Well hello! I hope you’re enjoying this incredible Indian Summer! It seems when the sun shines we all feel more positive. I attended an interesting meeting at RADAR last week chaired by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson which focussed on Doing Sport Differently. We are compiling a publication with lots of case studies showing how disabled people do or do not get involved in some kind of sporting activity. We all tend to focus on the elite paralympians but what about those who just enjoy a swim or an occasional game of tennis? How about disabled supporters or coaches? Have you got any stories around disabled people and sport that you could share, if so drop me a line!
During the next couple of weeks RADAR, Disability Alliance and the National Centre for Independent Living will all hold their AGM’s and members will decide whether all three should merge. All our research suggests that this recommendation will be followed and come the new year a new organisation will emerge to be known as Disability Rights (UK) I’ll keep you posted. Now it’s back to the garden and the wheelchair accessible paddling pool!
BBC set to apologise over inaccessible complaints system
A disabled man looks set to win an apology from the BBC after it admitted failing to provide him with an accessible way of lodging a complaint.
John Cresswell-Plant was contacted by a local radio producer last year over a press release he and fellow disabled activists sent BBC Radio West Midlands.
But after Cresswell-Plant – who has autism – made it clear that he and his colleagues would need some adjustments made in order for a live radio interview to take place, he said the producer lost interest in the story.
He had asked the producer to allow him to finish answering questions without being interrupted, and not to ask any questions that might be open to misinterpretation.
But when he tried to complain about the interview being dropped, the BBC’s complaints department failed to make the “reasonable adjustments” he needed under discrimination laws.
Now the BBC Trust general appeals panel (GAP) – the BBC’s highest authority for complaints – has concluded in a draft ruling that the complaints department failed to make the necessary adjustments for Cresswell-Plant. It says it will apologise to him on behalf of the BBC.
Among Cresswell-Plant’s concerns, he said he was not given a direct contact to speak to in the complaints department, as the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggested he should ask for.
The panel’s draft findings note that, although Cresswell-Plant repeatedly asked to speak directly to the person handling his complaint, he was never allowed to do so.
And although he asked for written notes or transcripts of his conversations, this does not appear to have been provided by the BBC.
The panel notes that, although some adjustments were made by the complaints department, the specific adjustments Cresswell-Plant asked for were not carried out.
The draft findings point out that, although the BBC complaints department claimed there were proper procedures in place to deal with people with learning difficulties, the panel had not yet been shown a copy of them. It is now likely to ask to see the relevant policy.
But the panel’s draft findings also conclude that the live interview with Cresswell-Plant did not take place for “editorial reasons”, rather than because the producer did not want to make the necessary adjustments.
The BBC is also arguing that newsgathering is not seen as a “service” under equality laws and therefore there was no need for reasonable adjustments to be made for the interview.
Cresswell-Plant, who will continue to campaign for journalists to make reasonable adjustments for all disabled people, said: “They will make an adjustment for somebody who is in a wheelchair to be interviewed for the news, somebody who is deaf to be interviewed, why not somebody who has a learning difficulty? It is still accessibility.”
A BBC Trust spokeswoman said: “The trust would not comment on an appeal finding ahead of publication. The finding is still being finalised and will be published in due course.”
Judge rules disabled woman should not be allowed to die
Campaigners have welcomed a high court judge’s ruling that a “minimally conscious” disabled woman should not have her life-supporting treatment withdrawn.
The family of the woman, who has brain damage and is known as “M” for legal reasons, had told the court that she would not have wanted to be kept alive in such circumstances.
But Mr Justice Baker has ruled that these statements were not legally binding, and that M currently has “some positive experiences”, while there was a “reasonable prospect” that those experiences could be extended.
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, of the campaigning disabled people’s organisation Not Dead Yet UK, expressed sympathy with the family but said the judge’s ruling was “an example of where the right processes are working”.
He said: “We understand that the family are going through a very difficult period, but we have had the appropriate checks and balances.
“The difficulty we are left with is that we have to come to a place where a judgement is made on the quality of life for an individual not able to advocate for themselves. In this case, it resulted in a judgement that said this woman had a quality of life.
