Archive for the ‘ disability ’ Category

Unpacking Disablism in UK LARP Design

I wanted to write a bit about disablism in the UK LARP scene. Something that might not interest some of you, but interests me.

A quick bit of context for those larpers that don’t know me: I’m a disabled LARPer; I use a wheelchair because of an enduring set of impairments, I have enduring mental health issues and I like to attend collaborative storytelling events. I like to think of myself as progressive and part of the UK (not US) disabled people’s movement, so I use the language we use to describe myself and other disabled people (should you be wondering about the choice of, for example, disablism rather than American terms like ableism).

empire 2, 2017 - beth dooner

Photograph of three larpers, including myself using a wheelchair and another using a stick for support (and looking awesome). Photograph taken by Beth Dooner, Empire LRP, June 2017.

Disability is, at it’s root, a function of an inaccessible world. It’s people with impairments (such as medical conditions, or differences in functioning to whatever society is calling “normal” this year) being stopped from accessing all the things non-disabled people can. This isn’t about getting rid of disabled people’s impairments, it’s about ensuring that with those impairments they can still get the same out of an experience. In traditional LARPs that is something we fail at spectacularly. There is a lot I could talk about when it comes to disablism and LARP; player/crew/monster preconceptions, venues (access vs aesthetics), tactics for disabled players and so on. However, today I’ve picked LARP design. Partly because I just designed and ran one with a couple of excellent people with access at it’s core, and because I have had a number of conversations about it since then.

Unpacking Common Barriers to Access

There are some really common themes in LARP design that are both super popular with non-disabled players yet often profoundly inaccessible at their core. Because I’ve been taking about it today I’m going to use the LARP shibboleth, “the Linear” as an example. Continue reading

When Your Body Takes Another Road

Statistically, there will come a point in nearly all our lives when our body stops behaving in a “normal” way and doesn’t stop. Sometimes it’ll be sudden, some times it will creep up on us, and for some it will have simply always been that way. The thing that we have in common is a sense of loss for that normality, and a completely human need to grieve for it. This post is going to be primarily aimed at those that have acquired a long-term condition/impairment or had one worsen, as that is an area I have experience in.

Loss can be categorized as either physical or abstract, the physical loss being related to something that the individual can touch or measure, such as losing a spouse through death, while other types of loss are abstract, and relate to aspects of a person’s social interactions.

We all grieve differently, it’s far more complex than just feeling sad. While yes, some do feel sad, some also get angry, some withdraw, some cling, some seek justice, some seek to keep the memory of the past alive, some hunt for meaning, some wish to campaign for better, some choose to support others, some try to make a new normal as quickly as possible. Most will travel through a mixture those different states before “recovering”. Of course recovery is an odd one when what you are grieving is an abstract loss of normalcy. Gone is the “normally” functioning body and/or mind, gone is the normal way of doing certain things, gone are the “normal” expectations about how you fit into the world be it with friends, family or with your paid/unpaid work, gone are you hopes of being “healthy”, gone are the ways you learned to navigate certain challenges, gone are the dreams you had that relied on being able to function “normally”, and most hurtfuly, gone (or at least severely dented), is the idea that you are “normal”. Continue reading

Recovery Vs Management

When talking about long-term conditions/impairments there is a tendency to talk about the individual being on a road to recovery. Where recovery is a mystical place in which the individual will once more be “the person they were before developing a condition/impairment”. Now that’s a huge ask! If you were to ask a non-disabled person to be like the person they were five years ago they’d struggle a lot.

I think we can look at recovery from two different angles,firstly the removal of physical impairment and then there is a mental recovery, the idea that one will forget the rubbish they’ve been through with their health and go back to being a “normal” non-disabled person. At this point though I think we have to drop the pretence that recovery is ever going to get you back to how you used to be. It is more that recovery is the road to becoming non-disabled. Something that’s not possible for many of us, and for those in doubt I’m going to look at the idea of recovery from a physical and mental standpoint now. Continue reading

Making LARP More Accessible

I’m a massive nerd, I love Star Trek, I studied geology at uni, I love a chance to cosplay, and I love gaming of all sorts. One of the types of gaming I love is LARP (Live Action RolePlay). Murder Mystery events are LARPs, just never given that name. You play a character for the event, wear a costume, solve some puzzles, and mostly have a great bit of fun with others.

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A picture of me using my wheelchair at a Empire LARP. Photo courtesy of the talented Tom Garnett.

