sort all my specialist requirements. It’s not just the obvious people you would think of either there’s accommodation, IT, course tutors and just about every other department. Many a person would say I could get help informing everyone of my needs, but in my experience it is far better to be completely proactive, thus insuring there are no excuses later on for a person to be an a***!

There is a lot of practical planning going on in my head to, hopefully I will have a guide dog by the time of the big move, so whilst planning I also have to consider things like the location of the nearest vet, where am I going to store its food, what am I going to do if it rolls in something disgusting and I’m sharing a room with it! etc…

Then there’s all the new routes, being a priority. I have to be able to get to the nearest station, hospital, doctors and dentist independently I have to remember all these new areas and feel confident in my surroundings. Then there’s navigating the campus, finding my own room in halls, did I already mention I’m going to have to work out how to use a new cooker and washing machines and god knows what else!

So anyway I think you get the point there is one hell of a lot of stuff to sort out if you are a disabled student flying the nest in search of higher educational delights!

I think I am being sensible in my approach to all the challenges ahead of me, I may have to fight for what I need and I am fully prepared to do so, I have fought many a battle before I’m sure I shall succeed in getting all the support I need from the disability service at whatever uni I end up at.

Yet despite this I keep being told by people at college that they are concerned about my independence and how I am going to cope at uni, they are trying to prepare me, subtly reduce my support so I am prepared for the shock that awaits me. I do not agree with this.

The support I need now and the support I am going to need at uni are very different things; the structure of lectures at uni is completely different to the structure of lesions I am studying currently, this is going to work in my favour I hope. I’m planning to digitally record lectures so that if my notes are not detailed enough and I miss things I will always have a back up. I could not apply a system like that to my lesions now because they are so different.

My point is I do not accept that I am not independent, nor do I think that I am going to struggle my way through my 3 years at uni due to a lack of support. So I fail to see the relevance of forcing me to be more independent now, when really the situation I’m in does not allow it. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that college and university are such very different things I don’t see how it all computes!

• Visit Diary of a Monkey

Dilemmas in Discrimination

  • Posted by lilwatchergirl
  • 25 Nov 07, 11:32 PM

Tonight I'm thinking about how much I miss those simple days before I was disabled. Admittedly, that was mostly back in the primordial chaos of pre-history, when going out didn't mean having to plan for inevitable panic attacks, when life didn't have to be put onto the back-burner because of an unplanned week of hypomania, and when using the telephone wasn't a whole adventure in fits of sobbing and being unable to form a coherent sentence. But in this case I'm particularly talking about more recently - when I didn't have to weigh up the pros and cons of this or that mobility aid or pain medication, when I didn't need to factor in rest breaks during the fifty-metre walk to the corner shop, when leaving the house didn't mean wondering whether I would make it back without having to call The Girl to come and push me home. And when I didn't have to choose what kind of discrimination I feel like experiencing today.

The ever-complicated mess that is known round here as 'oh crap, Naomi wants to leave the house' started this evening, when a straightforward trip to the cinema with The Girl and two friends was immediately complicated by the decision over whether or not to take my wheelchair. Knowing my local cinema (and their inability to get anything right) as I do, I decided on going with my walking stick and hoping for the best. This decision was also motivated by how *obvious* I'm feeling in my wheelchair at the moment. People do keep insisting on grabbing my handles and giving me a push, and this inevitably leads me to make a scene in which I shout "GET OFF ME!" in a quite obvious manner, which might have caused my friends to be concerned. And of course, being in the wheelchair reveals a whole world of obstacles, as much as it gives me my freedom back - the usual inconveniences of doors, stairs, inaccessible toilets and people who stare become fairly insurmountable barriers. I took my stick, and the car.

