Sunday, 24 August 2008

Stem Cell Ethical Concerns

This particular post should be read after (at least!!) reading the previous 3 posts - Stems Cells 101, & the Potential Impact of Stem Cell Research Part1 & Part2.


I shall try to outline some of the concerns surrounding this issue. Again, this is done in a rather over-simplified manner.


Of course, I think almost everyone involved or interested in the whole debate, is hoping that the recent research where adult stem cells, or even cells harvested from the umbilical cord will prove to be a successful route in the future. This technique should remove many (but not quite all) of the concerns that people have on the issue. I promise you that no scientist is choosing to research this area because of the ethical issues, or merely to make use of spare blatocysts that there may be in his lab. Every researcher I have met in this field is fully aware of the sensitive nature of the research. Certainly none of them are the evil mad scientists, that some sections of the popular media try to portray them as! (Well OK, I cannot comment on some of the North Korean labs…)


The main concerns are:

  • Human embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of a blatocyst, which some people regard as a human life.
  • Some people have an issue with creating a blatocyst with the sole intention of destroying it.
  • A concern is that this research could lead to the exploitation of women, as more and more donor oocytes may be needed.
  • Some people object to the mixing of human and non-human genetic material in the research.
  • Some sections of society even have objections to any advances in not only stem cell research, but genetics, molecular biology, and many other similar medical interventions are manipulations which undermine human dignity.
  • There are other concerns, certainly but I hope this touches on the main ones.

Any research on human embryos is going to raise profound questions about the status of the human embryo, the extent to which it is justifiable to use human embryos to expand knowledge and ameliorate human suffering, and the conditions under which these goals may be pursued. Many people hold the view that a human embryo (of any stage) is morally equivalent to a human life. Some claim that any manipulation of a human embryo undermines human dignity. These are philosophical views which should not just be ignored. However, these philosophical views do not always manifest themselves culturally in our societies. A natural miscarriage (which, I have had the misfortune to witness) is a harrowing experience, but we do not conduct a funeral afterwards. Similarly, for most couples, the excess blatocysts from IVF treatments can be disposed of without any need for ceremony or specific interventions that we may feel appropriate for, say, the death of a child. Many religions do not recognise the human embryo as human life until a specific stage (around 40 days after conception).


I do feel that any discussion on the ethics of stem cell research should respect these deeply held views. But I do not feel that these, alone, should bring all research in these matters to a complete halt, as the potential benefits to so many people are so huge. But I do feel that these views should assist us in developing workable ethical codes, which take into account the special status of the human embryo, and try to protect that status in a serious manner.


An excellent overview can be read at

http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11278&page=47

Potential Impact of Stem Cell Research (Part 2)

Right, so we have covered what stem cells basically are (Stem Cells 101), and I touched on their potential impact in the next post Potential Impact of Stem Cell Research Part 1. Now let's look at the more controversial issues of cloning. I think this is the area which is most misunderstood, and seems to cause most problems for many people.

There are two distinct subjects to cover:
a. Therapeutic Cloning.
b. Reproductive Cloning.

Therapeutic Cloning
This is where cloned tissue is used to "grow" replacement organs for people who have sustained damage to their organs (through disease, or injury, for example). It so happens that this month (August) is organ donors month. I would encourage everyone to consider signing up for organ donation. Discuss it with your family, as obviously your decision will effect them. But organ transplants are becoming more commonplace (as we know, the first heart transplant was performed in SA). Transplants are held back for 2 main reasons; the availability of organs, and also the fact that the human body tries to reject foreign tissue. To get around the second problem, the recipient has to be pumped full of very strong anti-rejection drugs (which also leaves the person with vastly weakened immune systems). This can often lead to complications, other infections and death. Our knowledge is increasing in this though. The concept of therapeutic cloning is to use (ideally stem cells derived from that person, from potentially umbilical cord cells, or from adult stem cells) tissue that has been grown from stem cells that have had the recipients own DNA introduced into them (by the use of Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer - SCNT). This would negate the rejection problem. Recently, in Imperial College London, a heart valve was produced and transplanted into a patient. Because stem cells have the ability to grow into any cell, then it is hoped that almost any tissue or organ could be produced in this manner. The potential of this is huge, and could dramatically improve the survivability of people who are severely injured in car accidents, properly functioning pancreases may be grown for people with diabetes, brain tissue producing the right amount of dopamine for people with Parkinson's Disease, new kidneys for people in renal failure, eye tissue & retinas for people with different conditions causing blindness such as RP, the list is very long… Of course we have a long way to go, and it may well be that we have some more huge hurdles to overcome. The mass media has overplayed the timings (and ease) of this science. It is hugely complex, and the likely benefits are still some time away.

