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Archives for November 2012

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/news_round-up_international_da.html" rel="bookmark">News round-up: International day of disabled people and Paralympics - next week

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/damon_rose/"> Damon Rose%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/damon_rose/">Damon Rose | 09:25 UK time, Friday, 30 November 2012

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It's Friday so we're bringing you a list of some of the disability stories that we've been reading over the last week, as per usual. Scroll down to find the headlines. First of all though, let's look forward to a few of the things that could make next week a bigger than average week in disability circles ...

Next Monday, December 3, is the annual focus day known as %3Ca%20href="https://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1597">International Day of Persons with Disabilities - a UN event which occurs every year. There will be lots of smaller events over the country plus a world focus.

Look out for them and we'll mention some of them if you %3Ca%20href="https://twitter.com/bbcouch">follow us on twitter.

On Monday and Tuesday (3 and 4 December) is the %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-20131496">Festival of Paralympic Sport in Surrey. Look out for interesting headlines around this as it's a day where would-be Paralympians can come along and have a shot at sports they may not have tried before. Gold medalling Paralympic runner Jonnie Peacock was spotted at a similar event in 2008 after the Beijing Games. Maybe you could be wearing a GB track suit in Rio? You? Maybe?? Yes, you?

On Wednesday the chancellor delivers his %3Ca%20href="https://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/as2012_index.htm">Autumn Statement, the interim heads-up on his thoughts before the usual budget speech we have every spring. We're aware that 10 billion pounds is still to come out of the welfare budget so it's worth keeping an eye on ... perhaps with one eye or ear on Twitter as you do so. BBC News will bring its usual analysis across all its radio, TV and internet services.

Next Thursday and Friday we may see some interesting Paralympic headlines which hark back to one of the biggest sporting controversies of the year. Do you recall amputee runner Oscar Pistorius making accusations against fellow bladerunner Alan Oliveira during the games? In a race final where Oliveira beat him, Pistorius suggested that the Brazilian must have been wearing longer blades to increase his stride length to give him an advantage.

Well, in Frankfurt at the end of next week, the IPC's Athletics Sports Forum will sit and discuss this and many other issues. South Africa, Pistorius' home country, has tabled blade length for debate and wants changes to the rules. Over 100 countries will be present at the forum which takes place every two years and if there is a consensus that the rules need to be changed, it will go forward to the International Paralympic Committee's governing body for further analysis.

Also next week and the week after, expect lots of media discussion about Paralympic legacy. It's roughly three months since the games ended, there was lots of hyperbole about how it would change the world's attitude to disability forever, and plenty of people will have a view, positive or negative, on what has happened since. There are seemingly a few tangible signs of sporting legacy but how about general attitudinal change from your average Joe and Joanna Public, or from those in key roles who have responsibilities?

• You can follow Ouch! on %3Ca%20href="https://twitter.com/bbcouch">Twitter and on %3Ca%20href="https://www.facebook.com/Ouch.BBC">Facebook.

Elsewhere in the news this week ...

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20539835">Stem cells being made from blood (BBC News, Friday 30 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20526380">Highest-ever HIV diagnoses in gay men (BBC News, Thursday 29 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/disability-sport/20532811">London 2012 Paralympics: Legacy lessons must not be forgotten (BBC Sport, Thursday 29 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20521904">Gas leak blamed for German workshop fire (BBC News, Wednesday 28 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/social-care-network/2012/nov/28/supported-housing-scheme?INTCMP=SRCH">Three factors that make a supported housing scheme a success (The Guardian, Wednesday 28 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20493360">Autism: Traffic pollution linked, study suggests (BBC News, Tuesday 27 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20495841">Liam Byrne on benefit cap and disability payments (BBC Politics, Monday 26 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/the-stigma-of-the-hidden-schizophrenia-epidemic-8360498.html">The stigma of the hidden schizophrenia epidemic (The Independent, Tuesday 27 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/nov/27/response-winterbourne-view-improve-care">The response to the Winterbourne View case promises to improve care (The Guardian, Tuesday 27 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/do-you-see-what-im-saying-8352888.html">Do you see what I'm saying? Sign language interpretors in the media (The Independent, Tuesday 27 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/sports-personality/20466947">Sports Personality of the Year: Olympians and Paralympians dominate the award shortlist this year (BBC Sport, Monday 26 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/is-this-the-tobacco-moment-for-cannabis-8349054.html">Schizophrenia - the cannabis link (The Independent, Monday 26 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/select/select-blog-dao?CMP=twt_gu">Select Site Profile: Disability Arts Online (The Guardian, Monday 26 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.metro.co.uk/tv/918833-warwick-davis-people-ask-me-for-a-photo-because-im-short">Warwick Davis: People ask me for a photo because I'm short (The Metro, Monday 26 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://blogs.metro.co.uk/olympics/shouldnt-new-uk-athletics-paralympic-head-coach-disabled/">Blog: Shouldn't the new UK Athletics Paralympic Head Coach be disabled? (the Metro, Monday 26 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://blogs.metro.co.uk/travel/german-museum-showcases-future-disabled-access/">Blog: German museum showcases the future of disabled access (The Metro, Monday 26 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/learning_disabled_celebrity_bo.html" rel="bookmark">A learning disabled celebrity booker on securing her charity's high profile ambassadors

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/"> Emma Tracey%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/">Emma Tracey | 11:15 UK time, Monday, 26 November 2012

Ciara Evans with Tom Jones and Bono

Ciara Evans with Tom Jones and Bono

Thirty-three-year-old Ciara Evans from Surrey has a mild learning disability and has an unusually glamorous sounding job title: she's a celebrity research assistant. To add to this unusualness, she works somewhere you wouldn't ordinarily associate with celebs - Mencap, a charity for learning disabled people. This week they've been holding one of their regular showbiz events which needs someone with a bit of "lived experience" who can schmooze and represent them authentically when it comes to working with influential big names.

So what does she do in her job? I went to meet her at the gig venue, a church in Hackney, but she kept me waiting. And waiting. It seems that a last minute opportunity to meet with Olly Murs in a London cafe has made her two hours late for our interview.

