Back in January, the National Youth Drama School asked me to speak at their opening on 20 April. I was really keen to do this as the students are 14-18 year olds and I knew it would be a unique opportunity for me to share my message of diversity, creativity and social change with them.
The school is a non-profit organisation and could not cover all my travel and expenses. So I set up a PledgeMe campaign to raise $1200. Thanks to the generosity of the following people, and others, we reached the campaign goal, so I'll be able to attend the opening.
Thank you to:
I haven't felt compelled to blog for a while so I thought I might try a new blogging format for a while and look back on the week in reflection and see what themes and insights emerge. I immediately feel slightly daunted by the task as I take a look at my calendar to jog my memory of the highlights.
The most significant change of the week is that, last Saturday, I became the official guardian of a long-time friend's 14-year old daughter. This is quite an adjustment in both my default living arrangement and "parental" status. I have lived alone for as many years as I can remember and, apart from a few dogs and cats, have never been responsible for any other being but me.
The circumstances are that my friend's daughter, whom I've known since she was born in her parents' living room on Waiheke Island, chose last year to leave Ohakune, where her family has lived for about seven years, in order to attend Western Springs College, which is five minutes walk from where I live. She boarded with others of her Mum's friends last year and visited me each Tuesday after school. This year her boarding situation changed, due to the friends' living arrangements changing, so it was a bit of a no-brainer for her to come and live with me.
I spoke recently to Carol Stiles, from Radio New Zealand's One In Five programme, for her episode on Individualised Funding.
You can listen on the player below or visit the programme's page on Radio New Zealand's website.
From 00:13:44, I talk about the difference between employment systems and relationships, as well as the need for constructive, rather than punitive, auditing.
My intentions to blog each day from the Individualised Funding conference I attended a couple of weeks ago were somewhat thwarted by memory and access to technology. It's always harder to type away from the old desk.
But, after a week to digest my thoughts, I will hopefully have created a more distilled reflection on this minefield of change happening on a global level in the paternalistic quagmire of disability support.
At the heart of Individualised Funding (IF), called different things around the world (Direct Payments in the UK, Individual Budgets in the US and 'self-managed' and individualised services in Australia), is a change in the business model of funding disability support.
Over breakfast this morning, my PA Wai and I mused, "What if money were an employee and had a performance appraisal?" We thought it may go something like this:
And so on. I've forgotten a few. Add to them (and you, Wai, if you're reading!).
Have a good weekend.
...or "Am I just getting way too cynical?"
This afternoon two collectors for Save The Children turned up at my door trying to drum up support. They were bedraggled in red raincoats and name badges. Tragic gay mormons came to mind.
I was in the middle of doing something important. The Scottish guy launched into a five minute spiel. I was getting more and more irritated.
Disability awareness is slowly becoming more commonplace in workplaces around New Zealand, though it hasn't really taken off like other diversity issues. You find it sometimes in community organisations, particularly disability service providers, and some Government agencies.
In most cases the corporate world asks, "What does disability have to do with us?"
So here's the dilemma: Awareness of disability is a red herring. Everyone is aware on some level that what we call "disability" exists in some people (medical model). Some are even aware that "disability" can be seen as a social construct of environmental, attitudinal and policy barriers that exclude 20% of society (social model).
In my early 20s I made a conscious decision to start using a wheelchair when I was out in public, even though I could walk, albeit unsteadily.
There were many reasons for my choice. Using a chair stopped me being anxious about falling over. It allowed me to communicate in a more relaxed and articulate manner. And it stopped strangers thinking I was drunk or deranged.
The wheelchair acted as a recognisable symbol that I was "disabled". People got it, they didn't need to cope with ambiguity and I didn't need to respond to their uncomfortable, confused reactions.
We are obsessed with function. Doing things. Doing them well, best, perfectly. Winning at what we do.
Our world would be very different if we were obsessed with experience instead. Experience is much more inclusive than function. Anyone can experience anything, through function, presence or imagination.
Research shows our brains don't know the difference, whether we do something, remember doing it, or imagine doing it.