thoughts from the bear's den

a blog about daily life, contentious issues and maybe atime to paws for thought.

horsey tale
Ok, I’m back with a series of true stories about horses I’ve met. One was named daisy, she seemed an aloof character to begin with, and we seemed destined to be forever distant, I grooming her, and she basically ignoring me as much as she could. That was until one day when something outside the stable scared her and she began dancing around the box in fear. I managed to get to her head and talk gently to her, making up a silly pet name for her, “dinky doo, which sounds nothing like the name daisy that she was used to, but had the most amazing affect. She instantly cuddled close, resting her head on my shoulder and cuddling close. Now I call her “dinky doo whenever I want to calm her, which she seems to love, strange what will calm some horses.Ok, I’m back with a series of true stories about horses I’ve met. One was named daisy, she seemed an aloof character to begin with, and we seemed destined to be forever distant, I grooming her, and she basically ignoring me as much as she could. That was until one day when something outside the stable scared her and she began dancing around the box in fear. I managed to get to her head and talk gently to her, making up a silly pet name for her, “dinky doo, which sounds nothing like the name daisy that she was used to, but had the most amazing affect. She instantly cuddled close, resting her head on my shoulder and cuddling close. Now I call her “dinky doo whenever I want to calm her, which she seems to love, strange what will calm some horses.

why do we have a minister for disabilities?
this is a guest blog from Sue marsh at:

the full text is posted below with permissions.

"Tuesday, 21 June 2011Why do we have a Minister for Disabilities?

Here's a quote about the first ever Minister for Disabled People. It sounds to me like he saw a great need for his role.

"Affected by his father's experience, Morris [Alfred Morris, Baron Morris of Manchester] campaigned on behalf of the disabled; his father had suffered a long decline in health and eventual death arising from gassing during World War I.[2] After his father's death, Morris's mother was not entitled to a war widow's pension.[3] Forty years later, Morris himself put the matter right by changing the law affecting armed forces pensions when he became Minister for the Disabled.
In 1970 he successfully introduced the Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act which was the first in the world to recognise and give rights to people with disabilities.[4] In 1974 he became the first Minister for the Disabled anywhere in the world.[3][5] In 1991 he introduced a Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and he has led campaigns on Gulf War Syndrome.[1]" (Wikipedia)"
Today, the position is filled by Maria Miller.

At this point in history, all of the main sickness and disability benefits are being abolished and replaced with new, more limited, schemes. Sick and disabled people have shown considerable opposition to these plans.

There has been a vote of no confidence in Maria Miller, carried at the Hardest Hit march on 11th May. This was the largest ever protest of sick and disabled people in UK history. Now, there are calls all over the internet for a vote of no confidence in Ms Miller in Parliament.

Sick and disabled people are about to lose 9.2 Billion in support from a 16 billion budget.

Maria Miller has not supported us, she has not consulted us, she has not replied to us and she does not speak for us.

Not only that, but she misrepresents us! The very people she is elected and salaried to represent. She uses false statistics and claims that we support her government's plans. Recently she claimed that more people claim higher rate DLA for alcoholism than blindness. Not only was she wrong, but the implications of "worthy" and "unworthy" disability from a minister who's job should be to do just the opposite is shocking.

But this article really makes clear just how unworthy of her job Maria Miller is.;twitter

The part that made me write this blog post is this :

"Disabilities Minister Maria Miller, pictured, said a consultation on the proposed changes, which attracted more that 5,000 responses, had shown support for reform of DLA.
She said: “There’s now a growing view that reform is needed, whether it’s from the Government or from the opposition or from leading disability groups."

The minister claims that this was "one of the most successful consultations of its kind". Yes it was. Because groups like the Broken of Britain asked thousands of sick and disabled people what they thought and spent months running campaigns to involve people in the consultation. Over 5000 people did indeed respond and they were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposals or elements within them. A typical consultation might have 50 or 60 responses. This brilliant summary by Rhydian Fon-James from the Broken of Britain shows clearly that the government response to the "consultations" was a complete and utter whitewash.
None of the legitimate concerns were addressed.

This woman is not a Minister for Disabled People and does nothing to speak for us in Parliament. She appears to be no more than a Minister for Propaganda and I'd like to know why we pay her a salary at all?

Mr Cameron I can save you a little deficit. Cut the Minister for Disabled People. I can assure you that none of us will notice at all.

Actually that's not true. Our lives would improve without her constant ignorance displayed in both the press and in Parliament. "

i too have written to ms miller challenging her assertions, and have had little reply from her myself.

letter expressing no confidence in the minister for disabled people.
Dear Sir(s)

I with many others, believe that there should be a vote of no confidence in Ms Maria Miller MP Disabilities Minister for the following reasons:

1) For failing to fight hard enough to ensure that disabled people receive a fairer assessment of capabilities (specifically the Work Capability Assessment implemented by such companies as ATOS) and which is generally acknowledged to be a flawed test.

