An Interview with Justine Raith about: “Eye Can” – An evaluation of what is available and required to enable the blind to live independent lives.

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The Author

This thesis is compiled by Roger William Livesey, a social scientist.

Credits

The thesis owes gratitude to “Galloways Society for the Blind” and a service user (I shall call X), now an Ambassador for “Galloways Society for the Blind” and an established national and international artist with a large following and client base.

Ethics

The thesis has been constructed ethically, with consideration to sensitivity of the subject matter and with full backing and support of all involved and ethical consents and agreements have been submitted and agreed by all involved and are held on file at the University of Central Lancashire.

Methodology

The thesis relies predominantly on qualitative and single subject research through the personal experiences of X and seeks to asses if the needs of the blind and partially sighted have been met in X’s life-time, what policies have affected her life and what impact have they had and whether current provisions are adequate, or if change is deemed necessary, what changes would X like to see.

I have chosen single subject research as it is most appropriate to ascertain if policy and provisions have had a marked change upon the subject.

I additionally acknowledge that some of my words contained within this thesis has also been used by myself in justifying my arguments used in compiling other thesis’s whilst a student at the University of Central Lancashire, other educational establishments and in writing media postings for “Galloway’s”.

It is acknowledged that (as with all activities of practice), the needs, preferences, and best interests of the subject will always come first. It is important to me that I do not let the demands of my research activity interfere with these ethical obligations.

I acknowledge single-system research is one of the simplest ways for a social work practitioner to include research in their regular activities, to use actual evidence in day-to-day practice, and to further involve clients.

As qualitative research relies heavily upon narratives with limited use of numbers, additional rigour has been devoted to techniques used to establish the trustworthiness, applicability, and consistency of the data collected.

Quantative research from various sources is also included from various referenced sources within this thesis.

My Methodology -Self Critical Analysis:

“Participant Observations”, as a means for gathering data has a long history in Social Sciences and research. It has been used by researchers with widely differing theoretical perspectives. As such, I believe it is a research technique which has been adapted often to meet the requirements of social researchers with various views on the nature of social reality.

My own self-criticism is that often, the participant observer joins the everyday routines of those he wishes to study. He/she attempts to observe actions in its “normal”, “natural” context.

Thus, he/she may join a group of workers in a factory or a teenage gang on the street corner; he may accompany policemen on the beat or spend time with patients in a mental hospital. As a means of directly observing action in everyday social contexts, participant observation has a particular appeal to those who adopt phenomenological perspectives.

 The reasons for this may be illustrated by the logic and methods employed by Aaron V. Cicourel in his study of juvenile justice. Cicourel assumes that juvenile delinquency is generated by the “everyday activities” of police, probation officers and court officials in their interaction with juveniles. He also assumed that juveniles are categorised in terms of the taken-for-granted assumptions held by officials. These taken-for-granted assumptions are not made explicit; they are an unconsidered part of everyday activity. To uncover them therefore, I believe, requires direct observation of routine interaction between officials and juveniles. Requesting officials to fill out a questionnaire or answer questions in a focus group interview situation would be unlikely to reveal the ways in which they categorised juveniles simply because those ways are taken-for-granted. Officials are therefore largely unaware of the interpretive procedures they employ. Since these procedures are triggered and developed in routine interaction, direct observation of everyday activities is necessary in order to uncover them. Thus Cicourel argues that in order to understand “the actor’s conception of objectives and events”, the social scientist must examine the “routine, practical activities of everyday life”.

Circourel’s study relied heavily on his observational and interpretive skills. This immediately alarmed me and drove myself away from the focus group setting for my study, as to myself, this immediately raised the problem of the “validity” of his findings. How is he able to verify that the taken-for-granted assumptions which he identified are indeed fact?

(source: A.V. Cicourel, “The Social Organisaton of Juvenile Justice” (Heinemann, London, 1976)

I did not want to fall into this area of doubt.

I believe that simply asking members of a focus group to verify my findings would not have solved the problems, since participants are largely unaware of the assumptions they employ.

Indeed, Cicourel clearly admitted that “the complications are enormous” when it comes to the unequivocal identification of the meanings which actors assign to a tone of voice, a gesture, a phrase or a mode of dress”.

