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  • : Blog on being a disabled person, different cultures, diversity, equality, disability, travel, being diaspora Chinese and disabled travel.
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Here are some of my photos. This shows some of my travels.


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Books I am reading

Xiaolu Guo
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
A love story - cultural differences, misunderstandings and yes, I see what she is saying.
Su Tong
Binu and the Great Wall

Binu and the Great Wall

Binu And The Great Wall is a wonderful myth retold in the words of Su Tong, the author of ‘Rice’.  The myth of Binu and how her tears washed away the Great Wall have been passed down through the ages. It is a tale of hardship, brutality and undying love. Su Tong’s version of the myth, brings to the reader the harshness and brutality that led to the constuction of the wall and the terrible effects it had on the common people.

19 mars 2008 3 19 /03 /mars /2008 00:44
According to my Chinese astrology, I am going to have ' significant improvement' in my finances this year. I don't know about a significant improvement - I am stuck with trying to bring my money across from France. I have to prove to the French authorities that I am indeed resident in UK and paying UK taxes. Now I have a  French form that I have to present to the British tax office - they are going to love me and sign me for it, I am sure!!! This is for me to ensure I don't get taxed twice apparently - double taxation treaty - and to make sure I pay taxes.

At any rate, my washing machine was finally fixed today. After 3 months! I am not sure how much my landlord is paying Newman Lettings for their 'service'   but I would not advise anyone  to  rent from  them.  My landlord gave the charming Charlotte authorisation over 10 days before  she actually sent in the service agreement to A1 Domestics. If this is customer service, I shudder to think what happens otherwise - how did they win their award for being the Estate Agency Award of the year?

How does one avoid stress related issues?

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12 mars 2008 3 12 /03 /mars /2008 00:12

'World War II bomb' found in city
Coventry city centre sealed off after WWII bomb alert
The city was expected to be sealed off throughout the night
Parts of Coventry city centre have been closed off after what is believed to be an unexploded World War II bomb was unearthed on a building site.

It was found at the Belgrade Plaza development in Upper Well Street. Police said the device seemed genuine but it was not clear if it was live.

Eight junctions of the ring road were shut and offices evacuated.

The city will remain closed through the night as explosives teams attempt to defuse it.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/coventry_warwickshire/7292097.stm

So there was a bomb scare- I heard the sirens but I was oblivious to it. People in Liquid Bar not a hundred yards away were evacuated but not us. So were we in Beauchamp House not vulnerable too? How come residents in our block were not evacualted?

Added later- what is scary is that there is a clip of my road in the video and I was oblivious  inside the building!

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5 mars 2008 3 05 /03 /mars /2008 18:18
I love London. Its got the mixture of the old and the new. Today I happened to be at one of those new developments which is in central London - The Brunswick. I had planned to visit the terracotta warriors exhibitiohn at the British Museum but I had a couple of hours to kill so I decided to visit a second hand bookstore which used to be at Southampton Row but has since moved here Skoob bookstore. I've never been to the Brunswick but now I can say I wish to live there. I will never be able to afford it but I love the access, the nearby cultural institutions such as the British Museum and the British Library, the architecture, It also looks very wheelchair friendly, the shops, eateries were well chosen, - and certainly with Waitrose as its neighbourhood grocery store and a cinema, the Renoir, (not fully accessible)

The Brunswick, London, Bloomsbury,

Access is all level.

The Brunswick, London, Bloomsbury,and it has one of the best second hand accessible bookstores in town, Skoob. Skoob second hand bookshop

I did not check hotel facilities around here but there are many hotels because it is very conveniently near St Pancras (Eurostar) and all the central London sights within walking distance. With public transport, a wheelchair user can get around very easily - my favourite bus is the no. 68 bus - it goes to Russell Square, Waterloo, Euston and Kings Cross (I think). Taxis are also accessible and plentiful - I find London cabbies helpful in general. BUT do not try to take the no. 7 bus outside the British Museum, the bus cannot get near enough to the pavement to get out the ramp. I was trying to catch it to take me to Russell Square.
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25 février 2008 1 25 /02 /février /2008 00:19
Today I read about the plight of Siaron West and Peter Rees and my heart went out to them,  Siaron wrote :

My name is Siaron West, I have been married to Peter Rees for 12 years and we have a 7 year old daughter Catrin. 

Pete was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 1995 and for the last 6 years has been severely disabled whereby he is confined to a wheelchair with a catheter and a feeding tube into his stomach.

He currently has a small amount of movement in his left hand only and communicates by shaking or nodding his head.