2) I and many others believe that, in the light of the recent/threatened cuts to benefits for disabled people, and the cuts affecting disabled people generally, will bring harm, a loss of dignity and a loss of independence to disabled people both at home and where applicable, in their working lives. I and many others believe that her absence at the ‘Hardest Hit March’ on the 11th of May 2011 shows that she is reluctant to engage directly with disabled peoples concerns. Concerns outlined in the following link:

3) To the best of my knowledge, I and many others believe that Ms Maria Miller, in her role as minister for disabled people has not taken a sufficiently strong public stand to protect disabled people from disability hatred, and has allowed ministers to pedal untruths about disabled people, so that the general public end up hating disabled people. Such disability hatred may include acts perpetrated by the media or individual perpetrators of verbal abuse, violence and/or criminal damage when it occurs.

Ms Miller’s belief, expressed in the foreword to the consultation on DLA reform 2010 expresses:
In the foreword to the DLA consultation Ms miller says:
‘Personal Independence Payment will also be a more dynamic benefit – it will take account of changes in individual circumstances and the impact of disabilities, as well as wider changes in society, such as social attitudes and equality legislation.’

I feel social attitudes towards disabled people have not changed markedly for the better. The lumping of disabled people with drug addicts and alcoholics by the media, ably aided and abetted by Ms miller’s lack of rigour in doing her job, stir up the hatred of disabled people held just under the surface of British society. There have been many articles written by the media, aided by Maria miller’s misunderstanding of disability, such as her article in able magazine February 2011,

Furthermore, Ian Duncan smith’s seemingly willing portrayal of all disabled people as scroungers is illustrated in the following article, where he is quoted as saying
‘Paying a fortune to the five million on handouts - like X Factor reject Wagner Carrillo - is a major reason the UK's deficit soared to a crippling £155billion’

This type of comment from the work and pensions secretary fuels comments by the general public which are hurtful to genuinely disabled people. I’m sorry, but the deficit was caused by the government’s bale out of the banks, not by the benefits system. It seems this government is keen on blaming disabled people for its ills, and not its own doings. This government-led attack on disabled people has led to survey outcomes like this in a survey of attitudes to disabled people commissioned by Scope:

Iain Duncan Smith is intent on carrying on with a discredited work capability assessment for ESA, which has been roundly condemned here,:

And here, Professor Paul Greg, the architect of the work capability assessment says it is failing,

for being unworkable, mechanistic, and ill thought out. When this government came to office, the work capability assessment was already deemed to be failing many. Why then did the government carry on with it if they are so bent on reform? I think the reason is plain, this government don’t like disabled people. Why else would Maria Miller refuse to attend the hardest hit march on Wednesday 11 May. After all, as the government spokesperson on disability matters, namely the minister for disabled people, who is seen as the flag waver for all policies disability related, Ms miller has responsibility for disabled people, and how the government treats them as well as the right of reply to the call for a steadying hand on the drive for reform of disability benefits.

Re disability living allowance, I feel Maria Miller has failed to protect disabled people from slurs during the reform of DLA, by refusing to refute the claims made by media sources around fraud rates in disability benefits especially incapacity benefit and DLA, and to refute stories pedalled in the media about Howe supposedly easy DLA is to claim for.

One such media led story is this from the daily record in Scotland .

The comments reflect the confusion around DLA. But in response to comment from the general public such as those on the page linked to above, Ms miller doesn’t say she’ll advertise DLA better, thus telling the general public what it is for. She says, along with Iain Duncan smith, that she will reform it, to weed out scroungers, and better target it. I feel, to better target a service at a key audience, scrapping the service, then making a new one does not better target it, nor giving the line that reform is needed because Maria miller believes that:
'Indeed, 130,000 of those who were first awarded DLA in 1992 have either not had a change to their award, or their award looked at, so we have had no way of knowing if it is accurate. “ (Maria miller MP Able Magazine February 2011,'

gives the government the right to reform the whole benefit system.

I feel that, if people haven’t been seen for years, the government could send review forms. Ms Miller says thousands of people on indefinite awards have not been seen for fifteen years or more. If she knows that statistic, then she must know to whom those statistics relate, why not call them in for a DLA medical under the existing system? Instead, this government seek to reform DLA and other benefits rather than using what powers they have already got under the existing system. I suggest reform of DLA costs more money than a simple retest of those claimants who have not had reviews for years. The reform of the test for DLA is not necessary in my view, especially when immediate savings of twenty percent are sort from an acknowledged fraud rate of 0.5 percent of the DLA caseload

George Osborne, in the emergency budget of June 2010, states that a cut of 20 percent is needed in the DLA caseload. That target was set before any retesting of existing claimants, meaning that the test itself would need to be made more rigorous to achieve the cuts. With a fraud rate of 0.5%, seeking a cut of 20% cannot be done without denying independence to genuinely disabled people. To my view, a cuts agenda like the one Ms Miller and her secretary of state, goaded by a chancellor who wants to cut expenditure at all costs is ethically wrong.

