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Archives for June 2012

News round-up: Half of care homes for learning disabled people don't meet standards

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Vaughan | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 29 June 2012

Newspaper front pages

In May last year, an edition of BBC One current affairs series Panorama made the headlines when a reporter went undercover to expose the shocking abuse and poor treatment being experienced by learning disabled patients at Winterbourne View hospital near Bristol. Since then, the issue of care standards has been high on the agenda.

Now a new report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) says that almost half of England's care homes and treatment centres for adults with learning disabilities are failing to protect them. Unannounced CQC inspections of 145 premises revealed that 48% didn't meet required standards in terms of care, welfare and whether people were safe from abuse.

The report further criticised the failure to treat residents as individuals and said people were staying for years in centres intended for short-term care. It added that there were "lessons to be learned" by care providers about the employment of restraint and an "urgent need" to reduce its use.

More of the week's headlines

HIV quad pill 'may improve care' (BBC News, Friday 29 June

Unity festival promotes disability arts (BBC News, Thursday 28 June)

Defendants with learning difficulties 'need help to get fair trial' (The Guardian, Thursday 28 June)

Can new Nice guidelines improve care for adults with autism? (The Guardian, Thursday 28 June)

BBC defends EastEnders bipolar storyline (BBC Newsbeat, Wednesday 27 June)

People with bipolar disorder may wait 13 years for diagnosis (BBC News, Wednesday 27 June)

Oppose assisted dying, says BMA (BBC News, Wednesday 27 June)

Unpaid carers cost economy £5.3bn, charity warns (BBC News, Wednesday 27 June)

Dyslexia training for teachers needed, charity says (BBC News, Wednesday 27 June)

One from the heart: Charles Hazlewood's Paraorchestra (The Guardian, Wednesday 27 June)

Call handlers admit they could have done more to help mentally ill man who later died in police custody (The Independent, Wednesday 27 June)

Disability cuts: 'Thousands of us will become prisoners in our own homes' (The Guardian, Tuesday 26 June)

EEG brain trace 'can detect autism' (BBC News, Tuesday 26 June)

Role of stress in dementia investigated (BBC News, Tuesday 26 June)

Is surfing therapy for disabled? (BBC News, Tuesday 26 June)

In pictures: Art for Autism competition finalists (BBC News, Tuesday 26 June)

Man 'used home of blind friend' to store suspected mephedrone (BBC News, Tuesday 26 June)

How can blind people stay safe? (BBC News, Monday 25 June)

Voice algorithms spot Parkinson's disease (BBC News, Monday 25 June)

Talking Newspapers: How do you listen to a newspaper? (BBC News, Monday 25 June)

London 2012: Paralympic Games founder Professor Ludwig Guttmann's statue unveiled (BBC News, Monday 25 June)

Monique Van Der Horst may be stripped of medals by IPC as paraplegic has 'miracle' change to Olympian (The Telegraph, Monday 25 June)

Hypermobility syndrome: 'I feel brain-fogged. It's a cruelly deceptive illness' (The Telegraph, Monday 25 June)

Scientists to 'hack' Hawking's brain in bid to help him communicate more easily (Daily Mail, Sunday 24 June)

Care home whistleblowers increasing (BBC News, Saturday 23 June)

Tony Nicklinson: 'I have a fear of living like this when I am old and frail' (The Guardian, Saturday 23 June)

Parents and GPs 'must recognise' diabetes symptoms (BBC News, Saturday 23 June)

Multiple sclerosis is not a death sentence, Jack Osbourne, there is hope (The Telegraph, Friday 22 June)

Disabled people hit especially hard by cuts, finds report (The Guardian, Friday 22 June)

Woman seeking elective amputation takes next step (BBC News, Friday 22 June)

Man denies abusing deaf girl in cellar (The Guardian, Friday 22 June)

MP Charles Walker: obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is 'like a hundred little blackmails a day' (The Telegraph, Friday 22 June)

Locked-in syndrome girl Eve Anderson, 9, makes progress (BBC News, Thursday 21 June)

TV and Radio on iPlayer: award-winning learning disability drama returns

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Vaughan | 12:21 UK time, Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Learning disabled actress Donna Lavin

Learning disabled actress Donna Lavin

As part of BBC Radio 4's 15 Minute Drama strand, this week sees the return of The Pursuits of Darleen Fyles.

Written by Esther Wilson, the award-winning drama follows events in the life of Darleen, a young woman with learning disabilities. Starring Donna Lavin and Edmund Davies, two learning disabled actors, it's created in part through improvisation and inspired by true stories.

As this third series opens, Darleen and Jamie are going on honeymoon to Scarborough, where things don't quite turn out as well as they'd hoped.

There are five episodes, broadcast from Monday to Friday this week at 10.45am on BBC Radio 4. They'll also be on BBC iPlayer soon afterwards, where you can listen to them for seven days after transmission.

• Read Ouch!'s 13 Questions with actress Donna Lavin from July 2009.

Also on iPlayer

Victoria Derbyshire (BBC Radio 5 Live)
Victoria speaks to Tina Nash, who was left blind after her former partner gouged her eyes out. She is now trying to recover from her injuries and adjust to life without sight. She also talks about the distress she felt on hearing that her attacker is planning to appeal against the length of his prison sentence. (Available until 12.02pm on Thursday 28 June)

Double Take (BBC Radio 5 Live)
Including a report on the Paralympic technology which is changing how disabled athletes compete. (Available until 11.02am on Sunday 1 July)

From Fact to Fiction (BBC Radio 4)
The award-winning series in which writers create a fictional response to the week's news continues with a satirical comedy from Deborah Levy, the novelist, playwright and Freud expert. The Dangers of Extreme Cheerfulness takes its inspiration from the publication this week of a report into the inequalities in care for those experiencing mental illness. (Available until 5.56pm on Sunday 1 July)

Imagine: Theatre of War (BBC One)
From rehearsal room to triumphant performance, imagine follows the extraordinary theatrical production of The Two Worlds of Charlie F. Professional front line soldiers, all of whom have sustained injury ranging from amputation to post traumatic stress, join forces with a professional theatre company to help write, rehearse and perform a play based on their experiences of war in the killing fields of Afghanistan. (Available until 11.04pm on Tuesday 31 July)

Moral Maze (BBC Radio 4)
A new report has highlighted the shocking extent of mental illness in this country. But if it's so prevalent, shouldn't we be treating the cause rather than the symptoms? If this was a public health issue in almost any other field, there would be an outcry that not enough was being done to help people to stop them getting ill. But what would be the moral consequences? Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips, Matthew Taylor and Claire Fox.