When she arrived, she was bustled in by a PR person from the charity, said "hello", stroked my guide dog and quickly let me know she was ready for me to fire questions at her. In case I'd got the wrong impression, she told me straight away that her role is not all about glamorous meetings with popstars.

"My job is to find out about celebrities; who they are, what they are interested in and whether they have any connection with learning disability or any other disability." Ciara does this by reading through the newspapers and celeb magazines, using the internet and connecting with famous people on Twitter.

Ciara Evans with Gavin and Stacey's Mathew Horne

Ciara Evans with Gavin and Stacey's Mathew Horne

It's helpful to build relationships with famous people who already know and care about the subject. For instance, it's well known that Radio 2 DJ Jo Whiley has a sister with a learning disability. It was Jo and her sister Frances who came up with the idea for this evening's event. Former Steps singer Lisa Scott-Lee has two uncles who are learning disabled and Mathew Horne from Gavin and Stacy also has a connection. It probably goes without saying but family connections of this type can make artists more positively disposed to helping out. And having a celebrity on board at these events is invaluable to a charity keen to generate column inches or raise funds.

I discover Ciara has her own celebrity connection: she's the cousin of The Edge from international superband U2. The Edge was the first celebrity Ciara convinced to become a Mencap ambassador and he has since made a number of appearances for the charity. Later her manager suggests to me that this revelation wasn't entirely unhelpful in her getting the role.

The other part of Ciara's job is more office based. She explains it's about "writing to their agent, so that the letter asking for their involvement comes from someone with a learning disability.

"It's better that someone with a learning disability talks to the media. People like myself can talk about issues that are real and I can talk about experiences that I've had and that other people with learning disabilities have had".

It's that personal touch that takes the message out there effectively.

Ciara has told me that she feels well supported in her work and I'm keen to know more about that relationship, who does what and how she achieves office tasks. I tentatively ask whether she writes and sends the letters independently.

"I write the letter and then my manager reads it through. He helps me to make any changes I need to make, formats it a little bit and then it's done."

Said manager, Neil Alexander, told me that writing formally to people was the most difficult part of the job for her to learn, but that she concentrated really hard on everything he showed her how to do and that now, her "celebrity asks" need almost no additional editing.

Ciara Evans with Stacey Solomon

Ciara Evans with Stacey Solomon

As we sit amidst a hive of activity back stage at the seventh annual Little Noise Sessions, Mencap's weeklong series of high profile fundraising gigs, Ciara tells me her employment history.

She's been a celebrity research assistant for six years now and has helped bring bands like Elbow and Coldplay on board for Little Noise and other events. She's been at Mencap for 13 years in total though. Her first role was office assistant, which, she says, taught her how to "behave" at work and what is expected of her in that environment. She went on to be a support worker, teaching work skills to other service users and accompanying them to work placements.

Ciara tells me it was this last bit of the role that was most rewarding: "It was amazing because at first the employers were like, no, we don't know if this is going to work out and by the end of it, the employers saw what a good job they did and their attitudes changed for the better."

After three years helping other people with learning disabilities to gain employment, she spotted the celeb research position on Mencap's website. It was specifically reserved for candidates with a learning disability. She says: "I thought it was a really great idea, so I applied for it with support. One of my work mates helped me to fill out the application form because it was a little bit confusing."

A support worker accompanied Ciara to the interview. Even though celebrity manager Neil Alexander had written the job description with another learning disabled woman in mind, he says Ciara was the one who excelled on the day.

Tonight, Ciara is volunteering as a Little Noise programme seller. She moves confidently around the auditorium, jauntily encouraging people to take one in return for a £5 donation. Someone else handles the money part of the transaction because Ciara has trouble with money and budgeting. Laughing, she says: "I'd spend every penny I have if I could but I know that I can't do that. My fiance Mark helps me with this, to make sure I pay my rent and bills first."

Mark does not have a learning disability. They met on a course at college and enjoy going to live music gigs together. They are due to get married in May 2013.

Ciara is very good at getting her point across. I ask her if people ever question whether she has learning difficulties. She says: "I've had a lot of that throughout my life. But I say to people, it's not about how I look, it's not about how I talk and it is not about who I am. It is something that affects the way I learn and it affects the way that I communicate sometimes. I always say to people, if you get to know me as a person, sometimes you'll see the areas that I struggle with and then you'll learn."

She went to a special needs school before college and says all her best friends have a learning disability: "My best friend works in a bakery, she gets to bake lovely cake, which I'm very jealous of. One works in a chemist and one in a supermarket".

As much as Ciara enjoys her job, she already has plans for the future, big plans.

"I'd like to be a musical theatre actress or, more realistically, I'd like to be someone senior in an organisation."

And then she starts to lay out her political machinations, something that neither I nor the charity's PR person with her, had expected:

"I think that if Mencap are the voice of people with learning disabilities, they should be led by people with a learning disability. My career goal hopefully one day is to be co-chief executive of Mencap.

"There are different sides to that job. You have to meet a lot of people and you have to look at finances quite thoroughly, so there are some things I might need support to learn and do but there are other things I could probably do quite well. But to be a senior voice within Mencap would be an incredible opportunity."

This year's %3Ca%20href="https://www.littlenoisesessions.org.uk/">Little Noise Sessions finished on Sunday 25 November. The concerts featured many top artists, including: Gary Barlow, Olly Murs, Richard Hawley, The Maccabees, Noah and the Whale, Amy Mcdonald and Keane members Tom Chaplin and Tim Rice-Oxley.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/news_round-up_media_does_menta.html" rel="bookmark">News round-up: Media does mental health

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/"> Emma Tracey%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/">Emma Tracey | 14:48 UK time, Friday, 23 November 2012

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It's Friday and this is when we give a rundown of media stories about disability. So let's dwell on media a bit before we list all the headlines ...

On Monday, Stephen Fry hosted Mind charity's Mental Health Media awards. In a ceremony at BFI Southbank in London, awards were presented to TV, radio and the press for their portrayal of mental health issues. See how many of these you remember from the last year.

