Tuesday, 30 January 2007

On this day in history - a Great Man Assassinated:

Mahatma Gandhi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "On January 30, 1948, on his way to a prayer meeting, Gandhi was shot and killed in Birla House, New Delhi, by Nathuram Godse. Godse was a Hindu radical with links to the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, who held Gandhi responsible for weakening India by insisting upon a payment to Pakistan.[15] Godse and his co-conspirator Narayan Apte were later tried and convicted, and on 15 November 1949, were executed. Gandhi's memorial (or Samādhi) at Rāj Ghāt, New Delhi, bears the epigraph, (Devanagiri: हे ! राम or, H�Rām), which may be translated as 'Oh God'. These are widely believed to be Gandhi's last words after he was shot, though the veracity of this statement has been disputed by many"

Link from My Moblog

this image was originally posted to moblog.co.uk by user dissol

Monday, 29 January 2007

Sunday Times - Article

Sunday Times - Article: "Gang kills legendary SA war expert

Legendary tourism personality and Anglo-Zulu War expert David Rattray has been killed by a gang at his home near his Fugitive’s Drift Lodge

Legendary tourism personality and Anglo-Zulu War expert David Rattray’s killer entered his house and fired a single shot before being ordered to re-enter the building to fire another two rounds, according to a source close to the scene."
This is such sad news. South Africa has lost a hero; we are all robbed by his murder. I have his audio tapes of the Battles at Isandhlwana & Rorke’s Drift; it is impossible to listen to them with a dry eye. He was a great ambassador for South African culture and tourism, and he brought communities together by the way he passionately portrayed our collective histories. Rest In Peace ubhuti

Employers Forum on Disability

A quick post on something that I have been working on for some time now:
The Employers Forum on Disability
I found out about this organization through my research, as it stands out amongst the multitude of different organizations involved in the same field as us of Disability Integration. they have a remarkable record, and are led by a remarkable lady - Susan Scott-Parker.
I first met them 2 years ago and we are in the process of setting up an affiliate organization here. I must admit that I expected the process to be much easier than it turned out to be; in fact it became quite a nightmare at times. However, I do believe that we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Certainly, I cannot take credit for the work that has been done, & my colleague, Lisa, together with Susan have been real stars. The process did teach me valuable lessons though (even though they were tough to learn at times). I did feel really badly let down at several stages in the process - and I must admit that the process has made me more cynical and less trusting of colleagues (not Susan or Lisa though!).
Another subject to post more on at a later date!

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Human rights and disability - The Wire - July2003 - Amnesty International

Human rights and disability - The Wire - July2003 - Amnesty International: "Human rights and disability

The second meeting of the UN Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities took place in New York on 16-27 June 2003. AI talks to Bengt Lindqvist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Disability, to find out more about disability and human rights.

Why has it taken so long to put the rights of people with disabilities on the human rights agenda?

A paradigm shift of this radical nature always takes time. For the last hundred years disabled people were mainly viewed as objects of charity and care. The International Year of Disabled Persons, 1981, made the breakthrough for the concept of rights for people who happened to live with a disability. A process was started, which has now, at last, resulted in the recognition that disability-related problems are a responsibility for the human rights monitoring system within the UN.

In the future, disability will not be accepted as a basis for depriving people of their voting rights, property rights, family rights, the right to education and even the right to life itself.

Separation of Religion and State in America | International Humanist and Ethical Union

Separation of Religion and State in America | International Humanist and Ethical Union: "Separation of Religion and State in America
Submitted by admin on 20 September, 2005 - 07:33. United States of America | IHN 2005.3 August | Religion & state | International Humanist News
United States of America

Robert Boston

Jefferson's Advice

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his nephew Peter Carr. Jefferson never had a son of his own, and his nephew often played that role. In this letter, written while Jefferson was living in France, Jefferson offered advice for a young man just beginning to make his way in the world. He discussed the intellectual and cultural attainments such a young man should strive for.

In the section dealing with religion, Jefferson wrote, 'Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear'.

It is with great shame that I tell you that any politician who said something like that today in my country could not be elected to public office. Note that Jefferson did not advise his nephew to stop believing in God - merely to have the courage to doubt. That would be enough to sink his political career today.

