Democracy in the UK

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

How does democracy work in the UK?

The United Kingdom (UK) is a democracy. In the UK there are too many people to all discuss all the decisions about how the country is run. Therefore, representatives are elected to make decisions.


Representatives include Members of Parliament (MPs), Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and local councillors.

The UK Parliament meets in Westminster, London. It has three parts:


The Crown- the Queen – Head of State, approves laws
The House of Lords – Check proposed laws, make amendments
The House of Commons – Debate proposals and make laws


When did the UK become a democracy?


Britain did not become a democracy until the Representation of the People Acts of 1918 and 1928 that gave the vote to all men and women over the age of 21.


Is UK a representative democracy?

Nearly all modern Western-style democracies are types of representative democracies; for example, the United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy, France is a unitary semi-presidential republic, and the United States is a federal presidential republic.

How do democracies work?

Democracy is government in which power and civic responsibility are exercised by all adult citizens, directly, or through their democratically elected representatives. Democracy rests upon the principles of majority rule and individual rights. … Fair, frequent, and well-managed elections are essential in a democracy.

Democracy and Disability

Only 6 British MPs identify as disabled. In a world where 1 in 7 people have a disability, this lack of representation is a serious threat to the inclusion of disabled people in UK policy matters.

The UK Parliament has been a vocal promoter of disability inclusion and the leave no one behind agenda. There are several All Party Parliamentary Groups focused on disability and of the 0.7% of GNI ringfenced for international development, disability is a priority issue. https://www.add.org.uk/disability-and-democracy-uk

The Purple Vote Campaign in Wales hope to do the same.

DISABILITY AND VOTING IN WALES

By: Daniella Jade Lowe


Welsh Parliament
There are 60 Members of the Senedd (MSs) of the Welsh Parliament.
To vote in the Welsh Parliament elections you must:

• be registered to vote
• be 16 or over on the day of the election (‘polling day’)
• live in Wales
• not be legally excluded from voting


MSs are elected using the Additional Member system. You vote once for your constituency MS and once for an MS to represent the wider region.


Wales is in the west of Great Britain and is part of the UK. It has a population of 3 million. The capital city of Wales is Cardiff. People in Wales speak English and many people also speak Welsh which is quite different and older than English. Street signs in Wales are written in both languages. Wales has been politically linked with England since 1542. Wales was an independent country until it was defeated by the English army. Wales has some independence in making its own laws, but it is still very much part of the UK political system.

Inaccessibility and stereotyping are barriers for people with disabilities in politics. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-42167892


An estimated 20% of the population are disabled, but only 1.5% of councillors are known to have a disability.


About 600,000 people in Wales have a disability, but very few councils hold data on how many councillors are disabled.


BBC research showed of the 1,254 councillors elected in May, just 19 are known by local authorities to be living with an impairment or long-term health condition.


According to disabled politicians,’You have to be quite strong’: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-42826002.

The Legacy International Group alongside The Purple Vote Campaign hope to change this within the Welsh Assembly during the May 2021 elections.

International Day of People with Disabilities

By: Daniella Jade Lowe


‘Disability equals diversity not disadvantage.’


To highlight this message, the UN has marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities since 1992, to spread the word on disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities.

The day also aims to draw attention to the benefits to society of including persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life.

Celebrated on 3 December around the world, IDPD mobilizes support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotes awareness-raising about disability issues and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all. UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are encouraged to support IDPD by collaborating with organizations for people with disabilities to arrange events and activities.

The Australian Government has been supporting IDPwD, since 1996 and provides funds to promote and raise awareness of the day around Australia.
Building on many decades of UN’s work in the field of disability, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, has further advanced the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international development frameworks, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the New Urban Agenda, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development.

The logo of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities comprises four semi-circles of different colours representing human hands, with a solid blue circle at the centre.

This year, in honour of International Day of People with Disabilities, WindReach Bermuda, will be hosting a Virtual Conference on 3 December 2020 with the theme of ‘Amplifying Community Voices’.

We are hoping to address a few topics during the day including speakers on the history of disability in Bermuda, how those with disabilities are perceived, having individuals’ voices heard in their own lives. Both Employment and Accessibility will be panel discussions with Bermudian experts and those living with disabilities.

https://www.windreachbermuda.org/donate?fbclid=IwAR22i-YNIxYvFAc4N9VqFB4x7VFmn4w4Zq4aRR1_EORJrX4ks3qBnhN52QM

The Equality Act: What has changed 10 years later?