It wasn't until we were faced with a massive queue for tickets that I realised I hadn't really thought this one through. While I can walk a few metres when I need to, I really can't stand for long. It makes me ever so cranky and I tend to start hitting people with one of my lovely colourful walking sticks. This evening, my 'standing threshold' was a matter of seconds. While The Girl and our friends queued for tickets, I went and sat on the only thing I could see to sit on: the stairs.

At this point, an utterly huge security guard who was checking tickets came up to me. "You can't sit here. Health and safety."

I demonstrated my stick, and my Cinema Exhibitors' Card that gets me a free ticket for a companion because I'm all wobbly and can't carry my own Diet Coke, and politely requested that I be allowed to sit there because my friends were in the very long queue for tickets, and also because of the very obvious lack of seating in the cinema foyer. "Health and safety," repeated the man who was about sixteen times my size.

Fine, I said. Could I get into the lift and go upstairs and sit on the seats there? "You can't go upstairs. You haven't got a ticket." Well, no, on account of how my friends are in the very long queue for tickets, which is why I need to sit down in the foyer with the very obvious lack of seating... "Health and safety."

I was getting quite irritated at this point, not least because several of my joints were threatening to give up on me entirely if I didn't produce a proper seat soon, and also because a lot of people were, yes, you've guessed it, staring. I don't like staring. Did I mention that? I used to do a really good imitation of an invisible person. It suited my anxiety disorder. But it's quite hard to be invisible when someone is refusing you your rights under the DDA and you really aren't happy about that. I asked the man to explain the cinema's policy towards disabled customers who need somewhere to sit. "You can sit upstairs." Oh good, can you let me through to the lift then? "When you have a ticket."

My brain kicked into ANGRY PANIC overdrive. I got up (against my better judgement), marched (well, stumbled) over to The Girl, and told her that I wasn't allowed to sit on the stairs. And swore. A lot, and loudly. She suggested I go back and sit on the stairs and see if security were willing to pick me up and move me. The security guard came over to remind me about health and safety and why I wasn't going to sit on the stairs. I said something along the lines of I AM IN A LOT OF PAIN RIGHT NOW ON ACCOUNT OF THERE NOT BEING ANY SEATS HERE AND YOUR CINEMA'S DISABLIST POLICIES SO I SUGGEST YOU GO AWAY SO I CAN BUY A TICKET AND GET UPSTAIRS AND SIT DOWN. But with expletives every other word. None of this was helped by the concerned man, using crutches, further back in the queue who suggested that I use the lift to go upstairs and sit down there...

In short, I made a scene.

The film was good, even if I was in quite considerable agony through most of it because I'd had to stand up for several minutes in the foyer. As soon as I got home, I wrote one of my mega letters of complaint to the cinema, quoting relevant laws and making it quite clear that either they take action or I will. But I'm confused, and concerned. Why, when I believe in asserting your rights under the law, could I not even ask to talk to the manager after the film? Why, when I believe in taking direct action where necessary, couldn't I stay on the stairs, making my point, as The Girl suggested? Why am I so keen for other people to get what they're entitled to under the DDA, but fall apart when it comes to defending my own rights, even when I'm paying for a service?

And do the rest of you find it this difficult to ask for what you need?

• Visit Through Myself and Back Again, where I'm doing some more of that thing I do best: ranting...

The blind crime squad

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 23 Nov 07, 03:43 PM

'ello 'ello 'ello! What's all this, then? Sergeant C. Monkey on patrol, guv'nor, giving you the latest news from Belgium, where the Belgian police force has set up a unit of six blind or visually impaired detectives to assist in the fight against terrorism, drug-trafficking and organised crime.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking - they're blind! How on earth will they see the terrorists coming?! But that's not their job, you see - nope, they have been recruited into a ground-breaking unit dedicated to listening to phone-tapping evidence and bugged conversations.

As one of the Brussels detectives explains: "Being blind means you have to develop your other senses, so I hear things that for other people simply blend into the background". Crippled Monkey has never heard that one before. Ahem. But this apparently makes these coppers good at picking out individual voices from noisy recordings or, in exceptional cases, working out which car the sound of an engine comes from. Blimey.