“This is a matter where the right process was followed. It is an exemplar for us of how things should work. The protections that are required are in place and this case shows that.”
M was left with brain damage after falling ill with viral encephalitis in 2003. She receives food and water through a tube, which the family want to be removed in order to hasten her death.
Doctors initially believed M was in a coma, until later realising she was capable of some response, was aware of her environment, and was in what is known as a “minimally conscious” state. She now lives in a care home.
Yogi Amin, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented M’s family, said they had “demonstrated their love and devotion for her throughout this case” and “brought this application to court in what they perceive to be her best interests”.
He said M’s relatives believed that she had been clear before her illness that she would not have wanted to live in the condition that she is in now.
Amin said evidence was provided to the court that M was unable to communicate consistently, or move or care for herself, and that she regularly experienced pain, distress and discomfort, while there was no evidence that her condition has improved.
He added: “However, the judge has decided in this particular case, after considering all the evidence, that balancing the benefits and disbenefits to M does not fall on the side of withdrawing treatment.”
He said the law had now been “clarified” and the high court would have the power in other cases to decide if it was in a person’s best interests for such treatment to continue.
Demand for Paralympic tickets is ‘unprecedented’
Demand for tickets for next year’s Paralympics in London has reached “unprecedented” levels, according to the 2012 organising committee.
Between 9 and 26 September, 116,000 people applied for tickets to next summer’s games, applying for a total of 1.14 million tickets.
Out of 300 ticketed sessions, 126 are now over-subscribed in at least one of the price categories and so will need to have their tickets allocated via a ballot – the first time any Paralympic games has had to take such a step.
There are only three sports – road cycling, sitting volleyball and powerlifting – in which there are no oversubscribed sessions in at least one price category.
Although it is the first time any organising committee has put tickets on sale so far in advance – and not on a “first come, first served” basis – a spokesman for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said that “we never have seen demand like this”.
He said: “To have applications for 1.14 million tickets after a three-week ticket window is phenomenal.”
In 2008, the Beijing organising committee eventually sold 1.82 million tickets at full price, while the government bought another 1.64 million and distributed them to community groups, schools, and other organisations. Athens sold just 850,000 tickets for the 2004 Paralympics, while Sydney sold 1.2 million in 2000.
But the figures for the past three Paralympics are for final ticket sales, while there is nearly a year to go until the 2012 games open.
Sir Philip Craven, the IPC’s president, said: “To have over a million tickets applied for 11 months out from the games is unprecedented and underlines the growing excitement for what will be a tremendous sporting event.
“This will be the first time ballots have been held for a number of sports, and I could not be more thrilled.”
Payment for tickets will be taken by 31 October, with notification of whether applications have been successful sent by 18 November.
More Paralympic tickets will be put on sale in December, with a final batch to be made available next spring.
Mobility aids firms are using ‘unfair sales tactics’
Some companies that sell mobility aids are targeting disabled and older people with “unfair sales practices”, particularly when visiting them at home, according to a new report.
The market study into mobility aids by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) says some disabled and older people are paying too much for their mobility aids.
It accuses a “small minority” of firms of subjecting disabled and older people to unfair practices, such as high pressure and “misleading” sales practices.
Consumer Direct, the OFT’s advice service, has received more than 4,000 complaints about mobility aids sales in each of the last three years.
The OFT has launched investigations into two national mobility aids companies, one over unfair doorstep selling practices, and one over the company’s “terms and conditions” and the quality of its service.
It is also investigating other “similar behaviour” which it said could lead to further action, including the possible removal of credit licences from “a number” of companies.
But despite the concerns, the OFT has “provisionally” concluded that it is not necessary to refer the entire mobility aids market to the Competition Commission, although it is now seeking views on this decision, with responses needed by 20 October.
The new report says as many as half of consumers could be paying too much for their equipment because they are failing to “shop around” – often due to poor mobility, lack of access to the internet or time pressure – with the price of one mobility scooter varying by as much as £3,000.
About half of the websites and adverts the OFT checked failed to quote any prices.
The OFT has launched a “doorstep selling consumer awareness campaign”, which provides “practical tips” and advice on rights.