When he is unwell or tired he cannot operate a remote control for the bed, chair or television and is totally unable to communicate.

His condition is terminal, he continues to deteriorate and it is uncertain how much longer he will live.

I provide the majority of his care (medical, nursing and social) but we have some assistance from Home-care (Social Services) and the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

Home-care can provide personal care in the form of 2 carers to wash and dress Pete in the mornings and to put him to bed at night along with two 15 minute check calls during the day. 

The Independent Living Fund is funded centrally by the government and its aim is to keep disabled people in their own homes by providing the means for them to employ their own carers and live as independent a life as possible. 

The ILF money enables us as a family to live as normal a life as is possible under the circumstances. We use the ILF money to pay for sitters so that I can work, socialise and take Catrin to and from school and do other activities with my daughter.

I also run two children’s and youth clubs on a local estate.

Both Home-care and the ILF are means tested and we pay a certain amount towards Pete’s care.

This care package has been in place for the last 6 years, it works very well and all we want is for this to continue.

Social Services are keen to reassess Pete as they feel that his care should be funded by the NHS.

This would be free to us and not means tested but would mean that the total cost for his social care would have to be met by the NHS and not the Local Authority.

This means that we would lose both Home-care and the Independent Living Fund and may result in Pete having to be placed in a Nursing Home which is likely to be more expensive for the tax-payer.  

I and Andrew Rees (a friend of my husband) have Enduring Power of Attorney for Pete which means that we make decisions for Pete based on what is in his best interests.

We feel that removing Pete’s current care package would be detrimental to us as a family for the following reasons

    * Pete is terminally ill and any change will cause him great distress which may cause him to deteriorate further


    * Pete’s carers have all looked after him for at least 6 years and have an amazing ability to understand his needs despite his extremely limited communications skills


    * The NHS has a limited ability to fund a social care package and so the best they could offer would be equivalent to what Home-care currently do ie personal care with up to 5 visits a day and would not be able to fund sitters. 


      This means that I would be unable to work or socialise, take my daughter to and from school, spend time with her outside our home or run children’s and youth clubs. I would have to ask friends to help out whenever I left the house for any reason, even to buy groceries.

I have proceeded in the proper way through Cardiff Council’s Complaints Procedure with the following outcome 

            STAGE 1  No response within the required 10 working days. When prompted a response arrived but  Pete’s surname was incorrect and did not address any of the issues raised.

            STAGE 2 Report by Investigating Officer from the council took 6 months rather than the required 5 weeks. Upheld 3 out of my 5 complaints. One couldn’t be addressed as the social worker involved had left the authority and was subsequently investigated by the Care Standards In Wales Agency. 

            The final complaint ie that the assessment was not in Pete’s best interests was responded to with a threat to call a Protection Of Vulnerable Adults Case Conference with the recommendation that Pete be made a Ward of Court if I didn’t agree to an assessment.

            This basically means that Social Services would make an allegation that I was abusing Pete by not acting in his best interests and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions for him. As a GP it would automatically trigger a POVA Case Conference to investigate me professionally and a Child Protection Case Conference would be called for Catrin. As well as affecting my work and family life a POVA would also mean I would be unable to continue my work with children and young people.

            STAGE 3 An Independent Complaints Panel made the following recommendations

                + That the paragraph containing the threat of a POVA be retracted from the report

                  + That a letter be sent to me within 10 working days of receipt of the report by the Director of Social Services

                  + That this letter should confirm that there have, at no point been any adult protection concerns and that the Authority apologise fully and without reservation for the distress, alarm and threat caused by this statement (ie the mention of a POVA)

            OMBUDSMAN I have requested from the beginning and at every stage that they investigate but the Ombudsman claims that they are not allowed to intervene until the complaints procedure has been completed. 

            When I had not received the recommended response from the Director of Social Services within 10 working days I referred this case to the Ombudsman and their investigation is ongoing. 

            The Ombudsman, however has no legal power to challenge or change Cardiff Council’s decisions.

            THE SITUATION NOW:

    * The director of Social Services, Neelam Bhardwaja has chosen not to follow any of the recommendations made by the Independent Complaints Secretariat which is the final stage in Cardiff Council’s own complaints procedure.
    * She has given me 2 weeks to agree to an assessment otherwise Pete’s care will all be withdrawn on the 4th March 2008.
    * I have asked for more time but this request has been refused.

    * In my communications with the Local Authority and the Local Health Board they have made it clear that the outcome of the assessment will almost certainly be that Pete will meet the Continuing Health Care Criteria and that responsibility for his care will pass to the NHS.