The Daily Mail published %3Ca%20href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2235752/Wayne-Bridge-pledges-support-Frankie-Sandford-Mind-mental-health-media-awards.html">the full list of winners. Frankie Sandford from pop group The Saturdays, who has spoken out about her own mental health problems in the past, presented BBC Three documentary Britain's Biggest Hoarders with one of their two gongs.

BBC Radio 4 drama Henry's Demons received the award for best speech radio and Julia George from BBC Radio Kent was crowned %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/ariel/20416024">journalist of the year.

Channel 4's US import series Homeland won best drama for their handling of lead character Carrie Mathison's bipolar disorder and ITV's Emmerdale received the soap award for their tackling of Zach Dingle's depression.

Elsewhere in the news

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20442760">Quality of care suffering, says regulator (BBC News, 23 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20414822">ADHD treatment 'may reduce risk of criminal behaviour' (BBC News, Thursday 22 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/small-business-network/2012/nov/22/starting-up-blue-badge-style?INTCMP=SRCH">Starting Up: Blue Badge Style (Guardian Small Business Network, Thursday 22 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/nov/16/mental-health-stigma-classroom?CMP=twt_gu">Blog: It's time to tackle mental health stigma in our classrooms (Guardian Professional, Thursday 22 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/social-care-network/2012/nov/22/arts-project-challenge-stereotypes-disabled-people?CMP=twt_gu">Arts project aims to challenge stereotypes of disabled people (Guardian Professional, Thursday 22 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20423701">Work test centres 'lack disabled access' (BBC News, Wednesday 21 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20415127">Enrico Dandolo and the way history overlooks disability (BBC News, Wednesday 21 November.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20417144">'Fat' drug could treat epilepsy (BBC News, Wednesday 21 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://enablemagazine.co.uk/index.php/2012/11/mps-call-for-landmark-reform-after-inquiry-exposes-realities-of-life-for-young-disabled-britons/">MPs call for 'landmark' reform after inquiry exposes realities of life for young disabled Britons (Enable Magazine, Wednesday 21 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/public-leaders-network/2012/nov/20/wolverhampton-council-peoples-parliament?INTCMP=SRCH">Democratic involvement for people with disabilities (The Guardian, Tuesday 20 November)
%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/nov/20/work-capability-assessment-reform-slow?INTCMP=SRCH">Work capability assessment reform too slow, says independent review (The Guardian, Tuesday 20 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-news/9690211/Film-celebrates-talent-of-disabled-artists.html">film celebrates talent of disabled artists (The Telegraph, Tuesday 20 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20400747">Cameron 'calls time' on Labour's equality impact assessments (BBC News, Monday 19 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20357997">Possession, Jinn and Britain's backstreet exorcists (BBC News, Monday 19 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/nov/19/domestic-violence-disabled-women-abuse">Domestic violence and disabled women: an abuse of power (The Guardian, Monday 19 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/nov/19/feel-music-deaf-children-orchestra?INTCMP=SRCH">Feel the Music project teaches deaf children a touch of Beethoven (The guardian, Monday 19 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/the_making_of_mr_tumbles_touch.html" rel="bookmark">The making of Mr Tumble's touchscreen game for children with special needs (Technology and disabled people series)

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/damon_rose/"> Damon Rose%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/damon_rose/">Damon Rose | 08:43 UK time, Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Tumble Tapp Snap game featuring Mr Tumble

It's not a tablet computer, it's a Tumble Tapp

Tumble Tapp Snap is released today on the CBeebies website. Aimed at children with learning, developmental or motor function disabilities, it's a matching game that you and a child can play on your tablet or mobile phone's touch screen. It's based on the popular Mr Tumble character, seen regularly on the pre-schoolers TV channel and created for a special needs audience.

The game presents a series of activities based on simple but important daily tasks such as getting dressed and going shopping. The aim is to hit the button when you spot a match.

This is the first web game from CBeebies designed especially for use on a smart phone or tablet. It's widely appreciated that tablet devices are very accessible for this community.

Lucy Beckett, producer of the game at the BBC in Salford, says that for some disabled people, tablet devices like the iPad are taking over from the old specialist equipment you previously had to buy separately: "It's really fascinating actually. Tablets only took off in 2010, and to me they always seemed like they were designed to bring entertainment to upwardly mobile people so they could watch The Killing on the train and things like that. But it appears by fluke that they happen to have created this amazing tool for special needs users who don't usually get a look in and who aren't normally at the top of the agenda."

She describes them as being like "one big switch". Switch is the name given to the big button mouse-like devices which some disabled people with poor motor function have traditionally attached to their computers to give them basic access at a level they can control.

Software producers know you can't release a game without testing it on potential users. For special needs audiences, says Lucy, this is "incredibly" important: "One of the things not obvious to us was just how much we'd need to test with grown ups. We had to make sure they understood about changing the settings, swiping, what identical snap is, non-identical, and more."

The testing helped them identify that not all children were able to perform the common swipe action on tablet devices and so weren't able to move between pictures - an important part of the game. So now there is a setting where you can have those pictures move across the screen slowly like a shooting gallery and they can choose them as they appear: "The kids just need to bash the screen when they see the character they want to play with," explains Lucy.

For added accessibility beyond the regular game of snap, Tumble Tapp Snap allows you to adjust the settings so that the gameplay can be geared towards the child depending on what his or her strenths are. For instance, some children with autism may see two pigs, one pink, one with patches, but may not be able to discern that they are both pigs because they look a little different. So, to build understanding in this area, you are given the ability to switch the game to an alternative mode that shows non-identical matches in order to stretch the child.

There are also advanced levels which use words that are outside of daily vocabulary, for instance you can help Fisherman Tumble identify a crab or sun cream. Everyday keywords, on the other hand, might include shoes, socks, trousers etc.

Mr Tumble, played by the irrepressible Justin Fletcher, appears in the series Something Special which airs every day on CBeebies at 9.45am. Since 2005 the programme has been teaching the simple Makaton sign language to children with learning difficulties and promoting important messages about inclusion whilst doing so.

