Reflections of my education

Today SEN in a mainstream environment is widely accepted, but I think it is essential to recognise how things were used to be. I am going to talk about my experiences quite openly, not out of glory or pity but as an example of how things were.

I was born in 1974, and I have significant cerebral palsy where my speech impairment has been my most considerable disadvantage as people assume I lack intelligence. The irony is I am hyper-intelligent, think Sherlock Holmes, which is a curse when you have a spastic body, again just factual, I have lived well.

My first school at aged 2 was a mental hospital, and the child unit became the ‘QE2 Jubilee School for the Mentally Handicapped’, opened by the Queen.

The teachers very clearly understood I did not have learning difficulties, and I was bright. This revelation sparked the first attempt at integrating me into a mainstream school, which in the late 70s was unheard of.

They tested me out in several schools and aged five they placed me in the local village school. I am not sure it was successful. It was a very middle-class area and having your child sat next to a ‘drooling spastic’ did not go down well.

I used crutches in the playground and ‘hit me with your rhythm stick’ was number one so other pupils asked me to hit them, the teachers were not impressed.

It was ‘decided’ to move me to a ‘physically handicapped’ unit at a mainstream school at a neighbouring town. It was good and mostly coped with me.

The headmistress once told me I need to work twice as hard as anyone else to get on in life, something that stuck with me. She was right, but at 45, I am now suffering the price I paid.

Now we have the main event, going to an all-boys mainstream school. If you remember ‘only gay in the village’, this was ‘only spastic at school’. It is so hard to explain how much discrimination I faced. I was bullied endlessly for five years which the headteacher said to myself and my parents was a part of my education. The worst thing the school did was to tell other pupils to treat me ‘normally’ as they then resented the special equipment I had.

It is essential to understand as a teenager in a spastic body, I did not understand what was happening. For the first three months at regular school I cried myself to sleep as I was so confused.

I did not understand I was ‘disabled’, a discriminated person until I was 17. I know I was different, but I suffered from what I call ugly duckling syndrome. I had no cp peers, so I did not know who I was. Plus I was gay which I did not understand until I was 21.

6th form college was a breath of fresh air, and I could start to be myself. I lived in the computer room and once with their permission-ish ran up a £600 phone bill using the internet. I loved the freedom, and I was proud when the college put on a play I wrote on my experiences at school called Normality, which is a very complex issue.

College was a time when I was very normalised and automatically conformed, denying myself using equipment that would help me. At school and college, it would have been useful to wear a helmet in case of falls, a bib/apron/smock at lunchtimes and certainly a boilersuit for pottery.

The early 90s was a time when everyone went to University, so I wanted to go to University, so I did. In September 1992, I went to Coventry University, and in many ways I never left. I am now doing a lot of work as a service user in healthcare and social care issues at the university.

University was the start of being the person I am now. It gave me the freedoms I never had. My course was Manufacturing and Business Studies, and I mostly hated it, but it paid the bills. I learnt much more from the students’ union, and I quickly became students with disabilities officer, a role I held for four years.

The university allowed me to denormalise, to be myself and use the equipment that helps me with confidence. It was a liberating time for me and probably a time I had less stress, no bullying, but I quickly found myself becoming more distanced from my non-disabled peers as I became more myself. I got very involved in the city, Coventry, and became a resident of the city.

I remained very involved with the University in many ways and now train healthcare staff as a service user.

The best decision I made in my life was not to move home but to stay in Coventry. My parents were emotional and physically abusive to me, a fact I just have to live with without malice and moving back home would have stunted my independence. I also had a severely impaired boyfriend to consider.

 

Lessons to be learnt…

I think the first is be very weary on imposing the learning difficulty label as at an early age it can open and closes doors. If you have LD label then you will not get an education so you will have LD and your childhood will be about preparing for adult daycare services, I actually had this told to me very recently as a matter of policy in one council.

The second thing is equipment which is a matter of personal choice. Whether to use a nappy, bib, apron or whatever is a choice, no right or wrong answers. And it can not be about fashion. I personally hate the butterfly harnesses as they offer no posture support, I would much prefer a 5 point harness as the crotch strap provides posture which enhances confidence and intelligence.