      * We will then lose all of Pete’s carers who have looked after him for the last 6 years.
    * Cllr John Dixon has so far refused to meet with Julie Morgan and her constituents (of whom I am one) to discuss these issues.
I have tried to utilise the media to bring this case to wider public attention so please use the following links for more information:

Radio Wales 21st Jan 2008

Link to summary of broadcast: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/radiowales/sites/eyeonwales/updates/20080121.shtml

South Wales Echo 2nd Feb 2008

Link:  http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/news/cardiff-news/2008/02/02/bid-to-end-dying-man-s-misery-91466-20427718/

Wales Today 28th Jan 2008

Jeremy Vine show Radio 2 1230pm 29th Jan 2008

BBC News article

Link:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7199745.stm

Article related to Welsh language documentary shown on S4C, 14th Feb 2006

Link:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/welsh/hi/newsid_4710000/newsid_4713200/4713288.stm

We also have the full support of Julie Morgan MP who is trying to arrange a meeting with John Dixon (Executive Member Cardiff County Council responsible for Health, Social Care & Wellbeing) and has issued a press release highlighting the problems that we and a number of her constituents are facing.

Now I need your help!

Here are some suggestions…

For elected officials ask the following questions

   1. Their party’s official position (if there is one)
   2. As an individual if they would vote for this situation to continue ie Pete’s care being withdrawn, which could result in him being placed in a Nursing Home, potentially involving more cost to the tax payer and/or Siaron giving up her work in the NHS


Your own MP or Assembly Members (both directly elected and those elected through proportional representation)
Edwina Hart AM Minister for Health and Social Services

9 Pontardulais Road   National Assembly for Wales

Gorseinon    Cardiff Bay
SA4 4FE    Cardiff CF99 1NA

Tel  01792 895481  02920 898400

Fax  01792 895646


There are guidelines due out from the Welsh Assembly to clarify the situation and give Local Authorities and Local Health Boards clear guidance.

Please encourage her to get these out as soon as possible and emphasise that England already have guidelines that allow cases to be assessed on an individual basis and allow for shared care within the legal framework.

The Director of Social Services is ultimately accountable to Edwina Hart so please ask her to investigate the way in which Cardiff Social services have acted as they have disregarded their own complaints procedure and the letters and reports from them have caused us great distress because of their overbearing and sometimes threatening approach.

Cllr John Dixon (Lib Dem)     29 Galston Street

Executive Member Health, Social Care & Wellbeing Adamsdown

Cardiff County Council     Cardiff

County Hall       CF24 0HR

Cardiff Bay       02920 255667

Cardiff        02920 465351

CF10 4UW       07974 021172

He is the Executive Member of the Council responsible for Health and Social Services and at present the Director of Social Services appears to have his full backing.

The Liberal Democrats are now the largest party on Cardiff County Council and control the Executive Committee but they do not have an overall majority.

How you vote as a Cardiff resident will be crucial in the forthcoming elections and I would be grateful if you could emphasise this when communicating with any of the councillors.

Neelam Bhardwaja

Corporate Director (Social),

Room 515, County Hall, Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff , CF10 4UW

If you live in Cardiff there are local elections in May
Contact your councillor

They will say they can’t comment because Pete and I are not in their ward but you can let them know how you will be voting in the next election.


Contact our councillors (Heath – all Liberal Democrat)

      Cllr Michelle Michaelis Cllr Gerald Harris Cllr Jim James

      Treetops   40 St Malo Road 93 Maes-y-Coed Road

      Bridge Road   Heath   Heath

      Old St Mellons  Cardiff   Cardiff

      Cardiff    CF14 4HN  CF14 4HE

      CF3 6UY      
Tel 02920 793380  02920 217986 02920 611322

Fax 02920 779745  02920 628308 02920 623901

Mob     07974 413554 07980 922546

      m.michaelis@cardiff.gov.uk g.harris@cardiff.gov.uk j.james97@ntlworld.com

Surgeries held 1st Sat each month (term-time) at Birchgrove Primary School 10am-11am and at Maes-y-Coed Community Centre every 3rd Weds evening 630-730pm.


Please sign the petition to the Prime Minister.

Link: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/PeteRees/

Generate any media interest you can – try letters to both local and national newspapers.

Send this information to everyone you know and encourage them to do the same!