It is ironic that I am here at a time when the wall of separation of church and state in America is under sustained and relentless assault."

Spiders and Horse's Tails

It has been suggested by a friend that I should give an explanation of my medical condition. Normally I really don't like to make a big deal of my disability (I am not even sure I like the name of this blog; another friend's idea). But the wheelchair is part of me, and Disability is an intrinsic part of my business (see my business website - www.disabilitysolutions.co.za).
I am a wheelchair user, and unable to walk or stand unaided. It is a long (and mostly boring) journey that got me here, but to summarize it (as it could be useful for other people who may be starting out with a new disability or know someone who is):
I managed to fracture 3 vertebrae playing rugby in 1984. It did not hurt much at the time, and I played on to the end of the season in blissful ignorance.
Eventually, it was becoming apparent that all was not well (pain, and a loss of sensation). So I got checked out (another story for another day), and passed from one specialist to another. Eventually they had to operate and I have been really fortunate to always have good surgeon's for this (Mr. Maurice-Williams of the Royal Free Hospital in London), and subsequent operations. I had a fusion (T5-T10) and everything was fine for about 15 years.
Then the fusion collapsed, top and bottom, damaging both my spinal cord, and the bundle of nerves that look like a horse's tail which come out of the bottom of the cord (Cauda Equina).
I had a further 6 operations during 1999 and 2000, which managed to halt further damage (again, with having a fantastic surgical team - led by Dr. Daan Botes). However I was left with some spinal cord damage (T4-T12) and damage to the other nerves which led to a condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome. I also had some weird scarring in one of the protective larges around the spinal cord. This looks like a faint spider's web when it is viewed using a MRI scanner - this appearance gives it its name of (Adhesive, in my case) Arachnoiditis. It may look faint, but it can be really bloody painful! Anyway there is very little available information on either of these conditions, and I think it was searching for information on these that I really discovered the power of the Internet. I will try to collect some of the information I have on these two conditions and post them here sometime.
But I do need to mention one of the vital lifelines that saw me through the rough period. Number I has to be my wife and immediate family, but I also happened upon a fantastic support group - Cauda Equina Syndrome Support Group CESSG. The friends (Vickie, Sandy, Colette, Carlos, Gina, etc, etc) there saved my life on many occasions. I know I have not mentioned everyone there, as the mailing list was very well supported with hundreds of members, and the mutual support was tremendous. I know the mailing list has moved recently, and I shall try to find it again.

More weather

I heard on the radio this morning that London woke up to snow. It becomes difficult to imagine, as the temperatures here are so hot; the last few days the mercury has been over 40C. Sue (my gorgeous wife) recorded 45C in her car yesterday. If does become difficult to work when it is so hot (and no air con in my office).


As a bit of fun I joined the BBC Sportdaq competition recently, along with my whole family here, and including a nephew, and my father in England. It is a lot of fun. Basically it is intended to work (and to teach people how) as a stock market, but here the companies are sports personalities. It is quite amusing to hear my sons saying that they need to "check their shares!" Especially the older one, who, up until now, has never shown any interest in Sport! But it happens real time, and means that you can directly compete with family and friends over long distances. There is no real money involved (as you 'play' with 'pretend' money), but the competition can still be fierce!

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Mr. Bush’s Respect for the Human Embryo | International Humanist and Ethical Union

Mr. Bush’s Respect for the Human Embryo | International Humanist and Ethical Union: "Religion, Not Science

Mr. Bush appreciates the potential benefit of embryonic stem cell research for curing various diseases and injuries. Nonetheless, he justifies his veto by his religious belief that retrieving stem cells from human embryo is destructive, resulting in the killing of a human being or, at least, a “potential” human being. Accordingly, so goes the argument, this act cannot be justified in spite of the possible therapeutic benefits. Mr. Bush’s conclusion is obviously not based on biomedical science but instead is an expression of his religious creed."

There! Voila! Bush Jr. deciding the future of millions, based on personal expression of his particular religious creed. He is happy to ignore congress, and the majority of Americans, who support wider stem cell research. It would not be so bad, if he didn't then try to impose his own narrow, right-wing, religious creed on the rest of us (through motions at the UN).