Reproductive Cloning
Reproductive cloning is where a completely genetically identical embryo is produced. Think Dolly the sheep (whose stuffed body can be viewed in the Museum of Scotland), or Booger the pitbull. Again, I feel that the mass media are at fault in badly reporting the issues around reproductive cloning, with visions of armies of identical Aryan peoples. The media has also falsely reported that human cloning has already happened in some countries, but a more detailed look at the evidence would suggest that this is very unlikely. Reproductive cloning is also fraught with complex problems (aside from the ethical considerations). There is also a complete misunderstanding about what a clone is. A clone is a genetically identical twin. But this would not mean that the clone would think exactly alike to the donor. But, as we know in the nature / nurture observations, genes are only part of the make up of any characteristics. Identical twins, that have been separated at birth, while still displaying obvious visual similarities, can often grow up to have completely different characters, molded by the environments in which they grew up in. Dolly would not have had the same thought processes as her donor animal. Very few people see any benefit of producing human (or indeed any animal) clones, as there is no increase in the genetic profile. There is the theoretical possibility of producing a reproductive clone with the sole purpose of harvesting donor organs, but there are obvious moral & ethical issues to this. But nevertheless, it is important that any discussion on ethics and morals around this subject must also consider this possibility.

Potential Impact of Stem Cell Research (Part 1)

Stem Cells 101 gave a very brief, simple look at stem cells. Now we will look at the possible areas in which they may be used. I really want to unpack this before touching on the ethical issues. In this post I am concentrating on impairments and diseases. Part 2 will look at the potentially more contentious issue of cloning.

It is important to realise that while there are applications were adult stems cells are being used in medical procedures to good effect (in particular bone marrow transplants to treat Leukemia, and one of my friends is alive today because of that particular procedure!), presently there are no medical procedures being used based on Embryonic stem cells. So is all this noise a waste of time? Well, no. Research is still in the early stages. Indeed the first time that human stem cells were first derived was only in 1998. In the 10 years since then a lot has been found out, but this has also been hampered by restrictions, many political in nature. Certainly no one is doubting that this is a complex part of medical science. The mass media has not helped, by some of the very poor reporting, and exaggerated claims that they have fed the general public. Even if this research will produce cures & applications (which I am confident they eventually will), these are not "just around the corner", as has been reported in many instances in the previous decade. The reality is that I shall keep my wheelchair for the time being, and my father is probably too old for him to receive any cure for his Parkinson's Disease in time.

But the potential of stem cell research is enormous. Not only for the number of diverse conditions that may finally have a cure (or even a prevention), but also because of the nature of many of those diseases. Medicine has made some amazing advantages over the last century, and probably each of either would be, or have a close family member who would have died, if it were not for some medical intervention or other. Certainly 75% of my immediate family would be dead, including me. But there are still many really serious conditions and impairments that we just have no answers for yet. Many of these have a profound effect on peoples' lives. The possible diseases and impairments that stem cell research has the potential to effect includes (this list is not meant to be exhaustive!):

  • Neurological
    • Parkinson's Disease (think Michael J Fox, Muhammad Ali)
    • Spinal cord injuries (Think Superman…and...dissol!!?)
    • Retinal disorders (Stevie Wonder)
    • Multiple Sclerosis (up to 150 out of every 100,000 of the population)
    • Alzheimer's Disease (26.6million people worldwide think Ronald Reagan, Terry Pratchett), although it has to be said that some recent research in this particular field is painting a less promising picture than we had thought...
    • Motor Neurone Disease (Prof Stephen Hawking, David Niven)
    • Muscular Dystrophy
    • Huntington's Disease
    • Spinal Muscular Atrophy
  • Others (Blood & Pancreas mostly)
    • Leukemia (2% of all cancers)
    • Sickle-cell Anemia (especially important to us in sub-Saharan Africa)
    • Immunodeficiency (including HIV & AIDS)
    • Lymphomas (5% of all cancers)
    • Lupus (Michael Jackson, Elaine Paige Seal)
    • Arthritis (Nelson Mandela)
    • Bone Marrow Failure
    • Diabetes (171million people or 2.8% of the global population, and rising, rapidly)

