Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Love To Laugh

Emma Crees has been a writer for this blog for a while, but I have to say this has to be my favourite of her blog posts. I think that everyone should be able to laugh at themselves sometimes. I know that I do it. It is definetly a point of concern for people who do not have a disability about whether or not they can make a joke in relation to that person's disability, however it is common for someone to make a comment about somebody else because they have red hair, giant eyes or a big nose. Even today one of the people within the office who has vision impairment responded to the comment "You were standing right beside a fellow staff member and you didn't see her"....Her response was "I don't see anything!". If we can't crack a joke towards aspects of ourselves, then how can we truly ever be comfortable being who we are?

Please check out Emma's blog site at http://writerinawheelchair.blogspot.com.

Emma Crees

I make jokes about being disabled, and specifically about myself and my disability. It’s just what I do. I refuse to see being disabled as a bad thing and somethings just are funny. Other times it’s a case of if I didn’t laugh I’d cry and laughing is definitely more fun. People don’t always know how to react to the jokes, disability being such a serious and horrible thing that they don’t know if it’s ok for them to laugh. Or perhaps they just don’t expect it.

I’ve frequently made jokes about my chair. I’ve convinced people that I’m not disabled just lazy. And once that a miracle had occurred because I stood up. When I last had a blood test the nurse commented that my veins were moving. I said “well, at least part of me is.” I thought that was hilarious, she didn’t even smile.
I’m not the only person who jokes about their disability. I know a couple of others who do. I also know a few people who can’t or don’t joke about it. I respect that but for me I need to laugh. I’ve even got a few able-bodied friends who now make crip jokes to me. Usually with the comment “I know I can say this to you…”
I want to share a moment from this evening. I’m really hoping it isn’t one of those “you had to be there moments”. I was really amused by it anyway.
I take a creative writing class. It started again this evening for the new term so we had a few people who’ve been before and several new members. We were just getting started and the tutor made a comment that he thought we had everyone or at least he hoped so because we didn’t have enough chairs for anyone else.
Me being me I just sat there and cracked “maybe if someone else comes they’ll be as organised as I was and bring their own chair.”
And just as I said it the door opened and another wheelchair user came in.
That, my friends, is why I make crip jokes. Because once in a while something happens that just makes it even funnier. I can cope with my life and my disability? But a world or even a life without laughter? I couldn’t cope with that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Auslan used by Mums for baby talk

I had to share this article with you today, it's just such a neat way of communicating with your child as well as educating them on disability, teaching them to use another language and improving coordination. I think it's amazing that children can use signs at the age of 6 months to tell their mothers what they need. Why haven't I thought of that!!!!!

Check out the article (I have copied it from the website of the Whitehorse Leader).

Mums' way of understanding baby talk
11 Sep 2010 - Stacey Allen

TRYING to decipher their baby’s cries can be one of the most challenging tasks for new parents.

Narrowing in on what a baby wants usually involves a process of elimination as you try giving everything from milk, food and comfort to a clean nappy until they are settled.

Forest Hill mother Amanda Crossland is offering a new option for parents eager to better communicate with their babies - sign language.

Ms Crossland said she was keen to teach her son Ollie sign language and started when he was born, using the Australian Baby Hands book.

“I wanted to go to classes and there weren’t any so I started them myself,” she said.

Ms Crossland said she took out the first Australian Baby Hands franchise in the state and has been teaching Australian Sign Language (Auslan) in Mitcham and Vermont.

She said she started this year and had so far taught 70 parents in her seven-week courses, which are for both hearing and hearing impaired babies from newborns to three-year-olds.

“Babies tend to sign from six months old ... when they can grasp a toy they can start to sign back.”

Ms Crossland said Ollie, now 13 months old, had started to sign for milk from six months old and could now sign when he was hungry or wanted his teddy bear.

