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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A rapprochement

I am relieved to report that, whatever the cause of the friction between my camera and my computer was, it now appears to have been resolved: the two are once again willing to communicate.

Which means that, some weeks later than I had originally hoped, I can bring you a rare photograph I took when Caspar was helpfully showing off her pretty back paws and didn't run off to hide the moment she caught wind of the camera. (Those glowing green eyes are a bit of a worry, mind...)

Possibly rarer yet - and taken on the same occasion - a photograph in which she doesn't look affronted!

The Editor

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Walls come tumbling down

The scale of the damage and the casualties caused by the earthquake in China is so mind-bogglingly huge that it's impossible to envisage.

"How dreadful!", we think. But we don't really take it in.

Well, after my acupuncture this afternoon, I spoke to Hazel about it. Her mother and her sisters all live less than an hour's drive from the earthquake zone. Naturally, they've been phoning her about their experiences. Hazel passed some of these experiences on to me, and I really feel that I must pass them on to you in turn.

As I know I've mentioned previously, Hazel's strong accent makes her English very difficult to decipher. But I'll try to reproduce her stories as accurately as I can.

Hazel's mother works at a university. The university has six thousand students. What was the canteen for all those students is now one vast field-hospital for the victims of the earthquake. Every day, more children are brought in. Some have lost a leg. Some have lost an arm. Many have lost both parents. Hazel's mother tells her that she cries all day.

"Mummy, you must not cry like this. You must save it for in your own time. You have to stay calm and professional if you are to do your job and help the children."

"Daughter, you have not seen what I am seeing. It would be impossible not to cry."

One of Hazel's sisters tells her that you walk through streets you used to recognise in which buldings have collapsed on top of one another. Hands and faces protrude from the gaps in the concrete. The hands and faces belong to people who are still alive, but trapped under tons of debris. You can do nothing to help them.

One handsome young man of 29 was trapped in such circumstances. He smiled and joked with the people who were trying to rescue him. "I'm fine!", he said. "I'll just wait here for you to rescue me". "Save your energy", they said. "You don't need to keep on talking to us". But he carried on. He stayed cheerful. He was expecting the birth of his child any day, so he was very excited and happy about that.

It took them six hours to pull him free.

He died half an hour later.

The Editor

Monday, May 26, 2008



I have found it.

Entirely by chance when I was using the Pounce feature on Etsy.

It's the ultimate, must-have wall decal for anyone who has chronic pain:-

(And the fact that the seller has chosen a Winnie the Pooh-related shop name doesn't hurt, either!)

Shipping only offered within the US at the moment, but experience has shown that the majority of sellers respond very positively to a politely-worded request to consider shipping to the UK.

The Editor

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Spreading the word

Kanopy - who make The Most Comfortable Pyjamas In The World - are having a £10 clearance sale between now (well, last night, actually) and the 1st of June.

There are nearly 80 garments from previous seasons - both winter and summer - at £10 each. (Some of which, as you would expect from a sale like this, are now only available in very limited sizes and the, er, less popular colours: I don't care how cheap it is, I am not wearing anything in apricot!)

I've been buying fairly regularly from them for six years, and I've never known them discount so many items so drastically at the same time before.

Their cotton jersey is really nice quality, so their clothes don't develop unintended wavy hemlines when exposed to the rigours of a washing machine. And it's all extremely comfortable to wear, which is a key criterion for those of us who are in pain all the time.

Speaking of clothing websites, the Razzberry Bazaar site has recently had a very colourful makeover: exceedingly scrummy.

The Editor

Friday, May 23, 2008

Testing, testing

I found something at work yesterday in my list of bookmarked websites when I was looking for something completely different.

This happens to me a lot.

So much so, in fact, that only this week I had an email from someone who won't be a member of our trade union advisory committee for 2008/09. "I know you won't be able to send me any of the confidential papers", she wrote, "but could I ask you to carry on copying me in to all the things you find when you're looking for something else?"

I'm not sure whether to feel gratified or mocked by that, really....

Anyway, back to my find.

