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Category: Equality & Diversity

Open Letter to Uber: Your failure of a Disabled Customer

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Making a difference, Media, Personal, and Public Transport

Last weekend was rare for me. I was really looking forward to a short break in London, visiting one of my oldest friends and my sister. I have Cerebral Palsy and a four year old son, so taking a break is a real treat.

We’d arranged a night out and as a wheelchair user, this takes some planning but my best mate had it all in hand. As there was a large group of us, we booked two of your taxis in advance. One to take the majority of our group and the other, an accessible vehicle to accommodate me and my friend; we even got a text to confirm our booking.

As I believe is your standard practice, five minutes before our requested slot, we got another text indicating that you were on your way. So we piled outside just to be ready and the other taxi for our friends arrived. However, our advanced booked accessible vehicle was nowhere to be seen. We waited and waited. No more texts pinged and still we waited. Half an hour later, it was evident that we had been forgotten. There was no way of contacting you to let you know that a vulnerable, disabled customer had just been left high and dry. For had I been alone (as I mostly am in my travels around the country), that’s exactly what I’d have been. Alone and vulnerable, with no way of letting you know of your unforgiveable mistake. Luckily for you, I had my friend to ensure that I wasn’t just left on a dark street, in an unfamiliar city with no way of getting to my destination.

In case you’re interested, we did eventually get to where our party had been waiting over an hour. However, because we couldn’t get an accessible cab, I had to go without my electric wheelchair, which made it difficult and took the shine off what should have been a great night out with my friends.

But I’m afraid my complaint doesn’t stop there. Your initial response when my friend made contact was, as he described it, lacklustre:

So sorry to hear that you did not meet your friends on time.

Although you have requested uberAccess in advance, unfortunately, there’s no available driver-partner to accept your requests that is why it was unfulfilled.

Feedback like yours helps us optimise the pickup experience. We appreciate your patience and understanding.”

 

So if there wasn’t a vehicle available, why did we receive a text five minutes beforehand?

And secondly, you don’t have our patience or understanding. You left us waiting, with no way of contacting you or of getting to our destination. And you ruined our night.

Your response shows a total disregard and ignorance for what you actually did which was to ignore the request of a vulnerable, disabled wheelchair user. Had I been alone, I wouldn’t have known where to go or what to do.

In further correspondence, you go on to suggest we may have misunderstood how the Uber App works and the messages it generates. This is your issue, not ours and the fact remains you have let down a disabled customer at a time when your very presence in London is under threat.

Cerebral Palsy: The good, the bad and everything in between

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Education, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Flyinglady Training, Making a difference, My writing, Personal, Social Model of Disability, Uncategorised, and World CP Day

This is my life, my feelings, my achievements and frustrations of living with Cerebral Palsy

Campaigning – I’ve spent the last ten years supporting and campaigning for the rights of Disabled People. I ran a campaign to improve the accessibility of my local area – taking it as far as No. 10 Downing Street.  Find information about my “Great Barr Great” Campaign here

Exhausting – Having CP means every day tasks can take me longer and I get tired easily. But I don’t let it stop me!

Rebel – You tell me, “You can’t” and I’ll tell you, “Just watch me!” I thrive on proving people wrong and achieving what might be considered the impossible!

Exciting – I truly believe my life wouldn’t be as fulfilling and as exciting as it is without my Cerebral Palsy. Life has taken me down many exciting paths so far and I’m grateful for that.

Brave – Please don’t call me brave. I’ve always had CP and I’m just living my life the only way I’ve ever known – I’m not brave or special. I’m just Aideen.

Regrets? – Would I have a life without CP if I could? Not a chance. It’s made me who I am and I wouldn’t change that.

Awareness – My training business is focused on raising awareness of disability and making life easier for other disabled people by changing attitudes. And believe me when I say, here in 2017, that there’s still a lot of work to be done in changing how people view disability.

