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Category: Disability Awareness

Casting Call for Extraordinary mums-to-be

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Family, Fighting for Change, Media, and Motherhood

On behalf of Curve Media

Few mums-to-be would say that pregnancy is easy or stress-free, but for some women, having a baby presents exceptional challenges.

 

Curve Media have been commissioned to make a second series of 6 x 60 minute episodes for Discovery, on the subject of pregnancy called “My Extraordinary Pregnancy”.

 

This factual series will take a look at unusual pregnancies around the world- meeting mums-to-be who are juggling the excitement and anxiety that pregnancy is expected to bring, but who might have an extra ‘something’ to take into account.

 

We’re looking for women who are experiencing their pregnancy with a pre-existing condition or disability of their own (such as dwarfism or visual impairment) or have a condition brought on by the pregnancy (like extreme cravings, or severe morning sickness).

 

We’re also looking for mums-to-be who, might have previously been told they were unlikely to conceive due to unusual gynaecology.

 

Across this observational documentary series, we’ll follow these women through their unusual pregnancies, as they and their families prepare for the birth of their baby. We’re hoping to film with the pregnant mum’s medical practitioners to help the audience understand how the expectant mother’s condition affects her experience of pregnancy medically, while the mum-to-be and their loved ones will take us through the day to day realities of their unusual pregnancy.

 

If you think you may have members, or know of families or individuals, who would be interested in the possibility of our helping them share their pregnancy story, please do call or email the My Extraordinary Pregnancy producers on 0203 179 0099 / extraordinarypregnancies@curvemedia.com – we’d love to hear from you.

 

Please note: We will use and store the personal details contained in your email and any further response, in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, for the sole purpose of producing the programme.

Why I love having Cerebral Palsy

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Aids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Does it wet the bed?, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Media, and Personal

This week is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week, with tomorrow being World CP Day.  I’ll be live on Twitter between 1-2pm GMT to answer your questions about cerebral palsy, my life living with the condition and about my memoir, “Does it wet the bed?”.  But in the meantime, here’s why I love having Cerebral Palsy. . .

I get to drive without a licence

I’ve failed my actual driving test SEVEN times! But I don’t really mind as I still get to speed around in my Spectra XTR2 wheelchair and go anywhere that I want to go.  Who needs a car?!

I get free botox injections

But not for cosmetic reasons!  Botox can be used to help tight and stiff muscles which is a symptom of cerebral palsy.  I had it to relieve tightness in my arm and it was really effective, giving me back the full use of my arm.

Watching people’s reactions as I get out of my wheelchair and start walking

One of the major misconceptions I come across is that people who use wheelchairs can’t walk.  I love watching the surprise and sometimes apprehension on people’s faces when I suddenly get out of my wheelchair!  After a few seconds of watching their reaction, I reassure them that I’m absolutely fine!

Not having to queue at theme parks

Probably my favourite reason!  I’m a real dare devil, the bigger the ride, the happier I am and not having to queue is certainly a good perk to having a disability!

Being able to disguise when I’m tipsy

My cerebral palsy causes me to tremble quite a bit but when I have a few drinks, it calms my spasms and makes my speech much clearer!  Nobody can tell when I’m a bit worse for wear!

Nerves & Excitement

Posted in Disability Awareness, Does it wet the bed?, Equality & Diversity, Making a difference, My writing, and Personal

I’ve finally finished writing my book.  Years of drafting, redrafting, agonising over the right words to convey my message, are finally at an end and I have set a date for publication: Monday 31st August 2015.

If I thought writing the book was hard, this bit is even more daunting.  Getting the formatting right, finalising the book cover, planning a successful launch and securing good reviews – these are things keeping me awake at night now! I feel like the hard work is only just beginning!  I know that selling the book will be much more difficult than writing it.

Putting your work “out there” for public scrutiny is nerve wracking and I was asked recently how I thought I would react to a negative review or comment. It was a difficult question as I really hope that everyone who buys the book will enjoy it, but I know that I have to be prepared for negative, as well as positive feedback.