On every episode, Mr Tumble pulls out a picture from his famous spotty bag and he and the children then go looking for the object in the picture. On the latest incarnation of the show Something Special: We're All Friends, the modern day clown delves into the bag and pulls out a tablet device which he calls a Tumble Tapp. On it, he brings up a picture of what he's looking for by 'tapping' buttons on the screen. In so doing, he's reflecting the increased adoption of these devices by the community he's broadcasting to.

Part of the testing of the game involved the team traveling to special schools in the north and south of England.

"I don't know what it is about Mr Tumble, but the children love him," says Lucy.

"We'd test on six kids each day and every kid was convinced Mr Tumble would be there due to a slight miscommunication. Quite a few were sign language users, we didn't understand them but the teacher would say 'he keeps asking where Mr Tumble is'.

"We must've been the biggest booby prize in the world."

• You can find the Tumble Tapp Snap game at the %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies">the CBeebies website

• The %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ouch">latest podcast from Ouch! for November 2012 includes a feature on how various disabled people are using tablet computers - a big breakthrough in accessibility for many. It also features one of the developers of the new Tumble game.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/disability_news_roundup_mind_r.html" rel="bookmark">Disability news roundup: Mind reading, boarding school for the blind, renting accessible accommodation

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/"> Emma Tracey%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/">Emma Tracey | 12:32 UK time, Friday, 16 November 2012

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This week a number of articles have been written to accompany disability related TV and radio programmes.

Medical correspondent Fergus Walsh %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20268044">wrote for BBC News about Monday's Panorama programme. %3Ca%20href="%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ny377">The Mind Reader: Unlocking My Voice, follows a group of people with severe brain injuries who cannot speak or physically indicate how they feel. The programme investigates new methodss which may help them communicate and that are currently being trialed.

It tells of vegetative patient Scott Routley, who, when his brain was scanned in a particular way, was able to relay that he is not in pain using only his thoughts. It is hoped that, in future, this method could also be employed to help people like Scott make choices related to food, personal care and even entertainment.

Also on Monday, journalist and wheelchair user Paul Carter %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-20270101">wrote about his film for Inside Out West and London, which showed the difficulties disabled people have when looking for suitable rental accommodation. Paul's week of house hunting in Bath %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nwd72">yielded mixed results, leading to a suggestion that it should become compulsory for landlords and agents to provide simple accessibility information about their properties.

Disability correspondent Peter White was the presenter of %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ntg53">From Worcester With Love, Wednesday's BBC Radio 4 documentary about life at a boarding school for blind children. Now called New College Worcester, he writes of his time there in the 1960s and %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20299843">compares his experience with its present day pupils.

Elsewhere in the news

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/social-care-network/social-life-blog/2012/nov/16/working-children-disabilities-india">Why I wanted to work with children with disabilities in India (Guardian Professional, Friday 16 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20344407">Visually impaired live in poverty says RNIB report (BBC Wales, Thursday 15 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20337384">Hate crime play taken to schools in Bridgend (BBC Wales, Thursday 15 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/antipsychotic-drugs-can-lead-to-startling-weight-gain-8316882.html">Anti-psychotic drugs can lead to 'startling weight gain' (The Independent, Thursday 15 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20300506">'Catastrophic failings' in schizophrenia care (BBC News, Wednesday 14 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/nov/13/welfare-cut-proposals-ministers-budget?CMP=twt_gu">Welfare cut proposals to go before ministers (The Guardian, Tuesday 13 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20297386">'Calm down' genes treat epilepsy in rats (BBC News, Monday 12 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/social-care-network/2012/nov/12/skyfail-bond-villain-mental-health-stigma">Skyfail: why the new Bond villain perpetuates mental health stigma (Guardian Professional, Monday 12 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/12/fit-for-work-tests-employment-support">Opinion: Fit-for-work tests are exposed, again - change this shocking tactic now (the Guardian, Monday 12 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/nov/12/disabled-not-encouraged-teacher-training-costs">Where are the disabled teachers? (The Guardian, Monday 12 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/9651933/Mental-illness-at-work-the-last-taboo.html">Mental illness at work: the last taboo (The Telegraph, Monday 12 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20265786">Depression in pregnancy 'risk to future mental health' (BBC News, Sunday 11 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/nov/11/thinking-numbers-maths-daniel-tammet">Daniel Tammet: 'Maths is as rich, inspiring and human as literature' (The Observer, Sunday 11 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/11/deaf-voices-mocked">Opinion: Deaf voices are natural, so why are they still mocked? (The Observer, Sunday 11 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20274051">Special Me... the truth about turning 18 with a disability (BBC News Northern Ireland, Saturday 10 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/zach_anner_the_travel_show_hos.html" rel="bookmark">Zach Anner: Travel host with cerebral palsy moves from TV to web

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/"> Emma Tracey%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/">Emma Tracey | 09:24 UK time, Thursday, 15 November 2012

Zach Anner

The great thing about the web is that people who may never have made it on mainstream TV can now find their voice and get attention. The web allows specialist interest shows to exist, shows that would never have been commissioned for old media.

Zach Anner is a disabled person who is building his celebrity online. He's a charismatic 27 year old wheelchair user with cerebral palsy from Buffalo, New York, who loves travelling and making films.

He was studying media at university in Texas when an idea arose that would see him indulging both of these passions.

His mother heard about a new reality TV series where the winner would get to present a show on Oprah Winfrey's then new television network, OWN. Oprah set up the channel in 2010 after leaving her famous daily programme, and its opening got a lot of media attention. She convinced Zach he should audition.

He created a comedy trailer for a disability travel show as an audition piece which he put up on YouTUbe. It was called Rolling with Zach Anner and he performed it entirely in drag. The video went viral, and a hugely successful online voting campaign driven by users of social networks YouTube and Reddit, helped to ensure he won the prize.

After six shows, however, the programme was cancelled.

On the latest Ouch! Talk Show, Zach explains candidly and succinctly why be believes the show ended.

"[OWN] was a very new network at the time, still trying to find what its voice was, and basically, the bottom line is, nobody watched it."

