Marmiteboy - Urbane Warrior.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

GOJO -The Website Campaigning For Access To Public Transport.

GOJO is a new campaign for young people who have difficulties or fears using public transport. As a disabled (but alas no longer young) person I have regularly voiced concerns about the accessibility (or lack of it) to public transport, so I was interested to hear about this new campaign backed by the Disability Rights Commission (and also accessible via when I was informed of it via an email from Harriet in my Myspace inbox.

The first thing that is noticable about the website is just how accessible and user friendly it is. There are options to change both text size and colour scheme to suit individual needs and an easy to follow guide explains about how to use the various access keys available. It is refreshing to see such an accessible site.

The News page provides information on transport access issues. For instance, I have just read that Boeing have unveiled their new 787 plane and discovered that it has far better access for disabled people, including wheelchair accessible loos. This is excellent news for disabled travellers as one of the worst things about flying if you are mobility impaired or have restricted movement is trying to use the toilet. There is also to be a comprehensive guide to UK wide initiatives like the new Tube Accessibility website for the London Underground. There are also news stories from around the UK about access/lack of access to public transport.

GOJO is also asking for contributions for its readership about their experiences travelling on public transport. My hope is that as time progresses both the good and the bad will get published and the site will be in a position to tackle transport providers when they fail to provide an accessible service. From what I have read it seems that GOJO is trying to help young people get the best out of public transport and that is to be commended but as we are all too aware there is a long way to go before equality is acheived. I would love to see the site name and shame, when there is a need to and on the flipside champion areas of the transport system that offer equlity of service such as the Jubilee Line extension on the London Underground. However the fact that Stratford to Westminister stations can be accessed from platform to street level without using stairs does not let Transport for London off the hook considering the woeful access at many of their other stations.

Another excellent part of the site allows you to plan a trip in one of our major cities. There are six online at present but it is hoped that it will be far more comprehensive soon. I had a quick look at Exeter (for it is a fine city and I often fly past it on the M5, keeping well within the speed limit, on my way to Cornwall). This part of the site is linked to Directory Enquiries and gives information about places of interest and the transport links, including accessibility to the bus and train service. It is a fine way to plan your journey and to make sure that you can access transport to reach your destination and that when you get there you can actually get in or find that there are facilities that you cn use. As this expands it wil be an invaulable part of the site. There is also a page that gives advice on planning a journey and hints and tips to make that journey as pleasurable as possible.

There is a page that comprehensively covers rights, and provides the relevant pieces of legislation (DDA 1995) that protect disabled people from disrimination and gives advice on how to register a complaint if you need to do so and provides help and guidance on legal issues.

Finally there is a page where you can enter competitions and report on your experiences and win stuff (like MP3 players) which can't be a bad thing. Pity I'm to old to play.

This is an excellent site and one that has been a long time coming and I wish the GOJO campaign every success for the future. You can access it via the link on the right hand side of this blog under 'Favourite Crip Sites'.

Happy travelling.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Landlord Is Dead.

Do Make Say Think - Live Colchester Arts Centre 16 May 2007

Colchester Arts Centre is perhaps the perfect venue for a band like Do Make Say Think. Their particular brand of 'post-rock' (a term I dislike as it doesn't really mean anything) is well suited to the high vaulted ceilings of this deconsecrated church. I have seen such luminaries of the genre as Mogwai, Silver Mount Zion, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Fly Pan AM as well as two previous visits from DMST at the tiny Essex venue, so word must get around about the acoustics in the place. We're lucky to have the Arts Centre because there are very few other decent venues in Essex and it never a chore to make the 100 mile round trip to watch bands there.

I first saw DMST at Colchester supporting Godspeed about 6 years or so ago. That gig converted me into a huge fan. The thing that strikes you about this Toronto band is their undoubted musicianship. One minute the bass player is playing a five-string bass (not easy) then he switches to a four-string, then acoustic guitar, then electric guitar and then picks up a flugal horn and plays a haunting melody. This is all done effortlessly and without fuss and hystrionics.