All in the Mind (BBC Radio 4)
There's a focus on the natural world in this episode. Richard Mabey, often described as Britain's greatest living nature writer, talks about "the lost years" of his depressive illness; mental health professionals go to ancient woodland to learn about ecotherapy; and a former mental health nurse talks about how making a garden helped her own recovery from illness.

In Touch (BBC Radio 4)
A Freedom of Information request sought by the RNIB shows that over 50% of Primary Care Trusts are not following national guidelines for when cataracts should be operated on. In Touch speaks to a woman who waited six years to have her cataracts treated and discovers the impact this has had on her quality of life. Plus, how an email invitation to the National Diversity Awards was sent to visually impaired people in an inaccessible format.

Woman's Hour (BBC Radio 4)
Following the cases of both Tony Nicklinson, who has vowed to starve himself to death if a doctor is not permitted to end his life, and also an anorexic woman who lost her bid to be allowed to die and will now be force fed, Woman's Hour discusses what society should do when an individual chooses to stop eating and drinking. Plus, model and reality star Katie Price talks about why she wants to set up a free school for visually impaired and disabled children.

Something Special (CBeebies)
Educational series for four- to seven-year-old children with learning difficulties.

On the web: blogs on autism, cancer, bipolar and Embrace singer with PTSD

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Emma Emma | 16:12 UK time, Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Close-up of a web browser address bar

Four blog posts caught my attention this week, each providing fascinating personal insights into disabled life.

• Grace has autism. Her mum Sophie writes a blog about their lives called Grace Under Pressure, a title which describes her situation perfectly. Sophie has become bored of people casually misusing the word 'autistic' for humorous effect and has started confronting people about it. In an entry called On spoiling other people's fun, she tells of what responses she gets and how these conversations make her feel.

• Helen Fawkes is a young person with cancer, and she's keeping a blog about her journey through the treatment she is receiving. In a post entitled Heads Up, she expresses a growing love for headscarves. After being forced to use some of her minimal energy to explain her need for a seat on the bus a number of times recently, Helen explains why she feels there should be "cancer on board" badges available to be worn on public transport.

• Singer with the indie band Embrace, Danny McNamara, wrote recently about three years of his life during which he experienced post traumatic stress disorder. In the blog post, he says that he almost died and remembers the life-changing effects PTSD had on his and his family's lives. He goes on to write about his road to recovery, and the recent positive impact the condition has had on his creativity as the band record their fifth album. (Contains some swearing.)

Why Twitter works so well for Bipolar people (and how best to use it), is the title of a recent entry on Bizpolar, a new business blog for those with the aforementioned condition. The author has the condition herself and explains her view that the ability to schedule posts "enables effective output across changing moods"; and while bipolar disorder is not always "the most social reality", using features such as lists and hashtags on Twitter "links like-minded people together".

Have you read any good blog posts recently which shine a light on disability? Tell us about them and link them in the comments below.

Disability arts this weekend: Prometheus Awakes and Cardiff's Unity Festival

Emma Emma | 15:50 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2012

Image from Prometheus Awakes

There are a huge number of disability led arts events happening around the country this summer, 29 of which are part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad's disability programme, 'Unlimited'.

Many of the Unlimited shows are already under way around the country, with most to be showcased at the Southbank Centre in London during the Paralympics - catch them while you're enjoying the sport in the capital.

A significant number of disability arts events are happening before the official start of the Unlimited festival, however. So if you're the kind of person who is interested in arts funding, essentially there was lots of cash on offer for development of disability art this Parallympics year in the UK.

Prometheus Awakes, a collaboration between disability led theatre company Graeae and international street theatre experts La Fura dels Baus, claims to be "the first ever large scale outdoor theatre production in this country that is led by disabled artists". It has been commissioned as part of the London 2012 Festival, a UK-wide arts event to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic and Paralympic games to London.

With help from 70 local disabled volunteers, the show aims to inspire audiences with "extraordinary stagecraft, giant puppets, mass choreography and special effects".

The performance is an interpretation of the ancient Greek myth, where Prometheus is bound to a rock and sentenced to eternal torment, because he stole fire from the gods for human use. It is promised that spectators "will feel the earth move and the sky explode as an eight metre high Prometheus rises from the ground and creates fire and humanity in defiance of the God Zeus". The outdoor spectacular is free and does not require a ticket, so you can just turn up.

Prometheus Awakes premieres on the 2nd of June at 10.00 PM, against the backdrop of the Queen's House in the grounds of the Royal Museums Greenwich. A performance will also take place on the 2nd of August, at the Stockton International Riverside Festival.

The other place you can see disability art this week is at the Unity Festival, Cardiff's international inclusive arts event. Launched on the 22nd of June, it runs for ten days.

Based around the Welsh capital's Millennium Centre, the festival incorporates a wide range of arts, including visually impaired photography, interactive street theatre and plenty of dance. And just to complicate things, funding fans, some shows on Unity's programme originated as Unlimited commissions.

One such commission is a show which has been touring the country for a while and now headlines Unity's child-friendly content. Bee detective is described by the blurb as a "multisensory adventure, combining performance, projected animation and waggle dancing!" Performances take place on the 23rd and 24th of June and during the show, which has been created by deaf writer and actress Sophie Woolley, the audience must help Sophie Bee solve a honeybee murder mystery in a giant beehive tent.

Also on the 23rd of June, the Notables, a band made up of people with and without learning disabilities, will play a free gig. And For adults, comedian with cerebral palsy Laurence Clark previews his brand new show 'Inspired' on the 26th of June. Also an Unlimited commission.

To find out more and read the full Unity programme, visit

News round-up: Tony Nicklinson's euthanasia case in the High Court

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Vaughan | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2012

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This week, the case of Tony Nicklinson, 58, from Melksham in Wiltshire, has reached the High Court.

As the result of a stroke in 2005, Tony has 'locked-in syndrome' - meaning that he is paralysed from the neck down and cannot speak, though his mind is still fully functioning. He communicates using small head and eye movements, either pointing to a board of letters held by another person or via a computer equipped with software controlled by blinking and eye tracking.

Tony describes his life as a "living nightmare" in which he is dependent on other people to do everything for him. The severity of his paralysis means that he's unable to take his own life, so he wants a doctor to be allowed to lawfully kill him.

As the BBC's medical correspondent Fergus Walsh points out, this is a major challenge to the law on murder and amounts to an appeal to allow euthanasia. It goes much further than previous 'assisted suicide' cases, such as that of Diane Pretty, who in 2001 appealed to the House of Lords to allow her husband to assist in her death.

Tony has the support of his family, but the government's position is that a ruling in Mr Nicklinson's favour would authorise murder.

The hearing started on Tuesday and is expected to last four days, but a ruling will not be made until a later date.

