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The author Holly Williams

Holly Williams on Disability, Body Image and Fashion

By Disability, Lifestyle No Comments

‘What on earth has Rene Zellweger done to her face?’ That seems to be the question every other person (me included) has been asking this week. The ‘Chicago’ star’s drastic physical transformation has been the latest event to trigger a thousand discussions on the subject of the idealised body beautiful and the pressure on women to live up to impossible airbrushed standards of celebrity. But amid the arguments about what such images are doing to the minds of impressionable girls and insecure women up and down the country, I can’t help but think where disabled women like me fit into the picture.

I find it sad and more than a bit disturbing that in today’s world the currency of success and value seems to be outward appearance. I like to think that I am above such shallowness. I have always tried to tell myself that because of my disability no amount of primping and polishing will let me compete with the socially defined model of attractiveness so the pressure’s off. I’m a sheep in the Grand National; totally unsuitable for the field so I might as well just enjoy nibbling at the grass. I don’t see myself in the media so how can I be affected by it? But that’s not the case. The truth is I like to look good, spend hours trawling the shops for the latest fashions, go to highly impractical lengths to dye and style my hair. But why? Who is it I’m trying to impress? Am I, like so many women, compelled to conform to something I can never achieve?

I guess part of the blame falls on my mother (she will say I blame her for everything so why not this?) It is a running joke in our family that my grandparents must have seriously psychologically damaged her by being unable to afford to buy her a Barbie doll so she’s just using me instead!

When I was a child she would spend money that she could ill afford on nice clothes for me because she was determined that I ‘wouldn’t look disabled.’ Now before I receive hundred of slurs against her, let me explain something. My mum isn’t and has never been ashamed of me having a disability nor has she tried to hide it. What she meant by not wanting me to look disabled was that she had seen a lot of disabled people who had been dressed with pure practicality in mind and didn’t see why just because I had a disability I couldn’t look cute, pretty or modern just like my able­ bodied peers.

I think her sentiments underline a problem faced by a lot of disabled women, especially ones who live in care homes. Having a physical disability means that you have to keep comfort and ease of access in mind at all times in regards to clothing. The problem is clothes that are comfortable and practical are very often unflattering. Tracksuit bottoms are great when it comes to dressing yourself and going to the loo unaided but they aren’t the most stylish garments. Personally, I love jeans and was thrilled a few years ago when the elasticated, stretch jeans came into fashion. Finally there was a pair of decently cut jeans that didn’t come with a lot of fiddly buttons and zips and had a bootleg cut that that fitted nicely over my shoes. I bought literally dozens of pairs and wear them all the time. But fashions come and go and over the pass year or so I have noticed that this style is on its way out, meaning that the one stylish style of trouser I could manage myself is becoming impossible to find on the high street.

Another garment I really struggle with is shoes. I have a paradoxical relationship with footwear. I own more pairs that Sarah Jessica Parker and Imelda Marcos combined and yet I hate shoe shopping. Seriously, I LOATH it. So why do I own so many shoes? Because it’s virtually impossible for me to buy a pair of attractive, comfortable, flat dress shoes that stay on my feet so when I find a pair that somewhat fits the bill I buy them. Correction, my mother buys them when she sees them, I have got to the stage where I get so disheartened by mooning over gorgeous stilettos that I could never wear that I refuse point blank to stay in a shoe shop for more than half a hour.

Which sort of brings me back to the question of the acceptable face of beauty in the media. The fact is I try to dress in a fashionable manner that suits me but the image I project to the world isn’t the real me. Not how I want to be seen. It is a compromise between what I like, what suits me and what is practical. The really ironic thing is when I dress in the style that truly expresses my personality it doesn’t conform to the mainstream because I don’t want it to. I am, by nature, the outsider. Not because I’m disabled but because I love standing out and hate conformity. Over the years I have described my style as gothic, rocker, cowgirl, high glam, wannabee drag queen, retro, nerdy, out of style, on trend and every combination in between. I guess what I’m saying is you can’t take much notice of what’s going on on the catwalk or in Hollywood because at the end of the day everyone has their own taste and body type. I will never look like Rene Zellweger but then again neither does Rene Zellweger!

