Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Accessibility at The Big Weekend Festival #TravelForAll

Recently I was flicking through my blog posts, hoping it would spark some inspiration, when I realised that I hadn't even written a post about a festival that I recently went to! I had such a lovely day and was really impressed by the accessibility there so thought that it wasn't too late to pop up a little post about it! An opportunity came my way that fits in perfectly with this too so I just had to do a write up!

So, the Big Weekend! This year Hull, where I live, is the 2017 City of Culture so it made total sense for the BBC Radio 1 free festival to head up north to treat us all to a weekend of good music, good food and good company. Tickets were mainly given to those living in Hull and wow did I pick a good year to move here! Me and my partner managed to snap up tickets for the Sunday, with a line up including Kings of Leon, Bastille and Stormzy. We had absolutely no idea what the accessibility would be like from the start but felt it was an opportunity we couldn't say no to, especially when we were some of the lucky people that managed to get a pair of tickets.

Now, I'm a powerchair user but I knew that the festival would be held mainly on grass, which my basic powerchair doesn't handle too well so made the decision from the start to attempt the day on crutches. Ambitious I know. As I said though it's not likely I'll be able to go to another festival in the near future so I was sure it would be worth one intense day of pain and weeks of recovering.

We booked our place on the disabled viewing platform's, of which there was one at every single stage and crossed our fingers that everything would be okay! I bought myself a special pair of crutches to get me through the day and then we were off.

Just about everyone had to get the shuttle bus to get to the festival, just because of where the venue was and this was the part we were most worried about. I really struggle to stand upright for more than a few minutes so we worried about having to queue, with queues having been hours long the previous day but in the end we managed to skip most of the queues! For disabled guests with a blue badge there was plenty of parking available and this is when having a WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) from somewhere like Mobility Nationwide would have come in handy! They've been offering customers a wide range of used wheelchair accessible vehicles since 2004, they make me wish I knew how to drive!

Once we got to the venue we headed in through an accessible entrance, meaning we didn't have to stand in the queues and we were able to get our wristbands allowing us entrance to the viewing platforms. At this point we had about half an hour until the first act we wanted to see were on so we headed to the platform and got comfy. This was at the second stage, there was a wheelchair accessible portaloo outside, a ramp to enter the tented stage and a plenty big enough viewing platform with chairs and spaces for wheelchairs. We picked our seats and were pleasantly surprised by how good our view was!

The main stage viewing platform was even more impressive. It had 3 wheelchair accessible portaloos and 2 ramps to access the platform. It was by far the biggest viewing platform I've ever seen! There was a signer at one end, keeping up with all the songs and having a ball themselves, this was really lovely to see and I think other festivals should be doing the same. What blew me away the most though was the waiter service! Yes, you heard me right! We were able to order our drinks and have them brought to us, instead of having to trek over to the bar's to tackle to the crowds. What a brilliant idea!

The only thing about the day that could have been improved was the organisation of the shuttle buses and how disabled people getting them were handled. Staff were more than happy to let us skip the queues but it would have been must easier if there was more advice about this from the start, I think they assumed that most disabled people would be driving and using the blue badge spaces. Honestly though in terms of accessibility it was one of the easiest days! I've had more trouble going into town to do some shopping.

Of course, not all days out are quite as easy as this one though and I do wonder how it would have differed if I had a powerchair capable of tackling grass. It took a lot of planning in advance, a lot of resting in the days before and I even had to buy a new pair of crutches capable of getting me through the day but I'm definitely used to the increased planning that it takes to leave the house by now.

If you're planning a day out this Summer then why not check out some of the places in the infographic above? You might be surprised at how accessible some days out can be, just like I was! If you're worried about the accessibility of somewhere that you are visiting I always recommend contacting the place and asking what they have in place to help you out! They might even have some accessibility information on their website already but it doesn't hurt to ask. If somewhere comes back saying they aren't wheelchair accessible or they don't cater for blind visitors, for example, then you have a great opportunity to recommend changes for them to become more accessible!

What's the most accessible day out that you've had?

*collaborative post

Monday, 26 June 2017

Inspiration Porn | What is it & why is it problematic?

Inspiration porn.
Inspiration porn is the calling of people with disabilities inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their disability. The term was coined in 2012 by disability rights activist Stella Young. (wikipedia)

This is a topic that I've wanted to tackle on my blog for a long time but it's one that seems to get quite a negative reaction, mainly from abled people, whenever it is discussed. I've had enough of people not understanding why inspiration porn is problematic though so it's time to give my take and opinion on it!

I started by heading to Twitter to get an idea of who knew what inspiration porn was, especially in terms of abled people and disabled people and the results were just about what I expected. The response of both groups was nearly 50/50 which has made things a lot easier when comparing the results of the two groups. It's important to note that this was only a poll made up of 255 people, a very small size and it's likely that the people who follow me are more likely to know what inspiration porn is compared to those who don't follow me. Just something to keep in mind.