More of the week's headlines

Autism: Child diagnosis in Wales can take seven years (BBC News, Friday 22 June)

Hate crime: Support calls for people with learning disabilities (BBC News, Thursday 21 June)

Are there mental tools that can help alleviate mental illness? (The Independent, Thursday 21 June)

Police 'overlook vulnerable antisocial crime victims' (The Guardian, Wednesday 20 June)

Out on a limb? (BBC News, Wednesday 20 June)

Christopher Wakeman's mum 'angry' at care home over bridge death (BBC News, Wednesday 20 June)

Mental health of benefit claimants is put at risk by welfare reform (The Guardian, Wednesday 20 June)

The bipolar explosion (The Guardian, Wednesday 20 June)

Polio eradication at risk, warns report (The Guardian, Wednesday 20 June)

London 2012 Paralympics: 7/7 bomb victim Martine Wiltshire announced in GB women sitting volleyball team (The Telegraph, Wednesday 20 June)

Hate crimes against disabled people soar to a record level (The Independent, Tuesday 19 June)

Kenny Edgar's 98km taxi trip for benefits assessment (BBC News, Tuesday 19 June)

Blind cooking: 10 tips from chefs (BBC News, Tuesday 19 June)

Improve post office access for sensory loss customers, calls made (BBC News, Tuesday 19 June)

Jack Osbourne: MS diagnosis highlights mysteries of the disease (The Guardian, Tuesday 19 June)

Unpaid carers being 'let down by failing social care' (BBC News, Monday 18 June)

Carer Tracey Sloan sacrificed her own health for her disabled son (BBC News, Monday 18 June)

Research shines light on childhood multiple sclerosis (BBC News, Monday 18 June)

'Shocking discrimination' in mental health services (BBC News, Monday 18 June)

Jack Osbourne diagnosed with MS, Ozzy and Sharon reveal (BBC News, Monday 18 June)

Do we need a minister for mental health? (BBC Radio 4, Today, Monday 18 June)

Autism photographic competition winner (BBC News, Monday 18 June)

Wrongly accused Essex mother wins council apology (BBC News, Monday 18 June)

Design for knife: can cutlery help people with disabilities? (The Guardian, Monday 18 June)

Samantha Cameron opens up about her late son Ivan (The Telegraph, Monday 18 June)

Fathers 'struggle to cope with pressures of caring for disabled children' (The Observer, Sunday 17 June)

Disabled and elderly see their day centres and key services disappear as budget cuts bite (The Observer, Sunday 17 June)

Court rejects Canada's ban on assisted suicide (The Guardian, Saturday 16 June)

Exhibition lays bare the secrets of paralympic success (BBC News, Saturday 16 June)

World's first autism show offers a chance to shine (The Independent, Saturday 16 June)

Anorexic woman should be fed against her wishes, judge rules (The Guardian, Friday 15 June)

Moving revelations reveal Parliament's better side (BBC News, Friday 15 June)

Anger over autistic girl's locked bathroom ordeal at Flintshire school (BBC News, Friday 15 June)

TV and Radio on BBC iPlayer: why is mental health still a taboo subject?

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Vaughan | 11:57 UK time, Wednesday, 20 June 2012

TV and Radio on BBC iPlayer: why is mental health still a taboo subject?

In the latest edition of Call You and Yours, the phone-in spin-off of BBC Radio 4's long-running consumer affairs strand, the question for discussion is: how can we change attitudes towards mental illness?

A new report has revealed that mental illness accounts for nearly half of all ill health experienced by people under 65. One in four people in the UK will at some stage in their lives have a mental health problem, ranging from stress, anxiety and depression through to psychotic conditions. Yet only a quarter of those are in any form of treatment. So why is mental health seen as a taboo subject?

Presenter Julian Worricker talks over the subject with a range of callers offering their various experiences.

Also on iPlayer

Victoria Derbyshire (BBC Radio 5 Live
Three MPs recently decided to break their silence on their own personal history of mental health problems. Their revelations came during a debate on the amount of NHS funding dedicated to treating mental health problems - which was described as a Cinderella service, poorly funded, and not spoken about nearly enough either inside or outside the House of Commons. Victoria plays some extended highlights from the debate and talks to Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, about why she decided to speak out. (Available until Friday 22 June, 12.02pm)

Blind Date with Bloomsday (BBC Radio 4 Extra)
Much quoted but arguably little read, James Joyce's Ulysses is a Modernist classic. Having read the novel in Braille, Peter White finds out that Joyce was long troubled by eye problems, and that the author's eyesight worsened considerably whilst writing the book when exiled in Zurich. As a blind man himself, Peter is interested to hear how Joyce uses blindness and myopia to great symbolic effect in his work - evoking the whole of Dublin society by emphasising all the senses - sound, touch and smell as much as sight. (Available until Friday 22 June, 2.47pm)

In Tune (BBC Radio 3)
Trombonist and conductor Christian Lindberg and disabled trumpeter Clarence Adoo join Ian Ritchie, director of the City of London Festival, to discuss Level Playing Field - a symposium on the development of musical opportunities, aesthetics and instrument technology for musicians of all physicalities - which is part of the City of London Festival's 50th anniversary celebrations. (Available until Friday 22 June, 6.32pm)

Same but Different (BBC Two)
Short documentary portraits of primary children with a range of disabilities, learning differences and medical conditions. (Available until Wednesday 27 June, 4.59am)

Ukraine's Forgotten Children (BBC Four)
As Ukraine comes to the forefront of the sporting world as hosts of the Euro 2012 football tournament, Kate Blewett visits one of the country's institutes for disabled and abandoned children to find out what a lifetime in the care of the state really means for Ukraine's forgotten youngsters. (Available until Thursday 28 June, 1.29am)

In Touch (BBC Radio 4)
The Government is proposing that owning a guide dog will contribute more points towards a benefit than using a white cane. Two listeners - one who uses a guide dog and one who uses a cane - take us on a regular route they make describing their journeys.

Front Row (BBC Radio 4)
The British Paraorchestra has been founded by conductor Charles Hazlewood to showcase disabled musicians, aiming to end the limitations placed on them not by their physical ability but by the lack of opportunity they're afforded. Kirsty Lang attends a rehearsal to meet some of the performers.

All in the Mind (BBC Radio 4)
The well respected mental health campaigner, Janey Antoniou, died in hospital in 2010 while detained under the Mental Health Act. Her husband, Dr Michael Antoniou, talks to Claudia Hammond about the circumstances of his wife's death and why he believes it's wrong that hospitals, when a patient dies, can investigate themselves.