The author Holly Williams

Writing, Fantasy, Disability and Me by Holly Williams

By Disability, Hollie Williams, Lifestyle One Comment

When I met Jenny, one of the owners of this site, through the firm where I work and she asked me if I wanted to contribute to this blog, it put me in a bit of a quandary. Of course I was keen and flattered to be asked but where to start? What angle should I come at the topic of disability from? As a writer that has always been a sticky point for me, finding the first sticking point to launch myself into something. So after much pondering I decided what better place to start than writing itself, why I do it and what I do it about. And like all good stories mine starts a long time ago.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Holly who, because of some complications at her birth, was born with Cerebral Palsy. She was a very bright, if somewhat stubborn and disobedient, child who wanted to do everything she saw other children do. Her parents loved her very much and having been told by doctors that she would be ‘little more than a vegetable’ decided to stimulate her eager young mind in every way they could think of as they were sure that their daughter would prove the so-called ‘experts’ wrong, (they were quite stubborn and disobedient themselves!) So with the help of Holly’s devoted grandparents they set about filling her life with as much information, fun and education as they could. They took her on countless day trips everywhere from stately homes to the seaside, enrolled her in mainstream Brownies and played endless educational games with her. But although Holly’s childhood was as stimulating and as fun as any child could wish it, she was still very aware how different she was to other children and desperately frustrated. Monstrous tantrums would erupt when her damaged body wouldn’t do what she wanted it to or drawings would be ruined by her clumsy hands. What she desired most in the world was to do something that wasn’t affected by her disability. And so, in desperation her parents turned to books. They read to her, as much and as often as they could. In the car, in the bath, waiting for doctors’ appointments, as they attempted (mostly unsuccessfully) to feed her breakfast and when they tried (VERY unsuccessfully) to get her to sleep at night. They read everything and anything that was suitable from Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton to the Brothers Grimm and Childrens’ Encyclopaedias. And she adored it.

Thus begun a romance and love affair that has lasted my entire life. Words and stories became my favourite toys and dearest friends. They didn’t break when I played with them or run away or point like other children. Soon I grew bored with just hearing the stories my parents and grandparents told me and started making up my own. I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember (apart from one day when I was about six when I put my Dad’s slippers on my hands and decided I was going to be a dog!) By the age of 12 I had written my first book ‘Animal High’ about a school for disabled and non-disabled animals which was published for charity, the proceeds going to the special school I attended. I took a short break in my teenage years to sit my GCSEs and A levels before leaving education at 18 to start my first novel. I decided to write about disability, (they do say write what you know). I sat down at my computer, opened up Word and…Nothing! Well not nothing, a few pages of various stories about special schools and residential homes but nothing that made want me to keep writing.

Now can I tell you a secret? Promise you won’t judge? I find writing about disability boring. Not all the time of course, I wouldn’t be on this site if I did but a full length novel? It hit me why I had such bad writer’s block. I didn’t want to be a writer who wrote stories about disability, after all, I didn’t read books about disability. I wanted to be a writer who wrote gripping, thrilling fantasy adventures that just happened to have characters with disabilities right at the centre. Now you may not think that there’s much connection between disability and fantasy literature, after all there aren’t any disabled students at Hogwarts (I have a MAJOR issue with that by the way. Every creed and race shown learning magic but not one wheelchair, what gives?) But if you’re a massive fantasy and mythology nerd like me, you’d be surprised what crops up.

Hephaestus, the Greek god of the forge was depicted as having wasted legs and throughout history there has been a long tradition of people with disabilities such as blindness and physical deformities being seen as possessing or being victims of magical powers. The saying ‘I have a hunch’ originally comes from the belief that those with spinal deformities had psychic gifts. The term ‘changling’, a baby who was stolen by the fairy folk and replaced for one of their own, is believed to come from people trying to find explanations for numerous impairments from epilepsy to autism. Of course, such folk tales were usually far from flattening and such legends were quite often used to persecute and portray disabled people as ‘evil’ or ‘unnatural’, but the very fact they exist fascinates me.

