Further education after SCI

Emily has endeavoured to up-skill herself since her accident in 2012. Emily readily admits that she always wanted to continue her studies. So the process started as she fulfilled a prerequisite course prior to applying for a post-graduate diploma in psychology. Several years on as a graduate of psychology she considered her options – pivotal to her decision was the goal of working in a team with opportunities and variety – leading Emily to choose a Masters of Social Work. 

Further education after SCI

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Limited access is 21st Century discrimination. Let’s get access then we can talk about the fun stuff…..

Another day dawns and another days news. I have noticed a repetitive thread within local and national reports – if the subject includes key words such as disability, spinal cord injury (SCI) or wheelchairs – the common issue highlighted is lack of access. As many media reports focus on this aspect of life regarding disability, the general public might think that this is all people with disabilities have to say and that saddens me as there is so much good stuff! Continue reading

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#The Theory of Everything – highlights issues but it’s entertainment.

I read a review in The Telegraph which piqued my interest and now I have to see The Theory of Everything for myself.

The film is introduced: “In the 1960s, Cambridge University student and future physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) falls in love with fellow collegian Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). At 21, Hawking learns that he has motor neuron disease. He and Jane defy terrible odds and break new ground in the fields of medicine and science, achieving more than either could hope to imagine.”

Rob Crossan reviewed the movie in The Telegraph. Rob presents the BBC disability talk show ‘Ouch’, he wrote: “Critics have gushed over Redmayne’s “genuinely visceral performance”. The Telegraph observed that Redmayne is so credible, so convincing, that “you temporarily forget he is acting”.

As a disabled person I have some concerns. The performance is the latest in a long line of what detractors call “cripping up”: able-bodied actors taking on disabled roles, which some critics find as deplorable as the thankfully outdated practise of white actors pretending to be black.

You might draw two conclusions. One: there cannot be any disabled actor in the whole world who could possibly take on these roles. And two: cripping up and critical acclaim go hand in hand. As Frances Ryan pointed out in the Guardian recently, ‘While “blacking up” is rightly now greeted with outrage, “cripping up” is still greeted with awards’.

Even if an actor with a genuine disability were to play the role of Hawking in The Theory of Everything they would still have to deal with the quite horrifyingly sentimental script. To me it goes down as one of the most cack-handed, condescending movie denouements of all time. What we’re expected to believe here is that, for all the quite devastatingly advanced discoveries made by Hawking about the universe, and our role in it, we are supposed to believe that the best thing that could possibly ever happen to him is not to make another scientific breakthrough about black holes, but to simply stand up and have a stroll around the room.

What the film seems to be saying is that “disability is bad and anyone who has anything physically different about them would be better off if they were able bodied”. Which is a quite staggering step backwards into the dark ages.

For portrayals of disability don’t just improve by employing actually disabled actors. The films need to be scripted, directed and produced by people with disabilities too. Because one thing’s for certain, if people who had even the slightest first-hand experience of disability were making films like The Theory of Everything, it’s pretty unlikely we’d see Stephen Hawking picking up a biro as a valid, meaningful or even respectful conclusion.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Rob’s sentiment that differently abled people should be included in all aspects of society including Hollywood’s film industry. The lack of actors with disabilities exists because the appeal of cinematography as an art medium is in bringing a visually impactual story to the big screen, it isn’t required to be scientifically, medically or politically correct.  The pivotal point we have to remember is that films are about entertaining the general public for profit. If a film expands awareness of any subject alongside it’s sales then the studios will take the credit – literally.

Romantically I would like to think the screenwriter thought he’d enlighten the audience with an insight into Stephen Hawkins and his ability to address motor neurone disease.  But this is a film about a youthful romance, the leading man has a strong story with a tangent public profile, commercially the amalgamation makes it a good movie choice.  Sadly for disability advocates Hollywood’s decision-making moguls aren’t driven to produce anything other than entertainment.

 

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It’s going to take the global community to address the disabled.

It may take a village to raise a child but it is going to take the global village, our worldwide community to ensure people with disabilities are cared for and their needs addressed so that they can thrive integrated into society.

The meaning of the proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is simply that it takes more than one person to teach a child the lessons of life. The benefits of many varied carers for a person with a disability is the same as the benefit of the village to a growing child, bringing a wealth and variety of learning.

A wealth and variety of services have to be accessible for the integration of people with disabilities into society. The infrastructure of society; public transport, airports, schools and hospitals, shops and recreational facilities have to be accessible.  Service provision has to be addressed by individuals, local council, state, federal and the greater global community.

My husband and I recently had lunch in town, at a popular Italian. The queue starts half an hour before the restaurant doors open,  imagine our hunger as the waitress sat us down and took our anticipated order. It is in this environment that a wheelchair user would be sidelined as only half the restaurant is accessible, the other half is up a steep flight of steps. There are probably only one or two tables that are appropriate as the traffic of diners and waiters have to pass behind the wheelchair, so what is the etiquette here? Can a wheelchair user book a table? Does a wheelchair user just have to wait for the two appropriate tables? Is it an open and shut case of move on to the next restaurant or come back tomorrow an hour before opening time? It takes the community to decide the etiquette as I would allow wheelchair users to book but that could be argued as discrimination against non wheelchair users that are asked to queue. Society as a whole has to understand the issues for people with disabilities so they can make informed choices as town planners, road, pavement and ramp designers, also those in the construction and building industry. Recreational providers need to address fixed poolside hoists as standard equipment. Theaters and sports facilities need to address access and designated parking nearby. Restaurant owners need to address their in-house policy towards wheelchair accessible tables and allow booking. My list is too long to share in a blog but you get the gist. It takes parents, teachers, restaurant managers, councils, politicians along with corporations, industries and organizations to assist disabled individuals ability to thrive in a considerate community, thrive in a society in which they can access and fully interact.

The world is changing, evolving, so let’s make sure that society and our global leaders make the right choices; legislate for access, make transit choices, make funding choices that facilitate the inclusion of people with disabilities. When life is accessible, the disabled and their carers can work, play sport, travel, book a table for dinner with greater ease  – that has to be embraced globally.

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My Offense at the Need for The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Emily and I took ourselves off to the cinema today to watch a romance. At the multiplex the theatre showing the chick flick wasn’t accessible because the lift had broken, so the wheelchair accessible options reduced our choice of movie, from the offerings we chose The Butler.

The film is historical fiction about Cecil Gaines who served eight presidents during his 34 year tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affecting this man’s life, family, and American society. The final credits commenced with a dedication to all those involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Emily and I set off home with our heads full of debate, how abhorrent to us today to witness, even in a film, colour discrimination, to know that our forefathers  thought colourism was normal, that this prejudice was accepted until recently, within my lifetime. I remember Martin Luther King being assassinated in 1968, I was six and had no idea about the wider implications of the event but I remember the gravity of the news and my mother’s tears.

It made me think about the rights of people with disabilities.

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