One of the things I’ve been able to demonstrate in this blog is that having a visual impairment doesn’t prevent me from having a good time and being successful in life. It took me a while to learn and appreciate that when I was a shy youngster, but over time I learned that I can have hobbies and skills just like anyone else, and make the most of them. In fact my talents have directly led to an exciting new opportunity very recently, which I’ll get to in another post soon.
Consequently, it’s proven to be fun and rewarding to ignore convention and challenge misconceptions, by doing things that are different or unexpected. In all our minds it’s easy to assume that certain things can only occur at certain times, or in certain places, or be done by certain people, when they can actually happen anytime or anywhere, and anyone is capable of doing it.
So with that in mind – why not go to a pantomime in the spring? Why should we wait until the festive season to lose ourselves in the joy that such a production brings? Especially when there’s an exciting, interactive, inclusive new show that’s touring the UK in March, teaching children to embrace their own super powers!
Hello again, hope you’re all keeping safe and well despite everything going on at the moment. I’m happy to say that I’ve had my Covid booster jab, which really helps to further educate and strengthen the immune system, and thus greatly reduces the chances of severe problems if you do get ill with the new variant. Plus Mum had both her flu jab and Covid booster last month, and I’m hoping to get my flu jab at some point. So we’re as well protected as we can be for the winter now.
The latest developments haven’t stopped me going out and about and being generally busy either, as I’ve been making the most of my time. So during November I was interviewed on another national radio show, had lovely days exploring London Zoo and the Illuminated River project, enjoyed stage and film versions of a Dickens classic, watched the latest series of Doctor Who, saw various comedies, got absorbed in the new Beatles documentary, heard ABBA’s new album, and celebrated Freddie Mercury’s life on the 30th anniversary of his untimely passing. And none of it is sponsored or gifted as usual. So I hope you enjoy my latest post and video roundup!
Note: This post is marked as an advertisement because I have been generously sent complimentary tickets to attend and review the show. I accepted them because I am very happy to support a production that features visually impaired performers and looks very interesting.
I’ve missed the theatre, it’s been 20 months since I last set foot in an auditorium. So what better time to make my return, than to see a brand new play that is produced and performed by visually impaired people, and is fully accessible for a visually impaired audience. That level of inclusion is courtesy of Extant, the UK’s leading performing arts company of visually impaired artists and creatives, whose work I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in the past when I saw Flight Paths.
The production, called States of Mind, is a contemporary dramatization of the poem Venus and Adonis, the first published work by Shakespeare. When the Bard wrote it, London’s theatres were closed because of the plague, so it’s rather fitting that this modern retelling was put together during the Covid pandemic.
So here Christopher gives us an informative introduction to the play, before Gillian gives an extensive and fascinating interview about her career and the play, and the accessibility of the performing arts for disabled actors like herself, and she gives a lot of advice for aspiring performers who want to get into the industry.
So, many thanks to Christopher & Gillian for giving up so much of their valuable time, amidst their busy preparations for the play, in order to share their insightful responses with me. Let’s get to it.
Here we go again. It’s time for Lockdown 2: Electric Avenue, so the cases don’t get higher. It’s not quite as severe as the first one, with education settings remaining open in particular, but there are still very tight restrictions nonetheless. And it had been inevitable for some time. The use of different ‘tiers’ to set regional rules was keeping the infection rate lower than it otherwise would have been, but it wasn’t quite doing enough to drive cases down. So we didn’t have a choice, sadly, as many other countries have found.
There are still lots of reasons to be optimistic, thanks to the ever-improving knowledge about the virus, the better treatments now available, the developments of mass testing, and the very promising results of vaccine trials. But right now we have to be vigilant to get through the winter safely, and it’s important to take care of ourselves and look after our mental health during this time.
I feel relatively calm about it thankfully, as I’m fortunate to have a steady job, priority grocery deliveries, family support, regular contact with friends, blogging projects, local walks, entertainment, etc to help pass the time. And we’ve pre-ordered our meat for Christmas from a farm we like, so that gives us peace of mind too. I still greatly miss seeing friends in person and visiting interesting places of course, nobody wants this. But right now my mother and I feel safe and comfortable, which is the important thing. We’re more prepared than the first time around, when the uncertainty and panic buying made it really difficult to begin with. So we know we can get through it, having done it once already.