Until the latest album "You, You're A History In Rust" DSMT have been completely instrumental. There almost jazz inspired tunes are a joy to the ears with duel drummers driving the sound. However on the latest album there have been some subtle changes and this has added to the beauty. Violinist Julie Penner who worked with band member Charles Spearin on offshoot (and more successful) band Broken Social Scene has added an extra dimension to their music. Making it warmer and richer. The vocals on several tracks on the new album are influenced by Broken Social Scene and are more to add something to the sound scape rather than to add anything lyrically.

The gig itself was a triumph. This is despite a quite dreadful support slot from Safetyword. My mates Rob and Jim and me labelled it Art-Wank. It was pretentious and up its own arse in a very big way. However DMST saved the day with a brilliant 1 hour 45 minute set. A mixture of old and new kept their fans very happy indeed and the memory of it made the hour long drive back to Southend through appalling weather well worth it. It had been 3½ years since DMST had visited us. Lets hope they return a lot sooner than that.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Driving The Wheels Of Steel

Friday night saw the 4oth birthday party of my ex-flatmate Paul. I've known Paul since junior school and we've been good mates for some 20 years or so I was looking forward to helping him celebrate his big four-oh.

He had was implicated in the deceit, lies and shenanigans that went on behind my back when a surprise 40th birthday party was sprung for me in 2005. Along with Lady B's editor, my friend Debbie and my sister he was a major player (along with various other mates) in making it one of the most memorable nights of my life.Paul had asked regular commentator to this blog Mr E.F. Rice, his brother Jack Gestures and E Piley to provide the music for this occasion. We were the bread in a Frank Sanazi sandwich. Frank is one of the funniest acts on the comedy circuit at the moment and I urge you to catch him if you can. Basically he is a very good Frank Sinatra impersonator who dresses up as Hitler and parodies Sinatra songs giving them a rather brilliant twist. He can be caught via the link and on Myspace.We all had great fun playing some of our favourite tunes.

EF and I played a mixture of 90's indie pop such as Black Grape, The Charlatans, Primal Scream, Beck and that floor filler of floor fillers The Breeders seminal 'Cannonball', mixed up with a bit of 70's disco including Chic, Sister Sledge, Rose Royce's 'Carwash' and The Jackson Five's 'ABC'. The Beastie Boys, The Pistols, Dinosaur Jnr and Sonic Youth's 'Kool Thing'. It all ended too early when we had to turn the music off at mid-night. We were just getting into the groove and it all had to stop. EF's 40th is a couple of years away and I can't wait to spin the decks again.It was a top night and I just like to thank Paul for a great evening. Cheers bloke, it was a blinder.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Driller Killer.

Two weeks ago I went for a day stay in hospital two have two wisdom teeth extracted. I'm not one who worries about hospitals or dentists because I'm a big brave soldier. It was a long day as I was the very last person to go down for surgery. This is third day stay I have had in a little over eighteen months and each time I have been last down. Now I don't mind waiting but five hours of having Radio Two inflicted on one surely infringes my human rights. Torture so it was

Anyway, I came round and was sent home after being told that the op had gone well but they had had "fun and games getting one of them out". Well I'm glad someone enjoyed themselves.
Actually post operatively I wasn't too bad. Lily and Sybil picked me up from the hospital and made sure I was settled okay and I had a fairly restful night. Next day I was a bit sore but not really that bad but on the Saturday I suddenly felt a bit yucky. Those of us who are in constant pain do get used to it to some degree. It hurts a lot but then there are different degrees of hurtiness. When I woke up on Saturday morning my jaw was fucking killing me. I could barely open my mouth and managed to spill a great deal of soup down my tee-shirt instead of getting it in my mouth. Five mouth washes with salt water and tons of pain killers and anti-biotics didn't shift the pain and I ended up having most of the rest of the week off sick.
I am still pretty sore after two weeks and still can't open my mouth fully. A Belgian bun had to be disassembled before I could eat it today and I can only just open my mouth wide enough to take a sandwich. On returning to the hospital yesterday for the follow up appointment I think I have discovered the route of the problem. The clinical nurse (as opposed to an accidental one) read my notes and said that they had to remove the lower impacted tooth by drilling into my jaw. Blimey, I thought it smart a bit. I'm very glad I was having a kip at the time.. She said it could be another couple of weeks yet before I'm recovered. I'm looking forward to a nice big pork chop or a lump of steak to celebrate. I have been living off soft and mushy things for the last 13 days and I'm a little bit bored by it now.
Now I must dash. Marmite is mountaineering again. This time by climbing up on my seven foot cd racks and settling down for a small sleep. For some reason he has decided he wants to be a Mountain Lion when he grows up and is getting in loads of practice by sleeping on high things in my flat. I suppose I'll have to get him down.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

