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I have a love of life. Some may call me a cynic but I'm truly an optimistic realist. I work on the philosophy “If you expect the worst but aim for the best, you'll land somewhere that's comfortable.”

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23 April 2017

Re-Thinking The Concept of Independence

I wrote a post previously (13th of May 2013) called Independence & Disability, I was going to edit it to make it more inclussive of all disabilities and not just blindness. However by the time I edited it, it included more about interdependency and how nobody is independent. I've kept the first few bits the same as the earlier concept, which still exists in its original form. My thinking was sparked by this blog post: Access Intimacy, Interdependence and Disability Justice.

Can disabled people be 100% independent? Simple answer, no. Nobody can or there would be no need for medics, pilots or engineers.

The dictionary defines independent as:

“1.Free from outside control; not depending on another's authority

More often than not, disabled folks need social welfare. This is provided by the government. They may need additional care (also controlled in the UK at least) by the state. 0-1 to me.

“2. Not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.

See above. 0-2 to me.

If we use Maslov's hierarchy of needs as a basis we'll soon see that:

1) Crips cannot be independent.

2) Nobody can be independent.

3) Humans are not designed to be independent.

Over to Abe...

Physical Needs:
All of our bodies need at least air, water and food.

Air I for one cannot produce clean air for myself let alone another person. I depend, as do we all, on others to be considerate in how much poluition they create and the steps they take to counter that. If you cut down trees, you've just screwed us all over not just the person with a respiratory problem. How the Welsh are still being effected by Chernobyl

Water Unless you have an off grid desalination plant, r you're happy to drink collected rain water. Chances are you rely on others to keep clean drinking water flowing into your chosen drinking vessel - which you probably bought – and for an example of people that are being harmed by the break down of interdependence there's the Flint water crisis.

Food It's unlikely that you grow your own food or in enough quantities to sustain yourself on. If you do, go you! If not, why aren't you being independent, is there a barrier(s) to you doing it? Anyone for a side of food fraud?

Safety Needs
Nobody should be unsafe, but where interdependence has broke down people are.

Personal Safety Unless you have a firearm in your possession, which makes you less safe, you are probably going to be dependent on others (the Police) to stop that creepy person along the street from murdering you and your family. You also probably entrusted the building and installing of your home security measures weather it's just a locks or a super locked down system. For a disabled person this might mean a person to stop them coming to additional harms that a abled person may not face. Such as managing their finances so their 'friends' don't steel it.Which has become such a problem it has it's own name "Mate Crime ".

Financial Security In most places in world we buy and sell things. From sex to million (Insert currency appropriate to you) Yachts. Neither of these things are necessities but as above air, water and food are. Being able to afford a home in an area with clean air is not a luxury that everyone can afford. It may be down to actual financial capital. It could also be because of their time capital, if they work long hours they might not have enough time to commute. Either way unless they want to starve they work to earn money. For a disabled person however, they are reliant (in most cases but not all) on social welfare as their primary income. For many this can vanish at the blink of an eye because an assessor of their claim form decides they don't meet the criteria to get that support. Everyone dreams of not having to work but at the same time in that dream, thee is also a high expectation of comfort. This level of comfort doesn't come on social welfare. It's a kind of job in its own right. Trying to balance finances with needs; quality with cost.

Health And Well-being I doubt many people could demonstrate the heroics of Leonid Rogozov. If you can, High Five to you! For the rest of us feeble humans we rely on people with skills to chop, sew, scan and diagnose our bodies and minds. Sometimes, probably more often for the general population, they get it right, right away. For those of us with more complicated health and well-being needs it may take many trips to the specialist medic, nurse, psychotherapist or physiotherapist to get – no better – but to a point where we aren't feeling like death is the next person to walk through the door, even if we feel it might be welcome.

I could go farther down the list but I think it's fairly clear that nobody is independent. I also think that you would be most disappointed if a farmer told you to go away and grow your own food and you're lazy for not doing so. It is a double bladed sword, you can either force people to do more than they are able to – weather they have a disability or other barriers (time, money or space etc) or, we all have to help each another.