(source: A.V. Cicourel, “The Social Organisaton of Juvenile Justice” (Heinemann, London, 1976)

I openly accept that supporters of participant observations argue that, compared to other research techniques, it is least likely to lead to the social scientist imposing his reality on the social world he seeks to understand. It therefore probably provides the best means of obtaining a valid picture of social reality.

I withdrew from a structured interview – a predetermined set of question (as used in my group activity part of the course), which the interviewee is requested to answers – or a questionnaire – a set of printed questions to which the respondent is asked to provide written answers – the social science researchers has already decided what is important. With pre-set questions he/she imposes his/her framework and priorities on those being studied. I believe that if I had assumed questions are relevant to my respondent I would have already made many assumptions about their social world. Although I began my work with some pre-conceived ideas, for example I studied the existing literature on the topic.

Liebow also inspired my thoughts, as Liebow was particularly concerned about the danger of distorting the reality he wished to observe. He states that from the outset of his research “there were by design, no firm presumptions of what or was not relevant”. He did his best to simply look and listen and to avoid any pre-conceptions of what was or was not important. Liebow chose participant observation because he believed that method would provide a “clear, first-hand picture” of the “life of ordinary people, on their grounds and on their terms”. By observing what was said and done, when, when and by whom, he hoped to discover how a group of Blackstreet corner men saw and organised their lives. Liebow claims that, “Taking this inside view makes it easier to avoid structuring the material in ways that might be alien to the material itself”.

Once accepted by their respective groups, both Whyte and Leibow believed that their presence produced few if any significant changes in its normal round of everyday activities.

I did not want to become too involved, as Whyte wrote “There is a danger that by becoming too involved, the observer may lose his detachment, take too much for granted and dull the sharpness of his observations”.

(source: E. Liebow, “Tally’s Corner (Little Brown, Boston, 1967)and W.F. Whyte, “Street Corner Society”, 2nd edition (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1955)

I hope I have reached my goals in the presentation that follows:

Background of the Subject of the Study:

X is a woman born with a genetic condition that has led to the degeneration of her eyesight has scooped a national award for “The Most Inspirational Person”.

X, who has very limited vision, was presented with the accolade at the EyeCan Awards 2015, held by Galloway’s, the Society for the Blind.

The 37-year-old, who grew up in Burnley, is studying BA (Hons) Fine Art (Integrated Media) at Blackburn College.

Not only has X had to battle with her eyesight, but grew up in the care system, and was institutionalised, having been abandoned at birth, which meant she had no schooling or education and thus no qualifications.

When she started at Blackburn College (through her admiral self-choice and determination at the age of 35 years), studying a Level 3 Art and Design Foundation Diploma, X had to learn to read and write again with determination and support from the college, myself and other volunteers at “Galloways”

After the exceptional work she produced during the Level 3 course, she was immediately accepted onto the Fine Art degree.

The college and “Galloways”, say that X is now an ambassador for the disabled and disabled students.

X, who now lives in Clayton-le-Woods. said: “Being awarded the Most Inspirational Person Award was great – it was the last award of the evening to be announced and I had no idea that it was going to be me receiving it.

“I’ve really enjoyed learning different skills and meeting new people on the course. It’s great to have lots of people taking an interest in my work.”

X has exhibited at many major national and international galleries and is growing a large following around the globe.

Most recently, X has appeared on “Sky Arts, Landscape Artist of the Year 2016” and won the “Royal Watercolour Society’s Contemporary artist Award 2017”.

Background of the Organisation:

Galloway’s Society for the Blind, was founded back in the 1800’s. John Catterall of East View, Preston and Joseph Livesey, one of the great sons of Preston (who also founded what we now call University of Central Lancashire – my great grandfather), began to carry out welfare for the blind and partially sighted people in John’s home.

A few years later, a cottage was taken on North Road, Preston and used as a workshop for blind and partially sighted people. It was here, a blind gentleman named William Woodhurst was put in charge of operations.

A public meeting was held on 11th March, 1867 and it was decided there was more that could be done. A resolution was passed to set up an Industrial Institute for the Blind. “Galloway’s”, as we know it today, still has records dating back to the inaugural meeting. It counts among its earliest benefactors Mr E H Booth, founder of the well-known supermarket chain.

