hollymath: (Default)
[personal profile] lilysea shared a great article on accessibility, or more accurately the lack thereof, at the University of Sydney.

It's fairly long, and all very good, but one paragraph from it particularly stood out for me. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.
For staff members, the situation isn’t much better. Dr Sheelagh Daniels-Mayes, a lecturer in Aboriginal education, is one of only eight blind and low vision academics in Australia. She estimates that she spends about 25 extra hours a week making up for inaccessibility. Turnitin and Grade Centre are both inaccessible for screen reading software, and PDF documents are “sheer hell”. And, unfailingly, the cobblestones. In order to avoid them, Sheelagh’s guide dog Nina insists on taking her on a roundabout route through the Law buildings.
Partly this is of course because I'm starting to navigate university life while partially sighted. PDFs are sheer hell and people think they're accessible because they're electronic like that's magic or something.

But what has stuck with me is the estimate of losing 25 hours a week to dealing with inaccessibility. I've said many times now I've spent more time and energy on dealing wiht the admin associated with being a student than I have on reading or writing or thinking or learning. It's not all directly related to inaccessibility for me, like in the article, but it all adds up to the feeling that like the feminist idea of women doing a "second shift" of work when they get home from the dayjob to cook and clean and look after children, I have a second shift of sighted-guide-wrangling, getting lost today on my way to a new building (not something I could wrangle a sighted guide for in time because I didn't have enough notice), being distracted in a meeting by an ankle that was sore because I'd just fallen up some stairs on the way to it, waiting for the next bus after one zoomed past me at a stop today which they're not supposed to do, deciding whether any individual thing is worth complaining about...

I don't know how many hours I spend dealing with inaccessibility a week, but this academic's phrase reminded me of a poem I adore, "Girl Hours", which is actually about a kind of Hidden-Figures set of women in the late 19th century. The director reckoned the difficulty of astronomical projects in "girl hours," the number of hours these human computers would need in order to do the work. There must be some equivalent in disabled hours.
Oh bright rain, brave clouds, oh stars,
oh stars.

Two thousand four hundred fires
and uncharted, unstudied,
the hours, the hours, the hours.
hollymath: (Default)
Wrote half an essay (only 500 words! I wrote an intro and a sentence for each point I want to make and that was almost 200 words itself! but still) tonight so I don't have a lot of energy left but I wanted to note that the DSA assessment went well. It took a really long time though, almost three hours (when your most knowledgeable friend says their eleventy billion wonky impairments only required two-hour DSA sessions, you know it's a long time!).

My biggest problem now is that I went home wanting all the kit right away. Can I have that software to work on my essay (no, it's due Friday). Can I have the biiiiiig monitor? Can I have the thing that only zooms the part of the screen you need it to (I actually found out today that Blackboard has "high contrast" and "text zoom" in its settings, but when you click on them all it says is "right, you need to use your browser/OS settings to do this"! thanks and all but that doesn't work very well you bag of dicks!)

The guy made some good points, like that he recommends screenreaders not just for blindy mcblindfaces like me but people who "just" have the anxiety/depression side of things because it affects their -- our -- ability to concentrate so much and for some people it's easier to listen than to read. I know this is certainly true for me (and I know it won't be for many other people! I know lots of neurodiverse people and that can include auditory processing issues as can lots of other things) but never thought it was anything more than my eyes causing that.

He generally talked about the anxiety and depression only in terms of disrupted sleep, poor concentration, things like that. Didn't insinuate that I didn't really had it or it isn't really real or any of that shit. It was the least stigamtizing experience I've ever had talking about my mental health, I think! Really refreshing. Especially because he's an older chap with a very northern accent and stereotypes mean I'm not used to such people talking about mental health; it'd be like hearing my dad say "anxiety" or "depression" which I don't think has ever happened! But he was really matter-of-fact about it, which of course you'd hope for in his job but I've met plenty of people whose jobs should have made them good at it who are not good at this, so I expect nothing and that means I got to be pleasantly surprised.

I'm not quite done yet; the guy wants me to come back to talk to one of their suppliers about the particular kinds of software and some kind of OCR-machine that he is (and I am) sure I'll benefit from but there are different kinds and there's no way to know what will suit me without me trying them. That was going to happen tomorrow but now can't happen then; it should be on Friday, which suits me better anyway.
hollymath: (Default)
A very long description of all the problems I've had with my 'mobility support' at school. )

I don't want a lot of earnest apologies like I got last Friday. I don't want the emotional labor of dealing with that. I just want to have energy to do more than one thing in a day, to not always feel overwhelmed, to not have this conviction that if I had only my homework to do my life would be a lot easier than with all this disability admin to do too.

And as if to prove that last point, I don't just have one seminar that I've done and enjoyed the reading for, I have DSA Study Needs Assessment tomorrow, which I am really not looking forward to because they're going to want to know why I don't use magnifciation (it doesn't help my eye condition, which no one believes even though its Wikipedia page even says so) and why I don't use a screenreader (I sometimes do but they suck more than not using them for a lot of things! c.f. all these books the library says are available electronically but with all the copy-protection, when you navigate to them the screenreader just says "graphic"). Magnifiers and screenreaders are supposed to fix all blindies' problems, so when I say they don't people usually think I'm the problem.

I've been so grumpy for at least a week that I don't feel like I'm a good advocate for myself or what I need at all, right now, and I really need to be.

First day

Sep. 17th, 2017 07:45 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Grumpy that I've got no better recourse for finding the room my "Welcome Talk" will be in tomorrow morning than turning up early and hoping there's someone to ask.

Andrew offered to come with me to help me find it but that's not going to be easy for someone who woke up at three this afternoon; it's basically an accessibility issue for him too. And it costs money in bus fare. And it's just not fair because that shouldn't be his responsibility and I hate feeling dependent on him.