The ones I tend to attend focus on fantasy settings (magic & monsters), though futuristic, horror, survival, regency, and a whole host of other LARPs exist to choose from. They’re a great way to get away from the daily grind of living under an increasingly oppressive government regime of service cuts and poor access. The problem is that most LARPs are run by folk that consider themselves non-disabled, so all those access barriers we meet in day to day life can pop up there. I thought it might be an idea to list a few ways that we can work to minimise access issues and maximise fun in these environments: Continue reading

On Cancer & Chronic Illness

Heya! It’s been a weird year for me, loads of stuff, a lot of it crippling anxiety and a complete loss of motivation, has prevented me from blogging. I’m sorry about that.

As you probably know, I’ve been dealing with chronic health problems for years now; chronic pain, vomiting, nerve damage, gastrointestinal damage, and joint hypermobility. I developed a hiatus hernia in September which was having some pretty severe side effects, so I had an abdominal CT scan at the start of this year. It didn’t just find the hernia, but it also found a shadow on my right kidney. I had a more detailed scan in March, and in April a very nice Urologist and a Macmillan nurse told me the mass was solid, and most likely cancerous (over 90% chance), otherwise it would be precancerous with a very high chance of becoming cancer in the future. They tabled surgery within 4 weeks, and got it out. I’m currently recovering after having a open partial nephrectomy and getting the 21 staples removed this morning.

I’ve been thinking about the ways in which cancer is treated differently to other chronic illnesses, many of which also have pretty depressing prognosis’s; Continue reading

At The Intersection: Down’s Syndrome & Abortion

Picture of a girl with Down’s Syndrome

There has been a lot said over the past 48 hours about Downs Syndrome, prenatal screening and abortion thanks in large part to some tweets sent out by Richard Dawkins:

Whilst many of us naturally baulk at such words we must remember that in the UK prenatal screening for Down’s Syndrome is common place. With an overwhelming majority of the people who are told they are pregnant with a foetus with Down’s Syndrome choosing to terminate and many will then go on to try again. This is something that is worthy of discussion. It doesn’t take much research to realise that many people with Down’s Syndrome live perfectly healthy & happy lives. So why do so many make the choice to terminate? Continue reading

Can We Stop Pitting Visible Against Invisible Disabilities?

Seriously.

Today I read another post about how people with visible disabilities have it so much easier than over those with invisible disabilities. I have, in my time, also read posts about how people with invisible disabilities are have an easier time than those with visible disabilities.

Who is this helping? No one.

It’s one thing to raise awareness of the different challenges that arise from the wide array of impairments disabled people have. It’s another to wallow in “who, in this group of people who are all oppressed by a disablist society, has it worst” .

Passing as non-disabled (having an invisible disability) means you probably don’t get the constant stares in the street stemming from your impairment, the “what’s wrong with you?” questions from people you’ve never met when you are just trying to eat a sandwich in a park, the constant pressure to become a paralympian, random people telling you that you are cursed/are being punished for past life transgressions whilst you are window shopping (and that they can fix it if you give the £250), you probably have never been in a situation where two small steps have meant you can’t physically enter a building or experienced the bus-buggy-war first hand and you probably haven’t had people assume you can’t communicate for yourself on a regular basis. But it also means you have to deal with other problems arising from a lack of visibility. Such as constantly running up against people who don’t/won’t believe your impairment is disabling (because if it was you’d have a wheelchair), being told off for using accessible toilets or parking spaces, having your own bus-war when it comes to using the priority seats and a whole lot more that comes from living in a world where people think disabled people look like “x” and anyone else is either non-disabled or non-disabled and lazy/on the scrounge/attention seeking. Continue reading

Disabled Women & Domestic Abuse Posters

I stumbled upon two extremely poignant posters created by Women’s Aid to highlight some of the issues surrounding domestic abuse and disabled people. You can click the links to download .pdf versions.
They are fantastic resources and free to anyone wishing to use them. You can find the originals here.

Disability & DV Poster 1

disDV1

Disability & DV Poster 2

disDV2

*waves* I’m Still Here!

I haven’t posted in ages and I’m really sorry about that.

It’s been a pretty hectic summer for me and I’ve had some health issues that have just eaten all my spare spoons I’d normally use for blogging. I’m hoping that now things are settling down that I can get back to normal!

As you may or may not know I’m pretty passionate about doing what I can to try to improve other peoples experience of Birmingham City Councils (BCC) Adults & Communities division (adult social care). I had quite a few issues with them, the DWP, Atos and the NHS wheelchair service when I first became physically disabled which is one of the main reasons I became a disability rights campaigner. I wanted to do my part to ensure that others in the same boat had a better experience than I did.

