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Rankin forces Fashion Week to face up to its limited view of “beauty”

September 18, 2018

A press release from Changing Faces.

The fashion industry will be brought face-to-face with its narrow standards of beauty this London Fashion Week, through a unique collaboration between world-renowned photographer Rankin, designer Steven Tai and the charity Changing Faces.

The Portrait Positive project, conceived by Stephen Bell, will challenge perceptions of beauty through a series of striking images of 16 different women with visible facial and bodily differences.

Shot by Rankin and dressed in designs by Steven Tai, three of the women from the portrait series will take to the catwalk in Steven Tai’s presentation at London Fashion Week on 16th September.

The Portrait Positive images have been collated into a book of the same name – proceeds from the sales of which will go to support Changing Faces’ work across the country. The Portrait Positive book will launch on Tuesday 25th September and will be available to purchase on the Portrait Positive website as well as select stores, boutique and art spaces across the UK.

Changing Faces is the leading charity for 1.3 million children, young people and adults in the UK who have a medical condition, mark or scar that makes them look different. Approximately one in 111 people in the UK have a significant visible facial difference, despite being largely absent from representations in fashion and the media.

Rankin said: “Living with a visible difference you are literally judged by your appearance and compared to what I think is a fake idea of what it is to be beautiful or even ‘normal’. The only way to shift this perception is to talk about it and face it head on. Our amazing subjects are dealing with these issues with grace, dignity and strength. It was an absolute honour to work with them and try to create a discussion around what it is to be beautiful. To me they are all unique.”

Becky Hewitt, CEO Changing Faces said: “As a charity that supports people with visible differences, we are delighted to be part of a movement that challenges the way the fashion industry represents difference. We want to break down barriers and change the narrow view of beauty that exists in society, especially in the fashion industry. These amazing images by Rankin will help to address the stigma around ‘looking different’ and show that true beauty is about being proud to be yourself. We want to see brands, publications and designers work with real people of all appearances so that fashion is accessible to all.”

Three of the 16 women that took part in the shoot with Rankin shared their thoughts on being part of the Portrait Positive project;

‘The ethos of the Portrait Positive project is something I believe in. We need to challenge the fashion and beauty industry to be more inclusive of people who look visibly different. Confidence is when you accept who you are. The photoshoot with Rankin was fun and very exciting. Everyone looked great and there was such a positive buzz in the studio.’

‘It was my confidence rather than my scars per se that was weighing me down. I feel like this project is about giving permission to people to just be, and to look at ourselves in a positive light.’

Tulsi, Speaker and Pilates Specialist, Burns Survivor, London

‘Over the years I have learnt that being unique is something that should be embraced, not challenged, and being a part of Portrait Positive to bring that into a format that is accessible to everyone was an incredible experience. Society constructs concepts and rules about what makes a person ‘beautiful’, but that’s all it is—a construction, not a reality.’

Brenda, Children’s Entertainer and Business Owner, who has Alopecia, London

‘To be a part of a project involving visibly different models alongside fashion, photography and the arts is so refreshing. Hopefully it will open the eyes of people in many industries that diversity is important, especially for young people, to see it in the media. My personal goal is to try and inspire others to embrace their appearance, no matter what you look like. Fall in love with yourself using clothes and beauty to express yourself rather than hide away’

Catrin, Student, Motivational Speaker and Burns Survivor from North Wales

Find out more here.


No Progress On PIP Video Recording Or Improvements To Claim Forms

September 18, 2018

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has slammed the government for failing to make any progress on video recording PIP assessments or improving PIP and ESA claim forms, arguing that the DWP “still refuses to engage with the huge problems” connected with claiming the benefits.

Back in June of this year we highlighted a statement by Sarah Newton, Minister of State for Disabled People, who claimed that the DWP were about to pilot the videoing of PIP assessments. The intention was to make “. . . video recording of the PIP assessment a standard part of the process . . . We will be piloting videoing the assessment with a view to then rolling this out across Great Britain.”

Though this decision appeared to have been made without any form of consultation with claimants and, judging from the comments we have received, many would prefer audio recordings only.

The government gave assurances that they would carry out this work following a highly critical report on PIP and ESA by the Commons committee, which was based in part on an unprecedented number of responses from claimants to a call for evidence.

However, three months on and there is no sign of the pilot even having begun.

Nor is there any evidence of work being done on make the claim forms for PIP or ESA any more user-friendly, another undertaking given by the minister.

Whilst welcoming the latest response from the government, which they have published on their website, the Work and Pensions Committee is now asking for a detailed progress report on these issues.

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“There is a welcome change of tone in this response which seems to finally begin to acknowledge the deep distress and difficulty PIP& ESA claimants have experienced.

“But that counts for little when it still refuses to engage with the huge problems in quality control—the reports riddled with errors and omissions, the huge numbers of overturned decisions, the outsourced contractors that rarely or never hit their targets—and when the pace of the change it is making is painfully slow.

“Claiming a benefit to which you are legitimately entitled should never be a humiliating, distressing experience. Government must move now, faster, to make this right.”

You can read more on the parliament website.