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

What is Equality?

Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities. Equality is a human right. It prevents discrimination. It’s all about inclusion.

The Equality Act 2010

It was created in 2010. It is comprised of 115 sections, which includes the DDA. Inclusion is a key theme of this Act. It covers the workplace and society.

Example of Unconscious bias in the Workplace 

Historically, there has been a gender pay gap. However, this has changed, at least since 2017, according to the gender pay gap factsheet. file:///C:/Users/Daniella%20Lowe/Downloads/Gender-Pension-Gap-Factsheet.pdf. This factsheet shows evidence that people (women in particular) are now encouraged to discuss salaries with each other. This will definitely expose and clamp down on discrimination.

For more information on how to beat the Gender Wealth Gap visit- https://www.hl.co.uk/free-guides/thank-you?SQ_DESIGN_NAME=ppc&guide=https://www.hl.co.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/16042734/Gender-Pension-Gap-Factsheet.pdf&pub=TGWG&name=on%20how%20to%20beat%20the%20gender%20wealth%20gap.

What stayed the same?

  • Still paying lip service.
  • Disability Employment gap still remains high. But there are some improvements to this such as the Access to Work for the Self Employed. This covers disability.
  • Benefit changes have disadvantaged disabled people.

Also, taxi drivers still overcharge wheelchair users despite the Equality Act 2010 Taxi Annexa. Well, at least that’s what my experience has been.https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents.

What does the future hold?

  • We expect more action instead of information and promises.
  • Intersectionality must be focus of progress.
  • Culture of organisations must be inclusive.
  • Inclusion cannot be bias – it means all, not our favourite parts. 

As an overview, this means that there is still work to be done. Law reinforcement and accountability must take place. Hopefully ten years from now we can expose all inequalities and have disparities resolved.

Access to Work Grant 

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

Self employment is a form of independence for the disabled. Self employment is a form of freedom and self reliance. Many people like the idea of working for themselves because they have no one to be held accountable to. However, there are many challenges to self employment, especially for a person with a disability.

Challenges of Self Employment

The challenges above and beyond for a disabled self employed person:

  • Fluctuating conditions
  • Business hours affected
  • Accessing finance
  • Solutions are not always possible
  • Accessing the right advice
  • Accessing transport


The term ‘disabled’ has the same meaning as in the Equality Act 2010. This defines disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on one’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

The term disabled can also include disabilities that only become apparent in the workplace. An example of this might be where you started work and found that your eyesight was affected by computer screens but had not noticed this problem before you started work.

1.What is Access to Work?

Access to Work is a government programme aimed at supporting disabled people to take up or remain in work. Access to Work is a discretionary grant scheme that provides personalised support to disabled people who are:

  • in paid employment
  • self-employed
  • apprentices
  • trainees
  • supported interns
  • doing self-directed work experience
  • on Jobcentre Plus promoted work trials
  • going to a job interview
  • You can also apply if you have:
  • a job offer letter
  • a job start date
  • a letter confirming your interview

There have been changes to Access to Work due to the coronavirus outbreak.

2.Who can get help?

The Self Employed can apply for the Access to Work grant if they earn £6000. They can also apply if:

  • are disabled, have a mental health condition or have a long-term health condition that impacts on your ability to work;
  • are aged 16 or over; and
  • live in England, Scotland or Wales – there’s a different system in Northern Ireland
  1. What help is available?

Access to Work support covers a wide range of interventions beyond ‘reasonable adjustments’ associated with overcoming work-related barriers resulting from disability. The support package is agreed based on individual need.

Examples of the kind of help available through Access to Work are:

  • A communicator, advocate or BSL interpreter for a job interview, if you’re D/deaf or have communication difficulties.
  • a support worker, such as a reader for somebody with a visual impairment; communicator for a hearing impaired person; a specialist job coach for a person with a learning difficulty; or a helper for personal care needs at work
  • Specialist equipment (or alterations to existing equipment) to suit your particular need.
  • Help towards the additional costs of taxi fares if you cannot use public transport to get to work
  • Support via Access to Work’s dedicated Mental Health Support Service.
  • Young people who start a work placement with an employer as part of the Department for Education supported internship programme or a traineeship will be able to apply for Access to Work support for the time of their work placement only.

