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Over the years I’ve totally geeked out on both disability rights and civil rights. There’s nothing better than a leader building a movement, defying the odds, and beating Goliath.

A big reason for me wanting to learn about this subject, is to inform my disability activism today.

“We have to understand the past to shape our future”

I’ve been blessed to learn directly from people who won legislative protection and independent living for so many otherwise excluded people.

In a particular book I learned about 2 key people – Phil Friend and Bert Massie.

I contacted both, sharing my vision, my questions and asking for guidance. Both kindly replied to me. Phil was on an early episode of my podcast, and has taken a few phone calls from me over the years. Bert was unfortunately too unwell to talk, and later passed away.

Last week Berts posthumous book was launched (audio book can be found here). So I invited Phil back on my show, to share his favourite parts in the book, and of Berts life.

I finally got to hear some of what Bert would have told me on our phone call. Luckily for you, his words are awaiting your attention too. Whether you’re disabled or not, his life was remarkable, and one worth learning from. As well as celebrating.

As Phil points out, Bert was funny as well as impactful. So don’t presume the books all politics and activism. There’s most definitely something for everyone…

Martyn Sibley

– World Changer @ martynsibley.com.
– Author @ ‘Everything is Possible’ (on Amazon).
– Inclusion Captain @ disabilityhorizons.com.
– Presenter and Speaker @ visablepeople.com.
– Adviser @ Governments/Businesses/Charities.

Also @ Twitter | Facebook | Linked In | Google+

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I don’t know about you, but I have been trying to grasp what exactly is going on around the eurozone crisis. Having watched numerous news items, question time and ‘this week’ (I love Thursdays) I have got this far. Please do correct, annotate or add to this. Together we may understand what is going on.

Most governments have been borrowing money because they spend more than they make from taxes. Tax revenue and public spending defines ‘fiscal policy’ (basically if a country lives within its means). Countries like Greece and Italy are seemingly struggling to show how they will eventually pay back their debts (by showing future growth in their economies that would fund the debt). This means that any further loans they take are seen as risky, meaning higher interest rates are placed upon the terms (they pay more back per euro spent).

With high interest rates, high debt, little sign of growth and a bleak future; the financial markets freak out too. From a business perspective would you lend, invest or buy from someone who is struggling to stay afloat? The markets say no. This further reduces trading with that country, and the whole thing would fall down. This would be a country ‘defaulting’ or becoming bankrupt. Not a good place to be.

So, to give more confidence in working with these countries, allowing them to survive and grow; the other EU countries can help. This is partly for selfish reasons and the benefits of the union I shall return to. For now, we need to know that France and Germany have the reserves and ability to underwrite any loans a country may default on. This means should a bank lend to Greece and it defaults, France/Germany would pay that money back.

However, if countries like Germany and France do such a thing, they need to be confident the other countries are doing all they can do avoid the default. Last night, discussions were occurring around a ‘fiscal union’. This would impose measures on all who sign up to converge their economic fiscal policy around tax and spending. If everyone keeps their borrowing down, improves their growth, all would be well.

As a result of this fiscal union, the European Central Bank (ECB) could print money (known as quantitative easing). The additional money is given to big businesses, such as banks, to disseminate out via loans to smaller businesses. This enables companies to have the money they require to weather the current storm, to survive, to invest, to grow, to increase output and employ more people.

From a fiscal perspective, the theory is spending would eventually go down from increased employment (lower welfare bills), tax revenues would increase from corporation tax, income tax and NI contributions of increased economic output, whilst VAT revenue would go up following increased consumer confidence and spending. In turn helping industries such as retail to pick up, and so the cycle would continue.

The counter argument is that if you raise taxes and reduce public spending, the economy has no fuel to grow and create jobs. Keynes would say spend your way out of a recession. In spending (borrowing) more now, you have the platform to grow an economy to become self-sufficient and pay down the debts easier.

The problem of this is the ECB has said it wouldn’t print the money anyway and in the UK we tried this and it didn’t work either. Also in the UK because we are separate to the eurozone, we do not need to sign up to the potential fiscal union (as we have our own central bank who can and did print money as commented on).