“It makes life so much easier when they can tell you what they want,” she said.
Ms Crossland said some people were sceptical of the benefits of signing to a hearing child, but she said it avoided a lot of frustration and could help a baby develop.

“Some people fear that signing with a baby can delay speech but it’s been found to accelerate speech,” she said.

New courses start in October and will also be held in Heidelberg.

Details: go to australianbabyhands.com or phone 9517 7967.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Uprights behaving badly: Footpaths

I am very excited to be sharing with you another posting from IDEAS Board Member Joanna Nicol. I quite like her blog as I think that the view she takes is something quite unique and independent of the usual perspectives on life. Her own experiences are very insightful and her words are a great way to share in with the experiences of a person in a wheelchair.

Joanna Nicol

I’m going to do a series of posts on things I wish those without apparent disability understood or did differently. It is from my perspective as a person who uses a wheelchair, but hope it can be useful more broadly. So to start with:

Footpaths: their use and misuses

My top 5 things six things I wish uprights got about using the footpath:
  1. Don’t just stand there – move something. Standing still at the top of kerb ramps instead of moving off it to allow people crossing to safely and legally get off the road. This is not the place to start a meaning of life conversation or adjust your wardrobe. I, like others need a clear metre at the top of the incline to safely complete the crossing process without tipping myself up or collecting your shins. For many of us who have different mobility issues we need to pick a direction of travel and keep moving as much for safety as energy or anything else so abrupt stopping is never polite. It’s like a car slamming on the brakes every 50 metres instead of going say 30 kph with on-coming traffic coming at you on either side. Also if I am obeying the rules of the road and waiting on the kerb ramp with you jay-walking in the opposite direction please don’t climb over my chair to get off the road.. My footplates are part of my personal space.  
  2. While talking of footpaths they are not the place to mingle with five or six of your friends all looking and talking inwards. Given I am waist high to most of you it can be very hard to attract your attention to keep moving (see above) and am often stuck yelling at people’s belt loops for some minutes waiting for one of the party to look down. Not everyone can sidle past or tap you somewhere that my grandmother would consider polite. I can’t tap you on the shoulder if I’m three foot tall.
  3. Footpaths are still first and foremost designed built and paid for to enable the safe pedestrian movement of all of us. They are not designed to act as a parking lot for prams cars or bikes, a community ashtray, a junk storage zone, a dining room or an extension of your business. While these uses are able to be incorporated in parts and more modern footpathing have integrated these uses, please remember that the narrow footpaths still need to fulfil the movement thing as their primary role.
  4. If you are over 12 do as our parents and the law teaches: please walk your pushbike on footpaths. It’s polite, non aggressive and saves kerb ramps for those of us who have need them to get anywhere not just get somewhere quickly. I know you are doing a good thing for the planet and all that, but polite is still polite. You are still a vehicle. You saving carbon by not using your car is great and something I very much support but the energy flow needed to incorporate your riding on the footpath for me is higher I suspect than for most other people (see point regarding committing to a direction of travel) in the other direction in a need for higher concentration, and the kind of stopping and starting of a machine that you are trying to avoid.
  5. While we are on a roll here can smokers please refrain from lowering your cigarette and it’s plume to get me right in the face. Just as you don’t want it right near your eyes when your not smoking it – neither do I. I have even been ashed in my lap or on my hand or chest more than once. It might also be worth noting that this behaviour is not going to be good for any children in the area either.
  6. This same idea applies to the swinging of handbags and backpacks in the vicinity of my head shoulders or back or failing to look in all directions (up/down as well as forward and back when exiting a shop to re-enter a flow on the footpath. Its like entering a flow of car traffic without checking your mirrors. Bumping the back of a wheelchair isn’t like bumping a chair leg.. I can feel it. If checking in all directions before you move seems exhausting my only solace for you is; if we all did it more we’d probably all have to do it less.
The main things I wish that “uprights” understood about footpath/sidewalk issues are:
  • everyone is trying to get somewhere to be with those we love. I know all the stuff about vibrant footpath culture, but we need to be able to get places to enjoy the culture.
  • everyone comes in different sizes so please look down as well as behind. It can be humiliating talking to belt loops for 5 minutes.