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US House backs stem cell research

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US House backs stem cell research: "US House backs stem cell research
Embryo Opponents refuse to condone the destruction of any embryo
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill backing embryonic stem cell research, marking a major challenge to President George W Bush"

The stem cell bill was among the top priorities for the Democrats, who took control of Congress last week, but Mr Bush has vowed to veto it.

Advocates of stem cell research say it could lead to cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Mr Bush says the research would destroy human life in the name of science.

The bill was passed by 253 to 174, but fell short of a two-thirds majority needed to overcome the veto.

"Today, by passing legislation to expand stem cell research, the House gave voice to the hopes of more than 100 million Americans and their families," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"With today's strong bipartisan vote, we now challenge President Bush to join members from both sides of the aisle in supporting the hope of stem cell research."

Presidential veto

Mr Bush used his presidential veto to overturn a similar judgement by the Republican-controlled Congress last year.

It was the first time in his presidency that Mr Bush refused to sign into law a bill approved by Congress.

Polls suggest most Americans back the research.

Opponents of the bill say their taxes should not fund research which involves the destruction of embryos.

Its supporters maintain that the embryos used for research, that come from multiple embryos generated by couples trying to produce a pregnancy using in vitro fertilisation, would otherwise be discarded.

Stem Cell Research

I am firmly of the opinion that Stem Cell research will eventually produce cures for many diseases and impairments. But I also believe that we are still a long way off and there needs tobe much more work done, all around the and before we will see the results. It is not going to come quickly, or cheaply.
BUT we have (as a civilized society) to support the scientists and technicians working in these areas. One thing that we all need to do is to empower ourselves by reading up on the science involved, and then trying to get our mind around the ethics. I get quite angry with politicians (such as Bush Jr.) and their various 'ethics' advisors (such as the idiot Charles Krauthammer) who appear to assume that these leading scientists, some of whom will represent the most brilliant minds on our planet, will have NO morals or ethics themselves. Therefore, Bush and his cronies, try to impose their own restricted, rightwing, religious view on the world. And, yes, I do mean the world. The various underhand methods to put forward blanket bans and restrictions through UN resolutions is deplorable. I urge everyone to do some research on this important topic to enable each of us to reach an informed decision. I have been shocked at the lead of ignorance displayed by some of the most vocal objectors to Stem Cell Research. Read what Bush, Krauthammer, and cronies have to say about it too - but their make your own mind up.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Words from the Big Yin

A few words of wisdom from one of my heroes - Billy Connolly (who I was once in a film with - Absolution...but I am sure he will deny it...me, him, Richard Burton...and a few hundred other schoolboys!). Anyway, this is good advice from his website (http://www.billyconnolly.com/main.html):
You pass this way but once. There's no such thing as normal. There's you and there's the rest. There's now and there's forever. Do as you damn well please or you could end up being a pot-bellied, hairless boring fart!

BBC - Ouch! Disability Magazine - News, Opinion, Features, Humour

BBC - Ouch! Disability Magazine - News, Opinion, Features, Humour: "Ouch Podcast #11

It's January, so it must be time for the first podcast of 2007. This month: guests Ade Adepitan and David Proud talk about their upcoming TV show, new quiz Disability Wars, Mat and Liz discuss the Ashley X debate, Miss Ability talks to us from Holland, and Rob Crossan is in the studio with a roundup of quirky disability news."

This is a great site, and a fantastically funny podcast goes with it!

Political Correctness

I guess, as I am intending to write about a range of disabilities, that I ought to explain my view on nomenclature and political correctness.
My views on this (and many other subjects!) happen to coincide with the comic genius, Billy Connelly. He ways that political correctness should be stamped out at any possibility. I totally agree, as I honestly feel that terminology, and people's uncertainty surrounding the issues causes so many problems. Should it be person with a disability (as in South Africa), as proponents of this term say that it puts the person first? Or should it be (as in Europe) a disabled person? This follows on from the social model of disability, where I am disabled by the environment that I am in. I would lean to the latter (which does not always make me popular in some circles!). But at the end of the day, does it really matter? We are all people reacting individually, but normally, to abnormal situations. Get a group of wheelchair users (riders?) together, and before very long we start to refer to ourselves as "crips"!! People need to stop being so sensitive and precious. So you will notice me using all sorts of un "PC" terms, and I make no apology for that. If you are offended, then you should not be as no offence is meant. I suggest that people should listen to the excellent BBC Ouch Podcasts, to experience some good un PC action.
Jeremy, my business partner is visually impaired, so I refer to him as Bacon - Bacon Rind = Blind. I am a paraplegic, so I am Raspberry - Raspberry Ripple = Cripple. I will throw some more terms up soon...