I don't know how long ago I bookmarked it or how I came to know of its existence. I have the vaguest of vague suspicions that it may have been the Boy Marmite who first sent me the link. As his memory is, if anything, even worse than mine, though, we may never know.

WebEQuality offers online disability equality training for UK organisations and individuals. (Fairly large parts of the training would be of interest to non-UK residents as well, but they stress - with good reason - that they are dealing only with UK legislation.)

Given that

  • the advisory committee will have a whole load of new bugs on it this year, and
  • that I would very much prefer not to have to devote half the year to introducing said new bugs to the concept of disability equality and exactly how it differs from what I have every reason to suspect is their current approach of just feeling sorry for themselves because they suffer from terrible afflictions

I suggested to the appropriate full-time official that it might be an idea to insist that they work through this training package before setting foot - or wheel - in the first meeting venue. And that he and whichever assistant group secretary has "volunteered" for the equality and diversity portfolio this year should work through it as well. (You will note that I am nothing if not tyrannical!)

Well, the day wore on, and the very important thing I was waiting for regarding the other part of my job arrived, and I was assured that there was nothing more needed from me on that front for the moment, and I found myself with a couple of hours in which there was nothing immediately pressing for me to do. So, having worked out by this time that I could do the WebEQuality training for free in my non-professional capacity (wot wiv me being disabed), I decided to sample its wares so that I would know whether what I was recommending would be worth the fee.

And I've got to say that I was very pleasantly surprised indeed by the calibre of the modules. I have worked through ever so many of my employer's online training packages and, as a result, have learned to expect that the questions at the end will test memory only. And will therefore lodge in the brain only as long as it takes to print the certificate off and wave it under the nose of one's manager.

The WebEQuality modules are a lot smarter than that. (There's a list of the modules here.) You don't get any opportunity to pass the tests by simply regurgitating what you've just read. Nuh-uh. Instead, you have to apply what you have just learned to hypothetical situations. What's even more tricksy and demanding is the fact that there are pretty strong arguments both for and against some of the scenarios they quote. So they make you analyse the ramifications of every choice.

For example, there's a section on barriers to employment for disabled people. In one of the tests in that section, you're given a list of of criteria a supermarket has decided are crucial in anyone taken on to work on the tills. Your task is to decide which of those criteria actually are crucial; which are merely desirable; and which should never have been included in the list in the first place.

Imagine my glee when I was faced with a list of fictitious newspaper headlines and asked which of them represented a negative portrayal of disabled people. (Not that this is a trigger issue for me, or anything...)

All in all, really well worth devoting a couple of hours to: even if you're already fairly expert on the subject. Ok, so it lacks the life-altering impact of spending a week on a residential training event having one's eyes opened by the Mighty Mr C, but, as online packages go, it packs a pretty serious punch.

The Editor

Sunday, May 18, 2008

So Clear In My Mind

Regular readers will recall that I have mentioned the Mighty Alan Counsell more than once in the past. Three times, in fact.

A copy of his autobiography is currently listed on Alibris for the not-unreasonable sum of £16.02.

I'm unwilling to trust my own copy to the post for anyone to read because Mr C wrote a personal message to me on the inside cover when a few of us ambushed* him at a Positive About Disability training event for a "celebrity signing", so it is irreplaceable. But it really is worth reading, whether you have the privilege of knowing Mr C personally or not.

No news to report on the planned sequel, I'm afraid. I must make enquiries of the man himself.

The Editor

*Don't worry: he got his own back. I still bear the scars...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Ok, I'm going back to work tomorrow. So this blog is very likely to return to its usual semi-somnabulant status for a while. Before I disappear though, I want to tell you that I have this wonderful pair of earrings.

As soon as I saw MiMiPoland's Etsy shop, I just had to buy one of their stunning creations straight away, immediately and at once.

I checked the shop a few days ago and was stunned to see that I am still the only person who has bought anything from these fabulously-talented ladies.

What is going on?!?

There are hundreds upon hundreds of jewellery shops on Etsy which stock pages and pages of things I wouldn't give a second glance to. But original creative vision of this calibre is ignored?

This doesn't seem right. Short of buying the ladies' entire stock up myself, the only thing I can think of to do do is to promote their shop here. Which is what I'm doing in this blog entry. In case that point had passed anybody by.