I think impairment specific peer support in mainstream schools is also essential. As a teenager you are searching for an identity, and you need to see yourself in others. You would not put a girl in an all-boys school. It took me many years to relate to other people with cerebral palsy. Impairment and Disability are two separate identities. I believe everyone has impairments to a degree, but not everyone is disabled, and society is currently confused by this.

I also believe post-university support for people with severe impairments is very very important, and it needs to be started at the beginning of the final year. I have seen too much talent lost because people go back to their parents as social care does the basics if anything and they just disappeared. Society does not care if I work or not, so I had to fight hard to accomplish what I wanted. This attitude needs to change.

 

Summary

 

It is essential to reflect on the history of special needs education. In 1910 a law was passed requiring us defectives to be separated for genetic concerns. Charities led in the building of special schools which were an innovation of their time.

I recommend watching or reading Skalligrig, which is a powerful reflection of what it was like to be disabled.

Also, important to note I did not have a legal right to an education until 1981 when I was 7. These were the dark ages of special needs. I am still amazed I coped at school, I was so isolated.

Being ‘disabled’ in the 80s is very different from now. I had to wait outside shops in my buggy or wheelchair, and once a parent pulled a child away from me saying ‘you might catch something’.

With all this said I had lived very well, and I am grateful for the education I received as well as the social skills. I may sound bitter to some readers but it is an honest reflection.

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

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Having Pride (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me
Stevens’ Manifesto – https://www.simonstevens.com/manifesto
Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips
Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability
Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

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I hate paper straws

There are often mainstream everyday products which can assist various people with impairments with specific needs. Deliveroo and online shopping, as well as banking, are perfect examples of this as technology has assisted in the inclusion of people with impairments.

While these solutions are likely to stay for a long time and keep improving, some solutions come in and out of mainstream fashion, where there is no regard for how they assist various people with impairments. My first personal experience of this was Velcro shoes.

Due to my hand control and general movement, Velcro shoes are easier to put on by myself and allows me to be more independent as it is impossible for me to tie up laces. However, the availability of Velcro shoes in adult sizes in mainstream shops over the years has varied widely without any logic, but that is fashion.

When Velcro aHhre out of fashion my only option would have been to have gone to a specialist provider, thus paying the dreaded ‘disability premium’, the extra amount people with impairments have to pay because it is a ‘special’ solution. Nowadays, I wear mainstream slip-on shoes, and since I now only use a wheelchair when I go out, they have lasted many years, more than when I was walking.

Currently, there is a much more significant concern, which is the end of plastic straws in preference to paper straws in restaurants and other places in a lame effort to ‘save the environment’. The idea is not just a fashion that has spread across the hospitality industry but a commitment by the government to ban plastic straws except for medical purposes. This could mean people with impairments requiring plastic straws would literally need a license to purchase them.

The problem is the current design of paper straws is awful as the ‘mouthpiece’ quickly becomes squashed as the straw becomes a soggy mess which reminds me of the one time I had a puff on a cigarette on my 19th birthday! When straws are the only solution for drinking for many people with impairments, we can see how there is a policy conflict between accessibility and protecting the environment.

One way to resolve this is to improve the design and durability of paper straws, and I do not know anyone who likes them, impaired or not, but this will take time. In the short term, people with impairments will need to bring their own plastic straws they have purchased while stocks last. I have already pre-empted the situation by buying 1000s of plastic straws to last me the rest of my life.

I do already bring straws with me when I go out for hot and cold drinks I have in my special cups. It is for iced beverages at McDonald’s, Starbucks and so on that using the straws provided was useful, and paper straws have harmed my enjoyment of the drinks.

How plastic straws has become a massive part of the war against climate changes bemuses me and along with the middle-class protests demanding the ridiculous with no evidence, means people like myself are going to be put off the issue, especially when the impact on people with impairments and others is not considered.