“Galloway’s” is proud to have kept the link with the Livesey and Booth family and they remain on the board of trustees to this day.

The work of the charity expanded throughout Lancashire with community workers visiting blind and partially sighted people to “instruct” them in various trades or skills. Workshops were established, followed by a school, a residential home and even a hotel. Originally “Preston Industrial Institute for the Blind”, then the “Institute for Blind Welfare” and until 2000, the “Preston and North Lancashire Blind Welfare Society”. Now named after William Wilding Galloway, a cotton merchant from Preston whose legacy “Galloway’s” benefitted from.

Over the years, the organisations work has changed with the times and has adapted to the needs of local people living with sight loss. Today, the organisation supports over 7,000 blind and partially sighted people every year across Lancashire and Sefton, providing a wide range of high impact services.

“Galloway’s” are only here today because of the generosity of their beneficiaries and the general public, the organisation remains reliant on donations and legacies to continue its work.

The provision of Talking Newspapers and Magazines is another one of its services producing over 3500 USB memory sticks and CDs each week. Current titles include Lancashire Evening PostOrmskirk AdvertiserLancaster Guardian & Morecambe VisitorLongridge NewsGarstang CourierFarmers GuardianMethodist RecorderThe Catholic VoiceSalvation Army War Cry, and Asian Awaz in Urdu.

The charity provides Blind Awareness training to local organisations and undertakes Braille and CD transcription services.

Galloway’s operates 4 Sight Advice Centres across Lancashire at Chorley, Preston, Southport and Morecambe from where a range of specialist equipment is available

The Society relies on legacies and donations to fund its activities and needs to raise over £1 million each year.

 

The Interview:

I asked X to speak openly and freely about her life and experiences and tried to not influence the flow of dialogue and what she had to say.

I started with the basic question, tell me about your life and just let it flow with no further questioning:

“I was born with albinism, macular aplasia and nystagmus and similarly too many others with severe visual impairment is categorised (wrongly), as having learning disabilities”.

“I was born in Burnley and District General Hospital” in 1978 to a unmarried teenage mother and was born with a genetic condition that means I have very pale skin and weird coloured eyes and was immediately labelled a “freak” and was whisked away out of sight and out of mind by Social Services, as my mother and father and their families could not live with the stigma of having an unmarried mother with a “freak” of a baby. I was immediately cut off from society and spent many years in what you would now categorise as an institution for “freaks” and “insane” in Whitchurch. I was made a “Ward of Court” and was not allowed any liberties, or freedom and those “dicks” in Social Services made all the decisions for me and just forgot about me. I was put out of sight and out of mind and that was my life sorted as far as society and social services where concerned, I was left to die in a “nut house”.

“I was not given any education, but was merely placed in an institution that contained both the blind and mentally and physically disabled of various age ranges and was cut off from society”.

“I just had to make my own way, conform and adapt to the behaviours to which the matrons and those in control and that was my life”.

“The stigma of having learning disabilities, rather than visual impairment seems to have directed policy towards my care and support through my life and I would say it appears to be a case of a “quick fix” solution and “one suit fits all” – I really hate society for this”

“I also have a hearing impairment and on-going mental health issues as a result of bullying and names I get called constantly”.

“I feel that until now, I think no one cared and no one really understood my problems, fortunately I am out of the institutions now and people are starting to listen. I just wished they’d consulted earlier as I don’t think those making d many at the time had any knowledge of the problems, it was a typical “brownie” point activity by shite governments, who didn’t really care. – but who cares, I was out of sight”.

“I finally got released out of the “nut house” in 1996 and was given a maisonette in Blackburn and I’d never done anything on my own before. I had no idea about money, the “yobs” bullied me because I looked and spoke differently and I felt suicidal. I actually couldn’t face going back to the maisonette and ended up sleeping rough by the graves at Blackburn cathedral, as I couldn’t face going back to the maisonette and the council estate”.

“I ended up on relying upon the charity of market stall holders to feed me and fortunately “Galloway’s and you helped me and have turned my life around. You and they believed in me and look at me now – thank you. If you hadn’t found me, I’d have committed suicide just like many of my friends who jumped off the roof of the multi-storey carpark in Blackburn and Accrington”.