The final indictment of Ms Miller as minister for disabled people is also provided by the foreword to DLA.
In the DLA consultation paper Ms Miller states:

‘Just as we are committed to providing unconditional support to those who are unable to work, we know that work is the best form of welfare for those who are able to do so. That’s why I want as many disabled people as possible to benefit from employment – it is not acceptable for anyone to be trapped in a cycle of dependency. By giving people the right level of support through Personal Independence Payment, I hope that many more disabled people will be able to work and enjoy the advantages that an active working life can bring.

This is why I believe the time is right to reform DLA. We need to create a new, more active and enabling benefit of which British people can be proud – a benefit fit for the 21st Century.’
I would like to remind Ms Miller, DLA is a benefit paid to disabled people to help with the costs of being disabled, whether the disabled person is in or out of work. DLA is not an out of work benefit. Her assertions here are flawed and I feel have tainted her personal reputation and that of her office. I thought a minister for any department’s job is to fight for that particular department’s interests, not to work against the people for whom the department is working.
Maria miller, I feel, is the minister against disabled people, put in office by the government to preach to disabled people about what the government wants to do with their lives.
In my response to the draft criteria for PIP, I wrote that:
'What she and her ministers are hoping to do is strip the levels of support back so disabled people need to go to work, just to afford the larcenous prices to achieve their own independence . If this is the truth, this is disgusting. Disabled people need assistance to get independence, the market does not solve this without unacceptable costs. I was under the impression DLA, and its replacement PIP, was to be a benefit paid to disabled people, whether they were in or out of employment. I think the government need to look into the extra costs for disabled people, have a serious look, disabled people know how much their aids and adaptations cost. I think, before the government start stripping benefits back on the assumption that attitudes to disabled people have fundamentally changed for the better, or that aids and adaptations are freely or cheaply available, they need to get a real world picture. Look at the reasons behind the updating of mobility component of DLA for blind people for instance. This was updated due to the high costs of transport for totally or near totally blind people as it was seen, rightly, after a lot of lobbying, that totally blind people incur higher transport costs. The care component of DLA was updated from lower to middle rate for severely sight impaired people due to the cross over between care and mobility, the “getting around unfamiliar areas, and to a toilet in unfamiliar areas, test,” as it were. I do not think access to gender specific toilets, or transport will become magically accessible in 2013.'
It is for the above reasons that I and many others believe that Ms Maria Miller MP is out of touch with the worries, concerns and outrage felt by disabled members of society and therefore, urge ministers to press for a vote of no confidence in Ms Miller.

Things can only get better a guest blog post from Bendy girl.
This is a blog post from Bendy girl at:

Benefit Scrounging Scum
Life in a broken bureaucracy with a bendy and borked body
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Things can only get better
1997 was the first election I was eligible to vote in. As a young student I attended an election night party and cheered along with everyone else when Michael Portillo lost his seat. Oh the irony. That was the moment we all truly felt things had changed, and like the song said, could only get better. Like many, the only government I could remember was a Tory one and how they were hated. At that time, fit and active despite various health problems caused by a condition I didn't know I had, access meant nothing more to me than the ridiculously steep ramp being built outside my university building.

11 years later times have changed. Radically so. 1998 was the year in which I first had personal internet access, a present from an incredibly thoughtful friend to keep me entertained whilst recovering from the first of many surgeries. A mobile phone was still a year away, my own pc further still, consumer goods being proportionally so much more expensive than today.

Ironically, as I saw my own world shrink through increasing disability, the wider world became smaller and more accessible via developing technology. I found information, support and in time whole communities of people just like myself. The disabled community is diverse and to attempt to view us as all the same would be as ridiculous as the suggestion that all football fans are hooligans.

It is not just technology which has altered over the past 11 years. I do not remember ever hearing the term benefit scrounger when I was at university. I do remember the first time I was given that label though. A family member who was struggling to find work after university would regularly inform me that I was scum. Benefit scrounging scum. It was people like me who were preventing him from gaining employment. Don't ask me how that illogical thought process was supposed to work, but as an unemployed graduate no different to any other, this person had bought in to the belief that if one did as they were told and went to university a well paid and interesting job would fall into their lap. Obviously without having to go through the hassle of applying for one. When it became clear that wouldn't happen, unable to find anyone else to hold responsible, they blamed me, held up to represent all those 'nasty benefit scroungers' so bemoaned for a whole variety of wider social problems.

