Saturday, 6 October 2018

Gay Bars versus Apps




I randomly came across this video (click on link above to hear the discussion from Rise and Fall of “Men of the Den” on YouTube). You make good points.

As a disabled and queer person, I do not see gay bars in quite such a rosy light. I live in the suburbs of Manchester, England, which has its own gay Village. For me the vast majority of the venues and in some cases the actual streets are inaccessible to me.

When I have visited, prices are high - too high! And the area is inundated with groups of young wimmin, supposedly seeking safer spaces. Many LGBTI folk have deserted the Village and prefer to mix with straights in the less expensive, boho Northern Quarter. From my perspective, this area is far more disabled-accessible and thus disabled-friendly.

Living in the suburbs, there is a dearth of gay bars. However, I am fortunate to reside in an affluent and tolerant community. Nonetheless, it is very often difficult to know who is queer or straight these days for various reasons. So, for myself and others, using apps helps us make friends and acquaintances, folk with whom we chat online about art, politics and so forth. In my case, my housemate & I also have been introduced to queer neighbours and arranged a meet-up in our local pub. I have also used apps to make friends with folk in foreign lands prior to visiting on holidays.

Apps usually do not discriminate against disabled queers; bars often do discriminate due to lack of accessibility. For me there is no real-world gay community; there is however a very real online one.


%)


Friday, 28 September 2018

The Whitworth (Art-Gallery), City of Manchester


Introduction

Firstly, May I introduce myself. My name is Colin-Roy. I have been disabled for more than twenty years. My conditions fluctuate dramatically. Sometimes I can walk with one or two walking-sticks; sometimes I use a manual wheelchair. Mostly I am trapped abed and unable to leave my room. So my rare outings are full of excitement for me, even if it is to the G.P., dentist or hospital!





On Saturday, 22nd September 2018 my principal carer took me to The Whitworth, a long-established public art-gallery in central Manchester.

Planning

Prior to setting off, we looked for accessibility information. This is not located in the top menu. One has to scroll right to the very bottom of the museum’s home page and then read across the bottom menu. Alas, this only includes a statement of intent. Hence why it is hidden at the bottom of the page.

We returned to the home page and decided to click on “Visit”. Six items down is “Access”. We were directed to potential disabled parking-bays. These are listed quite comprehensively, but with no map. There is a link to a map, but it is not marked with the bays’ locations. A map on the same page as the explanations as to the whereabouts of the disabled parking-bays would be useful and reduce the amount of pages which one is required to negotiate. This important to many different impairments.

Recommendation 1: a map clearly marked with disabled parking.

Access into the Building

The southern access to Manchester is extremely difficult to negotiate and it is very easy to slip onto a ‘bus-only route. Staff at The Whitworth advised that several disabled folk have incurred fines for straying onto the restricted routes. Therefore, I should suggest that one’s route be planned prior to setting off on one’s journey. Do not rely on a sat-nav!

We decided to aim for Denmark Street. My carer used to work in the area; but the frequent changes  to one-way systems, etc. meant we lost our way once. On reaching the road, we immediately espied the disabled parking-bays and took a spot.



The above photograph was taken from the bonnet of our car in the nearest bay. An entrance can be seen just right of the lamp-post. There are six steps without a grip to what becomes a very gentle incline. If one were in a wheelchair, one would have to go to the end of the railings and turn right.





If one were manually wheeling one’s chair, it is a very long distance to the main entrance, although the gradient is very gentle. One has to take a very elongated U-shaped route to the entrance. It is difficult to comprehend why an access-route from the Oxford Road entrance (anyone coming by ‘bus would use this entrance - in the centre of the photograph on the left) was not constructed to the base of the ramp into the main entrance (which can be seen in the bottom of the photograph on the right), rather than sending the wheelchair-user on a circuitous route.

After our visit to the art-gallery, we were leaving in our car when I noticed a sign (photograph below) that indicates the level-access into the venue. If only a prominent notice had been placed either near the disabled parking-bays or at the base of the steps! This route takes one through one of The Whitworth’s own gardens and into the building, whereupon one needs to take a lift up  to the galleries themselves, the café, the two shops and the information desk (situated at the main entrance).



Recommendation 2: review access-routes into the gallery and improve access-route signage.

Food & Drinks

We were hungry as we had passed on breakfast to ensure a parking-space at our destination. So our first stop was the café.



As can be clearly seen in the image above, there is ample space for manuœvring a wheelchair. However, we noted none of the chairs available had arms and given the flimsy appearance of the tables, one may feel unwilling to lean on same to help one rise from being seated. All the chairs are of the same height, which may cause difficulties for those requiring, for example higher seating due to not being able to bend down lower. I also suspect that the ‘horns’ on the chair-backs might prod into larger visitors.