“Why did they just dump me, I knew nothing of the outside world and although it was crap, why didn’t they leave me safe in the “nut house”?

“If they were going to let me out of the “nut house”, why didn’t they look after me, or support me – they did “F- all, if any they just sat me in front of a computer monitor and sent me forms to fill in, obviously I can’t see bloody computers and forms, what bloody use was that?, thanks to you and “Galloway’s” for doing those forms and computer thingies for me – how bloody stupid, how are people supposed to cope?, “I felt this left me feeling excluded and I could not access information, as I couldn’t see the computers, or read the type-face”.

“Social services keep asking me what choices I want – what are they on about?”

“These idiots in government forget about us blind and partially sighted people when they write disability things for us to look at – we can’t read it, or see it – so we cannot comment unless someone tells us it there – they do nowt for us, they just con people into thinking they’re caring – complete bollocks – all governments and politics is shit and they don’t care, just as long as they win”

“You were in politics and you stood up for us, why did you pack in – please go back and fight for us”

“I’m now doing a degree and working for myself, as employers won’t take me on because they see me as a liability because I’m disabled and it’d cost them supporting me, do they not realise I’ve coped on my own so far, oh fuck em, I’m doing well without them – I’m now famous and my works are shown and sold world-wide in the top galleries, don’t tell me I’m not better than anyone else – should have kept me locked up – ha, ha “

“I feel that from reading your college files, there have been many attempts to address the way the government deals with disabilities and back in the 1970’s these were formally referred to as community handicap teams and what I understand were called “normalisation” policies. By 2016 all that has really changed is the name; they are now called partnership working teams”, supported by policies called “personalisation”, from looking at your notes – it’s pathetic isn’t it?”

(Authors note: x is crafty, because x read my notes when I went to the toilet and during breaks –using her amplifying lenses – I’ve learnt never to leave anything unguarded in future – but I’m actually glad x read it – it makes me feel great that x is taking an interest in the real world).

Whilst I was sitting interviewing X, she picked up one of my seminar papers from Disability Studies about “personalisation”, and I cannot get this quote out of my head:

“Personalisation”, this could be interesting – they’re taking the piss – why are you a Tory?”

“Thanks to your help with IT and having the patience to sit with me and teach me reading and writing and how to fill in forms in large print, I went and did basic English and maths at Blackburn college and continued painting my pictures (that I also did to waste time in the “nut house”)”.

“Blackburn’s shit and so is Lancaster, but at least I’ll get my degree and be normal”.

“Thanks to you and “Gallloway’s” I got the support and funding I needed and you got me taught and educated, you also personally nominated me for the “EyeCan Award” and “Disability Arts Foundation”, and the “RWS”, I’m now doing my degree in art at Lancaster University and am now one of the top 150 landscape artists in the world having just won the accolade from the “Royal Watercolour Society” – will you come to the award ceremony in London with me, as my works going up at “Bankside Gallery, London” and “Tate Modern” and “New York and Berlin?”

“You believed in me and gave me my confidence and respect and nominated me for the “EyeCan award. Being awarded the Most Inspirational Person Award was great – it was the last award of the evening to be announced and I had no idea that it was going to be me receiving it and I owe you my life for believing in me and putting the word out about me. You encouraged me to go for my dream of being an artist and look at me now”.

“I love my art, it allows me to be free and express myself. I used to imagine places when I was locked in the “nut house” and paint them, now I go and paint the landscapes I see, it’s good”.

“Please be our MP, because you care and understand”.

 

Report, linked with theoretical and ethical thoughts and ideology.

Arguably X has suffered biological inequality simply for being blind and having albinism. It can be argued that biological differences become biological inequalities when men define them as such. Thus Andre Beteille stated that, “Natural inequality is based on differences in quality, and qualities are not just there, so to say, in nature; they are as human beings have defined them, in different societies, in different historical epochs”. Biological factors (in this case blindness and albinism), seem to have assumed importance in many stratification systems imposed upon x, because of the meanings assigned to them by the different agencies that have been involved in x’s life.