Of course, I am not claiming for a moment, that stem cell research will find absolute cures for the above, or any of the above. That is a common mistake made by the mass media. It may be, that some of the hurdles that researchers are finding out about, that they are insurmountable. But the research is looking very exciting in many of these different areas. I doubt we shall see any cures in widespread use soon. The best estimates seem to be looking 3 - 10 years ahead. That is also sometimes used as a argument against stem cell research; they ask "where are the cures?" This is not unreasonable, but the reality is that we do have some (small) cures and advances already, but also that this whole area of research is very complex, and by the nature of the research much of it is slow moving. Remember human stem cells were only first isolated in 1998…a mere 10 years.

Next post will be looking at the more contentious (and I would suggest less well understood) issues of cloning, both therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Only then, once we can agree some baselines, should we begin to think about some of the ethical issues around this research.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

A nice quote to get you thinking

I happened across this wonderful quote by Susan Wendell, from her book "The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability". I think it is worth sharing:

Not only do physically disabled people have experiences which are not available to the able-bodied, they are in a better position to transcend cultural mythologies about the body, because they cannot do things the able-bodied feel they must do in order to be happy, ‘normal,’ and sane….If disabled people were truly heard, an explosion of knowledge of the human body and psyche would take place.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Stem Cells 101

This post is an attempt to explain what stem cells are, and the differences between the different types. I am not going to touch on the ethics of stem cell research in this post, but leave that for a later discussion. I do think it is important that people understand what a stem cell is before they are able to make a judgment call on the ethics surrounding the subject. That may sound obvious; but experience has shown me that again, and again, people (including very powerful people) will make a really serious decision, without fully understanding the issue behind stem cells.


I am also going to try to keep this short and therefore I may be accused of over-simplifying. I apologise in advance for that, and should be able to give more information if anyone requires it. I am not going to talk about the research at this stage either. It is just looking at the stem cell themselves, what they do, and where they come from.


Almost all living organisms have stem cells. The name comes from the fact (like a plant) these are the stem, that have the capability to produce different types of cells & therefore tissue. They are of course the cells which allow animals to grow (both in the womb, and later in life). They are also the cells which allow our bodies to repair damage. So if you want to see them at work, then you can cut yourself. Eventually the cut will heal over, and new tissue will be grown to heal the cut. Clever things…we would be in trouble without them.


Now there are different types of stems cells, and they are identified by the number of different types of tissue that they are able to produce.

  • Totipotent - can produce any cell within the body
  • Pluripotent - can produce almost any cell of the 3 germ layers.
  • Multipotent - can produce any cell of a particular family of cells
  • Unipotent - is only able to produce one type of cell

The potentially most useful cells are the ones that can produce the most type of cells - the first 2 (actually the focus is mostly on pluripotent) groups. And indeed it is these cells (and how they are harvested) that cause almost all the controversy.


In humans, pluripotent stem cells are taken from blastocysts, which are 3-5 day old embryos. The embryos are provided by fertility clinics. When females are receiving certain fertility treatments then they are given drugs to cause them to super-ovulate (or to produce many eggs). These are removed from the uterus and fertilised with the sperm. In other words, these embryos have never been inside a human body and would never go on to produce a foetus. If they were not to be used for stem cell research then they would be discarded, thrown out with any other organic waste.


A really exciting recent development from 2 separate pieces of research from last year, is the possibility to use adult multipotent skin stem cells, and alter them so that they could become pluripotent. Should this technique be fully successful, then it may remove almost all of the objections that people may have against stem cell research.