This leads us to why Cameron is having issues. So many general indicators point towards us not needing the EU (in terms of the points made so far) and many of his own party would love us to pull out altogether too. Cameron today said he wouldn’t agree to the fiscal union on the basis of the transaction tax affecting the ‘City of London’. This is an area I am less sure of, but its a fundamental and drastic change in our relationship with Europe.

If our part within the EU diminishes, we would lose all of the trading benefits internally (such as the higher tariffs we would have imposed on European goods) and externally we would no longer have the union ‘clout’, the comparative advantages of co-trading, or the bargaining power with other trading zones (North America Free Trade Area, China and so forth). A step before this is simply we would have no influence on the decisions made EU wide. Decisions that would still effect us drastically.

Clearly any drastic changes to the original EU treaty would have to lead to a referendum (the UK public having the facts presented to them before deciding what is best). The question is should we stay or should we go?

Moving forward, I feel we benefit vastly from trading with Europe, working with our fellow continental friends in world trade and we should look out for our neighbours; as one would hope they would for us. Debatable, but that’s how the world should be in my opinion.

Equally, we shouldn’t sign up to anything crazy such as the euro at present.

If we can play our role, support the struggling countries (even financially to a lesser extent, if necessary) we would see far longer term benefits in terms of the eurozone staying together and recovering, before thriving again. I love the combination and diversity of different cultures, products, services and value being harnessed together to support each other.

The big lesson for me is that everyone has been spending too much and borrowing too much (individuals, business and governments). Once we all realise how to live within the worlds limited resources and find happiness from non-monetary and materialistic sentiments, our political economy issues would subside.

Well, what do I know. I clearly will have missed out other points and by no means have the answers, but thats my understanding and views – I’m now off for a cuppa!

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This article will describe some of the key events of the past days of London rioting from my perspective. It will then touch upon some of the (very) broad issues by a SLEPT analysis and finally outline the major questions we need to ask. Each section could have been an essay itself, but I hope it kicks off some discussions and thought processes.

Key events

Things began as a result of the death of a young black man in Tottenham last Thursday called Mark Duggan. We are still awaiting news from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on the circumstances. Tottenham’s community has a history of friction with the police. Therefore the tension, and to an extent the riots, can be understood on Saturday night. Of course, the human cost of ruined homes and destroyed businesses is wrong, but the specific issues in Tottenham can be vaguely explainable. I was in Manchester visiting my friend Richard and was out of town Saturday night. However my flat is a mile south of the Tottenham riots and I was glad to return to a standing home on Sunday.

Sunday night saw trouble too in Enfield and Brixton. This was further away from my place, it still hinted towards racial tensions and was the beginning of a very uneasy few hours. By yesterday afternoon Hackney central was under attack. Only 2 weeks ago I was there meeting the council for my webinar project. This is only a couple of miles south of where I live. I could see by now that the incidents, springing up in South London too, were far from being about Mark Duggans’ death or racial tensions in the direct sense. Young Londoners were rioting, looting and trashing their own city, seemingly for fun. As the situation worsened and my particular vulnerability became a consideration, I began to consider my options.

In 2011 one wouldn’t expect to flee a UK city, but this wasn’t a normal situation – as the pictures on tv clearly illustrated. However I am an independent guy in all senses and do not run away from problems. I conferred with my dad, discussed how the particular area I was in would probably be ok and that things would settle. Around working, making some calls and chilling I kept an eye on the news. By bedtime last night trouble had spread all over London, and indeed the UK. Buildings were burning, shops ransacked and people terrified. I figured I needed to get back to my mums house, not risk getting caught up in this sad snapshot of Britain and continue watching events unfold from a safer haven. I write this blog in the tranquil, sunny and peaceful town I grew up in Cambridgeshire. I am looking forward to tonight, after last night where I hardly SLEPT.

SLEPT analysis

I referred above to there being racial tensions, but last night’s problems were seemingly unrelated to the incident in Tottenham. On a higher level there doesn’t even seem to be a point, political or otherwise, to the riots. It is just young kids causing havoc on an August evening. My feeling however is that the problem is still political and here is why. Using SLEPT – social, legal, economic, political and technological we can consider the broader issues.