Access to Work will fund additional travel, job coach and other support, including costs of equipment if appropriate, and promote the smooth transition into paid employment.

No other types of unpaid internships or traineeships will qualify for Access to Work support.

  1. Help available for people with long-term mental health conditions

A free and confidential ‘Mental Health Support Service’ is available to anyone with a mental health condition through Access to Work.

The scheme offers:

  • Work-focused mental health support for up to nine months tailored to your needs
  • An assessment of your needs to identify suitable coping strategies
  • A personalised support plan, detailing the steps needed for you to remain in, or return to, work
  • Ideas for adjustments in the workplace or of working practice

Support for Apprentices

This free service supports apprentices who are feeling low, upset and struggling to keep up with their apprenticeship. It is completely confidential and run by fully trained professionals with expertise in mental health.

To qualify for this service, you must:

  • be in an apprenticeship (attending or signed off sick); and
  • have a mental health condition that has resulted in absence, or is causing difficulties to remain in your apprenticeship
  • What help is available?

An expert will provide you with emotional well-being support and advice for nine months; they will help you to cope better so you can concentrate on your apprenticeship; develop a step-by-step support plan to keep you on track; advice on workplace adjustments; and help an employer understand how they can best support you if you are experiencing a mental health condition.


How to access the supporting apprentices scheme:

Tel: 0300 456 8210
Email: apprentices@remploy.co.uk
https://www.remploy.co.uk/employers/mental-health-and-wellbeing/supporting-apprentices-service.

  1. Amount of grants

There is no set amount for an Access to Work grant. How much you get depends on your specific case. The grant will only cover the support needed to let you stay in work or in self-employment.

There is an annual cap on the total amount of support that can be provided under Access to Work; this is currently set at £60,700.

Access to Work will pay 100 per cent of the approved costs (subject to the cap):

  • for travel to work, for a support worker/reader or a communicator for support at job interviews;
  • if you are unemployed and starting a new job;
  • if you have been working for an employer and have been in the job for less than six weeks; or
  • if you are self-employed or setting up your own business through the New Enterprise Allowance.
  • If you have been in your job for six weeks or more when you first apply for help, Access to Work will pay a proportion of the costs of support as follows: (As the employer, you will contribute 100% of costs up to the threshold level and 20% of the costs between the threshold and £10,000.
  • Employers with less than 50 staff: Access to Work can pay 80% of the approved costs.
  • Employers with 50 to 249 staff: The employer will have to pay the first £500 and Access to Work can then pay 80% of the approved costs up to £10,000.
  • Large employers with 250 or more staff: The employer will have to pay the first £1,000 and Access to Work can then pay 80% of the approved costs up to £10,000.
  • Access to Work would normally cover all additional costs over £10,000, subject to the cap.
  1. What Access to work cannot cover

The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on an employer to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. Access to Work funding cannot be used to support these adjustments.

Access to work will also not fund items which are regarded as standard equipment, standard business costs or standard health and safety requirements. This means that any item which would normally be needed to do the job, whether a person is disabled or not, will not be paid for.

  1. Students

If you need communication help for a job interview before graduation, you should be able to access this service, even though you’re still studying.

If you have a disability or specific learning difficulty and are studying in higher education, you may be eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowances.

  1. Employers and Access to Work

When you’re applying for jobs, you should mention to your potential employer, either at the application stage or in your interview, that Access to Work may be available to you.

Access to Work information for employers is available at http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-guide-for-employers.

Access to Work also has an eligibility letter, which you can give to your employer or take to a job interview.

  1. How to apply?

You can apply online.

Telephone: 0800 121 7479

Textphone: 0800 121 7579
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

British Sign Language (BSL) video relay service

To use this, you must:

  • first check you can use the service
  • go to the video relay service
  • Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Alternative formats

Call the Access to Work number to ask for alternative formats, such as braille, large print or audio CD.