Though his cable show came to an end, his wanderlust didn't. Undeterred by those low viewing figures on mainstream television, Zach now concentrates on where the supporters of his original audition tape congregate - the internet.

In so doing, he joins other disability shows on the web like %3Ca%20href="https://www.howsyournews.com/">How's Your News, %3Ca%20href="%3Ca%20href="https://kidsofwidneyhigh.com/">The Kids of Widney High and UK project %3Ca%20href="https://www.the-specials.com/">The Specials - all of whom use video sharing sights to reach their target audience.

YouTube is the home of his new travel show, Riding Shotgun with Zach Anner, but social network Reddit, which is the show's main supporter, feeds into the production as Zach explains: "We let the internet decide where they sent us and what they wanted us to do and we did whatever they wanted, so we got into some pretty crazy stuff."

Guided by fans, Zach ate a medieval banquet in Montreal, became the king of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and stayed at one of Boston's more dubious hotels. Other suggested cities, Zach recalls, didn't quite make the list.

"There was a little bit of a push to send me to Kodiak, Alaska, but I think that was just what they call trolling on the internet. And then there were people who were like, I'm from Omaha, don't come here.

"For the most part, people had a lot of love for their home towns. And that was part of the appeal too because when we went to these places, we were going to be hanging out with strangers and living their perfect day in their cities."

So, can a niche appeal disability travel show thrive online? Finance is a challenge for internet broadcasters and when asked how he intends to generate money from the series, Zach gives a comic pleading response: "Oh gosh! Do you have any ideas on how to do that? Because we didn't really think about that when we started. We just wanted to make something that we were really, really proud of."

You can hear the full interview with Zach Anner on November's %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/ouch_talk_show_91_taser_tablet.html">Ouch! Talk Show, where he discusses the trouble with being considered inspirational, the perils of air travel for wheelchair users and his love for the toilet seat that he takes everywhere with him.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/ouch_talk_show_91_taser_tablet.html" rel="bookmark">Ouch! talk show 91: Taser, tablets and travel

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/"> Emma Tracey%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/">Emma Tracey | 12:58 UK time, Friday, 9 November 2012

Left to right - Ian Macrae, Rob Crossan, Liz Carr, Steve Day (in Ouch studio)

Ian Macrae, Rob Crossan, Liz Carr and Steve Day

The blind man mistakenly tasered by police and superstorm Sandy are the stories under discussion. Plus, how computer tablets are making a difference and the wheelchair-using traveller Zach Anner tells us about his new YouTube show launched since leaving Oprah's network. Liz Carr and Rob Crossan present.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ouch">Subscribe to Ouch! as a podcast
%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/podcast/transcripts_2011/ouch_talk_show_91_transcript.rtf">Read a transcript

Guests on the programme include deaf comedian Steve Day and visually impaired editor of Disability Now, Ian Macrae.

Listen out for the feature on tablet computers, part of our Technology and Disabled People series this month.

Links from the show

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-19979184">BBC News: Police use Taser on blind man after stick mistaken for sword
%3Ca%20href="https://littlefreeradical.com/2012/10/31/unconventional-aid-helping-nick-dupree-social-networking-style/">Nick and Alejandra's Hurricane Sandy story
%3Ca%20href="https://www.isitmyround.com/">The website of deaf comedian Steve Day
%3Ca%20href="https://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/">Disability Now - paperless, online only since last month
%3Ca%20href="https://twitter.com/LCarterLong">US contributor Lawrence Carter-Long on Twitter

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/something-special/">Something Special on CBeebies - Tumble Tap game coming soon
%3Ca%20href="https://lostvoiceguy.com/">Blog for Lost Voice Guy, the tablet-using comedian who can't speak
%3Ca%20href="https://deanrodneysingers.com/">The Dean Rodney Singers

%3Ca%20href="https://www.youtube.com/user/ZachAnner">Video travel show: Riding Shotgun with Zach Anner - a wheelchair using American

%3Ca%20href="https://rudelyinterrupted.com/">Website for the Australian band Rudely Interrupted - we play their track at the end of the show

Oh and listen out for Rob Crossan's inventive, yet hilarious, top access tip for crossing roads on dark winter nights if you're visually impaired like him.

• Send a message to Rob and Liz on %3Ca%20href="https://twitter.com/bbcouch">Twitter or on our %3Ca%20href="https://www.facebook.com/Ouch.BBC">Facebook page. Or %3Ca%20href="mailto:ouch@bbc.co.uk">email them.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/disability_news_roundup_first.html" rel="bookmark">Disability news roundup: First disabled woman in US Congress

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/"> Emma Tracey%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/">Emma Tracey | 11:09 UK time, Friday, 9 November 2012

Newspaper front pages

On Thursday, the UK woke to President Obama's %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-20236369">election victory speech, where he specifically mentions people with disabilities - something which isn't always a given on this side of the Atlantic when tipping a wink to the minorities.

He said: "It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try."

Joining Obama in Congress will be %3Ca%20href="https://www.xojane.com/issues/tammy-duckworth-all-round-badass-elected-to-congress">double amputee Tammy Duckworth, the first disabled woman to address the house.

Duckworth, who lost her legs in action as a helicopter pilot with the US army, also blazes a trail as the first Congresswoman of Asian origin. Minority checklist time: she's a disabled, Asian American woman.