See Hear (BBC Two)
A look behind the scenes at this year's Olympics and Paralympics, and some of the deaf athletes and torch bearers talk about how they are feeling as they prepare for one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

Something Special (CBeebies)
Educational series for four- to seven-year-old children with learning difficulties.

Coming up

Moral Maze (Wednesday 20 June, 8.00pm, BBC Radio 4)
A new report has highlighted the shocking extent of mental illness in this country. But if it's so prevalent, shouldn't we be treating the cause rather than the symptoms? If this was a public health issue in almost any other field, there would be an outcry that not enough was being done to help people to stop them getting ill. But what would be the moral consequences?

News round-up: Attacks on guide dogs hit new high

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Vaughan | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 15 June 2012

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Earlier this week, it was revealed that attacks on guide dogs by other dogs have reached a new high of more than eight a month, up from seven a month in September 2011. The figure has risen consistently in recent years.

The charity Guide Dogs, which published the information, called for the police to be given the powers to treat an attack on an assistance dog as the equivalent of an attack on a person. It has also called for introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs, which would enable dangerous animals to be found more easily.

More of the week's headlines

Alzheimer's gene 'diabetes link' (BBC News, Friday 15 June)

MPs Charles Walker and Kevan Jones tell of mental health issues (BBC News, Thursday 14 June)

'Locked-in' man Tony Nicklinson sends first tweet (BBC News, Thursday 14 June)

Council cuts prompt call for social spending reform (BBC News, Thursday 14 June)

Time to fulfil McKinnon pledge and end his decade of suffering, Cameron is told (Daily Mail, Thursday 14 June)

Disabled travellers still face airline refusals, European Commission warns (The Independent, Thursday 14 June)

'Stop opposing assisted dying' - BMJ (BBC News, Thursday 14 June)

Stroke patients see 'improvements' after stem cell trial (BBC News, Thursday 14 June)

Technology makes Edinburgh musicians orchestra stars (BBC News, Thursday 14 June)

Berkshire man with rare eye disease in drug dispute (BBC News, Thursday 14 June)

Dating after brain surgery (The Guardian, Thursday 14 June)

How can a mental health crisis be avoided? (BBC Radio 4: Today, Thursday 14 June)

Manual ramps at 16 London tube stations for Olympics (BBC News, Wednesday 13 June)

'Hitchhiking' anti-cancer viruses ride blood cells (BBC News, Wednesday 13 June)

Fish oils 'don't help ward off dementia' (BBC News, Wednesday 13 June)

Police did not regard offences of mentally ill man who died in custody as serious enough to warrant care (The Independent, Wednesday 13 June)

What the McLean brain bank malfunction means for autism research (The Guardian, Wednesday 13 June)

How Barbara Arrowsmith-Young rebuilt her own brain (BBC News, Tuesday 12 June)

The web presents deaf and disabled people with a digital glass wall (BBC News, Tuesday 12 June)

Breast cancer recurs in almost one in four patients, British study says (The Guardian, Tuesday 12 June)

Arthritis patients to help develop drugs and treatment (BBC News, Monday 11 June)

People who feed pigeons are mentally ill, claims council (The Telegraph, Sunday 10 June)

Carers of relatives in England to get legal rights (BBC News, Saturday 9 June)

Lloyds TSB pays compensation after lending dementia patient £18,000 (BBC News, Saturday 9 June)

Paralympics: Murderball on wheels (The Independent, Saturday 9 June)

Autistic man's Mission to Lars (BBC Radio 4: Today, Friday 8 June)

Becky from Glee: mum says I can't sing

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Emma Emma | 12:16 UK time, Thursday, 14 June 2012

Lauren Potter, who plays Becky Jackson in Glee. (Glee, copyright 2011-2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved)

Lauren Potter has been making her mark as the feisty cheerleader Becky Jackson, in Glee.

The popular musical series, which airs on Sky1 in the UK, is based in a US high school and sees Lauren as a significant returning character who is seamlessly integrated into school life.

Becky is a willing sidekick to Sue Sylvester, the often harsh coach, with whom she is co-captain of the cheerleader squad; Becky herself isn't always nice.

In the show, characters have a habit of leaving the football field, swim team and other pursuits to join Glee Club. That's part of the ever-present drama, and it's here that we see all the singing and dancing that makes Glee so popular. So, can we expect to see Becky drop her pom-poms and enter the club that the show is named after?

Lauren appeared on June's podcast from Ouch! with her mother Robin. She told us: "This is really funny and I want to tell the truth. My parents were saying 'Lauren, you're a good actress, you're a good dancer but honey, you're not really a good singer'." Her mum wearily chipped in to say that it doesn't stop her practicing her singing round the house.

Musical ability aside, Robin acknowledges that her daughter could be the most famous person with Down's syndrome in the world. She said that Lauren now gets fan mail from all over the globe, much of it from people who do not have a learning disability.

"College students will write to her and say 'I knew nothing about Down's syndrome but because of you, I've researched it and now I do'."

Becky Jackson was not the first disabled character in Glee. She was preceded by wheelchair-using character Artie Abrams, who is played by a non-disabled actor; the fact he wasn't disabled in real life angered many people in the disability community in the States..

More disabled characters could be on the way, depending on the result of a spin-off reality TV competition called The Glee Project, currently airing in the US and coming to Sky Living soon. Contestants have been competing each week to win a place as a character in the next series of the hit show, and two of the young reality stars are disabled. Ali Stroker is paralysed from the chest down and Mario Bonds is blind.

When not working on Glee, Lauren Potter actively involves herself in her local learning disability community in Riverside, California. She campaigns against bullying and speaks out against the use of the R-word (retard) for a campaign with a significant groundswell of support, and she recently became an advisor to President Obama on learning disability issues.

Fans of Lauren can also find her playing a central role in Leader of the Pack, an internet-based boy-meets-girl drama, led by people with learning disabilities.

Marcus Brigstocke: dyslexia helps my comedy

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Vaughan | 11:41 UK time, Thursday, 14 June 2012

Marcus Brigstocke

Stand-up comic and actor Marcus Brigstocke, a familiar face from TV series such as Argumental and I've Never Seen Star Wars, was a guest on Richard Bacon's 5 Live show on Tuesday afternoon. He was there to talk about his unusual role as one of the guest directors for this week's Cheltenham Science Festival, based on what he describes as his genuine "enthusiasm for science, without any real understanding of it".

As the conversation with stand-in host Phil Williams turned to how mental health problems seem to be more prevalent amongst comedians, Marcus revealed how dyslexia is also quite common. His belief, however, is that these disabilities don't need to be addressed as 'issues' because, in many cases, they help to provide the different way of looking at the world that's so necessary in comedy.