If you need an alternative way of contacting Access to Work to discuss your needs, you can write to:

Access to Work
Operational Support Unit
Harrow Jobcentre Plus
Mail Handling Site A
Wolverhampton
WV98 1JE

Supported Internships and Traineeships

The application process for those on supported internships and traineeships wishing to apply to Access to Work includes:

  • The provision for a supported employment provider to make an application on behalf of an education provider (education providers can still make the claim if they would like to do so)
  • One placement per month for each student
  • The ability to make applications up to three months in advance.
  • For a flowchart setting out who may be eligible for Access to Work funding and the form for applying for Access to Work funding go to:

https://www.preparingforadulthood.org.uk/downloads/supported-internships/access-to-work-fund.htm

Completed applications should be sent to the dedicated Access to Work team at: Atwosu.london@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands

You cannot get Access to Work support if you live in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands. There is a different system in Northern Ireland.

Forms

Access to Work uses a specific medical form in connection with claims for travel to work. The form can be completed by someone who knows you well, giving a clear indication why you need support with travel to work. Once completed, this then needs to be signed by a medical professional to verify that the information is accurate.

This could be your GP, Practice Nurse, Psychiatrist, Psychologist or Learning Disability Nurse, but it can’t be signed by a non-medical person such as Social Worker or Support worker.

  1. How long is Access to Work funding available for?

Access to Work funding agreements can cover up to three years. Reviews normally take place annually to assess if continued or further funding is needed. As long as you need the funding, you should continue to get it.

  1. What if I disagree with an Access to Work decision?

You cannot appeal against an Access to Work decision, but you can ask for it to be reconsidered by a different Access to Work Adviser. To arrange this, use the contact details at the top of your award letter.

If your circumstances change, such as if you change employer or your job role, you can ask for your award to be reviewed.

If you have a complaint about the service you have received from Access to Work staff, you can use the DWP complaints procedure.

  1. Where can I get more help or information?

For general information on Access to Work, go to http://www.gov.uk/access-to-work.

You can get help and information at your local advice centre, such as Citizens Advice. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/access-work.

Voting with a Disability in the UK

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

Voting with a disability can be quite a tedious but rewarding experience. We often suffer marginalised politics for a marginalised people.

The Electoral Voting Commission in the UK offers Accessible Voting for all. They endorse voting through accessibility videos: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/accessible-voting-for-all.

First of all, you must register to vote, but only once you’re 18 years old or older on the day of the election. In Scotland and Wales you can vote at age 16 or over.

You can register online or by post. However, you cannot vote online in any elections.

Physically challenged voters and wheelchair users can vote in person because all polling stations are wheelchair accessible. They also have the option of voting by post. As a wheelchair user, while living in Bradford as a student, I voted in person. I’ve also voted in person at the St. John’s Anglican church in Ilkley.

Vision Impaired Voters

Vision Impaired voters can vote through Tactile Audio Device Voting. The TAD is easy to use and utilize your hearing and touch senses to vote without assistance: https://bernews.com/2020/09/tad-voting-demonstration-on-saturday/?fbclid=IwAR0i7UY4PXPDUJ1uF95-w_F3QBogRtqDwOWq8jDPpgJqHn_ZmBiWyA8wF4k.

There’s also Proxy Voting in Wales. You can do this by asking someone to vote for you. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/898774/Apply-to-vote-by-proxy-due-to-a-disability-Welsh.pdf.

Hearing Impaired Voters

Unfortunately, according to my research, the hearing impaired want to be included in voting at the European Parliamentary Elections, through subtitles and sign language but are still fighting for recognition. https://www.eud.eu/news/real-rights-persons-disabilities-vote-european-parliament-elections/.

Deaf voters are demanding improvements. ‘No captions, no vote’, they say! https://inews.co.uk/opinion/no-captions-no-vote-why-deaf-voters-are-calling-for-more-accessible-campaigning-this-general-election-368084. This indicates that there is more work, by way of advocacy, to be done.

According to statistics, one in five British voters are disabled. So why does politics ignore us?

Austerity has been bruttal for disabled people. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/13/disabled-people-politics-brexit-election. This is why we need elections and voting.

Most politicians like to say ‘don’t vote, don’t complain.’

However the disabled community has every right to complain if they’ve asked for reasonable adjustments but get ignored every time.