So what I want to know from you lot is: considering your particular impairment, what job would you be best suited to doing for the police? Surely there must be openings for every disabled person within our local cop shops? Sounds like a great idea to me ...

Talking Head

  • Posted by Mark
  • 22 Nov 07, 12:52 AM

My apologies for my extended absence. Life and whatnot did its best to deter me from blogging duties, but I'm back and I hope to resume a more regular posting schedule.

I've decided that I really need to stop watching CNN, one of our twenty-four hour news networks, as I get ready for work. It just puts me in a bad mood. Case in point: this morning's news program featured an interview with Glenn Beck, a conservative host on one of CNN's sister networks. Beck was pitching his new book and the conversation turned to environmentalism. Beck looks askance at green technologies and he's certainly entitled to his opinion. He has this to say about hybrid cars:

BECK: The hybrid cars, you know, blind people can't hear them. But they're luckier than the sighted people because we have to look at them.

Okay, fine, he doesn't like hybrids. And then he says this:

BECK: Why do they [hybrids] have to look like cars that are made for blind people? Can we make them cool looking so we all want to drive them as well?

Beck seems to be implying that blind people have a terrible collective sense of style. Or that lots of blind people drive hybrids, which is an interesting theory. Perhaps you have your own opinion on Beck's assumptions about the esthetic sensibilities of the blind. Feel free to share them in the comments section.

Blindie is top dog (quite literally)

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 19 Nov 07, 01:19 PM

It's been a while since I, Ouch's resident Monkey of Crippledom, was able to report on some of the endearingly cute activities of my fellow disablified animals. In the meantime, of course, we've had Aardman's plasticine disabled creatures, but they don't really count because they're not real - unlike me and unlike Oliver, a blind bullmastiff dog who has just been named RSPCA Dog of the Year.

Now, not only has Oliver 'overcome his disability' to be a well-rounded, happy dog, but he had to go through the thoroughly horrible experience of being thrown out by an unscrupulous breeder as a puppy because he had an eye infection. (In the words of Oliver, "grrr" to that breeder, say I). He's also got something in common with our own disabled Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in that he was given a special artificial implant in one of his eyes to give him a normal appearance, even though he can't actually see through it.

Crippled Monkey says: I salute you, Oliver. Make sure you get some extra dog biscuits today as a treat for your prize-winning ways. As for me, I'm getting on the phone to the RSPCA to find out if they've got a Monkey of the Year award. Surely I would be a cert for it, wouldn't I?

How accessible is your online newspaper?

  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 19 Nov 07, 12:35 PM

There's an interesting range of articles happening on the website from today, looking at how accessible the leading UK newspaper websites are. With more and more media going online, this area is increasingly important for disabled people wanting to keep abreast of news and current affairs.

As points out, a report on website accessibility published in September by AbilityNet claimed that the UK's ten most widely read newspaper websites are "effectively barring millions of disabled people from obtaining up-to-date information" by failing to meet minimum standards.

So over the next week, is going to conduct its own assessment by asking blind and visually impaired people to give their views on the ease of use and accessibility of several leading UK newspaper sites. They'll be testing out The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, The Sun, The Mirror, The Daily Express and The Daily Mail. They're outlining today the exact tests they asked the volunteers to perform on each website, and the results will be published over the next few days. Worth keep track of the articles.

So what do you think of the newspaper websites? Do they get the thumbs-up or thumbs-down from you?

Alison Lapper's statue sighted!

