Thursday, 30 October 2014

Inclusive Technology Prize…

Near enough every day, disabled people will come across a problem in their lives that needs to be resolved. The issue is that unless you’re wealthy or make a successful pitch on Dragons Den, the idea will never make it off the ground regardless of how brilliant the product is. Nesta (the UK’s innovation foundation) have recognized this so have set up a £50, 000 prize fund for any entrepreneurs who have a clever and novel idea for a piece of technology, product or service that will greatly improve the lives of disabled people.

As with all competitions, there will be a rigorous judging panel made up of a mixture of people including comedians and successful entrepreneurs. The winner won’t be announced until March 2016 (almost as long as an EastEnders storyline) but the entries must be in by Friday 16th January, which is just over two and a half months away.  The process takes so long because there are various stages and prototypes with detailed plans need to be produced. More information can be found by visiting:

One of the judges is comedian Jess Thom who says that the panel will be on the look out for “new ideas that will have a long lasting impact for the 12.2 million disabled people in the UK.” I share the overall vision of the competition to help create a more equal society through assistive technology and/or products. Constance Agyeman, Programmes Manager for the prize, echoed my thoughts: “Nesta is looking for entries that are co-produced with disabled people and will improve the lives of the everyday person experiencing day-to-day challenges. He concluded by saying that  “The Inclusive Technology Prize is about making that vision a reality.”

Sometimes, you search the web and find that products designed to help are already available to buy but the cost is absurd. For example, after our holiday in Spain last year, it emerged that we needed a portable shower chair. A quick search showed that we could order one from the US but it would cost in excess of £200 plus the relevant postage and packaging fees. Way too much for something I’ll use once or twice a month. My mum came up with a more cost effective way. Buying a cheap foldaway wheelchair for a quarter of the proper shower chair would suit my needs just as well and so has been the case.

That smart idea cost nothing and actually saved us money. However, there are quite a few ideas I have to make life for disabled people easier and more bearable. Having financial backing and support from the right people is the main thing preventing me from turning these concepts into working products. Therefore it goes without saying that I’ll be submitting an idea but I thought I’d promote the prize on here in case any of you have some genius ideas. To enter, please click on this link: and remember the closing date for applications is Friday 16th January at midday.

I should say as a footnote that the Inclusive Technology Prize is brought to you (sounds like I’m introducing a film) in partnership with Nesta, Innovate UK, the Office for Disability Issues, Irwin Mitchell and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

May the best man, woman or disabled person win.

Bye for now!

Friday, 17 October 2014

That’s what they think…

Lately, I have been busy with other commitments and have felt lethargic/ultra tired so haven’t been able to fit in a blog. When I do get the time to write a post, it’s either me telling you about an event in my life (i.e. when I attended the Access All Areas conference a couple of weeks ago) or an issue that I desperately want to air my views on. Today is the latter and as you may have predicted, the subject I want to discuss is Lord Freud and his, some might say, controversial views on disabled people.

In case you don’t know, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was secretly recorded at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference last month saying that “There is a group - and I know exactly who you mean - where actually, as you say, they're not worth the full wage”. He then suggested that scrapping the minimum wage was a sound idea that the Tories would look into because “if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it's working, can we actually?”

My first issue with what the great grandson of Psychologist Sigmund Freud is that he brandishes disabled people as a mere “group”, thus implying that they are a problem that he could do without. The most offensive part of his comments was obviously when he said that “they are not worth the full wage”. I do not need to go into detail about why that particular phrase is out of order and almost a throwback to the days when sexism and racism were rife within employment. Also, nobody within their right mind would want to “work for £2 an hour”, so if people do that would suggest that maybe they have mental illness and it is wrong for employers to exploit that.

This may come as a surprise but I am so glad that Lord Freud made those comments and it has come to the public’s attention. Perhaps people will realise that the majority of politicians (not all), regardless of party, feel that disabled people are a useless drain on the British economy. Like I have said before, it is only the fear of a public backlash that prevents the government from rounding up the worthless and exterminating them. Minority groups have been killed on mass before for ruining the economy so there is no reason why disabled people cannot be made the scapegoats.

What annoys me though is whenever the subject of disability is raised, David Cameron brings up his dead father and son who were both disabled as if that makes his attack on the less-able members of society more acceptable. It would be like ‘Wheelchair Boy’ slapping someone around the face and then saying “in my defence, I am disabled”. The Prime Minister’s stringent cuts on social care and the NHS, as well as the infamous bedroom tax, make it clear that he does not care about hitting disabled people the hardest. Emotively speaking about disabled members of his family is two faced and shows that he is simply trying to manipulate the electorate into thinking he is Mr. Nice Guy.

Bye for now! 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Promising for once…

I’m not actually sure when I signed up but I’m on the Transport for London database so get regular e-mail updates about everything to do with TfL from tube strikes to road closures. Most of the messages are pretty irrelevant to my life but seems as I travel into London quite often (mostly for the football), I thought there might be some important information occasionally so I shouldn’t unsubscribe. I’m glad I didn’t because the other week, I was invited to attend ‘Access All Areas’ at the London Excel Conference Centre where I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and heard.

The exhibition took place on Thursday and gave an opportunity for those at Tfl to communicate with disabled transport users and answer any queries. I know most events like this are normally put on just to make it seem that the organization listen to the people and are taking on board all the feedback but in reality, do not care one bit. ‘Access All Areas’ felt different though and I left the Excel believing that the future is bright when it comes to accessibility on public transport.

You’ve all read about my previous issues on transport (if not where have you been?) and for that reason I steer clear of public transport, particularly in London. I have used a taxi recently but I did not have the confidence to use other modes to get about. I was therefore going to the conference expecting arguments but I was satisfied with what they said and have a new found confidence.. Back in 2012 was the last time I used both the Tube and a bus because there were some problems. Not major but still annoying and put me off.

The London Underground was first built over 150 years ago so obviously access for wheelchair users was not considered at all. Therefore, complaining to TfL that they should completely change the whole system to accommodate disabled passengers is unreasonable and quite frankly ludicrous. That being said, reasonable adjustments can be made so that, for example, other passengers do not have to help my carer lift me on board. I was relieved to find out that most of the stations accessible from the street now have members of staff on hand to assist with ramps. Some stations such as Leicester Square are completely inaccessible but like I said, old Victorian architecture cannot be changed overnight.

Buses have also never been the easiest to get on. I used them all the time when I was at University (for that short stint) and had a few difficulties. The ramp wasn’t that wide so my electric wheelchair was a tight squeeze. One size certainly does not fit all. On board, some wheelchair spaces are quite small so it can prove difficult to turn. Getting off was also sometimes a problem as the ramp would be set down in line with a post. Impractical or what? However, they had a few buses to try out at the show and they definitely have improved over the past two years.

From speaking to various people and reading the leaflets, it became clear to me that the Paralympics is the main reason why TfL suddenly care about disabled people and want to improve access on public transport. I’m glad that finally the legacy of those games is becoming visible for all disabled people, not just those involved in sport. It’s not just what they have done since 2012, TfL are also planning ahead and hope for the situation when it comes to access to get better every year.

Bye for now! 

Thanks Aaron for sharing this with me...