Voting is about getting your voice heard. Voting is the starting point for political action. It’s about sharing political concerns, expectations and solutions. Disability voting is about tackling and dismantling oppressive systems of injustice. It is also about holding our politicians accountable. Voting should reimagine law enforcement, as well as reinforce disability justice, disability rights and disability advocacy.

The next step after campaigning and voting would be debating disability related issues. Canvassing is about relationship building. Canvassing will most likely highlight voters concerns. It is very difficult to debate sensitive subjects that you are passionate about like Euthanasia, without letting your emotions run high.

During my high school years, I had the privilege of participating in a political group called ‘Youth Parliament Bermuda.’ While on this team, I got a chance to debate various topics in the House of Assembly with other students. http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20070517/NEWS/305179917.

The Disability Union is also good at doing this for legal support (https://disabilityunion.co.uk/).

Netflix even has a disability revolution movie entitled, ‘Crip Camp’, which is a documentary about a groundbreaking summer camp which galvanizes a group of teens with disabilities, to help build a movement forging a new path towards greater equality. It also shows great impacts on disability rights and advocacy.

Also, voting and elections is about power. Purple is also associated with royalty. The reason why the colour purple is used to represent disability is because it’s about identity : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-25767082. As a member of the Purple Vote Campaign, this is important to know.

Disability representation is important for inclusion, equality and identity. ‘DISABILITY VOTE MATTERS!’

Voting might be more difficult this year than at any other point in history due to global pandemic and lack of access to voting options. This is why we are raising awareness about voting resources, rights, and the importance of the disability vote. We need everyone involved to make positive change in our communities.

Disability Crowdfunding Campaigns within the UK

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

I am writing this report about crowdfunding campaigning in the UK, as part of my research for the Purple Vote Campaign, in conjunction with the Legacy International Group.

Before carrying out my research for this report, I was of the assumption that crowdfunding campaigns were only politically driven. However, to my surprise I am wrong.

What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a different way to raise money for good ideas. People are increasingly bypassing more traditional funding routes such as bank loans or grants and turning instead to the people around them and in their community to support their venture. It’s been around for centuries but the internet makes it possible to reach much bigger audiences than before.

There are various types of crowdfunding campaigns such as:

  • donation-based crowdfunding
  • Reward-based crowdfunding
  • Debt crowdfunding
  • Equity crowdfunding

DISABILITY CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGNS IN THE UK

Crowdfunding Campaigns are quite popular in the UK.

SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGNS

According to my research, there have been some successful disability related crowdfunding campaigns within the UK.

For example, Access Enable 1st Start Up is one disability related crowdfunding campaign, that was created to break down the social barriers disabled people face in everyday life by educating businesses about Disability, Access, and Inclusion. On 27th February 2018 they successfully raised £125 with 6 supporters in 56 days.

Another campaign is Brainhead which was launched in 2013. BrainHead is an app developed by the Autism Diagnostic Research Centre which was successful because it ultimately led to £10,000 being raised through Crowdcube, (a crowdfunding platform) in addition to the project’s £150K grant.

Disabled People Against Cuts in London also held a ‘Rights not Charity’ crowdfunding campaign. On 25th November 2019 they successfully raised £1,929 with 53 supporters in 28 days.

Ability Today had a ‘Turning Disability into Ability’ campaign which was successful because they raised £6,700 on November 13th, 2019 with 160 supporters in 69 days.

Alan Barnes Fund was successful, because they topped £300K in four days. The original target of the Alan Barnes Fund was £500. The Alan Barnes Fund was a personal appeal for health and medical reasons.

https://fundraising.co.uk/2015/02/02/crowdfunding-campaign-alan-barnes-tops-300k-four-days/

UNSUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGNS

On the other hand, there have also been unsuccessful disability related crowdfunding campaigns within the UK.

For example, Support disabled people in society. Their goal is to make websites accessible for everyone. Their vision is to support disabled people in society. Unfortunately, this project was not successful. https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/make-websites-accessible-for-everyone

AME Communicate offers three app-based products for people who are visually impaired, hearing-impaired, and non-native English speakers. They comprise AME Sight (an all-in-one screen magnifier, reader, and character recognition app), AME Translate (which enables users to communicate in other languages via pre-loaded phrases and words) and AME BSL (a British Sign Language interpreter and translator). This campaign was unsuccessful.

Why?