My first fantasy novel ‘The Jersey Guardian’ was published in 2005 and over the following years I completed the trilogy with ‘A Warlock In Jersey’ and ‘The Ghosts Of Helier.’ The stories focus around a fourteen-year-old from South London named Jessica Kent who discovers that her family are fated to be the guardians of Jersey and protect the isle from witchcraft and evil. If you read my books (please read my books, there’s a link to buy them at the bottom of the page), you might be surprised to find that there are no characters who have clearly recognisable disabilities but that doesn’t mean the themes and problems that have affected me through my life in regards to my disability aren’t featured at the core of the stories. While it’s true that the main threat faced by my heroes comes from the supernatural, they also have to tackle what it means when you or someone you love has a physical impairment and learning difficulty. It’s one thing to seek out and destroy ancient magic but how do you face the challenges of knowing you’re not as ‘normal’ as the rest of society and face the harsh judgements of others, even those within your own family?

In traditional fantasy literature where the hero has to summon inter strength to rise to vanquish every obstacle, it’s hard to raise the topic of disability when most impairments have to be endured rather than cured. I don’t claim to have totally succeeded in creating disabled heroes and role-models that were lacking when I was a child. I’m not arrogant enough about my talent to make that statement. Let’s face it, who, disabled or not, wouldn’t want a magic wand or potion that would make them happy, healthy and rich. That’s why fantasy exists in the first place, to create in the mind what does not exist in the real world. All I’ve tried to do is create a cast of characters who are interesting, brave, funny, loving, selfish, cunning, foolish, bigoted, forgiving, and enjoyable enough for the reader to stay with for 300 or so pages. It just so happens that in my stories one or two of them might not be considered as ‘able-bodied’. Holly Williams is an author, poet, artist, performer, graphic designer and disability campaigner.

Her books are available through this link.

My wife and I are very adventurous sexually and are keen to try attending swingers parties…

By Disability, Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet, My story, The Love Lounge One Comment

James, Milton-Keynes

“My wife and I are very adventurous sexually and are keen to try attending swingers parties. However, I have MS and am a wheelchair user. Can I expect the swinging scene to be equipped to deal with and accepting of my disability?”


While I haven’t ventured onto the swinging scene, I have many friends who have. I do know that from my contact with them that disability is not really an issue. To be honest I kept finding myself being told that I would “enjoy” myself on that scene as many of them have a tick list, or a list of things they want to try.

Sex with a disabled person is high on that list apparently, so if you don’t mind that idea then it might be fun. I would check out your local scene and see if you like the people, which I would imagine is pretty important if you intend to sleep with them! Of course some people might be arse holes, but that is life. I should say that please go it into with your eyes open. I know many relationships that have been torn apart by trying swinging.

It may sound fun, but will either of you be able to cope if one partner is more popular than another? Jealousy can kill a successful relationship, and while it is a not fashionable emotion I personally feel it is part of really being in love. Having said that, I also know couples who have a great time and swear it has brought them closer together. So if you really fancy it, go for it. Trust me, as far I as I understand having a disability is not bar to swinging your socks off!

American Horror Story Promo Poster

American Horror Story : ‘Freakshow’ – Art or Ableism?

By Disability, Lifestyle One Comment

The new season of the popular U.S TV show ‘American Horror Story’ hits our British shores on 21st October, over on FX, in time to get us excited for Halloween. For those unfamiliar with the concept, ‘Freakshow’ is the 4th season of the AHS franchise which started in 2011, reusing the same cast over again but always with a different setting and storyline. Previous seasons themes include ‘Asylum,’ ‘Coven’ and a haunted house all designed to be creepy, sexual, funny and very different to anything else out there right now.

However, this upcoming cycles content has ruffled some feathers within the disabled community, and it’s not hard to see why. ‘AHS: Freakshow’ is set in 1950’s Florida centering on a group of people with obvious physical disabilities banded together in one of America’s last ‘freak’ shows. Some actors playing these roles are genuinely disabled, such as the worlds smallest woman Jyoti Amge, and others not, where recurring actress Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins.

The use of the archaic word ‘Freak’ serves as a useful reminder to us of the terms that have come and gone, much like racially prejudiced terms, that are no longer acceptable in the modern PC age. This is a credit to our society, to recognise as a whole that these terms along with ‘crippled’ and ‘handicapped,’ are no longer acceptable; yet it is also unnerving to see published so brazenly again. As Howard Sherman puts it in his ‘Guardian’ article on this topic, ‘[freak] is a slur – and though it might be accurately portrayed on screen or on stage, it’s not yours to reclaim for someone else, even characters in a show.’