Marcus credits his own dyslexia with giving him "an interest in language and the deconstruction of words ... I spot puns and the capability to play with them very, very quickly. I maybe entirely wrong about this, but I think that's connected with dyslexia and seeing words broken down into their component parts. So it's not necessarily a bad thing."

You can hear the whole fascinating interview with Marcus Brigstocke - in which he also talks about being prescribed lithium as a teenager to overcome his weight problem - on BBC iPlayer, from about 27 minutes in. The programme is available until Tuesday 19 June.

On the web: Olympic travel news, hate crime and more

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Vaughan | 09:56 UK time, Thursday, 14 June 2012

Two wheelchair users boarding a tube train

• The Olympics and Paralympics, which take place in London from late July through to early September, are predicted to see a huge increase in people travelling around the capital on public transport. In preparation, Transport for London has updated the accessibility section of its site with a series of new informational films introducing disabled visitors to accessible travel in the city. There's an introductory video presented by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, followed by short films looking at travelling by bus, tube, overground rail, taxi and river. All seven videos are also available in audio described and BSL versions.

• The disability community on Twitter has been tweeting and retweeting some sad news this week: the death of disability rights campaigner Karen Sherlock (known on Twitter as Pusscat01. Kaliya Franklin posted 'Karen's Story' on her blog, Benefit Scrounging Scum.

• This year's Learning Disability Week runs from next Monday, 18 June, through to Sunday 24 June. It continues with the theme of last year's event, concentrating on a campaign against disability hate crime. There are also events happening across the country.

• In the US, a new reality TV series has just premiered on Sundance Channel. Push Girls. It follows the lives of four wheelchair-using women in Los Angeles, California.

Disability gets high billing at film maker's festival

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Emma Emma | 12:34 UK time, Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The members of Name Day, whose film Punk Syndrome will show at this year's Sheffield Doc/Fest

Name Day, the learning disabled band featured in the film Punk Syndrome, showing at this year's Sheffield Doc/Fest

A respected annual event for the TV and film industry starts today and will be showing a significant number of new films which feature disabled people.

The Sheffield Doc/Fest has seven disability related documentaries on its programme this year, a number which reflects the growing interest in the subject by UK broadcasters and audiences.

Disability themed documentaries have risen to become a regular part of the TV schedules in 2012, with the BBC's Beyond Disability season and Channel 4's Undateables being high profile examples so far.

Previously, broadcasters appeared to shy away from the subject, perhaps believing there wasn't an appetite for it or due to an anxiety they might accidentally upset disabled people.

Hussain Currimbhoy, curator for the 18 year-old industry event, admits to having had many "wrong" disability themed documentaries cross his path in the past.

"The directors don't really understand the person they are working with, standing too far back, not really becoming part of their lives and seeing their point of view."

But, he says, documentary makers have grown up in the lifetime of the festival, learning more about what makes a good story year on year.

Up to two thousand producers and industry experts are expected to come together to learn new skills, pitch ideas and show off their latest work in the South Yorkshire city over the next few days.

Hussain thinks there's "something in the ether" this year and believes film makers have started to understand disability a bit better.

"In the films we picked up this year, the makers treat the disabled people involved with some kind of new respect, not like there's something wrong with them. The characters are funny and very watchable. You can see what drives them."

One of the documentaries in particular has grabbed Hussain's attention.

"Lost in Sound is about three people with hearing disabilities who are involved in music. The way they feel music, and experience it, is like nothing I've ever seen before."

Music and disability is reflected in two other films on the bill at Sheffield this year: Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is the story of a musician with motor neuron disease. And festival-goers can also see Punk Syndrome, a film about a learning disabled band from Holland who are also due to play live at the event.

Documentaries about sex and disability, an untypical love story and the man with the world's biggest light bulb collection also feature.

Though other areas of minority interest have their own category at the festival, such as Middle East, Euro, gay culture, and activism, there isn't a dedicated Disability category despite the number of documentaries to be shown on the subject.

Hussain says this is deliberate and he has chosen to pepper disability themed films throughout the programme. He explains:

"In years gone by, disability documentaries have been self-centred for the film-maker, not about the disabled people involved. They thought 'isn't this sad?' or, 'wow, it is a miracle'."

But he doesn't see it as sad and respects that many disabled people don't like to be labelled or ghettoised, he says: "It's about people having a good life and not wishing to be put in a corner.

"I want the documentaries watched for the music or the art, not the disability. That's why there's no dedicated strand."

The international documentary festival Sheffield Doc/Fest takes place from 13 to 17 June 2012. Information about the disability related documentaries on the bill, including trailers and future screenings, can be found on the event website.

What aspect of disability life would you like to see turned into a film or documentary? Where are the best and most engaging stories? Which people need to be introduced to the nation on their TV screens and why? Tell us your ideas in the comments below or on our social media.

TV and Radio on BBC iPlayer: a forum on mental health

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Vaughan | 12:01 UK time, Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Approximately one in three of us will be affected by mental health problems during our lifetime. In an edition of the BBC World Service series The Forum, three guests each tackle a different question surrounding the subject.

What's it like to experience the most common mental illness, depression? Antipodean artist and writer Matthew Johnstone characterised it as a black dog in a bestselling picture book he wrote about his experiences.

What can be done to help the millions of people worldwide who face mental health difficulties, but who never see a trained professional and often encounter discrimination and abuse? Indian psychiatrist Vikram Patel discusses meeting this global challenge.

Finally, can we learn anything from the methods used to help people with mental illness who have committed violent crimes? Broadmoor psychotherapist Gwen Adshead explains how she helps her patients begin to heal.

Also on iPlayer

China Close Up (BBC Two)
There are approximately 60 million disabled people in China and many are unable to earn a living. Angered by the stigma against them, Chen Si-Ming has transformed a former state-owned print factory into a privately run collective employing more than 50 disabled people. (Available until Friday 15 June, 5.29am)

Woman's Hour (BBC Radio 4)
Rachel Wotton is an Australian sex worker, whose clients include people with disabilities. She is also the subject of a new documentary, 'Scarlet Road', which is being screened at the Sheffield Documentary Festival this week. She joins presenter Jane Garvey to discuss the topic of severely disabled people seeking an active sex life. (Available until Tuesday 19 June, 10.47am)

You and Yours (BBC Radio 4)
Including a report on whether dads of disabled children need special help over and above mothers.

In Touch (BBC Radio 4)
The closure of Dorton School in Sevenoaks in Kent, and why guide dogs are increasingly being attacked by other dogs.

The Forum: Mental Health (BBC World Service)
One in three of us will be affected by mental illness during our lifetime. What is it like to experience that most common mental illness, depression? Guests include Antipodean artist and writer Matthew Johnstone, Indian psychiatrist Vikram Patel, and Broadmoor psychotherapist Gwen Adshead.