But for many other people it’s going to be a lot harder, due to physical and mental health issues, loneliness, loss of employment and business, financial worries, family and domestic problems, the loss of loved ones from the virus or other causes, and so on. So please do help others if you can, either by direct support or by charitable donations, because every little bit helps.
And if you’re in a position where you’re struggling, then my thoughts are with you, and please know that you’re not alone. And don’t be afraid to seek help or support, there’s absolutely no shame in that. If you’re unable or too anxious to talk to someone you know, then there’s lots of advice and support available from the Samaritans, counsellors, mental health charities, other charities relevant to disabilities and health conditions, support groups on social media, etc. I know it’s easier said than done – I’ve had to confide in friends about difficult things in the past, most of us have to at some point in our lives. But having any kind of support network, even if it’s just one person you can reach out and talk to when you need it, is a massive lifeline. Use it.
And to my American friends, who are going through a stressful period with their election right now, we’re all thinking of you too. You’ve had enough to deal with in 2020 on top of the pandemic as it is, without this in the mix as well. At the time of publishing this post, the outcome is still not clear, but I sincerely hope that common sense and decency prevails in the end. Stay safe out there.
But anyway, with all that said and done, let’s get into my latest monthly update, which is what you came here for in the first place. In this post and video for October there’s plenty to mention as usual, including my latest appearance on national radio, my walks out and about, and the various bits of entertainment I’ve been enjoying. None of it’s sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you find it interesting!
So December was very good for me all in all, and I was kept happily occupied over Christmas as usual. So there’s lots to mention, including a podcast appearance, museum visits, Christmas displays, socialising in London & Devon, Christmas food, TV shows, movies and audio entertainment, and more. As always, I’ve not been paid or gifted for anything I mention here, I’m simply expressing my own opinions. So I hope you enjoy this festive post and video roundup!
I seem to have gone from one extreme to another lately. After a relatively relaxed October, November has been really busy, and in a good way. I appeared on TV and radio to raise awareness of digital accessibility, promoted audio description at a trade exhibition, learnt a great deal about Ancient Greece, explored London’s illuminated bridges, highlighted more scam emails, bought some new Blu-rays and music, and enjoyed various things on TV.
So there’s plenty to cover this month, and I hope you enjoy this post and video summary of it all. As always, I haven’t received any gifts or payments by anyone mentioned in this post, and all opinions are my own.
The internet is an amazing resource, enabling people to instantly access products, services, information, communication, entertainment, etc, anywhere and at any time. And it’s especially useful and important for disabled people, for whom such a direct connection with the world around them plays a vital role.
However, there are still many websites, social media feeds and apps, and other technologies such as self-service checkouts and kiosks, that are partly or wholly unusable by disabled people, due to poor accessibility. This means they cannot access information and purchase products from many retailers and service providers, as they are unjustly hindered or prevented from doing so. As a result, they either don’t buy anything at all, or find accessible competitors instead. Which means many businesses are missing out on the benefits of a huge market worth £274 billion a year!
The same logic also applies when disabled people are prevented from gaining physical access to buildings, facilities, transport, etc, which is a vitally important and huge issue in itself. But for this post I’m focusing on the digital side.
Disability charity Scope have therefore released the findings of their survey on inclusive design, which illustrates the impact of poor digital access. This is to help them publicise The Big Hack, a comprehensive online resource advising businesses on best practice for digital accessibility and inclusion. And to help with the promotion, Scope invited me to take part in some media coverage, which included my first ever TV appearance! Check out my little bits of stardom here:
Newspaper – The Independent, 2 December– I was given a mention in this article. Registration is required, but doing so allows you to read 1 free article per month, or you can pay a small subscription to read more.
So in this long post, I want to explain a bit about the awareness campaign, address a few myths and misconceptions, highlight some of my own accessibility issues, and tell you about my media appearances. There’s a table of contents below to help you jump to the various sections.