Living – I’m just trying to live my life. I hope World CP Day will make that a little easier by making people more aware of CP and it’s implications.

 

Passionate – I’m guessing you know by now the passion I have for making a difference to the lives of others with disabilities. The Social Model of Disability made huge headway in changing the way society views disability but unfortunately, discrimination is still occurring regularly. This has to change and disabled people have to be put on an equal footing with everyone else in society.

Accessibility – Getting around in a wheelchair is far from simple and I think I’m getting a name for myself in trying to identify and put right the problems! The Equality Act 2010 intended to address such issues and yet I still find accessibility issues a major barrier to me leading a “normal” life – whatever that is!

Lonely – I don’t mean this in the traditional sense, but sometimes it can feel quite lonely fighting for change and it can feel like an uphill struggle. World CP Day is an opportunity for people to pull together and raise awareness in oppose to being a lone voice, as it often feels.

Scary – There are times, when as confident as I am, having Cerebral Palsy can be scary. When I’m meeting someone new and not sure if they will understand my speech; when I’m in a new environment and unsure how others will react to me. Awareness of CP really helps take away that fear.

Yes – My mum always told me there was no such word as can’t so if I can find a way to do things, the answer is always yes!

 

See what I did there?!

 

If you or someone you know has CP, please get in touch and if there’s anything I can help you with just let me know.

Corporate training and support also available – please contact Flyinglady.

Open Letter to All Bus Drivers – from a Wheelchair User Passenger

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Customer Service, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Education, Equality & Diversity, Personal, and Public Transport

You see me waiting at the bus stop and I try to search your face for a clue as to which camp you fit into.  You see, you fit into two camps and sometimes I can’t tell until you pull up and open the doors. All the time, I’m filled with dread and anxiousness, wondering if this time I’ll have a fight on my hands. Whether I’ll be welcomed or made to feel like a complete and utter nuisance.  Quite often it’s the latter.

Some of you are friendly, welcoming and seem to understand that I have as much right as anyone else to use public transport.  You go out of your way to gently lower the ramp for me, to ask where I’m getting off and to make sure that the wheelchair space is clear.  If it’s occupied by a pushchair, you politely ask them to move or fold it up.  You kindly help me to position my chair into the sometimes stupidly difficult spaces which aren’t really suitable for wheelchairs at all.  When I get off, you share a friendly word and wish me well.  I feel like a valued passenger.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel as welcomed by some of your uneducated colleagues who openly grimace when they see me waiting for their bus.  One of two things can happen at this point.  They either refuse to let me on, saying their bus is too full or that the wheelchair space is full.  They seemed to have completely missed the memo that the wheelchair space is for the use of wheelchair users and that this is law.  They refuse to ask other passengers to move, for fear that heaven forbid, their bus might end up late or their shift might overrun.

Or they make it crystal clear that I’m a nuisance for needing their assistance.  They huff and puff as they climb out of their cab, then slam the ramp down in front of me. They don’t care if other passengers are blocking the wheelchair space, which I’m supposed to reverse into.  That’s my problem, I’m supposed to ensure I’m safe and ask fellow passengers to move, even at peak times.  I’m made to feel like an inconvenience, a problem and I’ll tell you now – it makes me feel like utter crap.  That’s probably the first time I’m sworn on my blog but it’s the only way to convey how it makes me feel.

How I feel when that treatment makes me late for work or late to collect my son from school.  Yes, that’s right, I’m just like you. I have commitments and I’m trying to get somewhere just like everyone else.  I’d like to get home after a day’s work, just like you.  I’d like to get home without dealing with your attitude because it STINKS.

So thank-you so much if you fall into the first camp; you make my life as a disabled wheelchair user so much easier.

May I suggest, that if you sadly fall into the second, that you consider a career change.  You’ve clearly misunderstood that your job isn’t about just driving a bus. It’s about transporting passengers – whether we’re disabled or not.

