I Believe You Can

I am a big fan of ‘The Biggest Loser’, especially the American version of the show, because series after series it has turned people who literally have one foot in the grave into thin fit healthy athletes. The show turns “can’t” into “can” and that it is this attitude I treasure as my own. If I had believed all the negative people around me in my life, I would not be where I am today, I would simply be in a box in the ground. I strongly and absolutely believe if people really want to achieve something and they are prepared to put in the work needed, they can achieve whatever they want in one way or another.

I also truly believe all disabled people as well as everyone else ‘can’ work and I define work as the ability to perform an activity for which an organisation or another person is willing to pay money for. I have never suggested that anyone should be working and I perfectly accept that there is many people, disabled or not, who are not ready to work for a whole range of reasons. I have never cared how many disabled people actually work, but simply the fact society, professionals and disabled people themselves believed they can work.

It is however the consensus of government, society, charities and many disability activists that those who are deemed who can work should be supported to work and there should be ‘an alternative’ for those who can’t. That was precisely the policy in 1930s Nazi Germany, although Hitler’s idea of an alternative was slightly more extreme. Anyone who shares this idea has drawn a line in the sand between those who can work and be citizens of society, and those written off as unfit burdens. Since many people who believe where the government/ATOS has drawn the line is wrong, they act like gods, drawing their own line based on their own prejudices against disabled people, usually wanting to write off more people as useless who should be paid off in welfare benefits to exclude themselves from society.

My many critics, those who think I am some form of satan for believing all disabled people have human potential, say that it is wrong to simply judge someone’s place in society based on their ability to work, and while I would like to agree with them, the problem is they have already written off disabled people as unemployable and inferior to other citizens by asking for them to be judged with what is politically correct pity. Also, the reality is employability is central to a modern civilisation. Children spend up to 20 years of their life preparing themselves for work, and unless someone is raising a family or nowadays having caring responsibilities, society frowns upon anyone who does not work.

Their argument fails because all disabled people can work, they have skills and qualities others will desire in one way or another. There are barriers to paid employment but they are not as insurmountable as those disabled people who are refusing to work would like others to believe. If we end up allowing society to continue believing a proportion of disabled people can never work, the consequences will be grave. Firstly, what is the point of allowing disabled people to go to university when they simply are deemed unemployable, it’s a waste of everyone’s money and resources? Indeed, why bother with any form of education? And here we find ourselves at the birth or even conception judging whether someone should exist because the current generation of disabled activists have written them off as unemployable and useless based on misplaced labels.

While they may call for pity and compassion for these people they want warehoused in comfort, a society with reducing resources is going to eventually to have different ideas on people deemed unable to contribute to society, hence it is important for disabled people we are seen as able to contribute. But when people like Sue Marsh tells her follows how heartbreakingly miserable it is to have a minor impairment, let alone a significant one, and organisations like “Disabled Activists for Dignity in Dying” wants to legalise the assisted suicide, or rather murder, of the terminally ill (for now) in the name of ‘choice and independence’, I fear the real future of disabled people on the wrong side on that line in the sand, unfit for work and society, is a bleak one indeed.

I do not know any time in history when a group of people started to campaign for their demise. Black people did not campaign for their right to be slaves, and women did not campaign for the right not to vote, but for some strange reason, disabled people, who are often deeply prejudiced against themselves, are now campaigning for inequality, the right not to be citizens, and the right to be deemed and treated as second class citizens, and the worst part is that its politically correct, as well as now immoral to believe all disabled people have human potential. I now certainly feel like that clever sensible boy screaming to everyone the emperor has no clothes on and is going to die of exposure pretty soon!

from Simon Stevens http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/i-believe-you-can_b_4342411.html


A bit about my family


I do not talk about my family because they do not really have a place in my life. It has been at least a decade since I have last met any of them and 5 years since I have had any contact with any of them, expect my father and that is minimal. They are alive as far as I know and I do any think anyone can claim I am not easy to find or make contact with. I made a big effort to engage with them in the past and I feel if they want a relationship with me, they know where I am.