Recommendation 3: introduce a variety of seating options, various heights, with & without arms, and stools (useful, for example, to kids who kneel & larger customers whose size militates against small chairs).

We thoroughly enjoyed the views over the gardens and the adjoining park. We watched children exploring outdoor art-projects from the comfort of our table.




The food offering was very good. It tended to be pricey - we payed £8/9 for each meal (veggie brunch, top image above, and scrambled eggs with salmon) and approximately £2.50 for a coffee. Given the quality of the produce and how full we were, we did consider the food good value-for-money.
  
Access Inside the Building

Whilst there are stairs between floors, there are also several lifts - not all go to all floors, so one needs to carefully read the signage outside each respective lift. Each lift was amply large for a wheelchair, some large enough to do a circular turn. 



There are ramps to raised areas, but be aware that one may have to exit the way one entered, whereas able folk may have choices.



Toilets
I had no need to visit the conveniences on this trip. However, my carer did so and he checked out the disabled facilities. He averred that it was large enough for my wheelchair, which has a leg-support extension, but that there is not much turning-room. He was also delighted that they were immaculately clean with no malodour.

Seating

I have already mentioned the seating in the café. Similarly all the seating we spotted in The Whitworth were low benches or banquettes; there was no high seating for those with difficulty bending down low. Additionally, none of the seating had arms, so that one could help raise oneself.

Shops

Had I been in my wheelchair, I should have been rather concerned at entering the shop with ceramics & pottery on display, in case I banged into a display. But the shops would be generally accessible to a wheelchair-user.

Noise

We turned up on a day when live singing was being performed approximately every half-an-hour. The sound levels were deafening. I have an aural acuity issue that means loud noises cause me actual pain. I am aware that many conditions, including autism have issues with loud noise. Due to all the hard surfaces within the galleries, the sound appeared to be augmented. There was no safe space to escape the sound.

Additionally, some of the William Kentridge exhibits used sound: one of which I could not enter at all, as even outside of it, I was suffering pain from the noise levels being produced. The artist is hearing-impaired and hence the sound levels were set to a high level. I understand from gallery staff that the levels are going to be reduced as they have had several complaints. Ideally, the exhibit needs to have a quiet, standard and high level sound rotating for the differing requirements of visitors.

There were no notices at any of the galleries entrances warning of high sound-levels on the day we visited. This fails many folk with a variety of conditions. This was disappointing, as the black & white prints, making up the Goya & Hogarth exhibition, would otherwise presumably be accessible to those with autism, as there is a distinct lack of colour in the relevant spaces.

Recommendation 4: ensure warning notices are prominently displayed when sound levels might be an issue and provide ear-plugs to those who might need them.

Staff

I spoke to ten members of staff whilst there: two different folk at the main-desk; three different folk in the two shops; three in the café; two folk in different galleries. Excluding the café, all staff were friendly & helpful. The staff in the café were professional but officious.

Conclusions

I realise from my criticisms that one may think that The Whitworth is not worth the trouble of visiting. Rather, over all, I spent a lovely few hours in a wonderful space admiring fabulous works of art. I intend to visit again, even if just for their brunch; but I shall park nearer the level-access entrance and take my own ear-plugs!


Monday, 24 September 2018

Another Office for Disability Issues Fail


It has emerged that the UK Government refused to spend £125 + V.A.T. to obtain a statistical anaysis from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) into employment rates in respect to disabled individuals finding work. It was left to a disability people’s organisation (DPO), Inclusion London, to pay for the research. The Disability News Service (DNS) article can be found here. The item quotes Ellen Clifford of the DPO:

“Studies have confirmed that unsuitable employment is worse for people’s health than no employment.”

And it should be borne in mind that much self-employed work does not earn sufficient for most workers to have a decent standard of living. In other words the self-employed tend to be less wealthy than those in full-time equivalent employed positions.

Ellen Clifford ‘urged the government to “look at the types of jobs and work that disabled people are moving or potentially being pushed into and to address issues of quality instead of making the aim to get people off out-of-work benefits at any cost”.’

I should suggest that there are other issues that also need to be investigated: 

*   the appropriateness of the work to the individual, taking into consideration the nature of impediments, health & well-being;

*   whether the work creates sufficient income from effort expounded, bearing in mind that those with impairments &/or serious health issues have a much higher cost of living than non-disabled/healthy workers;

*   and, does the work have long-term or even medium-term potential.

Surely these are issues that the Office for Disability Issues (#ODI) - a fiefdom of the notorious Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) - ought to have been investigating as a matter of course. The fact they would not spent £125 + V.A.T., against a budget of £millions, to even do the initial investigation is outrageous. It also further demonstrates the UK Government’s continuing systematic failures to adequately and appropriately support disabled folk.

