Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guest Post: Carl Thompson

Thanks to Carl for his continuing insights on everyday happenings....

Bouncers Can Be Friendly, Or Extremely Stupid

Most people my age hate bouncers and security guards. Reasons being they supposedly often enjoy spoiling a good night out, or are quite lecherous when there is a pretty lady nearby. From a disability perspective however, bouncers often transform themselves from a cold and indifferent human fun preventing barrier, to an overly protective and overzealous bodyguard of the cripple in a wheelchair.

The reason why I am writing this post is because yesterday I had an amusing bouncer experience. I was convinced by my friend Andrew to travel to the gambling area of a traditional pub post meal. It's not normally my scene, because I like spending my money rather than giving away. Excuse me, what was I saying again?

Oh yes, the bouncer. When we arrived in the pokies area Andrew was asked for his ID. Upon presentation of his ID, the bouncer did not address me, but addressed Andrew instead whilst pointing at me and said “He’s over 18 right? I suppose you wouldn't be volunteering and looking after him if he wasn't.” The bouncer then walked away. If anyone was volunteering in this situation it was me, because Andrew was spending my money on those stupid skill games that occasionally cough up lame prizes for copious amounts of cash. In this case, the bouncer was most definitely an idiot.

On another occasion I once had a bouncer who ordered my friends and I to travel up and down the same step on four separate occasions in the one night, without realising that it is extremely dangerous to try to lift my to 200kg electric wheelchair up a step, no matter how small it is. By the fourth time I asked him to help, and when we finally reached the top of the step I ‘accidentally’ gave his shins a (more than) slight nudge.

I find it quite amusing, contrary to my two experiences above, in most cases they love me! I can remember when I once entered the front door of a concert venue and a bouncer spotted me, he put his hands up signalling me to stop. It was frightening! Luckily for me, he wasn't about to throw me out, he was acting as my own personal chaperone and clearing a path through the inebriated crowd!

In theory, this is a good thing. It definitely made it easy to get a good position at the venue. But if you think about it more, it is preferential treatment. I really don't want preferential treatment, just as I don't want to be treated in a traditionally negative discriminatory way.

Whilst I say that I don't want any discrimination, even if that discrimination is positive, I have to admit that I am not being entirely truthful. I certainly appreciated the bouncer who helped my friends and I into the Big Day Out by circumventing the line that would have taken an hour to reach the front of. That is certainly okay by me!

My favourite bouncer definitely has to be my Caribbean friend. Every day when I was working in the city I drove my wheelchair past this six-foot six mammoth of a man. He was a friendly chap, and we had some strange conversations. I once asked him if he was ever bored just sitting there for eight hours a day ushering people into his place of work. His response amused me, (cue West Indian accent) “No bro, I am a positive thinker, standing here is an opportunity, an opportunity to talk to so many pretty ladies, and bro, believe me, My oh my! There sure is some mighty fine ladies ‘round these parts!”

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ross Gittins and the NDIS

The proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme is a hot topic in Australia at the moment, and a lot of people are weighing in. Today's post was written by Joanna Nicol, who writes at the blog The View From Down Here. Thanks Joanna! 

Joanna Nicol

The Productivity Commission recently released its draft report on Disability Care and Support. I haven't read it yet. It's on the list, along with half a dozen other books, several readings for university and a partridge in a pear tree. It's bad anyway, it is on the list.

The Australian journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald Ross Gittins has quite rightly beaten me to it. And he likes it. This is encouraging especially given that he speaks from an economic viewpoint. The business case for more individualised funding and says some sort of no fault payment to enable participation in the case that I have been arguing needed to be put together. The Productivity Commission has done just that.

The statistics that Gittins quotes are accurate if not conservative;

"It's estimated that about 680,000 people under 65 suffer a severe or profound limitation in their ability to engage in core human activities. Just under half of these have at least a daily need for help with mobility, self-care or communicating with others. But only about 170,000 are using disability services."
 The definitions of “severe" and “profound" might well need some clarification. As I said, these numbers may well be conservative. However, it is a place to start if nothing else.

Much like my earlier piece looking at quotas in Egypt, I appreciate the fact that the discussion seems to be around enabling meaningful participation. News coverage on television and radio on the Insurence scheme here have profiled wheelchair users in the workforce and are using whatever little funding of money they have to pay for the care they need to work and pay their taxes (unclear sentence). The ordinary people argument.