I booked my Disability Services meeting a month ago for as soon as I could get it, but that turns out to be Tuesday. I know this will be a busy and nightmarish time for them, but argh. Hopefully I will be a bit less confused for the rest of the week. There are a bunch of other rooms I have to find after these first ones tomorrow!
hollymath: (Default)
I said I'd try to get around to writing up some details of the museum thing before I forget them all, and I've got a little bit of time and energy before my day starts getting hectic, so!

This is very long. )
hollymath: (Default)
The joys of poly: When your boyfriend double books himself for your visit, you can hang out with his other girlfriend instead.

This is what happened to me anyway, on Saturday. Jennie and I had a great time: poured some wine, put on the telly to a cooking program that was showing some Yorkshire puddings just about to go into the oven, so of course we had to watch it to find out what they did wrong ("Lots" was the verdict). And they made white chocolate cheesecake with amaretto-infused raspberries, which made us want amaretto-infused raspberries... And then somebody made dauphinoise potatoes, so we wanted dauphinoise potatoes...

And so our dinner menu was set: some kind of protein (we ended up with Quorn kievs), dauphinoise potatoes, and...cranachan for dessert because we bought cream for the potatoes anyway and whisky was cheaper than amaretto.

We went shopping for ingredients, came back and drunkenly cooked it all and it was great.

I found out I have a kitchen skill that neither Jennie nor Mat had! I'm so used to them knowing things and having a kitchen full of cool gadgets...but neither of them ever peels vegetables so I peeled the potatoes. Probably the very first goddam thing I learned how to do! But with a peeler usually, not with a knife, and they didn't have a veg peeler because they never peel anything. Jennie was impressed at how quickly I managed to peel the potatoes and frankly so was I, considering the combination of being a person using a very sharp knife who's used to lots of tactile feedback while I'm doing this with a peeler, and the fact that I'd already had one glass of wine and when I say "glass" I mean "size of a fingerbowl"...

We watched most of a Miss Marple with Jennie doing her usual commenting on the costumes which I love because it tells me all kinds of things that I won't see or if I do won't know why they work or don't (like the way the servant was wearing a badly-fitting dress to show she was lower-class, while the posh lesbian she was standing next to (we were on a lookout for the lesbians too, as you always get those in Agatha Christie) was wearing perfectly tailored clothes.

Apparently the friend that James was out with told him that Interstellar was a better movie than 2001 because it was more intellectual, or something. So I was convinced we'd had the better evening.

Oh but then there was this commercial. I was busy counting up change to see if I had enough money for more wine at the time, so I was paying even less attention than usual, but I heard someone say "I lost my sight when I was fourteen..." so I looked up in what you might call professional interest and I must say I wasn't expecting a soap commercial but that's what I got (I think it was this one? but I went from not paying attention to it to yelling at it pretty quickly, so I'm not sure...oh yeah, and I'd already had some wine by this point).

Because I have a little cadre of blind friends on Twitter these days -- it's great; all women, too -- when I mentioned this there some of them said they'd talked about the same thing. The consensus was that none of us liked it: it "played the 'super sense' card," this misconception that blind people's other senses somehow improve to compensate for the lost one (they don't...we might learn to pay attention to them more, but we don't do anything that others couldn't, and it's not magic; it is huge in spoon costs). One said "It's not inclusive if they're fetishising us," and that's what this felt like: the person with special super senses was being consulted to give the ultimate verdict on what the best body wash is and she has spoken!

Jennie and Alisdair even questioned whether the woman was blind, which she is but I don't blame them because it seemed so false, not at all like what I'd expect blind people to talk about. Maybe it's just the people I know but when the blind people that I know get together (either IRL or on twitter), we talk about uncommunicative sighted people, inaccessible transport...and normal stuff, like our kids or hobbies or other people we know. I'm not saying this means no blind person thinks
My hands give me all the feedback that a sighted person would rely on their eyes for, so I navigate the world by touch. When I’m walking around a store I pick up every garment – I’m feeling the fabrics, the textures and the shapes. And colours aren’t about what they look like anymore. Blue became more about how my fingers feel running through water, and the colour green is more about the smell of freshly cut grass, and the feeling of it under bare feet.
But that just seems...like a sighted person's idea of what being blind is like? (That's not from the ad, but it's from "Molly's Story" on the Dove website, which I found when googling for the commercial.) It doesn't mean anything and it doesn't sound right; it sounds like marketing-speak. And even an authentically blind person can be given a daft script to read out. I mean, the pull quote is "I might have lost my sight, but I have not lost my ability to experience beauty in the world," ffs.

I think the last word on it from my new Twitter chum [twitter.com profile] bigpurpleduck was "I mean, fair play to her making some money out of it. But I don't like this at all. Dove are using us, and peddling misconceptions."
hollymath: (Default)
I've had a better week this week anyway, but it's also been a busier one.

Monday and Tuesday I got a lot of stuff done around the house: caught up with everything that I let slide over the weekend while I was away and the week or so before when my mental health had been too bad. We're at only normal levels of disorganized and cluttered now, and while it's kind of sad that feels like an achievement, at least it's an achievement.

Tuesday I got a key and directions for feeding a friend's cats while she was away for a couple of days. She kindly paid me very generously for this, which was completely unexpected but so nice. I was worried I'd forget but I didn't! Even managed to feed them at about their usual times, except it was a bit later this morning because I slept badly last night.

Yesterday I had a meeting of the VI steering group I'm no longer running. The team manager who gets paid for it is sorting out the meeting dates and telling everyone about them, which honestly I think works better anyway. I feel bad I'm not doing it, especially since I'm interested in other volunteering things -- at this meeting I met someone from the Disabled People's Access Group who says I'd be good to join in some other stuff she does that did sound interesting to me.

