Author Archives: Sam Barnett-Cormack

Yearly Meeting Gathering at Warwick University, 29 July to 5 August 2017

QDEG members look forward to meeting up at Warwick.

We will be holding our AGM as part of one of the afternoon sessions – date to be confirmed.

Helen Cherry has been appointed as the Accessibility Officer for the Gathering. Do e-mail Helen (triggers link to e-mail) if you have any queries about access issues.

You can find some information about access on the Gathering web page: http://www.quaker.org.uk/ym/accessibility (opens in a new window/tab).

If you request a mobility scooter you will be asked to provide a couple of other bits of information:

  • Your weight. Whilst we appreciate this is a personal question it is a safety requirement to ensure the best scooter is allocated.
  • Have used any mobility scooters in past. This is to gauge familiarity in use e.g. first time user or more advanced. Again this is a safety matter to best meet your needs when organising safe use of scooter.

The campus is fairly flat. The Warwick University Campus Map 2107 (opens in a new window/tab) shows the estimated times/distances from the buildings we are using to Warwick Arts Centre, the main meeting venue and may help you to decide if you a need mobility scooter.

It is hoped to schedule a pick up drop off service using golf buggies or a mini bus. This is in discussion with the university and has NOT been confirmed. If it is something that you would use if available, please e-mail Helen (triggers link to e-mail).

Helen Cherry at: access@quaker.org.uk

2016 AGM and Yearly Meeting

We were please to see a few new faces at our AGM. We had a lot of visitors to our stall at the Yearly Meeting Groups Fair. A good opportunity to talk to friends and exchange ideas and information.

The AGM minutes are on the members page.

If you have any questions do please get in touch.

Minutes and Notes of AGM 2015

Minutes of the Quaker Disability Equality Group AGM 2014

held on Saturday 2nd May 12.30 – 13.30 in the Endsleigh Suite, Friends House, London.

1 Welcome and apologies

Liz Anderton (QDEG committee co-clerk) welcomed Friends from many areas of BYM to the AGM.

Present:

Harry Albright, Liz Anderton, Dawn Beck, Michael Booth, Pamela Brunt, Patricia Chandrasikera, Joy Croft, Hilary Davies, Sarah Early, Jackie Fowler, Jonathan Griffith, Laurence Hall, Alan Johnson, Chris Love, Beth Peacall, Bob Pickup, Gill Reid, Shelagh Robinson, Lisa Shendge, Rosemarie Teare, Eleanor Tew, Alethea Wigzell and Clare Wigzell.

(Apologies for any spelling mistakes or omissions. We are relying on the handwritten sheet that was passed round.)

Apologies received:

Sam Barnett-Cormack, Margaret Boland, Judith Smith and Nuala Watt.

2 Annual report

The 2014 Annual Report was distributed before and during the AGM and read aloud today.

Sarah Early spoke about her experience of working with the QDEG committee.

Bob Pickup welcomed the correspondence on the e-mail network.

3 Accounts

Pam Brunt presented the 2014 Accounts which had also been distributed before the AGM.

Income is lower than expenditure but we are financial secure at present. We hope this will enable us to respond to any invitations to speak to meetings about inclusion, following our recent letter to area meetings.

We have sixteen supporting meetings and fifteen who take occasional collections for QDEG. Liz Anderton said that being a ‘supporting meeting’ reminds the local meeting of its interest in and support of QDEG generally and not just financially.

We accept the accounts and thank Pam Brunt.

4 Committee nominations

During the past year, Magda Cross and Julia Smith were released from service on the committee and have been thanked.

We appoint Alan Johnson to serve from today until our AGM in 2018.

5. Discussion: what would we like to see QDEG doing in the future?

Notes from the discussion:

Rosemary Teare asked if any QDEG members are affected directly by the government austerity measures. We believe in equality but are we representative of those who are not part of the Quaker organization as a whole? Are elderly and disabled people being forgotten? Does QDEG need to operate on a wider scale?

