A Simple Idea, A Huge Help

Some of you may already know about the Google “doodles”, those renditions of the Google logo on its home page that change from time to time to celebrate great people, works of art, inventions, notable anniversaries and other occasions.  Sometimes the doodle is interactive, containing a small video or game to play but most of the time it is a temporary image which if clicked links to more details of the occasion it has been created to celebrate.

Today’s doodle is an image of a tactile pavement, as seen in cities and towns the world over.  Whilst these areas of paving can be horrendous for wheelchair users, they are an essential tool in safe navigation by blind and partially sighted people and there’s an interesting story behind them.

GoogleDoodle

The inventor of these paving slabs, Japanese man Seiichi Miyake, found out a close friend was losing their ability to see clearly and decided to try and help.  Using his own finances he started development on what he named the Tenji block in 1965, completing development and introducing the blocks in 1967 outside a school for the blind in Japan.

Many people will now be familiar with the “knobbly” or “bumpy” blocks on the approach to road crossings or at railway platforms but there have been other designs used to denote various hazards and to guide blind and partially sighted people in particular directions.

These blocks are a simple idea that became hugely successful as they can be felt either with a cane or through the feet.

Turning the Tables – Employing Disabled People

This post on the Same Difference blog prompted some thoughts on the subject of employing disabled people.  It can be nerve wracking for anyone going through the whole job hunting process – updating your CV, applying for a job, writing the perfect cover letter and then, if you’re lucky, going to an interview.

For a person with a disability this can be even more worrying.  Not only are you in competition with the other applicants, you must also get past any prejudices and worries and pre-conceived ideas that the potential employer may have.  The employer may believe for example that a disabled person is likely to take lots of time off because of illness or for medical appointments.  If the role applied for is customer facing the employer may worry about what customers will think.

There are many other ideas that may, in the employers mind, put up barriers to employing the disabled person.  It may seem to be the easier option to employ an able-bodied person instead, even if their skills or experience are less than the disabled person.

Preparing for the interview is key to dealing with this.  Of course, it is always important to prepare for an interview.  Research the company or organisation, find out all you can about them, be prepared to answer questions about them – the employer will be looking for someone who has taken an interest.  In addition have some questions ready to fire back.  Has the company recently won a large contract or opened new premises?  Are they doing something new or interesting?  Mention it and probe into the details.  Not only does this show you have done some research and are interested but it also turns the interview into a 2-way conversation rather than a question and answer session.

That is standard interview preparation advice.  For the disabled person you could also prepare some information about your disability.  You don’t need to give your entire medical history but letting the employer know what effects your disability has on your day-to-day life and what adjustments might be needed in order for you to be effective in the role can be useful and gives you the chance to present your disability in a positive way and counter any doubts that the employer might have.

Let’s take a look at one of the most common worries employers have about taking on disabled staff, and some of the positive arguments:

“Disabled people need lots of time off, this costs money”

Sure, disabled people may need time off from time to time.  Sometimes we have  appointments for assessments, treatments and regular check ups.  But this also applies to able-bodied people.
Some people see disabled people as being ill simply because they have a disability.  This is quite common but untrue.  We do get ill, but we are not ill constantly.
Disabled people are more likely to come to work even if they are ill.  There can be a feeling that we have to work harder and better than our able-bodied colleagues in order to prove ourselves.
Following on from the above, disabled people are less likely to take time off for common problems that see able-bodied people staying at home.  Because we’re often used to pain, side effects of medications and struggling with every day tasks we are able to cope with back pain, headaches, feelings of nausea etc.

See how the negative can be turned around?  If nothing else, see the interview as a chance to educate and maybe, just maybe, change someone’s view.

Service Call – A Great Idea

Great Idea – If People Know About It

DMUK Member Dan McIntyre Takes A Look At ServiceCall

ServiceCall is a system which allows disabled people to summon help
when needed, for example when visiting a petrol station.  It was developed and manufactured and is
marketed by Autochair Ltd, a supplier of various motoring-related mobility
products such as wheelchair hoists, person lifts and swivelling car seats.