On my bus ride there, I got to hear the finished product of a great fanfic audio story that I did one of the voices for. I wasn't too cringeworthy and the story turned out great. I really hope there are more stories in the series, partly because it'd be fun to play my one again, partly just because I want to see what happens.

Yesterday Andrew also got further in applying me for this university course; he actually talked to the clearing people. They asked for a scan of my high school diploma, which since it's at my parents' I was worried would be quite a challenge, but my dad's e-mailed it over this evening and said it was easy. Well done, clever parents!

This morning I had another meeting about a totally different volunteer thing. It's at Manchester Museum, involves some really cool technology and senior people who are very keen to get the expertise of visually impaired people. I am super excited. That probably won't start for a month at least, so at exactly the same time as Lib Dem Conf and this uni course if I get on it and so I am sure that will be fine. No really, I will make it all work.

And this afternoon my friend Mary was in town, which I hadn't known about until a couple of days ago. She's usually near Norwich so this is quite remarkable. I hadn't seen her in more than a year, since the weekend of falling in the river in Oxford (sadly you can't see the pictures right now; I still need to figure out how to get them off Photobucket and to somewhere useful). A train derailment (not hers!) meant she got in a bit later than planned but we still had time to rush around finding somewhere still open where she could buy euros for her trip to Ireland tomorrow and have dinner in a pub. Battered halloumi and chips for both of us (but I swapped my chips for sweet potato fries because sweet potatoes are great and regular potatoes are not). She'd never had halloumi like that before! We bitched about politics and she taught me some Irish words (I will probably forget them again, like I did last time, except not the one for "penis" because it has a joke as a mneomic device).

Saturday is the "Bi Takeover for Pride" event at the LGBT Foundation, which honestly I am treating like another bit of BiCon, down to going along to see people I know who are going as much as I'm there for any of the workshops. So that should be nice.

So yeah. Good week. Glad to know they're still possible.
hollymath: (Default)
Yesterday was nice too: Andrew had called me Thursday afternoon and said I could stay over if I wanted, so I was still in Brighouse Friday. Which was nice because it meant I could go along with Jennie and James and Holly to see Wonder Woman... Or attempt to, anyway.

When I asked for the headset there was a longer than usual time before someone got back to me and he started off with saying "We didn't advertise this ad having AD..." so I thought Oh man, here we go... But actually it was dealt with really well: what he meant was that since the film was brand new, they hadn't had a chance to test this stuff yet to make sure it was working. And since they'd had people complain about it being advertised as such when it didn't work, they had stopped taking the film companies' word about the audio description until they'd checked it themselves, which usually takes a few days.

They were still happy to give me the headset and let me try it, though, so I did. Sat through a bunch of bizarre ads (including a horrific one for Subway where a man contemplates getting a different sandwich to the one he always gets, the overdramatic voice-over encouraging him on, and just when I'm thinking "this is Subway saying 'we can give that mediocre white man the confidence he's so famous for!" the ad finishes with him getting the different sandwich and the congratulatory voice-over: "You did it. You're Columbus. Exploring new worlds!" I stared actually open-mouthed at the idea that the beginning of the genocide and subjugation of an entire hemisphere could be compared a) to a fast food order and b) favorably).

And a bunch of trailers for movies I didn't want to see (though worryingly the Transformers one actually looked kind of good?! I don't think it will be, but I've never had such a thought before).

And then the movie started and...yeah,thr audio description didn't work. It was clearly there, but not configured properly so it was too quiet to discern, and really staticky. So James, who'd no y volunteered to leave it I had to, and I went to tell the people this and they were pretty nice and apologetic about it. They offered me another headset but since the movie had already started and I didn't want to disrupt people (and because I'd had the same problem when we'd tried to see Rogue One and trying new headsets then hadn't worked, I was happy to just leave it. I know Andrew wanted to see this movie anyway so I'd get more chances to.

I don't usually bother about seeing things right when they come out, so I hadn't thought about this as an issue before. It's a shame they can't commit to testing the audio description sooner: for big "event" movies like this that people might want to go to with their friends when it's all exciting, it's a shame people who benefit from audio description don't get to do that. It's not like it's hard to test: you just have to be in the cinema with the headphones.

It's also kind of a shame that there's no way to test the audio description is working before the movie actually starts. This isn't the first time I've watched all the trailers and ads when I can't watch the movie, and I'm sure it wont be the last. But this seems like a pretty tricky logistical problem that I don't have any suggested fixes for: I'm not sure to what extent the film company, the cinema or both would be responsible for that and I can't see any of them bothering about it anyway.

Anyway, instead of watching a movie, James and I went for lunch (I had the best beer, Theakstons Barista Stout, it's lovely and chocolatey) and while we were there Katie called me and said she wanted to "book me in" for some point this weekend. Partly because we keep saying we should do something on the weekends and it keeps not happening, and partly because she's particularly excited that I'm a citizen, or at least will be on Wednesday, and wants to celebrate.

Which I think is terribly sweet. Last Friday I got some nice food and a lot of rum bought for me by friends who wanted to celebrate me getting my citizenship. I'm finding having all this attention paid to me a tiny bit awkward, because I'm not used to it ("we can go to [place we always go for tea and food] or whatever you want," Katie was saying on the phone; "it's your choice because it's you we're celebrating"), even though it seems on a par with a birthday party so not like a huge scale of celebration but... I never get birthday parties! (My birthday is right before Christmas so I'm always back with my family then, and they never even ask me what food/restaurant I want, since it's always "well your grandparents won't do X so..." or most memorably on my 21st birthday, supposed to be a rite of passage, when I had to go to my uncle's 50th birthday party and my family spent it huddled together amidst a sea of his wife's family, huge and entirely unknown.)

