Sunday, January 30, 2011

I'll be hosting February's Disability Blog Carnival on the 25th. If you don't know what the Disability Blog Carnival is all about, you can see some examples of past editions here, here and here. It's a round-up and celebration of the best of the month's disability blogging, grouped around a theme. This month's (optional) theme is Participation. What do you participate in, and how? Whether you take the theme to refer to hobbies, fun activities, or just the smaller things in life that are still important to us, I think talking about our participation in life and society is increasingly important in this world of cuts and limitations. In a society where we're regularly accused of wasting the 'taxpayer's' money, let's celebrate the fact that we do frivolous things! To give you an idea, the topic was inspired by a suggestion by Lisy Babe, with whom I share an interest in cult TV, that people might want to write about participation in fandom.

It would be great if you could get your blog posts to me by 20th Feb, to give me time to work on the round-up post - I'm a slow blogger! If you have a last-minute burst of inspiration, though, I'll do my best to fit it in later. Either link to your entry in a comment on this post, or e-mail me with the link at lilwatchergirl (at) gmail (dot) com.

Enjoy participating in the month's blog carnival!

Monday, January 17, 2011

...And Sometimes Things Work Like They Should

It's only a little victory, but in the midst of all the struggle for services, I am happy this morning. Disabled Students' Allowance has paid for a second desk in my study (my own desk has a bad setup that hurts my neck and subluxes my shoulders) and a stand so that I can use my laptop/read in bed. They came to set the equipment up today. Compared to other battles to get what I need and am entitled to, this has been relatively easy to arrange. And it will make such a difference to the amount of work I can do. Being able to work properly in bed will be so exciting.

The fight with Access to Work continues, but incredibly, I might actually be getting there with them. They've moved on from the fifteen pages or so of details I had to write about my needs, and are now asking actually relevant things. I'll be unbelievably relieved if I win this one. The thought of not getting support and therefore never being able to teach again was utterly, appallingly terrifying.

New anti-depressant medication is starting to work. This is also a relief. I hope it continues to do so.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Adventures in Disability, Again

I'm seriously neglecting blogging at the moment (on both my blogs, and indeed at Where's the Benefit). But life is currently quite a struggle, and I thought writing might help a bit. So here is a new, if brief post.

When they say disability is a full-time job, they're really not kidding. Yesterday, which was supposed to be a work-from-home day for me, involved three awful encounters with professionals (two on the phone, via The Girl) that left me so exhausted and close to having a complete breakdown that, of course, no work got done.

I won't go into the ins and outs of the personal budget I'm hoping to get from social services which, while intended to meet my care needs, is very unlikely to do so, because of the ubiquitous 'computer says no' situation in which I and my needs are far too complicated for anyone official to begin to grasp. So let's just say that my morning was taken up with frustrating social workers and their departments' frustrating policies. It was the afternoon's (first) phone call that was really distressing, though.

For the past few years I've received lots of support from Access to Work, a government organisation that supports disabled people in work. They, like everyone else, are cutting back severely on their eligibility criteria. This means that, although I officially qualify for support as before, their support is now only given if my employer can't meet my (expensive) disability access needs as a 'reasonable adjustment'. This doesn't sound unreasonable, until you realise what this means in practice. I have a part-time lecturing a job this semester. I need a support worker in the classroom. I can't get up to write on the board. I can't get around the classroom, which will affect how I teach. I can't give out materials. I may need someone to read some of my lecture notes if I get tired. I can't operate the classroom computer or projector, because of accessibility issues. I can't bring materials into the classroom. And that's just the potential access problems I can think of right now. None of this affects my ability to lecture (I'm a good, experienced teacher), but it does involve access issues so complex that I *need* someone with me in the classroom to do the various practical things that I used to do, when I could leap around the classroom with boundless energy. Access to Work, however, are - get this - telling me to make a student, unpaid, do all this work. This would be unprofessional, unethical, educationally questionable, exploitative and downright unfair. But they see this as a 'reasonable adjustment' on the part of my employers. They don't care, of course, that if they don't provide this support worker I will have to give up this job, which will probably be the end of my just-splutting-back-into-life career.

So another fucking battle to get my needs met starts. I seem to have about one of these a month, at least. I'm currently also struggling with my university's disability support people, because of whose incompetence I've had to restart my PhD this month, and who cannot get their act together regarding my academic support workers (paid for from a student disability support fund, which is also very limited). Add in my battle with social services, and I think I'm having a revisit from my old friends, bipolar disorder complicated by neurodiversity. I have to go to the doctor and talk about changing my antidepressants ASAP. But of course, if I go to them and say "I'm drowning in disability administration that would make the most mentally healthy people feel depressed," they'll look at me completely blankly. This stress will be put down to my weaknesses, not society's attempts to make life so difficult for disabled people that we just kill ourselves so that we don't cost the government anything anymore. Ooh, and I'd better not say that to the doctor, or I'll be accused of severe paranoia. You know, I increasingly question how much of my mental health stuff is down to my brain being wacky, and how much is down to the effects of trying to live in a society that has no place for me and would much prefer I wasn't here. A social model of mental health? To some extent, I think that applies.

Right, that's all my self-pity got out. My Girl is asleep next to me with a migraine, poor thing, so I don't know if we're doing the sales today as we had planned. I hope so, 'cause I need a serious distraction.