Especially when paired with the series promo poster, a ghostly looking misshapen foot next to the title ‘Freakshow’ (see above), gives the impression that we are to fear and gawp at. This is, after all, supposed to be the portrayal of a ‘horror story.’ Yet, what precisely is so ‘horrific’ about the disabled form?

After watching the first episode, it is apparent that the ‘freaks’ are supposed to provoke a feeling of unease in the viewer, yet they are also built up as multi dimensional characters. But this privilege is mostly enjoyed by the non-disabled actors playing disabled roles. Jyoti Amge, a 20 year old woman with achondroplasia, is permitted just a few lines in a bit part that is doubtful to last the whole season. Additionally, she is routinely picked up and carried around by cast members, fueling the infantilization of those with small stature. It does, frankly, reek of objectification.

Regardless, this popular television show has decided to put disability, and how those with disabilities used to be treated so callously not all that long ago, at its forefront. ‘Freakshow’s’ were something that happened in society, and to ignore that fact in popular culture would be the same as claiming it never existed.

Wheelchair logo with heart

Pretenders, Devotees & Wannabes

By Disability, Lifestyle No Comments

Many of us with at least moderate awareness of the disability world are familiar with the concept of ‘devotees’ – a person with a specific sexual fetish related to disability or only interested in having relationships with a disabled person. This is usually relatively harmless when those involved feel safe, respected and are aware of one anothers intentions, much like in any other relationship.

But what happens when an able-bodied persons admiration for the disabled form transcends desire and becomes part of their perceived identity? This is where ‘pretenders’ and ‘wannabes’ come in. Both typically view themselves as being ‘trans-abled,’ where similarly to transgendered people they feel as though they have been born into the wrong body. They then often identify with one specific disability and then proceed to act it out either privately or publicly.

One such ‘pretender,’ only making himself known as Chris, was profiled in the recent American TV series ‘Seven Deadly Sins.’ Chris hides his pretender status from those around him but feels conflicted within himself when he is not in his wheelchair. Of his identity crisis he poignantly revealed that, “what I want my life to be like is what is the detriment of a lot of people’s lives, the worst thing that’s ever happened to them, and I think it would be the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Wannabes take things one step further and go to extraordinary lengths to deliberately become disabled, by perhaps amputating a limb or rendering themselves paraplegic, often with a very precise idea of the disability they identity with. A chilling post from’s ‘Wannabe and Pretender’s Forum’ reads: ‘I have seen a lot of amputee wannabe’s [on the forum] so far but, no paraplegic wannabe’s. I’m a 35 year old para pretender looking for chat. [sic] I’m serious about trying to get the job done. If anyone has any suggestions or ideas […] send a message.’

One blog entitled ‘Wheelchairconfession,’ tellingly unveils the link between devoteeism and pretending. For these people disability is not only their identity, it also excites them sexually. One blogger revealed that: ‘I told my girlfriend about my wheelchair. […] I started by telling her I had a fetish/fantasy about [having sex] while on my wheelchair. I proceeded to tell her that I’d like to try doing everyday things from a wheelchair.’ Another blogger laments the fact that he still keeps his pretender status secret from his partner but chronicles his excitement when she asks him to dress up in a pirate outfit, complete with a fake hook hand, in the bedroom. Infact, many ‘pretenders’ and ‘wannabes’ report having the sexual desire for disabled people first from a young age, which in turn progresses into the desire to BECOME a disabled person.

It is easy to see why people get riled up by ‘pretenders’ and ‘wannabes.’ Many truly disabled people find it hard to see why somebody would choose to have something that makes their life harder, or changed their life completely. They may feel like ‘pretenders’ do not understand the full seriousness of having a real disability and just enjoy the sympathy or attention stemming from it, or even that they are infringing on a culture that is rightly and wholly theirs.

However, the feeling of being ‘trans-abled’ is medically acknowledged as being a legitimate physiological condition known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). Could this in itself then be acknowledged as a disability? Would there be limits on how these people choose to live their lives if they wanted access to the same amenities specifically reserved for genuinely disabled people? In a world where all minority groups are still fighting for their right to be heard and accepting people of all kinds is becoming increasingly regular dialogue in our society, should we just live and let live? There is, frankly, a Pandora’s box worth of questions and issues.