 

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

 

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Having Pride  (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me

Stevens’ Manifesto – https://www.simonstevens.com/manifesto

Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips

Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability

Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

or visit my website at http://www.simonstevens.com

 

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‘Blue badges for all’ is a bad idea

Blue Badges, or disabled parking permits, have existed for almost 50 years, and are recognised around the world, nearly as much as the wheelchair symbol. They were designed to allow wheelchair users and people with other mobility impairments to use often specific parking spaces in car parks, usually closer to the buildings the car park associated with. It remains a logically and reasonable adaptation to the built environment for this purpose.

This year the UK Government has decided to extend the Blue Badge scheme to people with so-called hidden impairments like autism, dementia and ‘anxiety’. I say so-called because, in reality, these impairments do show visible signs in terms of behaviour. The government’s decision is likely due to pressure from charities and others to provide people with mental health issues access to services and benefits designed for people with physical impairments as a symbol of equality without any understanding of the consequences, as opposed to developing services uniquely suitable for people with mental health issues.

As someone who has both physical impairments and mental health issues, I would like to use this article to explain why a ‘blue badges for all’ approach is a bad idea for everyone involved.

The first problem it creates is obviously one of demand and supply. I am not sure how accurate this statistic is nowadays, but it used to be said that only 8% of disabled people are wheelchair users. If you are doubling or tripling the number of people with blue badges, then the demand for accessible parking spaces increases. If the supply of spaces is not increased, then potentially wheelchair users are being excluded from spaces that were designed for them with extra space between the cars.

If the supply is increased to 20% or more of a large supermarket car park could be made up of disabled spaces. This means that many of the spaces will be far away from the supermarket’s entrance, which defeats the purpose of the spaces, making a lose-lose situation. It will also become divisive as people fight for the golden spaces at the front of the building.

The second and foremost issue is I believe the reality of parking spaces will not meet the fantastical expectations of people with autism, dementia, anxiety and so on. Blue badges are being sold as a way that individuals and their families can reduce the ‘stress’ of being in a car park as they will be nearer the desired building and so be spending less time in the car park.

I really do not understand this logic because if someone with autism is having a meltdown and has a fear of car parks, a blue badge will not stop this. There is no evidence that car parks affect dementia or blue badges will make it easier.

Then we have stress and anxiety. I absolutely know these are real conditions as I have experienced them myself, and they can be severe enough to be very debilitating. However, these are also terms that are widely and currently abused to describe a bad day and so on. They are terms used to get a sick note without fuss, replacing a bad back, because it is impossible to measure or disprove. This misunderstanding and abuse of the terms, therefore, makes blue badge a prize for those who have moulded themselves as victims of anxiety and stress, mainly as it often results in free parking.

I believe that everyone should be supported in the best way for them. Everyone experiences stress and anxiety to some degree, and it is about having tools to confront these feelings, to reach their maximum potential of coping, as opposed to demanding society somehow removes the stress. However, avoidance is not the solution, as blue badges are now intended to do, and therapies like CBT and exposure, as well as learning other tools, seems more appropriate as people learn to cope rather than being cured or demanding the right to avoid.

Many people with anxiety are resistant to using therapies to take responsibility and own their conditions as they see it as normalisation and an attempt to remove benefits from them by trying to cure them due to the victim culture that exists. They complain wheelchair users do not have to have therapies without understanding many wheelchair users will have had months or maybe years of physiotherapy and other treatments to reach and maintain their maximum potential.

I believe that like how the carer’s movement has gained its power, giving blue badges to everyone is a political decision to keep people happy with an illusion of improvement as opposed to designing and investing in services people really need. It also shows how impairment fashion dictates policy and how impairments who are not in fashion suffer.

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

Achieve Support – https://www.simonstevens.com/achievesupport
Having Pride (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me
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Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips
Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability
Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

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The welfare state should act as a trampoline

Because I am openly centre-right in my politics it is assumed by my critics that I somehow do not agree with the welfare state. The truth is actually quite the opposite, I believe however the current system promotes passivity that is extremely unhelpful, and it should be radically changed to enable and empower people to get back on track and be the best versions of themselves.

Everyone can have one or more episodes of difficulties in their lives for a whole range of reasons. This should be accepted as a part of life but what is important is how people respond and supported to overcome their difficulties. Money should only ever be seen as part of the solution as more direct support should be provided to remove barriers and when needed, to provide training on how to manage lifestyle issues.