(source: The Andre Beteille Omnibus: Comprising Caste, Class and Power; Idea of Natural Inequality; and Equality and Universality Hardcover – 7 Jul 2011)

It can therefore be argued that biological differences become biological inequalities only to the extent that they are defined as such by the State. In Britain, it’s apparent that they form a component of some social stratification systems simply because members of those systems select certain characteristics and evaluate them in a particular way. Andre Beteille argues that the search for a biological basis for social stratification is bound to end in failure since the “identification as well as the gradation of qualities is cultural and not a natural process”.

(source: The Andre Beteille Omnibus: Comprising Caste, Class and Power; Idea of Natural Inequality; and Equality and Universality Hardcover – 7 Jul 2011)

In x’s case, beliefs which state that system of social stratification have been based on biological inequalities can be seen as rationalisations for the use of those systems by the agencies involved in x’s life. Such beliefs serve to explain the system to the agencies: they make social inequality appear rational and reasonable. They therefore have justified and legitimated the system by appeals to nature. In this way a social contrivance for dealing with x appears to have been founded on the natural order of things.

Talcott Parsons argued that stratification systems derive from common values. It follows from existence of values that x was evaluated and therefore placed in some form of rank order. In Parsons’ words, “Stratification, in its valuational aspect, then, is the ranking of units in a social system in accordance with the common value system”.

During the 1980’s and 1990’s we saw many reports written on this subject.

X feels that many at the time also felt held back by the lack of knowledge of those making decisions, she said “These idiots in government forget about us blind and partially sighted people when they write disability things for us to look at – we can’t read it, or see it – so we cannot comment unless someone tells us it there – they do nowt for us, they just con people into thinking they’re caring – complete bollocks – all governments and politics is shit and they don’t care, just as long as they win”

Croft and Beresford (1989) summed up the problem perfectly:

…… user groups are increasingly conscious of the problem of being sucked into the operational and organisational detail of agencies, when what they actually want is more control over their own lives and their dealings with them”.

(source: Suzy Croft and Peter Beresford, “User Involvement, Citizenship and Social Policy, no. 26 (August 1989).

The Government promoted the questions of choice and of free will.

For the blind and indeed anyone with disabilities this should really have made a huge difference as the ideology of the marketing services under the banner of choice, intended to allow choice by dismantling  state and social service control of individuals choices of services wanted.

Freedom of choice it could be argued should be not only about having a range of options to choose from, but should also include having the capabilities to make choices and unfortunately in X’s case, she could neither see, nor was deemed fit enough (due to the false stigmatisation attached of learning disabilities), to be allowed to make her own decisions and in her formative years, she was a “Ward of Court” and as such the Courts and Local Social Services Department made the decisions for her.

To make choices requires a level of rationality, understanding and mental capacity and as X was Ward of Court, these decisions where taken out of her hands.

Stainton (1994) said that even when an individual lacks certain “rational capabilities”, there continued to be a need to respect the basic wishes and choices individuals make. If there was difficulty in expressing choices, it was because of communication or cognitive impairment.

(Source: Timothy Stainton, Autonomy and Social Policy: With Special Reference to Mental Handicap in Ontario and Britain (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1994; Brookfield, VT: Avebury, 1994).

Arthur Schopenhauer put forward the notion that will dominates every aspect of an individual’s personality and thoughts.

From looking through various governmental archives, it is very apparent that there has been much talk about “Normalisation”, but what is “normalisation”?

X’s experiences prove no one really knows

Arguably, every culture contains a large number of guidelines which direct conduct in particular situations. Such guidelines is could be argued are norms. A norm therefore is a specific guide to action which defines acceptable and appropriate behaviour in particular situations. For example, in all societies, there are norms governing dress. Members of society generally share norms which define acceptable male and female apparel and which specify appropriate dress for different age groups. For example, in British society, a seventy year old grandmother dressed as a teenager would contravene the norms for her age group (yes we know it happens!!!). Norms of dress provide guidelines for what to wear on particular occasions. A formal dance, a funeral, a day out on the beach, a working day in the bank, on the building site or in the hospital – all these situations are governed by norms which specify appropriate attire for the occasion. Norms of dress, just as all norms, vary from society to society.