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 13 Nov 07, 02:33 PM

Further to my post last Friday about tracking down the new location of Alison Lapper's statue now that she's no longer to be found on top of the fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar Square, I've been receiving rumours that the BBC's long-running magazine programme for deaf and hard of hearing people, See Hear, featured a mysterious appearance by our missing-in-action, marbled disabled heroine on the most recent programme. She apparently drifted onto screen alongside regular presenters Memnos Costi and Shana Grummitt, though I'm not so sure myself. The pictorial evidence - if that's what you can call it - is below:

From left to right: Alison Lapper's statue, and See Hear presenters Shana Grummitt and Memnos Costi
Remember, I still want to know about your sightings of the statue. Oh, Alison! Alison! Where can you be?

Aardman's disabled animals

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 12 Nov 07, 12:07 PM

Making the news headlines just about everywhere today is a new campaign by Leonard Cheshire Disability, which aims to challenge and change attitudes towards disabiled people. And it's grabbing the headlines because they have teamed up with Aardman Animations, the award-winning team behind Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run and, for those of you who are a bit older, Morph.

The campaign is called Creature Discomforts (geddit?), and is based on the much-loved Creature Comforts series that was so responsible for bringing Aardman to wider public attention. It features the company's signature plasticine animals with various impairments, combined with the real voices of disabled people describing the negative attitudes and barriers they've experienced in society. So there's Brian the bull terrier, who uses a wheelchair, Slim the stick insect, who uses a walking stick, and Tim the tortoise, a one-legged crutches user. Crippled Monkey is disappointed to note that there is no Cuthbert the crippled monkey, but I suppose you can't have everything. Check out some stills of the characters below (each pic is a pop-up, so click it to reveal the full image):

Brian the bull terrier (click to view full-size image)Flash the sausage dog (click to view full-size image)Peg the hedgehog (click to view full-size image)

Slim the stick insect (click to view full-size image)Spud the slug (click to view full-size image)Tim the tortoise (click to view full-size image)

Whether or not you agree with the campaign and think it's a good idea - and some Ouchers on our messageboard are already noting that the featured characters are all very visibly physically disabled - it's certain to attract a lot of attention once the advertisements start appearing at bus stops, in newspapers, in magazines and online from this Thursday. In January 2008, the animations will also be aired on (sshh, whisper it!) ITV. In the meantime, check out the official Creature Discomforts site for a preview.

*Crippled Monkey wanders off, still grumbling about the lack of a monkey character. Me wanna be a plasticine animation, yes please!*

What do young people learn about disability in schools?

  • Posted by Jemma Brown
  • 12 Nov 07, 11:59 AM

I have just had a rather disturbing conversation with a guy in my As environmental science class, it all started as a guy described Goalball as a sport for “handicapped people” my response to that was along the lines of “thanks very much that was a very pc term” we then had a debate about why the term handicapped was not nice.

According to him if his legs didn’t work he would have no problem with someone calling him handicapped.

I then mentioned that it is an insulting term, his response: “generally if I was trying to insult someone I would call them a retard”.

He then posed the question “What do you call a handicapped person then?” My response was: “a disabled person, a person with a disability, a visually impaired person, the list is endless”.

I find it so hard to believe that someone has just finished there secondary school education and is an intelligent person knows so little about how to refer to disability. What are young people being taught about society in secondary school?

I no from my own experience of mainstream secondary school education that disability is rarely touched upon in what we called GEMS (I think it stood for: spiritual, mental, ethical, guidance). So if children and young people are not learning about disability in schools then where are they getting there ideas from? and who is telling them what is right and wrong in terms of disability?

I think one answer is the media young people get there opinions and ideas of disability from what they see in the news, the sob story’s, or the brave person that has just climbed up mount Everest in there wheelchair. The truth of course being that most people with disability’s are just getting on with the day to day stuff, working, looking after the kids , socialising, etc.

My friends all informed me that if I had not met them and taught them about my views on disability they would not have ever known what was acceptable, I’ve even converted a few of them to regularly reading things on the ouch website, keeping them up to date. I’m not normally one for political correctness, but when it comes to terms like handicapped and retard I defiantly disapprove.

This is why I need your help Ouchers!