Liz Anderton suggested that we need to start within the Religious Society of Friends because of lack of awareness; put our ‘own house in order’ before we can work outside the Society. She reminded us that individual members of QDEG speak up and work in the wider community. Nuala Watt a young Scottish Friend who spoke on the same platform as Nicola Sturgeon at the Bairns not Bombs demonstration in Glasgow was arguing against the 12 billion cuts in the welfare budget when the government are planning to spend 110 billion on Trident

Pam Brunt felt that QDEG needs to focus on what we can do which is unique because other organizations are doing good work outside Quakers.

Lisa Shendge said that she is not a QDEG member but asked if QDEG should make more effort to use the skills of our own members. The meeting was reminded about the skills forms that all members are invited to complete, which helps the committee to know where to turn when specific help is needed.

Shelagh Robinson told us that she had taken the opportunity as a member of a dementia organization to talk at Westminster to over two hundred MPs (including party leaders) about how people are affected by cuts in their benefits. She spoke as a Quaker and a member of QDEG, believing in equality.

Hilary Davies believes that more cuts are ahead whatever the outcome of the forthcoming election. She suggested associating ourselves with other Quaker groups that are already speaking out as Quakers about equality.

Joy Croft spoke of the really good improvements in accessibility which were achieved during her two terms of service on Meeting for Sufferings including audio papers and changes in procedures during meetings. She is grateful and pleased to have been able to give from her strengths. Eleanor Tew asked Joy to write a piece about her experiences. Alethea Wigzell offered to write an article about her experience of service on two national committees.

Gill Reid encouraged the use of appropriate technologies to enable people to serve.

Patricia Chandrasikera asked meetings to review their attitudes to disability and asked QDEG to write an encouraging article.

(Note: This was the purpose of the recent letter sent to every area meeting via the monthly mailing from Friends House to clerks.)

Bob Pickup said that personal and professional can go together, that QDEG can work jointly with many groups.

In response to a question, Pam Brunt confirmed that QDEG is also for carers and in fact for everyone who is interested in better inclusion within Quakers.

Dawn Beck reminded us that we have a responsibility to make our needs known.

Rosemarie Teare thanked QDEG for its work.

Signed:

Liz Anderton and Jackie Fowler, co-clerks

10 Dos and Don’ts

This is taken from a piece written for The Friend by Hilary Davies, and is reproduced with permission

These tips come from my experience of sight loss over 15 years and from a recent period as a wheel chair user, following an accident. Also from sharing with other disabled people in the Disability Movement.

All disabled people are, of course, unique human beings so their views may differ from mine. But like most people, those with disabilities want to be part of social sharing and value help when they need it.

1. Ask a person who you know is disabled if you can help them in any way.

Be happy to accept it if they do not need your assistance. (Battling with a Big Issue seller who wants to march you across a road you do not wish to cross, is not fun!)

2. Always address disabled people directly about matters which concern them.

Avoid the “does she/he take sugar” pitfall.

3. When approaching people whose lack of sight may prevent them recognising you, use their name and say who you are. Also say your name when speaking in a group.

If you do not tell them when you are moving away, they may continue talking to thin air.

4. When accompanying or guiding a person with little or no sight, tell them when you are approaching steps/kerbs.

If you do not say if these go up or down, it can be dangerous for both of you.

5. Try to ensure you face a hearing impaired person and have good light on your face to assist with lip reading.

Do not shout at the person but pay careful attention to what helps them to hear what you are saying.

6. If offering to help a wheel chair user and /or their “driver”, do not move the chair without first consulting them. Disorientation kicks in fast and can feel like sea-sickness for those who do not see well.

In order to look after your back, ask for advice about how best to move the chair.

7. Sit down alongside when talking to a person in a wheelchair.

Being towered over is not conducive to relaxed communication.

8. Be very precise when giving directions to visually impaired people.

Waving a hand and pointing does not help. Nor does saying “over here” or “over there”.

9. Do you know how to ensure that loops and other hearing supports are working? Let the hearing impaired person know these are available.

Above all, remember that such aids are only as good as the ability of people to operate them.

10. Disabled people are often very good at problem solving – their daily lives rely on this skill.

Do not think “they have enough to deal with so we will not bother them”. Invite their contributions to finding solutions to problems.