The system is quite simple and consists of an infrared transmitter
which the user carries in their car.  On
arrival at a petrol station that uses the system the user points their
transmitter at the receiver which is usually mounted in the cashiers area in a
prominent location and presses the Call button.
This activates a beeper and flashing strobe light at the receiver.  The cashier or assistant then comes and
assists you.  This is more discreet than
the usual sounding of a horn or flashing of lights.

At time of writing the transmitter costs £14.95 which includes postage
and packaging and the receiver (which the relevant company pays for and
installs) costs £335 excluding VAT.
ServiceCall can be used at locations other than petrol stations where
assistance might be needed.  I have seen
it installed in banks and chemists, though how much use it gets there I do not
know.

I have been using the system since late 2006 and have had mixed
experiences.  For the most part petrol
station staff are trained quite well and respond quickly and politely when
possible.

One of the more interesting experiences I have had was at the Tesco
supermarket in Batley on a Saturday in 2007.
I had pulled up needing fuel and used the ServiceCall transmitter as
usual.  The receiver had beeped and
flashed and the young lady working inside had looked at it, reset it and
ignored it.  I waited a few minutes
thinking she may have been busy and come out when she could.  After this I used the transmitter again and
again the receiver beeped and flashed, was reset and ignored.  I was now worried that I wouldn’t be able to
get any fuel.

On my third attempt the young lady inside reset the receiver again and
looked out of the window, at which point I flashed my lights and she came out
to the car.

Once I had explained to her what the problem was she apologised and
replied that she hadn’t been told what the beeping was and just kept resetting
it.  When I asked her about filling the
car she replied that she was 16 and didn’t know how to use a petrol pump.

Her colleague in the shop was busy so she was unable to assist.  I was then surprised when a young lad who had
been filling his scooter came over.  He’d
heard what was going on and asked if he could help.  I explained to him I needed petrol and he
very kindly filled my car.  The young
employee had returned back inside by this time so he took my money and went
inside to pay.  As a thank you I also
paid for the fuel he’d put in his scooter – it was the least I could do.

So the system is useful, where people have had training and are able
to actually assist.  To their credit the
above incident was highlighted to Tesco in a letter and they responded by
ensuring all petrol station staff are trained in its use, as well as the use of
petrol pumps.

 

DMUK campaign on behalf of disabled motorists and have a campaign
around the subject of refuelling.  This
centres around 4 main issues:

  • Disabled motorists must be able to receive appropriate assistance
    with refuelling and paying.
  • If there are changes to the way that fuel is supplied, such as
    changes in automation or staffing levels, these must not have a negative
    impact on disabled drivers.
  • Petrol stations should install Servicecall and train their staff to
    use the system properly.
  • Petrol stations must find an acceptable way of taking payment using
    credit cards, for example by installing ‘spark safe’ terminals or accepting
    a signature instead.

An effective campaign relies on as much information as possible being
received from the people affected – disabled motorists and/or passengers who
need to refuel their cars in order to keep their independence.  DMUK have an online survey at http://tiny.cc/petrolstation where you can
submit details of your experiences.

End

ServiceCall
details: http://www.service-call.net/

Address: ServiceCall, Milford Lane, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1EX

Tel: (01629) 814488 –
or Freephone 0800 458 3008

Fax: (01629) 815470

Email: info@service-call.net

Check Your License – Is It Valid?

In January this year I placed an order for my next
Motability car with my local Peugeot dealer.
A few days after this I received a phone call from the dealer explaining
that the order had been refused by Motability because my license was
invalid.  This was a shock to me as,
having renewed my license in 2009, I had noted that it was valid until 2047.

A quick phone call to the DVLA in Swansea revealed the
problem – driving license holders are now required to update the photos on
their license every 10 years.  The expiry
date of the photo is shown in section 4b on the photocard part of your license.

