Thursday, 31 May 2012

Don’t Bank on it

Just to remind people I have a speech impairment and poor co-ordination so I find banking in this day and age almost impossible to do on my own. Let's take it one step at a time.
Cash machines: the invention for instant cash – I have more chance of sticking my finger in my ear than I have of sticking my cash card in the slot, let alone trying to hit the right combination of buttons. Instant cash? Instant disaster! So my cash card has now been swallowed by the hole in the wall so I phone the call centre to report this ……
Bank call centre: the world's worst invention for a guy who speaks like Chewbacca! First of all you get the menu, you know, "hit 1 for this, 2 for that" Hitting the numbers in the right order to start with is a gamble for me. If I get pass this, a voice comes on the end of the phone saying "can I help you" and that's when the fun really starts. You can't use personal assistance 'cos oh no, customers services can't talk to anyone unauthorised, even if they're sitting on your lap. So I try to express verbally what I would like. "My card has been swallowed by your cash point machine, can I have a new one please?" (simple enough if you speak chewbaccan). So we have a fun 20-minute conversation with me repeating the same sentence in several different ways and them saying "sorry but I can't understand you". It ends up with "you'll have to go into your branch and sort this out", which is code for can't understand ….. getting really embarrassed ….. so I need to get rid of you.
Chip and Pin: who's ridiculous idea was this? The banks all said when they first came out, we've consulted with our customers and this is what they want. Obviously they didn't speak to customers with co-ordination impairments, the last thing we want when going for a meal is to play 'press the right button' on the portable card reader machine. So what do we do? We have to tell partners, friends, the waiter(!) our pin number. Now that's really secure! So I have a choice, I can carry a wad of money in my pocket which leaves me open to being mugged or carry a chip and pin card with no security 'cos I've got to tell people my pin number when I pay for things. So thanks Mr Banker, I really feel consulted on this.
I've covered these topics in a rather jokey manner; this is to cover up my complete frustration. The whole point of technology is to enable greater independence but as you can read the banks have made me more dependent on others by having systems with no other options. What I'm trying to get across is, think about what you're doing and think about the customer base. One person in five has some sort of impairment, don't marginalise them. Speak to us. We can help with solutions that will work for everybody.
PS. I hope Chewbacca's not insulted J

Monday, 28 May 2012

Importance of Independence

As I continually stagger through life, sometimes physically as well as in experiencing life, I have a constant reminder that society is a constant uphill climb. Now, before you think this is another disabled "it's not fair" moan, think again. I live with the belief that if I want to be accepted I don't complain – I just get on with it. But, come on guys, cut me some slack! Yes, I have a speech impairment, and yeah I understand that I may sound like the Swedish Chief from The Muppets, but does that equal that I must have a learning disability? Please! If I used the same attitude with people with bad dress sense, well, there would be lots of unhappy people, men especially! And why shout at me? It seriously doesn't make words penetrate easier you know! Professionally, I have a Personal Assistant who, gamely, interprets my speech for others to understand. But again, I don't go around with a PA in my pocket! And, nor do I want to!
Disabled tax credits! I had the impression this was a system meant to ease disabled people into work. It's a real mine field and it's questionable whether it's a help or, indeed, a hindrance. The Government seem to be "reviewing" all disability benefits, saying that there are many that cheat the system. The latest thinking is that everyone on Disability Living Allowance will have to be re-assessed. I'm not being funny guys, but I have Cerebral Palsy, and with the best will in the world, I won't wake up one morning to find it has disappeared! So, what are they assessing me on?
People in my profession want to encourage as many disabled people as possible to be included within local communities. We promote working, independent living and the general use of services and facilities that everyone else uses. But, I can see why disabled people are reluctant to put their heads above the parapet, in case they get knocked off! Social care is going to be expensive and will continue to increase as we, as a society, live longer. We need to be creative in resources, but also, thinking. Stop penalising disabled people purely because it saves money. Use The Big Society to create better services and structure for social care to happen.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Day One

Hello, this is my first go at Blogging.

In terms of disability we are in a very important phase. The government has decided in its wisdom to make all disabled people claiming Disability Living Allowance to be reassessed. At the end of the month the Social Care White Paper has been promised to be published which will give solutions on how care in the community will be delivered to the disabled and elderly. In theory, the net effect of these two events is big changes. The irony is, whilst I partly agree the need to reassess people for benefits I do have trouble getting my head around the idea that one day I will wake up one morning and not have CP and therefore not be entitled to DLA. You would have thought some thinking would have taken place so they reassess cases where disability has been a recent thing i.e. people with back injuries, but there you go.

My Blog will be factual but humorous (hopefully!) I do have a unique take on life as a disabled person, so please don't be offended if some of the humour is disabled based. Life with cerebral palsy is very interesting, humorous and frustrating if you want it to be. For instance a few weeks ago I was brushing my teeth, merrily minding my own business, standing in my bathroom in my underpants using my electric toothbrush. All of a sudden the head from the top of the toothbrush came off and wedged itself in-between my gum and cheek. The automatic reaction is to take the offending item from your mouth, fine if you've got perfect co-ordination. So in my mild panic I accidently swallowed feeling the toothbrush head disappearing down my throat. The immediate thought is not "Oh my God I'm going to die!" but "Oh my God I'm in my underpants so someone's going to discover me in a state of undress if I pass out". Thankfully I swallowed said toothbrush head without choking and when my PA came to do my breakfast and my shave I asked her what I should do. When I picked her up off the floor because she was laughing so much (once she realised I was actually ok) we phoned NHS Direct who advised to go immediately to A & E. I think this happened so I could entertain the hospital staff!

Why am I telling you this? I suppose it illustrates that disabled people have to go through embarrassing situations just to survive everyday life. Luckily I have a great relationship with my team of Personal Assistants who 'get me' and we all end up laughing together, but many disabled people don't have that fortune and live in residential care with staff who really are overworked and underpaid. The government needs to understand our situation and not keep punishing disabled people for being disabled.