The current climate is one where many disabled people are afraid. The Disability Discrimination Act is toothless, hate crimes against disabled people are on the rise yet not given the recognition or status of other hate crimes, access to services is routinely denied by local authorities, and the vital financial support provided in the form of benefits is being attacked by a government determined to demonise the most vulnerable as they turn their backs on the true issues facing the welfare state.

There is just one major commonality I've found within the disabled community. Political engagement. So many aspects of our lives are affected by even the most minor political changes that without exception the disabled people and their carers whom I have met have all had strong political opinions. Voting is important to this group.

So, just who will disabled people be voting for today? Those with learning difficulties are likely to be ruled out by the inaccessibility of the process and lack of suitable information. Those with physical disabilities are also subject to access issues. In the last general election access to my local polling station was via a muddy track. I collapsed when I arrived, had to be given a chair, water and assisted back out. Those helping me told me that earlier that day they had carried someone from the car to the booths as it was impossible for a wheelchair to access. When I arrived to vote today I was, laughingly, informed I was late. The men who register the votes had expected me earlier in the afternoon. Amongst what they expected to be around a 25% turnout some of us are more noticeable than others. Not necessarily for the right reasons. Postal voting has helped, but for those who have issues with their signature it can be a complicated process, and many, like myself want to feel engaged with the process by physically going to register their vote.

I have no idea who the disabled vote will go to. I just know this. I cannot bring myself to vote for a party so desperate to label the most vulnerable as scum. True equality seems very distant today.

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day.
Posted by BenefitScroungingScum at 5/01/2008 04:52:00 PM

read more of Bendy girl's blog posts at:

read more about Blogging Against Disablism Day at:

why does disablism exist?
why does disablism exist?

I ask this question on this blog against disablism day.

Disablism in all its forms, be it in language, action, access to services, or to employment is fuelled by one basic thing. The able bodied members of a society becoming what they fear. Fear creates hatred, and hatred is projected in words deeds and systems. I am blind, and though that is not the sum total of who I am, its pretty obvious when you meet me. I can avoid drawing attention to my blindness in daily life by communicating via email etc, where advances in equipment has meant, I, at great expense, can use a computer to a great extent. Though if one were to meet me, they’d see I am blind. Disabled is what the majority are not, so the majority fear the minority. This fear caused disabled people to be shut away so they did not have to inconvenience the able bodied majority. In the last fifty years, we have seen an upswing in disability rights, though this is couched in a language of reasonability, which in my view, keeps the disabled person subservient to the able bodied person, as the able bodied person has control over the definition of reasonable access which they deem to give the disabled person to their own life. This idea of what is reasonable to provide for disabled people, has lead to discrimination in access, even among disabled people. I, as a blind person, cannot access my own money from a cash point. My computer talks, so why doesn’t the cash point? The simple answer is, that the able bodied people, in their idea of what is reasonable access to give to disabled people, have decided that a talking cash point for blind people is simply not possible, whereas putting that cash point at the height a wheelchair user can use it is reasonable. So why be accommodating to those with one disability, but completely unreasonable to those with another? While I am using the example of wheelchair access verses access for blind people, I do not mean to trivialise the wheel chair user’s need for access or help in their daily lives. I am speaking of what access is around me every day, and how that access differs depending on what disables one. I postulate the different importance given to access needed by me, as a blind person who can walk, and the wheelchair user who can’t, is down to one thing, what is acceptable disability. Acceptable disability. Interesting thought that isn’t it? I started with the idea that an able bodied society treats all disabled people with equal contempt. Actually it doesn’t, some people with disabilities are treated better than others when it comes to access, and that in itself is disablism, disablism within the very system itself.