I was very happy to see that 67% of those that responded did know what inspiration porn is, with 33% not knowing what it is. The split between the 2 groups was completely expected though, 26% of those who responded and considered themselves abled didn't know what it was compared to just 7% of those who responded that considered themselves disabled. Not surprising at all. 23% of those who responded who considered themselves abled said that they did know what inspiration is, however I honestly expected this figure to be much lower due to the response I get when I point inspiration porn out. People often don't understand why I have a problem with an article usually along the lines of 'guy asks disabled girl to prom, isn't he great.' Such an article is problematic because suddenly this scenario is inspirational because it is a disabled girl involved, a person that society expects and believes not to be a desirable date.

Disabled people are also often used to show abled people that they can do anything. When the Olympics and Paralympics came to London in 2012 there were plenty of examples of this. Messages of 'if disabled people can play sport then you can too' were littered everywhere and people were baffled when disabled people declared them as problematic. Time and time again we speak up about how disabled people do not exist to prove that anything is possible or to make abled people feel better about themselves. But, inspiration porn just keeps on happening again and again.

Quite simply, disabled people do not exist to inspire you.

I bet you've seen and probably even shared those memes on Facebook along the lines of 'the only disability in life is a bad attitude' and photos of young children on prosthetics running. The first word that comes to people's minds when they see images like them is 'inspirational' because society assumes that being disabled is a bad thing and because of this we get memes of disabled people with the caption 'still smiling' because apparently, we don't have anything to smile about. Personally, my disability is my unique selling point and has actually gained me some pretty incredible things in life including being invited to contribute to an actual published book. That never would have happened without my disability so I have plenty to smile about and I'm not smiling despite my disability like some people think. Actually, I'm smiling because of my disability.

As I said above inspiration porn is also often used to make abled people feel better about their lives. Inspiration porn is often used to suggest that abled people don't have it so bad in life because after all, you could be disabled. Again, this comes from the idea that it is a bad thing, if not the worst thing ever, to be disabled.

I truly don't think I'm all that good at verbalising my thoughts on inspiration porn and why it's problematic though so let me direct you towards some people that are much better at doing so. As mentioned above Stella Young was the one that coined the term and her Ted Talk about the issue is probably the best piece of media about the issue that I've ever seen, go have a watch!

I really love this post titled Explaining Inspiration Porn To Non-Disabled People, it's set up as a Q&A between a disabled person and an abled person and it explains what inspiration porn is, why it's bad and it's roots really well.

Disabled activist Dominick Evans also wrote a really good post about inspiration porn in 2015 and his words hit the nail right on the head.

Mik Scarlet, a disabled broadcaster, journalist, actor, musician and all around amazing human, also recently wrote a post about inspiration porn in which he outlined when it is okay to be inspired by disabled people, have a read!

I'll leave you with this quote from the fabulous Stella Young: My everyday life in which I do exactly the same things as everyone else should not inspire people, and yet I am constantly congratulated by strangers for simply existing.”

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Difficulty Of Getting A Good Night's Sleep

When it comes to sleeping I think all of us have probably had trouble with it at some point in our lives. Stress, mental health, lighting, noise and more can all play a part in getting to sleep and staying asleep. For me, pain and anxiety often leave me tossing and turning for hours, struggling to nod off. Whereas my partner falls asleep within minutes but ends up waking up several times throughout the night! I've always had trouble sleeping and I'm one of these people that needs complete silence to be able to sleep, which doesn't always go well when you have a snoring boyfriend & the loudest ticking clock ever.

I often try and combat noise by putting in a pair of ear plugs but then I sometimes end up not hearing my alarm in the morning! Luckily once I'm asleep there is usually no waking me, regardless of any sound that might be going on. Screaming children outside, my boyfriend getting ready for the day and even my alarm often doesn't wake me up! It's just the getting to sleep part that's the problem.

I'm sure we can all agree upon some of the basics that can help you to get a decent night's sleep though. A great mattress that suits your body is a must-have and can help you out with that part, boasting one of the biggest mattress ranges I've seen from a huge variety of brands, there is something for everyone! Personally I like a firm mattress as well as firm pillows, nothing that I'm going to sink into too much!

I thought I'd leave you with one of the facts in the infographic above which really surprised me, did you know that your ears are more unique than your fingerprints? Amazing right! I suppose that's why we all need different environments to be able to drop off, I know I have really sensitive hearing which definitely affects my sleeping and contributes to why I need complete silence to fall asleep. Whereas my boyfriend is half deaf so can sleep through anything!

Do you need silence to sleep or are you like my partner, able to sleep in any environment?

*collaborative post
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