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PlayMobil Agree To Improve Their Range Of Disabled Toys

May 29, 2015

Same Difference warmly welcomes this piece of success for the Toy Like Me campaign, as spotted on the PlayMobil Facebook page.

You may have seen or heard about Toy Like Me in the news and on social media….

We always take on board a lot of feedback from children and fans across the world and design our toys to reflect this. The Toy Like Me campaign has been inspiring for us – we’ve listened to our audience and are delighted to offer our full support.

We are in the planning stages to release a PLAYMOBIL set which will include characters with disabilities, with part of the profits to be donated to a charity hand-selected by Toy Like Me. And moving forward, we will be looking into including more characters with disabilities in our ranges.

We receive a lot of positive comments from guardians of deaf and disabled children on how well our toys stimulate their learning and creativity, so we are thrilled to be able to champion their representation in the toy box.

BBC Seeks Weather Presenter Who ‘Must Be Disabled’

May 28, 2015

I do think this is progress. Not the ‘tick box’ part of it but the effort to improve on screen diversity. Shame they think they have to do that in a ‘tick box’ way!

The BBC is seeking a potential new weather presenter who does not need to have any qualifications – but does need to be disabled.

  An advert on the BBC’s careers website begins by saying: “Do you want to share your passion for the weather by presenting weather bulletins? Do you have a disability?”

It goes on: “The BBC does not currently have any weather presenters who are disabled and we are actively seeking to improve on screen diversity.”

The advert has been derided on Twitter as “PC gone mad”, while others have likened the decision to the BBC’s own spoof comedy W1A, in which Muslim Sadiq Iqbal is hired because they wanted a bearded man to keep Ofcom happy.

Traditionally, weather presenters have been trained meteorologists employed by the Met Office.

Michael Fish, who famously dismissed an oncoming hurricane in 1987, worked at the Met Office before joining the BBC.

John Kettley, whose cult status was immortalised in the song “John Kettley is a weatherman”, had spent four years researching meteorology before becoming a presenter.

Current weather presenters including Sarah Keith-Lucas and Carol Kirkwood were trained at the Met Office, while Philip Avery previously worked as a forecaster for the Royal Navy.

However, the current advert says: “You don’t need to be an expert or to have a qualification in meteorology”.

A BBC spokesperson denied that they are looking for a disabled weather presenter, saying that it is a “training opportunity” which is “open to men and women with disabilities who have a passion for weather and the environment and who have the potential to become weather presenters in the future”.

He added: “There are no jobs guaranteed at the end of the training. There is nothing ‘PC’ about offering training to people with disabilities.”

Treating The Spinally Injured After Nepal Earthquakes

May 28, 2015

The recent earthquakes in Nepal have left an estimated 400 people with serious spinal cord injuries. Many of them are presently being treated at the country’s only spinal injury rehabilitation centre. Stephen Muldoon of the British charity Livability describes the situation on the ground.

On 25 April the first devastating earthquake struck Nepal causing 8,500 deaths, 16,000 injuries and 300,000 homes were destroyed. Nearly three weeks later I witnessed a second quake which caused another 141 fatalities and 3,000 injuries. Another significant statistic is that there have already been more than 173 spinal injuries resulting from the earthquakes. This number is predicted to rise to 400.

Infrastructure and remoteness are just two reasons for these numbers, along with the sheer power of the earthquake – the first quake registered at 7.8 on the Richter scale (in comparison, the 2010 Haiti quake measured 7.0). Many buildings in Nepal are not built to withstand powerful tremors and will collapse more readily, leaving people beneath. Spinal cord injuries need immediate care, and problems mount when people are stuck in inaccessible or remote areas.

Even without earthquakes, those with spinal cord injuries in Nepal can have a difficult time adjusting. Situated on the cusp of one of the greatest mountain ranges in the world, the country’s terrain is not particularly forgiving for those with mobility issues – let alone wheelchair users. Culturally, the belief prevails that disability is somehow a punishment, making it difficult for newly-disabled people to fully reintegrate into society.

I work for Livability, a UK disability charity partnered with the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC), the only centre of its kind in Nepal. Based in Sanga near the capital Kathmandu, it is currently under more pressure than ever before.

I’ve seen first-hand what they have to face. When the second earthquake struck I witnessed the noise and screams of the centre’s patients. I felt the building shake and saw terrified people, already injured, being moved outside and sheltered under tarpaulin by the courageous staff.

The building withstood the quakes, but some patients were still, quite understandably, too afraid to return inside. The staff then faced a second problem – how to hydrate and keep cool a ward’s worth of patients in the hot Nepal sun.

The centre’s normal maximum capacity is 50 beds – it’s currently more than double that figure, at 110 beds. The patients are in corridors and every other piece of available space.

They have been divided into three groups depending on the level of care they require. Each patient has a family member that stays with them and who receives training from nursing staff so they can give effective help. The centre also employs peer counsellors – people who already have spinal cord injuries – and support workers who provide rehab support.

It has been an exhausting time for staff in the oversubscribed centre yet each day they come in to work calmly and with a smile. They recently adopted a new slogan: “If we don’t do it who will? If we don’t do it now – when? If we do it, we will do it right.”

Kaami Lama, from the north east of Kathmandu, is one of the patients. On the day of the earthquake his house collapsed onto his back. Having sustained spinal fractures, Kaami was stuck beneath the rubble, unable to move or cry for help. Amazingly, he was rescued and airlifted to hospital in Kathmandu, and was then transferred to SIRC to stabilise the fracture and start his rehabilitation.