This is further evidence of the department’s, and of course thus the Government’s, ongoing disability discrimination. Given this has been continuing  since 2010, despite the United Nation’s (UN) reports of grave and catastrophic violations towards British disabled folk, one can only infer that the Conservative Party (the current ruling group) is riddled with hate for disabled folk.


Friday, 21 September 2018

The Establishment is Destroying the UK


Looking back on the past year, I am not certain ¨society¨ as such is to blame for the milieu in the UK, but rather the individuals who make up our communities.

Many of my Facebook friends refuse to participate in anything ¨political¨ - even intelligent individuals who must realise that all issues affecting the individual/community/society are political. In some cases it is apathy; for some it is fear of repercussions by the powers-that-be (DWP; intelligence services; etc.); but there are simply far too many folk who just do not care for anyone outside their immediate loved ones. This is why despite all the reasons put forward why BREXIT will harm each and everyone of us, so many folk have NOT changed their minds. They are only looking out for themselves. They do NOT care for others. This is a mass failure of empathy, of mutual responsibility.

Neo-liberal politicians of so-called left/centre/right have undermined the tax and social security systems and the justifications for shared social goods.

They have been aided and abetted by the MSM, which of course only pushes the agendas of their respective billionaire owners. Folk are inculcated into believing that the poor, elderly, disabled, underemployed, single mothers, refugees, migrants, and whoever-else can be picked upon, are all stealing from the hard-workers’ pockets.

Society is NOT the problem.

The Establishment, the powerful élite are the problem. And they are not going to relinquish power, influence nor wealth.


Tuesday, 11 September 2018

I Keep Feeling


[TRIGGER WARNING: this post deals with child-abuse and references suicide and blood!]


I have hinted at my childhood issues in some past postings.

Of late I have been much affected and effected by the abuse I suffered at the hands of both parents, not only in childhood, but through my adolescence, my young adulthood and to a lesser extent into my mid-adulthood. Eventually, in my mid-thirties, my psychiatrist, my psychologist and my G.P. (family doctor) strongly advised me to completely separate myself from them. I followed their advice and did so. Since then they have divorced and moved to different places, but I do not know exactly their whereabouts - and I want to keep it that way.

Over the years various good friends have suggested I sue my parents or lodge complaints with the police. Unfortunately, such proceedings would mean I should have to relive the horrors over and over again to the police, to lawyers and before the Courts. That, for me, is too large a price to pay for Justice. I prefer to direct my energies and efforts into healing as best I can and living my life the way I want to live it.

I know from my paternal Grandmother that my paternal Grandfather was brutal in his treatment of my Father. I know from my Aunts that my maternal Grandfather was abusive towards my Mother & her siblings. This may explain the abuse my parents meted out: it does NOT justify nor vindicate their behaviours one iota.

Several times prior to the split from my abusers, I attempted suicide; but since then I have not even contemplated same - other than for end-of-life and living-will purposes. I have become, at least partially, the happy and confident chap I should have been all along.

I am publishing the poem below and this brief preamble, not to garner sympathy, but rather with the aspiration that someone may find it useful to know that life does get better, that there is always Hope.

*


after so many years
       of mental justification
       of emotional turmoil
       of spiritual malaise
       of medication
              I stopped taking them
       at fifty-three
expecting liberation
scary initially

honestly
       I am still scared
so much anxiety
too many feels
       maybe
but good
       has the upper-hand
              I am certain
I feel music again
my bodily pleasures
       returned
re-awakened creativity
slumbering sexuality
       re-asserted
though no princely kiss yet
I feel me again
I keep smiling

I keep crying
I keep feeling
       impotent
       despondent
frankly
       I am still scarred
I keep sensing
       that putrescent
              touch
       veining my soul
my heart turned
       to cold
              stone
I keep smelling
       your odious stench
       polluting all memory
I used to feel nothing
       for you
              who made no effort
                     to atone
but you keep popping up
an unsolicited smear
never sufficient
       bruises nor blood
never enough torment
       torture
       fear
abused childhood
abused adolescence
abused adulthood
equilibrium tired
hope expired
       turned to a putative hate
mostly
       I just want the thoughts
              of you
              of your actions
              your nefandous deeds
                     to go away
                     to stay at bay
I keep feeling
       exhausted
       drained
longing for Fate
       to resolve
              your evil
for it has cleaved
       my soul
       my psyche
no salve
no surgery
       can heal
              the scars of cruelty

but I soldier on
       like a good boy
and I keep feeling
       never joy
       but contentment
certainly
       in your absence
              I have grown
                     in confidence
                     in maturity
                     in sagacity
I feel…
       well…
              half-alive
                     maybe
paradoxically
       I keep feeling
              worthy
                     of Love
                     of Life
almost
       happy
but still
       as ever
              that small boy
                     eternally
                            lost
I cannot stop
       now
I just have to
       keep feeling
              the pain
desperate to attain
       calmness
       cleansing
       healing
       release

I keep feeling