Now many of the issues surrounding adult social care aren’t things that that are within adults & communities remit to deal with. Social services cannot force Osborne to free up extra funding for them in his budget, nor do they have the last word on how much the local councillors decide to devote to the department. They can’t ignore national initiatives they are compelled to take part in nor can they interfere in the NHS. What they can do is work with the resources they have to commission appropriate services and to try to force up the quality of third party contractors where possible. They can also look at their own services and make sure they are appropriate, upholding citizens rights and of a good quality.

I’ve joined a Citizen-led Quality Board which works alongside BCC Adults & Communities to look at the why’s, what’s, when’s and how’s of their commissioning process to point out problems, encourage good practice and share citizens ideas and concerns.

I’m going to endeavour to write up a few posts about various areas we are covering in an effort to both share information and to look at our performance. Until then, look after yourself & I hope you have a great October x

#FemSchool13 – A Quick Summary Of My Weekend

I spent this weekend at the annual UK Feminista Summer School. It’s a weekend where feminists/women’s rights activists come together to learn from each other, organise and get inspired. All in all I had a wonderful time. Contrary to the picture the media presented the weekend was not all about ending Page 3 and Lads Mags to the exclusion of all else. Rather it was a eclectic mix of intersectional workshops and talks covering subjects such as class, race, disability, sexuality, arts, campaigning, lobbying, the criminal justice system, economics and much more.

The main hall starting to fill up for the welcoming meeting.

I arrived on the Saturday morning to take part in the welcoming panel with Lara Bates from the Everyday Sexism project and Constance Nzeneu, Migrant & Refugee Woman of the Year winner. The panel was great fun, it was a bit odd to be sitting in front of all those people talking about my activism and why I campaign for change, but if it helped one other person realise that they could make a small difference I think it was worth it.

Myself & Laura Bates getting ready to sit on the panel.

My personal goal for the weekend was to try to get as many people as possible thinking about disability as both a part of feminism and a important civil rights movement on it’s own. I really do believe that the struggle for civil rights needs to be intersectional. We are all stronger if we work together while, of course, still respecting the need for our own spaces. After the welcoming panel I went to a Mental Health & Intersectionality workshop where we were urged to look at how various types of oppression can exacerbate and cause mental health problems.

I followed that up by going to a workshop I was personally interested in – Women in Prison – which looked at how the current system is not set up to deal effectively with women in the prison system or after release. We learned that the vast majority of female prisoners have mental health problems, many of them personality disorders, which stem from frequently traumatic/turbulent childhoods. We learned a bit about how the system can breed dependency as well as how there is little scope for meaningful rehabilitation without structured support outside of prisons. It was a fascinating session, one I’m really glad I went to.

Instead of going to a third workshop I offered to run a open space session* on disability and language entitled “That’s so lame!”. I chose that name because I wanted to take a word that is used everyday by people in all walks of life that has disableist connections and use it to challenge the audience. Over the last couple of years I’ve discovered that many people who use the word lame to mean rubbish often don’t realise that the word refers to someone who is physically disabled and has a impairment that effects the ability to walk or effects the use of a limb. So we discussed the institutional disableism that creates a language where words describing impairments become interchangeable with words like rubbish, pathetic, useless, defective, dull & stupid in the collective consciousness. We also talked about differences between US & UK ways of talking about disablism and more to boot. It was really enjoyable. I finished off the day by going to the disabled women’s safe space meeting.

On Sunday I was running (with the help of my friend, Jackie) a workshop on Disability, Feminism and Activism. Given how awesome the other workshops happening at the same time sounded I was really happy that we still got a decent sized group. We covered a lot in the hour we had; the basics of disability, the pro’s of intersectionality and a run down of the last 40 years worth of campaigning for disabled peoples rights. We did some group activities as well thinking about feminist areas of interest that strongly intersect with those of disabled people (like reproductive rights, abuse, education, body image, austerity etc..) and thinking about campaigns both movements could join together to in. The attendees were fantastic and I had a super morning chatting with them.

I had to leave after that point because I was a) almost out of spoons and b) had a family engagement that afternoon. It was a wonderful event and one that I’d recommend to anyone interested in meeting other feminists and/or learning some new skills and theory. I’m really sad that I didn’t get the chance to go to any of the workshops exploring other intersections like sexuality or race but hopefully I’ll get the chance next year.

*At open space sessions anyone can suggest a topic/plan they’d like to talk about and meet others who are interested in doing the same. 

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