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Disability in business

Jonathan, who has a degenerative spinal condition which means he uses a wheelchair and has carers to assist him, has first hand experience of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities – especially in the business world. “I used to run multi-million pound companies and I’d go with some of my staff into meetings with corporate bank managers and they’d say to my staff, ‘it’s really good of you to bring a service user along’, and I’d say, ‘hang on, I’m the MD –  it’s my money!’

Disability Marketing

Michael Janger has a passionate interest in products and technologies that enable people with disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life, and works with businesses to effectively market and sell these products to the disability market.

Think Inclusive

I think there are two basic assumptions that you need in order support inclusion (in any context)

  1. All human beings are created equal (you know the American way) and deserve to be treated as such.
  2. All human beings have a desire to belong in a community and live, thrive and have a sense of purpose.

The important takeaway…when you assume people want to belong. Then is it our duty as educators, parents, and advocates to figure out how we can make that happen.

Institute of Community Inclusion

For over 40 years, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) has worked to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to dream big, and make their dreams a fully included, integrated, and welcomed reality. ICI strives to create a world where all people with disabilities are welcome and fully included in valued roles wherever they go, whether a school, workplace, volunteer group, home, or any other part of the community. All of ICI’s efforts stem from one core value: that people with disabilities are more of an expert than anyone else. Therefore, people with disabilities should have the same rights and controls and maintain lives based on their individual preferences, choices, and dreams.

Cerebral Palsy Career Builders

How to deal with the following:

  1. Bias
  2. Presumption
  3. Myth
  4. Skepticism
  5. Prejudice
  6. Discrimination

e-Learning with Lego – Connect, Construct, Contemplate and Continue

LEGO logo

LEGO logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Fig.1. Coach training with Bill Furniss, Nottingham


The Amateur Swimming Association, who train all our swimming teachers and coaches up to the highest level through the Institute of Swimming, have a hundred or so Open Learn like modules that take typically 2-3 hours to do including things like ‘Coaching Disabled Athletes’ and ‘Working with athletes with learning difficulties’. And other important refresher modules such as child protection.



Fig.2. Learning for disabled students needs to be tailored to their specific needs


As we have now seen on H810 : Accessible Online Learning – far more so than in the general population, there are specific and complex needs. The general disability awareness for sport says, ‘see the ability not the disability, play to their strengths’ – as a coach you have to identify strengths from weaknesses.



Fig.3. Using an endless pool to examine swimming technique


Once you are working with an athlete then you find you need more specific knowledge on a, b, or c – which might be an amputee, someone with cerebral palsy, or no hearing. Each person is of course very different, first as a person (like us all), then in relation to the specifics of their disability so a general course for tutors and teachers then becomes a waste of time.



Fig.4. Lego Education using Lego Techniks


If we think of this kind of e-training as construction with Lego Techniks, then once you’re past the introduction a ‘set of bricks’ should be used to assemble more specific answers and insights – even getting users – in this instance a coach and athlete, to participate in the construction based on their experience i.e. building up hundreds of case studies that have an e-learning component to them. The Lego Educational Institute are an astute bunch, their thinking on learning profound, modern and hands on.


Perhaps I should see what I can come up with, certainly working with disabled athletes the coach to athlete relationship is more 1 to 1 than taking a squad of equally ‘able’ swimmers. Then apply it to other contexts. And Lego are the ones to speak to.


‘Lego Education’ are worth looking at.


The thinking is considered, academic and modern – written in language that is refreshingly clear and succinct given the subject matter. The idea of ‘flow’ – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – is included while the ‘Four Cs’ of learning is a good way to express the importance of collaborative, self-directed construction and reflection:


  • Connect
  • Construct
  • Contemplate
  • Continue





Do you need help getting around?

Fig.1. Signage plonked in your face as you exit the tube station at Tower Hill

My antennae are out for anything and everything to do with accessibility – this caught my eye because there is no mention of disability or accessibility – nor should there be. I find phrases like ‘disabled persons’ or, instead of the icons such as these –  words like ‘wheel-chair user’, ‘blind’ or ‘visually impaired’ and ‘deaf’ as outmoded and inappropriate as efforts to define ‘people of colour’.

I rather liked the ‘older old’ which I say in something yesterday – by anyone’s reckoning Rupert Murdoch at 82 is ‘old’ whereas his mother who died yesterday was certainly ‘older old’. Given how long-lived we are becoming Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man’ ought to be rephrased as ‘the nine (or ten) ages of … ‘persons’ (yuk)

I rather like ‘oldies’ too – but do they?

The relevance of this two-fold: the integration rather than the segregation of disability into the population – at many levels we are all just ‘people’ and the language should reflect this; universal language as well as universal design – so understanding at what ‘levels’ words also need to be chosen with care. As this sign does so well there is no need or value in defining the need by labelling people with certain disabilities, at deeper levels then yes, clarifying and responding, for example to a visual impairment and then refining this to the blind, legally blind, sight impaired, short sighted and so on is necessary. Getting the context right matters. Giving it some thought – and having people in place to give it this thought – helps.


