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Category: Fighting for Change

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.

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.

Why I love being a trustee of Cerebral Palsy Sport

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Does it wet the bed?, Fighting for Change, Making a difference, My writing, and Personal

At the book launch of my memoir, Does it wet the bed?, someone happened to mention to me a Charity, Cerebral Palsy Sport and how they were looking for new trustees. I almost dismissed the idea; I had never been a sporty person, much to my regret. I wasn’t sure how much I’d have to offer such a charity.

Then I thought back to my time working for another disability charity who focused on helping disabled people into employment.  As an employee, it was sometimes frustrating as I’d have a vision for how I thought the organisation should go but no real authority to influence it’s direction.  When the charity struggled financially and my job was hanging by a thread from month to month, all I could do was do my job and hope funding would come our way – even though I had endless ideas for stabilising the charity and indeed, expanding it.

So I realised it didn’t matter that I didn’t spend my weekends by the side of a pitch – what mattered was I had the drive, the passion and the enthusiasm to make a difference to a charity. I could help other people with Cerebral Palsy to reach their sporting potential and that was what inspired me to apply.

I was thrilled to take up my role as Trustee last January and though it’s a big responsibility, I can honestly say that I’ve loved every moment so far.  I’ve put my current skills to good use and am continually developing my skills and experience, which will only strengthen my CV.  I’ve met some brilliant people and most of all, I hope, I’ve made a difference for the people using our services.  Every day is different, challenging and rewarding – even it is just a simple “thank-you” and a smile.

Yes, the role takes up my time. The usual commitment is 6 Board Meetings per year, plus 4-6 Sub-Committees Meetings per year but if you have this time to give, there’s nowhere better to give it! All your expenses will be paid and you’ll be invited to some brilliant sporting and fundraising events that are family-friendly and lots of fun!

So why not come and join us?!  To apply to be a trustee, please follow this link or you can contact me for a chat if you’d like more information.

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?!

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 . . .

Ten misconceptions about people with disabilities

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Flyinglady Training, Making a difference, and Personal

 

 

  1. Disabled people need someone to talk for them

“Would she like a drink?” or “How old is she?” were common questions posed to my mum when I was growing up.  People assumed just because I am disabled that I can’t speak for myself. I soon piped up with the answers, making sure they knew I had a mind of my own!

 

  1. We need to have a “carer”

Disabled people may need assistance with some daily tasks but it shouldn’t be assumed, as is often the case, that we need full time care. Before getting married, I lived completely independently in my own flat and I am very capable of looking after myself.

 

  1. Disability prevents you from leading a normal life

Disability doesn’t exclude normality! I’ve achieved all the things that anyone else might expect to achieve, my disability hasn’t got in my way.

 

  1. Disabled people aren’t capable of being in employment

This simply isn’t true; there are countless jobs that disabled people can do – employers just need to start putting ability before disability! I held down a full time job for seven years before becoming self-employed and I helped dozens of other disabled people to find employment.

 

  1. People in wheelchairs can’t walk at all

I love the looks of surprise I get when I get out of my wheelchair in the company of strangers!  Wheelchairs are often used because walking is difficult, not because it’s impossible.

 

  1. Disabled people aren’t able to become parents

Being a disabled parent presents additional challenges but with time and thought, these can be overcome.

 

  1. Disabled people will pass on their disabilities to their children

Not all disabilities are hereditary so in many cases, it isn’t possible for a disabled parent to pass on their disability.

 

  1. If you have a disability, you must be on medication

Although medication can sometimes help to control some symptoms of some disabilities, it shouldn’t be assumed that all disabled people take medication. And it definitely shouldn’t be assumed that we can’t enjoy a tipple or two!

 

  1. If you are born with a disability, you’re extremely brave

Lots of people have said to me, “You’re so brave.”  But I don’t see myself as brave because I’ve always had a disability and it’s part of me – I wouldn’t know any different.  If you have a disability, you just get on with life in the best way that you can.

 

  1. Living with a disability is always bad and negative

Far from!  Speaking personally, I wouldn’t change my situation for anything, my life wouldn’t be as good without my disability. Although I’ve experienced discrimination and ignorance, the positive experiences far outweigh the bad.

 

If you have a disability and could add anything to this list, please contact me.  If you’re interested in Disability Awareness Training,  please contact Flyinglady Training.

Bringing Disability into the media spotlight

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Does it wet the bed?, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Making a difference, Media, My writing, and Personal

 

Having a speech impairment, I’ve always hated the sound of my own voice. Not only that, but I have at times, struggled to make other people understand me.

So when I started promoting my first book, “Does it wet the bed?”, my publicists, Literally PR, asked what types of activities I’d be comfortable doing.  “Anything,” I replied, “except radio.” I feared other people disliking my voice as much as I did and turning off their radios in frustration at not understanding a word I said.

But then I paused just to think about it. Disability is still misunderstood and disabled people are still overlooked. And why? Because disability is shied away from in every aspect of life, but especially by the media.  Yes, we occasionally see disabled people on TV but I can’t never help feeling that this is a “token gesture” – disabled people are seen which is great but we are very rarely heard.  Disabled characters in my favourite soaps are a massive step forward but their lives and the issues they face on a daily basis are rarely highlighted or explored.

By shying away from radio, I realised, I was feeding the problem. So what if my speech is slow and people need to listen a little more carefully?  So what if a few impatient listeners tune out? Society needs to be more exposed to disability in order to be more understanding and accepting of it.

Since then, I’ve done two radio interviews and received brilliant feedback from both.  I’ve actually enjoyed them!  My confidence is definitely growing and I’m proud to be helping to bring disability into the media spotlight.

Interview anyone?!

Legislation doesn’t improve knowledge of disability

Posted in Disability Awareness, Does it wet the bed?, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Making a difference, and Media

Since “Does it wet the bed?” was released, I’ve done several interviews for newspapers, magazines and radio shows. Each has focused on different aspects of the book and my life but nearly all of them have included the following (or similar) question: “Have attitudes towards disability changed since you were a child?”

My answer has always been yes; things have definitely improved in the past 30 years but we still have a long way to go. Although we now have legislation to protect the rights of disabled people, this isn’t as useful as it could be because people simply don’t understand disability. They still make wild assumptions without actually knowing any fact.

I’ve never been more certain of that than when scrolling through my twitter feed this morning. I follow Cherylee Houston, the actress who plays Izzy in Coronation Street. I was outraged to read her recent tweets, describing how a complete stranger knocked on her front door and informed her partner that she was a “benefits cheat” and he was going to the papers.  Why, you might ask? Because he had spotted Cherylee, who uses an electric wheelchair, dare to take a few steps.  She therefore, must be according to him, a cheat and a liar who is only pretending to have a disability. And oh, she has a disability so she must be claiming benefits.  Ever heard the phrase, to make an assumption is to make an ass of you and me?!  He’s the only ass in this case.

Hats off to Cherylee for taking it all in her stride but this is just one incident which highlights just how much work we still need to do in this country to raise awareness of disability and stub out the ignorance which is blighting the lives of disabled people. Who gives anyone the right to knock on someone’s door and abuse them in this way?  I’m glad Cherylee wasn’t home at the time and wasn’t directly subjected to this utter trash but no doubt it was equally as upsetting and disturbing for her partner.  I hope this low-life does go to the papers as it may help to highlight the pure ignorance and stupidity which is holding disabled people back.

We can have all the legislation we like, but there is so much misunderstanding about disability and until people are educated, disabled people will continue to be the subjects of hate crime.