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Category: Media

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!

My self-publishing journey

Posted in Does it wet the bed?, Media, My writing, Personal, and Uncategorised

At last!  After six long years of drafting, writing, editing and rewriting, my memoir, “Does it wet the bed?” has finally been released on the Kindle Store.  When I started the book, it was a day I didn’t dare to even dream about. I wasn’t convinced that my writing was good enough to be published.

In June 2014, as I began approaching agents and publishers, my confidence dwindled further. As the “Thanks but no thanks” emails took over my inbox, I began to wonder if I should just give up – put down my pen and just focus on my day job – being an Equality and Diversity Trainer.

Then after doing some research, I made a decision.  If I hadn’t secured an agent or a publisher by December 2014, I was going to self-publish my book.  With almost 40 unsuccessful applications, my fate was sealed and I made myself a promise: “Does it wet the bed?” would be released by the end of 2015.

I had a lot of work and many decisions ahead of me!  My first task was to get an editor on board. A Facebook post put me in touch with Norman who, as it turned out, had attended one of my Equality and Diversity courses a few years previously. Norman had experience of self-publishing and proved to be more than just an editor, guiding me through the process and offering invaluable advice on everything from legal issues, formatting, pricing and marketing.  Once Norman had completed the editing, he put me in touch with a colleague who helped me format the book. I began to realise that the world of self-publishing wasn’t about what you knew but who!

Whilst the final touches to the book were in progress, I attended a Self-Publishing Conference at the University of Leicester. I had no idea what my next steps should be and without the backing of a publisher, I knew I’d have to work hard to publicise the book once it was released. It wasn’t going to just sell itself!  It was at the conference that I met Helen Lewis of Literally PR as she gave a workshop on organising a successful book launch.  I decided that whilst I could do a lot, I wasn’t a marketing genius and so I commissioned Literally PR to publicise my book.

With everything slowly coming together, I could finally look towards setting a release date.  I decided to stage my book’s launch by releasing the kindle version on 31st August, with the paperback following on 30th November – just in time for those Christmas Stockings!  Then I decided that all my hard work was worthy of a celebration and so I’m hosting a Book Launch Party on 17th September at the Holiday Inn, M6, Junction 7, in Great Barr.  With a canapé reception, magician and live music, it’ll be an opportunity to really appreciate what I’ve managed to achieve.  For my guests, it’s an opportunity to buy a paperback copy ahead of its official release in November.

I woke up on Monday morning, able to say, “I’m a published author.”  After so long and so much hard work, it’s a great feeling.  I set myself a goal and I didn’t stop until it was achieved.

Who knows what I could achieve by the end of 2016?!

The Media: Friend or Foe of Equality?

Posted in Disabled Parent, Media, Personal, and Uncategorised

I recently delivered a bespoke training session for an organisation in Reading. As part of their equality objectives, they had identified some issues surrounding stereotyping so I was asked to focus on this specific area, addressing the causes of stereotyping and its impact.

So what causes individuals and society to refer to people using negative stereotypes?

With regard to individuals, a person’s upbringing, their community, fear of the unknown and simply ignorance can all impact upon their personal stereotypes. Most of these factors are beyond an individual’s control or conscientious , hence the need for Equality Training so that attitudes and approaches can be examined and reviewed in a safe and non judgemental environment.

In relation to society as a whole, I believe that one of the biggest causes of stereotypes is the media. Whether people are conscience of it or not, the media has a huge impact on how we view certain people or groups of people in our society. The words “black”, “disabled”, “muslim” (to name just a few) are regularly dropped into headlines when they bear absolutely no relevance to the actual story. By including such irrelevant descriptions serves only one purpose which is to fuel stereotypes.

However, I’ve recently been forced to re examine my own negative stereotype of the media as a negative influence. I have to admit that one of my favourite past times is watching the British Soaps and over the years, they have dealt with many issues of diversity. They haven’t always done so sensitively but nonetheless, they have opened up subjects which were previously taboo and at least, got people talking about and debating the issues. Disabled characters have always featured in the soaps but many of the storylines have been negative, doing very little to change the negative stereotypes which surround disabled people.

I am currently closely following the story of Izzy in Coronation Street. (Played by Cherylee Houston) Izzy has a long term physical disability and has recently discovered that she is expecting a baby with her partner, Gary. They are both thrilled by the news, having been reassured by a doctor that her condition will not affect the pregnancy. However, her father’s reaction to the news is one of shock, disappointment and fear. Her father, played by Ian Puleston-Davies, worries about the emotional and physical demands of pregnancy and motherhood will have on Izzy.

Having spoken to several disabled people (some of them parents), this is quite a common reaction. People see a disabled person with a child and automatically assume that it can’t be theirs or that the pregnancy wasn’t planned. The disabled parents that I’ve spoken to say that this couldn’t be further from the truth. They are very conscious of the possible implications of pregnancy and parenthood and the decision to have a child is made after careful consideration and in many cases, after seeking medical opinion. Therefore, the assumptions that people make are all the more hurtful and patronising.

There was also a recent documentary on BBC called “We won’t drop the baby”. It focused on a couple, both with cerebral palsy, who already had a young son and were expecting their second baby. It was a brilliant documentary which showed that despite obvious difficulties, it is possible for disabled people to be good parents. The documentary featured the couple’s parents who naturally expressed some anxiety and concern. But despite this, they stood in the background and like with everything else their children had achieved, they let them learn how to do things their way and it was obvious that the children were well looked after.

I think such programmes, whether real or fictional, do a lot to challenge stereotypes. So is the media a help or a hindrance in challenging the negative stereotypes that still exist in society? I think the jury is still out on that debate but I like to think that the media is doing a lot more to break down prejudices and make people question their assumptions. Like I said, as human beings, I don’t think we are always conscience of or to blame for our own stereotypes. But we are responsible for realising that we have them and for challenging them regularly.

I obviously don’t know how Izzy’s storyline will pan out but I congratulate Cherylee and Ian on their performances and hope that the storyline will continue to make people question the stereotypes surrounding disabled people.