To illustrate my point, I will take the example of a simple trip to my local town. I can, having been given extencive training in routes, get down town without stepping off one kerb. I cannot however, get down town without help from another person to guide me across a horrendous bus lane system in town that is dangerous to blind people due to lack of crossings etc, though thanks for the step free access, that’s wonderful. Also, the time table, there might as well not be one, and I’m not talking about the nine twenty into town turning up at nine forty either. The time table is in print, on a board, how useful is that to me as a blind person? Also, when the local council moved my bus stop, they failed to tell me, meaning I waited at the place where the old stop was, until a member of the public, who’d seen me waiting there before when the old stop was in place, told me where the new stop was, and guided me to it too. I have a bus pass, provided by the council, the very council who changed where the stop was. I had to register as blind, so they know I’m blind, and they could have at least told me the stop had moved, oh no, that was too much difficulty. So I’ve been left on the roadside, rescued by a member of the public, and taken to a bus stop with no accessible time table, good then that all the busses go into town. I ask why a perfectly good bus stop had to be moved to a rather silly place by a local store, where the store’s lorries unloaded, blocking the bus route. I was told, “wheel chair users could not use the old place, due to the kerbs. So again, those who use wheelchairs have been catered for, whereas me, who am blind, don’t get told the stop has even moved. I get on the bus, step free of course, and the buses don’t talk. I’m not going mad when I talk about talking busses. In London there are buses with audio announcements which tell you which bus you are on, and what stop is coming next. My neck of the woods, which is not London, doesn’t have these busses, and I don’t think they’re coming soon. So I have to ask the driver to tell me when to get off, and because of the dangerous bus station, I need help to negotiate the step free bus station, which is treated by cars as a racetrack, or so it seems. Once I am across the road, I walk down, admittedly narrow paths, so access is poor there for most, to my local bank. Yes, steps, but also a low level cash point, and a step free entrance. I go up the steps, and encounter three queues for various services. How on earth am I meant to navigate this? I drift about, and eventually someone finds me. I have to ask for help in using their brand new, six month old cash points, which don’t talk. The assistant helps me use the point inside the branch, but when I ask why the machine, while wheelchair accessible, isn’t accessible to me as a blind person, when even the mobile phone in my pocket talks, I get , “oh, it was too expensive.” So it’s reasonable for a wheelchair user to get full access to their bus, to their bank, and to their money, but not a blind person. Reasons for this difference in access? Some disabilities are more equal than others. Able bodied People understand wheelchair use more than they do blindness. So catering for it is easier for them. What do people who are blind need? What do people with learning disabilities need? What do people with mental illness need to make their lives inclusive? What do they want? “Well, we won’t ask them, because they are scary, and might be evil, an don’t make eye contact in the way we wish them to, and frighten us shitless!” so say the able bodied society. This is disablism too. I have heard some wheelchair users do not like the fact the mobility component of disability living allowance has been extended to totally blind people, well why not? blind people have exactly the same mobility needs as wheelchair users, which has been accepted by the powers that be after a long fight. Without training, a blind person’s world is restricted to what he or she can feel with their two hands or two feet, that is it. And many dangerous assumptions have been made recently about the powers of guide dogs to make blind people independent, enough to try to restrict eligibility to benefits if a guide dog is used. Disablism happens when the needs of disabled people are not listened to, when assumptions are made, and when there is a disability hierarchy, the deserving, “clean disabled,” and the undeserving, unclean disabled.” I have touched on some issues here, but there are many other disabilities and illnesses which need consideration, wheelchair users don’t have it rosy either, though I postulate the world treats them with more understanding than it does a blind person or a person with learning disabilities. Which is disablism in itself. There needs to be an accurate, fair and objective look at every disability, and access for all. I note the Olympics have singularly failed in this, giving wheelchair users access with their carers for no extra cost than that of one ticket, whereas a blind person has to pay for two tickets. Why is this? because wheelchair users are seen by the majority as having mobility problems, blind people haven’t got mobility problems, because they can walk. Um, stick me in a foreign stadium without assistance, and I might as well be a wheelchair user myself, as I have as little mobility as they do without their chair. So disablism is fostered within the very system of government and this latest administration is seeking to make disablism more rampant with its crusade against benefit claimants. This is frightening because access for all is by no means built into society. David Cameran would have me talk to a stranger on the street and ask him or her to read my post, um, and have that person run off with my identity? No thanks. I feel I have the right to privacy too, though unfortunately the world doesn’t agree.

And this food is sponsored by?
Ok, I know I haven’t blogged for weeks, but something caught my attention today, namely the price of so called staple goods. The price of bread, the price of milk, the price of butter, and packaged cereals is hideous! The government today, and successive governments before them wish for the populous to be well fed to keep healthy and work well. How can they do this if the prices of a decent breakfast is so high? One box of cereal is priced at £3 in my local big store, and this cereal is little more than cornflakes. Why on earth are prices for staple foods so high? If the government want the population to eat well, why is it so expensive to do so? When a can of processed muck, sorry, all day breakfast, basically the same thing in my opinion, is priced at little over £1, and cereal priced at £3, how on earth do the government expect those on low incomes to have a decent breakfast? So next time you look out for a loaf of bread, a pack of cereal, or a pint of milk, look at the costs of your breakfast and ask the question, why if the government want us to eat well, don’t they peg the prices of some cereals, bread and milk at an affordable price?

Big Pawed Bear.

All have a right to privacy, but some have a greater right than others.
This statement hits home to me every time I want to get cash out of a cash machine, or deposit cash into one of those machines which increasingly accept such transactions, or I wish to renew my credit or debit card details. The right to privacy in our daily lives is something most people take for granted. Reading private mail and completing private banking transactions are two such.