Norms are enforced by positive and negative a sanction that is rewards and punishments. Sanctions can be informal, such as approving or a disapproving glance, or formal, such as a fine or a reward given by an official body.

It is evident that those advocating “normalisation” overlooked the blind and those institutionalised who have no exposure to the “norms of society”

Social workers believed then and now, that people with disabilities are people with needs. Medics back then hadn’t got the idea and labelled those with disabilities as sub-humans with challenging behaviours, issues and intellect and certainly, some hadn’t the intellect required to be considered normal,(they still haven’t defined “normal”), and simply isolated them away from mainstream society (as in x’s circumstances).

This conflict has had a major impact upon X’s experiences.

Medics imply that normalisation is about having the exposure to understand norms, which sadly was omitted and deprived from x.

The quick fix for x was making her a “Ward of Court”. X did not have exposure to normalisation.

This in turn proves that in X’s case the authorities merely turned to what Stainton refers to as “Substitute Judgement”, to both protect and enhance the supposed autonomy of the person with difficulties, but more importantly to protect the authorities.

(source: Timothy Stainton, Autonomy and Social Policy: With Special Reference to Mental Handicap in Ontario and Britain (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1994; Brookfield, VT: Avebury, 1994).

Stainton’s “Substitute Judgement” means that someone else is making a decision on behalf of someone deemed incompetent.

(source: Timothy Stainton, Autonomy and Social Policy: With Special Reference to Mental Handicap in Ontario and Britain (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1994; Brookfield, VT: Avebury, 1994).

Too often, those with severe visual impairments are deemed “incompetent”.

The authorities and social services acted tried to be the parent in relation to coping with X and those who were blind, or had severe eyesight problems and failed badly.

In the 1990’s large institutions were closed down in the belief that the disabled would be happily integrated into the mainstream of society and that they would get the relevant help and support within the wider community, would be cared for, and helped in making their own choices and the life they wanted to live and where they wanted to live. The ideology fell well short in X’s case as puts forward the notion that the governments failed to acknowledge the wishes of those who wished to remain in institutions, as they had felt safe in that environment.

For the blind and visually impaired, a safe and secure environment is often needed and as X says.

Unfortunately X says many who had been uprooted, actually committed suicide.

The lesson that should be learnt from this is that there needs to be a balance. It’s dangerous keeping someone institutionalised for a long period and then throwing the doors open and saying you’re on your own.

X says people with visual disabilities need assistance in achieving a real sense of autonomy.

Ultimately this must involve the individual, possibly parents and professionals taking chances and risks, but it has to be done with common sense.

The challenge is to interpret “common sense” in individual cases.

X says she and her companions where left scared and frightened when they were forcedly moved out of secure institutions.

“New Labour” published: Valuing People – A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century, on the 28th of March 2001.

“Valuing People it could be argued was actually the very first paper to come out of government that actually acknowledged that the major problem in ensuring successful involvement of those with learning difficulties was the need for effective communication”.

Valuing people expected the professionals and organisations that worked with people with learning difficulties to have created water tight policies and procedures that would ensure advance communication and it even suggested that computer hardware and modern IT should be extensively used.

Valuing People argued that technology could easily assist people in making clear choices and technology could display choices in an easily accessible and understandable manner.

(source: Department of Health, Valuing People: A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century. White Paper, Cm 5086 (London: HMSO, 2001)

X implies this idea was no use to the blind and partially sighted as they couldn’t all see a computer, less alone read what was displayed.

“I felt this policy left me feeling excluded and I could not access information, as I couldn’t see the computers, or read the type-face”.

It has been estimated that human beings absorb as much as 80% of information about their immediate environment by means of sight (Willets 1997).

Visually impaired people, therefore, are at greatest risk of being excluded as a result of poor access to information.

 “New Labour’s” ideas where disastrous as computers and IT is expensive and an IT specialist is also expensive to employ and in many areas, very often there was only one computer available for public use (normally in a Local Authority Office, or library), the policy was completely useless.

 “New Labour” lifted hope, but dashed them because it failed to fund correctly.

Only a sighted person could use a computer or IT provided and only if they were first to it.

Governmental and local authority finances directly affect service provisions directly on the choices and services available even now.