I did have a happy childhood but that has more to do with how I am rather than my relationship with my family, which was strained despite living with my mother, step-father, and only real sibling, my young real  brother.  I have more half and step siblings that I know and again if they want a relationship, they know where I am. I was certainly physically and verbally abused as a child although I was not a victim. I once confronted my stepfather purely on the facts and he has not spoken to me since, I do not think he understands I have moved on even if he has not.


My mother has a level of poisonous hatred inside her which took me a while to shake off as I grown into herself, and my brother was just embarrassed by me, and the fact I never tried to hide the fact I was disabled, like that was ever possible. To be the successful and independent person I am, I had to cut my family out of my life, to avoid being dragged into their prejudices of myself as a disabled person. It has therefore been the price I had paid and I not sure people realise how alone I have been at times in my life.


I do not imagine speaking to my family again and that is absolutely fine for me as I do not want negative people in my life. If they can forgive me for that fact I am myself, and themselves for failing to accept me for so long, then maybe maybe they will have a place in my life, but I am not holding my breath.


If you like what I say, have a look at my site at www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74, or even leave me feedback on +44 (0)121 364 1974 or email simon@simonstevens.com  


Encouraging ‘Young Carers’ Is Unacceptable

Over the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who are regarded or regard themselves as carers, due to a strong carers movement that has the support of this government. Those who were regarded as spouses, parents and siblings are now just regarded as carers, and while family members may sometimes be wrong, society believes carers always know best, even when it is far from the case.

Where there is a carer, it is regarded there is a person, more a burden, who ‘lacks capacity’ and needs ‘looking after’ like they no longer have a say in the matter. While some caring relationships may indeed be like this, it is not in every case and I always found the term carer has been used against me to undermine my intelligence when people ask to speak to ‘my carer’. It frightens me when the carers movement talk about how much money they have saved the government because they have not asked social services to put their ‘loved ones’ in care, like their burdens have no say in the matter, as it hints at how society really regards disabled people.

One thing that really worries me is the rise in ‘young carers’ and how society seems to simply accept this with little understanding, which I regard as a form of child abuse. The definition of a young carer is often confusion and one issue I feel is wrong is that carer organisations like to label non-disabled siblings as ‘young carers’ when they have disabled siblings, where no caring relationship exists. The reason for this is often to boost the number of young carers on paper for their own funding requirements and while this white lie may appear harmless, this mislabelling can causes inequality in the relationships within a family that can emotionally split the family from a disabled child well into their adulthood due to unnecessary resentment to what was in fact an interdependent relationship.

I should make it clear that there is nothing wrong with children helping out around the house, even if that includes helping with supporting their parents or other family members, like pushing grandma in town, because that is a part of how any family works and does not make them carers, as we all help each other out in differing situations. My concern is when a child is forced by their circumstances to look after and/or take responsibility for their parents, and that compromises their education and opportunities to play and develop. If a parent is not able to emotionally and practically look after a child then the child may just have to look after themselves and even their parents. It must be noted it is often not parents with traditional impairments who are the ones who are reliant on their children since they would have fought hard to be parents and want to be good parents.

We are talking about more likely parents who have issues with drug or alcohol, or any condition that is undiagnosed and/or unmanaged. In these situations, the child, who can be as young as four or five, is often the responsible adult in dealing with outside agencies, having to look after themselves and their parents. And what is society’s, government’s and carer’s organisations’ response to this form of child slavery? To offer the child a week’s respite, maybe a support group, possibly a medal and they may as well add a lollipop. When I hear that the government is advising schools to be sensitive to the needs of ‘young carers’ and give them the time off from their education so they can look after mum, I just want to scream.

I strongly believe parents have a responsibility to be parents regardless of how incapacitated they are. If they have a drug or alcohol problem, they must sort it out but the problem is the country is appalling at supporting people in this situation, or indeed with mental health issues in general. So rather then help parents become the parents they have a responsibility to be, this country now feels it is acceptable to rebadge child slavery as ‘young carers’, adding a bit of sugar into the mix to make this terrible situation look acceptable.

