Monday, 27 February 2017

Parking Points Campaign

When my daughter Emily was three years old she was diagnosed with learning disability, autism and ten when she was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Now 19, Emily is beautiful funny and fascinated with many things. She can become highly anxious and present behaviours which challenge.

When Emily received Disability Living Allowance she was in receipt of a Blue Parking Badge and this helped her in so many ways. Her lack of complete cognitive understanding can cause her to become overwhelmed when we’re out in public. Yet as with all 19 year olds she loves to go into town shopping, go to the cinema and go out for day trips. The close proximity of a disabled parking space made these trips much easier for her and for us.

In the old days of Blue Badge eligibility I would be able to take proof of benefits, a passport photo of Emily and other forms of ID to my local mobility centre in town. I would receive the badge there and then.

When Emily went to a residential school she naturally lost all benefit allocations.

When she moved into her own home last year, with a three to one care package, she began her independence and was back in the heart of the community.  As she has bonded with her carers she has grown in confidence and asked to go on a day trip to Thomas Land. Like many learning disabled people on the autistic spectrum Emily loves Thomas the Tank Engine.

I tried to call the mobility centre to make an appointment to pick up a Blue Badge. Emily had transferred over to PIP, as I was told there was no longer DLA but her disability remained unchanged.  She was just taller.

I learnt that although the mobility centre was still there, they no longer allocated Blue Badges. This was done by a third party provider, once the Council found that everyone applying met the eligibility criteria.

I spoke to a very nice man at the council eventually, who asked me what Emily’s points were on the mobility component of PIP. 
I said she received the higher rate. 
He said “No how many points does Emily score for moving around?”

So this was where it all started to go wrong. Emily scores zero points for moving around because she can walk more than the required number of metres. She has to have someone with her all the time and will do for the rest of her life but because Emily can physically walk for a short distance she scores no points for “moving around” at all.

Emily can walk. Emily can run. Emily can run straight in front of a bus, if she’s frightened or angry or upset.  But although Emily is profoundly learning disabled she is, to use the phrase that is in the news today, not “really disabled” when it comes to getting a Blue Parking Badge.

Whereas once she was eligible, now this has been cut from her life. A Blue Badge is crucial for learning disabled people, for carers, for those with Dementia and people who are partially sighted but along with other conditions, all people with those disabilities are no longer eligible for a disabled parking badge. If we lived 15 miles away, in Wales this wouldn't be the case but we live in England so it is.

The Badge, which is not a gateway to anything other than a parking space, is to be issued so sparingly that many disabled people are not allowed to have one. Like Emily although previously qualifying, the new PIP ruling on moving around is the determining factor which Councils have to abide by.

There is at the heart of this a staggering inequality and a return to a time when disability was only deemed to be apparent if there was a physical inability to walk.

Many thousands of disabled people need the support of all aspects of independent living.  The Blue Badge makes community and independent living easier. It facilitates accessibility to many aspects of life for those with a learning disability and so I’m asking you to support my new campaign.

The “Parking points” campaign is calling on the Government to reinstate Blue Badges to those in society, recently deemed ineligible. To recognise that disability comes in many different forms. To assist councils to give the people they work for, the dignity of a full life in every way they can and to stop this divisive practice of redefining who is and who isn’t disabled.

In conjunction with my campaign I launched a petition on the government website. Please sign and share and please, if you are a charity or group, activist or individual ;  support, sign and share the link.

My Petition (relaunched after it was closed for the election)

Not all disability is visible but everyone with a disability should be allowed to be seen.

Nicky Clark

“Parking points Campaign”

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

As a campaigner who has pushed for equal representation of disabled people across the entertainment industry for 9 years, I read the proposal by the Minister for Disabled people, calling or wider representation of disability in the entertainment & fashion industry, with interest.

TV & Film, the games industry and all forms of media are the greatest influencers we have and it's vital that if we are to hope for equality of representation, that disabled people are routinely featured. 

When I launched my campaign via the guardian in 2008, I contacted the ONS in order to get statistics on disabled consumers.