I am aware that many disabled activists as rebelled against the idea of a more proactive welfare state. They regard employment and other support as an attempt to deny their impairment status and assume they are unfairly ‘fit for work’. The notion of ‘fit for work’ is an unhelpful one that assumes a 2 tier status of citizens. Instead, I regard that for those unable prepared to immediately obtain paid employment, they are somewhere on the pathway to obtain paid employment even if the goal is unlikely to be achieved, which is something no one can predict.

Impairment may indeed never be cured but it can be managed, which means people can reach a stable understanding of what they achieve including reaching an emotional acceptance and even happiness with their situation. Reaching this point is likely the hardest part of the process and something the current system does not assist with.

The decision to move away from seeing people needing welfare assistance as passive is a politic sensitive one because it is a fundamental difference between left wing and right wing politics. The left wing appears to see welfare as just a right, while the right wing also sees it as a responsibility.

The solution to the welfare state required is more advanced than this current era of politics to understand and may be hard to sell to those needing welfare support in an era of rights and identity politics. Support has to be available to meet what individuals need to fulfil their outcomes, not as compensation people ‘feel’ they deserve because someone self-defines themselves as having an impairment label despite the label having no relation to what they actually require.

The state should desire citizens to be less dependent on them as far as possible as good governance although it may hard to sell to claimants who see things differently. It may remain a system which is perceived toxic whatever happens.

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

Achieve Support – https://www.simonstevens.com/achievesupport
Having Pride (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me
Stevens’ Manifesto – https://www.simonstevens.com/manifesto
Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips
Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability
Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

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Disabled People have a responsibility to work

There are two things disabled activists tell me when I tell them that all people with impairments can contribute to society in one way or another, ideally in terms of paid work.

The first thing they say is ‘disabled people want to work but …’. My response to this is that if people really want to work, they will. For everyone with a specific level of impairment who is not working, there is likely an example of someone who is working.

Therefore the issue is attitude as people either choose for themselves or they are educated by others to believe a level of ability that is irrelevant to their impairment.

Disability is increasingly a learned political identity used to justify exclusion, especially for people with long term health conditions. The media continues to pour out cases of people with health conditions being rejected for disability benefits, and so the inferiority identity, to ignite pity and anger from a public who fears their own frailty which seeing people with impairments portrays.

The second thing activists say is that ‘of course they believe disabled people should be supported to work if they want.’. This appearing to be a begrudging statement as it does not challenge their belief most people with impairments are unfit for work/society.

They appear to argue people with impairments are not socially responsible citizens but still demand the parts of equality that suits them. Everyone indeed has the ability to do or not do anything they are capable of doing so long as they take responsibility for the consequences.

If anyone else refuses to work or look for work then they will not financially be supported by the state. They may indeed have the legal right not to work but they may have a moral responsibility to work for their families and others to provide a good income.

The only real way route of poverty on a personal level is to obtain paid work. If we continue to allow a self-definition of disability to permit a culture of lifelong state dependency and reward for passivity, the world becomes an unfair place. I believe in the principle that work should play but I am also aware it is often not that simple.

Having an impairment should not by default give disabled people the right not to work. When society and the media argue for ‘mercy’ for people with minor impairments, consider them, in kindness, burdens of society. we must wonder how they regard people considered to have severe impairments.

Some activists see paid employment as the enemy of disabled people and supporting people into work as an abusive practice. I believe employment can instead be a liberation as it fulfils people’s need to be valued. It is therefore both a right and a responsibility.

If people really believe in the inclusion of all people with impairments, the notion of the responsibility to seek employment as a goal to seek for everyone must be a norm. Right now, the assumption is often most people with impairments can not work unless proven otherwise, and this is what we need to challenge.

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

Achieve Support – https://www.simonstevens.com/achievesupport
Having Pride (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me
Stevens’ Manifesto – https://www.simonstevens.com/manifesto
Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips
Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability
Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

or visit my website at http://www.simonstevens.com

Donations are always gratefully received via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/simonstevens74
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People need families NOT carers!