On one final note, an anonymous ‘pretender’ interviewed by ‘New’ had this to say: ‘Pretenders don’t hurt anyone, as long as they’re not trying to scam government benefits or taking services away from people who actually need them. We have a ‘fetish,’ an ‘interest,’ or even a ‘disorder’ — call it what you will, we’re just living our lives in the only way we really can.’

hands on jail bars

Deaf & Disabled Inmates – Sentenced to Isolation

By Disability, Lifestyle No Comments

Recently, the Deaf community was rocked by the news of the savage murder of Christopher Pennman by Awat Akram. Both men were Deaf and the motive for the crime was supposedly jealousy over a woman they both had had a relationship with.

Akram stabbed Pennman multiple times while he slept, defenceless, in his bed. To add to the horror and hardship, Akram then went on to deny his role in the murder and mislead the police in their investigation. He has now been sentenced to life in prison – a minimum of 28 years.

Akram’s crime was clearly deplorable and he deserves to be punished while the public are protected from him. Yet, disabled inmates in our country are typically consigned to paying a much higher price for their crimes than their able-bodied counterparts.

The HM Inspectorate of Prisons (2009) found that disabilities are largely under-reported in UK prisons, with deafness being no exception. Many Deaf and hard of hearing people use British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate, yet a HM Inspectorate of Prisons survey found that just 16 out of 82 disability liaison officers said they had BSL trained staff to help Deaf prisoners with daily activities. Therefore, these inmates will likely find themselves in a position where few (if any) BSL interpreters are available to them during their time in prison, which may be for the rest of their lives.

The detailed 2013 study ‘Not hearing us – An exploration of the experiences of deaf prisoners in English and Welsh prisons,’ suggests that being denied the basic right to communicate, quite rightly, causes feelings of extreme isolation and loneliness. If deaf prisoners are not able to communicate, they are not able to fully assimilate into prison life which in turn reduces their likelihood of reform.

Despite prisons being covered by the Equality Act 2010 many Deaf inmates were still experiencing problems with access to education – a major tool in their rehabilitation. One hearing impaired inmate even claimed that he could not access 90% of prison classes without a support worker.

Enhance the UK believes that by implementing disability awareness training and sign language courses into prisons for prison staff, these issues can be more efficiently and economically dealt with than they currently are.

97% of all offenders say they want to stop offending and the biggest factor (68%) helping them do this is having a job and prospects. When you do not invest in a minority group in prison, much like in regular society, you are already robbing them of any hope of turning their lives around. When offenders have something constructive to focus on and a chance to better themselves, our community as a whole benefits.

The Undressing Disability shoot 2013 in front of Big Ben, London

Undressing ‘Undressing Disability’

By Disability, Lifestyle No Comments

About five years ago I took my 32-year-old friend, Andy, who has cerebral palsy on a trip to Amsterdam to visit a sex worker. Although he is funny, open minded and a football coach with a university degree, he was yet to have a sexual experience.

After the trip, he told me that he didn’t think it had gone well because he didn’t orgasm immediately and it surprised me that he would think that way.

It then made me realise that, along with many other physically disabled people, Andy is knowledgeable and sociable in many areas but when it came to sex he didn’t know the basics. This was not only because he had never experienced it, but also that no one had ever educated him. When I returned from Amsterdam I began researching what sex education was available for disabled people like Andy, but found very little. That really scared me.

I founded Enhance the UK in 2009 with the aim of changing society’s perception of disability as well as empowering and supporting physically disabled and sensory impaired people to live full, active lives. In 2012, we ran a campaign called Undressing Disability and produced calendars featuring all disabled models donning nothing but their underwear, poised in front of iconic London backdrops. We wanted to celebrate the disabled form while raising awareness of our inclusive Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) program in collaboration with leading youth sexual health and education providers, Brook, which is the backbone to our entire evolving campaign.

Currently, there is no UK government policy recognising that physically disabled young people require specialised SRE. In a 2013 survey we conducted, 69% of people thought their disability should have been taken into consideration in SRE and 100% observed that it was never even addressed. Physical disabilities are often placed under the same disability ‘umbrella’ as people with learning disabilities when in reality the two deserve and require different attention.

Physically disabled people who rely on full time carers to wash, dress and feed them run the risk of becoming desexualised despite them having regular, healthy, adult urges. Being looked after in this way makes those around them forever view them in a childlike way.