I have no privacy in either. “Why is this?” you might ask. I am blind, and it seems blind people are expected to give up their privacy. “You’re talking rubbish!” I hear you shout. I’m not talking rubbish at all. Let’s take the cash point as my first example. When I go to a cash point, I find I can’t access it. Yes there is a supposed talking one near me, but when I plug in headphones, I find it doesn’t talk at all when I insert my card, as I know it should from reading reviews and such. So I have to get someone to show me what buttons to press. This person, if they so wish, could find out my pin, and would know, by dint of me asking them where the button for £20 is, that I drew out £20. So I have lost my right to go to the cash point and make a private withdrawal of cash. And why is this? because it is seen as too difficult to make the reasonable adjustments to enable blind people to access their own money independently. I must say, the cash point is wheelchair accessible, which is great for wheelchair users, but a bit crap for six foot 2 males who need to basically cuddle up to the bloody machine to make sure the pin is hidden, as the dam thing is almost at groin height. Tell me, why when they put this new cash point in, could they not have switched on the talking function as well as put it at a level convenient for wheelchair users?

Back to privacy we go. Credit cards, like milk, have a habit of expiring. Credit cards are used for far more than just paying for goods in shops, for which I often use mine. This means having the card in Braille or in some other format than the standard printed card. Asking the credit card companies results in a response which goes something like this.
“yes Sir, we can get you Braille correspondents, but not Braille credit card information or your pin number.”
“Why not the credit card info or the pin?” I ask.
“Security,” they quote. So I have to go to my branch, and here’s the rub, there is a term and condition that you sign up to when you accept the cards, be they credit or debit, that you never let your card out of your sight, and you never disclose your pin to anyone. Now if I can’t get the pin in Braille, I have to ask a member of bank staff to read it, so I can change it. And we’re back to the cash point issue detailed above yet again. So I, because I am blind, because my eyes don’t work, have had twice now to seed my privacy to others because the privacy of blind people isn’t thought of in the same way as that of able bodied people, oh yes, and the cash machine was at genital level again, very back breaking for me as a six foot two user of the cash point. Then comes the point where I have to ask someone to read the card details out to me, so I can put them in Braille. This gets done, and there are no issues with the bank staff doing this for me, but we do often groan at the lack of access for blind users of the cards. Why is it that statements can be produced in Braille, but the card details and the pin can’t be? the card issuer knows the card is going to expire, so why don’t they make the card ahead of time, and send the details to a secure facility so they can be brailed for the blind user. Are there two levels of privacy? One for blind people, and another for the rest of society? I have to ask this question, for it seems so to me.

Now I come to reading of post and other junk that comes through my door on a depressingly regular basis. I use specialist software, which needn’t cost loads, but does, thanks to another country’s procurement systems, and small markets, to read my post and allow me to write this blog. If I hadn’t invested in this kit, I would have had to ask others to read my confidential post to me. Why should I have to ask anyone? The general assumption is a friend will read your post for you if you are blind. Now that’s totally unacceptable to me. Who would want their confidential matters read about by another? sighted people would not accept that. I have heard of blind people having their identities stolen by so called friends and sometimes family and carers too, all because the blind person could not read their own post . Is this fair? No it isn’t! I think all blind people, if a level of sight loss which would make reading large print difficult is established, should be given the means to get a scanner or reading machine for their computers so they don’t have to seed their privacy to others. Believe me, when I found out about scanners and other software I could get to help me read my post, I was straight on to it. But I have to find out about this software, and where to get it, and of course the software is expensive. Now off to read my post with my scanner. At least I have privacy here, but I had to pay dearly for it.

signing for pin and chips
We have an admirable system here in the UK when it comes to our currency. Blind people seem to have been thought of from the very start, differently shaped coins and notes make paying for everyday goods so easy. For years, blind people had equality when handling money, as they would go to the local bank, where they were mostly regular customers, so everyone knew them, and the friendly bank teller would take the bank card or book from the blind person, verify their identity, then give them lovely accessible money.
That was then.

All that is almost in the past now. The arrival of chip and pin, and of cache machines that should, but don’t talk, has left blind people out in the cold. I will address chip and pin first.