My point was that, as disabled people do everything that non disabled people do, e.g. buy food, go on holiday, wear clothes, utilise banks and drink alcohol, then it was confusing to me that advertisers didn't feature any disabled people doing any of these things in their advertising. The response from the ONS was that they didn't hold any statistics in this area. 

The problem to me was clear, why was an entire section of our collective community being excluded from the section of life that the majority of people experience. TV and film fashion and music and latterly the gaming industry seemed to have its own set of impairments when it came to representing disabled people. They didn't seem to be able to see, communicate, hear or understand why equality of representation of disabled people of all ages was important. 

However now that The Minister for Disabled People has raised the issue perhaps things might change. As long as none of the disabled performers, models, writers, game designer, singers, directors, musicians, paralympians and fashion designers intend to rely on motability vehicles or any of the in work benefits, crucial to achieving this representation, that is. That may prove
trickier, but I digress.

It's been identified by Channel 4's Dan Brooke that there is a financial benefit to companies in placing disabled people in ads. In recent times the financial deficit has precipitated an austerity, which places disabled benefit claimants. at the forefront of cuts. The narrative of “scrounger and striver” has been widely touted so it's good to know that disabled talent is making some people some money, at last.

I leave the money making and taking, up to others as this is a hidden benefit for millions of disabled people. I'd just like to see more people like me and my children represented.

I launched the campaign because my daughter Lizzy was the first person in the UK with autism to play a character with the same condition. But I’ve digressed again.

I'd like to believe that millions of disabled people can see themselves and their stories shown and appreciated. Stories and games they’ve written or designed, drawn, portray and direct. Stories that feature disabled protagonists where the least interesting aspect of the character is their disability. Not a plot point which means they must be saved or portrayed by a non-disabled actor en route to awards season glory or as an aspect to a music video as an interesting side note.

People like us are everywhere but the reluctance to reveal diagnosis for fear of backlash or further stigma walks beside us all the time. When I revealed my diagnosis of Autism I was called brave because in this day and age it is brave to say that you’re different. The beauty industry spends a great deal of time trying to get all women to look between 25 and 30. If looking your age is cause for pause, then how can full acceptance of all diversity be achieved.

Non-disabled representation of disabled life can be part of the picture but currently it is the only game in town. How many disabled performers are invited to casting sessions every week. When the casting team have a duty to present the production team with a full range of suitable candidates, disability must feature too. I would also like to see disabled children in all toy catalogues because, as strange as this might seem, disabled children like toys too.

Authentic portrayal and inclusion was the basis of my campaign. I'm sure we can look forward to the representatives hand picked by The Minister for Disabled People, to represent disabled people and having the best interests of disabled people at the heart of what they do. I wonder how many of them will actually be disabled people, I guess we'll have to wait and see. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

The online sorting hat.

When the internet was invented,
it could never have been known,
That women would barge in there and just make themselves at home.

But they did and no one stopped them
and they’re everywhere now you see.
It’s just awful, even CAPS LOCK can’t prevent their tyranny.

But the fight back is determined
with a voice sung loud and free,
Men are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of masculinity

So what follows is the story of the brave,
The bold, the few,
Just remember women reading, that the tormentor here is you......

He explains that you’re the problem,
You’re the reason for the fight,
He is vocal you are vocal but this means that he is right.

He will tell you he is nervous,
Of your subjectivity,
He is only trying to help you but you just won’t let it be.

He instructs and give you censure,
For the passion you possess,
He is angry, you are angry but remember you are less.

He will offer bland opinion,
Of where you went wrong today,
He is sad that you won’t listen and you won’t do things his way.

He is weary of the women,
Who like you will speak their mind,
He is speaking you are speaking but you’re wrong, I think you’ll find.

He will bask in appreciation,
Of the people who agree,
He is relieved that their intelligence understands equality.

He will detail to be helpful,
All the qualities you lack,
He is certain, you are certain but it’s him under attack.

He has emotions and shows kindness
To himself and when when he snaps,
He was driven to it really, it was you who set the traps.

He feels exasperation,
At the issues which waste his time,
He has opinions, you have opinions but you always cross his line.

He is full of admiration,
For the women who comply,
He is patient in explaining that you should give that a try.

So the moral of this story, is one both old and true,
Some men are still just sexist,
Fuck that shit, keep being you.