Look at my blog : http://www.siaronwest.blogspot.com

This reminds me of ADAPT protests and campaignig when I was in the US -

People in the UK have achieved direct payments but it looks like disabled people like Peter still can have their choices taken away from them.

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20 février 2008 3 20 /02 /février /2008 01:33
I went to the second  Cultural Disability Studies Research  Network  conference held at Leeds University today, The programme is as copied below. I wasn't sure at 5.30 am this morning that I really wanted to go and it was freezing too.  Here is a photo I took of Leed University when I arrive, the trees were covered with in white frost - very pretty I would have appreciated it more if I was not wandering up and down the street looking for the building.


I felt a bit of a fraud being there because I am not an academic and cannot even pretend to be a student - I just enjoy visiting academia and continue to wonder if I should do a Phd. I still think it is such an indulgence - studying - I would love to study all my life. Can I afford to?

If it is possible Leeds railway station is even worse that Euston. I had booked assistance this morning because of the early start but there was still nobody to meet me when I arrived at Leeds, the other passengers had to make sure the train did not go off before I got off. And upon my return, there was an older lady who told me sharply i was not booked on her list and there might not be a space for me on the train and insisted on seeing my ticket as though she did not believe that I knew where I was going.


Cultural Locations of Disability:

Situating a Cultural Disability Studies

A One-Day Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference

20 February 2008

Leeds Humanities Research Institute, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT 

Conference Programme 

9.00-9.30am Welcome, registration, coffee
9.30-10.30am Keynote address

Dr. Stuart Murray, University of Leeds, ‘Disability Studies and the Humanities’

10.30-11.00am Coffee
11.00-12.30pm Panel 1: Disability Representation in the Arts (Chair: Rebecca Mallett) 

1) Ria Cheyne, Liverpool John Moores University, ‘Literary Disability: Why Genre Matters’

2) Terry Speake, University of Bolton, ‘Towards a New Praxis of Social Documentary Photography: What is Wrong with Disability Imagery?’

3) Irene Rose, University of Manchester, ‘What to do with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time? Fiction, Disability and Social Change’

12.30-12.45pm Break (lunch will be served throughout the roundtable discussion)
12.45-1.45pm Roundtable Discussion: Situating Cultural Disability Studies in the UK (Chair: Clare Barker) 

Panelists: Dr. Stuart Murray; Prof. Mark Priestley, Centre for Disability Studies, Leeds; Dr. Lucy Burke, Manchester Metropolitan University; Dr. David Bolt, Journal of Literary Disability

1.45-2.30pm Lunch
2.30-4.00pm Panel 2: Disability in Culture and Society (Chair: Suzanne Ibbotson) 

1) Ruth Garbutt, University of Leeds, ‘Let’s Talk About Sex: Using Drama as a Research Tool to Find Out the Views and Experiences of Young People with Learning Disabilities’

2) Yi-Ting Shih, University of Newcastle, ‘Developing from a Disabled Environment: The Disability Movement in Taiwan’

3) Clare Barker, University of Leeds, ‘Non-Western Locations of Disability: Representation and “Remodelling” in Postcolonial Fictional Texts’

4.00-4.30pm Coffee
4.30-5.30pm Guest speaker

Dr. David Bolt, editor of the Journal of Literary Disability, ‘From Persistence to Publication: A Discussion About How We Get Our Papers Into Journals’

5.30-7.00pm Drinks reception
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19 février 2008 2 19 /02 /février /2008 03:10
This incident got wide coverage where a disabled man was seen to be dumped out of his wheelchair by a deputy. His 'crime' was a traffic violation. My question is - Do the police get disability equality training? Could it happen here in the UK?

A friend of mine had to report to the police because his PA left to go back to his home country without informing him and stole cash out of his drawer. The police came and said it would be reported as a hate crime. My initial thought was that he did not do it out of hate but then his name will now be on a list and if he came back to this country, he will never be in that position with vulnerable people. So that should be recorded.

Its inexcusable to steal from your employer and even more so if he's disabled. Robbery is a form of violation even if you do not know the perpetrators and so much worse if it is by somebody you trusted. That goes for whether the victim is disabled or non disabled - my question is how would the police have reported it if my friend had not been disabled? Would it have been different?
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18 février 2008 1 18 /02 /février /2008 03:54
Last year, on  22nd September 2007, I went to the Mailbox  for one of the few Malaysian restaurants which  in the area - the Oriental in Birmingham Mailbox.  I was going to celebrate Naomi's moving to Birmingham to go to Law College and plainly it was  an excuse to go eat some Malaysian Chinese food. I invited Rachel (Singaporean) and Liam too. 