55 Days In Captivity

Alan Johnston banner

On 12 March, BBC correspondent Alan Johnston disappeared on his way home from work in Gaza City. He is thought to have been kidnapped from his car, although no group has claimed responsibility.

Alan Johnston's kidnapping has been condemmed on all sides and although there were reports a few weeks ago that Johnston had been executed it is believed that he is still alive. Rallies calling for his release have been held all over the world and work continues for his release.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Use Your Vote.

Today there are elections in most places in the UK. Elections are taking place to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and to local councils in England except London. There are no elections in Northern Ireland.

Over the last few weeks or so whilst listening to the news on national radio it has become increasingly apparrent that there is little interest in these elections. Only last night on Radio Five Live, the Anita Annad show was inundated with text messages from people who were not going to vote. The reasons were varied, from a man who said he wouldn't vote because he was a 44-year old, white male hetrosexual lorry driver and thought he he 'didn't count'. To people who,it seemed, just couldn't be bothered.

Although I can understand that some citizens are feeling disenfranchised by our political system, I am concerned that the opportunity to vote is being treated so lightly. One contributor to the programme voiced his contempt at the local elections because no party had canvassed for his vote and as a result he wasn't going to bother. I cannot understand this point of view. He will undoubtly be paying Council Tax, lets say for arguments sake he is paying £800 per year. That is £800 of his money that is being spent on services within his local area. Why would he not want to have a say in how that money is spent? I know I'd want to find out who was standing in my area and ask what they had to offer for my £800.

In many ways, local elections are far more relevant to us because they effect us more directly. The outcome of planning applications for new roads, housing and so on can be changed at the ballot box. One party's view of the arts in the local area can vastly differ from another, what time parks shut, how our waste is collected, when our libraries are open and countless other things that affect our everyday lives are decided at local level. Why would you not want a say in that?

It wasn't until 1928 that Universal Sufferage was obtained in this country. This is only 79 years ago and many fought, were imprisoned or even died so that we all have the vote. It is a great dishonour to people like Emmerline Pankhurst, founder of the Womens Franchise League and Emily Davison, who threw herself in front of a horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913 whilst protesting for the right to vote and died 4 days later in hospital. There are countless other people all over the world who are imprisoned or executed for the democratic right to cast a vote.

The war in Iraq, whilst in many eyes not justified, has at least brought about democratic elections of some discription. The vote should not be taken lightly. Maybe we should try and imagine what it would be like if we didn't have it?

So today please vote. We may have differing opinions on who we want in control and some of us, and no doubt it will be me in Tory riddled South-East Essex, will be disappointed by the outcome. However, I have taken part in the democratic process and at least if I do have to raise a complaint about how things are run I'll feel safe in the knowledge that I have taken place in that process.


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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Blogging Against Disablism Day.

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007

I awoke on Saturday morning to the news that some employers are voicing concern about employing disabled people in their businesses. This is not really news as many disabled people will testify. I've heard all the excuses before, or at least I thought I had. The excuses are always lame. Expense is an old favourite. We have all heard the stories about it being too expensive to adapt places of employment to suit the needs of a disabled employee, or that the extra 'special' equipment that may be needed would be far too expensive. Thankfully Access To Work is in place to provide a great deal of the funding for this and once someone is in the workplace this, in theory, should no longer be a problem.