Social – Whether there is an underlying point, or even a cry for help in these actions, it does make you question society. If there was a protest, a speaking out or some call for change we could understand things better. Some commentators are suggesting the policy decisions, especially in education, are disengaging the younger generation. Others question why families and communities were less able to affect the small but effective minority. Either way, our society and community needs a serious shake up. The actions in London and the UK cannot continue.

Legal – We have laws a plenty to deal with this type of incident. The problem, similar to the Disability Discrimination Act, is enforcement. With the riots, the police are currently demoralised with the budget cuts affecting them and the loss of key personnel after the phone hacking problems. They also have to deal with the intricacies of human rights eg. Peoples freedoms to act and freedoms from harm. I am not a specialist in this area, clearly, but I am saying the police tread a line where had they of searched, shot and bulldozed everyone, they would be in the media firing line. However they have been restrained and stretched in resources, leading to ineffectual law enforcement. I wonder also if the courts and prisons can cope with the numbers coming their way as a result of this.

Economic – we know communism didn’t work, however we have a larger reason of late to question capitalism. With the inequality of global/regional wealth, the credit crunch, market crashes and calls for austerity, is this system working either? My feeling is no, but it has to work as it is the only system that works for humans’ unlimited wants in a world of limited resources. It is up to the political world to use capitalism more fairly and sensibly. However without jobs, taxes, public spending and incentives for all, capitalism can and will fail.

Technology – I am leaving ‘political’ until last. The main interest under technology is social networking. Twitter and Facebook helped mobilise the riots so quickly and efficiently. Blackberry messenger privatised their communications too. As a solid supporter of social networking I still defend this method of communication. Anything can be hijacked and used for bad, plus the information is now being used to track down the perpetrators. However it does need acknowledging that technology played a big part in this and leaves certain questions open.

Political – all of the above links back to Politics.

  • The decisions on why society is not right and how to reconcile these massive issues.
  • The decisions on law making and law enforcement.
  • The decisions on the economy around why the world is bleak financially, why there are no jobs and why debt is so high.
  • The decisions on technology such as privacy vs public interest with phone hacking, and how social media fits within our world.

All of these questions need answering, need solving and need communicating appropriately.

Last thoughts

I have outlined the recent events, explained how the riots directly affected me and discussed a few of the questions that need asking after this mêlée. Beyond specific policy questions, it makes me wonder about our whole political system.

The general public demand protection and assurance, understandably so. However if you are one of the kids rioting:

  • you feel the government never listens,
  • you see the cut the money in your education and your future too,
  • you see the political expenses scandal,
  • you feel disengaged,
  • you wonder if the ‘rules’ are right,
  • you wonder if the ‘rules’ are fair,
  • you debate how trustworthy the government is

Finally, if you have little to lose – the riots somehow seem justifiable in the eyes of that person.

We do need government, we do need rules, we do need to trust. However only when we really trust the people that decide our social fate through the steering  of our economy, deciding our laws, enabling technology to be used for good and all other matters, can we expect everyone to abide by that.

Maybe it is time for a politician who isn’t from an affluent background, who understands real people and who can communicate with them on all levels to solve this. I worry that Cameron, Clegg and Milliband cannot. I do hope on Thursday they can restore calm, order and faith back in people (on all sides) and allow everyone to get back to living and not fearing. Then we can tend to the bigger questions these riots have thrown up.

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Richard is one my best mates. We attended Coventry university together. Had many hilarious and intellectual conversations throughout. Rich is a political genius and I wanted him to write this piece around the recent media coverage of disabled people. I hope you find it interesting, helpful and wanting to question the status quo. Thanks for writing this, bud!

In this article I hope to show the reasons why Shipley MP Philip Davis felt able to make such a disablist statement and how the debate around welfare reform and barriers to employment has taken a wrong turn, before turning to what could be done to improve the situation.

The recent comments by Mr.Davis that those with learning disabilities should be paid less than the minimum wage to encourage employer’s to give those with impairments jobs, has rightly been condemned by activists, charities and by all shades of political opinion. Apart from the comments being deeply offensive, it is my understanding that to pay someone less than the minimum wage is illegal and dare I say it a flagrant degradation of their human rights.

However, I believe the current political climate make such comments acceptable and is further evidence that we are a long way from ridding our society of disablist attitudes. Nothing exemplifies this more than the current debate surrounding welfare reform and barriers to employment.