Building an inclusive, more tolerant future

Posted in Accessibility, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Education, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Media, and Schools

I just posted on my Flyinglady Website about how I love going into schools and doing Disability Awareness sessions for the children; I’m so passionate about it that I offer the sessions for free wherever I possibly can.

The sessions help kids to understand that everyone is different and that’s a good thing; life would be incredibly boring if we were all carbon copies of each other.  I go on to try and help the kids to understand how they help people with disabilities and explain how including everybody is so important.  Inclusiveness, in simple, age appropriate language.

Now, as I sit watching the news of yet another, hate driven, evil terrorist attack, I feel despair the same of everyone else. I fear for my little boy and a friend tweets her advice that “All we can do is be the change and teach our children better. The majority of people are good.”

And we are.  The world is full of good, kind, peace loving people and we need to teach our kids – our future – to be the same. Teach them that it’s OK to ask questions, to be curious and that they must be accepting of differences. We need to teach them from a young age about diversity and that age, sex, disability, ethnicity, sexuality and religion make each of us who we are. We’re all different, all unique but ultimately, we’re all human beings and that’s the bottom line which needs to be respected.

So let’s have Disability Awareness on the curriculum but let’s also give Equality and Diversity generally a higher priority from a young age.  Let’s invite a range of people, from all walks of life, to give presentations to schools and allow our children to explore these issues. Let them ask the questions that perhaps their parents would struggle to answer. Let them learn from personal experiences, not just teachers and books.  Perhaps adopting such an approach will help us create a much more tolerate society for our future.

I’m just Mummy, despite my disability

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Family, Making a difference, Motherhood, My writing, and Personal

My little boy is now three and a half and he really is the apple of my eye. To Jack, I’ve always been just Mummy.  It doesn’t matter that my speech is a bit funny or that I walk differently to everyone else. My wheelchair is just part of me and Jack doesn’t care about any of it, all he cares about is Mummy’s cuddles!

He’s grown up with my disability and although he’s starting to realise my limitations, they thankfully don’t matter.  I’m his mum and that bond is as you’d expect, as strong as any other mother/son relationship.

I know there may come a day when Jack will ask questions about my disability and I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to how I might answer them.  With honesty and humour, that’s my plan. I want Jack to be able to ask any question he wants and know he’ll get a honest answer.  I don’t want a lack of knowledge to make him fearful of anything in life.

That’s what has inspired the book I’m currently working on. Too many children are not exposed to disability and then when they do come across it, they are unsure what to do. I’ve overheard so many conversations,  where a child is asking mum or dad why I’m in a wheelchair or why I speak like that. The parent’s embarrassment often leads to both a hushed and a rushed response and I think children need and deserve more if they are going to be equipped to manage situations in the future.

As well as raising disability issues within the context of a story, my book will also offer nuggets of advice for teachers and parents, who may understandably struggle to answer those awkward questions. I hope it will enable children and parents to initiate open, honest and fulfilling conversations which help to satisfy children’s curiosity and give them both much needed “disability confidence”.

Watch out for further information, title and release dates!

Disability Etiquette equals good manners & common sense

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Customer Service, Disability Aids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Flyinglady Training, Media, and Personal

My latest book, “A disability Etiquette Guide” is something I’ve been wanting to write for a while now and last week, I was reminded why it’s so important for me to write it.

I was on my way to Nottingham, to the Charity CP Sport, of which I am a proud trustee. I asked for the ramp to be put down  as I use an electric wheelchair. It’s a popular train but I was absolutely astounded by my fellow passengers, who proceeded to rush on to the train whilst the customer service guy was attempting to put the ramp into position for me.

They all rushed past him and me, desperate to claim a seat and a place for their luggage. Never mind thinking about me and how it might be easier for me to get into the wheelchair spot when the carriage is relatively clear of passengers and luggage.  Never mind simple manners and common sense.

One passenger even walked up the ramp in front of me! Unbelievable!