Transport for London

Transport and access to public services

Transport for London – Disability Guides

Mayor of London Access Policy


Enhanced learning as a mind-map, mind dump, composting exercise from where ideas brew

Fig.1. Ownership of learning, Web 2.0 and the Open University Masters in Open and Distance Education – Module H800. Technology Enhanced Learning: practices and debates.

My Mindmap gone mental. But it is my mind. And my mess!

The important thing is to get it off your head and out of your fingertips – one way or a multitude of other ways: doodle, talk about, blog it, message it, make a poster, collect links on it, or images on it … read books and papers on it and aggregate these. But do something that gets it out from between your ears. A coffee will do. Dinner is best.

This is like building a compost heap, you chuck everything in.

Like composting you should then give the stuff time to decompose, then extract the goodness you want – an essay plan or bullet pointed treatment at most, ordered and ranked. Otherwise the undigested mess continues.

Notes on a history of England’s first school for the blind

This is part of the Open University Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE)  module H810 (Access to online learning for students with a disability) Activity 12.1 History

Braille provided a way to read material that could be reused by blind people and reduced the pressure on readers.

Worcester College

The attitude to blindness pioneered by those who founded Worcester College is, I think, best exemplified by Samuel Forster when he asserted that ‘the blind boy of healthy body and sound brain is, to all intents and purposes, nothing more than a seeing boy, whose lot is cast in the dark…blind boys are boys first, then boys in the dark…’, an attitude which much later became embodied in the school’s motto, “Possunt quia posse videntur”, They can, because they think they can.

Is preparedness for employment of greater value than an ‘education’?

  • The debate rumbles on in relation to all secondary and tertiary education, whether ‘academic’ or vocational.
  • Thomas Anderson, manager of the Edinburgh Asylum before he went to York, was a great advocate of the utilitarian approach, and censured the English organisations for concentrating on schooling rather than employment.
  • Why educate the blind student if they have no gainful employment or means of supporting themselves afterwards? What indeed is the point in education if nothing follows for anyone? In developing the frustration takes young people onto the streets to protest.

As Ritchie says, ‘education was the attainment of a certain degree of factual awareness and the acquisition of a quantum of information—the names of the kings of Israel, the lengths of the chief rivers of the globe and several other categories of facts all equally unconnected with the growing and developing nature of the young’.

Of what use is this to the young blind student? Or should it be in addition to the practicalities of living beyond their school?

  • The prevalent view a century ago was that knowing stuff equated to intelligence. In 1918 on applying to join the fledgling RAF my late grandfather told me how he was asked to name the six most northern counties of England.
  • A challenge the blind could do without and that was met most readily by those families with the means.

Higher education for blind children was confined to those fortunate enough to be born into families with the means and the will to provide this privately.

  • Something that across provision for disabled students hasn’t changed, for example, the specialist Northease School charges annual fees of £25,000 p.a. which, usually after a tribunal, local authorities may pay – while of course the well off have no such hoops to go through.
  • Inspiration from those who make it:

Blind Jack of Knaresborough, the road-builder, Nicholas Saunderson, the Cambridge mathematician, Thomas Blacklock, writer, teacher and philosopher,
James Gale, inventor, and Elizabeth Gilbert, a major figure in nineteenth-century blind welfare.

It would be wrong to suppose that blindness, like other handicaps, necessarily acts as a stimulating challenge.

Blindness may act as a challenge, but only under favourable circumstances. The exceptions emphasize how grim were the prospects of blind children before education for the blind became an accepted fact of life: conditions were too bad for the handicap to stimulate.


They were (says its 1872 report) ‘to bestow a sound and liberal education upon persons of the male sex afflicted with total or partial blindness, and belonging, by birth or kinship, to the upper, the professional, or the middle classes of society.

These unctuous and somewhat naive sentiments were, fortunately for his pupils, not characteristic of Forster. His attitude towards the education of the blind was unusually realistic and forward-looking. In 1883 he read a paper at the York Conference entitled “A plea for the higher culture of the blind”.

‘The blind boy of healthy body and sound brain is, to all intents and purposes, nothing more than a seeing boy, whose lot is cast in the dark. The mysterious effects of this constant living in the dark have always exercised the imagination and sentiment of tender-hearted persons; but teachers of the blind prefer to disregard it, and come in time to forget it. To them blind boys are boys first, then boys in the dark…. needing the special aids and ingenious contrivances required by the circumstances.’

Presume nothing, ask the end user:

  • Forster wisely consulted some of his older pupils, and they advised adapting braille for the purpose.
  • Flexible, adaptable, accommodating and building on past experience and successes – so motivational and supportive rather than prescriptive.
  • Since braille was the only system which could feasibly be written, the boys learnt to write braille.

‘Teaching to write with a pen and pencil is now generally abandoned as a waste of time’: but those boys who could write before they went blind were encouraged to keep it up. Forster admitted that much teaching was still oral, but not to the extent it was ten years before.

Can’t start young enough, so perhaps schools can introduce tools and software.

Forster was very keen to get his pupils at as early an age as possible, preferably seven or eight, for no kindergarten was then in existence, and the later the pupils arrived, the harder it was to teach them.

