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Guest Blog: Claire Farndale – No such word as ‘can’t!

Posted in Uncategorised

Claire Farndale is a Test Analyst for Northumbria University.  She’s also a wife and a mum – here’s her story of living with Cerebral Palsy:

So all my life I have had varying levels of discrimination because of my disability whether it be being picked last to be on someone’s team (because you are slow, or because you cannot catch) kids can be cruel to most recently discrimination in the jobs market but I always like to prove people wrong.

This ethos was instilled in me at a young age by my parents, who would always say there is no such word as “can’t”.  The doctors told my parents I would not walk and that I would not talk; my parents answer to this was to find a new consultant. My parents encouraged me to talk, so much so that I’ve never shut up since and I can talk the hind legs off a donkey!  Mam used to get me to play zippy (from the children’s 70’s-80’s TV show Rainbow; his mouth was a zip and could be zipped shut when he talked too much) I’m showing my age here!

As a child I was awarded the Edward Taylor Kelsey Trust award in Jarrow for my achievement in swimming and at senior school I was awarded the Lisa Anderson memorial trophy for all round endeavour; I guess if I didn’t have CP I would not have had the sheer determination to prove people wrong.

I never thought I would get married, I look in the mirror and most days I see Frankenstein staring back (all I see are scars from various operations) whereas my husband always says I’m beautiful and more importantly he has taught me not to take life so seriously. He is my rock and always picks me up when I’m down (sometimes literally when I’ve fallen over!). His favourite is when I’m driving and people stare at my handset (adaption to drive my car with one hand); he is like “blow them a kiss they think you are a supermodel!” which has me crying with laughter whereas 10 seconds earlier I was so self-conscious.

I was told it would be dangerous to my health having a baby – it has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done but every day is amazing, it’s funny how a slobbery kiss or peals of laughter make you forget your pain. Yes, I’ve had to be creative in how I do things, but I’m enjoying the challenge. I bought a changing mat that has a harness on to strap my active toddler in to help me get him changed and an old school friend pointed out “What will you do when he gets up and runs away with the mat strapped to his back?” Sh*t I never thought of that! Thankfully he hasn’t gone and done a teenage mutant ninja turtle on me yet!

Most recently I returned to work after maternity leave only to be told I was being made redundant after 16 years of service. My world was turned upside down and more discrimination materialised going for interviews. First contact – the dreaded handshake. As I don’t have use of my right hand I would always offer my left, then the questions would start – “Oh I didn’t realise what else can’t you do.” –   I’m left thinking, “erm really I did fill out on my application form which you obviously haven’t read.”  Anyway I don’t want to bore you as I could go on….

Thankfully my work life has been kick started again as I secured employment at Northumbria University in July. My managers Jack and Gillian have been fantastic, so helpful and understanding about my hospital appointments (I have them coming out of my ears) and it makes such a difference working for a disability confident employer. Yes it’s been hard leaving my little boy with my parents or in laws but I just want to make him proud.

Here is my list of perks of living with CP:

  • Work meetings come to me
  • I make people blush when I say we should all be French and air kiss when we meet people, instead of the inherited (Greek) handshake not sure how that would go down in job interviews!
  • I get free parking in my city centre
  • Fond memories of wheelchair race with my husband’s grandad along Whitby pier!
  • Getting into the cinema 2 for 1 – so only pay for one posh seat but get two at the Metrocentre!

What are your perks?

 

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.

Guest Blog: Thomas Talbot – My Racerunning Story

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy Sport, Disability Aids, Disability and kids, Disabled Access, Family, Racerunning, and Uncategorised

Thomas Talbot is 13 years old and has Cerebral Palsy – it hasn’t stopped him from becoming a successful international Racerunner. Here’s his story. . .

My story

Picking up my new RaceRunner

Hi – my name is Thomas. I’m 13 years old and I live near Lincoln. I am an International RaceRunner and I have cerebral palsy. I have to use a walker to get around and I sometime use a wheelchair if I get tired.

RaceRunning is an athletics discipline with a three wheeled trike and no pedals. Athletes can run on the track or use it for therapy.

I first discovered RaceRunning when I went to watch a Cerebral Palsy Sport athletics competition in Gateshead in August 2013. There were two RaceRunners competing and I was absolutely captivated by it. It looked such fun and looked like it could be something I could do. The boy that was racing was just like me – using a walker and I just loved the look of it. I badgered my Mum about it for some weeks about it after that!

My 2015 haul of silverware!

I went to a Cerebral Palsy Sport taster day in February 2014 and tried it for the first time. Wow – it was so exciting and I loved the feeling of being able to run without my walker. Then I went to a couple more taster days through 2014 and I told my parents I wanted my own RaceRunnner which we fundraised for and in April 2014 I collected my very own RaceRunner.

I don’t think at that time I knew where it would lead. The physio I had then kept saying that she thought I was getting a little stronger by using it and all I knew was that I loved doing it and it was better than painful physio.

I competed in my first RaceRunning competition in May 2015 in Manchester and then competed the whole season in different places including the CP Nationals. I won four events for Under 13’s and I was also awarded the Colin Rains Trophy for endeavour in my first season. I also won my District Young Achiever of the Year Award in 2015.

European Championships 2016

Sadly I had to have a big hip operation in January 2017 and I was in a hip spica for 6 weeks as they took some bone from my leg and grafted it into my hip. For all those days in the hospital and then recovering at home, all I wanted to do was be back on the RaceRunner (and also watching my beloved Manchester United). During my recovery we worked hard to build up strength as I have quite a leg length difference and this meant hydrotherapy as well as painful physio. But thanks to a good friend I got to see England and Manchester united play football!
I wasn’t able to compete this year until September and I really missed my friends. When I returned back to track racing at the Nationals, I won four golds in the Under 16 age group and nearly beat most of my PBs. I did not expect that!