And as is my habit I checked  the Mailbox website to see if it is accessible - and was reassured to see that it said it was  fully compliant -

The Mailbox is fully compliant with DDA regulations, all public lifts are fully accessible with Braille and voice announcements. There is a designated disabled entrance at the front of the building into both Wharfside Street and the car park. There are disabled toilets on Level 3 Wharfside Street and on Level 1 of the car park. Please contact The Management Centre on Level 5 on 0121 632 1000 if you have any queries.

However it was not the case there were staircases down to the waterfront but the lift did not work. Apparently it was for building work which did not follow up with reasonable adjustment, I was furious of being deprived and i wrote them an e-mail and followed it with recorded delivery letter.

Dear ----,
I was very disappointed on Saturday when I came to the Mailbox especially from Coventry to have some Malaysian food at the Oriental restaurant to find that there was no access to the restaurant. I did my check on your website - and according to it, you are fully DDA compliant - http://www.mailboxlife.com/disabled-access/.

On getting home, I rang the restaurant concerned and they said that the lift that they did have previously was closed down due to work on the Cube. I do not think that that would exclude your statutory duty to provide disabled access to restaurants which are very much public spaces.

I would very much appreciate if you could tell me if you have made reasonable adjustment for the loss of the lift?

Birmingham Mailbox
Birmingham Mailbox

Anyway at long last, they seemed to have put in some kind of platform lift which needed naomi to call the lift down in order to get it up again.

It was a lovely day, I would have been miffed if I had not been able to get down to the canal front again.

Birmingham Mailbox lift to lower ground Canal Birmingham Canal walk
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12 février 2008 2 12 /02 /février /2008 13:28
I stayed there last night on the 16th floor. It has a lovely view from the elevator - you can truly see a wide expense of the London landscape. Its at a very handy location between Euston and Kings Cross/ St Pancras (Eurostar) train stations and opposite to the British Library,.

It is accessible enough for wheelchair users if you are comfortable with platform lifts - into the hotel itself and down into the lounge area. I found the room spacious, the bathroom would be lovely had they made the shower seat wider. It was an adjustable seat - more like a perch - and because it was adjustable, I was pertrified it might be unsteady. It also had a bath tub with a seat across and shower attachment, I felt safer with that. I think this is a shame because otherwise it was a lovely room. The shower had also doors which makes it difficult to negotiate.

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9 février 2008 6 09 /02 /février /2008 01:28
Since Chinese  New Year  fell on a weekday, the  celebrations in London were not till the weekend. I started  off  with having lunch with Elspeth at the Wong Kei in Waldorf Street  in Chinatown.  This is not the place to come to for fanciful eating  but it  was cheap and plentiful..as Elspeth said, like  home cooked food. The tables are pretty basic but it is accessible and spacious inside. The only fly, the loo is not big enough  for a power wheelchair unless you can have someone to mind the  door which opens directly  into the  main restaurant


We had crab with ginger and spring onion, steamed chicken, ma po tofu and choy sum. It was quite ample.

Gerard Street  was very crowded  - not as crowded  as when the parades are on  as on sunday probably  but  very busy. 


After  lunch we  set off dor the British Museum where  I  was to meet the others  to  participate  in the Chinese new year  events there.  We waited for a long time, sophie and I, for  the Monkey: Journey to the West  exerpt  and had  a close brush with Damon Albarn himself.

I am not sure if the British Museum has had ever that amount of people before.  It was so  crowded, there were queues round the buiilding. Tickets were needed for the  spectacle even though it was a  free event. I am not sure I like  the intrepretation of the story but then, I've grown up wth  Monkey stories.
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7 février 2008 4 07 /02 /février /2008 02:00
Today  I found  that my appointmment with  Bruce  was  postponed so I could  have lunch with Naomi  and her course mates  in Birmingham  after all.

It was  dim sum at  Golden  Pond restaurant  above the Chinese supermarket Day Inn at the Arcadian. I like it - access is on the level from the back of the Arcadian or via a lift from the parking lot. The food was quite acceptable.I can tell that they are real Cantonese people in charge because they were playing Cantonese opera arias in the background and they included Chinese sticky glutinous nin go - the cake the chinese offer to the kitchen god so that he cannot tell on the family because his mouth is stuck together by the sticky cake.

On the way to the restaurant  I passed  some interesting looking hairdressets - I think  I will get my hair done there next time.

Anyway, heres a  video to wish everybody a  Prosperous  and Happy New year!  (in Cantonese)

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