Is it Access you want, or Wheelchair Access?

Just back home after working on site (in my role as an access consultant).
It is always good to do site visits with clients, and even the architect joined us today. The architect was quite young and intelligent, and didn't fall into the usual mindset of thinking that, as an architect, he knew all about access and the issues involved.
However, both client and architect were falling into the usual trap of only considering wheelchair access (whilst not even thinking about emergency egress). I realise that I must use the statistic with caution, but it can be useful to point out to people, like this, that only 4% of People with Disabilities (PWD) actually own a wheelchair, and of that % only half of us need to are a wheelchair all the time. Sure, wheelchair access is often the most difficult and expensive to "fix" but all too often people forget to design to include other impairments.
I was once accused of "favouring" sight impairments by a certain (really awkward) person, who thought they knew a lot about Disability in general, & access in particular, but in reality knew very, very little - the old saying of a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing was true here, and unfortunately is often the case in the Disability sector. I was really quite annoyed, and frustrated, by that accusation (although it did cause me to step back lo look at my work to see if that were valid). To me, it showed a misunderstanding of the Access Audit process. Many people view it as a very simple exercise. Indeed, I have had self proclaimed (although untrained) "Access Auditors", who happen to be wheelchair riders, claiming that "if I can get into a building and get to all the facilities, then it must be accessible"! Complete Nonsense, but unfortunately quite common. Access Auditing is about finding and addressing facets of the building, which, due to than design, do not allow equitable use to all people. We do not focus on any one impairment; rather we are looking to 'cure' the building of problems.
Anyway good visit today, but damn hot; the can registered 42°C on the way home!

dissol's moblog

dissol's moblog: "Tower Bridge from blocks
Tower Bridge from blocks"

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Hot here today!

Perhaps my British upbringing to comment on the weather? But I have just been outside lo check the temperature and it is reading 42°C in the shade, here in Paarl, South Africa - phew!

Software / Hardware Systems I use

  • I use a Tablet PC for 75% of my work.
  • I really like using MS OneNote (2003), I just wish that all this software was not so damn expensive! But I like many of the new functions offered on 2007
  • TEO 3.0 for Outlook
  • Fire Fox, (and Opera on the Desktop).
  • Brass, Mime, Outlooker
  • then the usual MS office programs
  • iPod, iTunes , iPod Agent, Anapod Explorer together with Giffin iTrip to enable me to listen through HiFi & in car
  • Does anyone know of a good speed camera detector system, which works in South Africa?

Amazing Brass

I an a committed Tablet PC user (and completely mystified that this technology has not had more widespread use!). I stumbled across Amazing Brass - http://www.amazingbrass.co.uk/ Which is a really clever bit of kit for Tablet PC's, but I think that it also lends itself for some interesting uses for disabled people. 2 particular elements are particularly interesting for me: Mime (mouse gestures) and Outlooker (MS Outlook add-on).
I can See that mouse gestures could be useful for people with limited dexterity. And Outlooker could be adapted to provide a customizable, high visibility front end for Outlook, for people with visual impairments.

First postings

First post in this blog. I guess the about me gives you some information, and I shall be adding to that.

  • A bit more detail then:
  • Born Scotland
  • Educated in England
  • Now living and working in South Africa
  • Happily married to the most wonderful woman in the world, and we have 2 sons; my pride, and my joy...
  • I am co-founder and managing director of Disability Solutions; a South African company committed to the natural and unhesitant inclusion of Disability into mainstream society.
  • I am also studying, through the University of Salford for my MSc in Accessibility and Inclusive Design
I want to use this blog to increase awareness in Disability, and to perhaps highlight some interesting technical developments that may assist people with disabilities. While I don't view myself as a geek, I do like to try to keep abreast of new technical, developments.

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