What is happening may not be as shocking and headline grabbing as the abuses of Jimmy Saville, but society’s and the government’s reliance on innocent children to sweep the drug and alcohol problem we have under the carpet is far worse as government sanctioned abuse. Children must have the right to be children and enjoy as much of their childhood as they can. Any parent who is not able to give their child this should be helped or failing that, have their children removed from them, not just allow their children to become their slave-like ‘carers’.

Nothing will change here until society stops looking at ‘young carers’ with sweetness and compassion for the wonderful job their do, and realise that this is child abuse and it should no longer be tolerated, then we may finally get to grips with emotional wellbeing in this country!

from Simon Stevens http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/young-carers_b_4300827.html


If they met me


Since writing for the Huffington Post, I had quite a number of trolls make abusive personal comments about myself from people I have never met but who believe they know everything about me from the myths that have been created about me. It has to make me wonder that if they actually met we in person, would they actually dare say any of these insults and lies to my face?


My volunteer reckons they would say they would, but he acknowledges that they would probably not have the courage to go through with it, while I know I am very consistent in what I say. I think when they realise how fully significant my impairment is, compared to their scale of what impairment is, they will be too shocked for much else. I think it will be hard for them to look at me without that face of pity and for me to challenge their understanding of disability issues.


And I indeed dare anyone to arrange to meet me and I would find it interesting as I sure have a lot of questions for them, which I am sure they will be unable to answer.


If you like what I say, have a look at my site at www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74, or even leave me feedback on +44 (0)121 364 1974 or email simon@simonstevens.com  


It Is the Lies That Kill Disabled People

Back in August I wrote an article on what I considered to be some urban myths of the welfare reforms asking for any evidence there was any truth to them. My article created a lot of response and anger towards myself, but in my opinion, no proper evidence was provided that any of the myths were true, merely a lot of people demanding I had 19th century pity for a 21st century situation.

I feel that anyone that is rational on the issue, can and should understand that ATOS does not murder people, that Independent Living Fund users will not end up in residential care after 2015, or the majority of disabled people will not be effected by the changes to DLA. This however does not stop disability charities, so-called disability activists and the anti-government media peddling these conspiracy theories like they were facts set in stone built upon myth upon myth.

The latest ‘lie’ to shock me is from Phil Friend, Chair of Disability Rights UK, who suggested to his organisation’s recent AGM that disabled people were better off in the 1950s because they did not have to worry about managing their finances. Now considering in the 1950s, if I was not already dead from pneumonia, I would have been locked away in a mental hospital with no technology, no internet, no voice and no meaningful existence, it is ridiculous to suggest I would have been better off. A part of the inclusion his organisation has supposedly fought for includes managing finances through the tough times as well as the good ones, and it is extremely insulting to suggest disabled people are better off locked away because a minority of people can not manage their finances!

But the lies keep on coming from organisations and individuals desperate to disempower and control disabled people for their own agenda, and I would like to argue this is what is killing disabled people, by pushing them towards suicidal feelings. I fully accept and acknowledge that applying for benefits, managing sickness and impairment, having social care assessments and so on can be very stressful, however confident we are. But as human beings, I feel we can cope with any situation we have to face when it is in isolation, the problems arise when we have a face many difficult situations at once. This is when the level of stress can feel unbearable, making it harder to think straight and see things are not as bad as they seem.

Now, It is perfectly acceptable to understand how people can reach a stage where they feel suicidal, especially if they already have mental health difficulties to manage as well, and I have been there myself more than once. When they are at this stage, they need proper support to calm down and see things as they really are, having the opportunity and help to unpick each problem and understanding what is the worse that could happen, which is often far less than what has been feared. I do strongly believe with the right emotional support, people can work through their problems successfully, becoming stronger people.

But very sadly this is not happening as the conspiracy theorists metaphorically encourage disabled people on the ledge wanting to jump, to jump right now as there is no other choice. It is criminal that when disability charities and activists should be spending their time providing disabled people with the emotional support they need to manage the changes of the benefits system, they are instead shouting their lies as loudly as possible and I fear in the hope of encouraging suicides.