So. I have "favourited" five fairly random items from the shop so that they will show up on my mini-Etsy sidebar for persons who lack the time or the strength to click through to the shop itself. (I update my favourites so regularly that, if you're reading this on anything other than the day it was written, they'll probably have already slipped out of sight.) And I just want to encourage as many people as I can reach to go and have a look, really.

The Editor

Monday, May 05, 2008

It's good news week. Quite literally.

Just a very quick update before I head off to what I sincerely hope will be the Land of Nod...

Regular readers will recall that I have written about Nicole's gorgeous jewellery in the past.

Well, trust me, it hasn't got any less gorgeous since I wrote that. As my bank balance will attest.

And now it's your chance to win some of that gorgeousness for yourself:-

"Greetings from Bela Brazilian Designs...
Being that there is so much morbidity in the world today... we thought it would be something out of the ordinary if we would run a contest where fellow Etsy members would share the ★VERY BEST THING★ that happened to them in this forum.
We KNOW that there is a lot of GOOD out there that is often over looked and being who we are here at Bela Brazilian Designs, we would love nothing more than to give everyone a chance to share something wonderful with others.

The contest will begin Monday 5/5 and end Friday 5/9.
We could not possibly choose one winner, so there will be one runner up.
Initial winner receives $50 store credit (good towards any exotic piece of wearable art in our store), the runner up will receive $25 store credit.

There are three of us here who will decide amongst ourselves who managed to shed most light and cheer into this forum."

See? Dead easy. All you have to do is get yourself registered on Etsy - if you haven't already done so - and wander over to this forum thread with your story of the best thing that ever happened to you. What could be simpler than that?

The Editor

In which the Editor's dirty little secret is revealed

I went to visit the hairdresser for more hours than I would have believed possible on Saturday. (Previous clients had exhibited outrageous behaviour like asking for extra things they hadn't been booked in for, so everything was running very late).

Between parts of a number of lengthy and arcane hair-transforming processes, I was left to my own devices with a cup of tea and a pile of glossy magazines.

I have developed a great aversion to glossy magazines over the last few years, so I only get to flick through one every seven or eight weeks. This is probably A Good Thing as I don't think my blood pressure would benefit from more frequent exposure.

(Mind you, if you think glossy magazines are tripe, you should see Lancashire Life. Somebody - somebody possibly quite evil - donates back copies to the doctors' surgery which I visit to see my osteopath. Picking one of those up to pass the time was a mistake I only made the once, I can assure you!)

So. I'm leafing in a desultory manner through some vapid publication called, "You Look Gorgeous", or, "Let's Pretend We Hate Men Whilst Doing Everything In Our Power To Ensnare One", or something of that nature, when a huge headline leaps out at me:

"Are you worried about the impact your wedding will have on the environment?"

it screams at me.

I'm not, as it happens, but I'm sufficiently intrigued by the juxtaposition of these two glossy-magazine-fodder standards to read on.

Now, personally, I have long considered big, white, frothy weddings to be something akin to drawing several years' worth of savings out of the bank, putting the money in a metal waste-paper bin, and casually tossing a lit match in so as to enjoy the pretty colours as it burns. Last of the great, pie-eyed romantics, I am not. Even as a small child, I never had fantasies of what I would look like in a gigantic meringue-frock on my wedding day. Possibly because I was aware from a very young age that a gigantic meringue-frock would not be a good look on me.

So, even were I contemplating matrimony, I'm never going to be a key player in the sort of wedding about which, were I that way inclined, I might spend sleepless nights worrying about the amount of carbon said celebration might consume. But, then, I find it difficult to imagine that anyone who was a real, genuine, dyed-in-the-wool environment zealot would choose to throw a big wedding party at all.

However, the glossy magazine researchers have tracked down one such couple, and interviewed them in a sidebar to the article. Mrs Conspicuously Green is beyond smug. She is the sort of woman who makes me want to run the dishwasher for one slightly dirty pastry fork. Twice. Whilst simultaneously tumble-drying a small hanky. I relate what I can remember of her smugness to Pop that evening.