We have lived in groups for millennia, not because we want to. Rather, we need to. It takes a special kind of person to be 100% self sufficient with no human contact at all. Can you imagine being in a place with nobody else' you have to do everything yourself; there's no radio or entertainment; you have no vehicle (you wouldn't need one)...? It sounds like hell right?

This is not to say everyone has a disabilty. But, most people take interdependence for granted to the point those that do have a disabilty are seen as a weak link in the interdependency chain. I'll leave you with the consideration: What if disabled people took all their spending power out of the economy? The British Government estimate businesses could be missing out on £212,000,000,000 through being inaccessable to disabled people. This is only the number that businesses could be missing out on - the actual power therefore must be higher…

17 April 2017

Happy Birthday! ... Is It?

I turn 28-years old in just over 24 hours. Woo Birthday! Not quite.

You see I'm still trying to get passed an issue that started 34 years ago. The problem nae problems are:
1) The patriarchal society that tells a woman of 21 (very nearly 22) she can't keep her baby because she isn't married. That also looked down upon her for having a second child out of marriage, the first being born four years prior.

2) The upset that the woman felt every year on the date of her adopted-out baby's birth

3) The fact that she never tried to hide that upset for the child she did have in the future, which by some sick freak of nature landed on the same date as the previous baby's birth.

I know, I should have compassion, however, it's a difficult thing to have when all your birthday's that you can remember have been miserable. I also know, that kid might be angry or questioning their sense of self. This to I can imagine is difficult but honestly not something I can understand since I'm 'fortunate' enough to know my mother.

What I do know is Dean Duncan born the 18th of April 1983 in Aberdeen was adopted to a couple from Perth/Perthshire and the husband was a fire fighter. That's all the information I have about why my birthdays have never been as fun as other people's.

I've not lived at home for about 9 years, I'm a grown woman (not an adult!) but yet every birthday is still miserable. It feels like I'm still not allowed to enjoy it. I shouldn't ask to do something special because it's not what someone else wants to do. When I try to do something special I feel guilty for being happy.

I'm sure I'm not the only person with a mother who has reacted (understandably but not justifiably) in the same way as mine has. I'm sure to some it wont be a surprise to know that the damage making someone give up a child can do to them and future children. I'm sure I'll never get those lost days of happiness back but I hope by writing it down and letting the world know how I feel on the 18th of April – it might get better.

The only good birthday I remember with any clarity was when my dad and his colleague/friend/my courtesy uncle Steve took me pony riding. Before anyone judges, I know how privileged that sounds. In lots of ways growing up I was privileged in others I was deprived. Money is great for accessing things like pony trekking or buying roller-blades – it's not good for reaching your mothers emotional side unless you're the one giving her the money. Anyway, after the pony ride my dad got me involved with an awesome charity called Riding for the Disabled Association. The RDA, is a UK wide charity that gets people with disabilities interacting with horses. At that time I was only sight impaired. The reason I say sight impaired an not blind is because I started riding with them when I was 'Registered Visually Impaired' then in November of 1995 I was 'Registered Blind'. Us lot have to be registered incase there is a power-cut with not back-up lighting available or the sun goes out so that we can help sighted folk live independently.

Feel free to post me money, cake and material things but leave your happiness at the door please. Also, no damn cards, I can't read them!

14 April 2017

I'm Alive - Ask A Blind Person

I would state the obvious by saying it's been sometime since I last wrote a blog post but... You can see that from the date stamp on the last one.

So, what's happened? We've not quite got to world war three like I purposed, however, I don't think that we're all that far off now. Ever the optimist.

Now the UK is leaving the EU and we have Trump. By we I mean the world. I can't really complain I voted for both, despite not being a US citizen... That one is so worn but I'm into recycling.