And that’s the essence of my book: Good manners and applying common sense can go a long way in improving the lives of those with disabilities.

Yes, I’m Disabled but don’t think I’m stupid

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Does it wet the bed?, Equality & Diversity, Family, and Fighting for Change

It’s 2016 and I’ve now been living with Cerebral Palsy for 33 years.  Attitudes towards disability have changed and largely improved over that time. Yet, it still amazes me how ignorant some people can be and resist being educated.

Yesterday, I was out and about with my mum who has always insisted that she will not speak for me – if somebody wants to know something, they can ask me, not her. As we waited for a bus a fellow passenger asked mum if I was her daughter. Mum politely confirmed that I was, before being asked the old age question, “How old is she?”

I quickly told the woman my age, hoping she would get the message that just because I have a disability, it doesn’t mean that I can’t speak for myself. Far from!  Anyone who knows me or has read my memoir, will know I have my own views and opinions and that I’m not shy in voicing them!

I was hoping to have made my point with this lady but sadly she hadn’t got the hint. She continued to quiz mum about me as if I wasn’t even there! Having experienced this type of ignorance more times than we would have liked, Mum and I were both mildly irritated but also amused by the woman’s inability to take a hint.

Mum decided to put it bluntly: “Actually, SHE is a university graduate with a 2.1 honours degree and is also a married with a child of her own!”

“Where’s her child now then?”

Argh!!!! Some people will never understand or even attempt to put themselves into my shoes but if you’re the lady at the bus stop reading this, let me say this:

 Yes I am disabled, No that doesn’t mean I can’t think or speak for myself, and No it doesn’t entitle you to ask me personal questions that are none of your business!

How many other complete strangers at the bus stop did you ask their age?!

Please offer me a seat – improving travel for disabled people?

Posted in Accessibility, Customer Service, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Flyinglady Training, Media, Personal, and Public Transport

 

Whilst browsing through my twitter account yesterday, I became aware of a new scheme which Transport for London are trialling, which encourages passengers to give up their seat for someone who needs it more, particularly disabled passengers.  Participating passengers will have a card and wear a badge, saying “Please offer me a seat.”

As a disabled wheelchair user who regularly uses public transport, albeit not in London much, I have very mixed feelings about this.  Although I am fortunate enough to at least always have my own seat, (thankfully!)  I am often left very frustrated by my fellow passengers attitudes, who fail to consider my needs by pushing on to trains or buses in front of me and using the designated wheelchair space as a dumping ground for their luggage. (Rather than taking the time to put it in the designated space for luggage)  It is much easier to manoeuvre my wheelchair before everyone else gets on but few people ever consider this.

So on the one hand, I think Transport for London should be generously applauded for taking the initiative to improve things for disabled people; they have identified this as a significant problem and are taking proactive steps to improve the experience for disabled passengers, particularly those who may not feel confident in speaking up to tell people what they need.

But on the other hand, I feel sad and frustrated that it’s considered that such schemes are needed. If people were more considerate and thoughtful, we would all have a much more positive experience of public transport, including disabled people.  If we all moved as far as possible, leaving the front seats available for those who need them, as is the intention, there would be less need for people to move – and be torn away from their Smart Phones! 🙂

Common sense also plays a big part.  We all need to be aware of those around us and be prepared to assist those who may need a seat or even assistance with luggage etc.

I think many disabled people may also feel self-conscious about wearing a badge which advertises the fact that they have a disability. Others may feel cheeky about asking for a seat, particularly if their disability isn’t immediately obvious. And although I understand that the scheme relies upon goodwill, unfortunately this isn’t always forthcoming and some disabled people may fear confrontation from those who question their greater need for a seat.

Despite my reservations, I hope the scheme is successful and at the very least, encourages people to be a little more considerate of the needs of their fellow passengers.

A little bit of knowledge . . .