And the reason for this disgraceful behaviour is simple, in the light of no evidence of supposed cuts to ‘real disabled people’, the only way to grab the media’s attention, with the intention of embarrassing the government into an U-Turn on welfare reforms, is to have some suicides they have caused, which they can blame the government for. Since the general public has already been willing to accept for many years it was okay for disabled people to want to kill themselves, it has been easy for the charities and activists to transfer the blame.

I find it horrifying that we live in a political era where those who oppose the government feel the need to continuously lie to disabled people in the hope they will kill themselves, simply to score political points. Things like the WOW Petition are not the sign of a new era of democracy but more like a new era of social media terror, where it is about losing hearts and minds, not winning them. Until we reach a point where the general public demands the real hard facts on ATOS, Independent Living Fund and the many other things being lied about, the killings will sadly continue and more sadly, be written off as a product of the welfare reforms, not the actions of those who oppose the government.

from Simon Stevens http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/it-is-the-lies-that-kill-_b_4217137.html


Accessible Transport Is Good for Everyone

Public transport is an essential part of the infrastructure of any civilised society and therefore if disabled people are to achieve full equality as contributing citizens, it is important that public transport is as accessible as it can be, and by this I do not just mean wheelchair access but also a whole range of features so that transport is accessible to a wide range of people with differing impairments.

By accessible transport, I am also referring to the whole journey from the front door to the final destination. This means that the dropped curb from someone’s front door to their nearest bus stop is as important as how accessible the bus is. By removing these small barriers, the benefit can be enormous, and this is not just for disabled people, but a whole range of public transport users. A fully accessible public transport system is an easier, quicker and nicer system for everyone since everyone can benefit from lifts and so on, that has been originally installed to meet the needs of wheelchair users.

While I do accept that public transport is not yet fully accessible as it should be, and I am sure that it can never be the case as standards and expectations rise, I do not accept that in every location, public transport is terrible enough to be considered a barrier to disabled people. I find it odd that poor public transport seems to be one of the main excuses to why disabled people can not get a job, despite the fact they do not know where they are working, and often already have access to a car!

I live in Coventry, and for myself as an electric wheelchair user, the public transport is excellent, there is a very good and fully accessible bus service throughout the city and the train station are very helpful, even when I do not book assistance, and I never book assistance! The public transport system is so good, that along with the fact I can now have my groceries delivered with online shopping, I got rid of my car when I got my electric wheelchair, as I was not using it anymore.

If I had a complaint, it would be about using taxis. The problem is not so much that they are inaccessible, but rather that the poor attitude of the drivers mean they often ‘attempt’ to refuse to take me, making all kinds of excuses about my wheelchair being too heavy and so on. I have had my wheelchair fully okayed by the council and I have done everything I can to make people aware of this issue, being interviewed on local radio twice! The worst situation is at the train station, especially during peak times, when the drivers act like a mob, refusing to take me on mass, shaking their heads to me like I am stupid. My personal assistant eventually coaches one of the drivers to take me, like they were a frightened cat stuck up a tree! I have learnt to bite my lip in this frustrating matter and just try to see the funny side.

I believe that for some people with impairments, a fully accessible transport system will removed the need for them to have the mobility component of DLA or PIP, because their needs will be fully met. This is why I believe in an outcome based single disability payment, like the one currently being proposed by Labour, since it could and should provide a balance between what is spent on supporting individuals, and what is spent making the wider environment accessible. This means that providing dropped curbs and other features may be more beneficial than any amount of personal benefit, especially since it is not possible for any individual to ‘buy’ a dropped curb!

The political argument for accessible transport has been won some years ago now, and I personally find it boring when people assume otherwise. It is only a matter of time and money, which has been difficult of late, before the UK has a fully accessible public transport system we should all be proud of, especially as it will be one less excuse for disabled people not to work!

from Simon Stevens http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/accessible-transport-is-g_b_4272408.html


There Should be No Benefit to Being Disabled

While others may disagree with me, I do feel that there are people who wish to have the label of being disabled, who are just impaired, because they believe there are benefits to being disabled. I am not just talking about welfare benefits, but also many other perks like free parking, bus passes and free seats at theatres for carers and PAs. The problem is people often do not understand the reason why disabled people need something they see as a benefit. I know when I was at mainstream school, an all-boys school, the other boys resented the fact I had a laptop (the first laptop, Epson HX20) and I did not do PE, but it was never properly explained to them why I needed them and what my difficulties were.