“People need social information to support them in two roles they play as members of society – as citizens and consumers” (Moore and Steele, 1991).

X argues that the blind and partially sighted need access to information if they are to make informed choices and contribute fully to society with regards the goods and services needed and consumed.

X implied for choices to be real, they must be well informed and ultimately, without the correct access to information, the blind and partially sighted can’t choose.

“…… focus on ways of sharpening perceptions of eligibility rather than just increasing general awareness of the existence …..Other methods of improving understanding such as the provision of informed advice or the encouragement to claim should be considered as a way of supplementing publicity”. (Craig, 1991).

In 2005, the Government introduced the Disability Act, which imposed significant obligations on Government departments and Public Bodies to work towards improving the quality of life of those with disabilities, but again it was harnessed by budget constraints and lack of IT and suffered much the same fate as Valuing People and it relied on all users having communication interaction and skills.

X says that “Ultimately the governments constantly fail to consider people with learning disabilities who are acknowledged as not having the means to communication interaction, are possibly also blind and partially sighted”

 Additionally, it can be said many of the ideals of the act where never really understood and the definitions of disability discrimination has to be integrated into the subsequent Equality Act of 2010.

The Equality Act 2010 has grey areas and has been subject to many disability discrimination claims, most notably in the area of the act which partially bans employers from asking medical questions of employees, which employers argue would have helped them establish if an employee was able to undertake an intrinsic function before offering a role, or before coming to grief when an employee declares a disability and makes a claim under the Act.

The affect is employers are reluctant to offer roles to disabled people for fear of reprisals and costs associated with any future failures to meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010”.

Two other pieces of legislation are now in play, but it’s wrong to pass judgement, as not enough information is available, they are The Children and Families Act of 2014 and The Care Act of 2014.

In 2015, the Conservative Party, swept to an outright General Election victory and we now talk about “Personalisation” – X say’s, this could be interesting!!!

Conclusion

In conclusion, disability policy and the help for those with visual impairments remain very similar to that of nearly forty years ago (X’s life span).

X summed up perfectly:

“There have been many attempts to address the way Britain deals with disabilities and back in the 1970’s these were formally referred to as community handicap teams and “normalisation” policies. By 2016 all that has really changed is the name; they are now called partnership working teams”, supported by policies called “personalisation”.

Unless norms are shared, explained and publicised in a comprehensive and understandable manner to all including members of the blind society they will be unlikely to cooperate and work together with government and social services. With continuing differing values, there will forever be all agencies pulling in different directions and pursuing incompatible goals, continuing to achieve nothing of worth. Disorder and disruption may well result. Thus an ordered and stable society requires shared norms and values and the blind are fed-up with being isolated.

It is clear that governments, health authorities and social services still have great problems working in cohesion, with very limited success and that budget and resources are extremely limited in 2016.

Without that cohesion there is little possibility of the blind and partially sighted being able to live fully independent lives and as a consequence there is an increasing reliance on charitable organisations such as “Galloway’s” stepping in to provide the support, guidance, knowledge and pressure.

I feel it’s being forced on me to answers X call: “You were in politics and you stood up for us, why did you pack in – please go back and fight for us” – I will just as soon as I have this piece of paper to back me up.

X makes me so proud and proves that disability is not a barrier to achievement; it’s just other humans that create barriers either out of ignorance, or by being over-zealous and not asking questions, but just assuming they know it all.

Recommendation

Whilst the current government is making a commitment to halve the disability employment gap, a recent survey of blind and partially sighted people reveals that employment rates amongst this group have actually fallen from 33% in 2006 to 27% in 2015. That means that whilst 3 out of 4 people in the general working age population are enjoying the benefits of paid work, only 1 in 4 blind and partially sighted people are afforded this right. To date, employment rates of blind and partially sighted people have remained unacceptably low, despite millions of pounds spent through interventions to change this such as the DWP’s Work Programme, Work Choice and Disability Confident schemes.

(source: http://www.visionary.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=543:employment-evaluation-report-guiding-principles&catid=23:news&Itemid=435)

X and I hope is that that cohesion happens quickly and is fully funded and money is no longer wasted.

X hopes I become an MP – I’d better get cracking – she’s set me a challenge.

Word Count: 6,243

 

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