Through my own disability of degenerative hearing loss, I am acutely aware of the issues the deaf community face in terms of SRE. A recent survey by the charity Deafax found that 67 per cent of deaf people received inaccessible sex education and 45 per cent of those people said it was because they could not understand teachers. One deaf girl told Deafax that she didn’t know anything about sex, contraception or relationships when she left school. She said: “There was never anyone to ask who could explain properly to me in sign language. I didn’t know how many sexual partners were ‘normal’.”

As part of Undressing Disability we’ve launched‘The Love Lounge,’ a safe space on our website where users can ask our panel any questions related to sex, relationships and disability. No topic is off limits and we would encourage queries, not only from our disabled users, but their partners and parents too. We want to encourage discussion on these seemingly ‘taboo’ topics and create a caring sense of community.

We are pleased to introduce media personality and prominent disabled activist, Mik Scarlet and presenter and writer Emily Yates as our ‘Love Lounge’ experts. Mik and Emily are also two of our very talented disability awareness trainers so are used to addressing all kinds of issues.

The truth is that disabled people have sex and disabled people like sex. But they don’t have access to the same advice and support as their peers. We need to stop the stigma and address the ‘awkward’ questions nobody else will so that disabled people can enjoy safe, healthy and fulfilling sex lives, just like everyone else.











Campaigning for human rights! by Caroline Dempsey

By Disability, Lifestyle One Comment

It’s easy for me to say that I can focus on what I have, not what I don’t have, or on what I can do, not on what I can’t do. But for a disabled person, it’s much more difficult to find the positives. Some I speak to admit that on the face of it, they give the impression of confidence, but in private, the story is very different. They suffer with poor body image, lack of self-esteem and self-worth, their attempts to have a satisfying sex life presents them with problems not only in regard to their physical ability, but also their physiological capabilities. As much as I encourage and want to help with enabling my clients to enjoy sex (either with me or with another), I cannot imagine how much anxiety and frustration they must endure.

I recently attended a SHADA conference (The Sexual Health and Disability Alliance). There must have been over 40 professionals there, all with the same ambition, and that’s to enable those with disabilities to express themselves sexually whenever they need to. That’s whether they’re in care or at home, and however bad their condition is. It was fantastic to be amongst so many who felt so passionate and who are willing to do all they can for the cause. Dr Tuppy Owens, the founder, is a shining example of someone who won’t give up. She’s been a serial campaigner for years and won’t rest when it comes to gaining support for those who can’t get it themselves.

Of course, there are many laws around enabling the disabled to have sex, or to call on sex workers, but we learned at the conference that the laws are simply breaching basic human rights. There are many myths surrounding them and in fact, many lawyers don’t even seem to know them clearly. If it’s consensual, adult and done in private, that’s a human right. A ‘right to fun’ is a human right, and so on. It was said that ‘criminal law’ has no place in the bedroom. I stress, if the act is consensual and pleasurable for all, then no, it does have no place in the bedroom (or whatever room you choose).

By law, people working within the disability sector must support human rights – by law! They must support the sexual expression of their client. It is a breach of Duty of Care not to enable sexual expression. It’s more of a breach than not supporting safeguarding! The trouble is that folk are concerned that they’re not supporting protective rights enough, and are therefore raising the bar further in order to supplement their efforts. Trouble is, this is breaching human rights even further. Although a well-meant act, it’s having the opposite effect.

A prime example of this was highlighted by another speaker. She is a highly qualified professional and a highly respected member amongst her peers. But officially speaking, because she’s 60% deaf, the Sexual Offences Act recognises that she is unable to consent to sex, and it is therefore seen as rape. Go figure. It’s a human rights violation!

One of the speakers was a lad in a wheelchair who very honestly explained that when he wanted to lose his virginity, he had to think for a long time about how he would go about it. He was living with his mum and couldn’t discuss it with her, of course. However, he eventually went ahead and he achieved exactly what he wanted, but it wasn’t easy for him. I’ve heard this from so many people of all ages. Sometimes the embarrassment factor is greater, the older the person gets. Another girl spoke of her experience when, a few years ago, she got some help in enabling her to have sex with a partner. It didn’t go according to plan and the person helping, instead of speaking to her, spoke to her social worker directly. This destroyed any trust she held around that person and made her very cautious for the future.

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in the background to raise awareness and to support this sector in any way possible to make sure they get the help that’s so desperately needed. But in light of the fact that gays have pretty much now become mainstream, who knows, perhaps disabled people will be given resources galore to help them express themselves fully sexually. I hope this can happen quickly, I really do.