Kaami can transfer from bed to wheelchair and has begun to practice standing and walking. He can now move independently using a walking frame.

With a newly acquired life-changing disability it is perhaps hard to think of Kaami is one of the lucky ones but, as so many were killed, that’s what he considers himself to be. In his own words, he feels he has been gifted a “second life”.

When Kaami is discharged, he desperately wants to return to his village but is aware that many are now living in tents and makeshift shelters which are not ideal for a disabled person. Meanwhile, the June monsoon rains are lurking around the corner, set to wreak havoc to the insubstantial shelters and temporary shanties. The work is very much only begun.

For people like Kaami, beyond all these immediate challenges to recovery lies an even longer road to the regaining of independence and ability to live freely. Nepal has a long way to go in fully accommodating disabled people into its society, but organisations such as SIRC fill me with a bright ray of hope.

Stephen Muldoon is Livability’s Assistant Director of International and Complex Care Development. For information about their Nepal Urgent Rehabilitation Appeal click here

Me On 5 News Talking About Toy Like Me

May 27, 2015

Yesterday, I was invited to speak on Channel 5 News about the brilliant Toy Like Me campaign and toys with disabilities.

Here is the first half of Channel 5’s report on the campaign:

And here is their interview with me:

I wasn’t able to finish- if I had been I would have said that children without disabilities can also learn from toys with disabilities. They can learn to be sensitive and understanding to real people with disabilities- and children who are taught about difference from an early age grow into sensitive, understanding adults.

Charity Sibs Calls For Recognition For An ‘Invisible Group’

May 27, 2015

That is, the siblings of adults with disabilities, who play a very important role as carers.

Welfare To Work Boss Thinks Low Paid Jobs Stop Sick And Disabled Claimants Watching Jeremy Kyle

May 26, 2015

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

The boss of Britain’s largest welfare to work provider believes that claimants are better off in low paid, insecure temporary work “rather than sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle” according to the Telegraph newspaper. He also argues that the government have to get the “people who are technically unfit to work, back to work” and believes that the appointment of Maximus to carry out medical assessments will lead to a surge in work for his company.

Andy Hogarth runs Staffline ,which bought out A4E last month in order to become Britain’s largest provider of welfare to work services. He believes that if the government is to succeed in its aim of cutting £12 billion from the benefits budget it will have to get people off employment and support allowance and back into work.

“For a government looking to save £12bn from welfare one of the things they have to do is get the people who are technically unfit to work, back to work, which sounds a bit brutal on the face of it, and that is exactly what a lot of welfare groups are saying, but in reality they can work.”

According to the Telegraph, Hogarth believes that his company will get an extra 2.5 million people referred to his company over the coming years as a result of Maximus taking over the work capability assessment from Atos.

Hogarth appears to believe he is particularly suited to working with the sick and disabled claimants because of his own life experiences. When he was in his thirties, Hogarth sold a successful business for an undisclosed sum of money and then spent a year at home with “deep depression”, finding it difficult to leave the house and splitting up with his girlfriend.

He overcame his depression by going back to studying and retraining in his mid thirties.

According to the Telegraph Staffline has grown rapidly, with turnover increasing from £100 million ten years ago, to £503 million last year and aiming to hit £1bn within two years.

Much of its income comes from placing “up to 35,000 workers each week in temporary jobs, such as food processing, factory assembly lines, and picking items in warehouses.”

Hogarth believes that jobcentres only work “if you are a well motivated guy”. And while some local authorities don’t approve of his company putting people in minimum wage temporary jobs, Hogarth thinks they are mistaken, explaining:

“I personally think they are totally wrong, I think a temporary job, even if it is just for a week, is better because it then gives you a step to better pay, rather than sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle.”

Hogarth expects to have to deal with “kicking and screaming” from claimants and from pressure groups and admits that “It is hard to justify to welfare groups the profits we make . . .” . But he claims that only 20p in every pound they make is paid as dividends to shareholders.

Rather than simply being there to make money, Hogarth assures Telegraph readers his staff “are genuinely here to help people”. And, in a gesture that would delight Norman Tebbit, they generously “buy a lot of bikes so that people can get to work”.

In separate news ERSA, the umbrella body for welfare to work providers, says that the “backdrop of continued austerity and welfare reform” looks like offering their members a great opportunity. The leases on many Jobcentre plus offices come up for renewal in this parliament and ERSA hope that the government will take the opportunity to privatise the whole jobcentre network and its services.

Which would, of course, mean many more Andy Hogarth’s having the opportunity to drag claimants “kicking and screaming” into a better life.

See the Telegraph for the full story.

A Cerebral Palsy Story In Animation

May 26, 2015

Being the only disabled pupil in a mainstream school can be a lonely experience, especially when classmates are too shy to chat or ask questions.

Fourteen-year-old Tegan Vincent-Cooke from Bristol has cerebral palsy and was in this situation but found a new and engaging way to help others understand her.

Following a presentation to her class, everything changed.

“Straight away people asked more and did more,” says Tegan’s mum Sylvia Vincent. “She was treated totally different.”

And from there Tegan decided to put her story into an animated form to help other people understand her condition.

“You’d rather watch a cartoon than the news, so we thought it would get more people’s attention.” Tegan told BBC Ouch.

For a subtitled version click here.

Video Journalist: Kate Monaghan

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