Queries and Advices – Inclusion of Disabled Friends

Queries:

  • How do you create an atmosphere in your Meeting where people, especially those new to the Meeting, are not afraid to make their needs known?
  • How do you work for the full inclusion of children and young people with disabilities in your Meeting and greater disability awareness among all your children and young people?
  • How do you help those who find it hard to hear or understand ministry? Do you have an effective, reliable hearing support system for those using hearing aids?
  • What does your Meeting do to enable visually-impaired Friends to take a full part in the Meeting?
  • How might you seek advice and support to help you understand and include Friends with mental health problems?
  • How can your Meeting respond to those who are unable to sit in one position for a long period because of the usual seating or for other reasons?
  • What are you doing to make the best possible provision for people with walking difficulties given the age and nature of the buildings you use?
  • How often does your Meeting hold Meetings for Worship in the homes of housebound Friends or those who cannot manage larger groups?
  • How might your Meeting offer care to someone to free their regular carer to attend Meeting?
  • How does your Meeting help with transport for people who are otherwise unable to come to Meeting?

Advices: Possible Next Steps

Our life is love, and peace and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand. Isaac Pennington1667

  • Ask disabled people if they need help and listen to what they say.
  • If you have a disability, try to acknowledge your need and find ways to make it known.
  • Ask your Elders and Overseers to help. (See Quaker faith and practice paragraphs 12.12g and 12.13c).
  • For information about disabled access requirements, consult “The Care of Meeting Houses” BYM Handbook for a brief introduction.
  • Ask your Local Authority or Meeting House Warden about Hearing Support Systems and professional technical expertise in your area.
  • Find out about Quaker publications in audio format from Talking Friends. Website: www.talkingfriends.org.uk
  • Join the BYM e-mail network for those who share a concern about disability equality. Find a ‘computer buddy’ if you want to join but do not use a computer.

These queries and advices are also available as a printable leaflet, including contact information for QDEG.

Audio booklist

This is a list of suggested titles available in audio formats that may be of interest to Quakers.

Armstrong, Karen The case for God
Bstan-‘dzin-rgya-mtsho, Dalai Lama XIV, 1935-; Singh, Renuka The path to tranquillity abridged
Foster, Richard J. Streams of living water: essential practices from the six great traditions of Christian faith
Jennings, Alex The psalms
Kornfield, Jack After the ecstasy, the laundry
Kornfield, Jack A path with the heart
McLaren, Brian D A generous orthodoxy
Nhât Hanh, Thích The art of mindful living
Nhât Hanh, Thích Teachings of love
Palmer, Parker J. A hidden wholeness: the journey toward an undivided life
Palmer, Parker J. Let your life speak: listening for the voice of vocation
Rohr, Richard Breathing under water: spirituality and the twelve steps
Rohr, Richard Falling upward: a spirituality for the two halves of life
Teresa of Avila The way of perfection
Tolle, Eckhart In the presence of a great mystery

Additionally, these two books may be helpful, though not currently available in audio form:

Hull, John Touching the rock: an experience of blindness
Hull, John On sight and insight: a journey into the world of blindness

Disability Welfare Reforms – Psychological Firewalls

I believe that the current government’s disability welfare reforms are wrecking vulnerable people’s psychological firewalls. If you have a serious and/or lifelong condition, you need to develop a psychological firewall. This firewall enables you to filter the painful or humiliating experiences that your condition will inevitably bring. The firewall takes years to develop, but it is an essential piece of psychological kit. It means that when you have to respond politely to someone who asks if you are dying, or where Mummy is, to crawl into a building or ask a relative stranger to dress you, you can do this while retaining your dignity and self-respect. The firewall is not in operation every minute of every day, but you will use it frequently throughout your life. It enables you to cope with your problems while living a full and happy life.