In my life, I completed University. Well, one module which was ample education in social sciences for me. I'm fairly sure University is a waste of time unless you want to, cut people open and build stuff. Even then I don't see why a modern apprenticeship would work for either of those. I may go back and do a module about personal finance, at least that way I may learn where all my money is going.

Ask A Blind Person? (#AskABlindPerson)

 I was going to write a whole #AskABlindPerson post but that didn't get very many questions, so you can stay ignorant for all I care just don't blame me if I give you a dressing down for being silly. You have had your chance!

For those that did ask questions here are some answers:


Q) How do blind people use Twitter etc?

A) I use a screen reader on my phone called VoiceOver. This is built into Apple products as standards. It's quality varies from device-to-device – their phones and tablets are the best in that order. Where as, their computers have some way to go to compete with other screen readers like JAWS for Windows. There is a similar but less functional screen reader on Android devices called TalkBack which personally is a heap of crud. I think on both platforms you can access Voiceover/TalkBack by going to Settings → (Apple) General → (Both) Accessibility → VoiceOver/TalkBack and then toggling it on. It's worth barring in mind that to turn them off again you'll need to double tap the toggle switch.

The only thing that screen readers can't do is read images. At least those without Alt tags added in their coding. However, Facebook and Apple are changing this. Facebook has developed a not so good version of Apples idea of auto text. This works using some sort of dark, sinister technology called AI. It analysis the image and comes up with a best guess of what is in the image based on what humans have told it similar things are. Facebook has told me that I'm smiling and the picture is a close up, with me wearing shoes – yes, I was smiling, Yes, it was sort of close up but no, I was just wearing a hoody, bra and pants... Some way to go yet. Apple's process was able to describe Stonehenge as a megalith which is a good shot. It also tells you if someone is smiling and if the image is sharp or blurred but this is often not so sharp itself.

Q) Don't you get bored watching movies because you don't know what's going on?

A) No because there is a thing called audio description, see my earlier post about this. It's more and more widely available. Netflix and BBC iPlayer have it on their streaming services. Netflix allows AD tracks to be downloaded unlike BBC. However, in the BBC's defence, their DVDs often have audio navigation, meaning a blind person can navigate all those menus that come with DVDs these days.

Q) Do you read... oh sorry... I mean...?

A) I can read, like letters and words and stuff. I often tend to use audio formats because my eyes tire really quickly and sore eyes aren't fun. I could read braille at one point but then someone decided all braille should be the same and I haven't bothered trying to learn the new modified braille code. It's fairly pointless while I have ears to listen and fingers to type with. Plus, my braille skills were so crud that I was reading o n e l e t t e r a t a t I m e, so it wasn't very fast. I'm sure I would of got quicker but technology right?


A) Firstly, well done for knowing the answer to Q1! Secondly, no. VoiceOver will either read it as a normal word or it will read out the letters individually. You could maybe use the loud speaker emoji to tell us blind people that you're shouting. Or, keep your shit together an have a rational conversation, even in real life, if you shout I stop listening. Also, it's SUPER ANNOYING WHEN YOU REPEAT EMOJI 🐸🐸🐸🐸

Q) How do you have/do sex?

A) Pretty Well! No complains so far at least... Seriously though – not everyone has/wants/does sex and if they do it's often tackled in different ways. Otherwise there wouldn't be a need for sex toys and sex-bots because we would all be satisfied and we wouldn't complain she/he/they don't do X, Y or Z the way I like/at all.

Q) Do blind people only see black?

A) Black is a colour. Colours are concepts that require us to agree on what frequency of light waves we are all seeing. I refer you back to 'that dress'. If you can't see light you can't see black. I have a little bit of sight but for those that are totally blind (I've been one of those for a short time a couple of times as a kid) – you see nothing your eyes don't work. Put your hand in the air (if you have a hand) and task yourself what you can feel? The answer presuming you're not in pain is nothing. You feel your hand and that's all.

I did get some other questions but I can't remember them or maybe I'm lying and there were no others... If you have any, tweet me @Pipa)Riggs or comment below.