The harsh rhetoric employed by the media and parroted by politicians of all stripes in a desperate attempt to be seen as tough on welfare , put forward the argument that, whilst protecting those who are most in need, they are going to be tough on those who are fit to work. This  is unhelpful and wrongheaded as the recent debacle over the last government fitness to work test highlights.

There is an assumption that being on benefits is an easy life, and that people are happy to be in receipt of welfare. They argue the current benefit system discourages people from finding work.  This does not tally with my own experience of being in receipt of benefits.  It has long been noted that dependence on the welfare system traps individuals in what has been commonly termed the ‘poverty trap: once caught in the trap of welfare you  are more likely to fall into debt  in order to meet living costs and suffer from a physical or mental illness’. To those who adhere to the view that being on benefits is an easy life,  I would point out who would logically choose to live in poverty with social stigma of being a ‘scrounger’ and constant demonization by the media?

There is also a wide spread myth  that benefits are easy to get and the criteria for gaining them is soft, for someone who is eligible for benefits I can state  that this is not the case as anyone who has had to tackle the labyrinth that is the DLA form can testify .

There is also a view that there is no sanction against cheating the system. Again this is not the case. If the DWP suspect you of wrongdoing you have to prove that you are not guilty during that period whilst all money is stopped until the matter is resolved and if found guilty you must pay all money back. In the most severe of cases one could go to prison.

In an effort to reduce the cost of the welfare state there is an attempt by the coalition government supported by labour’s vote on the welfare reform bill to toughen already stringent rules on claiming benefits. There is a danger that such a move could hark back to Victorian times of the poor house and  adopting harsher measures which will create divisive policies that give credence to  the idea of deserving and the undeserving poor.

Amongst the social and political elite one idea of how to fix our ‘broken’ welfare system is gaining momentum as evidenced by a speech given by Ed Milliand  on welfare reform in which he argued that for an individual to be in receipt of state support they must contribute to society. Personally I have nothing against the idea of active and participatory citizenship.  However I am deeply concerned that the barrier’s facing those with an  impairment or   disability in gaining employment or making a contribution to society are not fully recognised, leading to unhelpful comments such as those of Philip Davies becoming the norm and feeding into policy making process. This would set back the cause of disability equality decades. It is widely known that if you are disabled you are less likely than a non-disabled person to find a job. This I believe is due in inflexible practices and employer’s concerns surrounding the associated costs of employing a disabled person. Here are a few of my own thoughts on how to resolve these problems:

  • All members of parliament should attend mandatory disability awareness training with emphasis on understanding  the social model of disability to ensure better understanding of the issues facing disabled people.
  • Educating the public on why people receive welfare thus enabling society to have a more measured debate around welfare reform.
  • Recognise the cultural diversity that disabled people bring to the country eg. Social media, the arts, etc.
  • Widening the definition of employment and work to give proper standing voluntary work
  • P.A’s for care work to be given proper recognition.
  • Companies must be made aware of the full range of help available to them in employing disabled people and how it benefits their company – access to work
  • A greater flexibility in employment practices and welfare to work schemes

What do you guys think to this vitally important topic?

Richard Currie
richard.currie81@gmail.com

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Welcome to my 200th post and its a big one! Did you all manage to read my guest blog post a couple of days ago? HossyLass was able to articulate a perspective of disability I am unable to. Not because of a moral or principal disagreement, but because our impairments (the correct word to use for someone’s medical condition) affect us very differently. I have always been aware of different impairments – my cousin is deaf, my other cousin has Down’s Syndrome, I work with a blind man and a dyslexic guy, I know wheelchair users with different impairments, even within SMA (my impairment) the spectrum is massive. Also my aunty has had ME (chronic fatigue) for many years and a uni friend is tussling with this at present too.

Since I have been speaking out through my blog my aims have been: to inform, to inspire and to change. I believe the power to any blog is personal experience. However when an individual speaks out against government decisions or societies discrimination, it has to become a collective. The disability community is a clever, articulate, politically aware and economically savvy bunch. With the increased cost of living, government cuts and welfare reforms disabled people are becoming scared and rightly vocalising this. While the cost of living affects a whole economy, disabled people face additional costs. While the cuts are affecting many groups, cuts for disabled people can mean no food, hygiene or shelter. While welfare reform are largely embraced to simplify a complicated process, it is actually scare mongering and scape goating disabled people.

