“Yes, we’re fully accessible” – but are uyou?

If disability is more than just wheelchairs, then access is more than just ramps

That was something I tweeted some time ago, and I used it in a conference presentation, because I knew it was one of the most profound things to ever come out of my mouth.

If disability is more than just wheelchairs-

Disability is more than just what walking aid a person uses (if any). Many are invisible, and yes, under the social model of disability, things like mental illnesses and chronic illnesses are impairments that cause the person to experience disabling barriers.

Let’s take me for example:

My impairments are:

– Anxiety (a mental health issue)

– Dyspraxia (a neurological impairment/ specific learning difficulty)

– Joint hyper-mobility syndrome (joint problems and chronic pain)

All of these are impairments that make me a disabled person, and – surprise- I don’t use a wheelchair, and most of my impairments can’t be seen to the naked eye (I use a crutch because of JHMS on a regular basis)

Access is more than just ramps

So that leads us onto the next part- if disability is more than just wheelchairs, then the scale of access issues people may face goes beyond just having a ramp to get into the building, and a disabled toilet.

What happens if the environment is too loud?

Or the signs showing you what room to go to are absolutely terrible or non existent?

Even at the level of getting in, can the disabled person access all floors/areas of the building?

If the answer is no, then it’s not accessible!

I don’t just want this to be another long angry post, so if you think what I’ve said makes a good point, please consider taking a few moments to review a place you usually go, thinking about it’s access, via Euan’s Guide.

The website is great, but it relies on people reviewing the usual places they go everyday! Consider yourselves recruited!

Click here to go to Euan’s Guide

Until next time.

Becca 🙂

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Imposter syndrome – my new arch nemesis

(Written as part of mental health awareness week!)

So it’s that time again- it’s mental health awareness week!

I’ve documented on this blog my previous, and some persisting, mental health issues on this blog.

But this year something new started.

It’s called “imposter syndrome”

And at first, it hid as being a humble person

“Yeah I know my mum is proud of me”

“No I’m really not that clever, honestly”

“Yeah uni is going alright”

In reality uni is going extremely well for me. I’m on track to start my PhD in September. But I still struggle to be proud of my achievements. I’m still shocked when I get a good grade. Every tiny mistake brings the fear of being “found out” by my peers or lecturers, that I’m not as great as everyone thinks I am.

It’s a common problem, I suppose, with the way our systems of social mobility are structured.

You started at the bottom, and you could quite easily end up back there with one ‘wrong move’

I’m having to teach myself to be proud, and actually talk about my achievements without passing them off as nothing.

University is hard- especially as a disabled person.

And it’s about time I acknowledged that.

I’m not an imposter. I’m a disabled, bisexual, passionate academic woman (who really likes cats and live music)

Becca 🙂

I don’t need fixing.

On the 7th of November, 2016 the a United Nations committee declared that the United Kingdom was in breach of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD), after a two year investigation. What should have ideally been a turning point, to positively change the “grim reality” of life for disabled people, was quickly snubbed by the current government as “offensive”. The government reassured the public it was “continuously seeking improvements for disabled people” and the findings were soon dismissed and forgotten. However, disabled people continue to face the human rights abuses the UN report outlines. It’s 3 months later, apart from the promise of reassessing a lot of people’s Personal Independence Payment claims, not much has happened. I’m angry about that.

Since starting my MA in disability studies in September, Ableism is the concept that I’ve come across, and one I like to use. In a similar way to racism or sexism, ableism is the idea that disabled people are part of a disabled: non-disabled dichotomy. Being disabled is seen as inherently negative as a result. Ableism permeates all aspects of the social world, from social policy, to everyday interactions with others. The UNCRPD aims to combat ableism, by regularly following each signatory country to ensure they are doing more and more to meet all the articles.

Raised in the UN report into the UK violations, were 11 recommendations, many of which centred on the changes to the welfare state, that hugely affect disabled people, infringing on their human rights. Many of the UN’s concerns are about the changes to welfare, adopted since 2010, as well as the rights to independent living and to be included in the community, social protection and employment of persons with disabilities.

 

I cannot stress how important this report should have been, in changing the government’s policies towards welfare for society’s most vulnerable.

 

But, since much of what we see in the media and from our government centres on ableism: where disabled people are ‘scroungers’ and hear things like ‘Oh I wish I didn’t have to work and get free money’ – is it really a surprise?

There has been an alarming rise in this sort of rhetoric across all areas of life. What society needs to do is recognise that disabled people have a lot to give. We need to move on from the poles of ‘inspiration overcomes disability’ and ‘tragically suffers from disability’ – what happens to all of us who fall somewhere in between? Is disability really as scary and negative as society thinks it is?

As a woman with a chronic pain, joint problems and dyspraxia, I don’t necessarily suffer. I know that’s hard for many people to understand. I still go to university, see my friends, and live my life. Shocking.

What I suffer from is a society that would prefer if I were ‘normal’

That I should attempt to continually ‘fix’ myself, to pass as able bodied / non-disabled.

My answer to that is, no.

Fix society’s attitude.

Fix the welfare system.

Fix the access issues

Fix the pathology and medicalisation.

