Category Archives: Resources

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

Do I Know You?

I need to catch someone after Meeting to give him a cheque (I am the treasurer). Let’s call him David. I sit in Meeting, distracted, looking over at the person that I thought might be David. If I go over to him thinking he is David, and turns out not to be, that is so embarrassing. It’s probably less embarrassing to ignore this person who may or may not be David, and post the cheque to him. But then he might be David and then he’d wonder why I didn’t just give the cheque to him.

After tea and coffee, I go to Local Meeting for Business. More agonies. I’m irritated that a small working group has formed, bypassing the authority of LM and the process of Nominations. Am I being too rule-bound and pedantic? I know I often am. But no, it seems others feel that same way as I do. I find it very hard to know when it’s my turn to speak, and for how long to speak. I have so often in the past been told that I butt in or talk over people. I go home feeling rather low. I wish I could explain to people why I find these things so difficult, but years of trying to hide my condition inhibits me.

My life is full of these little agonies. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and have very poor facial recognition (prosopagnosia) which some, but not all, Aspies suffer from.

Asperger’s is referred to as a “spectrum disorder”. In practice, this seems to mean that there is a wide range of symptoms and most Aspies don’t experience all of them. I can only describe those that affect me.

Like most Aspies, I tend to focus on detail rather than see the bigger picture. I recognise people, for example, by usually one or at most two characteristics. That fine if it’s their nose, but if it’s their hairstyle or their glasses, I’m in trouble if they change them. I have poor social skills and find it difficult to make friends. I can’t judge whether the wording of a Minute is good enough and it’s tempting to niggle over a word or two. Because I know this is my weakness, I often over-compensate and don’t say anything even when I want to. I am a poor listener, and can come over as cold and lacking in empathy. I like structure and don’t cope well with change. I can go to once-a-month Meeting Lunch in winter because it’s held at the Meeting House and is structured and I know how it works. In the summer, it switches to a picnic in a nearby park and I find that too scary and unstructured and I don’t go.

My actions or words can seem rude, when I don’t at all intend them to be. A party is my idea of hell, and I haven’t attempted one for years. I think in pictures, not words, and it can be hard to translate the pictures into words. I often feel ignored or overlooked.

If you met me, it’s most unlikely that you’d realise I have Asperger’s. A lot of people have a preconception about autism and Asperger’s from the film Rainman. I’m not at all like Rainman. Asperger’s is a lifelong condition and back when I was a very disturbed and distressed child, there was no awareness, even amongst the professionals, of Asperger’s. I’m now in my late 50s, and it was only recently that I was diagnosed. Years of struggling with undiagnosed Asperger’s has left me with low self-esteem and depression. I now know that I’m not mad, bad or defective. I just have a brain that works differently to most other people’s.

At least now I can explain to people what my problems are, and why…. if they’ll listen.

And yes, it was David and I gave him the cheque. I used one of my usual ploys. “Have you seen David here today?” I asked another Friend. “Yes, he’s just over there” came the reply, pointing towards him.

Chrissie Bligh. 06/05/2013.

Accessible Language (YFGM Minute)

This is a minute of Young Friends General Meeting (YFGM), as discerned in session at YFGM February 2010 in Croydon. This minute was sent to Meeting for Sufferings.

10/08 Accessible Language

Helen Percy has shared with us her concern over Friends’ publications, many of which are accessible only to people of a relatively high educational level, or for whom English is a mother tongue. We feel that this does not sit well with our testimony to equality, nor wish to speak plainly.

We recognise that Quakerism is a path which values the living word over the written word, and that no book can be placed on a pedestal for us. However we recognise that many of us find the Quaker Faith and Practice useful and we must make it useful to as many people as possible, and not allow “words to become barriers between us.”

We ask that Britain Yearly Meeting through the Quaker Faith and Practice publications Group and other groups considers the use of simplified English in future redrafts of Quaker Faith and Practice and supporting documents so that documents being currently produced are more easily understandable to people of a lower reading age, or for whom English is a second language. We recognise that this will be a challenging task and simplification of Quaker language does not mean that the message becomes simplified or diluted.

We ask that this minute be sent to Meeting for Sufferings to pass on this concern to the Quaker Faith and Practice Publications Group and other groups producing material on behalf of the Religious Society of Friends.

