Monday, 30 April 2012

Disabled-Friendly Official Forms

Something is praying on my mind. It's that once a decade task again: renewing one's passport.

When last I did so, I could still scribe by hand. Now I generally type as I cannot grip a pen for any useful length of time. I have only recently been able to write my signature - almost as it used to look - since obtaining a ridiculously over-sized novelty pen which enables me to grip the instrument with my whole hand. The disadvantage is that my signature is HUGE.

I certainly cannot write small enough to fit in the tiny squares on the official UK Home Office: Identity & Passport Service form. And that is if I could see where the squares are. The form is printed in a pale orange which seems to fade to insignificance in daylight. With my poor eyesight and inability to focus, I cannot even make a stab at getting the correct box each time. My signature certainly will not fit in the tiny space allotted.  Let's face it: my signature when I was able-bodied would not have remained confined by the parameters of the box! Neither can I read the notes as the text in the accompanying booklet is - you have guessed it - too small. To make matters worse, the relevant website is even worse: IPS: Passports (q.v.).

One would have thought in this day and age the boxes would have been made large enough for someone to write in. If I were blind, there is the option of a Braille form; but no option of one in large print. It is as if Government departments and agencies have never heard of disability legislation. The original Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was enacted in 1995. Surely, they have had plenty of time to sort out their policies and take action. It is the twenty-first century, surely one should be able to expect better?

In the circumstances, I have had to wait for someone to come round who has had the time and patience to complete the form on my behalf. Thanks go to my friend.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Gay Marriage

I have just found that the famous (and lovely by the by) author, Armistead Maupin (Armistead Maupin on facebook), has posted a link to an advertisement for marriage equality for gays & lesbians. It speaks for itself, so here it is: "beautiful-british-gay-marriage-commercial" .

Some folk believe that the Bible interdicts homosexuality. Well, as the word was only created at the end of the C19th (1897 to be precise) that would seem a tad rich. There are only four (yes four) passages that are supposedly anti-homosexual and Jesus himself never even mentioned the topic. That's right, Jesus the Christ, the basis of Christianity, did not have a single word to say on the matter. However, selective fundamentalists pick and choose which bits of the Bible they are going to follow.

If one reads Deuteronomy chapter 22 verses 13 to 21, one discovers that under the old covenant a marriage was only to be considered valid if the wife (note not the husband!) was a virgin. If it transpired she was not a virgin, the marriage was invalid and the wife was supposed to be executed. Well apart from the sexism and hypocrisy involved, that would make a hell of a lot of marriages invalid and we should have to kill a heck of a lot of womenfolk!

Well, even if we ignore what the Bible might or might not say on the subject, there is the thorny issue of Church tradition. We are told by Roman Catholics and Anglicans (Episcopalians) that traditionally the Church is anti-homosexuality and that marriage is just for one man and one woman. Ahem, actually that is not quite true. There is quite some evidence to demonstrate that the Church from at least the C6th to C18th was blessing same-sex unions (mainly male, but there are some female rites).

For Church precedence see inter alia:

Kontakion to Saints Serge & Bacchus, C6th, Greek
Office of Same-Sex Union, C10th, Greek
Office of Same-Sex Union, C11th, Greek
Prayer for Same-Sex Union, C11th, Greek
The Order for Uniting Two Men, C11-12th, Slavonic
Office of Same-Gender Union, C12th, Italo-Greek
Order for Solemnization of Same-Sex Union, C13th, Greek
Office of Same Sex (sic) Union, C14th, Serbian Slavonic
Agreement of "Brotherhood", C15th, Latin
Office for Same-Gender Union, C16th?, Greek
Office of Same-sex (sic) Union, C16th, Greek
The Order of Celebrating the Union of Two Men, <C18th, Serbian Slavonic

The Vatican purged its library of Latin texts, but omitted to destroy documents in other languages: hence the apparent lack of Latin evidence. Yes, it's probably now dawning upon one that there has been a mass cover-up. It's political of course. The Church in times of trouble has often needed a scapegoat: witches, Jews, homosexuals, etc. Now what is the major issue at the moment - pædophile priests. So the Church needs to go on the attack to deflect attention. It has acted thus for centuries.

I happen to be a pantheist and a Quaker. Quakers would actually like to marry same-sex couples in their places of worship, as would other smaller Christian denominations along with some Jewish groups.

If you would like to support equal marriage, then please sign AVAAZ's petition (Support gay marriage in the UK)


Thursday, 26 April 2012

May 1st is "Blogging Against Disablism Day"

May 1st is "Blogging Against Disablism Day". Please get involved by writing and/or reading and/or whatever! on the day or read the archive later on. One does NOT have to be disabled, by the way.

Blogging Against Disablism

Disabled Travel and the Equality & Human Rights Commission

‎"The situation is [a] cause of embarrassment for the UK government, given it is unfolding just months away from the Paralympics 2012."

What situation, you may wonder? Well, the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has decided not to support disabled folk who experience discrimination when flying in/out of the UK. The EHRC is the super-overseer, that was created from various agencies including the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), and is supposed to look out for the needs of minorities who may be/are discriminated against.

"We have a statutory remit to promote and monitor human rights; and to protect, enforce and promote equality across the nine "protected" grounds - age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment." EHRC

At the time the DRC (Disability Rights Commission & DRC archive) was merged into the EHRC, it was suspected that disability rights would drop down the agenda in the mega-agency; that is, be subsumed and ignored. Now we can see this occurring.

In actuality, matters are far worse than they at first might seem. There has been no news coverage of a debate in Westminster Hall two days ago on the future of the EHRC. Sandra Osborne MP (Lab) stated:

"Staff at the Equality and Human Rights Commission are experts in their field and are deeply concerned about the attack on equalities represented by the proposed 62% budget cut and 72% staffing cut by 2015 from the original levels in 2007. They and their trade unions—the Public and Commercial Services Union and Unite—believe that those cuts amount to the closure of the EHRC as we know it and its transformation into little more than a think-tank." Hansard

It looks like there may be little or no recourse for the majority of those who are discriminated against, unless they are extremely poor (limited legal aid) or very wealthy (deep pockets).

Of course, the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO), which drastically restricts legal aid, in conjunction with the Welfare Reform Act (WRA), which drastically reduces support for hundreds of thousands of disabled folk, along with the local councils reduction in care support, will mean that in practice more and more disabled folk will be confined to their homes (if not hospitals or institutions), so the ability to travel will become moot.

The Olympics & Paralymics should have passed before the global community discovers what is happening here. So everything will be just hunky-dory for the Government; not so jolly for we disabled folk.