The feedback I have had alongside this terrible political economic state has been:

  • From people with very different impairments to my own
  • Impairments that can cause so much fatigue and pain, getting out of bed is not possible
  • People so fearful of the governments ‘Back to work’ initiatives
  • Individuals questioning how the social model is valid to them
  • Questioning how a government can be so callous in their narrow views. An example of the new tests for 1.5 million on incapacity benefit (a benefit for people unable to work due to disability or long term illness) is as silly as if someone can hold a pen. Its clear to see someone could hold a pen, but have multiple reasons why work is still not possible

I do not pretend to have the answers. I want to just share my opinions on this. I see this in 2 strands – the identity of the disability community and the identity of the government policy changes.

Medical v Social model – A big part of the disabled communities identity stems from which overarching model they use. Despite its limitations I do back the social model. To my mind the medical model was where disabled people were ‘the problem’. Their impairments were to be cured. They were shunned away from society and received awful medical treatment such as electric shocks to remove their impairment. The idea of the social model is liberating. Disabled people are not the problem, it is the construction of society. I do concede its inclusivity for different impairments has its limits. However please do not suggest the medical model is right.

Medical treatment is a necessity, but this is wholly different from the oppression of the medical model. Surely it is about understanding an individuals limitations physically and mentally, receiving physio, spinal fusion operations, pain relief etc. Then in understanding what could still be achieved despite medical limitations learning how to remove any additional societal barriers in the way. Employment could mean encouraging businesses to offer more part-time jobs and working from home. Socialising could mean open minded friends being creative around social settings. I still maintain the world is everyone’s oyster, with the right medical and technological advances, government support and societies inclusivity.

If the disability community can reach a rigid stance on its collective identity, there is greater chance of change. If segments of a minority group stand for conflicting needs, the government will struggle to satisfy its needs. With one collective loud voice, how can the government ignore 10m people?

The government policy – I believe if the common needs are sieved out, we can offer solutions and not just problems. At a top level this could be:

  • An understanding of different impairments and their implications on a person
  • Disabled people, even with similar impairments, have different personalities and views. There is no such thing as one size fits all
  • Once understood, listened to and included in decisions, disabled people just want to get on with living life. We are not trouble makers or fraudsters.
  • It will take money, time, innovation and learnings to get to a perfect policy. However with affordable medical treatment, equipment and care; disabled people will achieve their own potential

Mr Osborne and Mr Duncan Smith – If you invest in disabled people the way you are encouraging the world to do in your economy, you will see a massive ‘rate of return’. In contributions to the economy, in increased employment through social care, in tax revenues from both of these, and in healthcare savings from improved welfare and happiness. Open your eyes!!!

Please retweet, email and post this anywhere. Raise the awareness that this is a complex issue with complex answers. Only collectively (through healthy debate) can we find the answers. I hope this sparks some thoughts, passion and change to at least one of you.

Martyn
martyn@martynsibley.com
Twitter: @martynsibley

As mentioned, there is only so much I can inform and inspire around my daily routine. If anyone has questions on how I manage working, getting around London socially and travelling do get in touch. My past week has been working hard, seeing 6 friends from university in Camden Friday night, my mum and dad yesterday before returning to work today! Has been another great week 🙂

Furthermore I have been aware that my experiences of disability are biased. Meanwhile my guest blogs have been generally from others with a similar impairment. Todays blog is a guest blog from a blogger name HossyLass. It lays out the recent government policy decisions’ effects on disabled people, but better still shows an insight to disability from an experience different to my own. I am writing a blog on my perspectives of the social model for later in the week, but have to say this article is fantastic at outlining the shortfalls of the social model. Enjoy!

I personally am furious about the Government reducing, or rather bastardising, the social model.

They claim in the Disability Living Allowance reform that the world has moved on since its inception, and is a very different place from what it was when they constructed the DLA. And hence DLA needs reforming.

Yeah, we had the DEA and DED’s. Powers that are only effective when wielded as a weapon of defence by disabled people. Now that has changed to the Equality Act 2010, but until the change is proved to be working then it is just wishful thinking, and they cannot rely on the world of wishful thinking. Not when that reliance is at the expense of disability benefit reductions.

