Monthly Archives: July 2009

Disabled Parenting

Our younger daughter is about to set off on her great OE in the footsteps of her sister.  I am a real wuss and cry each time one of them leaves home to go flatting, never mind leaving the country! I do admit to not missing the mess in the bathroom, the long hair in the shower plughole and the fussy eating. But they are very minor things in the scheme of things

I am happy to see her spread her wings and to pursue that right of passage for young Kiwis, I don’t know what it will be like to have both our daughters offshore and I dread it. Thank heavens for email, Facebook and skype. When I did my OE it was a aerogramme once a week and an occasional postcard if you were lucky. And you NEVER phoned home unless it was a life or death situation or you had completely run out of money which amounted to the same thing. But it will be hard not being able to hang out with and hug one of them at least.

Because I am thinking about them a lot more even than usual at present I have been reflecting on parenting, and for me that means reflecting on being a disabled parent. How fortunate I have been to have my girls. Unlike many disabled mothers I have had a supportive husband and family, and lovely plunket nurses. No-one ever questioned my right to be a mother, and I have never been in a position so precarious that the powers that be thought it necessary to take my children away from me simply because of my impairment and/or because I could not pay for the support I needed.

All of these things happen to disabled women everywhere. Sadly New Zealand has little support for disabled mothers beyond the services available for all women. They are not always the most supportive for disabled parents.

But our girls have been my best and most loyal supporters, even when they were little. They have never been ashamed of my impairment in front of their friends, (apart from the usual teenage stage of not wanting to be seen with their parents,) They have always accepted without question or negative comment my disabled friends, and even in the worst of teenage tantrums never showed resentment about the things I haven’t been able to do with or for them as they have grown up.

When they were little the dreaded “h” word “handicapped” was the equivalent of the dreaded “f” word, not to be uttered under any circumstances. They have even been known to rebuke their teachers for using it.

I have tried not to burden them with extra cares because of my impairment and was furious when a woman bus driver, after seeing my ‘blind’ bus pass said to one of them “now you look after your Mummy” She was only six! I wanted to say “I am the mother she is the child. I look after her!” but decided she wouldn’t get it.

So, my dear godwits fly away. Enjoy your freedom. Have fun and learn about the world but come back home before too long.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Travel, Women

Montana poetry day

Today in Montana Poetry Day so I thought I would join in the fun with a little offering of my own. I dedicate it to New Zealand Post – we received a second copy of their wretched survey the other day.

A curse on all spammers

(This can be sung to the tune of ‘A Policeman’s Lot is not a Happy One, with sincere apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)

When your inbox is full up with stupid spam
Stupid spam
And your modem has got treacle in its guts
In its guts
When your favourite website’s gone down yet again
Yet again
You think that finally you will go nuts
Will go nuts

It is then your thoughts turn to cursing spammers
Cursing spammers
You curse each and every spammer in the world
In the world
You imagine whacking fingers with hot hammers
With hot hammers
And picture heights from which they should be hurled
Should be hurled

You imagine anatomic amputations
You wish horrible diseases on their heads
On their heads
You hope they are attached by evil monsters
Evil monsters
And that there are live piranhas in their beds
In their beds

You wish them lethal currents down their wires
Down their wires
(But let the fatal moment not be quick)
Not be quick
You hope for something hot and sharp and pointed
Sharp and pointed
Up their fundamental orifices stick
‘fices stick

Perhaps the worst thing that can be wished upon them
Wished upon them
Is a diet of their own annoying stuff
Annoying stuff
Their computers spewing never ending spam
Ending spam
Despite despairing cries of that’s enough!
That’s enough!

So spammers electronic also postal
Also postal
I have got you in my never failing sights
Failing sights
Just remember that I’m really out to get you
Out to get you
And my curse will get you one of these dark nights
These dark nights

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Filed under Miscellaneous

Language disables us

I am really fed up with the media’s insistence on describing people with a variety of impairments as ‘special,” “special people,” “special children.” Yuk yuk yuk! In my cynical view “special” is simply a euphemism for “second class.” We are no more “special” than any other human being. We may have particular needs because of our impairments, but others have them for other reasons also, because they are refugees, battered women, orphaned children etc. They are not generally referred to as “special” in the same patronising way disabled people are.

This morning an otherwise interesting item on Morning Report was marred by the constant gratuitous use of that word, and not by the person being interviewed either.

We have to challenge it each time it is used. It places disabled people very firmly in a ghetto. No organisation associated with disabled people should get away with using this term. Either tell it like it is or simply use everyday language. There is nothing wrong with using the term “disabled people” if it is relevant – we are disabled by society – or even, if we must, people with disabilities, or just plain ordinary people.

If we have human rights, and we most surely do, then we must expect journalists and others to use the language of rights, and give every human being the respect and dignity they deserve by using dignified, respectful and neutral language.

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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights

Ten tips for accessible meetings

Over the years I have attended meetings which could have had more successful outcomes if the organisers had taken just a bit more time in planning and preparation.

When organisations have to think carefully about money every little helps. Here are some tips for getting a bigger bang for your meeting buck by investing in a small extra amount of time and planning.

  1. Think about who will be coming and how to make sure you get the audience and the attendance you want. Is the meeting limited to people with one impairment type or will there be several?
  2. What sort of venue will you need? Basic physical access might not be the only consideration, e.g. good acoustics for people with hearing impairments might be needed.
  3. What time of day or evening will you hold the meeting? This might depend on how far people need to travel and how they get there. In winter people with arthritis might not find an early start easy. Those who need a high level of personal assistance may not favour an early start.
  4. If you are providing food make sure you think about catering options for people who need particular food, and I don’t just mean vegetarians.
  5. Have you allowed enough lead time to book a sign interpreter? They are scarce in some areas.
  6. When sending invitations by email in particular make them accessible, if you must send a pdf make sure the same information is included in the body of the email.
  7. In the interests of good community relations when your invitation asks about people’s disability related needs don’t ask for ‘special’ needs. You could ask for ‘disability,’ ‘diet,’ ‘information,’ or ‘particular’ needs.
  8. What kind of meeting process will you use? Will it exclude anyone? Presenters may need to be briefed on their audience and a variety of presentation styles and methods are useful.
  9. Are the breaks adequate for people who might need assistance with toileting or eating?
  10. Handouts and other material will need some thought. They could be emailed in advance for blind attendees or for people who need support to participate. Agendas might need to be in large print for some. Meeting outcomes may need to be provided in a variety of formats.

I intend to write more on this subject, here and on the AccEase web site so watch this space.


Filed under Disability Issues, Information Accessibility