Establishing Effective Terminology to Minimise Barriers

As previously mentioned, I am very active on social media, Twitter in particularly- as I find this a very useful tool to connect with other disabled people and occupational therapists not just across the UK but worldwide. Not only this, social media platforms such as Twitter are useful to educate people about disability, and how to approach a disabled person. In which I think is really useful and as a disabled individual in higher education, I find this really important as it’s amazing how many people have called me ‘inspiring’ just because I’m at university which to me is not inspiring because that’s what a lot of people my age do. However, I’m also aware that the people who call me inspiring are only saying this with a kind heart and therefore need educating in a nice way rather than been made to feel belittled…

Now that I’m older and have a better understanding of my disability, I am noticing more and more that some comments towards my disability come from a very uneducated view. One comment that sticks in my mind which I often got as a teenager was “You’re getting much better at walking now” which came from people who saw me in my wheelchair most of the time. Obviously, I wasn’t getting better at walking and will never get better at walking. I used to always thank people when they said this with part of me wishing I should have said “Oh no, my legs just aren’t as tight today.’’ Which looking back now I wish I did say, because how will people know unless they’re educated? But the other part of me was saying just be polite this comment has come from a kind place. Which leaves me with a question… How do we educate people on how to treat disabled people in the correct way?

It’s 2020 if you’re an individual that hasn’t come across a person with a disability then you’ve probably been living under a rock; the reality is some people haven’t and therefore don’t know how to treat disabled people. Yes, treat us like ordinary people that’s a given but I don’t agree with calling a person ableist if they think they’re saying the right thing… Let’s go with the classic example “I don’t see you as disabled”- when people say this to me I’d be lying if I said it didn’t annoy me a little because I am disabled and if you don’t see that you’re looking passed a big part of me. However, on the other hand, I know that when people say this it’s coming from a good place it may not be the right place but it’s still a good place. Yes, these people need to be educated about this, but I don’t think writing this on social media with the hashtag ableist is the right way forward either. I bet, if the majority of the people who make these comments knew that it didn’t go down the way that they intended it to they’d be mortified I know I would be if I made an uneducated backhanded compliment about someone else’s disability. That’s why I don’t think shaming them on social media is the best way to go around it, even if names aren’t mentioned. Say something about it and question them, by all means, but when it’s unintentional, shaming them and getting on your high horse isn’t going to gain their respect.

I know more than anyone what it’s like when you’re making small talk with the taxi driver and you can literally hear the eggshells they’re stepping on because they’re scared to bring up the disability or say something wrong. But, I’d rather they say something wrong so that I can educate them rather than them not speaking because otherwise how are people going to learn? People learn from mistakes and without addressing these comments people will never learn. However, why create a bigger gap by making them feel disrespected? They’re still valued members of society.

If I made a comment and someone had taken this the wrong way, I’d want to respectfully be told why. My comment may not have come from the right place, but I can grantee that it will have come with good intentions and therefore I wouldn’t want to be treated with disrespect. My role as a disabled activist is to educate people, but not only this it’s to minimise the divide between disabled and abled bodied people not to maximise it, but with the wrong attitude towards these comments it could easily turn that way.

Therefore, a big part of this is establishing the correct terminology and phrases, instead of it being “I don’t see you as disabled” it could be…. “I see you for you” which is an ordinary girl who is totally happy with living her disabled lifestyle.

Or…
“I see you as disabled and…” Margaret Spencer, @margaretOT360

“I just see you as a person just like anyone else.” Craig Evans @dyspraxicot

“I acknowledge your disability, but it doesn’t define who you are.” Francesca Hughes @Franariella

“Do you mind if I ask how your disability affects you?” Natalie Williams @Natalie_MLW

The cover photo on this blog has been picked as unfortunately on that night the correct terminology wasn’t used!

With establishing this correct terminology people can still be educated but in a less belittling way. When some says “I don’t see you as disabled” yes, I want to ask why but I don’t feel belittled because I know that wasn’t their intentions. So why do they deserve to feel belittled? They deserved to be educated respectfully and if I ever did feel belittled, I would tell them why in a respectful way and make them understand before coming to the judgement that their ableist.

A lot of attitudes around disability need to change: the attitudes of people who are just dam right ableist, the attitudes of those that feel sorry for the disabled but also the attitudes of people who think that someone’s sympathy is them being ableist. I’m not saying that these sympathy comments don’t get annoying because they do; that’s why it’s called being sympathetic and not being empathetic. During my next placement, in the up and coming weeks, I will be working on changing people’s attitudes towards disability from a service user, students and a healthcare professional’s perspective. But which one will I find is the most suitable? The answer is probably going to be all 3, but until I complete this placement and have reflected, I don’t know.

Change is good, and I’m aware that even in 2020 we still need to change people’s uneducated or naive attitudes regarding disability. But treat people how you want to be treated, right?

Thank you for reading,

Georgia
@georgiavine4213
@GeorgiaVineOT

OT Week 2019: Small Change Big Impact

Happy OT week 2019! This week many occupational therapists have been sharing their stories through the Royal College of Occupational Therapists and social media to spread awareness about a small change they’ve made and how much of a big impact this has had on a service user. I sit here writing this blog on day 2 of OT week and I am already loving reading the stories that keep cropping up on my social media. So, this got me thinking… even though I haven’t particularly made a big impact on a service user as I am only on my second placement my OT’s have certainly made a big impact on me as without them I wouldn’t be studying OT today and this blog probably wouldn’t exist. Therefore, I thought I’d share some of the small changes that have been made in my life that have had a big impact on me enabling me to carry out more activities of daily living independently.