If your firewall becomes damaged, you are in trouble. You will be less able to manage the physical, mental and social challenges that your conditions create. The DWP’s Work Capability Assessments damage disabled people’s firewalls, sometimes irreparably. When you claim Employment and Support Allowance you receive letters asking when you became unwell and when you expect to get better. There are two problems with this – one you may not be ‘ill’, only disabled. And two, if your condition is lifelong you cannot answer this question, because you don’t know when you’re going to die. Part of having a lifelong condition – even a relatively benign one, is knowing that you will die with it. It will never ever leave you. Under normal conditions you deal with this knowledge by ignoring it. If your firewall is in good condition you can happily get on with your life. To be asked to confirm every twelve weeks that no miracle has occurred is a pointless act of violence.

The ESA50 form, used for Work Capability Assessments, undermines your firewall by systematically facing you with all the things you cannot do and forcing you to concentrate on them exclusively, when all your life you have tried your hardest to do the opposite. If you do not have a mental health problem when you begin the Work Capability Assessment process, you will by the time you get out. Firewalls are the work of a lifetime, but no one’s firewall can survive the WCA process unscathed.

This grievous psychological harm is compounded by the assessment’s failure to acknowledge the nuances of life with a medical condition. The ESA50 form is designed to get people off benefits, not to give an accurate picture of their abilities. It makes no mention of good or bad days, or of the fact that some parts of your brain can work well while others are forever out to lunch. For example the form fails to distinguish adequately between cognitive and neurological problems. I am visually impaired and have severe balance and mobility problems. The decision maker, who had never seen me, decided on the basis of the form that I could safely get away from danger, because I understand the concept. Yes, I know that cars are dangerous. This has no bearing whatsoever on my ability to get away from them. The assessment operates according to a willfully inaccurate logic that has very little respect for reality. This explains why a number of people who are terminally ill have been passed fit for work.

I believe that the Work Capability Assessment process is in direct contravention of the Quaker testimonies to peace, equality and truth. I am working for a two-stream disability benefit system, in which the lifelong nature of some conditions is acknowledged. Only people who have a chance of getting better should be asked whether this has occurred. Anything else is a waste of time and money, and a gratuitous attack on people who are dealing with a difficult situation as best they can. I am also campaigning for a more nuanced assessment process that is flexible enough to take account of the realities of individual people’s lives. I am not saying that disabled people should not work, given appropriate levels of support – I am saying that the benefits system needs to acknowledge the truth of their lives. Not to do so constitutes grievous psychological harm. If, as Quakers, we believe that all people are children of the Light, we cannot allow this violence to continue. I ask Quakers to campaign for a fairer and more truthful assessment process for those on disability benefits. I also ask them to campaign for a less violent system that leaves disabled people’s psychological firewalls – that is their dignity and self-respect – intact.

E-mail Guidelines

I recently went to a seminar at work on using email better. All of us on the committee now use email, but some of us find it difficult or uncongenial. I think some of the ideas from the seminar may help us.

Is Email Best?

Email is not always the best medium. Some office workers tend to use email when the phone would be better. This may apply to us.

Email leaves a Lot out

In normal conversation body language and tone of voice often convey more than the words used, but in email we only have the words. We therefore have to make sure that what we write will be understood by people who cannot see our face or hear our voice. Sarcasm and irony should generally be avoided, and even humour may be misunderstood.

Who should get the Email?

Most people get more emails that they really want. When composing an email, consider carefully just who should receive it. When replying to a message, decide whether to reply to the sender only, (reply), or to everyone who has received the message (reply all).

Subject Line

The subject line should be brief and relevant to the content of the message. Do not leave the subject line blank.

Brevity and Clarity

Remember that for some people reading email is an effort. Be polite, but brief. If your message is part of a long thread of emails, delete most of the earlier ones before you send it. If you are asking someone to do something, make it clear who is to do it and what is to be done. Always read through your email before you send it to check that it makes sense.

Speed

(These are my ideas, which are different from what we were told in the seminar).
Email can be a rapid means of communication. Sometimes speed is necessary, but often it is not. Pause before replying to an email, especially if you have strong feelings about it. It is possible, (though not always easy), to handle email reflectively and prayerfully and to allow the Spirit to work through it.

Eleanor Tew, 25/04/2009