In order to update the photo a driving license holder needs
to obtain a passport style photo, a D1 driving license application form (which
can be obtained from your local Post Office) and a cheque or postal order for
£20 made payable to DVLA Swansea.  Fill
in the relevant sections on the D1 form (it comes with a guidance leaflet) and
send the form, photo, cheque or postal order and both parts of your current
license to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1DH.  It
is important to use the right postcode due to the way the mail is sorted at
DVLA.

In my case I sent off my application and new photo and have
now received my updated license.  And my
Peugeot dealer managed to get the car ordered with Motability.

DVLA say that they send reminders to anyone whose current
photo or license is about to expire, but this didn’t happen in my case.  With the onus being on the license holder and
with a £1000 fine if you do not update the photo, it could be worth checking.

UNISON Disabled Members Conference 2009

UNISON Disabled Members Conference 2009

Daniel Anderson-McIntyre

I attended the national Disabled Members Conference of
UNISON in Blackpool over the long weekend of October 31st to
November 2nd.

As a 1st time Delegate to Conference things were
a little bewildering at first.
Thankfully I soon met a lady by the name of Fiona Heneghan, a Disability
Officer from Surrey County Council.
Fiona guided me through Conference procedures and helped make sure I was
in the right place at the right time.

Whilst at Conference I also met Dan Anderson and his wife Wendy
who both use BSL, so I had a chance to practise ready for my upcoming exam and
had some interesting conversations with them both.

One of the most bewildering things about Conference was the
hotel lobby during breaks and social times.
I have never seen so many people using wheelchairs, scooters,
powerchairs, crutches, walking sticks, BSL, hearing aids and PAs in one place
before.  It was nice to go from the
office or street environment. where I might be the only wheelchair user in
sight, to being just one of the crowd.
Everyone was friendly and helpful and the hotel staff were absolute
stars.

Conference was also attended by Dave Prentis (General
Secretary, UNISON) and Jonathan Shaw (Minister for Disabled People).

Dave gave an address detailing UNISON’s vision of a future
in which disabled workers were afforded the same levels of respect as their
non-disabled colleagues and also spoke about UNISON’s current “One Million
Voices” campaign.

Jonathan spoke about the Government’s current position on
disability working rights, including Disability Leave.  There then followed a lengthy Q and A session
during which he took questions from Conference and attempted to answer them.

On the last day of Conference one of the agenda items was a
motion on Disability Leave, which was something I had spoken to Fiona, Wendy
and Dan about several times during the weekend.
Fiona encouraged me to address Conference, which I did.

I spoke about how people working in organisations that did
not recognise Disability Leave as separate from Sickness Leave were being
disadvantaged in comparison to their non-disabled colleagues.  Many people working in these organisations
are being taken down Capability process routes by their HR departments simply
because they have racked up more sick days than their non-disabled colleagues.

This address was met with rapturous applause and afterwards,
during a break, I was approached by several people, all eager to tell me of
their experiences.  One of these people
was Jean Sowley (Regional Chair Disabled Members and National Co-Chair Disabled
Members) who told me that what I had spoken about was by no means uncommon and
asked me to become more active within the union.

On the last evening there was a social event which lasted
well into the next morning!  I have never
before seen a group of BSL interpreters signing karaoke.  That’s not a typo!  Signing.
In perfect synchronicity.  Dancing
wheelchairs (NOT ballroom!), lots of beer and a great atmosphere as well as
good company and a lot of laughs all made for a great night.

The weekend was certainly an experience and I have made
several new friends.  I look forward to
returning next year!

2008 Nissan Note Review

This time I am reviewing my Fiancee’s Nissan Note.  This is the top of the range Tekna spec with
the 1.6 16 valve engine.

The Note from the outside looks quite long, tall and
narrow and you might expect it to drive much like a van.  Once inside however and on the road you find
that the Note handles like a car and the higher than most driving position is
comfortable and offers a great view of the road all round.  The wheelbase is long with the wheels right
into each corner which makes for great stability and a massive amount of
useable space inside.