I would like to propose that there should not be a benefit to being disabled, and that this means understanding what specific ‘benefits’ are really about, which sometimes even those who provide them have forgotten. I would like to give two examples.

The first is that the perceived benefit that wheelchair users and others can jump the queue at theme parks. I was interested to read Disney has recently changed its policy on this and many theme parks have either restricted access to disabled entrances, or cashed in by selling the supposed benefit to non-disabled people, but is it really a benefit for disabled people? The whole main reason there was originally a disabled entrance was that the queues were often physically inaccessible and so it was the only way to access the ride.

Also, wheelchair users are not guaranteed to get on a ride straight away as there is often only one or two seats available in each ride, and when there is a large group of wheelchair users, this so-called queue jumping can in fact be far more time consuming, spending a good few hours just watching people at a single ride as the group slowly takes its turn. Having wheelchair users and others waiting at the rear of the ride also enables staff to manage their health and safety better since they are not rushed by the queuing customers.

Theme parks themselves have often forgotten all this and now see this benefit being exploited. Other impairment groups, who can physically queue and use the ride without assistance, have also started putting their hands up demanding this benefit. When I hear parents say their autistic children do not have the patience to queue, I sigh, because that could be said about any child and surely we all need to learn patience!

The second example is the wheelchair assistance at airports, which is frankly being massively abused. I should explain that as a genuine wheelchair user, it is not a case I want assistance onto the plane, but it is a case that without assistance I can not get on the plane whether I like it or not. But what was an essential service has now become a benefit for anyone who wants it since under European Law, airports must provide assistance to anyone who asks for it, without needing to book in advance.

I swear that now everyone over 65 believes it is a part of what they paid for and despite not using a wheelchair 364 days of the year, they want to be pushed around at the airport. It makes me laugh when they get out of the wheelchair while waiting in the departure lounge, as personally I would lock them in with a lap belt because if they want to be disabled then they should have no choice. I once saw an old lady try to slip the person assisting her some money like they were the bell boy in a posh hotel, the staff member refused being somewhat embarrassed.

A few years ago Birmingham Airport told me the number of people requesting assistance was rising at incredibly 11% a month, turning what was an essential service into a headache for the airline industry as on some flights half of people now want assistance as something they think they have paid for, probably ending up driving up prices. While nothing is said, the staff know the difference between those like myself who genuinely need assistance, and those milking the system. They are also always pleasantly surprised at how polite and helpful I am compared to others who are demanding help.

I fundamentally believe all disabled people should get what they personally need and should not unnecessarily benefit from having a label. Service providers and policy makers sometimes need to go back to basics to properly understand the history behind the perks disabled people appear to have and update them accordingly to ensure they are fair for everyone.

from Simon Stevens http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/there-should-be-no-benefi_b_4259055.html


The Twitter Influence Score


I am a big user of Twitter, but clearly not as big as many people, and I am proud of my 3181 followers. When I look at followers, especially people I do not know who comment on my tweets, I have devised a quick scoring system to see how creditable they are, rather than just looking at their followers. 


I basically take their number of followers and divide it by the number of tweets they have written by doing some simple estimated maths. Right now, I have roughly a score of just under 1. Someone else may have a lot more followers of me, but has ten times as tweets as followers, and so their score would be 0.1. Someone who is well known may have a lot of followers and very few tweets, giving them a very high score, something I am never lightly to achieve!


This scoring system is not perfect but it helps me judge how creditable comments are, especially when they are hurtful. One day, this scoring system may catch on and be included on everyone’s twitter page, as a way of rating people!