In the next post I would like to discuss the different research areas, and the lists of diseases / impairments / medical advantages that may be possible through this research. I think only when there is a full understanding of the facts, and issues that we can then go on to discuss the ethics.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Accessibility

Is your house accessible? Probably not. A recent survey in the UK found that 98% of all new, privately built dwellings are inaccessible (to wheelchair users). My anecdotal (therefore untrustworthy) experience, would suggest that that figure would be similar here in SA. What about your place of work? Or you local restaurant / café? What about your place of worship? Cinema? Doctor's surgery? Post Office?


So let's assume that your house is inaccessible. So what? No one in your house is disabled, and you certainly would not entertain the idea of inviting me around!!! Why go to the expense of making it accessible when it will never have a use?


Great question. Well, here comes the answer. A recent piece of research in the US (yes, I know all these are overseas figures, and things are different here…but please bear with me), has some fascinating findings. They predict that by 2050 (due to aging populations etc.) that 21% of all households will have at least one resident with a “long-lasting, severe mobility impairment” . Therefore (as people move houses) there is a 60% chance that any house will have to accommodate a long term disabled occupant, during the lifetime of the dwelling. However the figures are even more compelling when both short term impairments (such as injuries) & visitors are taken into account - they estimate that the figure rises to 93%.


The interesting point is that the trend towards accessible housing (so called lifetime housing) is being driven by the insurance industry in terms of cost saving. It is much more cost effective to design a house from the outset, to be accessible, rather than have to bolt on later. The sort of figures that are generally accepted is that to design any facility to be fully accessible from the outset adds 0.2% to the capital costs. Later adaptations can be as high as 10%.


It is not expected that every part of every house would be fully accessible (although that would be nice!), rather there are 3 main issues:

  1. At least one level entrance into the dwelling (can be front, back or side).
  2. All doors on the main floor, all doorways wide enough (>800mm) for easy access.
  3. At least an accessible half (but preferably full) bathroom accessible on the main floor.

The bottom line, is that it makes financial sense to design, and build our houses (and all other built environments, by extension) to be fully accessible to all. Any of us may benefit from this accessibility one day…indeed, one could suggest that we all hope that we live long enough that we will benefit.


The research paper can be read here.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

21/06/2008 Shopping Trolleys blocking Accessible Bay at Paarl Mall

This REALLY annoys me. 3 people at Paarl Mall were just too bloody lazy, and decided to leave their trolleys blocking one of the accessible bays. Amazing the lack of thought that some humans display!!!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Sad reflection on the status of people with disabilities in China

Recently I read an article in the Times which pulled apart a document produced by the Chinese to "advise" people who to treat people with disabilities in preparation for the upcoming Paralympics. It really made some sad reading, especially given that there are approx 83 million people with disabilities living in China (which is equal to the entire population of Germany).

"The guide for Chinese volunteers at the Games this summer explains that disabled people are a “special group” with “unique personalities and ways of thinking”.

The section of the manual entitled “Skills for helping the disabled” goes on to say: “Some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective. They can be stubborn and controlling . . . defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority."

So then I began to think about how people with disabilities are treated here, in South Africa. I am afraid to say that in many cases we are just as bad, and in some areas we are worse. Recently, I was asked to give a talk to a group of business people in Jo'burg on the integration of Disability. What shocked me was what the speaker before me was saying. He runs some rehabilitation centres for people with disabilities and he was speaking from his experience of running them. His main thrust was that newly disabled people have usually "lost their connection with god" and the first step to rehabilitation HAS to be making that connection. Because I was being paid to speak, it would have been inappropriate for me to shout him down (although I did correct that when it came to my own turn!!!). I really feel so sorry for all the people in his "care". Now, I will admit that I have met many newly disabled people, whose faith has helped them come to terms with their disability. I would not deny that, and I have seen that it does work for some people. However, I have also seen the complete reverse, where a person's faith or religion has really had a huge negative effect on a person's recovery. Some people (including the sad, deluded, Oprah -inspired, "the secret-loving", mindless eejuts) actually believe that a disability is a punishment from a god for some sin committed. I have been informed that I am in a wheelchair for that reason on more than one occasion. How would a person begin to come to terms with that? It is awful, and the proponents of this sick way of thinking should be ashamed with the hurt and negative impact that they may cause. Fortunately, for me, I do not believe that there is any god or supernatural being, but I can only imagine the really deep psychological issues that a believer may feel if they think that way or are told that.