“Crowdfunding didn’t allow us to fully represent our goals and show the products off to their best advantage,”

Teleford admits.

Grippoz, an innovative wheelchair push-rim cover, crowdfunding made the prospect of developing and mass-producing the product feasible, but it failed, unfortunately, because the Grippoz Kickstarter campaign was only able to raise £5195 of the team’s £22,500 goal.

The Peers Connection Group was an unsuccessful disability crowdfunding campaign.

Disability Snowsport UK was also an unsuccessful disability crowdfunding campaign.

Additional reasons why crowdfunding campaigns are unsuccessful

Another reason why crowdfunding campaigns fail is due to the lack of momentum within the first 48 hours of launching. It is crucial that you reach a third of your target within 48 hours of launching. If you do not achieve that, studies have shown that campaigns are not likely to succeed.

https://www.fundingcentral.org.uk/Page.aspx?SP=6549

https://www.startups.com/library/expert-advice/crowdfunding-pros-cons

People with disabilities should not need to crowdfund in order to afford basic independence.

However, I suppose crowdfunding campaigns are a good alternative to charity in the face of austerity. Crowdfunding campaigns for a disability focussed political campaign sounds very effective.

For example, Cambridge Green Party raised £300 from 10 supporters. Unfortunately, campaigning also requires money for leaflets, letters, posters, ads and more. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/VirgilGreen

Additionally, Wales People’s Assembly against austerity, is another crowdfunding campaign that was successful. This was an anti-austerity campaign involved in organising events to protest, protect and fight austerity which negatively affects the most vulnerable. On 25th June 2015 they successfully raised £10 with 1 supporter in 28 days.

Based on my findings, there is seemingly more successful disability focussed crowdfunding campaigns in the UK than there were unsuccessful disability focussed crowdfunding campaigns.

As a result, I conclude that crowdfunding campaigns are the best and most effective way to make money, especially for a disability focussed political campaign. It will also be the most modern and effective way to build momentum and raise awareness for disability advocacy and political causes.

Dealing with Disability in the Home: Second edition of series

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

Housing and assisted living can be quite scarce for people with disabilities. Most times people with disabilities live with family where they rely on parents for support.

While living with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, I’ve had the privilege of living in two separate countries, which means I’ve had two separate homes. I was born in England, raised in Bermuda. I have dual nationality, which has resulted in dual perspectives on disability.

I lived with my parents in Bermuda during my early school years, then I lived independently in England. I completed Primary, Middle and High School in Bermuda then completed college and university in England.

Living in both countries has been an eye opener for me especially from the perspective of being a wheelchair user.

Housing in England vs Housing in Bermuda

Housing in England is completely different to Housing in Bermuda, especially for people with disabilities.

During my college and university years, I lived in student accommodations that were modified for wheelchair users. Cultural differences impacted this. Once I completed university, I transferred to Assisted Independent Living. I live at a housing scheme called Five Oaks Housing Scheme under Sanctuary Housing Association in Ilkley. Sanctuary Housing Association is a housing corporation dedicated to the disabled community in the UK. https://www.sanctuary-housing.co.uk/.

I have a great landlord who meets with the residents and I on a quarterly basis. She also communicates effectively, in-person, by phone and email. My bathroom is equipped with handrails to make transferring easy. I also use a profiling bed in addition to my height adjustable electric wheelchair. All counters and tables are low enough for me.

However there are other people in my flat who require the use of assistive technology.

Residents who are either unemployed or actively job seeking are eligible for Housing Benefit pays rent in the UK.

One recurring issue that I’ve experienced in relation to housing is having access to showering facilities instead of bathing facilities. I personally prefer baths to showers.

According to my research, Bermuda offers Summerhaven Trust. Summerhaven Trust is an assisted living residential complex that provides the opportunity for people with physical disabilities to live in the community. https://helpingservices.bm/listing/summerhaven-residential-home/

The Bermuda Housing Corporation provides loans for the elderly and the disabled in Bermuda. https://www.bhc.bm/senior-disabled-loans/.

For the last house that I lived in, before moving to England, my family sought to make the house wheelchair accessible with an escape route for me in case of a fire or flood, by the patio area, but the Department of Planning wouldn’t let us do so because it was too risky. Bermuda has legislation for this. https://planning.gov.bm/index.php/planning-legislation/.

