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News

QDEG at Woodbrooke (posted 17th December 2015)Bob 2   

Several members of QDEG attended the recent development weekend for Woodbrooke associate tutors. The weekend focussed on making Woodbrooke’s learning accessible to all. We were delighted that the main plenary session was about a taking personalised approach to inclusion. This was followed by a choice of workshops, two of which were led by QDEG where we used scenarios to explore ways to plan an inclusive programme which can be flexible on the day.

The QDEG committee met at Lancaster Meeting House on 4th November 2015

Website

We continue to work on our website developing the news pages, committee profiles and improving the graphics   We agree to develop a personal stories page sharing personal narratives of being a Quaker with a disability

AGM May 2016

We are planning our AGM which will be during Yearly Meeting 27 ~ 30 May 2016   We have asked for a room for the AGM on either Saturday or Sunday at 12 30 and a stall at the Groups Fair on Sunday evening

When we get confirmation of the rooms available we will be in touch with the details

Woodbrooke

Following our correspondence with Woodbrooke we heard that they are working on making other versions of their brochure available.  They have used our feedback to improve the access request section of their standard booking form

Some QDEG members have contributed to Woodbrooke’s survey about their online learning courses

The associate tutor development weekend from 11 -13 December will include a focus on    “Accessibility for All”     Two of our committee members will be running 2 workshops on Access and Inclusion on the Saturday afternoon    We are pleased that associate tutors are encouraged and equipped to consider inclusivity in the planning and development of All courses

News from your committee October 2015

Over the past year …

We responded to the BYM Long Term Framework consultation for 2015-2020 by focusing on the need to make the testimony to equality a reality in the life and work of the Society.  Read our response here: QDEG’s response to ‘The Way Ahead’

Two of our committee members are also on the BYM pastoral care group and helped to advise on accessibility issues for Friends attending Yearly Meeting at the newly refurbished Friends House in London in May 2015. They are already involved in preparations for the Yearly Meeting Gathering to be held in Warwick 2017.

We met with Sandra Berry and Staff at Woodbrooke to discuss making the courses and facilities more accessible. Woodbrooke are committed to improving access for all as far as possible within the limitations of older buildings and allowing for differing needs.

We are continuing to develop our website and welcome suggestions for articles on disability issues which are particularly relevant to Quakers.

We are working on guidelines for including Friends with sensory impairment.

We will hold our AGM at Yearly Meeting 2016.   Put the date in your diary.   It is a good opportunity to meet other interested Friends and hear about our work

Further details will be posted on our website when they are available.

Liz Anderton and Jackie Fowler, co-clerks

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