In terms of this article, the term ‘Carer’ is defined as members of families who have been define as carers by themselves or others because they are regarded to provide assistance to other family members who have impairments in a manner that is considered as above and beyond what society expects of them which society should reward.

As I have written before, the term is a relevantly new social construction that has worrying consequences for how society regards family relationships in terms of people with impairments that has actively denormalised people with impairments’ inclusion into family life by reinforcing notions of otherness and exclusion.

Religions across the world designed marriage centuries ago to solve a number of social issues including how people support each other. ‘In sickness and in health’ in the marriage vows is not just empty words but a mechanism and commitment to look after your family in terms of health and impairment.

These responsibilities remained a family affair unchallenged until the creation of the NHS in 1948, when the UK government started to take greater responsibility of people’s health. Until the early 1990s, social care was very limited and only often involved residential care. The Community Care Act required local authorities to provide home care and laid the foundations for modern social care.

During the next 20 years, the term carer was created to recognise the needs of families, especially those not receiving formal support. It started as a good idea that grew with the rise of carer focused charities and saw the recognition of carer’s rights in the 2014 Care Act. It has now in the era of identity politics become a strong political identity which is fighting for attention and resources directly against disabled people’s inclusion.

A carer is perceived to look after someone who is mostly dependent on them. The existence of a carer with a voice requires someone who is dependent on them which society treats as voiceless, denying them the personhood many people with impairments have fought for. Carers are often pitied for having to care for people regarded as not full citizens. This is a power struggle where a powerful carers movement, based within the whole welfare framing of people with impairments, is winning against the inclusion of people with impairments.

I would never suggest family members are not providing support but some of this is the support all families provide each other. Being too heavily focus on the carer identity and the rights it brings can stop many people fulfilling their family roles. People need their husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters more than a carer who is perceived wronged by maintaining a relationship.

As opposed to family members, the wronged carer is perceived to know best and often unlawfully encouraged to make decisions on behalf of those dependent people. I fear that the public pity for carers without hesitation will make the ‘mercy killings’ of ‘loved ones’ by ‘carers’ more acceptable, especially as it fits in nicely with the left wing portrayal of people with impairments as naturally defective.

We need to support people with impairments to reclaim their families from a powerful charity led carers movement to halt a slow acceptance of eugenic policies.

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

Achieve Support – https://www.simonstevens.com/achievesupport
Having Pride (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me
Stevens’ Manifesto – https://www.simonstevens.com/manifesto
Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips
Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability
Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

or visit my website at http://www.simonstevens.com

Donations are always gratefully received via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/simonstevens74
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Wheelchairs and Personhood

The wheelchair has been the symbol for disability issues since the 1960s. This is because spinal injuries were dominated in the wounded of World War 2 and the Vietnam wars, making wheelchair users, especially paraplegics, a political issue and drive for change. Clearly, over the years the meanings of impairment and disability have grown to encompass many more conditions.

However, the wheelchair remains the most identifiable notion of impairment and disability in terms of social barriers. This means anyone who uses a wheelchair is easily identified as a ‘disabled person’, which can have a significant psychological and social impact for them.

For newly impaired people with impairments and those with progressive conditions, the point on their journey when they need to consider using a wheelchair is likely to be an emotionally significant event for them because it may be the first time they have needed to confront their identity as a disabled person.

The disability identity has historically been linked with weakness, inferiority, vulnerability, otherness and other traits. The media, both in terms of the news and fictional material, have historically heavily relied on negative stereotypes and often use disability as a one-dimensional metaphor, although the portrayal of people with impairments in the media is slowly improving. This backdrop as well as where someone is in their acceptance of their impairment can cause their adopting of a wheelchair to be an emotional event.

While I used to mostly walk as someone with cp, I am now mostly a full-time wheelchair user. Using a wheelchair in the long term can become an important part of someone’s public identity. At age 45 I have almost forgotten what it is like to walk full time and I find it hard to picture myself walking but that could be the same with a lot of things as we all grow older. As an aside, it is more evidence that cerebral palsy is not as non-progressive as I and many others was told when we were younger.

