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Category: Making a difference

New writing projects – feedback very welcome!

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Does it wet the bed?, Flyinglady Training, Making a difference, and My writing

This time last year, my new year’s resolution was to get my memoir, “Does it wet the bed?”, published. It was an ambitious goal as the manuscript was barely finished. But with lots of hard work and determination,  I fulfilled my resolution . . . for once!

This year, I have two writing projects which I want to pursue, though I am not going to promise that either will be finished, as I have other work projects in mind.

Firstly, I plan to write a “Disability Etiquette Guide”, to help people gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding disability. I know from experience, lots of people find disability awkward; they don’t know how to approach disabled people and worry about doing or saying the “wrong” thing.  The aim of the guide will be to put people’s minds are rest and to honesty answer the questions that they have.  The guide will cover communicating with disabled people, how and when to offer assistance, the correct language as well as the language to avoid and best practice in a number of situations.

This is my basic plan for the book but I’d really like suggestions from you as to what you would like to see included.  If you have a few minutes and would like to help me, please consider the following questions and contact me with your thoughts:

  • What would you most like to know about disability?
  • What concerns you about interacting with disabled people?
  • What do you think are the common misconceptions about disabled people?

 

I’d really love to hear your thoughts and will do my best to cover all the points I receive.

Secondly, I plan to start a Children’s Book to help teachers and parents to explain disability.  I recently spoke to a mum who was unsure about how to answer her son’s questions about me – she wanted to give him the answers he needed but was worried about offending me. I hope I was able to offer her some reassurance as I explained the best things to say and it cemented my desire to write a book which will help parents to answer those tricky questions with confidence. I haven’t quite decided on the format or style, but if you’re a parent and have any thoughts, please get in touch.

With other training projects and my new role as Trustee of CP Sport, 2016 is set to be a very busy year

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.

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.

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.

 

The Silly Season

Posted in Accessibility, Customer Service, Making a difference, Personal, and Uncategorised

Well, the silly season, as my Dad calls it, is over for another year and although I love Christmas, I can’t say that I’m sorry to see the end of the chaos which always descends upon the high street. Retailers always seem to neglect the needs of disabled customers by cramming in as much as possible and restricting access to tills. Each shopping trip from November onwards becomes more stressful than the last and my patience wears thin, as yet another over enthusiastic shopper fails to look where they’re going and I narrowly avoid running them over!

After boycotting the shops between Christmas and New Year, our supplies were beginning to run low so I braved a trip to our local Aldi. It seemed that the silly season was still in full swing so I decided just to grab the basics and get out! Joining the long queue which didn’t seem to move, I was thankful that I did our big food shops online, from the comfort of our warm and cosy home. No such queues online! Fraught and frustrated, I finally got to the till and paid for my couple of items, and then I hear a small voice. “Is there anything I can help you with?” and I turn around to see a young lad, no older than eight, eagerly awaiting my reply. In all the madness and chaos, this young boy was thoughtful enough to offer a hand. My mood changed completely and I was so touched by his kindness that I accepted his offer and asked him to hang my shopping on the handle of my wheelchair. I thanked him profusely and all the silly season stress was suddenly forgotten. I left the shop smiling and suddenly glad that I’d decided to brave the shop.

Small acts of kindness could reduce everyone’s stress levels and perhaps make next year’s silly season a bit more bearable!

Happy New Year!

“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