With the inconveniently placed birthday, my friends have long suggested I celebrate it at some other time of the year ("have two birthdays, like the Queen does!"), maybe in the summer rather than the winter. And it's worked out that the citizenship ceremony will be around the time that's halfway to my birthday, so this year it kind of feels like that works out. I'm not going to make it s yearly celebration though! This year, we're celebrating a big accomplishment of mine. Its anniversary won't mean anything to me. Maybe if citizenship felt like something better than just a crisis averted, I could do that. But it isn't so I can't.

On our way home, James and I went to the ticket office at the train station to get tickets sorted out for going to London next month. Last fall we got tickets to see the final of the cricket Women's World Cup, for ridiculously cheap because who's going to watch women play sports, right? It seemed like a very far away thing, I forgot about it and generally thought it was ages away, I'm that way that July seems when it's September or October. But now it's next month and he found us a hotel and I got the train tickets so now I'm getting really excited. It's at Lords and everything, so I'll get to see that too.

(There was actually an ad for this World Cup before the movie; I've never seen women's cricket advertised like that before (I don't have a TV so I only see ads before movies, and it's just occurred to me that this might have been because the movie also had the word "woman" in the title). So that got me excited too.)
hollymath: (Default)
I didn't get the job. Boring details about that. )

Anyway, almost as soon as I got home from the interview, it was time to leave again. Part of me wanted to sleep for a week but I'd arranged to go to the theatre with James and Jennie and Other Holly back when I couldn't have known what a tiring week this was going to be, and the rest of me knew that I'd feel better once I got myself there.

And I did. We saw "The Play That Goes Wrong," which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. [personal profile] miss_s_b's review is here (very slight spoilers) which is lucky as I think I'm getting a migraine so should get off the computer before I could write one myself.

To hers I only need add that she was awesome for giving me a little impromptu audio description, which especially at the beginning of the play where the gags were all visual was very welcome because we were sitting way at the back and so I was doomed to hearing people laughing a lot and having absolutely no idea why, which wasn't exactly the mood-lifter I needed. I was worried someone would tell us off for Talking During the Performance but luckily no one did and it totally made the experience for me. There were lots more dialogue-based jokes later on and some of the phsyciality was stuff I could just about discern, but I still would have felt like I'd missed out on a lot if it weren't for my kind friends.

We were a pretty noisy audience eventually anyway, so maybe I needn't have worried. Some asshole to the left of us started shouting "funny" things (as opposed to actually funny things) almost right away, and continued to throughout the first half. And eventually, the po-faced actor/director-playing-the-inspector's tantrum included "Despite appearances tonight, this isn't a pantomime!" and I feel I earned all my British-citizen cred by being the first person (from what we could hear, anyway) to shout "Oh yes it is!"
hollymath: (bill and doctor)
Well, we'd had four weeks in a row of Doctor Who I liked or loved, so I suppose we were due a rubbish one but...that made me cry. And not in a good way.

And I'm also annoyed that I can't talk about why without saying it's a spoiler. )
hollymath: (Default)
I never had to navigate the American system as a disbled adult so I don't know all the details. So I'm glad [personal profile] forests_of_fire is happy for me to copy what they wrote and share it here.


I don't often make pleas to contact your Congresscritters (mainly because there is SO MUCH to contact them about x.x), but something is currently in the House and Senate that can make a huge difference in the life of disabled people.

U.S. Congress is weighing the idea of expanding the ABLE Act.

The ABLE Act set up a system that (currently) allows people who became disabled before the age of 26 to save money in special ABLE accounts. One of the bills currently under consideration will raise that age to 46. Honestly, this is the thing I'm most excited about because it means that more people will have access to ABLE accounts and I am all for that.

But this is how the ABLE account impacts a disabled person's life. They can have up to $100,000 in an ABLE account without it impacting their benefits, though they're only allowed to put $14,000 a year into your account. Once someone hits $100,000, the money will count against them. (Obviously, that's going to take a while, since you can only put in $14,000 a year.) The absolute upper limit for an ABLE account is $426,000, which would take quite a while to save up.

The money in an ABLE account is tax-free, as long as it's used for things that help a disabled person take care of their needs, remain independent, or better their life. This means the money can be used for anything from medical bills to housing to education to transportation. If they work, they can put their net wages directly into their account or they can put money in from other sources, like financial birthday gifts.

This is AMAZEBALLS for people who are disabled. One of the main problems with being disabled is that it's impossible to save money because the threshold for getting your benefits dinged is so low. Often, even working ends up coming out as a net loss, financially. Even if you don't have tons of money to sock away, being able to save money for future expenses without having to worry about your benefits is incredibly helpful. And, even if your state doesn't have its own ABLE account set up, you can apply for an ABLE account through another state. You pay a lot more in fees, but it might be worth it just to be able to put money away for future expenses.

These aren't straight savings accounts -- they're investment accounts. But you can use the BankSafe option, which means that all your investment is insured by the FDIC. That's what I use because I can't really afford to lose money. There is a small fee ($2.50/mo. here in Ohio if you live in-state) for managing the money and there's an annual fee. But it's a hell of a lot better than what we can have.

So, yes. If you're so inclined, please contact your Congresscritters and let them know you support the expansion of the ABLE Act. Also, please feel free to copypasta this to get the word out.
hollymath: (Default)
I've seen this on my social media a few times in the last day or so, and it reminded me of an entry I wrote but never posted a few weeks ago, on the day I discovered these signs on those toilets. Here it is:
New pinnacle of helpiness today -- helpiness being where it's more important to someone that they feel they're being helpful to a disabled person than that the disabled person is actually helped.

Not just disabled people, I'm sure, but that's how I'm most used to encountering it.

Today's episode came when I was in the Arndale and headed for the toilets.