Chip and pin came into force in the mid 2000’s to combat fraud in the card payments system. It was said that there was consultation on the standardisation of the machines to be used with charities advocating for disabled and elderly people. This, as any blind person will tell you, clearly isn’t the case. The pin pads on the chip and pin machines are not standardised at all, and I know of at least one that I can’t use at all due to the keypad being flat. Whomever thought that one up should be given the prize for biggest boo boo, if that’s a word. Chip and pin is useable by blind people, and yes I have used it successfully. There is another card system running alongside chip and pin, chip and signature, and it was this which got me into a bit of bother recently. I went to a local shop, and one of the cards I have is a chip and signature card, due to the card issuer realising I am blind and imposing one on me, despite successful use of a chip and pin card for three years previously. I didn’t’ challenge the issue of a different payment method, as I was sure all retailers knew about the parallel system, for at time of writing, the systems had been running for a good four years. So I’m in the shop paying for my goods, and I am told,, “sorry, we do not accept these cards. The terminals in which you place your cards know what is acceptable and what isn’t, the instructions are clear on the screen for the assistant taking your, or my payment, but no, even though the machine was prompting the assistant, and my card had a signature on the back with which to verify I was who I said I was, this transaction was not going through, just because the assistant had never met the chip and signature system before. I stood my ground, all four paws on the floor thank you, and insisted my transaction go through as per the screen, it did, without issue. Having got my shopping, I went back to my den and put a call into head office, head office, astonished I’d been given trouble, fixed the issue, and were surprised there’d been one in the first place, as was I. this tale tells of the need to educate shop staff about the various methods of payment. Chip and signature cards are around, though as they are mostly given to those who cannot use a pin pad, they are rare, but something being rare, does not make it invalid. Now I am happily using my chip and signature card in my local shops with no problem at all. Next blog, cash points.

Big Pawed Bear.

guest blog from crimson krip.

ok, i'm giving a bit of my blog over to someone more blog worthy than me, but who says very elequently what i want to.

this is a guest blog from

"Usually what I write is aimed at disabled people, or those with an interest in disability issues. Today though I want to chat to able bodied people, those who have never claimed benefits, and who only encounter a wheelchair when they have to dodge one at the supermarket. You are the type of person who agrees that disabled people have too many benefits, too easily, access to care when their families should support them, and that too many of them avoid work they are perfectly capable of. You have always worked, never claimed state help, and have no reason to believe anything will change. In fact you are on your way to work, so you don’t have time to read the views of an opinionated crip, even if you thought they mattered. which of course they don’t.

You open your eyes to see the blurred image of a doctor watching you, you have no real idea where you are, or what has happened. Some time later you learn that you have had a car accident. you have a head injury, and have shattered both your legs, so badly that you will never walk normally, or may be not at all ever again. Your head injury means that you have speech problems, you can speak but not clearly, and you are now partially sighted. You will no longer work as a receptionist again. You spend a long time being reabilated in hospital, you find your disabilities dfficult to handle, but as far as the future goes you ‘know’ the state will look after you.

Once you go home you have professionals around you helping you claim support and benefits. First a social worker comes to do a care assessment. If you qualify then carers will come to do your personal care. You have a husband, so the social worker decides that he can care for you out of working hours, and that you only qualify for 45 minutes to help you get out of bed each day. After a full day at work, he has to make a meal for you both, do the cleaning, do your personal care, which includes helping you read your mail, empty the commode that is the only way you can access the toilet, he must also put you to bed, and help you bath, the carer refuses to do this because of health and safety issues. Once you are in bed, he must make sure everything you need is to hand for the next day, including a snack because you cannot prepare food anymore. If you need the toilet in the night, he has to help,because dark makes your sight problems worse, and you can’t reach the light. An Occupational therapist calls and says there are lots of aids that can help you be more independant, but beyond the very basic, they can longer be funded, your independance only comes at a price you must pay. Similarly the rehabilitation Officer for the visually impaired can suggest ways that your sight difficulties can be overcome, if you want to buy the equipment. A talking phone, screen reader, and a computer that reads your post, along with a wheelchair with tilt facilities, to reduce leg pain. would make your life so much better, but you can’t afford them. The rehab you had also makes it clear that you could manage some tasks if you could buy household equipment to help, a food processor, with many attachments, and a roomba cleaner would help you, but now you are only on benefits, they are out of your reach. the physio tells you that complemantary therapies would help you, but they aren’t available on the NHS.

Money is another big issue, you never thought you would become disabled so you didn’t pay into any insurance schemes. Ypu don’t get compensation, because it tuens out you were running and ran out in front of the car. Your husband works so you can’t get means tested benefits. Your only imcome is Disability Living Allowance, and Employment and Support Allowance, you have to wait a long time for the decisions, and you are only awarded each for a year, as it isn’t clear how your condition may change. By the time you get the decision you oly have a few months before you must apply again. Further to this you hear the rules are changing, and its planned that your contributory ESA will stop after a year. DLA alone will not go far, and you will be even less able ro afford the things you need. You have found that being disabled is more expensive than being able bodied. For example you are not able to go out alone, and wheelchair accessible transport costs more. Having a car would help, but the only way you could afford one is using the mobility component of your DLA, a big chunk of your income. You didn’t need a car before, you used buses and trains, but they are no longer easily accessible to you. Even with a car, you cannot drive, and must rely on someone taking you out. Luckily you wouldn’t need complex adaptions otherwise you would have to meet the cost seperately.