But I’m also excited. I can’t wait to hear about my readers’ reactions to “Does it wet the bed?” and what they will take away from reading it.  I wonder who will read it and whether it will  alter the way they view disabled people. I wonder whether it will provoke conversation about how disabled people are treated and how society still needs to change. I hope so.

But more than anything, I hope that people will enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!

Disability Awareness for Children

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Does it wet the bed?, Equality & Diversity, Making a difference, and Personal

Last week, I went to a primary school to deliver my Disability Awareness for Kids workshops. The children were taking part in a Disability Awareness week but I was apprehensive about their reaction to me; a lady in a wheelchair who didn’t speak especially clearly. I realised that talking to a group of children was much more nerve wracking than a room full of adults.

But I needn’t have worried at all. The children were very receptive and I could tell from their reaction that they were understanding me. I explained all about my own disability, Cerebral Palsy, and then talked generally about other disabilities. I really wanted the kids to understand that disability isn’t bad – it’s actually a positive thing that we’re all different, disability or not.

It’s important that children are encouraged to ask questions and have them answered as honestly as possible. I expected questions like, “How fast does your wheelchair go?” or “What’s it like to be in a wheelchair?”   But I was blown away by some of the thoughtful, sensitive questions that some of the kids asked.

“Do you like being so independent?”, came one. I was glad that the children realised that being in a wheelchair wasn’t limiting me in any way. One question puzzled me to begin with, “Do you intend to make your own community?” I wasn’t sure what the pupil meant at first but with a little cajoling and input from his teacher, I realised what he meant. I explained to him that part of Flyinglady’s aim is to help other disabled people to achieve as much as I have and that I would be working on this aspect of my business in the future.

The children kept the questions coming and always seemed content with my straight forward, honest answers. They were especially surprised to hear that I have a little boy of my own and am releasing my own book, “Does it wet the bed?”, shortly. I left each classroom with clapping and a chorus of “thank-you” ringing in my ears. It’s always good to know that I’ve made a difference.

From September 2015, the Disability Awareness for Kids sessions will be available for free to schools in the Birmingham area. To book your session, please Contact Flyinglady.

 

Does it wet the bed? – Free Wheeling

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability Aids, Disability Awareness, Does it wet the bed?, Fighting for Change, My writing, Personal, and Uncategorised

I’m just putting together a book proposal for “Does it wet the bed?” as even though the  book is almost complete, many agents request a proposal as well as sample chapters.

In doing so, I’ve chosen an anecdote to start the overview so I thought I’d share it here! More to come over the coming weeks.

I was at work and my electric wheelchair had broken down. Again. The phone number for the repair service was down ingrained on my memory and I braced myself for another frustrating conversation as I dialled it.

As I’d expected, there were no engineers available for the next three days. The receptionist really didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation and after so many call outs, I was on the verge of losing my patience. I took a long, deep breathe and asked how she expected me to get home safely that evening. Her response was deadly serious: “Can’t you free wheel it home?” It took me a minute to process what she’d said and I almost asked her to repeat herself, just to be sure that I’d heard correctly. Maybe I had wax in my ears? But no, I’d heard her alright and my blood was absolutely boiling. I had to make my explanation to her crystal clear this time:

“If I was capable of free wheeling an electric wheelchair home or anywhere in fact, I wouldn’t require the wheelchair in the first place, would I?.”

My Winning Founder Story

Posted in Disability Awareness, Employment Support, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Personal, Starting Flyinglady, and Uncategorised

I recently entered a story writing competition with the Entrepreneur’s Circle about why I founded my business.  I am delighted to say that I won the competition – my submission follows:

I was suited and booted and ready to impress.  It was my second year of my Business Management degree at Oxford Brookes University and my third year would be spent on a paid work placement.  I’d managed to bag an interview with a small marketing company near Oxford and the job sounded perfect for me.