Mrs C-G (smugly): "Instead of cut flowers, we decorated the tables with violets in pots".

Pop: "Oh great. That's just what you need at the end of an evening's drinking when you're trying to pour yourself into a taxi, is a pot of effing violets".

Mrs C-G: "We didn't want to kill the poor ickle treesies, so I wrote all the invitations and the place settings for the tables by hand on recycled paper". (Oh, ok. I'm paraphrasing. She didn't actually mention the poor ickle treesies. Not in so many words.)

Pop: "I see. How lovely. Well, let's hope she has very nice handwriting".

Mrs C-G: "I'm afraid I just couldn't bear to have a second-hand wedding dress, so I ordered one from (insert name of fabby designer here) and had it flown over from America. Awful, I know!"

Me (to Pop, sarcastically): "Yes, that's right. Because the wedding dress will have travelled in the hold of an otherwise entirely empty plane, so she is personally responsible for one hundred percent of the carbon emissions resulting from that flight."

And then Pop explained something to me. Pop is an intelligent man who, by his own admission, is constitutionally incapable of telling an untruth. So I have no option but to believe him, even though what he said strikes me as being really rather unfair.

Apparently, every time I order even one tiny pair of earrings from somebody in the States, the carbon emissions of the aeroplane on which that weeny little jiffy bag is carried are all immediately transferred onto my carbon footprint, and mine alone. And all the hundreds of passengers who are also travelling on that aeroplane get to do so with completely clean consciences because they know that I have been tagged as the carbon scapegoat for that particular flight.

Overnight, therefore, I have gone from being someone whose carbon footprint was so tiny as to not even register as a measurable percentage on those, "Take our test and find out just how much of a carbon miscreant you are" websites to someone who is single-handedly responsible for the carbon emissions of at least one transatlantic jumbo jet flight a week!

Which is shocking.

And the very worst thing about all of this is that I no longer have a metaphorical leg to stand on if I want to sneer contemptuously at Mrs Conspicuously Green and her evangelical cohorts. No wonder they have to hand-deliver wedding invitations written in crayon on the back of cornflake packets when there are people like me around!!

The Editor

Friday, May 02, 2008

And still they come: yet more BADD highlights

I've definitely reached the conclusion that the overall calibre of BADD entries has been higher this year than in previous years. I mean, I'm really not somebody who promotes for promotion's sake, or in some ghastly and unsubtle attempt to make new friends. In other words, every single BADD entry listed in this and my two previous posts is one I consider to be important: one which has fully met the BADD objective of raising awareness of the societal evil which is disability discrimination.

These are (to me) the pick of the crop, but there are many more entries which are well worth reading. Almost everyone who has contributed this year has given serious thought to the message they want to put across. It's not at all unusual to find opening paragraphs which indicate that the author has vacillated for days, or even weeks, over the relative merits of several important subjects. I am pleasantly surprised to see that there are very, very few contributors this year who have confused writing about disablism with simply writing about having an impairment.

Although I have always done my best to be supportive of it, BADD was not my idea. It is the brainchild of the wonderfully-perceptive Goldfish, as bright and shining light in the blogosphere as anyone could ever wish to encounter. She should be very proud.

Anyway, moving on from the mushy stuff, this will be the last of my highlights posts unless there are some truly exceptional late entries. I don't know whether these posts been helpful to anyone but, if nothing else, I trust that they will have at least made the authors of the entries conscious that they have been read and appreciated.

So. My final list of goodies:-

Jade Lennox on the bizarre belief of programme designers that accessibility standards are only relevant to external customers -“It isn’t accessible because it’s for internal audiences”. (It is probably better not to get me started on the average IT bod's understanding of the requirements of disabled customers. Suffice it to say, much of what Jade says had resonance for me.)

Schooling Inequality: this is an absolute joy. It's not every day you get to witness someone's epiphany about what disability actually is.

What can you say about the Unreliable Witness? Even by his own self-imposed high standards. he's outdone himself with this satirical piece.

Insane Journal: because the Princess Bride reference kicks serious bottom. And I’ll be quoting it from now on. In perpetuity. And quite possibly ad nauseam.

