What I’ll be asking from the next government at the Disability Hustings Event

Picture of Emma, smiling in orange Sense t-shirtA hustings is a meeting where potential candidates for an election talk to voters. On Tuesday 30 May I will be at a Disability Hustings Event where disabled people pose questions to these candidates, raise issues, and tell them what they think should be prioritised if they are in post after the general election.

My name is Emma Blackmore. I am a 29 year old who was born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome. My lifelong ambition is to help others and that’s where Sense comes in. Not only have I been a member of Sense since I was 14 years old but I work at the Sense Woodside Family Centre in my home town, Bristol. I am also part of Sense’s Campaigners’ Network.

I am attending the hustings as I feel everyone needs to have a voice and some find it harder to make their voices heard. For disabled people this is our chance to speak. Our voices might be in the form of speech, sign, or through an interpreter. These voices are important and count!

I am excited to go to this event and meet everyone else. I hope on this day that together we can make a stand for our rights as people, put our views and questions to the candidates who hope to be future MPs, and leave with a positive outcome.

Questions I will ask include:

  • Is there going to be more support in our local communities? I for one have struggled in fighting for this support.
  • Is there going to be more awareness of employment support including Access to Work? I work four hours a week with Sense and have Access to Work. However a lot of my friends, many of whom are disabled, have never heard of Access to Work until I mentioned it.
  • How can accessibility of healthcare services be improved? As many disabled people do, I struggle when going to healthcare services.

I hope the next government will take everyone’s needs into consideration before making decisions. I hope they will take time to have conversations with people who are directly affected by the changes the government make.

Everyone has a voice and everyone needs to be heard.

Emma is a member of the Campaigners’ Network, which you can join to make your voice heard, and support Sense with campaigns.

The Monday Ramble and the benefits of bringing people together

Group of people at picnic tables wavingThe Monday Ramble activity session at Sense has been a regular feature in many deafblind people’s lives over the past six years. It was an opportunity created specifically to get deafblind people from across the Midlands region together to do regular, gentle exercise, and improve fitness levels.

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Celebrating access to the arts with a new sensory festival

Black and white photograph of manhole cover on pavement with blurred edges to show Marcus' point of view
A photograph exhibited by Marcus Inniss at Moorfields Eye Hospital

Access to the arts is so important, but can often be misunderstood as simply a ‘nice thing to do’ rather than as a fundamental right. Creativity gives us the tools to make sense of the world and articulate our thoughts and feelings, and we’re yet to find ways of making this available to all.

At Sense we’re interested in ways to empower people to find their cultural voice, and we’re doing this through working collaboratively and experimentally with artists and participants to interrogate access to art through the senses.

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Time for parties to commit to social care

Lady caring for an older manFollowing Theresa May’s surprise announcement that we would be having a snap general election, all the political parties have jostled for air time, trying to capture the public’s imagination with their key messages.

So far, Brexit has remained top of the agenda.

However, there are vital domestic issues facing the country as well, top of my list would be the crisis-stricken social care sector.

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Being part of a special event in someone else’s life is a privilege

Marie with her family
Marie with her family

I started visiting Marie as communicator guide in her nursing home in December 2013. I took this up as part of my care role at the Sense Tanglewood residential home, mainly to do something a little different. Marie’s previous communicator guides had to travel a long way to be with her and I lived quite close by. It was through this role that I had the opportunity to assist Marie on a rare visit home.

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Five commitments to put disabled people at the heart of the general election

Blank note pad with pencilThe general election on 8 June 2017 is an opportunity for the next government to listen and respond to the concerns of disabled people.

We know that in 2017, disabled people continue to face barriers to access to a range of services, and especially for people who are deafblind, have sensory impairments, or complex needs, it can be a struggle to find the right tailored support.

That’s why we would like to see the next government put disabled people at the heart of their agenda, and ensure that they are supported to live full, independent lives and realise their aspirations just like everybody else.

We want to next Government to commit to:

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Pairing a landline phone to my hearing aids

A man holding a landline cordless phone
A DECT phone being discussed at a Sense technology training day

As a user of hearing aids, my latest technology experiment has been to hook up a new Bluetooth cordless DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology) home phone to my Oticon Streamer Pro – this is a Bluetooth streamer allowing the sound to be transmitted directly to my hearing aid.

I have always used an ordinary cordless DECT handset and have sometimes struggled to hear the person on the other end of the phone line clearly. In the past I’ve resorted to plugging in wired headphones with a boom microphone connected to the handset. However, even this was prone to problems with quiet connections, and I couldn’t increase the volume level any further.

This is why this new setup, using the Bluetooth wireless technology is so brilliant. Not only in removing those pesky wires, but it also has the ability to increase the volume level. Even better, I can turn off my hearing aids’ own microphone to cut out all background noise and boost the clarity of the incoming call. This means that I can now have a complete hands-free operation and have perfect clarity of sound of whoever is talking to me.

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How can we help employers to get it right when employing disabled people?

Two women in red uniforms in a supermarketWhen we spoke to people who are deafblind about their experiences of employment, it was clear that many had been through negative experiences with employers, including a lack of understanding about how to meet the needs of people with sensory impairments in the workplace.

This lack of support and understanding has meant that, for those people with sensory impairments that wish to work, they have come up against additional barriers like inaccessible recruitment processes and failures to adjust the working environment to suit communication needs.

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Cochlear implants six months in – There have been no eureka moments, but I’m told I’m doing well

Steve with his guide dog Kasper
Steve with his guide dog Kasper

In November last year I wrote about my first experience with cochlear implants. I have now had my cochlear implants for six months and it’s official: I can hear better now than I could prior to implants.

At least that’s the result of the tests from a few weeks ago, where I had to retake the tests. I was tested with very low sounds to see exactly what I could hear and random sentences to see how much I understood. Finally I could make out individual words. The results showed a marked improvement over what I was hearing a year or so ago.

When I last wrote four months ago, I was hopeful that things were going to get better. While they have, there have been no eureka moments, it’s more a case of suddenly realising that I am doing something I haven’t done before.

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How supported living helps me to live independently

A man seated as part of a panel
Joe giving evidence at the Houses of Parliament

I was recently invited by Sense to speak at the Houses of Parliament about the future of supported housing.

In particular I was going to tell the MP’s how important Sense supported housing is in helping me, as a deafblind person, to live an everyday life as independently as possible.

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