Back in the UK

A list of disability related news and comment pieces from newspapers and the web this week. If you have any interesting stories to add, please post them in the comments below.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20238924">Majority 'back assisted suicide', says Bangor uni study (BBC News, Thursday 8 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20241142">MP Willie McCrea calls for internet searches on suicide to be blocked (BBC News Northern Ireland, Thursday 8 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/social-care-network/2012/nov/08/integration-health-social-care-disabled-indpendent-living">Would the integration of health and social care promote independent living? (The Guardian, Thursday 8 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20210823">Diabetes care depressingly poor, say MPs (BBC News, Tuesday 6 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-20222499">Kaiya Blake suffocated by mother Chantelle (BBC News, Tuesday 6 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20187273">Premature deaths of people with learning disabilities blamed on poor hospital care (BBC News, Tuesday 6 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-20222125">Eye-gouge man Shane Jenkin loses appeal over Tina Nash attack (BBC News, Tuesday 6 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20206267">Alzheimer's detected decades before symptoms (BBC News, Tuesday 6 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2228239/Child-4-suffering-cerebral-palsy-given-500-stranger-stricken-chain-Comet-refuses-gift-card-iPad.html">Child, 4, suffering from cerebral palsy is given £500 by a stranger after stricken chain Comet refuses to take his gift card for an iPad (Mail Online, Monday 5 November)
- For more on how disabled people use tablet computers, check out %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ouch">Ouch! podcast 91 for November, due on the site soon.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/social-care-network/2012/nov/05/government-needs-listen-people-learning-disabilities">Why the government needs to listen to people with learning disabilities (The Guardian, Monday 5 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-do-bond-villains-need-facial-scars-8282714.html">Opinion: Why do Bond villains need facial scars? (The Independent, Monday 5 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/how-can-it-be-that-a-disabled-man-needs-to-go-on-hunger-strike-just-to-get-heard-by-atos-8282368.html">Opinion: How can it be that a disabled man needs to go on hunger strike just to get heard by Atos? (The Independent, Monday 5 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/advertising/ms-tv-advert-to-feature-disabled-boy-seb-white-8282295.html?origin=internalSearch">M&S TV ad to feature disabled boy Seb White (The Independent, Monday 5 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/nov/04/mother-sues-hospital-dnr-order?CMP=twt_gu">with cerebral palsy sues hospital over son's DNR order (The Guardian, Sunday 4 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/nov/03/aspergers-syndrome-family-social-rules?CMP=twt_gu">Asperger's: 'This is our normal' (The Guardian, Saturday 3 November)

• The disability news round-up appears every Friday on this blog.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/disability_news_roundup_hurric.html" rel="bookmark">Disability news roundup: Hurricane Sandy

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/"> Emma Tracey%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/">Emma Tracey | 13:54 UK time, Friday, 2 November 2012

Newspapers

Two interesting disability stories have emerged from the US and Hurricane Sandy.

As New York's Mayor Bloomberg spoke publically about the superstorm, many onlookers were distracted by his sign language interpreter. Lydia Callis, 30, became an internet sensation overnight when, %3Ca%20href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-2226007/Lydia-Callis-New-York-Mayor-Bloombergs-sign-language-interpreter-breakout-star-Superstorm-Sandy.html">as the Daily Mail put it, her "larger-than-life facial expressions and dramatic gestures provided a rare moment of pleasure" during a difficult time for the city.

The internet is also where disabled married couple %3Ca%20href="https://littlefreeradical.com/2012/10/31/unconventional-aid-helping-nick-dupree-social-networking-style/">Nick and Alejandra's plight was highlighted. Alejandra uses a wheelchair and Nick relies on a ventilator to breathe. They were left without power due to Hurricane Sandy and were unable to leave their 12th floor Manhattan apartment to get what they needed.

Fortunately, concerned users of Twitter and Facebook rallied around and managed to deliver distilled water, car batteries and other essential supplies.

Elsewhere in the news

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-20170156">Salford-based disability radio station goes on air (BBC News, Thursday 1 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20151891">Multiple sclerosis: New drug 'most effective' (BBC News, 1 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/nov/01/atos-disability-tests-contract-labour?CMP=twt_gu">Investigate 'misleading' Atos bid for disability tests contract, urges Labour (The Guardian, 1 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/social-care-network/2012/nov/01/crisis-in-social-care-conference?CMP=twt_gu">Is there a crisis in social care? (Guardian Professional, 1 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/11/01/pats-petition-pat-onions-disability-benefits-cuts-_n_2055347.html">Pat's petition: Disability campaigner Pat Onions insists 'We are the scapegoats, doing nothing is not an option' (Huffington Post, 1 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.scotsman.com/news/health/benefit-bureaucrats-atos-killed-my-father-says-13-year-old-boy-1-2610249">Benefit bureaucrats Atos killed my father, says 13-year-old boy (The Scotsman, 1 November)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-20159376">Perthshire man jailed for attack on disabled woman (BBC News, Wednesday 31 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20154356">Exam watchdog 'unfair' extra time warning (BBC News, 31 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-20136443">Felicia Boots admits killing her two babies (BBC News, Tuesday 30 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20145578">Mental health loophole 'closed' (BBC News, 30 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20123449">Bell's palsy: Facing the TV cameras with half a smile (BBC News Magazine, 30 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/oct/30/spinal-injuries-discharge-homes-elderly-people">Young people with spinal injuries face discharge to homes for elderly people (The Guardian, 30 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2225309/Blind-woman-dumped-miles-home-cabbie-laughed-disability.html">Blind woman dumped miles from home by cabbie who 'laughed at her because she couldn't make out any local landmarks' (Daily Mail, 30 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.metro.co.uk/lifestyle/916330-jo-whiley-carers-arent-recognised-or-given-enough-support">Jo Whiley: Carers aren't recognised or given enough support (Metro UK, 30 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/disability-sport/20126628">Bladerunner Richard Whitehead has new challenge in sight (BBC Sport, Monday 29 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20128925">Mental illness 'biggest UK health challenge' - Miliband (BBC News, 29 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/29/ed-miliband-mental-health?CMP=twt_gu">Ed Miliband understands that making fun of mental health is no joke (The Guardian, 29 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/thousands-wrongly-sectioned-under-mental-health-act-following-technical-error-8231388.html">Thousands wrongly sectioned under mental health act following 'technical error' (The Independent, 29 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/29/dyspraxia-serious-recognition">Opinion: Dyspraxia can be serious - it deserves more recognition (The Guardian, 29 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.metro.co.uk/news/newsfocus/916067-blind-and-paralysed-but-mark-pollock-on-his-feet-with-aid-of-bionic-trousers">Blind and paralysed but Mark Pollock on his feet with aid of bionic trousers (Metro, 29 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/oct/27/carers-disabled-cuts?CMP=twt_gu/">Opinion: The worsening plight of the disabled and their carers (The Guardian, Saturday 27 October)

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/lee_ridley_aka_lost_voice_guy.html" rel="bookmark">Lee Ridley aka Lost Voice Guy: the communication revolution (technology and disabled people series)

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/"> Emma Tracey%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/emma_tracey/">Emma Tracey | 13:45 UK time, Friday, 2 November 2012

Lee Ridley using his tablet computer. (Photo taken by Caroline Briggs)

Lee Ridley, 31, has cerebral palsy. His day job is as a member of the media team at Sunderland City Council, but you might be more familiar with his stand-up comedian name, Lost Voice Guy.

