Sat in the Garden

Sat in the Garden IBC  (7)

What is the point of having technology if we cannot use it to assist people to overcome barriers with the Social Model of Disability in mind? I find myself sat in the garden on my new motorised chair, working on my iPad Mini via my home’s Wifi courtesy of Sky, interacting with people as if I was in the same room as them. Yet I don’t have to leave my house and my technology brings the old I am restricted in normally, right to my view and to my fingertips. This is what technology in communications is doing for me as a disabled person who is extremely restricted mobility wise, due to wrecking my shoulders self-propelling and due to my deteriorating condition of the spinal cord. Yet at the press of a button and a few well-placed taps on the iPad I can control a company on the other side of the world or have a face to face meeting in Hong Kong, without leaving Northumberland, without leaving the confines of my powered chair. Hell I am in my garden writing this and responding to business emails, and this is the essence of quality of life. Technology enabling me to overcome the barriers society and my condition has worked hard to put in my way, and boy have they slaved away at putting barriers in my way.


So now technology changes the lay of the land for me, makes some of those barriers recede as I sit here and watch a huge beasty of a transcontinental aeroplane blast its four engines at maximum throttle and climb into the sky, mocking gravity as it surges upwards through the clouds. If I wished I could have even recorded the event using the same technology and then whizz it round all the people I know, wherever they may be, with just a stroke of a finger on the touch sensitive screen. Perhaps when my fingers grow old and stiff I can just use the voice recognition to speak and translate into type, to read things back to me, to control my iPad, to continue to do business, and no one would know I am in my garden. For someone with a condition such as mine I do not have the words to express what a game changer this is, and this is an equally crucial point I wish to make. shutterstock_108683078

It is wonderful having the right technology, if you can afford it and if you can access it, having the right equipment, having it accessible from awheelchair_whee_postcard-r6b3cd397a4384f56b72f5a4c85b3d76c_vgbaq_8byvr_512 financial perspective, is pivotal if it is going to reduce your barriers and increase your quality of life. I know how lucky I am to be able to afford the broadband Wifi, the iPad, the powered chair, the ramp to access entrance and egress of my house and garden, and so on. Much if what I have mentioned is not available to many and without it how are people supposed to escape the prison of their home, to access employment or start their own company, to engage with society. Yet they are told by agencies employed by the government that they are assessed as capable of work. Given the right equipment, the right technology and the right support then I agree many, the majority perhaps, would be able to access some form of education or employment. This is where catch 22 kicks in with savage zest.


Atos has been the target of protests by disabled people demonstrating against cuts in their benefitsPeople are being assessed as capable for work by those rather famous, sorry infamous, agencies of our dear Coalition. Yet they cannot have support from Access to Work re-equipment until they are in work or have a firm job offer. But they can’t get this far, I.e. to employment because they can’t exit their home without considerable support, but health and social care are now cut to the bone, and they are assessed as non ‘critical’, which is the only care now being supported in many areas. Even if they could exit the house they could not use public transport as most of it is not accessible to wheelchairs, for example, but they are assessed as not being ‘severe’ enough to require the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, and therefore cannot have a motability car. Round and round they go needing the right equipment, support and technology so that they, us, become tax payers and not tax users, but they need to use some tax paying money to access the employment and social world. Round and round they go being told they are able to work but no one gives them the equipment, etc., to attain employment or further their employment options through education.


So as I sit here with the sun rapidly disappearing behind a rather rude and threatening cloud I give thanks to my God for giving me the wealth to buy the equipment I dalek-stairs-001need to overcome the barriers in my way, for the technology that enables me to run companies from my home as needed, for the support of my Angel and my family that facilitates me getting about, for the opportunities I have been afforded despite my condition. I know how fortunate I am, how lucky I am to have all this and not be at the mercy of a State; a State as seen in the disabled community as becoming more threatening and ruthless than the real storm clouds that threaten overhead. Sun has gone, and so have I, and all that is left of today is a little, cute ginger neighbour wanting to come in.



Jonathan Wade


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