Your task if you chose to accept it is to bombard me with ammo to show him that the terms he is using are not acceptable, and particularly why they are not right. I was so shocked by his comments that I couldn’t really think of a decent case to debate.

I would like to add that this post and any comments made should not be offensive or harsh to the poor guy. He is a nice guy and I don’t think it is his fault that he does not know appropriate ways of describing disabled people; I have only used his comments as an example.

Your second task if you chose to accept it is to try and educate young people you come into contact with about what disability is and isn’t, I no its not really our job to do this kind of thing but if we don’t step up and educate, who will!

• Visit Diary of a Monkey

Have you seen Alison Lapper's statue?

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 9 Nov 07, 04:22 PM

Ouchers, we need your help!

You may be aware that on Wednesday this week, a new work of art was unveiled on the fourth plinth of London's Trafalgar Square. Thomas Schutte's Model for a Hotel 2007 weighs eight tons, is sixteen feet high, and is made from layers of coloured glass. Monkey would like to give you his critical appraisal, but frankly I know nothing about art (but I know what I like). Looks nice, though. If you like that sort of thing. Ahem. Yeah. And stuff.

Alison Lapper Pregnant - but where is it now?
More importantly for us slightly disablified types, this means that the previous occupant of the plinth, Marc Quinn's sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant, which showed the disabled artist naked when she was eight months into her pregnancy, has disappeared after just over two years in pride of place on the plinth. It has gone. It is no more. It is an ex-sculpture.

So the question is: WHERE IS IT?

Now let's face it, this particular sculpture is difficult to miss. Standing over three and a half metres high and made out of one single block of white marble, it's what you might call "quite noticeable". Even Monkey's visually impaired friends and colleagues, though they might not be able to see it so clearly, would soon realise that they had happened across this magnificent work of art if they tripped over it in the middle of the local shopping mall.

And this is where you, Ouch's ever alert readers, come in. We need your detective skills. Have you seen Alison's statue? Has it turned up in your local high street, possibly at a bus stop waiting for an accessible low floor bus? Did you wake up this morning and find it at the bottom of your garden, hiding behind the herbaceous borders? Has it gone for a holiday abroad? Did you see the statue going through Terminal 3 at Heathrow, wearing sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt?

Alison, where are you?!

Ahem. So if you've seen her - or rather her sculpture, because sightings of Ms Lapper herself don't count - tell us in the comments to this post. Together, Ouchers, you and I can solve the mystery that is currently puzzling the entire world of disability. Oh yes we can.

Wolverhampton Disability Film Festival: submit your film

  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 9 Nov 07, 04:01 PM

The very first Wolverhampton Disability Film Festival takes place between 17 - 20 April 2008, and they're now looking for films to feature. There's no fee to submit your film, though they would appreciate it if they were made available with English subtitles.

Tbere's more info - including a downloadable entry form - on the festival's website, so go check it out if you're the movie-making type.

Want to be in Star Trek? (sort of)

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 8 Nov 07, 04:46 PM

Crippled Monkey received an email from Flash Wilson, pointing me towards a story from the Entertainment section of BBC News: Hunt for 'odd' Star Trek extras. Seems that producers of the new Star Trek movie are looking for people with "unique" features to appear as extras in the next movie in the series. Hmm ...

Some of those features include "long necks, small heads, bug eyes, large foreheads and oversized ears". Others are extremely large heads and foreheads, wide or close-set eyes, pronounced cheekbones and, um, facial deformities. Now, um, well, depending on your impairment, some disabled people might look a bit different from the norm - though the norm is dead boring, as we all know. So what are the producers saying here?

Of course, they then go and spoil it all in the next breath: "Everyone must be thin, athletic, fit; wardrobe will be form-fitting". See, I was getting excited then, because as a Crippled Monkey I certainly have the unique features requested, but I'mn certainly not thin and athletic. Pah. I'm going to spend my considerable acting portfolio to the producers of Battlestar Galactica instead ...