The Tekna comes with automatic lighting and wiper
systems, alloy wheels, part leather trim, privacy glass, climate control, front
fog lights, flex board system, underseat storage, cooled glovebox, 6 disc CD
changer, auxiliary input and Bluetooth handsfree.

The Tekna has sport seats with part leather trim.  The drivers seat is adjustable for angle,
height and reach.  Annoyingly for this
driver the height and angle adjustment are combined so you can sit high but
with the seat angled downwards or sit low with the seat angled up.  There is also no lumbar adjustment which
could be a problem for some.  The drivers
seat does get a fold down armrest.  The
steering wheel is adjustable for height though if you have hand controls fitted
then this necessitates the removal of the adjustment lever so it would be
important to set the height before the adaptation installer gets their hands on
it.

Speaking of adaptations our Note is fitted with Cowal
Mobility push/pull accelerator/brake, Alfred Bekker steering wheel spinner and
Alfred Bekker easy release handbrake.
These were all installed by KC Mobility in Batley who, as ever, have
done a good neat job which works perfectly.

The rear seat is adjustable too – it will slide backwards
or forwards to give either more legroom or a larger boot space.  With it fully in the rear position there are
almost limo like levels of legroom in the back.
The limo theme continues with the rear privacy glass, keeping the rear
cool and kids protected from glare.  The
windows themselves are also large giving passengers a good view of the outside.  The rear seat can be moved from within the
passenger compartment or from the boot and with passengers in place if you are
strong enough!

Again for the rear passengers there are fold out trays to
hold snacks or toys etc and which also contain drinks holders.  There are large storage nets on the back of
the front seats for books and magazines, there is a central fold out armrest
and 3 headrests.  A word of advice though
– if you have kids and plan to use the rear trays to hold food items on a long
journey it might be worthwhile getting some of those gripper mats that hold
items in place on a car dashboard – the trays have a small lip on them but
items still slide about and off whilst driving…..!

The front passenger seat contains a storage box under the
seat base which is billed as a secure hiding space for valuables but as we all
know you should never leave valuables in the car – thieves do know these
supposed secret hiding spaces too!  The
front passenger gets a decent amount of legroom.

Storage up front consists of a large glovebox, which in
this spec level is cooled by the air conditioning when needed.  On the front of the glovebox is a large slot
with a deep hole which is perfect for storing books or paperwork or a Blue
badge.  In the centre console is a large
space with 2 cupholders and beside the drivers seat behind the handbrake is a
small slot perfect for storing your mobile phone.  There is also a useful shelf on top of the
dashboard which runs the whole width of the car.

The Tekna spec in car entertainment consists of a 6 disc
in dash CD changer with radio and auxiliary input, so you can connect your iPod
or other device which has a 3.5mm headphone jack.  It also includes a Bluetooth handsfree system
which routes calls to your mobile through the car sound system.  This system also displays the caller details
on the dashboard and has a microphone just above the interior mirror.  The phone and sound system can be controlled
from the steering wheel.  One noticeable
downside of the sound system is that it does sound a bit tinny and quite nasty
at higher volumes.

The boot has a large, square opening and on the Tekna
model has the flex board system.  This
consists of 2 boards which form a “false” boot floor level with the rear bumper
so there is no lip.  These boards are
carpeted on one side while on the other there is a waterproof wipe clean
surface.  The boards can be removed
completely to reveal more space underneath (as well as the handle to move the
rear seat) and there are recesses in the “real” floor to hold them there.  The spare wheel and tools are underneath this
“real” floor.

Visibility from the driving position is good, even with a
full load of passengers.  The Note is
easy to position and manoeuvre. This makes parking easy in tight spaces.  Overtaking is easy with the 1.6 and when
hitting the kickdown the engine does have a bit of a growl to it and pulls the
car forwards at quite a pace.

