SPECTRUM is here

On the 30th of January 2013, Southampton Centre for Independent Living officially re-launched itself as SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living.

Spectrum_Master_Web

This was obviously a momentous day for all the staff members and allies of SCIL. For the past 28 years, SCIL has provided high quality services to Disabled People and their allies. We hope that with this modern new branding, we will be able to attract even more Disabled People to our cause and help to promote the concept of Independent Living to the wider community.

It has been a long journey to decide on how to rebrand, however, we feel that the SPECTRUM logo reflects the diversity of our members and our aspirations for a bright new colourful future.

At an exciting ceremony at Winchester, Ian Loynes, SPECTRUM’s Chief Executive, formally announced the change at just before 11am on the 30th of January 2013.

Ian greeted the audience with a dynamic and wide-ranging presentation on the history of Disabled People through the years, as well as how SCIL has developed over the 28 years that it has been in existence. Ian emphasised that this was not the end of SCIL, it was just the beginning of a brand-new era of modernising the way that people think about Disabled People.

Over the next few months, SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living will be sharing a lot more of their exciting plans as to how they hope to go forward over the coming years.

The Hampshire ULO Project has already begun work at developing more user-led organisations across Hampshire.  This work will lead to even more Disabled People getting involved in campaigning for equality and human rights.

At the National level, Disabled People are going through a difficult time of change so we feel that the time is right for user-led organisations to unite together to ensure that all people are treated equally and their human-rights are protected.

We hope you will join us in the bright new future that we have planned for SPECTRUM and raise a toast to our success.

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SCIL Welcomes Review of Disability Hate Crime

SCIL has welcomed the announcement by the Law Commission that they have been asked by Government to consider whether two existing groups of offences dealing with hate crime should be extended.

At present various crimes (such as assault or criminal damage) are prosecuted as aggravated offences with higher sentences if the offender demonstrates hostility or is motivated by racial or religious hostility at the time of the offence. The Law Commission is to examine whether the same approach should apply if the offender shows hostility or is motivated on grounds of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The criminal law also provides protection against those who publish material that is intended to stir up hatred against people on the grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation. The Commission is to examine whether those offences should also apply to people who act in order to stir up hatred on the grounds of disability or gender identity.

A crime is recorded as a hate crime if the victim or anyone else believes it to have been motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic. The criminal justice agencies monitor hate crimes related to five main characteristics – disability, gender identity, race, religion and sexual orientation – but not all the existing legislation that protects victims from such crimes covers all five.

The Public Order Act 1986 makes it an offence intentionally to stir up hatred on the grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation, and the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 creates racially and religiously aggravated offences.

The Commission’s review will ask whether these two pieces of legislation should be reformed to extend protection to all five groups and, if so, how it should be changed.

SCIL believes that legislation should be reformed to extend protection to all five groups and will be making representations to the Law Commission to this effect.

The Commission aims to report to Government in spring 2014.

Travelling in Southampton: Local options – (1) Taxis

From the “Diary of a public transport virgin”

All of my blogs so far have been about my far-flung travels. However, like most people most of my travelling needs are local. I live in Eastleigh, work in Southampton, and usually shop in Southampton as well. This blog is the first of several which detail my experiences of local public transport.

I am well versed with travelling by train or taxi. As I have said before, taxis in London are great – because all of them are accessible. However, my experiences with using taxis in Southampton are mixed to say the least.

I travel to work via taxi, on a pre-arranged private hire basis, and this works well. There are a number of wheelchair accessible taxis in Southampton; but sadly nowhere near enough. You see unless there is a critical mass of accessible taxis then it is impossible to be spontaneous or to have any confidence that you will be able to find an accessible taxi when you need one. For instance I might be able to get a taxi into town, but what if I could not get an accessible taxi home?

In Southampton this situation is the reality and whilst the City Council could (and should) ensure that all licensed taxis are wheelchair accessible; they don’t. Other towns do; but Southampton doesn’t. You see, unless all taxis are accessible, Disabled People won’t risk them through fear of being let down or stranded. It is a real shame as I believe that if they were all accessible, then Disabled People would be far more likely to use them and therefore generate more income to the taxi trade – a win-win as they say.

This daytime situation in Southampton is difficult enough; but it gets much more difficult at night, Bank Holidays and weekends. Many’s the time that I have rung half a dozen of the main taxi companies only to be told that none of the accessible taxis are on the road at that time. No one else has to book in advance, so why should I?

Even trying to book in advance is very difficult as some companies won’t take bookings for accessible taxis in advance because they say they don’t know if any will be available (presumably the drivers of these accessible taxis decide when they want to work, and the company cannot predict this in advance).

There are a number of specialist private hire taxi companies who run accessible taxis – so you can pre-book these, but not in any way spontaneously.

The worst problem in Southampton though is trying to get an accessible taxi during ‘school run’ times – all the accessible taxis are on ‘contract’ to transport students to school/college and it is virtually impossible to get a taxi during these times.

So, in Southampton, taxis are hit-and-miss to say the least. We have a stalemate situation – not enough accessible taxis for Disabled People to be confident enough to use spontaneously, and therefore to prove there is a demand; and until the powers-that-be can prove the demand there is not enough evidence to prove ‘the business case’.

But hang on, shouldn’t this be about rights? Until Southampton City Council decides that Disabled People should have the same rights to use taxis as everyone else; things will not improve, Disabled People will not travel via taxi and the taxi trade will not get our business – everyone is a looser.