Wishful thinking and the necessary retrospective actions are just some of the flaws in the Governments interpretation of the social model.  Given the reductions in Employment Law for small companies, the legislation promoted as the great social equaliser becomes not just a toothless beast, but a totally vacuous promise.

However the social model was never meant to be used in isolation. It is an academic tool to be used alongside other models, to be used as a framework for reference when discussing all aspects of disability. The use in isolation, and subsequent bastardisation, of the social model has left some disabled people in a very vulnerable position.

The social model is not a valid model for people who are sick, and disabled by illness. It leans towards those who are disabled without illness or pain, i.e. it leans towards those whom society generally recognises as disabled. It then leads automatically to the ESA and the whole “working” thing which is portrayed as a good thing, and I agree, because if the world was flat, and wheelchairs were wonderful and free, and all transport accessible, and all people could sign, and hearing loops existed in every cable in the land etc, etc, etc (fill in your own wish list) then disabled people would have a better chance of being equal regarding many aspects that disable them.

It is only a better chance, but the equality of access and communication will only be effective when the wishful thinking is fulfilled. It won’t be achieved by current legislation. It won’t be achieved by Dave’s “Big Society” either, because if society was such a nice obliging disability-friendly place then there would be no need for legislation.

However, even if this utopian idyll existed it would do very little for those who are simply too ill to participate, a point that gets ignored constantly.

Those who have chronic illnesses and disabling conditions often look totally free of disability. You can pass them in the street and not feel the urge to stare, pat their guide-dog or lust after their wheelchair, because you haven’t noticed that they are disabled. This is because people with chronic illnesses and disabling conditions have a tendency to stay at home, indoors, and usually in bed when they are disabled by their illness. Some are hospitalised when their illness becomes noticeable. At this point the social model, as portrayed by the Government, becomes irrelevant. All that matters is the medical aspects, the treatment, and the vague belief that “some day soon” the condition will go into some form of remission. Their lives are controlled by the random fluctuations in their conditions.

The medical aspects of life are what controls the behaviours and choices these people make – “Can I cope with a crowd today?”, “Will I have enough stamina to get me to the shop and back?”. When they do go out in society it is often dictated primarily by the medical aspects of their condition.

The reform of DLA and the horrific ESA are both heavily influenced by three significant beliefs;

The belief that society will somehow become accessible, and therefore remove all barriers disabled people face, the belief that all people will get better from debilitating conditions, and the belief that sufficient financial sanctions and enforced work participation will in some way bring about the first two scenarios.

Well society won’t become instantly accessible just because DLA has been reformed, and people won’t recover from genetic life-long conditions regardless of how many times they are tested. If we don’t remind people that the medical model is as relevant as the social model, and that these reforms and cuts are based on projections, unfounded beliefs and wishful thinking, then a significant proportion of the disabled community will, in the not too distant future, get seriously shafted.

And no amount of belief or wishful thinking is going to change that.

Guest post by HossyLass, originally posted on http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/ by @bendygirl

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You know it gets tougher to write new, innovative, non-repetitive and funky blogs. I guess when you have a routine of work, and (unfortunately) cannot travel every week, this is unavoidable. On the flip side, with random events, news articles and the variety we have in the world; the task is not impossible either. So I turn to the personal, the political and the possible…

On a personal level, I need to mention an ailment (this is for you Lena!). Off the back of my first reggae concert and indeed big night out since winter, I felt rubbish last week! I ambled into Thursday with a cold  when I had to take a train to Wakefield for an inspiring work meeting. That night, my second of the ex Austrians, Lena, visited for the weekend. With a delayed flight I collected her from the airport around midnight. Fortunately my semi cold subsided Friday morning to allow a really nice few days with the Viennese vixen. With food and wine Friday in the flat, a visit from Billy for his birthday Saturday in Camden and a drive around the sights of London Sunday night – it was a good weekend.

The reason I mention blog topics and ailments is Lena pointed out my propensity to mention on martynsibley.com when I feel tired and unwell. I know I do this to share my winter worries and how some days are a struggle. Despite my positivity, it wouldn’t be honest of me to not share my limitations, difficulties and concerns. She also noted my arms looked tighter and a bit weaker. This is something that comes with the SMA territory, does play on my mind and is something I debate how to lessen. However I appreciated the fact I sometimes worry/stress myself into feeling under par and can do more to maintain my physical well being. Honestly, I really appreciated this observation.