Waiting Times On Phone To DWP Rocket

September 18, 2018

Benefits And Work ask how long you’ve spent on hold. Same Difference shares their shock at the figures and would be very interested in your answers to the question, readers.

Waiting times for employment and support allowance (ESA) enquiries have rocketed over the last five years, and may actually be much worse than the DWP admits. We would like to hear from Benefits and Work readers about their experiences of trying to get through to the DWP on the phone.

In a written parliamentary answer this week, the government revealed that waiting times for an answer to an ESA enquiry had risen from an average of 1 minute 25 seconds in 2013-2014 to an average of 13 minutes and one second in 2017-2018.

However, the time does not include time spent having to listen to messages before being placed in a queue or the waiting times of callers who eventually gave up. The first of these would clearly increase the waiting times and the second may well have done.

No details were given of the percentage of callers who abandoned their attempts after a lengthy wait or how long that wait was.

In relation to PIP, the wait times over the same period have increased from 2 minutes and 5 seconds to 4 minutes and 11 seconds.

The figures didn’t cover the universal credit helpline.

We’d like to hear from readers about their experience of trying to get through to the DWP on the phone. Not just how long you had to wait but also whether you actually got an answer to your query when you finally got through or whether you were simply placed on hold or even cut off, as some people have reported.

You can read the full figures on the parliament website.

Cancelled Dwarfinators Wrestling Show To Sue Venues

September 17, 2018

This is a difficult one- because it is easy to see it from both sides. The RGA may have a point, comparing this event to a ‘freak show.’ However, there are World Dwarf Games held every four years.  Like the Paralympics do for athletes with all disabilities, these allow people with dwarfism to participate in sport safely and fairly.

Last I checked, wrestling is a sport, too. So, if people with dwarfism wish to wrestle, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so safely and fairly, in an environment where their needs are fully met?

After all, it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to compete with people of full height. Yet I strongly believe that any person with any disability or difference has every right to participate in any sport they find interesting.

As long as all participants fully understand and consent to everything that happens, personally, I don’t have a problem with events like this one.

You may disagree. As usual, your comments are very welcome.

UK Student’s American College Dream Funded By NHS

September 17, 2018

Tilly Griffiths was inspired by High School Musical to attend an American university.

And after achieving three As and an A* in her A-levels, the 18-year-old, who has spinal muscular atrophy, has won a four-year scholarship to Stanford University.

Tilly, from Staffordshire, will also have 24-hour care funded by the NHS while she is in the US – the first time it has done so.

Designing Wheelchairs With A Difference

September 17, 2018

Like many people, Rachael Wallach gets frustrated and annoyed when she encounters restricting attitudes. But unlike most of us, she tends to channel that dissatisfaction into finding a solution. Half her lifetime ago, when she was 18, she broke her spine and lost the use of her legs. It meant that a lot of things that she had assumed she was going to do – like take a gap year to go travelling – were instantly rendered impossible.

But she adapted to her situation, studied philosophy at Cambridge University, and went on to work in various positions in the public sector to do with improving the plight of people with disabilities. In her 30s, however, she decided that she wanted to go backpacking, in the way that she had missed out on when she was a teenager.

So she flew to Thailand and travelled around that country, and others in the far east. These were places that guide books told her didn’t cater for the disabled, but she didn’t let that deter her. Sometimes she found herself climbing out of her wheelchair and hauling herself up stairs by her arms – something she wouldn’t dare do, for example, at a posh restaurant in London that didn’t have a wheelchair ramp. And often she found a willingness among people to allow her to do things that, back home, they’d too often refuse on the grounds of health and safety constraints or insurance concerns.

The experience got her thinking about adaptability, and in particular how society ignores the individual needs of wheelchair users. The one-size-fits-all mentality is exemplified by the wheelchair design itself: basically useful but rather unvaried in form and function.

It’s like the early days of NHS glasses frames, she says. “When you can only wear one kind of frame, then glasses become stigmatising. That’s true of other medical devices as well.”

Her answer was to offer alternatives – customised wheelchairs, with different size and design of seats made to suit the occupant, and different set-ups so that they can travel on sand or snow or other difficult terrain. In 2016 she set up a company, Disrupt Disability, which makes adaptable wheelchairs with bicycle technology and seats made by 3D printing.

The business is in its infancy, and the prototypes are not yet as inexpensive as she expects them to be. But she is avowedly commercial in her outlook. Currently completing an MA in business studies in California, she is looking for global reach. Referring to Britain, she says: “The NHS focuses on how it can meet the most need. It doesn’t have the capacity, and it probably isn’t right for the NHS to shape the commercial side of the market.”

She wants to empower wheelchair users by responding to them as consumers. In the same way that there is now a wealth of spectacle frames available, Wallach wants to see wheelchair users benefit from the same liberating choice.

Can You Be Sexy And Disabled?

September 13, 2018

Social media star and wheelchair user Annie Segarra started #hotpersoninawheelchair after being constantly discriminated for being disabled.

Annie believes a higher representation of people with disabilities in the public spotlight will help to significantly reduce these levels of discrimination.

On YouTube, Annie is known for discussing issues ranging from sexuality, body image and mental health.