My awkward taxi journeys – #EndtheAwkward

(Image by Unisouth)

Scope’s End the Awkward campaign has been highlighting some of the awkward situations disabled people find themselves having to deal with. Here Rosemary Frazer, our Campaign Manager, writes about some of her more difficult taxi journeys.

Rosemary sitting in a wheelchair, with a grey carigan and short dark hair, smiling at the cameraI’m a wheelchair user and as much of London’s public transport system is inaccessible to me, I take lots of cabs, especially to and from work.

The vast majority of cab drivers I meet are absolutely wonderful and couldn’t be more helpful in getting me in and out of the cab. But occasionally I will get the odd (and I mean odd) cab driver who will say something which leaves me dumbfounded and wishing I was anywhere else but in the back of their cab.

“I’m a cab driver not a bloody ambulance driver!”

The first incident I remember was when taking a cab from my office to a meeting.  The cab pulled up and I asked the driver to park a little closer to the kerb to make it easier to get in the car.

“I’m a cab driver, not a bloody ambulance driver!” was the response.

I was so shocked and told him I didn’t want to get into his cab because of his attitude and would order another. I took another cab and arrived late and quite angry at my meeting.

“I suppose you were in there spending all your benefit money on booze.”

On another occasion, probably my favourite, a cab picked me up at a pub where I’d gone with colleagues to celebrate the end of a project. I got into the cab and the driver’s opening remark was:

“I suppose you were in there spending all your benefit money on booze.”

‘Oh dear!’ I thought, poor man, he doesn’t know what he’s let himself in for! From Islington to Bow he sat in silence as I lectured him on disabled people and the additional costs we face, providing statistic after statistic on how the benefits some disabled people receive go nowhere near meeting the additional costs we incur.

I think it’s fair to say he won’t be broaching that subject again with a disabled passenger!

“How long have you been crippled?”

The latest incident was just last week when on my way home from work the cab driver asked out of the blue,

“How long have you been crippled?”

It really took my breath away. I asked him to stop the cab and I paid and got out.  I just couldn’t remain in the cab any longer and pushed myself the rest of the way home.

Why am I sharing my experiences?

When I tell other cab drivers about these experiences they are absolutely furious and always say I hope you made a complaint.

For me such comments no longer have any lasting impact but I worry about people who have recently become disabled and who are perhaps out for the first time in their wheelchair. Such comments can and do rock a person’s confidence and may make them reluctant to venture outdoors or take a cab for a long time afterwards.

I was telling a cab driver I know quite well that I was thinking of writing about my experiences and he said you absolutely must as cab drivers need to know what not to do or say and there isn’t much training provided.

All passengers should be treated the same way and no one should make assumptions about our lives. When in doubt about the support to offer, of course it’s ok to ask, but think about the language you use. Hopefully reading about my experiences will help make journeys less awkward.

Descriptive praise – how to get your child to cooperate!

This is a guest blog from Noel Janis-Norton, our online community’s parenting advisor. Here she explains how to use a technique called ‘descriptive praise’ to get your child to cooperate. 

One of the most frustrating things about being a parent is the endless repeating and reminding, just to get our children to do what they’re told. In the heat of the moment it’s easy to forget that children aren’t born knowing that they’re supposed to do what we tell them to do. Cooperation is a habit that they need to learn.

Mum and dad playing at a table with their young disabled daughter

My definition of cooperation is that our children do what we ask them to do the first time we ask, and without a fuss. Thankfully, it’s never too late to guide children and teens into the habit of cooperating. Of course children aren’t robots, so they’ll never be perfect. But it really is possible for children and teens to get into the habit of cooperating 90% of the time. That’s what the programme I’ve developed – Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, can help you achieve.

If your children tend to ignore your instructions, or if they argue or say “in a minute,” a good question to ask yourself is, “how can I motivate them to want to cooperate?” You’ve probably noticed that threats and telling off don’t actually motivate, but luckily there are more effective ways. One useful technique is descriptive praise. This is the most powerful motivator I’ve ever come across.

Two young brothers and their sister playing with multi-coloured plastic bricks

Descriptive praise is the opposite of how we usually praise.  Generally, we try to encourage good behaviour by using lots of superlatives: “Terrific!”, “Wow!”, “Brilliant!”, “Amazing!” But superlative praise is so vague and exaggerated that the child is often unclear about what was so great.

Descriptive praise is far more effective. Just describe exactly what your child did right or exactly what they didn’t do wrong, being very specific:

“You did what I asked the first time. You’re cooperating.”

“You didn’t say “In a minute”. I asked you to set the table, and you did it straightaway, without any complaining.”

Mum kneeling on the floor hugging her son

In my book, Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, a mother explains how descriptive praise motivated her six and eight-year-old sons to become more cooperative:

“The day after Noël’s seminar, I told my boys to wash their hands for dinner. The younger one hopped up to do what I said. I jumped in with descriptive praise, saying “You’re a first-time listener.” As soon as I said this, his older brother got up, saying “I’m a first-time listener too”, and rushed off to wash his hands. I hadn’t expected my words to have such an effect. The next day my six-year-old washed his hands and came to the table, saying “Look Mum, I’m a no-time listener because I did it before you even asked!”

When you make a point of mentioning each time your children do what you ask the first time, soon they will be cooperating more and more. You can use this strategy to improve any behaviour that’s problematic.  Descriptive praise brings out the best in children, even in teenagers!

In this short blog I can only scratch the surface of this useful parenting tool, so you’re bound to have questions. In my CD called Descriptive Praise, The #1 Motivator, I answer all the questions parents have about putting descriptive praise into practice, and give lots of examples you can use to improve a wide range of family issues.

Dad mixing cake mixture in a bowl with his young daughter with cerebral palsy

As important as descriptive praise is, it’s not the only strategy you’ll need to bring out the best behaviour in your children and teens. But it’s the first strategy. So for the next four weeks, take the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting challenge and start using descriptive praise whenever you notice your children doing something right or even any tiny improvement. You’ll see positive results sooner than you can imagine.

Got a question for Noel? Ask her on our online community