Tag Archives: disabled people

Are you longing for an accessible summer?

We all know January can be a miserable time of year. So much so that Monday 19 January is supposed to be THE most depressing day of the year! It helps explain why a lot of people start booking their summer holidays around this time. Here we have a couple of brilliant home and away options for accessible holiday destinations, reviewed by disabled people…

Somewhere cheerful on my doorstep please

Perhaps The Beamsley Project in the Yorkshire Dales will be right up your alley!

Emily Yates is an accessibility consultant and accessible travel writer, who also has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She’s currently spending six months of her year in Rio de Janeiro, advising on transport accessibility for the upcoming 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Emily spent her 21st birthday weekend at The Beamsley Project, and recently went back to properly assess all of the accessible features that it offers for disabled visitors.Large stone house in the countryside, with people sitting on a picnic table in front of it

Emily says, “in terms of accessibility, there are automatic external doors leading to a small lounge area with a television and sofas on the ground floor.  In the kitchen,  on the ground floor, there are height adjustable sinks and hobs, low storage for equipment that needs to be accessed, and all surfaces have space underneath so that wheelchair users can get right up to the surface itself. Off the side of the kitchen, the dining room boasts plenty of chairs and tables for personal arrangement, height adjustable tables, and wider grip cutlery for those who may require it. There’s a laundry room with two washers and dryers, a fridge freezer, torches and various sizes and shapes of slings to use with the hoists provided.

“There are also six bedrooms, two shower rooms, two toilet rooms and one bathroom on the ground floor, allowing sixteen people to sleep on this floor. Out of the sixteen beds (there are two four-bed rooms and four two-bed rooms on the ground floor), there are two height adjustable beds, and all beds can have cot-sides fitted to them if necessary.  There are two further bedrooms on the first floor (accessible via lift) sleeping four in each. Both have en suites, one of which has a roll-in shower and several grab rails.

“Whether you consider yourself to have a disability or not, book a stay at the Beamsley Project.  I guarantee that with such a stunning location, more equipment than you could need, and a great welcome from a lovely couple, you will not be disappointed.”

I want out of the UK –  give me guaranteed sunshine!

Then head to Barcelona, and experience sun, Catalan culture and tapas.

Martyn Sibley, co-editor of Disability Horizons, has a physical condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy and uses an electric wheelchair. He visited Barcelona last summer to report on accessibility in the city.

It seems that Barcelona has really built on its Olympic and Paralympic legacy since hosting the games in 1992. Aside from the outstanding accessible accommodation available, there aYoung disabled man being supported into the basket of a hot air balloon re many other offerings which help to make Barcelona one of the most accessible cities in the world. Many experiences which disabled people are often completely excluded from, such as hot air balloon flights, lazy days swimming at the beach, and even visits to wine cellars can all be experienced here.

It’s not just physical impairments that have been taken into consideration either. There are a number of venues and sights that also cater for limited mobility and special needs, for example tactile and audio tours of Gaudi’s famous Temple of the Sagrada Familia, and tourist buses with audio guides and induction loops. Impressively, 80% of Barcelona’s metro system is accessible, and 100% of their buses.

Martyn says, “Barcelona is hands down, the most accessible European city that I’ve ever visited. With so much to see and do and so many facilities on offer to disabled people, I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m back to see some more of what Barcelona and Catalonia has to offer.”

We’d love to know any great accessible holiday destinations that you’ve experienced too. Please leave a comment if you have any recommendations.

Voice recognition technology: FAQs

If I had a pound for every time I answered these questions, I could buy the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Does it work? 

Yes.

Really?

Yes.

How many words per minute can you type?

For this blog, about 30 words per minute. Normally I don’t have to produce words at speed but I would estimate that I am faster now than I was when I was working as a journalist typing with two fingers. NaturallySpeaking can type as fast as you can speak but you will have to correct any recognition errors afterwards. I would recommend this to anyone who would like to type faster.

How accurate is voice recognition?

For this article, Dragon Naturally Speaking has correctly interpreted 94% of words I have said. A further 3% required me to choose from a list of 10 words by saying ‘choose 4’ or ‘choose 7’. Even the best touch typists spell things incorrectly; Dragon Naturally Speaking will only offer me words that are in the dictionary.

The computer recognises your voice.  What happens if you have a cold?

I have used Dragon Naturally Speaking with a cold. As the computer learns from you constantly, after sessions like this I don’t save my voice files as recognition does depend on your ‘normal’ voice. You can also teach the computer to screen out unwanted noises like coughs and sneezes.

What about outside noise?

I have used my software in a busy and noisy press office quite effectively. The main problem I found there was colleagues tended to ignore me because they thought I was talking to my computer! One colleague’s sneeze was interpreted by my computer as ‘Honolulu’ and there was a door which closed with a sigh that used to come up as ‘fifth’ on my screen. You can train the computer to ignore these noises if they are persistent.

How long does it take to train?

I have trained a variety of people from actor Leslie Phillips to Dan Batten of Disability Now in an hour or so to understand the basics. Dragon Naturally Speaking’s initial training, in which you read from a variety of passages including Alice in Wonderland, takes a few minutes. This enables the computer to develop a model of your voice. It is practice that refines this model. So you can start using the software for dictation after an hour, but it really becomes efficient once you have customised it. The more you use it, the better it gets.  It’s a hell of a lot quicker and easier to learn than touch typing!