Money Box (BBC Radio 4)
Lloyds Banking group has offered compensation to the family of a woman with advanced dementia who was given an £18,000 unsecured personal loan for home improvements, even though she did not own her home and the monthly repayments were nearly half her income before she paid rent, utilities and food bills. Her son, Roger Hyde, and Andrew Chidgey from the Alzheimer's Society discuss what the banks need to do to improve services for customers with dementia and mental illnesses.

Something Special (CBeebies)
Educational series for four- to seven-year-old children with learning difficulties.

Coming up

Afternoon Drama: Bell in the Ball (BBC Radio 4)
Danny, a sports journalist, was blinded in a fight on New Year's Eve 2008. He's angry about it - in fact he's angry about everything. So his long suffering girlfriend suggests he joins a blind cricket team. It's surprisingly competitive and skilful. There's only one problem - Danny hates cricket. This comedy drama by 'Doctors' writer Lloyd Peters, starring Jason Done from 'Waterloo Road' as Danny, features some exterior scenes recorded at Old Sharlston Cricket Club in West Yorkshire and with the enthusiastic participation of their visually impaired cricket team. (Repeat)

I'm-pairment - Sir Philip Craven and disability

Hotch Potch | 09:00 UK time, Monday, 11 June 2012

English dictionaries

We've always had interesting feedback about political correctness, 'gone mad' or otherwise.

Language is something our readers and listeners care strongly about. And if they don't care about it, they're passionate that they don't care about it.

President of the Paralympic movement, Sir Philip Craven MBE, says that he "detests" the word 'disabled' in the latest podcast from Ouch!.

He's said how much he loathes the D-word elsewhere recently too. In an Evening Standard interview, he puts it succinctly:

"Don't use terminology that gives a negative impression. If you need to talk about the blind, visually impaired, deaf or wheelchair users, no problem at all. What the blind person needs is completely different. What the deaf person needs is completely different. So get rid of that D word. I'd far sooner the word impairment was used."

So, impairment. It's an awkward-sounding word and it's more of a noun than an adjective. Or is it more square and not so rounded? It feels like it doesn't fit quite so smoothly into the English language as the D-word does: "I'm impairment?" "I've got an impairment?" "My daughter is impairmented"?

The more academic minded in the disability community have been using 'impairment' for donkeys years now, and some of us trying to find a positive identity may have flirted with using it. Sir Philip Craven grudgingly uses the I-word if he has to, it seems, but he thinks the D-word makes you think of broken useless machinery and hates using it anywhere at all. He detests it, remember?

So, why 'impairment'? Why's that different to 'disabled'? What does it mean?

Deep breaths now. Craven takes the word 'impairment' from what is known as the Social Model of Disability, though maybe we should be calling it 'collective responsibility' or 'being civilised'. It is a set of ideas and language which has helped crystallise what disability rights should mean these past few decades. The language, however, has never really fallen into everyday usage. Professors, social workers, politicians and some bloggers use impairment and refer to 'the social model' a lot, and it's there in national and international law. Others won't know the term but agree with the principle that society has a duty of care.

To sum up, here's the difference between impairment and disabled a la social model of disability:

• An impairment is the thing that's wrong with you. So, for instance, if you have cerebral palsy, that's your impairment. It's not a disability, see the next point.

• The word 'disabled' refers to a much wider idea that society is there to make your life accessible, bearable and liveable; so you might be a 'disabled person' because there are steps going up into a polling station, for instance. In this example, it's the absence of a ramp that disables you, it's not your cerebral palsy's fault, it's the council's fault for not having considered your needs. And indeed you could sue them, such is the recognition that you are not at fault just for having cerebral palsy. So your 'disability' is the stuff in the world that conspires against good accessibility. Loosely speaking, society is responsible for your needs.

Just for fun, arf, let's look at the 'medical model'. It's the opposite of the 'social model'. Here, if you were unable to get up into a polling station due to having mobility difficulties, well, it's a case of "poor little Katie. She can't vote because she has cerebral palsy" - it would be accepted that you can't vote. And that would be that. "It wasn't us that gave you cerebral palsy. Go and get yourself cured, then you'll be able to vote." Apply the same idea to getting into restaurants, employment, etc.

Usually people are nicer than this though and the point is far more subtle.

Let's recap. Sir Philip hates people defining themselves as disabled. They may well have impairments, indeed it's these impairments which make them eligible for the Paralympics, so he can't exactly detest those. He defines his sporting clan as Paralympic athletes. A positive label unlike, say, disabled athletes ... which some would argue is an oxymoron. (Can we say moron?)

Others do like to use the word 'disabled' however, because they feel like they should own it rather than have it used against them.

If you can put it better, please do in the comments below. Can anyone get it down to a paragraph ... maybe even a haiku?

Just in: This month's Disability Now has an article by Mike Shamash who has written about how he thinks the social model needs to change.

News round-up: exercise and depression

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Vaughan | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 8 June 2012

In 2004, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidelines which advised that people who are affected by depression should engage in up to three exercise sessions a week in order to help relieve some of the symptoms. Since then, this advice has regularly returned to the headlines in various stories (see these examples from 2010 and from only a couple of months ago, for example). Now, however, the results of a new NHS-funded study have suggested otherwise, coming to the conclusion that combining exercise with conventional treatments for depression does not improve recovery.

The news has prompted much debate, with people who have used physical activity to help relieve their depression coming forward to offer their experiences and others offering arguments in favour.

The official NHS Choices website has also issued a detailed statement about the research, which clarifies the limitations of the study and emphasises the continued benefits of exercise.

More of the week's headlines

Brain training 'helps treat depression' (BBC News, Friday 8 June)

'Ground-breaking' changes for London cancer patients (BBC News, Thursday 7 June)

What sex education is available for young people with a learning disability? (The Guardian, Thursday 7 June)

Dwarfs threaten '100-midget march' over Snow White and the Huntsman film (The Independent, Thursday 7 June)

Autism 'could be triggered by very low doses of anti-depressants or other chemicals found in water supply' (Daily Mail, Thursday 7 June)

Woman with learning difficulties 'trains her brain' (BBC News, Wednesday 6 June)

Lee Ridley: making comedy out of silence (The Guardian, Wednesday 6 June)

NHS millions used to 'prop up crumbling care system', report shows (The Telegraph, Wednesday 6 June)

Unborn babies could be tested for 3,500 genetic faults (The Telegraph, Wednesday 6 June)

ParalympicsGB: Who will compete for Great Britain in London (BBC Disability Sport, Tuesday 5 June)

Husband a right old grump? He could be one of thousands who have Asperger's without realising (Daily Mail, Tuesday 5 June)