Before your accident you had a busy social life, and lots of friends. Now you can only go out if you are taken, and most of your friends don’t contact you anymore; those that do smile and nod blankly when you try to speak, the same reaction you get from most people. They only make short visits, and don’t suggest you go out for meals anymore, not since they realised they have to read the menu for you, help you order, and worse still take you to the toilet, if its accessible that is.

You and your husband had a great relationship before, now he is your carer, and he works, he is too tired to be your lover or soulmate, he is more like your parent. You argue more, and sometimes you want to leave. This is not an option, you cannot leave without help, and anyway you need him to care for you.

In a blink of an eye your life changed for ever, but its ok you can go back to your ‘normal’ life, you are safe……….for now. Don’t get complacent though, there is no guarantee that it won’t be reality sometime soon. In any case old age, which most of us reach, has very sinilar features.

Crimson appologises to her fellow crips for toning this down, there are some things, DWP hassles, waits for treatment, and hate crimes, for example that may have scared the able bodied too much, didn’t want them to stop reading. Scary or not though, these, along with those I mentioned, and some I didn’t, are our reality, a reality that anyone may be thrust into without choice or warning. Dear ablebodied world please remember the risks you take when you pass judgement on us, it could be you.

If any campaigners find this useful please feel free to use it, in part or whole, as long as

i am credited."

thanks to the blogger from
for giving me permission to post this.

Big Pawed Bear.

pain and plaudits

Padding round my local town recently, I fell to reflecting how inaccessible things still are for blind people, but also how accessible things can be if a little thought is put in.  first the inaccessible parts of life.


Street furniture and advertisement boards.  What a pain they are.  Not only do we have signs hanging from shop fronts, do they still have those by the way?  When I could see, over twenty years ago, I used to look up and see the signs sticking at right angles to the shop fronts, advertising what shop it was.  Well, not only do we have those, but the signs, like a badly thought out benefit  reform,  have migrated painfully to the pathways.  This migration makes the lives of visually impaired and blind people especially difficult.  Not only are the A boards there, they are mobile, not only are they mobile, so they can be placed anywhere, they are light enough, so that if you crash into them, they will fall over with an almighty clatter, and, as well as scaring the shit out of you, also prove a trip hazard.  I think they should put bleepers on the tops of these A boards, or stick them somewhere, preferably out of sight, which they are pretty much anyway, as they are at groin level.  I could say more about things being at groin level, and will soon, as things start to get very painful on our walk around my local town.  Not only have I got movable, eminently dangerous A boards to contend with, coffee shops have sprung up, and with them the inevitable street furniture.  What ever happened to shops staying within four walls?  Now they flood the paths with A boards, shoe racks, and in the worst cases PA systems from which they blare “Sale this, and Sale that!”  not that I’m against a sale mind you, and I’m glad to know there’s one on, for I can’t see the big signs in the shop windows, or read the A board that I’ve just fallen over, which advertises that one  shop or another has a sale, and I can’t tell if I’m outside the shop advertised, as the A board, including me, are now six feet from where the a board was originally placed before I fell over it.  Muttering a four letter word under my breath, I clatter past the A board, my tender anatomy mildly complaining.  I then smack into my next obstacle, the well placed, groin high bollard.  These things, meant to stop cars, also stop blind people quickly, affectively, and painfully if you’re six foot 2.  being doubled up in pain over a bollard, and yes I’ve been there, is not nice at all.  “But your cane should have found that,”  I hear you say.  Yes, it should but sometimes, it doesn’t, and my, um, genital  area finds it first.  Ouch is all I’ll say. 


Ok, enough of stumbling into A boards and impromptu gelding by bollards, let’s focus on something nice, the majority of the great British public.  Yes, I know we’ve recently heard the worst kinds of things said about disabled people from the unthinking minorities, but go out with a white cane, and even better a guide dog, and you can come across the best of human nature.  I remember one time, a friend of mine and I met in town, wanting to go to a pub, we asked a gentleman where the pub was.  To cut a long story short, not only did this gentleman take us to the pub, he offered to help us read the menu, and stayed with us throughout our meal to make sure we got drinks and things, as the pub was one of those where you have to go to the bar for everything.  Without this gentleman we would never have had such a normal time of it.  I can’t remember his name now, but he sticks in my mind even now four months on.  These people, who without prompting, seem to understand disabled people just want as normal an experience as they can possibly  get , are amazing, and it is great to meet them.  This gentleman helped us where we needed it, but was not overbearing, and he left us to talk in privacy, and yes, he had a beer on us, which is the least we felt we could offer him for his considerate help.  I’m running out of space here, so I’ll wind up things for now, but I hope I’ve given you a little insight into how it is to be out on the town when you happen to be blind.


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