I believe many people with mobility impairments choose to use a mobility scooter rather than a wheelchair because of the stigma associated with a wheelchair. even when it is not the most suitable option. I feel too many people are trying to use mobility scooters as wheelchairs to avoid using a wheelchair when they are two very different devices. In terms of public transport. this identity denial is causing real practical issues as scooter users demand the same level of accessibility as wheelchair users.

Wheelchair and personhood is an interesting subject at many levels and there should be an open discussion in the public debate on issues involved to assist in improving the understanding of a whole range impairment issues by the general population as the subject can be more normalised.

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

Achieve Support – https://www.simonstevens.com/achievesupport
Having Pride (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me
Stevens’ Manifesto – https://www.simonstevens.com/manifesto
Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips
Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability
Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

or visit my website at http://www.simonstevens.com

Donations are always gratefully received via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/simonstevens74
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The psychology of Pride

Before I begin to start this article I should explain this is simply my own ramblings on the subject rather than any well researched academic piece. However, as I was searching for a suitable feature image I quickly read that under Christian belief that Pride was one of the 7 deadly sins, and that is a good starting point.

Pride is seen as self-promotion and a trait that can easily lead to arrogance but I believe Pride when properly defined is very positive as it is an expression of the inner satisfaction with where they are in life. The church may oppose pride because if people are confident within themselves as individuals then they may no longer seek solace in God, and therefore their power over them and the larger society is lost, and this is exactly what we have seen.

For myself, Pride has been a key coping mechanism in establishing my self-identity as someone with significant cerebral palsy. My impairment, particularly my speech impairment, drooling and spastic movements, has the potential to provide low self-worth in a mainstream setting. A youthful unawareness and denial common in many active and aware people with cp seems to overcome this through a natural development of pride.

Pride is, therefore, a cornerstone of developing a personality that shines beyond and compensates for physical appearance. If Pride is frown upon in this context then it is because it has subverted the perceived natural order of society that keeps people with impairments and others in their place. This is why the Gay Pride movement has had a stronger influence than other forms of protest because it shows a self-satisfaction of identity as opposed to playing the victim which is more frustrating to its prejudiced audience.

Pride works when it values diversity and freedom, where someone is saying they are happy with who they are without imposing it on others. Identity politics does not always stay in this realm and it is when pride is used to proclaim superiority against other people that problems arise. This is when Pride becomes arrogance and can be an ugly trait that is currently common in younger people where their expression of identity is regarded as a significant political statement.

However, Pride can remain an expression of satisfaction which should be worked towards. Many individuals do not understand their personal journey and story because they have been pushed to conform to the expectations of others like family and peers, and even when they do, they may not be following it. Pride can, therefore, be seen as an expression of being on track with their journey and the liberation to themselves it brings.

We should have pride in the notion of pride as self-identity in a diverse world. It can lead to arrogance and trouble with others but it does not have to if we teach people from an early age the power of pride and how best to use it.

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

Achieve Support – https://www.simonstevens.com/achievesupport
Having Pride (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me
Stevens’ Manifesto – https://www.simonstevens.com/manifesto
Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips
Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability
Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

or visit my website at http://www.simonstevens.com

Donations are always gratefully received via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/simonstevens74
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Wheelchair users, please stop disrespecting public transport

In the last 45 years, I have seen the accessibility of public transport for wheelchair users and people with other impairments improve in leaps and bounds on many fronts. It is obviously not perfect and there is still a lot of work still to be done in some areas, but it can not be denied that it is very different to when I was a child.

The important point to understand is the case for accessible transport was won many years ago around the world as a general policy and now it is an issue of implementation. This means that any new transport or transport hubs. including renovated ones, are absolutely likely to consider accessibility issues from the start.

The problem is the existing pre-accessible transport and hubs. They will be renovated in the end but it is a matter of time, costs, resources and priority. Therefore any campaign for accessible transport should focus on these factors.

While I accept public transport is not perfect, I do not think it is fair for wheelchair users to endlessly berate the system on what are general difficulties. Sometimes a broken toilet is just a broken toilet, and if someone has to wait for another bus because there is another wheelchair user is in the allocated space, it is simply the reality and norms of a system which can not be perfect however much it tries not an anti-disabled conspiracy.