The RaceRunnner helps me move so easily when I am on the track. I can run with the RaceRunner but can’t do that as easy with my walker. It gives me freedom. I use a chest plate and back strap so my physio also says it helps with my posture and the strength around my middle. I just love to run!

I train two to three times a week in Lincolnshire depending on homework and also what competitions are coming up. If I have training or a competition at the weekend I only train twice in the week.

European Championships 2016

I’m hoping to be selected to go to the CP World Games in Spain in 2018 and represent England. I have made the long list so really crossing fingers for final selection. I was too young when it was in Nottingham in 2015. To be selected – well that would be fab!

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family and friends. I’ve made so many friends who are just like me and I don’t feel quite so alone. I know when I get to the track or at a competitions I’m going to see them and enjoy having a laugh with them…as well as racing. It has made me much fitter since I started RaceRunning.

I feel much better about myself and more confident. I have made a lot more friends and love spending time with them at the track. I think it has made me believe in myself abit more. I am much more outgoing than I was before I started RaceRunning and I like going to different places to compete. The trip out to Denmark as an England team was awesome and we did have lots of fun!

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 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!

Does it wet the bed? 3 Chapters available on Authonomy

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

After researching quite a bit and talking to other writers and some publishers, I realised that if I want my book to be successful, I have to prove that there is a market for it. But I’d also read that publishers can be put off a book if it has been made public, even partly.

I faced a dilemma and for months, I wrestled with it. I really didn’t want to scupper my chances of getting published but at the same time, I really wanted to show off what I had worked so hard on and hopefully build up what the industry calls a “following“.

So last week, I finally took the plunge and posted the first three chapters of “Does it wet the bed?” on Authonomy.com – a website where writers can post their work and readers can comment on and rate books.

Authonomy is free to use so please go and take a look. Any feedback you have will be gratefully received and will help me to improve my work and hopefully, get it published.

Please note that the website is currently experiencing problems with Internet Explorer so it may be best to access it using Chrome or Firefox.

Thanks for your support!

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?.”

Finally time to look for a literary agent

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

I’ve been pretty busy over the past few months. As well as working on my campaign to make Great Barr great for Disabled People (Great Barr Accessibility Report), and raising my little boy Jack, I’ve been trying to finalise the first draft of my autobiography.

Although I regularly write articles for my blog and campaign, this is my first book and I’ve been working on it for almost five years, in between working and living life!

Does IT wet the bed?”  tells the story of my life living with Cerebral Palsy and all of the challenges and triumphs along the way.  There have been Headteachers who didn’t believe I could cope with mainstream education; there have been bullies who have picked on me for walking a bit funny. There have also been employers who have discriminated against me because of my disability. But there has also been a 2:1 Honours degree from Oxford Brookes University, as well as a fairytale wedding and my own business. Despite my disability, I’ve achieved almost everything I’ve put my mind too and that’s why I’m writing this book. To show that disabled people are just as capable as anyone else and that if you’re determined enough, anything is possible.

Now that the first draft is almost complete, I have decided to turn my attentions to the huge task of finding a literary agent who is prepared to take me and my work on. After reading the Writers’ and Artists Yearbook 2014, I am not underestimating the time and effort that this will require. There is so much to do in preparation for approaching agents, that it is much more daunting than writing the actual book! I need to prepare a concise synopsis of the book, as well as a chapter summary and research at least five other books which are similar to mine and justify why my book fills a gap in the current market. The list of tasks which lay ahead seems endless!

I’ve invested so much time and effort into the book, that I am absolutely determined that one day soon, it will be available in a bookshop near you!

Right then, where to begin?!

A disappointing experience as a new Disabled Parent

Posted in Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Motherhood, and Uncategorised

 

A few days ago, my husband and I went to register our new son, Jack James at Birmingham Registry Office.  It was an occasion which I was looking forward to, as I’m sure all new parents do.

However, my excitement and pride was soon replaced by upset and anger when we entered the registrar’s office.  With Jack wriggling and crying in my arms, she turned to ask me my name but as soon as I opened my mouth, she looked at me blankly, making it clear she couldn’t understand me and then immediately turned to my husband, expecting him to speak for me. As I’ve said before, I have a speech impairment but with time and a little patience, it isn’t difficult to understand me.  After all, I wouldn’t be a successful trainer if I couldn’t effectively communicate!

From then on, she directed all questions to my hubby and although he told her she was being ignorant, she ignored his comments.  I continued to try to interject, telling the registrar that I was quite capable of answering her questions but the registrar then bluntly stated that only one parent was required to regjster Jack.  In other words, my presence was not needed.

Unfortunately, Jack was very unsettled and in need of a feed so it wasn’t an appropriate time to challenge her ignorance and I left hubby to complete the process.  But I was angry and frustrated at being made to feel like I was surplus to requirements just because the registrar was too ignorant to take the time to listen to me.  She ruined an important occasion, one which I can never repeat and yet she is completely oblivious of this fact.

Since 2010, every public sector organisation has had specific responsibilities under the Equality Act to “Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act”.  So I find it incredible that three years on (as well as 17 years since the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) disabled people are still having to tolerate such ignorant attitudes and being made to feel like second class citizens.  I wonder if any other mother would be treated  this way and the answer is quite rightly, no so why should I accept such treatment?

Public sector managers, and indeed all managers, need to remind themselves of their legal and moral responsibilities and start taking steps to ensure that their staff are treating disabled people with the respect and dignity that they deserve.  They need to stop paying lip service to the legislation, stop merely ticking boxes and start taking  meaningful, positive actions to ensure that equality and diversity is truly understood and accepted  by every member of staff.

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.