Friday, September 3, 2010

(the IDEAS) of Networking for a Shy Woman

One of the Board Members for IDEAS NSW, Joanna Nicol, writes a magnificent blog about her experiences in a wheelchair, about day-to-day life for a person with disability and about other interesting things that come across her amazing mind. Luckily she has given me permission to share with you one of her blog posts which relates to us. I ofcourse suggest that you have a look at her site though, it is very thoughtful and fascinating.

Joanna Nicol

People find this difficult to believe, but I’m shy. At least in some sense of the word. The way I describe it to people I am not comfortable in a crowd or with starting conversations with strangers. But I see no point in being backward about the obvious factors of my disability.

I might indeed be externally good at socializing but it certainly doesn’t rock my boat and I find it exhausting. Networking especially in a crowded room of people with whom the connection is tenuous is really hard.

Yet there I was the other night in a room full of “uprights” (200 hundred or so of them) representing a NGO I’m on the board of; IDEAS — Information on Disability & Education Awareness Services. We, IDEAS are an information provider on broad base information for people with disability, their family and “supporters”. So basically anything from holiday accommodation with ramps and rails to sign language course referrals to wheelchair repair places and information on the pension; IDEAS can point you in the right direction, at least in New South Wales. For us it’s about enabling participation and choice. (It really is a great service with two other arms too.)

We are a finalist in a category of a small business awards for the local government area. No winners were announced at this event. It was a “networking opportunity” with speeches/advertising from the sponsors. It was crowded. I sat in a corner so that I didn’t knock or get knocked. But I’m proud of myself. From my vantage point I watched people AND talked to people many of whom were I think surprised to see me and us there. I also gave the above spiel, and gave out cards. I wasn’t the first to leave either!

Mission accomplished I think.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Raised Garden Boxes

Hi avid followers of this blog. I have a lovely post from Rich Fabend today. It is always truly compelling to see how he approaches his life and his experiences in creating adaptive equipment for his personal use. Below is a really neat post from Rich.

Rich Fabend

Would you like to raise some flowers and/or grow some vegetables for your own consumption? Raised bed garden boxes will let you do that and it is great exercise. Each spring the soil must be worked up and planted. During the growing season the vegetables must be weeded and thinned. If the weather is not cooperating the plants must be watered. The wilted flower heads must be picked off the plants (called deadheading) which is great exercise for fingers. A box does not take up much room if space is an issue. Prior to placing a box, the area under it must be prepared. This is not necessary if it will be placed on cement or any other solid surface. If placed on the ground you must assure good drainage.

The height of the box opening should be a few inches taller than the armrests of the wheelchair. The width of the growing area should be several inches less than twice the gardener’s arm length which will allow one to cover the entire planting area. Built from pressure treated lumber, the box is open on two sides so one can drive a wheelchair underneath it and work straight on.

The first year my boxes presented some unique problems because of the construction. The 2” by 8” which made up the planting area did not allow for the soil to be deep enough for vegetables so most of the vegetables planted did not grow very well. The following year, as you can see from the picture, we added about 3 inches to the height of the planting area. This allowed adding another 250 pounds of soil to the bed. Also, in an effort to cut down on moisture evaporation we added Hydro-Sorb to the soil. Hydro-Sorb retains water and releases it a little at a time. These two changes made the boxes much more successful. We did not find it necessary to increase the depth of the flower boxes.

I have 6 boxes, four I plant with vegetables and the other two with annual flowers. I enjoy working these boxes very much. I use adaptive garden tools which can be purchased online. The vegetable boxes can grow salt potatoes, broccoli, onions, baby carrots, beets and garlic. Gardening is good for many different reasons.