However, the news item that I heard early on Saturday morning on BBC Five Live not only woke me up from my slumbers, it also caused me concern that discrimination has a new tool to beat us with. A survey that has been carried out by Remploy, the largest employer of disabled people in the UK, that suggests some employers believe that 'politically correct' language is a barrier to the employment of disabled people!

Remploy said that the majority of the 400 employers who took part in the survey were committed to a diverse workforce but some complained that the failure to understand the correct terminology was putting them off. I smell an excuse, don't you?

One employer, who has remained anonymous, said that "The ballpark is always moving, as are the words that I can say." They went on "You don't say that someone is blind, you say visually impaired". It doesn't take a genius to work out that this particular person might like to use visually impaired when describing a visually impaired person then does it? There is obviously no barrier to being an idiot in the business world then?

I'm sure a visually impaired person would rather be given the opportunity of employment first and then worry about, if they did worry, the language used to describe them. Beth Carruthers, director of employment services at Remploy said that "The important thing is not the language used to describe disability but that disabled people received the same respect and opportunities"

Lisa Egan was interviewed by Five Live, said that if employers took this view how long would it be if before only white heterosexuals were the only people employed? The point is a very good one. It is a completely unjustifiable position. If concerns were raised by an employer about giving a black or Asian person, or a woman a job in case someone used the wrong language to describe them, they would, quite rightly, be in trouble for discrimination.

It seems that these attitudes can be wrapped up as concerns and therefore be seen as protecting us, by those determined to exclude us from the workplace. It is also spun as 'our' problem too. If only we weren't so damn touchy about being called 'handicapped' or 'crippled' and we sat about suffering like we should. Instead, disabled people now have a voice and this is a threat that a minority wish to suppress. I don't think I'm overreacting either. This is a very serious issue that needs addressing now.

The answer is an easy one and it's one I have been championing for many years. Employers, in my opinion, need to embrace Disability Awareness in the workplace. I have given quite a few Disability Awareness courses over the years with my good friend and mentor Alan Counsell, and we have found time and time again that a little education goes a long way. Disabled people should treated with respect that they are entitled to, rather than being seen as a problem and a hindrance to the business. Most large employers now have some kind of equality training for their staff. However the amount of time put aside within this for disability awareness seems, and I am speaking from experience here, inadequate. One large employer, and I won't say who it is, used to, have a three day course about equality that was delivered to its managerial staff. Of this only two hours in one afternoon was given over to disability awareness. Now I am not saying that discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, race and gender shouldn't be tackled but surely such an important subject as disability, which is the only one that has the potential to affect everyone, should be given a higher priority. Recent changes in this particular employers structure has done nothing to improve things. In fact they are a whole lot worse, with disabled people being made to feel like a problem that won't go away. Unfortunately it seems there is a long way to go before we obtain equality in some areas of society.

The use of language is something that disabled people fight every day. We are bombarded with negative images in the media all the time and the fight must continue. However, we must be aware that there are those out there who think that wanting to be described in a certain way is a problem for them!! The only answer is to continue to ensure that the media are using the correctly language. a long and sometimes disheartening task, but one we shouldn't shirk from.

Only yesterday, again on Five Live, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson was on the Richard Bacon show. Not for the usual 5 minute interview, but for the whole 2 hours. It was good to be able to hear, from someone who is so high profile, some of the negative attitudes she still faces and how she challenges them in a positive way. Of course there was a few text messages from non-disabled and frankly, paranoid people about whinging crips who moan about people 'helping' them , when really they should be thankful that they aren't all in homes, but on the whole the response was very positive. The presenter even reverted from saying 'people with disabilities' to disabled people by the end. Maybe this is a small thing but I can assure you it is an important one. What would be really fantastic is the media to embrace the Social Model and promote the idea that a disabled person is not disabled by their impairments but by a society that does not provide the environment to allow equality. Now that would be something.