Panorama on ADHD

  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 8 Nov 07, 01:04 PM

The next edition of Panorama (Monday 12 November at 8.30pm on BBC ONE) tackles the subject of ADHD. Half a million children in the UK are said to have this behavioural disorder, and at least 55,000 of them are treated with powerful medication. Last year, the NHS spent £28 million on drugs for ADHD alone. Reporter Shelley Jofre reveals that after a decade of rocketing prescription rates, new research shows that giving children drugs works no better, in the long term, than doing nothing. The programme contains powerful family video of 14 year old Craig Buxton from Stoke on Trent, who has been on medication for ADHD since he was five. He's still troubled by powerful outbursts of rage and as the film shows - not much has changed in his behaviour in the nine years since he last featured on Panorama.

Keep an eye on the Panorama website for more details - and if this is a topic of particular interest and concern to you, be sure to visit our own Ouch! Parents board to talk about it, share experiences and seek advice.

Breaking Things

  • Posted by lilwatchergirl
  • 7 Nov 07, 07:34 PM

I break things on sight. There is almost nothing I've owned that I haven't destroyed within days of having it. The Girl thinks I give off some kind of electro-magnetic charge that does bad things to mobile phones and computer equipment, but that doesn't explain all the smashed cereal bowls, chipped table legs, scratched DVDs, books with ripped covers, radiators with broken dials and scratched-up doorframes that I've caused. I'd like to blame dyspraxia and hypermobility-related proprioception problems - but these are really just nice ways of saying I'm a terrible klutz.

This is why it's not a good thing that I've acquired a brand new laptop and a brand new wheelchair in the same week. I mean, it's actually really great. The laptop has been paid for by the compensation that a certain north London local council had to pay me because it took them so long to do a tiny, fifteen-minute adaptation to my side gate that I was unable to leave my flat without help for five sodding months. As much as I'd have preferred five months of good access, I'm very pleased with the computer. I just picked up the wheelchair yesterday - it was mainly paid for by the sometimes-wonderful, sometimes-appallingly-useless, in this case wonderful, people at Access to Work. She's green and lovely and extremely zoomy and I have a name in mind but I'm getting to know her first. So far, I have managed not to kill the laptop, although it's only a matter of time, and it's already beginning to live up to its name (Mr. Crashy IV - why yes, my other impairment is an irritating compulsion to name inanimate objects). And while I'm very proud that I spent a whole day rolling around work in my chair today and managed not to crash it into anything (despite the fact that it really likes to move), I've already done something apparently irreparable to one of the bolts that loosens the adjustable handles. Meaning that one handle is so low on the chair that my PA will not be pushing me anywhere tomorrow, unless she wants to break various health and safety rules and wobble down the street like a rather tall weeble. In the meantime, that formidable but creaky powerchair Marvin is off being fixed - I broke him when I fell off the bus ramp. Seriously. How many mobility aids does one very clumsy girl need? And more to the point, how many can she break at once?

My clumsiness isn't that much of an issue, compared to some associated with my impairment, but I find it really hard to work around. I don't like it when people stare because I can't find my bearings well enough to push myself through a doorway; I'm bored of having to buy new stuff because I dropped the old stuff onto kitchen floor tiles; tipping soup all over the staff room is embarassing; and I'd quite like wrists and fingers that do what I tell them to - not to mention feet that will go one-in-front-of-the-other without walking me into a wall. So I've decided that I'm just not going to pick anything up anymore, or there will be nothing left. Hmm. If I tell my social worker that, d'you think she'll give me a few more Direct Payments hours a week? Can you break a ridiculously efficient PA? Must go - there's soapy water pouring out of the dishwasher and all the lights have just gone out.

• Visit Through Myself and Back Again. Unless it's broken.

Ouch: award-winners!