In some sections of society in South Africa, a person with a disability is viewed as an embarrassment, as they really think that it is some form of punishment on either the individual or even the family. For this reason the person is often hidden away from society. I have found people who have not been out of their shack (or even their family's up market house...it is not just certain sections of society) for years. They carry a massive amount of guilt for what they think they are putting their family through.

Of course, there is sometime guilt involved with newly disabled people, depending on individual circumstances. I felt very guilty as my disability was initiated through sport (something I did not have to do), and also that I did not appear to have the same earning potential as before (this coupled with having to spend a lot of my savings, which had been put aside for children's education and the like. I also felt like less of a man. I would suggest that they are all pretty normal issues that many people have to come to terms with. But add a sick religious (or perhaps supernatural belief in the case of 'the secret" believers) dimension on top of that, and that must make that guilt feel almost unbearable for some people.

86% of people with disabilities gain their disability through their lives (only 14% were born with the disability). 10 - 20% of any population are disabled. People with disabilities are just people who live with different impairments. We are not (necessarily!) sinners, or saints! Get rid of the labels!! We are all in this together. Some people with disabilities may require your assistance at times - but either wait to be asked, or please ask before providing it. If you go to shake someone's hand and you are given a stump to shake, then bloody well shake that. If the person has problems speaking, then please don't try to finish the words or sentences for them. Don't pet their guide dogs when the dogs are in harness. Don't stare. If a child asks you why that person is in a wheelchair / blind / walks funny / looks funny / whatever, then give the child a sensible answer (dependent on their age) after all there are the disabled and those people who are temporarily able, and tomorrow it may be you or the child who is the one being asked about. If you happen to believe that your version of your god is the sort that disables people as a punishment, then please keep that to yourself, and I hope that you would find a way to live with that belief if you ever become disabled yourself...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

E Molewa on priority provincial disability programme

Some more political promises - we need to monitor to see if they are actually delivered.

E Molewa on priority provincial disability programme: "'The programme includes, amongst others, commitments on economic empowerment of people with disabilities, improving the internal capacity to manage the disability programme, increasing accessibility of services to persons with disabilities and broadening their participation in decision-making processes,' Premier Edna Molewa said today at the Provincial Legislature.

Tabling the Budget Vote for the Office of the Premier, Ms Molewa said she was honoured to report to the Provincial Legislature that her office has ensured that the disability sector is represented in all working groups of the Provincial Growth and Development Strategy (PGDS) as promised last year.

This financial year, she said, the Office of the Premier will launch the Provincial Disability Machinery that will ensure the mainstreaming of disability issues across all sectors including government, business, labour, academic Institutions, religious bodies and all civil society organisations.

'The office on the status of people with disabilities will also convene a Provincial Disability Summit to develop a medium-term provincial plan on disability. This will be succeeded by the finalisation of establishment of municipal disability forums in all municipalities,' said Ms Molewa.

Again, they will also develop a database of people with disabilities this year."

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Colony Collapse Disorder : Blogging Against Disablism Day � Andrea’s Buzzing About:

This is a great post from another blog, Andrea's Buzzing About, which gets you thinking...

Colony Collapse Disorder : Blogging Against Disablism Day � Andrea’s Buzzing About:: "The honeybees are in danger.

I don’t care; I hate bugs!

Too few people with disabilities complete their education or are fully employed.

That’s not my problem; I don’t know any of Those People.

Curiously, these two things are more related than you might imagine, at least on the social level."

Saturday, 10 May 2008

N Pandor to meet S Hawking in Muizenberg, 11 May

At least we can listen on the radio. But from all accounts Muizenberg Pavilion is a real dive. Surely a more suitable venue could have been provided for a man of Professor Hawking's stature?

N Pandor to meet S Hawking in Muizenberg, 11 May: "On Sunday, 11 May the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor will welcome Stephen Hawking, who is to give his first ever public lecture in Africa.

Hawking's books have inspired movies and made the general population aware of the complex yet fascinating area of theoretical physics.

Titled 'Universe', Hawking's lecture will take place at 18h00 in the Muizenberg Pavilion. The event is already sold out, but it will be broadcast live on Radio 2000.