These ones are down a hallway where first you have doors to babychange rooms, then a smaller hallway heading off to the ladies', then doors to two accessible toilets, then gents' at the end of the corridor.

Sometimes I feel like a total fraud having a key for disabled toilets, but the Arndale toilets are the kind that made me want it in the first place. They're so badly designed: it always seems to be chaos in the ladies', with people crowding each other going to and from the cubicles, a trough with faucets placed at intervals along it rather than proper sinks, and the most invisible hand dryers I've ever seen: smooth white boxes on the background of a white wall, with only a tiny light that's red until it's in use when it turns green (or maybe the other way around, or some other color, but you get the point).

Regular toilets in modern buildings often suffer, as the buildings themselves to, from Design. If it's won an award, you know it'll be a nightmare for accessibility. Because people think accessibility begins and ends with a ramp for the wheelchairs, and while step-free access is important there's a lot more to consider: I've got no mobility impairments but that ladies' room would only be properly accessible to me if it were empty of humans (or, as one of my blindie steering group members calls them, "obstacles").

All this is to say that I was heading for the accessible loo. (Which, I noticed, had on its sign "not all disabilities are visible", Yay.) And as I was walking towards it, going just past the turnoff to the ladies', a man who was standing there said "here, here!" and made some kind of gesture I didn't catch. I thought he was talking to someone he was with. All I knew was that he was in my way, so I had to shuffle around him as I was fishing out my key for the door.

And it was only as I did that that I realized he'd been trying to direct me to the ladies' loos. He was standing in my way trying to direct me to where he thought I should be going.
Of course the problem I have here is sort of the opposite of the problem invisibly-disabled people have: when I'm carrying my cane, as I was then, people know I'm disabled. They just don't think of it as a disability that's relevant to an accessible toilet, I guess. But for me, having a bit of calm and knowing where everything is -- the sinks and hand-drying equipment here are not Designed. The light is often dimmer (since regular public bathrooms can be really harshly lit) but that also means it glares less.

Plus, the other blind people I know mostly seem to have keys, so it's an understood thing among us even if this knowledge hasn't trickled out to the rest of the world yet.
hollymath: (Default)
I've said before the thing I love about Levenshulme is that it seems to be half people complaining about how expensive the beer is in the posh places is so expensive (more than four quid!) and half people complaining about flytipping.

Yesterday morning seemed typical of that, when I saw on a local facebook group
  • Someone asking if anyone else had seen the man tasered on the steps of the train station yesterday evening
  • A picture of a burnt-out car
  • The news that a gourmet grilled-cheese and burger joint that also does mocktails is going to open
Of course the taser thing was more concerning than just justifying my impression of where I live. But it got worse.

Later in the day, after I'd utterly forgotten about all of these things, Andrew was trying to sort out his travel to and from London for a gig he's going to. I was listening even though I was idly scrolling through twitter when I came upon a tweet with a link and "I bet blind man was a PoC - I hope he is OK & remains anonymous if he wants to." I noticed the link was to the Manchester Evening News, so I clicked on it and...

...interrupted Andrew in the middle of saying "National Express" with "HOLY SHIT!" So of course he was worried, asked me what was wrong, and it took me a while to get the sentence out in the right order.

The man who was tasered at Levenshulme station is blind.

And of course he only got tasered because he was blind. He wasn't dangerous, threatening, hadn't done anything. Two people called the cops saying they thought he had a gun. All he had was his folded-up white cane.

This is my train station. It's like two minutes' walk from here. I'm in and around the area all the time. And I often have my white cane folded up.

Now, I think my friend whose tweet I originally saw had a good point about the likelihood of the man being a person of color. (Andrew said "yeah, he'll be Asian" matter-of-factly when we were talking about this. We don't know, of course, as is only right.) As a white person and a woman, I know I am not in the same danger of having the cops called on me first of all and them overreacting if they are.

But I was pretty shaken up at first, all the same.

And then I started thinking what can I do?

I just had a meeting of the Visually Impaired Steering Group on Wednesday. Had an e-mail from the manager of the council's sensory team who's helping facilitate it for us, so I'm going to ask him. And I'll try to get in touch with the RNIB and see if they're aware of what sort of training the police get on stuff like this -- it's probably them that do it, if anyone does -- and of course there are mad-keen Levenshulme community groups to try to get involved too, maybe do some kind of education event locally. I'm happy to field questions people are usually too embarrassed to ask blind people, let them see my cane, dispense information or resources or whatever.

One of my friends asked if I'd like people to walk with me to/around the station, which I was really touched but and think it's a nice idea, some kind of little march.

The ongoing conversations in my facebook and twitter feeds after I posted this link have been really thought-provoking. As has a BBC article about it which I read this morning, saying that the man doesn't intend to make a complaint and that he "acknowledged that his behaviour could have led to people being concerned."

What really disturbs me is the guy agreed his behavior might've concerned people. Let me be clear: I 100% support whatever reaction he has in the apparent immediate aftermath of being tasered and still surrounded by police. I am not blaming him here at all, I am raging at the systemic ableism in society that made this possible or necessary for him to say.

I know my behavior seems agitated/weird if people don't know I'm blind. I also get anxious a lot (especially when I'm doing something like waiting for a train! I was at a different train station around this same time, waiting for a train that ended up being delayed by 45 minutes, and in freezing awful weather it was so miserable I probably would've looked weird to anyone scrutinizing me too carefully). I do things and I get around in weird ways, and so do a lot of people with a wide range of disabilities: it affects our posture, movements, expressions, body language, all sorts of things.

And it's weird only because people have such a narrow, and an ableist, idea of what "normal" behavior is. It's weird because they're not used to us, because it's not easy for us to get out or because it's expected that we wouldn't do so on our own. That shouldn't get anyone tasered.

