It must be pretty tough being ‘in’ a wheelchair

I came across this Department for Work and Pensions guidance manual with good practice on how local authorities should manage Discretionary Housing Payments.…  as you do.

I was intrigued by the example case study given in the document  on page 26 (FULL DOCUMENT LINK). It says “Mrs Thom is in a wheelchair”, at which point I thought, that must be pretty tough being all tangled up and stuck inside a wheelchair.

DHP 2013 guidance page 26

Of course that’s not what the DWP meant, but disabled people and disabled people’s organisations have for long looked to discourage terms like living in a wheelchair. People are human beings first and Mrs Thom is someone who uses a wheelchair, so being described as a wheelchair user is far more appropriate than someone in a wheelchair.

The point I’m trying to make is that using the right language is important. It frames what your thoughts are about the people you are talking about. You can end up losing people.

The recent example I have is when we had a deputation from a local business owner on the reduced parking charges that Brent Labour introduced last month. The owner argued for a free parking period for up to 45 minutes and “handicapped” people would struggle with cashless parking. At which point he had lost me and I thought to myself that this person obviously has no regard for disabled people if he’s going around at public meetings describing them as “handicapped” – a phrase that disability organisations have long looked to stop the use of and is considered offensive to disabled people.

Similarly, people are no longer described as being ‘in wheelchairs’ or ‘confined to wheelchairs’ and ‘wheelchair user’ is more appropriate.

It’s sad that this example was found in a Government Department for Work and Pensions document and they should really know better.

Cllr Hirani submits Disabled Facilities Grant policy proposal to Brent Council

I’ve submitted a policy proposal to the Housing department at Brent Council to investigate, in terms of feasibility, a change in the way that the Council administrates the Disabled Facilities Grant for people who have their own home, but cannot move back into it due to accessibility issues.

See the proposal here – Brent DFG – Cllr Hirani

A Disabled Facilities Grant is a local council grant. It helps towards the cost of adapting your home to enable you to continue to live there. A grant is paid when the council considers that changes are necessary to meet your needs, and that the work is reasonable and practical.

Source: Direct.Gov

The Disabled Facilities Grant makes a world of difference to people in Brent. An elderly resident on Marley Walk was full of praise for Brent Council after she received a grant last year to install electronic controls to open and close her windows. She lives on her own and her arthritis and limited finger dexterity meant that she was experiencing great difficulty in reaching for and opening and closing her windows. Her new electronic controls through the Disabled Facilities Grant means that these troubles are no more!

I’ve just voted for Ken Livingstone to be the Labour Party candidate for the 2012 London Mayoral election and here is why

Ken was my MP for over half of my lifetime, so to many, it may not be surprising that someone from Brent is backing Ken to be Mayor of London. But looking beyond that, I want a candidate who is not afraid to challenge the consensus and someone who can build a platform for Labour to be back in power at the next general election.

Ken has proved time and time again and shown true leadership in the decisions he’s made that he has shown good judgement. Some decisions he has made has made a practical difference to people’s lives.

One example of when Ken has shown innovation to tackle the problems we have is on Housing; and in particular, wheelchair accessible housing.

There is a national shortage of around 300,000 wheelchair accessible properties in the UK. In many cases, not having the right housing could mean that a wheelchair user has to bathe in the kitchen sink or even use their living room as a bedroom, because they can’t get into their own room.

In London, thanks to Ken, it is now a requirement for ten per cent of homes to be identified as wheelchair accessible at the planning application stage and described in the Design and Access Statement submitted with the planning application. The requirements go well beyond the National Lifetime Homes standard and shifts the focus on building homes for wheelchair users that are liveable, and not just visitable properties that tick minimum requirement boxes.

It’s all set out here: Mayor of London Best Practice Guide on Wheelchair Accessible Housing (2004)

Ken’s 10% target has set a blueprint that leads the way on this issue, and although it will not solve all the problems we face on this issue nationally, Ken’s actions ensures that London at least give our contribution.

On Transport, Ken was right to introduce the Congestion Charge in London to ease traffic through the city, encourage greater use of public transport and reduce vehicle emissions. The Boris alternative to removing the Western extension to the Zone has been unprecedented rise in Tube fares LINK.

Whether it is housing, transport, planning, employment, fairness, IRAQ!!! in most cases, Ken gets it spot on. That’s why I’m backing Ken to be the Labour Party candidate for the 2012 London Mayoral election.