Fix the lack of awareness and understanding.

I do not need fixing.

Becca

Poem: priorities 

This morning when I got up

My main priority was to finish off those few tweaks to my assignment

Tonight, I have achieved  the following: showered, fed, and dressed myself

This morning when I got up

My main priority was what I would wear to go out with friends in the evening

Tonight, I sit with a hot water bottle, drugged up to cold undead eye sockets, on prescription medication

This morning when I got up 

My main priority was to make it to my lecture 

Tonight, I come in from a hospital dash- it was one of those days when my perscribed medication was doing nothing 

This morning when I got up

I watched the able students of the student body pass my window without a care

This evening I am wiping the dirt off of my walking aid, and hobbling to the kitchen 

That morning, just after my 21st birthday, my priority was to be treated for my pain 

This evening, 4 years later, I still wait

This is a disability assessment 

This is a disability assessment
This is for Personal Independence Payment
This is death
This is humiliation 
This is judgement day 
This is the fine line between scrounger and innocent 
This is the difference between food bank or a food shop
This is being able to heat your home
This is the key your freedom 
This is the key your destitution
This is your fate- decided
This is a prompt for a UN enquiry
This is a test 

This is a trial 

This is ‘yes’ ‘no’ ‘sometimes’

This is the way the government defines disability
This is wrong 
This needs to stop 
This kills disabled people
When will that be enough?

Image credit: http://www.scriptonitedaily.com/2013/03/29/our-last-good-friday-easter-monday-beginning-of-the-end-for-uk-poor/

I know you didn’t want a pole dance 🌚

If there’s one thing that pisses me off about my dyspraxia it’s the physical aspects of balance and trying not to be as clumsy as fuck.

Over the years, I’ve developed a good few coping strategies to deal with my Dory-from-finding-Nemo memory that it’s not too bad

* Also when I forget I’ve ordered something cute from Topshop and it turns up- that’s always a plus! *

And yeah sometimes it’s frustrating, but the clumsiness and balance is something else.

Take buses for example.

Easy task right? 

You get on the bus.

You sit down (if possible)

Or you stand gracefully, managing to stand your ground right?

Hahahaha- not if you’re dyspraxic.

I recall one occasion quite vividly when, standing, clinging to a pole, I accidentally gave an old lady an involuntary pole dance neither she or I had planned for, or wanted. Here’s hoping she didn’t die of shock and horror shortly afterwards.

Or that time I knocked a friend’s drink over with my elbow.

Or the time I dropped a full on bucket of water, all down myself

Or when I take what feels like about six billion years to come down one flight of steps. With tuts from the people behind me (sorry not sorry)

Forgetfulness is more acceptable, as my friends and family are very forgiving and I can say ‘oh sorry! I completely forgot!’ Which is fine

A lack of coordination makes for many an embarrassing moment. Sometimes even humiliating by the stares I get. It makes room for more judgement.

And that in turn only makes me less and less confident.

But I just wish people would give it a second thought.

Rather than just staring like ‘what the fuck?’

Help someone out.

My attempt at a poem about disability …

Society Still Judges me 
I was born premature

3 months early 

Tested for disabilities

And society judged me

I was fine

I’d struggle in life 

At school 

But I was doing fine, considering 
I had Physio until I was 7

To strengthen my legs 

I was given insoles

And society judged me

I was discharged 

A wobbly walker

But it was better 
My mum raised concerns 

With my primary school

That I was needed help

And society judged me

And she was dismissed 

Rebecca isn’t a naughty child

Rebecca is fine 
I got to high school 

Quiet, shy, and self loathing 

I went to councelling at 15

And then society judged me

I needed self esteem 

I was clearly just stupid 

Because I couldn’t keep up with learning at the pace school wanted me to

I went to college

Child care BTEC

It was overwhelming 

And then society judged me

‘You aren’t cut out for this’

‘Lacks common sense’

Heavily disorganised and a mess
At 17, I dropped out of college

My stupidity was proven 

I just could not keep up: I’d failed

And then society judged me

I was mentally ill

Depression, they called it

Drugs and CBT
At 19, better now, I reapplied to college 

I did A levels

And then society judged me

I wasn’t stupid

I had Dyspraxia and would get help

I was bright 
I passed my A levels

I went to university 

Things started to get bad again

And then society judged me

Councelling 

Failing to meet my own academic expectations 

A void of extreme homesickness and loneliness
At the same time, I was in pain

Physical pain 

‘Joint hypermobility syndrome’

And then society judged me

Here’s a leaflet 

There’s no cure

The best of luck with your studies 
In the middle of this

Were a few women

My study coach, my mum, and my friends 

And then society judged me

But they did not 
‘You’re too young to be disabled’

People would tell me

As I stood with my crutch in hand

And then society judged me

But you aren’t in a wheelchair 

But it’s not like you have cancer

And society still judges me
But I’m chronically ill 

But I have a specific learning difficulty 

But I battle with my demons daily 

And yet society still judges me

How does your disability affect you?

Asks the PIP assessor 

I’ll pray for you 

Says the total stranger 
You work so hard, you know you best

Says my support network

Who fight my corner when I cannot

And yet society still judges me

But they do not