It is also supporting trading standards departments to target firms suspected of engaging in unfair sales practices.
And it has secured an agreement from the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) to update its code of practice so all of its members display price information on their marketing material and websites.
Alan Norton, chief executive of Assist UK, which leads the national network of Disabled Living Centres – which provide free, impartial advice on independent living equipment – welcomed the measures proposed by the OFT.
Assist UK worked with the OFT on its investigation and passed on reports from its mystery shopping project, which has been carried out by disabled people over the last three years.
Norton said that assistive technology equipment “can be an essential tool in gaining independence and it is important that these products are available at a fair and reasonable price for all”.
He added: “We will be monitoring the developments and will report any trading irregularities to the OFT and the BHTA to take the appropriate action.”
Chris Shaw, chief executive of the Disabled Living Foundation, also welcomed the report.
She said: “What we are all after is people making informed choices and the right choices for them. We completely endorse the need for high quality and accurate information and for all suppliers to provide that as a matter of course to their consumers.”
Meanwhile, the OFT has published new guidance for businessesconsidering granting credit to disabled people who might not have the “mental capacity” to make “informed borrowing decisions”.
It sets out the steps consumer credit companies should take to identify such borrowers, help them understand credit agreements, and reduce the risk of them securing “unaffordable or clearly unsuitable credit”.
David Fisher, director of the OFT’s consumer credit group, said: “It is important to balance the right of a person to make a decision, with their right to safety and protection when they can’t make decisions to protect themselves.”
Labour conference: Disabled activist shames ‘flustered’ Miliband
A prominent disabled activist has launched a highly critical attack on Labour leader Ed Miliband during a televised question and answer session over his failure to speak out on the government’s hated “fitness for work” tests.
The session took place at the Labour conference, but the audience included members of the public who were not party members.
One was Kaliya Franklin, the disabled blogger and activist who co-foundedThe Broken of Britain, who accused Miliband – to loud applause from the audience – of failing to speak out for disabled people because of hostile media attacks that have labelled benefits claimants as “scroungers”.
She told him that the issue of disabled people being the “hardest hit” by the cuts had been “airbrushed almost entirely from the conference”.
Miliband claimed he was not afraid to use the word “disability” and was “determined to say that disabled people need support and help and compassion”, but that “you have got to separate out ill-health and disability from worklessness and the decision not to work”.
He claimed he was not “trying to sweep this under the carpet”.
But Franklin accused him – again, to loud applause – of “reinforcing the destructive rhetoric that is coming from the coalition government at a time when sick and disabled people desperately need a champion to stand up for us”.
Miliband accepted he should have said in his main conference speech that “you have to defend people with disability and ill-health and say that they shouldn’t be under attack”, but said he “genuinely” didn’t think that “saying you are tough on abuse of the benefit system is a non-Labour thing to do”.
Franklin, who blogs at Benefit Scrounging Scum, said: “We got the reaction we expected. He didn’t know what to say. He was completely flustered and lost the plot.
“He didn’t really have an answer. I had a go at him and said he was part of the problem because he had used part of this rhetoric himself.”
In a speech in June, Miliband horrified disabled activists by accusing some incapacity benefit (IB) claimants of failing to “take responsibility” and of “shirking their duties”.
Franklin said: “It was clearly one of the questions he didn’t want to deal with.”
She added: “I told him we have had enough of this, that he was not talking about us or supporting us, and he is complicit in this when he knows fraud levels [for IB] are negligible.
“When I hammered him about the fraud rates he didn’t roll his eyes and say, ‘oh, for God’s sake, will you go away,’ but for a moment the mask slipped and that was his expression.
“I just don’t think he cares. It’s not something that is one of his particular passions and he wants it to go away.”
But she added: “We had a forthright discussion and he did actually have to come out and say for the first time that he should have said in his speech that sick and disabled people needed protection.”
And she welcomed the Labour leader’s pledge to meet with her to discuss her concerns in more depth.
After her exchange on Wednesday evening, Franklin was swamped by members of the media intent on interviewing her about her concerns, but almost nothing has yet been written or broadcast about her exchange with Miliband.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com