I don't blame the guy for saying he could understand why his behavior would be concerning (if he did as the BBC have reported, I think we're just getting the cops' side of the story here) because I can imagine just wanting to get out of this situation.

I can also understand apologizing for the stuff your disability makes you "bad" at, because I do that all the time in a social-lubrication kind of way. I will say sorry for not seeing things and sometimes even as I'm doing it I know it's something I'd object to but it's so ingrained.

That's why it disturbs me. I could see myself doing the same. Even though that is the last thing I want. But the cops have a lot of power over you, especially when they've just tasered you, and when you were just going about your day.

Things I've learned:
  1. SpecSavers' advertising has worked really well because I'm already sick of the jokes about it.Not only are variations on "maybe it's the policeman who's the real blind one!" not actually funny, but they're ableist. Remember how I'm always banging on about the uses of "blindness" to indicate ignorance of something? This is that. If you're equating stupidity or ineffectualness with blindness, you're also implying blind people are stupid and unable to do things. This is something that hurts blind people every day, and unlike getting the police to stop tasering people, it's really easy to fix so please do consider it or mention it to your friends.
  2. The police-defenders on the local fb group are really concerning me. They don't seem to understand that once someone tells the police you have a gun, it's almost impossible to prove to them you don't without getting yourself hurt in the process. (I know this is something my friends of color know very well and I'm sorry I'm only realizing it recently.) It's enraging.
  3. And sometimes even the people on the "right" side are so fucking ableist. There's been lots of "this man had to be so courageous for using public transport by himself!" that edges into cripspiration which just makes my brain itch.

Scope

Feb. 16th, 2017 07:15 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Almost as soon as I'd posted that tweet, I remembered that the nice man from Scope, the disability charity, had asked for a landscape picture to go with the blog post he was doing about me.

Unsurprisingly, I've done everything back-to-front because I was on TV first, and signed up to tell my story and be a media volunteer (someone they could call if someone asks for registered blind people or people in Manchester or whatever other category I might fall into) only afterwards.

So after Christmas the guy I've been chatting to from Scope, a friendly dude called Phil, called me up and asked me a bunch of questions and then was left with the unenviable tasks of typing that all up and writing it into a linear narrative. We went all through me emigrating here, the Shoe-Tying Occy Health Cowbag story that the BBC people had liked so much, trying to claim benefits, the intersection of disability and immigration status, all kinds of things.

Last night I saw they'd posted this...with the picture I'd just taken, and a couple more I'd sent (the bottom one is me showing off the NASA t-shirt JT got me for Christmas, so it's no fair them cropping it as viciously as they did!).

It's pretty good -- a few quibbles with the narrativd but they're most likely down to me not being as clear as I'd like to. And I'm kind of annoyed that all my terrible speech mannerisms have survived intact -- I appreciate that most people will find it easier to tell than write their stories, but I'd much prefer to write.

But when I said this on Facebook, a friend said "I was just thinking how like you it sounds -- in a good way. I like your way of framing things. It's a good article, pointing out what you weren't sure of, and how awkward it is to challenge fail when it is you in a vulnerable position employment and power wise." And this coming from someone whose disability activism I admire and which had among other things personally helped me very much, this is especially nice to hear.

The day before the Scope people asked if I'd talk on LBC (a radio version of tabloids, though of course that isn't how they described it to me!). I only had a minute, literally, so it wasn't that interesting except that the presenter told me they'd also asked people to call in with positive stories about employment while disabled and not. one. person. did. Afterward the nice Scope lady called me back, said I'd been brilliant, and finished with "national radio! that's pretty good!" and I was nice and didn't say "dear, I was on Woman's Hour once, that's better than talking to Iain Dale."
hollymath: (Default)
Here's a little clip of me and Gary from the BBC Breakfast twitter account.


I've had lots of nice messages from friends, family and even the people from Scope I talked to on Friday about this. Most of them have been about Gary.

I'm a bit sad my own family can't see me on TV -- while also kind of glad because they Don't Think of Me as Disabled and I'd worry they'd think I was complaining -- but I thought maybe I'd see about finding some nice stills from the video and getting them printed as proper photos for my family's Christmas presents. Seems a bit self-absorbed but I'm sure they'd like it. They don't have many pictures of me anyway. And none of the dog!
hollymath: (Default)
I had the strangest day on Friday.

In the morning, I saw that [twitter.com profile] SurvivorKatie had linked a tweet at me about a focus group Scope were doing for visually impaired people. "It's a chance to get paid for what you do anyway!" she said, which made me smile. I told her I'd e-mail the guy for information like the tweet said to, but that I'd bet it's in London.

I e-mailed the guy and he e-mailed me back questions and details that didn't mention the word "London" anywhere (usually there's just a postcode or borough name hidden somewhere...) but yep, it was in London. So I wrote back to nicely suggest that they might like to include that fact in publicity for future such things because it saves the likes of me wasting their time (but I didn't say it like that, I said it in a nice way).

And I actually got a nicer reply than I expected: the guy said he'd only moved to London a couple of years ago and he'd gotten annoyed at how London-centric everything had been too. And he asked where I live since there are other things like this in other places.

We were e-mailing back and forth in between me getting ready for the day: I got dressed, walked the dog, all that kind of stuff. I was going to have a cup of tea with a friend, my new Bluetooth keyboard (Xmas present from Andrew) was arriving for my new tablet (birthday/Xmas present from [personal profile] mother_bones) was supposed to be arriving which I was looking forward to, I was going to the pub with the rest of the new WI committee that evening...it seemed like a nice enough day.

Just as I was getting to my friend's house, my phone pinged with an e-mail: it was from this Scope guy and it said something like "well actually we're looking for someone to do a media opportunity this afternoon, pre-record for the BBC for Monday, would you be interested?" I didn't look at it that closely, but I thought that all sounded okay so I wrote back yeah, sure and rang my friend's doorbell and didn't think much about it.