Ingenious and inventive:

Mr Marston has been ingeniously endeavouring to apply these games to the use of “our” boys, by means of the principle of localisation of sound.

The difficulties of those boys (roughly one in five) who went on to university are worth elaborating. The student’s main need was for an intelligent sighted reader, for he had few textbooks with which to follow lectures.

‘Daily shewing how the same visitation is robbed of its severity, and overruled to practical good.’

Vincent work station:

The software which accompanies the workstation makes it a versatile aid, but its uses might be grouped roughly into three main areas. First, and most obvious, it is a method of communication with non-braillists. Second, it is a valuable teaching aid. Third – it’s fun!

(Bignall and Brown, 1985)

Bell, D. (ed.) (1967) The History of Worcester College for the Blind 1866–1966, London, Hutchinson & Co.
Bignall, R. and Brown, E. (1985) ‘Vincent Workstation’, The British Journal of Visual Impairment, vol. 3, pp. 17–19.

David Pelzer on life lessons





David Pelzer.

David Pelzer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Life Lessons


Dave Pelzer


This post first appeared in Diaryland on 18/02/2003


I like this book for its simplicity; it is also very short. Five or six ideas are enough to keep in your head at any one time; I’m going to pick through the following, chant them, put them in a prayer, remind myself each day what I want to achieve.


1. Be resilient


2. Learn to fly


3. No one is perfect


4. Let go of your past


a. ‘You cannot move forward until you free yourself from the shackles of your past.’


5. Deal with everyday problems


a. ‘Settle your problems as promptly and as thoroughly as you are able.’


6. Rest your mind.


a. Get a good night’s sleep.


i. I go to bed early.


7. Let go, let rip daily.


a. I go down to the sea.


8. Purge your soul


a. I do so in a diary, often in Diaryland.


9. If you have been subjected to negative surroundings, use them to make you strive for something better.


a. I don’t want to be an absent father, not away all week or for weeks at a time, nor a divorcee.


10. Limit your response to negative settings and, if necessary, make a clean break.


a. I got out of TVL, I got out of Worth Media (or did they push).


11. Overcome your guilt. Make amends and move on.


12. Don’t give yourself away in the vain hope of appeasing others.


13. To help yourself, be yourself.


14. Never go to bed upset.


15. Resolve mattes before they envelop you. Compromise.


16. Hate no one. It is like a cancer.


17. Forgiveness cleanses.


18. When life’s not fair.


a. ‘Before you quit on yourself when life isn’t fair, exhaust all your options for making things happen.’


19. How badly do I want it?


a. Resolve to make things happen to you.


20. What have I accomplished?


a. Ask yourself what can you not accomplish when you truly commit to that one thing?


21. Know what you want and determine to make it happen.


22. What is truly important to me? (us)


23. Attempt the so-called ‘impossible’ until it becomes an everyday part of your life.


24. Don’t give your best away.


a. ‘We allow self-doubt, time, situations or whatever else to erode our dreams. We quit on ourselves. We carry regret, regret turns into frustration, frustration into anger, anger into sorrow. We’ve lost one of life’s most precious gifts: the excitement, the fear, the heart-pounding sensation of taking a step outside our protective womb.’


25. Go the distance.


a. ‘Part of the thrill of success is the journey of the struggle. If it were easy everyone would be doing it.’


26. Be happy.


a. The older we get, the more complacent, hopeless and despondent we become.


27. A consistent, positive attitude makes a world of difference.


28. There may not be a tomorrow to count on, so live the best life that you can today.


29. Start saying positive, rather than negative things about myself (and everyone around me).


30. Focus. If you have no goal or the self-belief that you can accomplish them, you will end up going nowhere.


a. A little bit of adversity can help to realign you, make you humble and make you want it more.


b. Being asked why I turn to write whenever I’m up against it is highlighting my hearts desire I’m not entering a cave.


31. Deflect negativity.


a. Flush it away and replace it with something positive (from a positive environment).


32. I wallow in my own abyss of doom and gloom.


33. Every day see the brighter side of things.


With a six and four year old sick at home I do little else but supervise their activities, ensure that they are warm, safe, fed and entertained. I snatch at J G Ballard’s novel, ‘Super Cannes’ from which I exhumed the following quotes. I’ll chew over them another time, when I feel better and I don’t have a four year old having a tantrum. 

‘Relaxing on the coast highway, I changed down to third gear. For the next thirty minutes I drove like Frenchman, overtaking on the inside lanes, straddling the central market lines on the most dangerous bends, tailgating any woman driver doing less than seventy, my headlamps flashing, slipping the clutch at traffic lights as the exhaust roared through the muffler and the engines wound itself to a screaming 7000 rev, swerving across the double yellows and forcing any oncoming drivers to skid their wheels in the refuse-filled verges.’ J G Ballard. It sounds like my brother driving on the A1 up to Beadnell from Gosforth.


Familiar territory.


‘Senior policemen are either philosophers or madmen …’


So I have heard; it gives me a way ahead in my novel.


‘A perverse sexual act can liberate the visionary self in even the dullest soul” writes Ballard.



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