For clarity, I have not been paid or gifted for my interviews or this post. This is just a topic I feel strongly about, so I was happy to take part in the media coverage, and all opinions here are my own. I also encourage you to research the subject of accessibility further, including the resources on The Big Hack, as there is no way I can cover everything, and no single person is a complete authority on the subject. I’m just talking about things from my own personal perspective, so I hope my thoughts and experiences are useful.
Those of you who have been following along recently will know that I had some issues in August that stopped me going out much. I was still able to do a July & August Favourites post, but the August part of that wasn’t very substantial.
September has continued to be rather mixed, as I’m still having an issue with my feet, so I didn’t get out too often. I think it might be hives of some sort, but the antihistamines are keeping them right down, so they’re not getting worse and are tolerable. It means I’m able to get around more easily, and also go out and about if I don’t overdo it. I’ve got a dermatologist appointment on 2nd November (which was thankfully moved forward from the original date of the 30th), so hopefully we can start sorting it out then.
And for those wondering about my Personal Independence Payments claim, no decision has come through yet. But I had 3 text messages to say they had the report from my face-to-face assessment, and then 2 letters in the post to say they have all the information they need to make a decision. So I just have to wait and see now.
Despite all of that, however, I’ve still ended up with a fair number of things to write about for September. I did manage to go out over the course of a weekend, when my foot was behaving, plus I’ve got some exciting videos and articles to share that I’ve been involved with, and there are some TV shows and music releases I want to mention. And as usual, no products in this post are gifted or sponsored, and all opinions are my own. So I apologise that there won’t be much in the way of London-specific stuff this month, but I still hope you enjoy this post and video as always.
I still find it very humbling and flattering that so many people have taken an interest in my adventures over the past few years, whether it be reading my blog, watching my videos, or seeing me speak at events. I’m very grateful to everyone for the support and encouragement, and I wouldn’t be doing this if nobody cared, so thank you.
I never imagined that I’d have a documentary made about me though. Yet that’s exactly what happened for the first time a few months ago. It was an exciting experience and I’m delighted with how it turned out.
I’ve held it back until now for various reasons. Firstly, whilst I have permission to post it regardless, I wanted to give a bit of space for its creators and sponsors, including a major charity, to publish it first if they so wished. But I also had a few things distracting me over the summer too, as regular followers will know, which has further delayed it.
But now’s a good time to release it, as it ties in nicely with the recent publication of my Aniridia Network Conference talk – Growing In Confidence With Aniridia – which was filmed shortly after the documentary was completed. Soon after that I was also in a second documentary – See Differently by Yiwen Feng – which featured myself and others. You can find out more about my speech and that other film in my June Favourites. I was certainly getting my 15 minutes of fame around that time!
In this post, therefore, I want to share my first ever documentary with you, and give a behind-the-scenes insight into how it all came together. I hope you enjoy it, and please do share the film around on social media.
So without any further ado, I present my documentary debut – What Is Normal?
We’ve reached the halfway point in the year, and summer is finally blessing us with decent weather. And I’ve had a very busy month!
Firstly, there have been some disability related developments, most of them positive. In particular, I’ve spoken at a conference, been a guest on a podcast, and I was filmed for another documentary. So my visual impairment led to a few great opportunities in quick succession, I’m happy to say.
On the downside, I’ve finally received the call-up letter to switch from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). This basically means I have to fill out a huge form about how my disability affects me, and then have a face-to-face assessment with a health professional, so the government can decide if I’m entitled to benefit payments. It sounds relatively simple when worded like that, but most disabled people will tell you it’s anything but. So that’s going to be on my mind a lot over the next couple of months at least, and I’m not looking forward to the process. But I’ll let you know how it goes at a later date. I’m not going to bore you with a rant about it in this post!
Thankfully, apart from that, I’ve been able to enjoy the month in many other ways. I went on a lovely weekend break with my girlfriend, I’ve been out in London for more exhibitions and walks, my girlfriend and I enjoyed a new film at the cinema, and I’ve enjoyed new TV shows and music releases at home. So there’s plenty to get through. As always, I’m not sponsored by anyone mentioned here, I’m just sharing these things because I enjoyed them. And I hope you enjoy this month’s post and video!
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