  • Posted by Crippled Monkey
  • 7 Nov 07, 12:27 PM

Oh, do I have exciting news for you?! Erm, yes. Yes, I do!

Last night - Tuesday 6 November - the Ouch team got dressed up in their poshest outfits and headed out to the headquarters of BAFTA (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) in London's Piccadilly, to attend the Royal Television Society's Innovation Awards. Ouch producer Damon Rose, researcher Emma Tracey and Podcast host Liz Carr were there because the Ouch Podcast was nominated in the Community category.

And do you want to know the really exciting part? WE WON!

Yes, Ouch are now the proud owners of a rather lovely, shiny award, which will no doubt take pride of place in our office. The judges said that our Podcast: "... hit the nail on the head in terms of meeting the brief ... succeeded in innovatively targeting a specific community ... a downloadable radio show that simply wouldn't be found on any other radio station".

Crippled Monkey, it has to be said, is fending off a rather bad champagne hangover this morning, so I'll leave you with this photo of Damon and Liz meeting the award ceremony's host, Peter Snow (yes, him of Election Night swingometer fame), with Liz holding our award. We've got a load more photos from the night on Ouch's Flickr page, so be sure to go and check them out!

Monkey is so proud. So very proud. Sniff.

Damon Rose and Liz Carr, with Peter Snow (click image to visit Flickr and see more photos of the Ouch team at the RTS Innovation Awards ceremony)

The joys of the transport system

  • Posted by Jemma Brown
  • 6 Nov 07, 11:45 PM

Today I have been to the hospital ouchers, don’t panic I’m not about to stop blogging because I’m too ill to continue, it was just a follow up appointment for contact lenses (you cant get rid of me that easily).

As far as hospital appointments go contact clinic is kind of ok, defiantly not as terrifying as normal eye check ups or going to see a GP, but what got me today was the getting there.

I usually pay a volunteer driver to take me or get my dad to drive me, but today neither of those options where available to me.

I had to get there on my own!

This was all fine, up to a point. My appointment was in Southampton. This meant a ferry across to Portsmouth and then a train to Southampton were I would have a little bit of time to go round a few shops and then get to my appointment.

But it was not straight forward at all; the train I was on didn’t have an audio or visual station announcement system, when you can’t read the sign on the platform telling you where you are this is an issue. But I was brave and special and different and I got there ok.

Then before I knew it, it was time to find a bus to the hospital. I frightened lots of “normies” by looking at bus stops but couldn’t see any that mentioned the hospital. I decided not to risk it and get a taxi instead.

I’m pretty sure the taxi driver ripped me off, I have no way of proving it but we hit a hell of a lot of traffic and at one point he turned off a main road went down a load of side streets and then turned back on to the same road, when I asked the driver what he was doing, he ignored me. It was very expensive!

Got to the hospital did the whole appointment thing, then went and saw, a family friend Tom who works in the eye unit at Southampton and is a guide dog owner, he then gave me directions and told me what bus to get back to the station. (Thank you Tom!)

I got on said bus and asked the driver to give me a shout when we where at the train station, by this point it was dark and I couldn’t see!

Did the bus driver tell me when it was my stop, NO. Thankfully a passenger who had overheard me asking the driver told me that we had just gone past the station and very kindly MADE the driver stop so I could get off.

Then it was the train home again no audio announcement system, which was even worse because it was to dark to see any landmarks out of the window, somewhat luckily my train was delayed by nearly an hour trying to get in to the station, so that told me I was there!

There are several points to this post

In total the trip cost me £20, even with a disabled person’s railcard and all the other available discounts. Furthermore as a V.I.P I am only entitled to the lower rate mobility component for DLA.

My second point is this: what is going on with the so called accessible transport system? Not only did I have problems working out where the hell I was today, I also witnessed a wheelchair user trying to get the attention of platform staff because they needed to use a ramp and being completely ignored!