Can it do spreadsheets/tables/editing/whatever?

In theory, anything you can do with a keyboard or mouse can also be done via voice. Voice recognition technology is best for word processing and I wouldn’t recommend trying complicated design work with it just yet!

Find out more about assistive technology for disabled people on our Pinterest board.

5 top tips for dealing with Christmas debt

And so begins another year. Welcome to 2014 from us here at the Scope helpline. May this year be a good one for all. Last year we saw savage cuts to the welfare state leaving our most vulnerable members of society in deep distress, anxious about their futures.

We have heard some shocking stories about how people are coping with the cuts and the challenges they’ve faced to get through each day on budgets stretched to the limit.

We wanted to turn our attention to the help available if you’re struggling with debt. At this time of year after the Christmas festivities have ended, we often look to our finances and realise that we’ve spent far too much money and have to pay it back and try to get through another year.

Here are the helpline’s top tips to help you get back on track for 2014.

1. Prioritise your outgoings

Your priority outgoings are rent/mortgage, Council Tax, utility bills and court fines. You should pay these bills first. If you are having difficulty with any of the above, please call us free on 0808 800 3333 and speak to one of our response workers or email response@scope.org.ukDon’t avoid dealing with these issues as they will get worse if left.

 2. Maximise your income

Are you getting all of the benefits you are entitled to? Try a benefits check with Turn2us – they may also be able to help you apply for other financial help.

3. Are you struggling with debt?

There are various sources of help available to help you manage your finances. You can seek help from charities such as Step Change, Money Advice Service and National Debtline. Do not pay for financial advice. There are plenty of advice agencies around who offer free advice. Avoid payday lenders who charge excessive amounts of interest and avoid debt consolidation without getting advice about this first. You can access money advice at your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, approach your local credit union and, in some areas, your local council.

4. Emergency help

If you find that you have no money for essential bills you can apply to your local council for welfare provision payments which replaced community care grants and crisis loans in April 2013. The Children’s Society has created an online database of services in your local area. Every scheme has different criteria but would usually be considered as a last resort.

5. Fuel costs

See the pages on our website to help you tackle your fuel bills and get help to reduce large utility arrears bills – see Scope’s information on helping with fuel costs.

Groups offering emotional and practical support

This is the first of a series of occasional blogs from the Scope Helpline so we would welcome any suggestions as to what info you would find useful, what you want to know about the Helpline and Scope.

Although we are the national helpline for Scope and the first point of contact for most enquiries, we are quite small. We have two new staff starting in September which will take us up to seven staff and we deal with an average of 1,200 phone calls and 400 email/website enquiries per month.

The Helpline is central to information production within Scope so if there is a disability-related issue that you feel we should have further information on, please let us know. We cannot promise but all sensible suggestions will be considered.

We have noticed an increase in the number of people looking for emotional and practical support from people in similar situations. It’s not just adults – many disabled teenagers who are struggling to come to terms with their impairment, feel that they could benefit from a mentoring or befriending service and being in touch with disabled role models. At Scope we have a number of exciting peer support projects that people can get involved with:

  • For parents of disabled children we run a network of support groups called Face 2 Face.
  • Young disabled people between 10 and 18 years old can join the Trendsetter’s group.
  • Over 50s in Wakefield can join the Our Generation service that offers one-to-one support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions.
  • Everyone can get involved in the Scope Forum and talk to others online.

We’d love to hear what other peer support projects you would recommend, and let us know what areas you would like to see us talk about using the comments section below.

How can we better support disabled people’s career journeys?

Guest post from Rob Trotter, Public Policy Advisor (Employment and Skills) at Scope.

The current labour market is a challenging place for disabled people. Over half of all disabled adults are unemployed. Most want to work but can face extraordinary barriers to finding and retaining a job.

Employment support – to help disabled adults find, prepare for and progress in work – is a vital part of removing these barriers. This can be anything from financial support like Access to Work, to help to find vacancies and prepare for interviews.

It’s welcome that the Government has announced in the 2013 Spending Round that £350 million will be available for employment support programmes. This investment could prove a vital lifeline for disabled people at every stage of their careers, from the first steps in looking for a job, to the support needed to progress.

But the challenge is that current employment support programmes aren’t yet effectively supporting disabled people. For instance, only 2.9% of Employment Support Allowance claimants – nine in 10 of whom are disabled people – have found a job through the flagship Work Programme. Too often, programmes focus only on job ‘outcomes’ rather than the needs of the person.

So today, five leading disability charities have published a major report setting out new ways to improve employment support for disabled people.

The report – Work in Progress: Rethinking employment support for disabled people – calls for a personalised, multi-agency approach which focuses on empowering disabled people to lead their own career journeys.

The report recommends that:

  •  There needs to be greater involvement of employers in the design and delivery of employment support
  • The Government should incentivise greater localisation of employment support for disabled people in order to stimulate innovation
  •  A more targeted approach should be taken for young disabled people who face particular challenges and often cannot access effective support

It also outlines how the quality of support can be improved, and calls for much greater empowerment and involvement of disabled people in their own journeys through work.