Gittins and others are right. It's not a topic that we want to talk about or even think about. It's scary to think about bad things happening to good people, especially those we love. Politically it is difficult to score points opposing it as well, so you don't tend to get traction in the media unless you’re the Business Council perhaps. Especially given that the topic of disability is just a little too uncomfortable to be a warm fluffy human interest story.

But Australia needs to start having discussions about bigger issues that may not get solved in a week, a year or even an election cycle. Perhaps some will take a generation but this can be the start. Embracing humanity and the “fair go" principle for which we are (or were) known worldwide.

I do think there are some issues with the content of the report. For example I get nervous about another assessment  and which box I might or might not fit into. However seeing disability as a productivity issue for the entire country and not an individualised problem deserving of sympathy only is a big step in the right direction. The locus of responsibility on all of us to contribute (and let  each other do so) is reassuring and the tone of the discussions by those over whom this is not usually a core issue is comforting.

I am starting to feel like my country actually wants my contribution and is prepared to enable me to participate. Nice.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Left Out In The Cold

(The content of today's post was emailed to me by Emma Crees, who has guest blogged on DisCo in the past. It's interesting and inspiring to see what strong activism is coming out of the proposed welfare reforms in the United Kingdom.)

On the eve of the second reading of the UK government’s controversial Welfare Reform Bill, on 9 March, disabled activist Kaliya Franklin stripped off to demonstrate what the result would be for disabled people across the UK if disability benefits are slashed to the bare minimum.

The photo shoot depicts a naked Franklin lying on the sand on a wintry beach, next to her empty wheelchair.

“I was absolutely frozen when I took my clothes off for the photo shoot,” says Franklin, “but it was nothing like as cold I and other disabled people will be if the government removes our essential benefits.”

The Left Out In The Cold awareness-raising campaign is being organised by disability rights group The Broken of Britain, of which Franklin is a founder and director.

Says Franklin, “It’s vital that every able-bodied person remembers they are just an accident or illness away from being disabled themselves. Many people think if they do become disabled that the state will look after them.

“But the fact is that even under current provisions, disability benefits are not enough for disabled people to live on. If the Welfare Reform Bill is passed, the situation will become unimaginably worse.”

In January, Franklin released a video on YouTube that explained how able-bodied people would be in for a major shock if they found themselves needing to apply for disability benefits. The video can be seen at

The Broken of Britain group has been campaigning since summer 2010 to raise awareness of the government’s wider anti-disability policies. The group has consistently drawn attention to disabled people being the target of unjust government rhetoric and sham consultations, tabloid slander and political myths.

It says: “We are now the targets of deep and damaging cuts to disability services that are contained in and symbolised by the Welfare Reform Bill. The Bill disguises cuts and changes to a number of benefits, from housing benefit to Income Support that will punish disabled people.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sit Awhile In My Shoes


Today's guest post from Rich Fabend takes an interesting look at how we understand disability. 

Rich Fabend  

I had just finished speaking to a class of elementary students and was leaving the school when a young child came up to me and said “It must be really cool being in that chair”. I was at a wedding reception once when a middle age woman said she thought the chair was pretty neat. She obviously had had too much to drink so I ignored her remark. I know an institution of higher learning that has students spend a day in a manual chair in order to get some sense of what it is like to be so confined. An organization I belonged to had a fundraising dinner to get money to purchase handcycles. When I arrived children and adults were riding handcycles in the street laughing and fooling around.  When they hit the curb they just stood up and moved the bike. I went berserk. I dropped off the board of directors the next day. A psychiatrist I was seeing after my accident said to me once he wished he could trade places with me for a month. He believed he could gain an understanding of what it is like to be in a wheelchair. I know many people feel awkward around individuals with disabilities, but come-on, except for the elementary student, what were the others thinking? If you know your time in the chair is limited there is no way you can understand what it is like. How can an able-bodied person ever understand what it is really like to be disabled?

Living with a disability is not cool, nor is it a game that can played at. It can’t be understood by spending a few hours or a few days in a wheelchair. You must live it to truly understand it. How do I explain to someone the overpowering feeling I get to move my legs? How do I convey the “impulse- like” electrical charges running down my legs telling me they want to move? I had my son cross my legs once when this was going on but it made no difference. How do you explain this to anyone when you are not supposed to have any feeling below your arms; or that I feel so cold most of the time that I wear a knit hat in my house? I can’t even explain that to myself. One of the worst times I experienced was one night, (that’s when my bogymen come out) when the bed motor that raises my torso was not working. I woke up early one morning and had to lie in bed for 5 hours waiting for morning not being able to move or access the things on my hospital table. I just about went crazy. We live in a different world that no one can fathom unless they live there too. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but this is my perception.