Stem cell scientists take hope from first human trials but see long road ahead (The Guardian, Monday 4 June)

What Katie Price did next (The Guardian, Monday 4 June)

Electrical stimulation of the brain: the benefits of the short, sharp shock (The Guardian, Sunday 3 June)

UN calls for investigation of US school's shock treatments of autistic children (The Guardian, Saturday 2 June)

One fan's mission to Lars (The Guardian, Saturday 2 June)

Premature birth linked to worse mental health (BBC News, Friday 1 June)

Fergus Walsh: 'Hope' for the paralysed? (BBC News, Friday 1 June)

Diabetes drug 'doubles bladder cancer risk' (The Telegraph, Friday 1 June)

Remploy staff stage Cardiff protest over Wales closures (BBC News, Friday 1 June)

13 Questions: Ade Adepitan

Emma Emma | 12:47 UK time, Thursday, 7 June 2012

Ade Adepitan

Ade Adepitan MBE was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1973. He contracted polio as a baby and lost much of the use of his legs as a result. In 1976 Ade moved to the UK, where he has remained, making London his home and becoming one of Britain's most recognisable disabled sports and TV personalities.

Playing wheelchair basketball for Britain, Ade won bronze at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games and gold in 2005 at the inaugural Paralympic World Cup in Manchester. In the same year he was a participant on BBC documentary Beyond Boundaries, where he hiked through Nicaragua with a team of fellow disabled adventurers.

Ade has been a TV presenter since 1999, with credits including children's television, travel programmes and sports shows. In the run-up to the London 2012 Paralympic Games, which he helped bring to the UK, Ade co-presents Channel 4's That Paralympic Show and also heads up a series of disability sport reports for The One Show.

Ahead of what he describes as his biggest job to date, as a flagship presenter on Channel 4's Paralympic coverage later this summer, Ade was bubbling over with anticipation as he answered 13 Questions.

My earliest memory is...
In a car, driving through lots of trees on the way to Lagos airport. I was three when my parents took me to the UK to give me the chance of better healthcare and a better life. I had thought I'd dreamed this image until I went back to Nigeria as an adult and visited our village.

The three words I'd use to describe myself are...
Thoughtful, ambitious and determined. When I saw wheelchair basketball at the 1984 Paralympics, I knew that i wanted to be part of team GB in the future. I have always wanted to be a TV presenter, but you don't see many black or disabled faces on screen, so I had to have a lot of determination and drive and take a lot of knocks before I finally got there. Now I just want to do a great job of the Channel 4 Paralympics coverage.

A little known fact about me is...
That I speak Spanish. I Lived in Spain for two years in the early '90s, playing basketball professionally. It is really helpful. You'd be amazed at how many countries in the world speak the language. And if someone can't speak English, they usually speak Spanish.

Given half a chance I'd relish the opportunity to bore you about ...
My obsession with Game of Thrones. It's like a soap opera, but it also really sparks your imagination about what people got up to in medieval times. I grew up with Doctor Who and am a big sci-fi and fantasy geek.

I can't resist...
Buying the latest gadgets. I have to avoid reading too many technology magazines so that I don't purchase too many. I am particularly obsessed with wireless stuff because I hate how all the wires from my TV and sound system turn into a maze of craziness.

I want to ban...
Dances like the Macarena and YMCA. Bring back the hokey-cokey and make it the London 2012 official dance. It is a good old fashioned decent dance move and we should share it with the world.

The thing I've done but would never do again is...
Probably the London Marathon. I did it in 2007 and would never attempt it again because it was hard and I didn't have time to prepare for it as well as I wanted to. As I was about to be interviewed afterwards, I bent down to put my shoes on and realised I couldn't. I had to get the journalist to do it for me.

Before I die I want to...
Have children. I want to pass on my experiences to another generation and it would be great to play sport with them. But I suppose they could end up being a complete pain and after a year I might be over the idea.

If I suddenly became able-bodied I would...
I don't think there are many things that ABs can do that disabled people can't. In fact, I see us as the next stage in evolution.
Becoming able-bodied would therefore be a regression, a backward step. Instead of becoming able-bodied, I'd rather become a superhero and fly.

Someone should invent...
A microchip that you could inject into your head, which would allow you to go online with just your brain.

My ideal dinner guest would be...
God. He knows everything. He'd answer all your questions. It would be better than Google.

London 2012 will be...
The greatest Paralympics ever because it is coming back to its home. The British public, LOCOG and Channel 4 have ensured that it will have a higher profile than ever before. I am ready to burst with excitement, but am pacing myself as there is a long way to go. If I were to be high and euphoric all the way through, I would burn out.

After the Games this year, Paralympic sport will be...
On the minds of everyone in the UK. I'd like many more disability sports clubs to spring up around the UK and lots more disabled people feeling confident about who they are. I hope to see disability sport mentioned more in the mainstream, in the papers, on TV. Finally, I'd like to see the athletes earning money and having contracts and prominent sponsors.

• Ade Adepitan's official website can be found at

TV and Radio on BBC iPlayer: blind jazz pianist Marcus Roberts

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Vaughan | 11:29 UK time, Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The latest edition of BBC Radio 4's In Touch features blind American jazz pianist Marcus Roberts, who talks to Peter White about his music and the impact being blind has had on his career.

As a child Marcus was encouraged to play the piano by his parents, particularly his mother, who was also very musical. Marcus says one of the things that attracted him to the instrument was the fact that it didn't move and he could feel its size.

Wynton Marsalis, the legendary jazz trumpeter and composer, took Marcus under his wing and gave him his first big break by inviting him to play in his band. Marsalis described Marcus as a genius musician and Marcus says his own style and writing is influenced by his mentor.

Marcus talks, too, about the frustrations of being blind and how he wishes he could conduct an orchestra. But it's not all talk, as along with his other band members he demonstrates some of the tricks and techniques they use when playing together - to know both when to end, and when to begin.

Also on iPlayer

Head Case (BBC Two)
The reality of living with depression, anorexia, anxiety, bipolar disorder and addiction is revealed through the eyes of young people who have first-hand experience of these illnesses. (Available until 4.59am on Friday 8 June)

The Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman (BBC Radio 2)
In one item on the show, journalist Kate Spicer and her film director brother Will discuss their new documentary film, Mission to Lars, which follows their older brother Tom Spicer, a forty year-old man with fragile X syndrome, similar to autism, on his quest to meet his lifelong hero, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. (Available until 12.03am on Saturday 9 June)

The Comedy Café (BBC Radio Scotland)
Bob Dickson meets voiceless comedian Lee Ridley, whose act makes fun of his own disability. Bob asks him about the boundaries between funny and offensive comedy, and explores whether it's only okay to make fun of disability if you are disabled yourself. Janice Forsyth explores ideas surrounding disability and comedy further in a panel discussion. (Available until 12.47am on Saturday 9 June)

Midweek (BBC Radio 4)
One of the guests on this edition is Robin Millar, a record producer and musician who has worked with famous names such as Sting, Sade, Eric Clapton, Chrissie Hynde and Elvis Costello. He was born with retinitis pigmentosa and has been registered blind since the age of 16. In March this year Robin underwent a 12 hour operation to install a bionic retina in his right eye in a clinical trial to help research into future treatment for blindness.