Ashlupa. Downright chilling. But, oh, what a battle cry!

JayAngel on health privilege. This may just be the single most important post of BADD 2008. It is hugely powerful. I want to grab non-disabled people by the scruff of the neck and hold their heads close to the screen until they have not just read, but understood, what Jay is saying. Please read it. At least once.

The Editor

Still reading: more BADD top picks

Is it just me, or is the calibre of BADD entries extremely high this year?

I still have quite some way to go before I've read everything but, in the meantime, here's another list of entries which have particularly appealed to me:-

Three Square Meals on Body Police.

SpeEd change, pointing out the inherent discrimination in making the provision of reasonable adjustments dependent on an “acceptable” medical diagnosis: (SpeEd Change is writing about this issue specifically as it applies to education, but there is a direct read-across to the workplace – as anyone who’s read my own employer’s internal guidance on reasonable adjustments would confirm...)

Quirkiest? Mais Oui! On the towering frustration of “accessible” venues. (No, it’s not the first time you’ve heard somebody kick off about this, but I doubt you’ve heard anyone do it better.)

Closely followed by Willendorf5761 on a very similar subject, taking no prisoners. “That’s right, funky business owner – the mall is more accessible than you”. Ouch!

A Garden of Nna Mmoy – fascinating piece on stereotype threat:

Mary on the gorilla in your house. (Ok, so this is a - brilliant - metaphor for impairment rather than being strictly about disablism per se. But it's too good to omit. As my own gorillas will confirm.)

Pipecleaner Dreams saw Jack again today. (Warning: this may reduce you to tears.)

And lastly – at least, for this favourites list – Hoyden About Town’s searing indictment of a policy which blames people for their own health problems. A must-read.

The Editor

Thursday, May 01, 2008

BADD - favourites so far

Yes, I know it's only 10.25 in the morning. But there is no guarantee I'll be able to stay awake much longer. (Currently prodding self with pins in order to be awake when Mr Sainsbury arrives - as he should be doing very soon now - with a month's groceries.)

I've taken today off work because I'm too exhausted to get my head round technical gubbins. A spin-off benefit of that is that I hope to be able to do just a little to ease the BADD pressure on the-Goldfish-who-has-even-fewer-spoons-than-I-have.

To which end, herewith a list of links to my favourite BADD entries of the day. (A list which will no doubt get longer as the day progresses.) The risk with doing this, of course, is that I will inadvertently give mortal offence to someone who has put their heart and soul into a BADD entry which I have heartlessly omitted from my favourites list. If that happens, I'm very sorry. If I include everyone, though, I'll just be reproducing the Goldfish's master list. Which would be remarkably pointless. And these are posts which have appealed to me personally: the list is entirely subjective and, in any event, I have often been accused of having very strange preferences!

Ok. So, carefully putting the shovel down now before I dig myself an even deeper hole, let's go:

Elizabeth at Screw Bronze was the first to publish this year: boy, is this one powerful piece of writing!

Miss Nomered takes issue with unwanted - and unwarranted - pity.

Wheelie Catholic discovers a whole new sub-species of disablist.

MidLife and Treachery provides a few useful hints for avoiding being beaten severely about the head and shoulders with a mobility aid.

Sweet Perdition recognises the harm which even our own labels can cause.

In Growing up with a disability, David reveals his hitherto unsuspected talents as a social chameleon.

And, finally (for now!), the ever-reliable Wheelchair Dancer unleashes her coruscating rage on a very, very deserving recipient.

The Editor

Hello? HELLO?!? - The BADD entry 2008

Ok, so, picture the scene: it's mid-February and I'm sitting in a stuffy conference room in a meeting with the chairs and vice-chairs of the equality advisory committees to my trade union's Group Executive Committee. I'm at this meeting because I chair the disabled members' advisory committee.

It's been a long and decidedly wearing day, but we're drawing towards the end of the agenda now. In fact, the time has come for us to talk about the advisory committee stalls at Group Conference.