Lee can't speak. He received lots of publicity earlier in the year due to the unique way in which he delivers his material. His entire comedy act is spoken by a synthetic voice, via an app on his tablet computer.

Lee's jokes, which are primarily about life with a disability, have been praised by Matt Lucas, Ross Noble and other famous comics.

As a child, Lee communicated using a mixture of gestures and sign language but getting his point across has become faster, easier and more efficient over the years, because of advances made in specialist and mainstream technology. His education, career and social life have all been enhanced by portable gadgets that speak and connect to the internet.

The self-confessed geek from Newcastle explains the major part technology plays in every aspect of his life in his answers to our disability and technology questions.

What technology do you use regularly?

I'm quite a geek so I use a lot of technology. I use my iPad and iPhone every day, mainly to surf the net, watch TV, chat to friends or check my social media. I previously used my PC for all of that but it's easier and quicker now to do it on my tablet computer.

As I am unable to speak, these advances in technology have changed my life dramatically. I often find it hard to make calls on my mobile phone while on the go. Ever since texting became popular, I have been able to communicate with people a lot more easily and effectively. Now I can tweet, Facebook and chat on the go as well so I feel that I'm more connected to my friends and family.

The most important piece of kit for me, though, is specialist technology called a Lightwriter which I use constantly to speak. I type in what I want to say and it says it in a synthetic voice when I press the speak button. It can store phrases too, where you press a few buttons and a whole sentence comes up, but I only really use this feature to save time while on the phone. It can be a pain
carrying it around everywhere though. And, because it's in a case, I have to stop and open it up if someone speaks to me when I'm on the move.

Without the Lightwriter, however, communicating at all would be very difficult indeed.

I may be showing my age but I remember a time before electronic communication aids, when sign language was my only way of communicating. Not many people could understand it so I had to rely on those close to me to relay what I was saying or just use gestures to get my point across. My Lightwriter has made me much more independent and given me a lot of opportunities in life that I wouldn't otherwise have had. I doubt I'd have survived university without it.

What technology do you wish had never been invented?

In a weird way, I sometimes wish the internet hadn't been invented. The benefits of the internet massively outweigh the negatives but sometimes I do think that it distracts me from doing other stuff such as reading a good book.

Of course, I could do both if I had a bit more discipline but I often don't. The internet and all its offspring are the easy option.

If the web was taken away from me today I would...

... Probably have to go around shouting random statements at people in 140 characters or less, because I wouldn't have Twitter.

Loss of the internet would have a huge impact on my life. It would make so many things that I take for granted now a lot harder. For example, I do my food shopping online because I find it more practical. If I couldn't do that, I'd be forced to go with someone else who would have to help me shop and carry it all home.

I'd also have to go back to buying porn from the top shelf of the newsagents.

What has been your most adventurous feat in technology?

Harnessing technology to become a stand-up comedian. And I'm not just saying that to plug myself. I think that the unique way that I have used the technology to hand to my advantage is pretty clever.

I use an app called Speak It on my iPad during my act. Basically I store my jokes in the app and just tap each one when I want to say it. The iPad then speaks the joke in a very human sounding synthetic voice. Obviously, this way of doing things leaves me a bit limited in terms of audience interaction but I'm working on ways to improve that.

I'd always wanted to be a stand-up comedian, it's my dream job. I never ever expected that I'd even get to try to do it. Then when I did give it a go, I never thought it would work as well as it has. I thought people might not be able to understand me and I'd just be standing there telling jokes to myself. It just goes to show the lengths that can be reached with technology when you think outside the box a little.

How do you use social media?

Social networks are great for socialising, getting details of my gigs out to the masses and keeping in contact with my comedy peers.

I use social media quite a lot, personally and in my career. I'm on %3Ca%20href="https://de.twitter.com/LostVoiceGuy">Twitter, %3Ca%20href="https://www.facebook.com/LostVoiceGuy">Facebook and %3Ca%20href="https://lostvoiceguy.com/youtube/">YouTube both as myself and as a comedian. I also have my own %3Ca%20href="https://lostvoiceguy.com/">blog which doubles up as a website for my comedy.

YouTube is a great promotional tool for me. I've got many videos of my act up there. Of course, I also use YouTube when I'm bored and need something to watch.

I find that I'm getting more and more of my news from Twitter now, rather than relying on traditional sources. I often read about things on Twitter first and then go and find more information about them on the web. It's a fantastic resource.

I met my best friend through Twitter too.

When I started doing stand-up, I knew I would need help travelling to places for gigs, support with boarding trains, help getting dressed, that sort of thing. So I wrote a blog post, asking if anyone would be willing to give me a hand in return for a bit of cash, expenses etc. I already knew Emily a bit through Twitter but then she offered to help and we started going to my gigs together. We clicked straight away and soon became best friends. I'd be lost without her now and definitely wouldn't be able to travel as much as I do.

What tech innovation would you like to see invented?

Something that makes it even easier for me to communicate. At the moment, it still takes me a while because I have to type out what I want to say first. I'd like to have something a bit more instant. Quite often, the moment has gone by the time I'm ready to speak, or people don't give me enough time to respond. This may be because they don't understand how I communicate, which is fair enough. If there was something that could just say what I was thinking, that would be great. I'd want the option to turn it off at times though.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/11/technology_denise_stephens.html" rel="bookmark">Denise Stephens: Mainstreaming accessibility (Technology and disabled people series)

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%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/damon_rose/"> Damon Rose%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/damon_rose/">Damon Rose | 09:37 UK time, Thursday, 1 November 2012

Denise Stephens

Denise Stephens, 33, is the founder of %3Ca%20href="https://enabledbydesign.org/">Enabled by Design, a website which gets people discussing how products can be created with everyone in mind. It encourages ideas to flow, invites you to recommend products you love or hate, and ultimately aims to get users and designers talking to each other.