Whilst the Note is good in the city and suburbs it is
also versatile and is comfortable and powerful enough to cope with longer
journeys.  One downside though is that
the 1.6 can be noisy at motorway speeds – a point that has been noticed by
other reviewers.

As regards accessibility the Note’s high driving seat can
make access and egress for some easier, the door opening for all doors is wide
and the boot (contrary to Ricability’s report) will take a folding wheelchair
with the rear seats in the upright position.
A rigid chair will also go in with the rear wheels removed and the
backrest folded down.  The only thing
that is necessary to achieve this is to take the flex boards out, place them on
the floor, remove the parcel shelf and slide the rear seat forwards.  This still gives adequate legroom for rear
seat passengers.

2011 Citroen C3 Review

Continuing the French trend in our choice of cars lately,
my Fiancee recently chose a Citroen C3 Exclusive as her current car through the
Motability scheme.  This is the new 2011
version of this 10 year old design and has been brought bang up to date.

The Exclusive is the top of the range and the 1.6 Auto is
currently available with nil advance payment through Motability.  Being top of the range it comes with various
features including the fantastic Zenith windscreen – a large panoramic piece of
glass which extends to the B pillars, lots of chrome trim on the outside and
alcantara trim inside.

As is usual for us the car has been fitted with hand
controls (Cowal Mobility), a steering wheel spinner (Jeff Gosling) and easy
release handbrake (Alfred Bekker) all installed by KC Mobility of Batley, who
have as usual done a top notch job.  On
this car the majority of the rods for the accelerator and brake have been
hidden behind the fascia underneath the steering wheel, making for a tidy and
comfortable install which works perfectly.

The C3 is very easy to drive with the 1.6 engine
providing plenty of power – it is a small light car.  The auto gearbox, as is common on so many
cars nowadays, can be used as a pseudo manual, but left in auto mode it is very
smooth.  The only downside this reviewer
can find is the steering.  The C3 uses
electric power steering which is incredibly light.  For some people this might be a good thing
and maybe even essential but personally I find it removes any feel for the road
surface.  As is common it is important to
make sure the steering column is set correctly for the driver before the hand
controls are fitted as it is fixed in position once the install is done.

Both driver and front passenger get seats which are
adjustable for legroom, height and angle.
Rear passengers get 3 headrests and full 3 point seatbelts.  All seats are comfortable though bear in mind
this is a small car and doesn’t have acres of space in the rear – tall people
might prefer to stick to the front.

As for features, the C3 is brimming with the latest
prerequisites.  You have as standard on
the Exclusive a CD based MP3 player with built in Bluetooth handsfree for phone
calls and music streaming from compatible phones.  You also get an auxiliary input in the form
of a 3.5mm jack and a USB input for either an iPod or USB stick.

There is full climate control, cruise control, speed
limiter and remote control for the stereo.
All doors have electric windows, automatic on the front and manual on
the rear.  The rear doors also have an
electronic child safety system which prevents the doors and windows being
opened when active.

There is also a trip computer showing details of
estimated range remaining and the current and average MPG figures.  This also has 2 separate sets of trip details
so different sets of figures can be obtained.
Perhaps one of the more unusual features of the C3 is the built in air
freshener which supplies a scent via the centre dashboard vents.  This can be changed by buying the relevant
cartridge from your local Citroen dealer.

I can get my rigid wheelchair in the boot, but this
requires that the rear seat be folded down and the parcel shelf removed.  My folding chair will go in with the wheels
and footrests removed and the back folded down but again this is purely down to
the size of the car.

On the outside the car looks good.  It shares headlights, wings and bonnet with
the sportier Citroen DS3 so does have quite a macho look.  I’m not usually a fan of lots of chrome on a
car but the C3 Exclusive comes with chrome trim at the bottom of the windows,
on the door handles, around the grille and at the bottom of the tailgate and it
does look pretty good.