In the time it took me to drink about three cups of tea, I'd suddenly become this guy's favorite person because I think I'd solved a problem for them on pretty short notice. And this wasn't even going to be BBC radio like I'd been on a couple of times before, it was BBC Breakfast -- morning TV! They were going to talk about the "disability employment gap" and wanted a disabled person on who'd had trouble in, or getting, work. I was like hell yeah, I have opinions about that: If I had a job that didn't make me worse, it'd solve approximately all the problems in my life (while giving me a bunch of new ones, yes I know, but at least they'd be novelties).

As is the way of these things I was starting to hear slightly conflicting stuff and soon talking to a bunch of different people. After a few more e-mails and phone calls, what had changed to being a pre-record done over the weekend somewhere local to me (either my house or something like a cafe, and I was like...uh, yeah, cafe please, my house is awful), it suddenly became "right, I've got your address to tell the cameraman, he'll be on his way over really soon." I wasn't even home yet myself, I was still sitting on my friend's sofa when I heard that.

So I ran for a bus back from Reddish and on my way called Andrew and tried to explain. "He's coming here?" he said.

"I...guess so? I don't really know."

"But have you told him about our house?! Have you told him about Gary the Wonder Dog?! Why don't you go to Inspire instead?" All valid points, I felt, but there wasn't anything I could do about them.

I got home, needed a wee, but my phone rang again and the cameraman said he was leaving now so should be here in 30-45 minutes. I had enough time to wash my hair and put on a slightly-less-scruffy top. Andrew helped me pick everything up off the floor and furniture so it was at least possible for people to walk or sit down in our living room.

I was by this point anxiety-attack levels of anxious, though not exactly having an attack, and it was all about the state of me and the house rather than about the interview!

While I was waiting for the guy to show up, I talked to some Scope people about about this, what they'd like me to say if I could -- though they repeatedly emphasized that I should only say it if I actually thought it and not to worry if I didn't manage it. I think they were pretty grateful they'd found someone to do this and the guy I'd originally spoken to seemed to think it was as funny as I did that it'd turned out this way. "We're going to do this all backwards," he said, "because you'll do the interview and then I'll catch up with you and get details from you for our Stories project..."

And then the guy finally turned up and he was very nice. Since the dog, as always, went mental because someone had knocked on the door, I greeted him with "Sorry, I should've said we have a dog, I hope you're okay with dogs!" He was very okay, which was lucky really...or in another way, maybe not, because if he hadn't been maybe we could've gone to Inspire after all!

But then Gary wouldn't have ended up a TV star. But also nobody would see the piles of dirty dishes in my kitchen! "Swings and roundabouts," as the locals say.

Both of these things (dog and dishes, not swings or roundabouts) were used for "sequencing shots" -- the "look this is a normal person who does normal things!" kind of thing that's there to break up a talking-head interview, because really who wants to look at my stupid head for the whole two minutes or whatever they'll use.

I had to do everything twice -- play with Gary, put food in his bowl, pretend to wash one cup (so I guess at least if I look like I have a kitchen full of dirty dishes, I at least also look like I am actually going to do them!) -- so it could be filmed from different angles, and the whole thing seemed slightly surreal. I wasn't nervous about it because on some level I couldn't convince my brain it was really happening.

The guy was a bit self-conscious about all the faffing, messing with lights and doing things from different angles and whatnot, but I didn't mind at all because I was clearly a very small cog in a very big machine, and I could just wait to be told to do things and I didn't need to care if they were silly or confusing things. And it's not like they were difficult things. It was quite relaxing, actually!

Oh and as for what I talked about, I have basically no idea. My memory goes to shit when I'm anxious anyway. I do remember talking about Occupational Health being so shit when I started my NHS job, I hope that patronizing cow who tied my shoe for me hears herself being talked about on the telly, except I'm sure she doesn't remember it...). I probably talked for 15 minutes or so and they'll use two minutes of it and I have no idea which two minutes.

But you can all find out, if you want! It's apparently going to be on at ten to seven tomorrow morning, me pre-recorded with some employer in the studio saying no doubt that I am wrong about everything.

Anyway, what Scope asked me to mention is that there's a Government consultation going on into "helping disabled people find employment" but maybe we can convince them that the reasons we're not finding it are to do with employers disabling us rather than us just thinking life on benefits is so easy and nice that we can't be arsed getting a job... I'm going to try to write a response to the consultation, anyway, and would encourage any of my disabled chums to do so too. I'm happy to talk through or help anyone with that, if it'd help.
hollymath: (Default)
I also found this article on the unreadability of the internet interesting (partly because I actually think things like how many points of contrast there are between two colors is interesting...).
When you build a site and ignore what happens afterwards — when the values entered in code are translated into brightness and contrast depending on the settings of a physical screen — you’re avoiding the experience that you create. And when you design in perfect settings, with big, contrast-rich monitors, you blind yourself to users. To arbitrarily throw away contrast based on a fashion that “looks good on my perfect screen in my perfectly lit office” is abdicating designers’ responsibilities to the very people for whom they are designing.
Of course this is another time I was ahead of the curve; I've been using browser extensions for years to make web pages sufficiently readable for me. Here's what I said about them a while ago; I had reason to share this today and thought I might as well put it here too.
‎So my main browser is Firefox, and the extension I use for that is called Tranquility. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/addon/tranquility-1/

Chrome I don't use as much for browsing any more, but that still has the extension I used to use for Firefox, it's called Readability. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/readability/oknpjjbmpnndlpmnhmekjpocelpnlfdi?hl=en

Both of these are really good for getting rid of all the ads and stuff too. You can set font and size too, and you just get one lovely column of black text on a white background. Like the old days of the internet!