She was a forensic toxicologist when her health took a bad turn. Denise had to give up her job and, in 2003, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Several attempts to return to work as a temp failed over a number of years and led to a further decline in her health. By 2007 she was coming to terms with the loss of a career yet needed something to keep her mind occupied.

Denise was given a bathboard and other white plastic equipment by her occupational therapist (OT) when she was very ill. It was to assist her with living independently and it did help but she says the objects were making her home feel like a hospital.

When she found there was little out there in the way of attractively designed aids for the home, she came up with the idea for a website. Her idea was chosen to be part of the UK's first Social Innovation Camp in 2008. Business people, developers and design experts helped her hone the concept and build a working prototype. The site, Enabled by Design, went on to win.

Now Denise regularly speaks at trade events and spreads her philosophy. Four years after the initial concept was born, on the eve of her Enabled by Design-athon weekend in London, she answers our technology questions and talks to us about how collaborative projects like hers could not have existed without the internet.


What technology do you use regularly?

When we talk about assistive or accessible technology, people think it's only computers and things which involve electrical components but the term covers everything from low tech to high tech; from crutches an stools to computers and environment controls.

I use two crutches because my mobility can be wobbly. My balance isn't good as a result of MS, its related eye problems and fatigue. If my back gives way, my legs give way.

I was given a special white tubular framed perching stool by my occupational therapist but preferred the look of a 32 pound bar stool from Ikea which worked perfectly for me when preparing food on the kitchen side.

I am, however, dependent on equipment which is often mainstream, and that people don't necessarily think of as an assistive product - like my one touch can-opener. It's battery operated, magnetic, and you stick it on the top of a can of food. It cuts round the edge leaving the lid stuck to the magnet and, when you've opened it up, you can then easily transfer the lid to the bin. My hands are stiff and numb so I can't use a regular can opener. It works very well.

I also use a Kindle book reader which can sometimes be easier to hold than a book as it's very lightweight. it's electronic paper screen is easier for me to read than a bright computer screen as I have optic neuritis and glare can affect my vision.


What technology do you wish had never been invented?

People have written into us with their design hates: swivel bathers, plastic chairs on a lever, I can well imagine that if you have a minimalistic bathroom with a big white chair in it, it may not fit with your aspirations or the aesthetics you like.

Choice is very important, everyone has their own tastes, and you should be able to achieve the lifestyle you want.


If the web was taken away from me today ...

... it would have a huge impact on my independence. I do my grocery shopping online because I have fatigue and mobility difficulties which make it hard to get to a supermarket and carry back a large number of items. It's far easier to get it delivered.

Shopping for clothes is very difficult too but for different reasons. I use crutches which means I don't have a free hand, can't pick up garments and can't carry them round a store. It's far simpler to have clothes delivered to my home from an online shop. I can lay them out and try them on more easily and I send them back if they don't fit.

Enabled by Design would have a very different guise if it weren't for the internet; it's amazing how many people you can reach. You can find lots of like-minded people in a similar situation to you. If you think of the other people living in your block of flats, there's likely to be no one else there with MS but I can join an MS community online and find people with the same problems and interests. It lowers the barriers to getting involved in new things if you have a computer and the internet, especially if you have mobility difficulties.


What has been your most adventurous feat in technology?

Before Enabled by Design and the Social Innovation Camp, I was a tech novice. I didn't have a laptop, I didn't go on the internet except to do very specific tasks and that was for reading web pages rather than doing stuff online. I knew nothing about apps or software and so this has all been a steep learning curve and been very exciting.

I now go into the back end of our website and can understand it. I didn't know what a URL was - I called it a web address - and now I'm confronted by HTML code, can add links and make things bold. It all used to look like a dark science to me and was overwhelming but now I've got to grips with it and am very proud of that.

It's been an exciting time where I've learnt about new things. I've become interested in 3D printing and we're going to have one at the event. I've seen products made by a 3D printer but haven't yet seen one in action - I'm really enthused by it.


How do you use social media?

I'd say social media is at the core of Enabled by Design.

We use Facebook and Twitter to talk to our community, engage people, tell people what we're up to, to share our blog posts with tweets, to spread news of this event we're doing and to hear about people's loves, hates, ideas and hacks.

On Twitter we're %3Ca%20href="https://twitter.com/enabledby">@enabledby. Our website is a bit restricted in terms of what people can add to the site. It'll be much richer when we're able to build the next version and get people involved in sending images an videos and more.

When we first started it was about building a community. We had people with personal experience of independent living, maybe people with social care experience, and we've had some designers in touch. I was incredibly pleased when we reached a thousand people on Facebook recently but it's almost about having to broker that bigger relationship now, having to build a proof of concept: if you bring together these people, how can they work together? So far it's just been us speaking about stuff but there's only so long you can do that; we now want to move into action mode. In a practical face-to-face event like the Enabled by Design-athon, we can figure out how these things work.


What tech innovation would you like to see?

The ability to customise everything. For me, making accessible technology go mainstream is very interesting. People use all sorts of assistive technology like voice recognition, software to increase text size and so on, but some of this stuff is in bulky stand alone gadgets. And if you need more than one of these things to help with independence, they can start taking over your life.

It's exciting to see new products, like Apple's Universal Access, where people's needs have been met by giving them the ability to adjust products according to their preference. This is important as some accessibility equipment can be quite stigmatising and people would just like to use mainstream things. Access gear can be expensive too. If mainstream equipment were customisable, the economies of scale would bring the price right down.

• The Enable by Design-athon weekend starts on November 2 in Greenwich, London. %3Ca%20href="https://enabledbydesign.org/2012/10/enabled-by-design-athon-whats-on-the-agenda/">Read more about the Enabled by Design-athon event.

%3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/10/">« October 2012 | | %3Ca%20href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2012/12/">December 2012 »

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