If you like what I say, have a look at my site at www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74, or even leave me feedback on +44 (0)121 364 1974 or email simon@simonstevens.com  

Independent Living Fund’s Closure Is Good for Disabled People

While there is five disabled people who are celebrating today because they believe they have stopped the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) after their high court appeal, there are 19000 other users, including myself, who now have a lot to fear about as the actions of a few trying to escape reality has potentially harmed the lives of so many.

The fund was set up in 1988 in an era before direct payments and personalisation to enable people with high support needs to live independently. I believe the social care departments within councils have matched and surpassed the ideas of ILF. In 2007, an independent report was produced, commissioned by the Labour government, that highlighted the fund had a number of serious failings in the way it was accountable to users and the way it handled complaints, or rather didn’t. The report concluded the fund was not fit for purpose in the long term, and needed to be scrapped.

It must also be highlighted that the fund has been closed to new users since early 2010, and it has never been the intention of the five users to get the fund reopened, merely to keep their funding without any further assessment. It is worth noting that the five users were supported by the extremist group, Disabled People Against Cuts, who systematically focused on a lie that is April 2015, when the fund should close, that all users will be systematically put in residential care against their will, where of course they are likely to suffer abuse. This lie has not only been designed to frighten ILF Users, but to promote pity from an unaware public.

The fact they do not wish you to know if the money to support disabled people is not going to disappear but is being transferred to the councils to manage. While there is again all this talk of cuts within social care by those who oppose the government, I am not seeing it especially since the supposed crisis in care is the fact the middle class have home to sell their to pay for the care they and their family chooses for them to have! But without any evidence, DPAC and others, tell me that councils will cut my care to the bone like I was an animal. The fact a proportion of my support is already from my local council since 1996 is overlooked and that they are not the evil monsters these out of date activists wish them to be portray them as.

Saving the fund provides no guarantees any of its users will be free from cuts, and quite the opposite, the fund will now be forced to make worst cuts than if the fund was closing. Since the fund has never assessed people based on the resources it had, just being a supposedly free for all, it is likely to make a hatchet job of them since it does not have the sophistication and experience of managing limited resources as councils do. Because councils have more experience, and have a wider range of services and tools as their disposal, they can do a better job at meeting the needs of users in a way that offers a better quality service for the best value for money.

The fact the appeal was won on a political correct notion of equality is an embarrassment to the British Justice system, because the judgement has potentially guaranteed inequality as it supports a two tier system for people with high support needs. The fund was always elitist, and I say that as an user, and now that elitism has been protected by the courts, simply to please the anti-government lobby.

The only way to properly ensure the needs of everyone with high support needs is met, is to close the fund and encourage and even force the councils to properly support people with high support needs based on their outcomes and willingness to make an contribution to society. I sincerely hopes the government that the interests of the majority over the wants of a minority of five users, and ensure the fund closes on time and properly supports councils to bring a good quality of life to everyone with high support needs, not just the disability elite.

from Simon Stevens http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/independent-living-fund_b_4231378.html


Frustration is frustrating!


A lot of people who do not agree with me say I am angry when I am either telling the truth as far as I say it, and I am frustrated. For many people with cerebral palsy, including myself, we find it harder to hide our emotions. The result of cerebral palsy is that we send either too little and too much communication or energy through our nerves to our muscles so that we either don’t move or spasm. When we get frustrated, the amount of energy is increased unconsciously and so we can appear angry.


One of the reasons for my frustration is that I see things very clearly and I have a good world view. I have the mental skills to knock the socks of anyone but because my typing is much slower than my thought processes, I am left frustrated at wanting to say so much. Twitter adds further frustration and so I am left with keyboard rage!


I am not sure that is ever going to be a solution to this and it is just a matter of understanding it and embracing. It is also about recognising this frustration in my other friends and foes with cerebral palsy, like Matthew Goodsell, and while not tolerating any abuse from them, understanding they own situation and help out when they are willing to be helped. 


Frustration could be argued as one of my weaknesses but it is something I have embraced.


If you like what I say, have a look at my site at www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74, or even leave me feedback on +44 (0)121 364 1974 or email simon@simonstevens.com