The Changing Way We Shop

I remember in my late teens and early 20s, spending most of my time shopping. Without internet shopping, it is a matter of spending hours searching the shops for that specific item you wanted, or waiting for it to be ordered in. 

If I could not get what I wanted I have the pain staking exercise of buying relevant magazines to find companies to ring to order catalogues to wait for, then to contact again to order the item, often by cheque. With a speech impairment and writing difficulty, this is no mean feat.

Food shopping was also a huge exercise which often took a few hours and was exhausting for both myself and my staff. I tried to do it as little as often to save time and energy!

But now it has all changed with the internet and internet shopping. I have been able to find and order any item I fancy, and the exact items, from ebay and many other places for years, putting me in the driving seat as I can find the best deal for me!

And in the last year or so, I have also embraced food shopping online which took a while to understand and appreciate, this means I am much more in control of what I buy, what I spend and when it is delivered!

So the way I shop has changed and therefore I guess the way many people’s has and who knows how we will shop in 10 or 20 years times?

Information is Power

The concept that ‘information is power’ is not a new one but it is certainly a concept which is moved from one that disempowers people to one that empowers them.

Just 20 years ago, before the internet, information was something that was a precious commodity where government and other organisations could control who knew what information. In this way ignorance was a very powerful tool to prevent people from taking up their rights or access services which they may benefits from. It also meant you had to believe in what officials told you as there was no way to verify how accurate and correct that was.

It is important to understand that the legal framework for rights and access to services is often in place and so the problem is often that people are not informed of them, or front line staff provide inappropriate information because they either do not know themselves or that can not be bothered to provide accurate information.

It is therefore sometimes necessary to know more about rights and services from organisations, than the organisations themselves.  And this is where the power of the internet comes into play. It is now possible for everyone and anyone to read all the public information available and therefore be empowered to know what is right and when they are being told complete nonsense.

Information is indeed power and the internet had given that power to anyone which wants it.

Why do I Blog?

Many regular readers may notice that I have started blogging most week days, I give myself the weekends off! People may wonder why do I blog? And I would respond by saying that there are a few reasons.

The first is clearly because I can and that is a wonderful gift of the internet brings us. Anyone who wants an opportunity to tell the world what they think, now can and I have certainly making the most of the it. I am always full of ideas and this is a great way of expressing them!

The second reason is that this is a way of keeping my mind sharp. It could be seen as the mental equivalent of a gym, ensuring I keep myself fit and fighting for my other work activities. 

And a final reason is that it is fun. If I did not enjoy doing it then there would not be any point doing it. It is always great when I get some positive feedback, and even some negative ones.

So blogging is here to stay as a part of my everyday life.

The Ripple Effect

I think one of the most amazing things about the internet is it is possible to interact with people from all over the world, in places you may even have not heard of. It is also possible for one person of have an idea with captures the interest of others and causing a ripple effect that spreads the globe, making an impact on others in ways could also not be previously dreamt about.

The success of Wheelies is a perfect example of the ripple effect in action. Launched just 5 years ago, the club is a simple secondlife club which I just set up for my own benefit in the same way 1000s of people set up a blog, to have fun and maybe a make difference. But while many secondlife clubs and blogs have their fan base, but not so widely known about, Wheelies was difficult.

Since opening, the club must have impacted 10000s people around the world in a huge number of countries. In just searching “wheelies secondlife” on google, the results keep coming in terms of blog articles, news articles and even mentioned in academic journals. I know at least 5 books that mention Wheelies!

And the interest still never stops, I receive requests for interviews from students, magazines and even television on a monthly basis. It is an idea which has still not stopped rippling out. And what is next? I have no idea and that is what so exciting about it!

Supporting Parents to let go

As every child grows and matures into a young adult, it is important that they have the opportunity to develop as a person in their own right, separate from their parents. It can be hard for parents to let go, but it can be even harder when it is a disabled child. 

Whether a child is disabled or not, the level of worry and concern from parents may be the same but they are seen as different. Society would find it strange if a parent was over-protective of a child who is actually 25, 30, 35 or even 40, but if the child is disabled, it seems more acceptable. It is assumed that a disabled child or rather adult is naturally more vulnerable and needy.

But I would argue that the reason they could be vulnerable or needy is because they have been over-protected and that they have not had the opportunity to learn from their own mistakes. With the right support in the right way, every child should have the opportunity to break free from their parents.

And on this basis, it is important parents are supported to let go and support their children as adults. Society can make it very easy for parents to feel they do not need to let go and I feel it is mostly always in the best interested for them to let go. 

If a disabled child/adult requires personal support, it is important that this is arranged in a manner which does not need the full time involvement of parents before the parents reach an age where they need support themselves. This therefore means the parents can have an involvement and be reassured, rather then it being left to just professionals.

I hope over time, parents will feel supported to let go of their disabled children in the same way as other children and it will be a part of having more enabled disabled young people.

The ‘individual’ media channel

I grew up with access to just 3 Television Channels in the UK until I was 8, and then Channel 4 came along in 1982. Now I have access to over 500 channels on Sky. But is this still enough? I would say yes and no.

It is enough in terms of television I watch or record to watch at the times given to me, with very little interaction or control over the content provided. But I would argue as a form of media, this is no longer satisfying.

The internet has enabled me to discover who I am and build a world of information and people that means something to me. As I embraced in this wider yet more individual experience via the internet, my connection to the values expressed on television, especially the 5 terrestrial channels, has weakened as they no longer represent who I am. 