See Hear (BBC Two)
An international flavour for See Hear, as the programme follows a 24-year-old deaf volunteer on her journey of a lifetime to Sri Lanka, and meets an Australian best-selling author who is about to publish her latest book, about a deaf teenager, here in the UK.

Money Box (BBC Radio 4)
Part of the show features Graeme Trudgill of the British Insurance Brokers' Association discussing how common it is for travel insurers to exclude cover of mental illness.

Something Special (CBeebies)
Educational series for four- to seven-year-old children with learning difficulties.

Disability gardening tips from a green-fingered blogger

Post categories:

Guest Guest | 12:10 UK time, Friday, 1 June 2012

Niki Preston

Niki Preston is 4 foot 9, mobility impaired and, owing to a lack of digits, describes herself as having two green fingers. She keeps a personal blog chronicling her horticultural exploits.

As the long weekend approaches, here she shares some of her gardening top tips that work for her and could do for others with a physical disability.

Nifty kneelers

If you find it difficult to kneel or have trouble getting down and up again, or you struggle to lean forward to tend to raised beds, give my system a go. It consists of a kneeler for your knees, with a slightly higher stool to lean on directly in front. I use the stool to lever myself down and back up again whilst leaning on and over it to dig, plant and weed.

If I didn't lean on something, I would simply end up head first in the pot. Not the best look.

Pesky pruning

I used to leave all pruning to my husband but envied the satisfaction he got from chopping things down. Then I discovered some tools which work for me.

Traditional secateurs are impossible to use, so I now have some cordless electric ones. Bigger than ordinary secateurs and slightly heavier due to the battery, they are activated by a trigger which I can pull with one finger as I steady them with my other hand. The device has a large semi circular blade which drives down onto a fixed blade, cutting easily through the branches of small shrubs and trees.

When deadheading flowers, most people pinch the heads off with their fingers. As I don't have many (fingers), I use a tiny pear of deadheading snippers, which have a spring action so that they open by themselves and involve less effort with the hand when snipping. Genius!

No watering cans required

Hydrating my plants independently is tricky. Watering cans have always been a big no no and while I know that blue badge owning disabled people are exempt from the ban, hosepipes are also a bit too heavy for me to carry around. So I invented the 'wheelie good watering system'.

Niki's watering system

It involves a 10 litre garden sprayer, the type used for fertiliser, and a funky shopping trolley on wheels. I just pop the sprayer inside the trolley bag, fill it up, pump the handle to build the water pressure and hey presto, an instant watering system that I can just pull or push around the garden.

I can even reach high enough to water the hanging baskets myself for the first time ever, which is a real treat for me and them.

Retreat to the shed

Usually, a potting shed is set up so that the gardener can stand at a table to sew seeds. I am unable to stand for long, so got around this by finding a particularly flexible chair. It's a height adjustable pink office chair on wheels, to be exact.

When sitting down on it: compost, pots, trays, trowels - and my cuppa - everything I may need is within easy reach and I can spin round to get things that are behind me. Plus, because I'm sitting down, there's no back ache or hip pain.


I used to have a problem when all my treasured seeds were ready to be moved from the potting shed to a cold frame outside. Cold frames look like a mini greenhouse with a lid. You can buy very expensive ones with legs, but most sit directly on the ground.

I have short arms and so can't reach to put trays of seeds down at ground level without dropping them and everything falling out. I hate asking for help, so this became a big frustration.

My husband solved the problem with a couple of large shelf brackets. Now my cold frame is perched at a height where I can comfortably place my trays of seeds inside it without having to bend down.

You can buy special disability friendly versions of most gardening items, however, I've found that adapting what you already have is much cheaper and, because it is personalised, the result often works better too.

I hope you have found some useful ideas here. Gardening is great exercise and being outside tending to my plot, pots and veggies, lifts my heart. If you love your garden, there's always a way to keep on keeping on. Give it a go, you'll love it!

• Read News from the Potting Shed, Niki Preston's gardening blog.

BBC Gardening: How to be a gardener

How does your garden grow? Access in the greenhouse and vegetable plots can be a very personal and individual thing as we all have differing needs. Add your own top disability gardening tip to Niki's list in the comments below.

News round-up: The "inspirational" Olympic torchbearers

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Emma Emma | 08:51 UK time, Friday, 1 June 2012

As you read this, the 2012 Olympic torch relay is happening somewhere in the UK. Between 18 May and 27 July, Eight thousand torchbearers, each nominated by someone they know as "truly inspirational", will each take their turn to carry the flame for part of the journey. And there's no shortage of disabled people getting involved.

This week, the BBC reported that the first torchbearer on Welsh soil was Gareth John MBE, chairman of Disability Sport Wales and that Mia Rathband, daughter to blinded police officer PC David Rathband, will take his place in the relay.

More of the week's headlines

Paralysed rats 'learn to walk' (BBC News, Thursday 31 May)

'Lung washing' could boost transplants (BBC News, Wednesday 30 May)

Five-year-olds treated for depression and anxiety (BBC News, Wednesday 30 May)

Early-onset Alzheimer's strikes families fast and ferociously (BBC News Magazine, Wednesday 30 May)

'Chronic fatigue: it's like being switched off' (BBC News Magazine, Wednesday 30 May)

Kenya Airways under UK probe for discrimination (The Star, Wednesday 30 May)

Ministers accused of dishonesty over disability cuts (The Guardian, Wednesday 30 May)

Katie Price in Kent special needs school bid (BBC News, Tuesday 29 May)

Thomas Blumire: young composer who defies barriers (The Telegraph, Tuesday 28 May)

Mission to Lars review: The movie that tells my daughter's story (The Telegraph, Tuesday 28 May)

Disabled people have become a political force to be reckoned with (The Guardian, Tuesday 29 May)

Winterbourne View Panorama programme wins TV Bafta (BBC News, Monday 28 May)

Home therapy is key to 'normal life' with HAE (BBC News, Saturday 26 May)

UK Uncut protest targets Deputy PM Nick Clegg's Putney home (BBC News, Saturday 26 May)

Paralysed rats 'learn to walk' (BBC News, Thursday 31 May)

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