Therefore while winter will always be hard and my SMA may cause me to get a little weaker, I have a current aim. Which is to not dwell on illness/tiredness and begin my swimming and stretches again. With the clocks having gone forward, spring in the air and good times coming – there is no time like the present. Plus it is easier for me to swim in warmer temperatures and my muscles loosen up in the heat too.

Having had a kind of personal epiphany and a ‘new season’ resolution, I turn to the political. For those who wondered about my views on last weeks budget (I know, it has been a while, but I was out Saturday night in the Jazz Café and my hangover last longer now) and for those who didn’t see my live tweets for Scope. My executive summary would be that the budget was surprisingly better than expected. However it was off the back of some hard and harsh cuts last November, which are hitting disabled people particularly hard.

My view is we need cuts to reduce the deficit and inject confidence back into our economy. We should expect those better placed to bear the brunt of this. Disabled people need to know their standard of living will not decrease over and above the already challenging situation of inflation, unemployment and cuts, just because of their additional needs. I really hope the government will not make disabled people scape goats alongside alleged ‘fraudsters’ and ‘benefit scroungers’. With this said and done, last weeks budget seeks to gain business and economic growth. If disabled people are included and supported appropriately with this agenda, I will be happy. Lets just hope the plans to kick start the economy are fully inclusive.

Lastly, the possible! I have some interesting opportunities this week around the blog work I do. There may be the chance to work on some other social media projects, there is a relaunch of ‘seminar in your slippers’ (my online seminars around managing care packages and for wheelchair travel), the launch of mine and a friends online magazine, and even a disability app!!! Stay posted for more information on this.

Coming up, I am seeing my good mate Rich from uni at the weekend. Then Rico, the German lad, is over next weekend. All before I head to Cyprus for a week in mid April. With spring here, more exercise, enjoyable projects at Scope and new blog related activities, I am very excited about the coming months…

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Hi readers. Another week has passed already. I am keen to tell you about a new project I am working on for Sunnier Days (my social enterprise). Therefore I will share Thursday nights debauchery and this weekends fun in a separate blog over the next couple of days on my site.

Sunnier Days is the very personal name I have given to the ‘vehicle’ enabling me to make some of my ideas around disability a reality. Those close to me refer to my positive attitude, my love of sunny holidays and because my projects (the blog, work with Hackney council and DisabilityLib) are about improving things – Sunnier Days felt right and was born!

So what is this project about? You may remember last May I decided to find a venue, inspirational speakers and market an event for disabled people. My friends, family and blog readers gave positive feedback, however the guys in the BBC ouch chat rooms were more sceptical. I managed to get a great venue in Shoreditch – London, the BBCs disabled tv presenter Natasha Wood and disabled model Sophie Morgan, and 20 people attended! It was the first time I have ever done something like this. It was challenging, scary, great fun, uplifting and a big learning experience.

The feedback showed that there is an appetite for dissemination of inspiring and informative information to disabled people, their friends/family and professionals. The down side was the costs associated with hiring a venue, putting on catering and transportation to the event. I continued with my blogging, looked at social networking sites and pondered many other ways of providing a platform for debate, sharing and positive change around disability.

More recently the ability to run a seminar online was brought to my attention. Part of my new years’ excitement was around the prospect of running the Sunnier Days events (like last Mays), but straight to someone’s living room.

Having a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy I have been a member of the charity for my impairment since birth – www.jtsma.org.uk – (I was also on the board of trustees for 2 years). We have partnered up to launch this idea for their members and my blog followers. ‘Seminar in your slippers’ has been officially launched this week!

To see my cheesy promo video and to download the flyer with full details, please click http://www.jtsma.org.uk/seminar_in_your_slippers.html

Feel free to retweet this, email friends and phone anyone who might find this useful. I hope, even with a couple of tweaks from these 2 seminars, that ‘seminar in your slippers’ can become a great innovative way of delivering informative and inspirational details to the living rooms of the disabled community. Please do sign up, join us on the scheduled dates and provide feedback so we can achieve this!

Exciting times hey 🙂