When I learn that the Wimmin's Committee is organising a talent show for delegates on the first night of conference, I am Even More Sorry Than Usual that I'm nowhere near fit enough to travel to Brighton myself. However, I rally briefly from this crushing disappointment to make an important point about Stamina And The Disabled Members Ouchy Rep.

I ask the representatives from the other committees to bear in mind that, if the disabled members stall is staffed - as it will be - by someone with chronic pain (yes: wave to the Boy Marmite, everyone...), then simply working at the stall all day will take every ounce of that rep's available stamina. And then some. Which means that, if the rep is invited out for the evening festivities and says that they can't attend, they mean they are physically incapable of attending. They don't mean that they're not sure whether they want to go, but they could probably be persuaded if only enough of you knock on their hotel door and try to win them round. In fact - I go so far as to say - repeated requests that they come with you, accompanied by unsubtle implications that they will be letting the side down if they don't, are actually discriminatory.

It's bad enough, I say, living day to day with massive amounts of pain and the consequent hugely reduced stamina levels. So just imagine how great the rep will feel if you simultaneously

  • leave them with no option but to explain repeatedly and in gory detail exactly why they can't go with you; and

  • remind them of what they're missing when they're lying on their hotel bed stuffing painkillers down their neck.

I then retire from the fray, quietly confident that I have got my point across.

Wrongly, as it turns out.

Weeks later, the draft minutes from that meeting ping into my email inbox. And I find - to my astonishment and rage - that I have been recorded as having raised concerns about the physical accessibility of the venue for the evening entertainment. An issue which, let me assure you, I never so much as touched on in passing.

I am rendered temporarily speechless.

And then I start to swear.

And I conclude that either I was speaking Swahili when I was making that particular point, or the message I was delivering was just so bloody unpalatable that the minute taker's brain simply refused to process it. (And she was sitting right next to me, so it's not as though she might not have heard me. I'm not exactly noted for low volume when I'm speaking. Particularly when I'm impassioned about what I'm saying.)

So. It would appear that physical barriers to access are something which people can get their heads round reasonably easily. Start talking about attitudinal barriers, though, and the shutters slam down. Hard.

I suspect - and I may be wrong - that this is because yer average normie regards physical barriers as being someone else's responsibility to resolve. But they're so convinced that their own attitude is completely inclusive towards disabled people that pointing out to them that it actually isn't is so damaging to their self-image that they just can't allow themselves to hear that message.

I was speaking in a meeting which was devoted to equality issues and to an audience composed entirely of people who believe strongly in the importance of equality. I was speaking to people who recognise that I've been doing this for a long time and know what I'm talking about, and who respect my professional expertise.

And I might as well have been talking to the wall.

So, if my voice wasn't heard in that meeting, how likely is it that disabled people's voices are ever heard in less friendly circumstances when they try to make a polite and reasoned point to non-disabled people about how disabling their attitudes towards us are? Having had a written record of how my own point was received, I have proof that the fact that people nodded in agreement and looked sage at the time had no bearing whatsoever on whether they really grasped the point I was making.

I find the implications of this downright chilling. Obviously, I amended the draft minutes quick smart. But that doesn't even come close to resolving the underlying problem. And, despite having wracked my brains for several weeks, I haven't yet been able to come up with so much as one single, solitary strategy for getting past non-disabled people's conviction that they know better than us whether or not their behaviour towards us is discriminatory.

Yes, ramps and 'terps and not distracting the assistance dog with an open can of Winalot are important. Of course they are. And, yes, it's good that most sensible people in this day and age not only understand that we have a right to these things, but will even go so far as to kick up a stink if they're not provided. But that's access. Not equality. Conflate the two at your peril.

Equality would be if the person towards whom my minor rant-ette was specifically aimed had suddenly thought, "Oh my God. I actually did that. I did. In Brighton. Last year. I was being nice. I thought. But it never occurred to me to stop and think that the nature of my colleague's impairment might have a serious impact on his capacity to come out for a drink with us. Now that I know he felt harassed by my behaviour, I feel dreadful. Well, I've learned something here today". And had thereafter - as the result of that sudden epiphany - genuinely treated disabled people as being of equal value to rather than as being physically, neurologically or psychologically the same as everybody else.

The Editor