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Category: Fighting for Change

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.

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.

Giving people with Cerebral Palsy a voice

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

This week is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week and today, 7th October, is World CP Day.  As someone with Cerebral Palsy, I’m delighted to be part of such an occasion that will highlight Cerebral Palsy, raise awareness of the condition and celebrate the achievements of those who have CP.

I’ve always found that disability and Cerebral Palsy are viewed in a negative light and both are hugely misunderstood. My recent book, “Does it wet the bed?” highlights the misconceptions that I’ve fought against, the pity which I’ve tried hard to ignore and the discrimination which I’ve refused to let destroy my confidence.  It was really important to me that people knew that having Cerebral Palsy hasn’t held me back or ruined my life.  Far from!  I’ve enjoyed a mainstream education and got a 2:1 Honours degree; held down a full time job before venturing into self-employment and most importantly to me, I’ve become a wife and mother.

As a society, I don’t think disability is discussed enough and World CP Day is a fantastic opportunity for people to learn more about the condition and hopefully, challenge their own perceptions about people with Cerebral Palsy.  I’ll be hosting a live Q&A session on Twitter between 1-2pm GMT (@Aideen23Henry)  so that people can ask questions about Cerebral Palsy, what it’s like to live with the condition and the experiences I’ve had as a result of having Cerebral Palsy. I really hope people will take this opportunity to learn more about it and that this whole week gives people with CP a voice.

But it must go beyond that.  When this week is over, we shouldn’t just forget about it.  We need to get our politicians to understand the issues which people with CP (and other disabilities) face and get them doing more to remove the barriers which still exist within society.  We need to raise awareness with employers and ask them to provide more opportunities to those with Cerebral Palsy. And we need to constantly challenge the perceptions of the general public so that eventually, there are no barriers to people with Cerebral Palsy living fulfilling and rewarding lives.

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!

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.