Posted in Customer Service, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Equality & Diversity, and Fighting for Change

As a disabled person, I consider myself to be fairly lucky.  Yes, I face physical challenges on a daily basis but they haven’t stopped me from living a fulfilling life, getting a good education, raising my own family or running my own training business. I was fortunate enough to be born at a time when people’s attitudes towards disability were beginning to change and being disabled wasn’t seen as such a tragedy.

But, even now, some thirty years on, some people’s attitudes are firmly stuck in the past, in a time when the Medical Model of Disability dominated and disability was viewed as an individual problem, rather than a challenge for society to overcome.  In the space of just a few weeks, I’ve experienced three different incidents where customer facing staff have failed to cater for my disability, causing upset and distress.  In the first incident, the staff member didn’t have the patience to just listen to what I was saying, instead expecting a family member to speak for me.  In a second, similar incident, the staff member made absolutely no effort to understand me and refused to let me talk to another member of staff. With the third incident, I was made to feel like a nuisance simply because I required a ramp in order to access a service.  In all three cases, it was absolutely clear that the staff members hadn’t received Disability Awareness Training or at most, had fallen asleep in the middle of it.  This despite the fact that disabled people in the UK have a huge spending power (£80bn I’m told) so an investment in such training would pay off in no time.

So yes, I still consider myself lucky, but it is attitudes which still need to change.  A little bit of knowledge would go a long way in improving the lives of disabled people even more . . .

Facing a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy: Hope for Parents

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability Aids, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Family, and Motherhood

 

I must admit to being a bit of a soap addict.  I was thrilled to see “Emmerdale” doing their bit for Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, following the difficult birth of Megan and Jai’s baby girl.

The doctors have advised the new parents that due to complications during the birth, which meant the baby suffered a lack of oxygen, she may now have Cerebral Palsy. Though I remember that “it’s just a story,” I have much sympathy with the characters who have no clue about what Cerebral Palsy is or what the future might hold.

It’s scary.  Hard to believe. You don’t know where to turn and at this stage, the doctors can’t make any promises or offer any kind of reassurances. The future now seems like an up hill battle, with the summit seeming unattainable.  That’s how many parents feel when being told their child has Cerebral Palsy – a condition for which there is no cure.  I have no doubt that is how my own parents felt, thirty something years ago, when they were told the same thing about me.

There was no internet back then, nowhere to seek reassurance and all they could do was take one day at a time.  They could only hope and pray that the dim view that the doctors painted of my future was wrong. And indeed it was.

Despite my physical limitations, Cerebral Palsy didn’t rob me of either my intelligence or my desire to lead what some might call, a “normal life”.  Despite many sceptics, I enjoyed a mainstream education which ended in me graduating with a 2:1 Honours Degree from Oxford Brookes University.  I went on to secure full-time paid employment and became a successful manager in a small Disability Charity.

But I also had other dreams and ambitions that when I was born, 33 years ago (almost!), would have been deemed impossible, unthinkable even by those who knew of my fiery and determined personality.   I daren’t even voice my dreams but I knew that I wanted two more special roles:  A wife and a Mother.

Who would have thought, all those years ago, that those dreams would also be realised? On 3rd September 2011, I took some shaky steps down the aisle and became wife to Dean, with the most amazing wedding. Then on 28th June 2013, I became Mummy to the most beautiful little boy, Jack James.

If my parents could have looked into the future and known the life that lay ahead of me, that diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy wouldn’t have seemed half as bad. Yes, there were challenges and it wasn’t always easy but my parents and I maintained two things: hope and determination.

So what would I say to parents facing the same diagnosis?  Firstly, don’t jump to conclusions.  Cerebral Palsy affects everyone differently and it’s important not to make assumptions before you know the facts.  Secondly, a disability isn’t the end of the world and if you don’t believe me, read “Why I love having Cerebral Palsy.” Finally, just don’t give up.  It can seem hopeless, like your life or your child’s will never be the same.  But with hope, determination and a good sense of humour, the future can and will be brighter than you imagine it to be!