Tranquility is sometimes annoying for also taking away images you do want (photos that are part of the news story, etc) but I still find it's ‎worth it. It's very easy to toggle between "readable" and "original" modes so you can look at the diagrams or photos if need be with, overall, still less hassle than trying to parse modern Web pages. :)

And Tranquility does have the advantage of keeping the URL the same so it's easy to copy/share the link (Readability changes the URL when it changes the webpage, which just means you have to remember to change it back before you copy the link or something).
hollymath: (Default)
I really like this (except for the terrible headline, which I know isn't the writer's fault: we're partially sighted, not partially blind!).

My eye condition isn't degenerative like this person's is, but since I've still recently made the transition from "trying to pretend I'm a sighted person", about a year ago, reading all this was really powerful. I'm not used to seeing these experiences talked about. The recognition and identification feel really comforting.

I absolutely agree that not nearly enough is widely understood about who carries what cane and why, the huge variety of ways a person can have partial sight, and how best to interact with us. While my anxiety is a lot better when I'm using the cane because I'm not being held to a standard I can't reach, it is sometimes worse if I do anything that makes me seem "sighted," like reading or dodging an obstacle I couldn't find with my cane. I haven't had such negative experiences as I read about here, but I recognize them as something I have to be prepared for.

I spent all afternoon at the first meeting of the rebooted Visual Impairment Steering Group I'm now kinda leading, which was great but it was only supposed to last an hour and I'm exhausted now but it's only reaffirmed how much I want to teach sighted people how to be sighted.
hollymath: (Default)
Andrew's sister has called him to get help in filling out her PIP application.

At one point he told her, "Yeah, I know it's terrible to have to list everything you're bad at. This is basically the opposite of a job application: there you're trying to make yourself sound as good as possible..."
hollymath: (Default)
I saw Notes on Blindness on Saturday evening as part of the National Media Museum's Widescreen Weekend. Unusually for me, I was by myself since Andrew was too sick to go with me like we'd planned. (Irony of ironies, for a movie about bilndness, the house lights weren't up enough for me to find my seat when I got into Pictureville Cinema, even though I was early and there was a panel discussion before the movie so no reason for it to be so dark. And this was the one time I didn't have Andrew with me to be my seeing-eye human. Luckily a woman who was already helping the mobility-impaired person she was with spotted me and helped me find where I needed to be.)

It's definitely one I'm going to have to watch again (got the DVD on my wishlist already!) but for now I just wanted to remind myself, and tell you guys, of one of the things I found most striking about seeing it in the cinema with a lot of other people (most of whom had the lanyard of weekend-pass festivalgoers and were the kind of people I'm used to seeing at the Media Museum's cinematic events: mostly older, almost all white, chattering about things like what materials different kinds of cinema screens are made of in between movies).

The movie's based on the non-fictional audiotapes of a man, John Hull, a middle-aged academic whose second child was just about to be born, who lost his sight in the early 80s. He started keeping a sort of diary on cassettes as he came to terms with his blindness, and the movie's audio is composed of these recordings, lip-synced by actors but the actual voices are that of John and his wife and other family members on the tapes.

It's very well done -- I really like the way it's filmed so that even after John loses the last of his sight the cinematography makes you feel like you're getting things from his perspective even though there are of course images on the screen throughout the movie. I know I'll have a lot to say about it, but I think I need to see it again before I do (ideally with the audio description, which I don't think the media museum has? or anyway a combination of their staff being kind but not overly well-trained and me being all anxious and brainweasely meant I didn't ask).

In the meantime there's one little anecdote I wanted to tell.

Early in the movie, John has a little sight. He is as anyone would be upset when he learns he will lose that too. "How will I lecture?" he says (all of this is paraphrased from what I can remember!) "How will I read?" He seems to consult a library, whose audiobook collection is all detective-stories and romance. Then he's on the phone to someone asking about this, explaining the contemporary social texts he needs for his work and clearly not getting answers he wants.

Finally he asks in frustration, "How do blind people read big books?"

I had time to smile at the child-like nature of that phrase, "big books" and to mutter out loud, "they don't" before the answer came from the other side of his phone call.

"They don't."

And I was already smiling in that half-recognition, half-rueful, half-I-might-cry (yes that's three halves, yes this is a movie that gave me All The Feels, as the kids say) kind of way before the rest of the audience responded.

They laughed. They chuckled anyway. It didn't sound mean, it sounded more surprised -- which of course was the last thing I was -- and that actually surprised me. Maybe I expected the skewing-older audience of mostly-vintage movies (this was introduced as the one "contemporary" title in the festival) to be a little more sympathetic to sight loss since as people age they are more likely to find it among their peer group if not themselves. Of course things are better to some extent now (though the RNIB library I subscribe to doesn't have the "social history" I really like, but it's keeping me in science-fiction and horror so I think there's still more truth to this than people expect!) but still.

Maybe because I was "blind," albeit as a tiny child, at this time that I remember it. Maybe I recognize this in everything from other kids at the summer camp for blind kids to the steering group I'm leading after the first meeting I attended of it because no one else was going to write the e-mails and make the phone calls that didn't seem like a big deal to me. There's a institutionalization endemic to some kinds of blind people, this sense that they're easiest for sighted people to deal with when they don't do much and that they find it easier not to fight all the time to make things accessible. Stay at home, wait for people to take you places if you must go, listen to some nice cozy mystery from the library.

This part of the story has a happy ending -- John gets people to read books onto cassettes for him, he learns to make audio notes for his teaching, he recognizes his students by voice, all that -- but man. I didn't like being surrounded by people who were laughing at his plight. (And I hope that would've been true even if it weren't to some extent mine as well.)

I wonder what made them laugh. I really do.

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Holly

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