During my high school years, my father teamed up with a family friend to implement a lift at my house at one point because there were stairs to access and exit the house. Bermuda has legislation for this. http://www.bermudalaws.bm/laws/Consolidated%20Laws/Building%20Authority%20(Elevators%20and%20Lifts)%20Regulations%201962.pdf.

Additionally, the Disabled Living Allowance is also available while living out here. I’ve also received additional support from Carers like Dignicare and Visioncare.https://www.dignicare.co.uk/, http://www.visioncare.co/.

https://www.ilkleygazette.co.uk/news/10128744.ilkley-community-centre-back-in-business-after-a-two-year-closure/

Wheelchair Accessibility: Functioning in Dysfunction

This is one of the main reasons why I moved to England from Bermuda as a high school graduate.

Wheelchair Accessibility and mobility issues are just some of the problems that I face as a wheelchair user. Access alleviates the amount of limitations and restrictions on wheelchair users. Failing to ensure wheelchair accessibility is neglecting to provide reasonable adjustments. It is like functioning in dysfunction.

However, despite all of this, people with disabilities, like me, can lead independent lives even though we experience a restricted level of independence. Yes we do have preferences, goals and ambitions. We also have rights too.

Throughout this whole ‘Dealing with Disability’ series, I’ve learned that both countries have endeavoured to make mandatory reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities through legislation and finances. Reasonable adjustments, finances and legislation enable us to live independently. This is the way we deal with life.

DANNY TURNS DOWN THE….

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

Danny was a young Para-Superhero. Nobody had seen or even heard of a neurodiverse superhero. He had an adaptive costume for all occasions. His wheelchair was faster than the speed of lightning.

Being born as a Para-Superhero, made Danny quite the ‘oddball.’ He was birthmarked to defy genetic dispositions. He demanded respect wherever he went.

As a Para-Superhero he always wanted to prove people wrong which made him ambitious.

‘A superhero is supposed to save the day,’ he thought.

‘How can I save the day as a Para-Superhero?’ Danny thought to himself.

Unfortunately he inherited the nickname, ‘supercrip.’

As Danny got older he could not tolerate the stigma that came with being a Para-Superhero. Too many titles from society caused him to lose who he was. As a result, he suffered an ‘identity crisis.’

Danny already dealt with physical limitations. He didn’t want people’s labels too. It brought intersectionality to his personality.

The mainstream world saw Danny as ‘privileged’ but ‘abnormal’ when all he wanted was ‘acceptance’ which often led to discrimination.

‘What is normal?’ Danny would think to himself.

‘Normal is the setting on a dryer!’ he concluded.

This one stereotype has repeated itself so much that it resounds like a broken record to Danny.

His mother reminded him, ‘It’s not about what they call you, it’s what you answer to!’

Stereotypes were his handicap. Danny had two options, either take life lying down or be motivated to live up to his own goals and expectations. So he started a war on stereotypes with archetypes.

This war included fighting against exploitation of disabilities, deformities, misconceptions, and negative portrayal of disabilities. ‘Disability is not a taboo!’ he said. Inclusion is not a delusion.
  • Heroes don’t need to overcome their disabilities.
  • Wheelchairs aren’t exclusively for older people.
  • We are not “inspiration porn”.
  • Who said you need to walk in order to be a hero?
‘Let’s have a ‘big conversation’ on stereotypes,’ Danny exclaimed!
‘Stereotypes exist, definitely, but that’s why we should listen to the individual voices of disabled people over non-disabled charity voices’ Danny said!
Danny says, ‘Let me tell you how to deal with the terrible power of stereotypes.’ ‘Disable the label!’ Assumptions are lazy. Statistics should not affect status.
  • Change the stereotypes. Challenge the ‘status quo.’ Upset the fruit basket. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
  • Buffer the stereotype threat through shifting self perception to positive self affirmation.
  • Reframe the stereotype threatening task as a challenge. See a stereotype as a chance to prove people wrong instead of getting offended over it.
  • Reinterpret the anxiety that comes with stereotype threats. In other words, ‘don’t take it personal’ and make bold steps to overcome them.
And that’s how Danny turned down the stereotypes!