The collective UK audience of the 1980s is no longer the same as we all crave more media that is reflective of our identity. Therefore with social media, I feel we are on the verge of the individual’s media channel, where not only are individuals watching and interacting with the personalised concept they desire but also producing and broadcasting their own media in their own right. 

The technology for individuals to run their own radio stations and indeed TV stations already exist and will only get easier over time. So here is to the future where we will have billions of channels to watch, including our very own!

The Freedom of an Electric Wheelchair

I think I always knew that I would be needing an electric wheelchair at some point in my life and that time has come. I have had a manual wheelchair all my life for long distances and in recent years, for not so long distances. 

In theory, the fact I have a personal assistant with me most of the time meant I did not need an electric wheelchair. The reality is that I am a heavy and big man, and therefore I was choosing to restrict my mobility to prevent my staff from becoming too tired, and more importantly, having any unnecessary back strain!

Since I live upstairs without a lift, the main issue I had to resolve in getting a chair was a was where to store and change the chair. It took 2 years to arrange, but I manage to have a cupboard built downstairs for this purpose. I would therefore very excited when I could order the chair using funding from Jobcentre Plus’ Access to Work scheme.

I have now had the chair for a few weeks now and it has been amazing and how much freedom I have. I am able to get the buses into the city and whizz all around town in a way I could never do, even when I could walk well. Since the chair can not fit into my motability car, I have handed it back so I can better use my mobility allowance for transport I can use.

I am really enjoying using public transport and being out in the open air, regardless of the weather, as I have plenty of waterproofs! I am very much looking forward to going out more and being as adventurous as I was 20 years ago.

The benefits of an electric wheelchair can not be underestimated and I will keep you posted on my direct experiences of using one.

Energy Crisis

While most people are worrying about the Government’s cuts and the general recession, I fear that there is a much bigger  issue coming up from the rear, and that is the one of energy prices.

Ever since my Geography school lessons in the 1980s, I knew that coal, oil and gas were due to run out, well, just about now, and the one day we should be investing in green renewable energy. Well that day has been and gone and we are certainly not using the amount of renewable energy as we should be.

Therefore the simple economic equation of demand and supply which is we are having more demand for energy than energy companies can deliver, prices are going to increase. In the last few years we have seen them double and I fear this is just going to be the start.

Since energy is so basic to the running of the 21st century society, it is not simply a matter of allowing a declining market to disappear like CDs or petrol driven cars. Energy has been sold as a consumer product for 20 or so years but maybe the current rise of prices means this is no longer viable.

Is it time for energy to be nationalised or even internationalised, where countries work together to utilise the renewable resources the planet has to offer? Is it time to ration energy or treat energy in a new way as a scarce resource?

I fear what many may just see as annoying price rises could in fact be start of an earth-shattering change in the way we live.

Is it fair to scare?

There has been an incredible amount of research from charity on the so-called effects of the changes in Disability Living Allowance as its becomes ‘Personal Independence Payments’. Most of the research focuses of what specific individuals feel would be the negative effects of losing their benefits would be.

I have 3 main concerns with this kind of research. The first is that the headlines from the research usually assume it is a ‘done deal’ that far more people will lose their benefits then anyone can imagine. It is as if the charity itself as made judgements about who will and will not be entitled to the new benefit in a manner the government itself has not done. The government is not automatically removing anyone’s benefits and I question whether it is fair for any charity to ‘hype up’ the effects the changes may bring?

My second concern is that if I asked my personal assistants, just as an interesting exercise, what would be the effect on their lives if I decided to suddenly cut their wages by 20%, I feel it would be fair for them to start wondering why I asked and could assume that I was planning to cut their wages, despite the fact I make it clear it was just a question. I am therefore concerned when charities are inviting disabled people from all levels of need to imagine life without benefit. I believe this is a nasty form of scaremongering that is not abusing individuals by adding unnecessarily stress to their lives. The research leaves individuals feeling vulnerable and dependent on the charities doing the research to play the hero. I would imagine very few of the individuals being interviewed would actually be anywhere close to losing their benefits.

My final concern is that the research also assume all disabled people are the same and that they are all deserving of the benefits they receive. The research often ignores the reasons behind the new benefit, to prevent frauds and abuse, which is a big issue. Charities often demand absolute pity for anyone claiming to be disabled based on 19th century values of welfare and not 21st century values of rights and responsibilities.

Disabled people are becoming the pawns of the current era of ‘Big Society’ empire building as charities become the new way fat cat directors make hidden profits by pretending to help people, when in reality they are keeping them dependent and disempowered for their own benefit.

Raising Ambitions

People have always said that I am very determined but last week a friend reminded me that I was also very ambitious and that is what is unusual especially for someone who is considered ‘disabled’. I believe everyone has the right to have ambitions and a responsibility to try to achieve them as much as they can. 

However, despite my positive attitude and approach to life, I would argue many people, disabled or otherwise, have ‘issues’ with people who are ambitious. If you are confident is who you are and what you do, those who prefer to be negative claim you are selfish, self-centered or ego-centric and try to ‘bring you down’ a peg or two for making an effort.

I do not see nor understand the need to put anyone down for trying to achieve their aspirations, so long as it does not harming others. While many people claim to demand the right to exist, why is simply existing a goal worthy of attention?

I am happy with you I am and forgiving ourselves as well as loving who we are in a key part of good personal development and I must wonder how many people actually like themselves? This is the start block for genuine ambition which everyone can have, regardless of the difficulties they or others believe they have.

Society must raise the expectations, aspirations and desires of every citizen and this includes every disabled person who need to maybe stop seeing and moaning about what they do not have, and start embracing and using what they do have.