For more from Caroline Dempsey visit her website.

Submerged Flood Sign

If Floods are Here to Stay, How Will We Reduce the Risks to Disabled People? By Emily Buchanan

By Business, Disability, Lifestyle No Comments

Whilst floods impact everyone, they are especially challenging for the elderly and people with disabilities. “Depending on the severity of the mobility issue,” writes Gerry Bucke, manager of Chartwell Mobility Insurance Services, “some people may require assistance to leave their homes. Negotiating floodwater in a wheelchair or mobility scooter is virtually impossible and if people become trapped, they can be exposed to water-borne diseases, raw sewage and the dangers of waiting for rescue.”

UK January Rainfall GraphUnfortunately, flooding like we’ve seen in the past few months is going to occur more frequently. A 2013 UN report on climate change confirms that human behaviour has caused global temperatures to increase. This has caused arctic sea ice to melt, sea levels to rise and record levels of precipitation.

So if extreme weather is here to stay, what is being done to reduce the risk to the nation’s elderly and disabled people?

In truth, shamefully little. Even after the floods of 2007, which were deemed the biggest peacetime civil emergency since the Second World War, only a fraction of money for flood risk reduction now goes to helping local communities build their own resilience and action plan.

What can we learn for other countries?

Other countries, such as Bangladesh and the Philippines, have shown just how effective risk reduction plans can be. According to CAFOD’s disaster risk reduction adviser Dr Kate Crowley, Bangladeshi communities hold regular town meetings to plan evacuation strategies, ensuring that people with disabilities and the elderly are always taken care of.

Similarly, the tiny Philippines island of Tulang Diyot evacuated every one of its 1,000 residents before Typhoon Yolanda – a vicious storm which went on to flatten every building on the island. It was all down to risk reduction and prioritising the rescue of vulnerable residents.

However, there are also many countries struggling with the disability issue of disaster management. Statistics from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011 show that the mortality rate among people with disabilities was double that of the rest of the affected population. Sae Kani, who has worked across Southeast Asia with disabled people, said, “They are always the last ones to be counted. They don’t come to collect the emergency relief items… they are always invisible.”

This issue was embodied at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction by 11-year-old Danh from Vietnam. Danh has a physical disability and told the conference how frightened he was when his Quang Nam village flooded. “From that experience, whenever I see floods and rain, I feel very scared. I beg you: please develop a flood preparedness plan and evacuate kids with disabilities to a safe place, and please teach us and our family members about how to be ready for floods.”

How should we adapt?

As extreme weather becomes more of an issue, the UK needs to “encourage locally-managed disaster risk reduction, and introduce more community flood forums which would help vulnerable people living on flood plains to adapt and plan ahead,” says the CAFOD.

Historically, the changeability of British weather has made it very difficult to prepare for extremes. Our weather patterns fluctuate according to the position of the jet stream, meaning we experience exceptionally cold, warm or windy weather for short periods of time. However, research suggests that the recent warming of the Arctic has caused the jet stream to change, sending “conveyor belts” of weather to the UK that stay for longer periods of time, which explains the increased levels of rain.

Whilst the floods of 2013/14 do not equate to the typhoons of the Philippines or the earthquakes of Japan, our climate is changing and vulnerable people are at risk. Therefore, disaster risk reduction needs to be disability inclusive, and communities need to have access to resources that allow them to plan evacuation strategies, ensuring that people with disabilities and the elderly are always taken care of.

I really want to date but I don’t know when to mention the ‘D’ word…

By Disability, Lifestyle, The Love Lounge One Comment

Actions speak louder than words. You don’t even need to mention the D word to actually go on a date!
Step One: Select something exciting that you’d like to do with your beau.

Why? Studies show that when we spend time with people in adrenaline heightened situations we find them more attractive, and they will find us more attractive too. This will give you the chance to go on an “invisible date.” You know it’s a date but they don’t! For them, you just had a fun time out together. For you, it is the first step in getting to know them better and deciding if you want to take this relationship further and into the bedroom.

From there you can just keep getting to know them with more “invisible dates.” When you are clear you want to take things further, go in for a snog. After the first kiss it is clearly time to start using the D word and not long after that you can graduate to calling them your boyfriend/girlfriend!