The interview went really well and I came out feeling fairly confident – this could be the one, I thought to myself.  A few days later my confidence was in tatters as I read an email from the MD of the company.  He stated quite bluntly that he couldn’t possibly employ me as his clients wouldn’t be able to communicate with me.  Why? Because I have cerebral palsy and subsequently, a speech impairment.

He hadn’t faulted my skills or my abilities compared to other candidates.  That was his one and only reason for rejecting me.  I was fuming!  I know my speech isn’t that difficult to understand as I successfully communicate with people on a daily basis. I knew I couldn’t just let this go so I sat down and composed a polite reply.   I told him it was a shame he felt the way he did as he’d dismissed a huge asset to his team.  I continued that there were many ways of communicating with clients and that if every employer were to have his views, I would sadly remain unemployed.  My aim wasn’t to get him to change his mind but to educate him.

The experience made me realise the extent of discrimination that disabled people face and I knew I wanted to do something about it.  I eventually secured a placement working for a charity which supported disabled and disadvantaged people into work and training opportunities.  It was a rewarding role and upon graduating, I returned to the charity and became a senior manager.

But still the discrimination was apparent.  One day I took a phone call from an unemployed client looking for some help.  He had the cheek to ask me why someone like me with cerebral palsy could secure a job whilst he remained unemployed!

As my role developed, I undertook a qualification to become a trainer and I started delivering sessions to both clients and employers.  I realised that far from being unable to understand me, people responded really well to me and I had a talent for teaching.  I was able to share my personal experiences and inspire others. I felt comfortable and confident in the classroom.

Being a small charity, I eventually felt there were no more opportunities for me to develop and I was bored in my role.  I always embrace a challenge but I was no longer being pushed to my potential.  So I took a leap of faith, handed in my resignation and Flyinglady Training was born.

I now specialise in Equality and Diversity Training, as well as employment preparation training and although I only started up in January, I’m passionate about making a difference for other disabled people who may have had similar experiences and also helping employers to realise the benefits of a diverse workforce.

“Mum, why is that lady in a wheelchair?”

Posted in Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Flyinglady Training, Making a difference, and Uncategorised

“Mum, why is that lady in a wheelchair?”

It’s a question I’ve overheard being asked by innocent kids hundreds of times.  The child looks quite weary of me and I pretend not to be listening as Mum quietly explains I have something ‘wrong’ with my legs.  Or that my legs don’t ‘work’ properly.  Mum is a little embarrassed whilst their little one remains unsatisfied.  These hushed conversations always make me smile.  None of the answers given offend me and I understand Mum’s embarrassment but I sympathise with the child’s curiosity.

As a child, I experienced bullying at school on a number of occasions.  Nothing too serious but it was bullying all the same.  At the time, it hurt although I tried to rise above it.  As an adult, it’s easier to understand why these other kids picked on me.  They simply didn’t understand why I was different, nobody had explained disability to them.   For unless children grow up with a disabled sibling or relative, it can be difficult for them to understand why someone is disabled and how they should react to disability.

And it’s these experiences that have inspired me to develop my Disability Awareness for Children Sessions.   Equality and Diversity are now vital issues in every workplace and it’s important that children, particularly teenagers, are given the opportunity to explore these issues before they enter into employment.  The sessions provide participants with an opportunity to ask me any questions they have and dispel some of the myths which still surround disabled people.

I recently provided one such session for a group of teenagers who were hosting a sporting  event for a number of people, many of whom had disabilities.  The group weren’t particularly fond of classroom sessions, much preferring to be outside so I was a little apprenhensive about holding their attention.  I need not have worried.  The group were very attentive and I was later told, it was the most engaged they had been in a classroom for a long time!

Their tutor said:  “Aideen delivered a fantastic session that focused very much on an interactive session.  The feedback was fantastic…and they learnt alot about working with others with disabilities.”

To find out more, please visit Flyinglady