It is a real shame as it could be completely different. Southampton City Council should look at those cities who have made the move to fully accessible taxi fleets. The city of Southampton is a generally very accessible city – but if you cannot get to it….. what is the point!

So, sadly I am almost never inclined to try using taxis in Southampton.

My equality score: 1 point.

Blogging From A Social Model Perspective

Written by Ian Loynes

I should say that I am writing my ‘Diary of A Public Transport Virgin’ from a Social Model of Disability perspective.

SCIL’s website has a section about what the Social Model is, but in summary, I find the following paragraph describes the philosophy well:

It is not my individual impairments which disable me; what actually disables me is the way that society fails to acknowledge or meet my needs, and constructs barriers which limits or prevents my equal participation. Disability is therefore a form of social oppression.”

Conversely, a traditional ‘Medical Model’ approach might take the perspective of trying to improve my condition so that I can (for instance) walk, or even be ‘cured’, and if this is not possible expect me to put up with ‘my lot’. Other medical model solutions might include ‘special’ provision which segregates me from the mainstream; for instance in this context, ‘Dial-a-Ride’ minibuses specially provided just for Disabled People, because ‘normal’ minibuses have steps.

I find the Social Model of Disability, far more empowering and liberating than the Medical Model, as it focuses on the BARRIERS which prevent my equal participation in society. Barriers can and should be removed, and society should accept me for who I am, rather than expecting me to change (or be cured) in order to be included. In the example above, the Social Model solution to public transport would simply be to design buses that were accessible for Disabled People, rather than providing segregated or ‘special’ buses.

Disabled People’s Organisations, like SCIL, have also pointed out that Social Model solutions are normally less expensive that Medical Model solutions. Surely, for instance it would be ‘cheaper’ to make minor changes to bus design, than to provide a very expensive parallel service for those you cannot use the ‘normal’ service?.

That’s not to say that medical issues are not a barrier as well; I for instance experience a lot of pain in my life, which is caused by my impairment. Pain can be a big barrier to my life, which I limit the impact of with pain killers (medical solutions are important to me, providing I am in control of when and how they are used).

However, a Medical Model philosophy prescribes medical solutions as the only way forward. Therefore if you cannot be ‘cured’ of whatever your impairments are then you just have to put up with your life. My limited life is my problem, says the Medical Model. Many Disabled People tell horrific stories of being forced to struggle to walk, or to use artificial limbs to enable them to walk and ‘live’ in the world; rather than just accepting them for who they are and to alter society to meet their needs.

I will therefore structure this the diary from a Social Model perspective, looking at barriers; be they physical, attitudinal or policy based.

SCIL Launches ‘Challenging Times’ Bulletin

SCIL is pleased to announce the launch of our brand new newsletter ‘Challenging Times’.

This short and snappy bulletin will be published regularly to ensure SCIL members are kept up to date on all the various campaigns and consultations both on a local and national basis.

It will also tell members on how they can get involved.

Download the bulletin from the list below:

‘Challenging Times’ (February 2011) 

Campaigning Can’t Stop For Xmas

Despite SCIL having to deal with an increasingly heavy workload, we feel it is imperative that we get back to our roots as a campaigning organisation for Disabled People’s rights.

Over the last few months, Disabled People have been threatened with cuts, more cuts and yet more cuts. It feels less like ‘we’re all in it together’ and more like ‘we all in it to get THEM’.

Disabled People are being painted as a drain on society, an expensive burden we can no longer afford. This is not only insulting, it fails to recognise the invaluable contribution that Disabled People make in society. Through paid work, voluntary work, community involvement. One in four people in society have some type of impairment. Do we really believe that society would be better off without all those people. Brings back disturbing memories from history doesn’t it?

‘Reform’ of Disability Living Allowance, closure of Independent Living Fund, increases in Local Authority Social Care Funding……what’s next?

Apparently my GP has already been reviewing my repeat prescriptions due to their cost!

So SCIL would like to assure Disabled People across Southampton, Hampshire and indeed the whole of the UK that we will not let Xmas get in the way of campaigning. We applaud the efforts of Disabled People Against Cuts and others who have already done sterling work in icy conditions to publicise the threat to Disabled People’s rights and independence.

Through the blog, Twitter and Facebook, we will keep you in touch with our plans. Please contact us if you want to get involved or lend support.

SCIL joins Campaigners from across Europe on Freedom Drive

Between the 14th and the 17th September, Robert Droy and Michael Grimmett from SCIL joined 440 people from 21 European countries in Strasbourg for the Freedom Drive 2009 to campaign for the rights of Disabled People. 

The Freedom Drive concentrates on Independent Living subjects such as deinstitutionalisation, the right to personal assistance and the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.

 

The Freedom Drivers came up with 8 key demands that they felt the European Parliament should be working on and these demands were handed over to EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and to Richard Howitt MEP following a march through the streets of Strasbourg to the Parliament building.  

 

Jerzy Buzek and Richard Howitt said they were committed to fight for the rights of Disabled People and encouraged Freedom Drivers to keep lobbying their national MEPs to promote Independent Living in their countries.

Michael Grimmett from SCIL commented ‘ I found the 2009 Freedom Drive to be an inspiring experience.  To be around other Disabled People, who are fighting for a common goal was uplifting and gave me further impetus to carry on the campaign for independent living and equal rights. ‘.

Following a meeting with some of the UK MEPs, Robert Droy pledged that SCIL would invite the MEPs in the South East area to a seminar in early 2010 to continue the dialogue further. More details to follow…..