Cait Gould, Siobhan Haire
Co-clerks

Making the Written Word More Accessible to People with Dyslexia

By Melanie Jameson of Dyslexia Consultancy Malvern (opens in new window)

There are two reasons why producers of paper-based and website materials should take account of dyslexia. The first is the prevalence of the condition: with up to 10% of the population showing some signs of dyslexia (of which about 4% are severely affected) there are bound to be people with dyslexia amongst readers of your materials. Although dyslexia can present a formidable barrier to the written word, many individuals nevertheless learn to read but most will never become completely fluent. Skimming though text is rarely possible so other methods are used to get an overview such as focusing on summaries, introductions and conclusions, subheadings and absorbing information from charts and diagrams.

In addition to the handicap of being essentially a word-by-word reader, a considerable proportion of the dyslexic population contend with a further barrier to reading: a condition that has been variously referred to as Visual Stress, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome or Meares-Irlen Syndrome 1.

Typical symptoms reported by dyslexic people when reading include a ‘glare’ from white paper which obscures the text drawing the eye to the streams of white space meandering down the page, the blurring, fading or swirling of print, together with headaches or eye strain when reading. Some individuals are hampered in their reading by continually losing the place as they transfer from one line to the next, while others unintentionally skip words or misread them. People with dyslexia do not have a monopoly on these symptoms, in fact it was work with photo-sensitive epileptics and migraine suffers which first highlighted visual Stress.

The way forward is often a combination of treatment from a specialist optician / optometrist2 to correct any visual dysfunction and investigate colour sensitivity. Some people find that intuitive tinted overlays (placed on to text) are helpful whereas others ‘go all the way’ and acquire spectacles tinted to their personal requirements.

Why is Visual Stress an issue for all producers of written materials? This brings us to the second point: the text you produce may actually exacerbate Visual Stress.

Research by Professor Arnold Wilkins3 over several years has confirmed that the physical features of text can greatly aggravate Visual Stress. A fundamental way, therefore, of tackling the problem is to encourage those who produce manuals, magazines, articles, public information leaflets etc. to make their texts more ‘dyslexia- friendly’. The points of good practice, outlined below, will make the written word far more accessible to dyslexic readers. Many of the guidelines also refer to web design.

Try to avoid or limit the following:

  • fonts below size 12
  • cramped spacing – between words, lines and throughout the document as a whole
  • printing whole words, phrases or sentences in capital letters (dyslexic people often read by recognising the shape of a word – this is destroyed by capitalisation)
  • use of italics (words in italics are harder to decipher)
  • use of ‘fancy’ or unusual fonts
  • glossy or bright white paper (the shine causes intense glare, especially under artificial lighting; the best colour for most people is pale blue or cream)
  • printing in either red or green (colour-blind people also report problems reading text written in green or red)
  • over-elaborate desktop publishing and ‘busy’ backgrounds

Wilkin’s research concludes that the first two factors present the biggest handicap.

Incorporate the features below where appropriate:

  • justify left only leaving the right hand margin unjustified (this format leads to equal spacing between the words and makes it easier for the eye to move accurately from one line to the next)
  • use lists and bullet points
  • use bold text selectively
  • use no more than two columns
  • stick to one font and style throughout

The recommendations below focus more on assisting the process of assimilation than minimising Visual Stress:

  • always aim for a clear text, laid out in a consistent fashion, uncluttered by unnecessary features
  • only use graphics if these underline the textual content, otherwise they can distract and lead to incorrect understanding of the content
  • include icons and pictograms as markers to enable readers to find what they want more easily
  • incorporate clear headings and sub-headings
  • boxed summaries are useful, given the short-term memory problems and loss of concentration usually experienced by people with dyslexia
  • if shading is used, keep it pale and only overprint text in black, not in a colour.
  • on the whole, dyslexic people are visual thinkers so will find diagrams far more accessible than a written account and flow-charts ideal to explain procedures
  • since dyslexic readers often struggle to recall the ever-increasing number of abbreviations and may not always have internalised new jargon, it is good practice to provide a glossary of terms at the end – this also assists newcomers in the field

Following these guidelines should not hinder us in conveying information to the non-dyslexic majority. In the case of readers with dyslexia, however, it could make the difference between accessibility and necessitating considerable extra effort on the part of an already disadvantaged minority.

1Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome’ was the initial name given to this condition by the pioneer Helen Irlen but the term ‘scotopic’ was rejected as a misnomer by eye professionals. ’Meares-Irlen Syndrome’ also recognises the contribution of Olive Meares. I prefer the term Visual Stress and believe that treatment by specialist optometrists rather than (expensive) Irlen Practitioners are the way forward (MJ)

2 See: www.ceriumoptical.com and www.s4clp.org for further information

3 Full details visit Professor Wilkin’s website at www.essex.ac.uk/psychology/overlays