Hawking will be a guest of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Muizenberg, Cape Town.

Other scientists and engineers, including two Nobel Prize Laureates in Physics, David Gross, and George Smoot and the Head of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Michael Griffin, will also be speaking and participating."

Monday, 21 April 2008

Case study: Brighton & Hove City Council - Talking Bus Stops for the blind and visually impaired (linked to Real Time Bus Information signs) :: Public

This is a very interesting piece of news. A city in the UK has won a technology award for the provision of talking bus stops. I would suggest that people read the full article. They do say that this can be replicated in other areas, and I hope that will happen.

Case study: Brighton & Hove City Council - Talking Bus Stops for the blind and visually impaired (linked to Real Time Bus Information signs) :: PublicTechnology.net :: e-Government & public sector IT news job vacancies:: "A multi-disciplinary working group was been formed, including councillors, officers, system designers, users, local politicians and consultants. A partnership was formed with the Royal National Institute for Blind (RNIB) to evolve a RNIB React system from providing orientation messages to include Real Time Information. The interface to provide a text to speech link with the Siemens VDO Passenger Information Displays was created by working with SFX Technologies, whilst Atkins Consultants helped with project management. The resulting system can be replicated in other areas and interest has already been shown from London local authorities."

Monday, 14 April 2008

E Pahad on rights of people with disabilities during Imbizo Week

We have heard these sort of promises from different politicians before. But I would encourage public promises like this as it does raise awareness. So full marks to the Minister for this promise. My follow up question would be how? We do need to get more people with disabilities into employment, but in order to do that there is much ground work that needs to be done. It is not as simple as just going out to employ these people. Often many PWD have had no work and limited educational experience. There are often barriers for them to access the work place, both physical, and also attitudinal (other peoples' perceptions). What we don't want to witness is the usual stereotyping and merely employing blind telephonists which we see so often...

E Pahad on rights of people with disabilities during Imbizo Week: "Minister in the Office of the Presidency Essop Pahad has reiterated government's commitment to improving the living conditions of the disabled.

Speaking in Jane Furse, Limpopo during an Imbizo held as part of the government's Imbizo Week programme, he said government was doing all possible to meet its 2010 deadline of employing a minimum of two percent public servants with disabilities. Minister Pahad was responding to a question raised during the Imbizo about unfair treatment and less opportunities for the disabled in the workforce.

'It is the policy of this government that by 2010 we have within the public service at least two percent of our total staff being those with disabilities. This is a commitment we are working hard to achieve,' he said."

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Disabled Access


Disabled Access
Originally uploaded by Edward Horsford
Err...really??

Harsh


Harsh
Originally uploaded by Dan Barham
I think that I would be very upset if I were to be clamped!!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Inaccessible pavement in Cape Town

Kloof Street Cape Town. The Electrical box made passing bad enough in a wheelchair, but now they have ripped up the pavement, one has to take on the traffic on Kloof street...which is a scary activity...

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Parking Bay Abuse...in another way


23022008232
Originally uploaded by dissol2
Outside of Sportsmen's Warehouse in Tygervalley. They had carefully positioned the trampoline in one of the accessible parking bays, but it also blocked the use of the second one. We did point this out to the management, and it was slightly moved, although the problem remained.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

VOA News - China Prepares to Host Paralymics

It will be interesting to see how accessible the Olympics and Paralympics will be this year.

VOA News - China Prepares to Host Paralymics: "China is preparing to hold its first Olympic Games this year, and along with it, the Paralympics Games for disabled athletes. Chinese officials acknowledge that they are far behind in providing equal access for the country's disabled citizens, and they hope the games will help improve the situation. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing."


The article goes on to say:

Beijing says, for the first time in Paralympics history, the city will pay all travel expenses for disabled athletes and team officials.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Exhibition of "Aesthetic and Disability" in Cape Town

There is an exhibition taking place in Cape Town (Civic Centre) called "Aesthetic and Disability" from 2nd to 29th February.