I really don’t understand Britons problem with audio and visual signalling on public transport. I went to Berlin a few years back and was amazed at there talking busses which tell the passenger exactly what stop you are at and what it is near, which is incredibly handy not only if you are visually impaired but also If you speak no German! The trains where the same both underground and over ground, amazing.

So why cant we Brits get it right?

• Visit Diary of a Monkey

Wheelchair Yet Again Equals Invisible

  • Posted by Zephyr
  • 2 Nov 07, 10:40 PM

I saw something on the bus a little while ago that really boiled my blood. I was waiting for the bus at rush hour in a huge line-up of people. When the bus came, a bunch of people went on ahead of me, but I wasn't really worried. I was having an OK day, and it was only a few stops from home. I could wait, or stand on the bus if I needed to. Then I noticed an older women in a wheelchair waiting in line with a child on her lap. People kept filing past her like she wasn't even there! It made me so angry. I went over to her and asked her if she was waiting to get on the bus, and she said yes. Then a lady asked ME if I needed help getting a seat. Typical. In the Disability Hierarchy, young women on canes are way up there, and it makes me mad. I said "Yes, but this lady here also needs help getting on the bus."

It seemed like the Samaritan woman didn't hear me. We got on the bus and she asked someone to give up a seat for me. That was great, but I was really concerned about the older lady. I mean, she had a kid with her, for God's sake. I asked the bus driver if there was room for her on the bus, and if he could help get her on, and he just gave me this blank look and shrugged. Then the Samaritan woman piped up and asked people to move aside to let the woman on, but people kept filing on the bus ahead of her like zombies. I was aghast. They treated her like she wasn't even there!

She never did get on that bus. I spent the rest of the ride home glowering at everybody. I wouldn't wish disability on my worse enemy, but I found myself fervently hoping they could all get to experience what they put that lady through today. I'd share what I really think of those people, but Ouch! doesn't let me use curse words in my posts.

Courtesy seats are for PWDs, the elderly, and people with children. That lady had all three, but people didn't even see her because she was in a wheelchair. Why do people think that Wheelchair=Invisible?

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  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 2 Nov 07, 04:51 PM

A couple of blogs to tell you about which you can find on the website of Disability Arts Online, which is dedicated to the work of disabled and deaf artists.

The first is Crippen's blog by Dave Lupton, AKA disability cartoonist Crippen. Lady Bracknell's Editor posted right here about Crippen just the other day, and now you can read his very own blog all about the ups and downs of cartooning.

Second, check out the Signdance blog, in which the Signdance Collective report back on all that's happening during October and November at the PAH Deaf Arts and Culture Festival which is happening in Philadelphia. Signdance themselves are there performing But Beautiful, their groundbreaking show of performance and dance, which celebrates the life and music of American jazz great Art Pepper.

Radio drama opportunity for disabled writers

  • Posted by Vaughan
  • 2 Nov 07, 03:37 PM

We know that there are a lot of you out there trying your hand at writing, so the following will definitely be of interest to you.

Graeae, the theatre company for disabled people, is working alongside BBC Radio Drama and the BBC's new writing initiative, Writersroom, to offer talented disabled writers with an entertaining and original voice the opportunity to take part in an expenses-paid, week-long residency on writing audio drama, which will take place between 25 February and 1 March 2008. It will be at The Hurst in Shropshire, and run by The Arvon Foundation.

To apply, you need to write a five to ten minute drama - for stage, screen or radio - inspired by the title 'LOVE BITES'. Applications must be received by Friday 7 December, and should include your contact details and a short biography of your writing experience.

Successful applicants will be notified by Friday 21 December, though they're unable to give feedback to unsuccessful entrants.

Here's what you need to do.

Send your completed scripts to, or post them to: BBC Writersroom, 1st Floor Grafton House, 379-381 Euston Road, London NW1 3AU. And to make sure it ends up in the right hands, please make your envelope clearly with GRAEAE.

Time to get your writing brains in gear, folks.

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