Also, if a wheelchair user has to wait for a ramp off their train, it may be because staff are over-stretched and can not be in two places at once, or there was a communication difficulty with the boarding station. This is the same with airport assistance. These are not the crimes of the century and do not need to be reported in the media when there is an angry tweet from a wheelchair user.

I never book assistance when I use the train because I believe if you are patient, polite and respectful about their role and limitations, staff will mostly always be helpful in putting you on the next available train. And if you can’t get me on the next train, I smile and tell them its fine as I wait a bit longer. This requires a selfishness attitude which some wheelchair users try not to show.

I am not saying current wheelchair users should accept second best but rather to appreciate a little more the battles that were fought and won by wheelchair users before then which has provided accessible transport and their opportunity to moan about these smaller elements.

Going forward, the battles ahead will involve the conflict with parents and their battleship sized pushchairs as they seek to share, or not share, the spaces wheelchair users legally fought for, and have a right to. Another controversial issue is mobility scooters and whether this form of road transport should be allowed on public transport never designed to handle them.

Our achievements in public transport should be generally celebrated for the liberation and inclusion it brings, not berated as some form of disability moaning conformity.

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

Achieve Support – https://www.simonstevens.com/achievesupport
Having Pride (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me
Stevens’ Manifesto – https://www.simonstevens.com/manifesto
Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips
Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability
Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

or visit my website at http://www.simonstevens.com

Donations are always gratefully received via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/simonstevens74
You can also email me at simon@simonstevens.com
or follow me on Twitter at @simonstevens74

Being a role model

I believe a role model is someone from their actions who inspires others directly or indirectly to be themselves in living their own stories and reaching their full potential.

While everyone can be a role model by deliberately aiming to help others,  the best role models are those who are naturally inspiring yet mostly humble about the power they have. They often have natural leadership skills and they are able to listen well to others. Good role models are not idolised like superheroes but rather quietly respected for the contribution that they make to others.

I believe I have always been one of these role models since I was a young child and long before I understood I was one or indeed understood the very notion of a role model. I think as an independent thinker, as a friend described me as yesterday and someone who is very difficult to miss due to my physical appearance and emotional presence.

Being a role model is nothing like being famous although it is possible to be both. There is little glory to being a role model and you can be met with criticism from those who are in the process of growing their story as they see you and your confidence as a direct challenge to their current way of thinking.

Role models may drop pebbles in the pool of life that ripple out, but they will not see many of the effects of their actions. Their actions may assist many people in many ways the role model and others may not see or understand, and this assistance may not provide benefit to individuals until years after the interaction with the role model has occurred.

Being a role model can come with great responsibility when people look up to you and it is important to be aware of your interaction with others, especially when they seek information, advice or support. This does not mean having to be morally perfect but I would suggest keeping truthful to your world perspective, provide accurate information on factual issues you have knowledge about or suggest where they can get accurate assistance from.

Clearly, there is a responsibility to ensure you play your contribution in keeping people who are potentially in a vulnerable situation as safe as they can be by not providing false information, scaremongering or offering dangerous suggestions on how they should behave. In the same way you can indirectly assist someone with your words and actions, you can also harm them.

I wish disability ‘leaders’ who make wild accusations about the benefit assessment based on one sided evidence were aware of the impact they make to listeners in terms of fear, stress and distress, potentially contributing to suicides.

Role models come in all shapes and sizes from all backgrounds, their role is often silent, but an important one in inspiring the next generation to be successful.

If you like my blog article, have a look at some of my products;

Achieve Support – https://www.simonstevens.com/achievesupport
Having Pride (My Life Story) – http://www.balsy.me
Stevens’ Manifesto – https://www.simonstevens.com/manifesto
Understand Assistance – http://www.understand.tips
Understand Dysability – https://www.simonstevens.com/understanddysability
Understand Inclusion -https://www.simonstevens.com/understandinclusion

or visit my website at http://www.simonstevens.com

Donations are always gratefully received via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/simonstevens74
You can also email me at simon@simonstevens.com
or follow me on Twitter at @simonstevens74