In a bid to change the way society looks at disabled people and to celebrate their beauty, the City of Cape Town is to launch a photo exhibition featuring French models with various forms of disability.
Now, while I applaud any effort to raise awareness around Disability, there is a potential aspect of this exhibition which I fear could become similar to the old, horrible, circus activity of inviting people to come and look at "the Freak Show" (bearded ladies, small people, etc.). But possibly I am guilty of pre-judging this, and it would seem that the photographers themselves are disabled, and so that may indicate that this issue will be addressed. I don't know, but I will be going to have a look myself.

The bit that did get my blood pressure to rise though, was a comment made by one of the photographers; I can only assume that he believed what the politicians were telling him... Deza Nguembock said, "I am thrilled that the world premiere is taking place in Africa, where people with disabilities are not set apart, but form an integral part of society." WHAT???! Maybe we have had different experiences, or maybe he needs to appease the politicians who are providing the sponsorship of this exhibition. But I would defy any person with a disability to not feel set apart, or to be able to form an integral part of society in Cape Town. The reality is the complete reverse to Mr Nguembock's statement.

If you are in Cape Town during this period, then please pay this exhibition a visit, and send me your view. I shall be going, and will put my feelings down here afterwards.

I suppose art is meant to stimulate, and it does not have to be comfortable...


Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Double amputee walks again due to Bluetooth - CNN.com

This is very exciting! It just shows how new technology is breaking new ground every day.

Double amputee walks again due to Bluetooth - CNN.com: "WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bleill lost both his legs above the knees when a bomb exploded under his Humvee while on patrol in Iraq on October 15, 2006. He has 32 pins in his hip and a 6-inch screw holding his pelvis together.

Joshua Bleill, pictured here with his girlfriend, is walking again with the aid of prosthetics outfitted with Bluetooth.

Now, he's starting to walk again with the help of prosthetic legs outfitted with Bluetooth technology more commonly associated with hands-free cell phones."

More parking abuse


More parking abuse
Originally uploaded by dissol2
the vehicle was still there when I came out 4 hours later. The bay is not actually big enough, but I had to park on another level, and as I could not park at the end of a row, just hope that anyone parking next to me would allow enough space to get my wheelchair in.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Rolling Rains Report:: Steak & Shake: Where ADA Compliance has Been Taken Off the Menu!

This should make all businesses and restaurants think...

Rolling Rains Report:: Steak & Shake: Where ADA Compliance has Been Taken Off the Menu!: "Americans with disabilities spend more than $13.6 billion annually on travel. The Open Doors Organization calculated that in 2003, persons with disabilities or reduced mobility spent 35 billion dollars in restaurants. According to the same study, more than 75% of these people eat out at restaurants at least once a week."

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Arms Control

OK, off the usual subjects for a post, but I do feel that this is actually linked to Disability; as I know of several people who are now disabled due to to crimes where weapons were used, and they were shot.  Prevention is always better than cure.  We need to have stricter arms controls all over the world, but especially here in South Africa...

Therefore I have joined, and would encourage any readers of this blog to join, the Amnesty International Control Arms project.

Some startling figures for you:

  • There are 640,000,000 guns in circulation in the world.
  • 8,000,000 are being produced each year.
  • Every minute someone dies from armed violence...in the same minute the world produces another 15 weapons.
  • 153 Governments voted in December 2006 to start to work towards an international Arms Trade Treaty.
  • 24 Counties abstained.
  • 1 Country voted against the treaty - the USA...
  • 85% of all killings recorded by Amnesty International involve the use of small arms and light weapons.
  • 60% of the world's firearms are in the hands of private individuals.
  • 2 Bullest are produced for every man, woman & child on the planet each year.
If you are also appalled by the figures above, then please join the campaign.  Go to www.controlarms.org and sign up

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Rolling Rains Report:: Press Release: Mexico, El Salvador and Nicaragua Ratify the UN Disability Rights Convention

Come on South Africa...we need ratification...and MUCH work to catch up. You tried to portray South Africa as at the forefront of this important work...they are looking like empty words as each day passes...

Rolling Rains Report:: Press Release: Mexico, El Salvador and Nicaragua Ratify the UN Disability Rights Convention: "Mexico, El Salvador and Nicaragua Ratify the UN Disability Rights Convention
RI Calls on Governments to Recognize the Human Rights of All by Ratifying the CRPD"

Add to Technorati Favorites