Dealing with Disability in the Church: Third edition of series (Three Perspectives)

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

Dealing with Disability in the Church hasn’t been all that bad for me. First of all, I’d like to start out by saying, I’ve attended church all my life. I love church. I get involved in church services mainly by serving on the Audiovisual/Technical Team. I enjoy this.

While living in Bradford I noticed that their churches have their own private buses to pick up and drop off their members.

Now I’ve got one ‘bone to pick.’ Why are public buses in England expected to be wheelchair accessible but not private buses? Just an observation.

However, whenever I asked to use it instead of taxis, I was told they do not take wheelchairs for liability reasons. Also I noticed the church I first attended, had a wheelchair section for easy access in case of a fire. I also attended a university campus church in Bradford.

On the other hand, while living in Ilkley, there is one church that has a disability ministry for those with intellectual disabilities called the Ark, which meets the first Sunday of every month from 3pm to 6pm. Some other churches may even have Sign Language interpreters for the hearing impaired.

In relation to handling disability, churches should take on The Good Samaritan Approach.

Prayer

I appreciate prayers. I have been asked to be prayed for and gladly accepted such. It can be slightly frustrating when your expectation for a change is so high and it doesn’t come which has discouraged me at times. But I do believe in miracles.

However, I also know someone who has autism of a different persuasion. Her experiences in the church have almost never been positive. Many times, Christians have prayed for her to be healed of autism.

She does not personally want to be “healed” of autism, because she believes that God intentionally allows some people to be born with autism or Down Syndrome for his own good reasons, and that these people are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, and perfect just the way they are. They do not need to be healed; God made them like that.

She feels that her autism is an integral part of who she is, and is not a negative thing, but rather a positive one. She does not feel that autism holds her back.

When church people pray for her to be healed of autism, without asking her first whether she wants healing, or despite my objections to what they’re doing, that does not empower me. They are deciding on my behalf what direction they think my life should take, but they do not have that right; it’s my life. People with disabilities deserve to be in control of their own lives.

Instead of being “healed,” all she wants is to be accepted by the church for the peculiar, wonderful, autistic person who she is. She needs acceptance and inclusion.

When people pray for her to be healed of autism, she perceives them to be indirectly saying,

“I want God to change you into a normal person, for my own comfort, because I can’t handle that we have a disabled person in our church. I don’t want to deal with having to include disabilities, so it’s easier if I can just try to heal them instead.”

She fully believes that God does have the power to heal people. But she also believes that when church members wish to pray for a disabled person’s healing, they need to first ask that person whether he or she wants healing or not. If the disabled individual declines the offer, church members need to fully respect this, and not keep pushing healing on the person.

It is good to be content and happy with life. I do agree to some extent. There is also a way of embracing disability without accepting it as if there’s no hope.

In other words exhibit faith, despite the odds! Don’t glorify the problem, glorify the problem solver.

Stating the facts about one’s medical condition isn’t necessarily claiming it but acknowledging that something is different about the way a person functions. We shouldn’t live in denial and shame, especially if people ask genuine questions out of curiosity.

The Stigma around Medical Intervention

Another subject I don’t understand is the notion that surgery or taking medicine isn’t faith. I believe God can heal through medical science. Sometimes medical intervention is part of the process. There is also nothing wrong with prayer and a psychologist, social worker or carers.

Besides, faith without works is dead. I also notice that people tend to judge by appearances. I’m not looking for pity but inclusion.

Wheelchair Accessibility: Functioning in Dysfunction

Some churches in England have a health and safety policy where they have designated seating for the physically challenged. They’re also wheelchair accessible for the most part too.

Wheelchair Accessibility and mobility issues are just some of the problems that the physically challenged face. Access alleviates the amount of limitations and restrictions on wheelchair users. Failing to ensure wheelchair accessibility is neglecting to provide reasonable adjustments. It is like functioning in dysfunction.

I get really annoyed with drivers who park across dropped kerbs. Dropped kerbs are meant to make it easy for wheelchairs to enter and exit sidewalks. I think that drivers should either be fined or vehicles towed. Alternatively, if the church building isn’t wheelchair accessible, there is the option of watching services online, but then the problem with that is, one can’t mix and mingle with other believers. I suppose this will always be an issue depending on where one lives. There are many other issues that this subject can cover but this video should do the job. Why should your church be Disability Friendly?