Let’s start with my favourite Dycem! For me, Dycem is one of the greatest inventions and at times is an utter lifesaver, I mainly use Dycem to put under my dinner plate and drink to enable me to keep them in the correct position, it’s fair to say that without this I would be chasing them around the table! Over the years I have gotten better at not being so heavy-handed when eating and when I’m out and haven’t got a piece of Dycem on me I certainly find it a lot easier than I used to, but I can still tell. When I was younger and had less control over my fine motor skill’s I used Dycem for a lot such as writing and drawing in school, Dycem has had a big impact on me and has enabled my independence.

Plate guard! Like Dycem my plate guard (or ring as I call it) has been a useful weapon and has saved me many of times from having a few embarrassing moments at the dinner table. This acts as an aid to help me get hold of my food- I push my cutlery against my this to enable me to get the food. My plate guard is also useful whenever I’m having something like bake beans or a roast dinner covered in gravy as this stops the liquid from spilling over the edge of the plate. I feel like whenever I’m out and having a roast dinner I miss my plate guard as food fly’s everywhere- it’s not a pretty sight!

My bath board has certainly made a big impact! Being able to get in and out of the bath independently is wonderful because now when I have a bath, I can go in the bathroom completely alone and no one else needs to be around to help me get in and out. I feel like since having my bath board I have used the bath a lot more because now I don’t need to depend on anyone.

My shower seat has yet again just like my bath board has made a very big impact, before I could never just get in the shower whenever I wanted, because someone always had to be around but now I have my seat I can just shower when I please and take as long as I want (I love a shower on the temperature of the sun setting). Before I used to fall in the shower, I’ve always used a non-slip mat but still at times I would trip over the mat. I remember the first time I used my shower seat I was beaming with independence and didn’t put my non-slip mat down thinking that I wouldn’t need it anymore and then when I stood up to turn the shower off I fell over so now I always put the non-slip matt underneath! In terms of my independence, I think my shower seat has offered me the most out of everything and I’d certainly be lost without it.

As you can see all this equipment I use has certainly had a big impact on my life in terms of promoting my independence and activities daily living and I owe my OT’s a huge thank you for all the support that I have had throughout my life and not just in terms of equipment. So, this blog is dedicated to all the lovely OT’s I’ve had as without them I wouldn’t be here!

Happy OT week 2019!

Thank you for reading,

Georgia
@georgiavine4213
@GeorgiaVineOT

Diabetes Awareness Month 2019

It’s November, which is diabetes awareness month, which means that I finally get to introduce you to my mum. My mum has type 1 diabetes which has a massive impact on her life just like any disability, yet she still carries on and is a huge inspiration to us all. I know that that word is used too often and I don’t want to be that person who calls someone inspirational for just carrying out day to day activities but when you have your own needs and own appointments and also have to deal with a child with demanding needs you deserve some credit.

Mum has diabetes as part of having an auto-immune disease which means she gets very poorly very easily resulting in fatigue. Meaning that we have a lot in common, even though cerebral palsy and diabetes are very different, and fatigue will be caused in different ways we can still relate. This forms a big part of me my mums relationship because we all have bad days when our disability gets the better of us and I’m human- if it’s been a bad day fatigue wise I complain to any member of my household but being able to talk my mum is special because when I say I’m fatigue she gets it. Although I know that mum suffers a lot I am weirdly extremely thankful that I have someone so close that understands, just that little bit more than the rest! As small as it sounds it’s great because we usually go for our flu jabs together which to someone else may not seem a big deal but it’s nice to think that the morning after the flu jab when I’m moaning about my achy arm my mum understands my pain.

But it’s not just our similarities the make our relationship special it is out differences… Even though elements of our disabilities are similar we also understand that we can never fully know one an other’s needs. This is something that we often talk about, in which this helps our relationship as we can then have respect for one another.

I often worry about becoming diabetic myself as it’s on both sides of my family which means the chances of me developing it at some stage are higher. You’re probably thinking that if I was going to develop the condition, I would have already got it but mum was diagnosed at 42 so this means there’s still a chance. I worry about having diabetes because I often think that diabetes and cerebral palsy would be too much, I mean I would have to have the pump for sure… let’s not talk about me injecting. But even though I worry I look at my mum and just see how she handles it so amazingly well especially whilst juggling her other conditions. I guess I’ll always have some worries about how I would handle diabetes if I ever get it. But it doesn’t eat away at me because how can I let it when I’ve had the best teacher and role model?

When I wanted to walk at the CP Teens sponsored wobble!

Life must have been a juggling act when I was younger and was more dependent on her, and I guess in some ways it still is as I might not be as dependent on her but I’m still not totally independent. Yet, this teaches us more so to just make the most of life and enjoy it. It’s fair to say that my family probably faces more challenges than the ‘ordinary family’ but you know what that’s okay because without these challenges we wouldn’t have these significant bonds. My mum has been there through every appointment and still is, she text’s me most dinner times to check up on me, I always text back to check up on her too and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Happy diabetes awareness month 2019 mum, thank you for everything you do and continue to do for me despite facing your own health battles on a daily basis. I know you don’t do social media and don’t let many people share photos of you never mind dedicating a whole blog post but, you deserve this recognition because I wouldn’t be writing this blog today if it wasn’t for you! Oh, let’s add some cheese… I love you mum I know you’ll always support my needs, and I’ll always support yours.

Happy diabetes awareness month 2019 everyone, please raise awareness!

Georgia
@georgia4213
@GeorgiaVineOT