Contact details

As well as being a freelance writer I am also a qualified counsellor and I work for a low cost counselling service in Exeter and for the NHS Gender Clinic also in Exeter.

Simultaneously, I work as a Disability Member of the First Tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber sitting on disability benefit tribunals on an ad hoc basis.

As a writer I specialise in writing about disability and health.

My articles have been published in the Guardian, Times, OUCH! [BBC disability website], Disability Now, Broadcast, Lifestyle [Motability magazine], The Practising Midwife, 'Junior, Pregnancy & Baby', Writers' News, Able, Getting There [Transport for London magazine], Junior, Community Care, DPPi [Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood International]. I have also had articles commissioned by Daily Mail.

For more information about me and for examples of my writing please see below.

If you would like me to write an article for your publication, about any aspect of disability, please do get in touch:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mind your disability language!

Read an article yesterday, via the 'Isn't she talking yet?' blog - great name for a blog by India Knight who has a disabled child:

Anyway the article mentioned the word "harelip", it just leapt out at me from the page, I didn't really think people used it any more.... [the better term here if you are wondering is "cleft lip"] and I just thought, in case anyone was remotely interested I'd put a few pointers re the right language to use when it comes to talking/writing about disability:

'The disabled', 'The blind', 'The deaf' lumps people together, much better to use: 'Disabled people', 'blind/visually impaired people', 'deaf people'

NB Some people don't mind the term 'people with Disabilities', I prefer the more political term Disabled people - which refers to the way Disabled people are disabled by society more than anything else... that's the basis of the Medical vs Social Model of Disability argument, more on that another time!

'Able bodied' makes people sound super wonderful and able, better to say 'Non disabled'

The term 'Mentally handicapped' or heaven forbid 'retard' went out with the horse and cart, use 'people with learning difficulties/disabilities'

A better term than 'Mentally ill' is 'people with mental health problems'

Don't say 'Dwarf', say 'short statured person', 'short person', 'person with restricted growth'; personally I find "little person" too American/naff and 'vertically challenged' is just laughable

'Wheelchair bound' and 'confined to a wheelchair' are just plainly ridiculous because no one is bound/confined to a wheelchair [unless they are into S&M], the vast majority of wheelchair users see their wheelchair as something that liberates them and prefer to be called a 'wheelchair user'

The BBC OUCH! worst word poll found the word 'special' is right up there amongst the worst words to use when referring to disability, use 'segregated' [when talking about schools] or 'different' [when talking about needs]

Similarly most disabled people hate to be described as courageous, heroic,
inspiring, brave, just don't use them

Finally, 'Victim of', 'suffering from' makes big assumptions, better to say 'a person with/who has…' and fill in the disability/condition.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lordosis - curvature of the spine and all that

A few weeks ago we took Archie to see my/his consultant, I was concerned that the lower part of his back is already quite curved. After waiting around, seeing the consultant's stand in, getting x-rays, seeing the consultant's stand in again we were told he would call after having spoken to absent consultant.

Weeks passed without a call so I followed it up myself. The feedback was that there is nothing they can do [certainly at this moment in time anyway] as lordosis/curvature of the spine is all part and parcel of bone dysplasia.

The only advice was to try and ensure that Archie’s spine and hips are kept as flexible as possible and keep him as stretched and as strong as possible. Though ideas as to how to do this were not forthcoming.

As a child I too went for these annual checkups with a consultant, both my parents would take the whole day off work because it was almost a whole day of waiting before you were called in. He would, with an entourage of medical students looking on, give me a quick once over and say 'no need to do anything at the moment, maybe next year, see you then.' Within minutes we'd be back out in the waiting room.

I live in the hope that maybe there's more that can be done for Archie to minimise his 'difference', but maybe it really is just pie in the sky wishful thinking on my part and more about me anyway - wishing that my back had never been allowed to have got so curved. Don't get me wrong I'm not all out to make him 'normal' but if there are ways of preventing certain things happening I'd go for that, I certainly won't be pushing for him to go in for leg lengthening that's for sure!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Disabled people overload on TV!?

Nearly choked on my lion bar when a short statured teacher popped up on Eastenders last night and then on top of that there's a blind person and someone with Albinism on Big Brother!

Not sure if the EE character will be a regular but at least the Big Brother inmates might last for a few weeks and provide some sort of enlightenment. All good stuff I hope.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Disabled or not disabled that is the question?

For me there is no question about it - I consider myself to be a Disabled person. The capital D is deliberate, the idea is that it makes a political point ie I feel I'm more disabled by physical aspects of society, eg stairs and high counters, and people's personal prejudice/ignorance, than I am by my 'condition' per se.

I've been having a lot of contact with disabled people recently or rather people who you would think would identify themselves as disabled but they don't. They use phrases like "normal with additional needs", or "differently able" or just deny any allegiance with disabled people whatsoever, "I'm not one of them" sort of attitude.

Up until I was about 18 I was the same. In spite of being much much shorter and less mobile/agile than my peers I had a bury my head in the sand attitude towards aligning myself with "those really disabled people over there", ugh.

Then in my gap year I got a job working for a very small disability charity working with some real disabled people and it blew me away really. Here were some people who were positive, independent, dare I say it HAPPY about being disabled. To align myself with them wasn't saying I was rubbish, unable, inferior, it was about saying I was proud to be disabled. It was about what you COULD do rather than what you couldn't and about recognising that it was the barriers in society that often had far more impact on how difficult our lives were than our "medical conditions" [otherwise known as the social model of disability...].

I think once I reached that turning point in my life I became much much happier about who I was; I wonder whether this personal contact with people who are proud to be disabled is a crucial element needed for [some] people to identify themselves as disabled, or is it just coincidence that a lot of the people who deny their 'disability' say they don't really have any contact with disabled people?