Tag Archives: Musings

Employable Me AU – Food for thought

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As a disabled woman (#identityfirst), I was eagerly awaiting the premiere of Employable Me AU. At first I was a bit sceptical; would it be a patronising wank-fest? Would possible employers be hailed as heroes for the charitable gesture of taking on a disabled employee? Could I watch it without vomiting or throwing something at the TV?

Then I remembered this was the ABC, not commercial television. They may be politically biased, but at least they recognise disability as a human condition. Phew!

I’ll admit, I hadn’t heard of this show until the Aussie version was advertised, but I imagined it to be the employment version of the BBc series The Undatables (which I loved by the way), and in a way, it was.

OK, so there was no vomiting, nor was there any urges to throw things at the TV, (fortunate, as I was watching it on my iPad and the TV was in the other room so I would have had to get up). There was however, many tears.

As I watched, I felt a tremendous sense of guilt at being employed by a great organisation and how much I have been able to advance my career. Further, I have been working here for almost 14 years so I felt a bit greedy. Sometimes even, I am astounded by how good I am at making things all about me. In my defence though. I also felt enormously grateful.

Anyway, long story short, I really liked it.

It actually took the time to highlight the fact that (not unlike everyone else), disabled employees can and do bring unique insights and talents to the work place, even one that is not a sheltered workshop. HOORAY!

If I do have one criticism though, it is that all the disabilities that were featured were all intellectual or neurological. There was no one whose disability was purely physical, i.e. someone who is blind, deaf, missing a limb or who has a mobility issue.

Yes, I could relate to the prejudices that the subjects faced as disabled job seekers, but not in the same way. Remember, not all disabilities are created equal.

At least two of these people had a job coach with them to help them secure a job and settle in, just as I did back when I started (much to my embarrassment). However, not one of them needed assistive technology ( such as a screen reader) as I do now.

This might seem insignificant, but in omitting this, they missed the chance to show employers how easy it is to procure/use things like this without disrupting anyone else’s productivity or adversely affecting the company’s profit margin. That goes for building/work station modification too.

This seems (in my experience) to be one of the biggest hesitations for employers taking on a disabled person as a new staff member.

Some one asked me the other day what the biggest challenge as a disabled person in the workplace is for me. The answer is trust. Because there is generally such a low expectation of disabled people in general, I find that often people are hesitant to trust me with important tasks, believing that said task would be far beyond my capabilities or comprehension. It isn’t, unless I say it is.

I found this a lot in the beginning, but thankfully, it happens less and less these days. I do get the odd person appear taken a back when they meet me in person after working with me by phone or email though. Again, this goes back to low expectation and I think this will stop with an influx of highly capable disabled employees (such as myself, LOL) being around.

Now all we need is to make the public realise that having the desire to work (even if you are disabled) is not inspirational, it is normal.

XOXO

 

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Indoor Skydiving Part 2: Why I prefer traditional skydiving

 

 

Previously on Inner Musings of a Funny Looking Kid, I covered the differences and similarities between traditional and indoor skydiving.

 

Remember when I said that the wind tunnel reminded me of a cross between a fish bowl and a cookie jar? Well SPOILER ALERT, this is precisely why I was not a fan.

 

I was fairly Zen before the original jump, but as I got nearer and nearer to my turn in the wind tunnel I had become totally unglued.

 

Looking back, this could have been because I had not absorbed anything I had been shown in the training video. Then, when I asked if I could keep my hearing aid on in the tunnel the instructor said it was my choice, ut if they needed to communicate with me, they would use hand signals.  

 

There followed an awkward conversation (for him not me) where I told him that hand signals would be pointless as I couldn’t see them.

 

For the record, yes, they were forewarned of my requirements, but in their defense, it was a very busy morning.

 

I kept my hearing aid firmly on.

 

Ever the drama queen, as I was lead into the wind tunnel by my instructor I began yelling at him over and over “please, whatever you do don’t let me go.”  He didn’t and here is where my nightmare began…

 

As I felt my feet lift off the ground I was immediately hit with the force of the wind, which at almost 300km/h is what I had experienced during my 60 second freefall from the plane. No biggie.

 

 I may have only been hanging there for mere seconds but to me it felt like hours. Plus, I had no idea how much longer I had to go.

 

With no relief of a parachute opening and some heavenly floating to look forward to I started to panic.  I began   squirming and true to his word, the instructor held me tighter. I didn’t know what the sign was for “GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE” so I began frantically shaking my head. Still the instructor didn’t get it. Did he think it was a tick?

 

Suddenly, I remembered reading (during a daydream of being a natural), that when you are learning formation flying the first move they teach you is to fly on your back. So, I tried to roll over. This is a massive no no unless you are trained because it is easy to fall out of the wind while doing it. Like I nearly did. 

 

It did the trick though.

 

To my horror this is when I realised that the tunnel has a 360-degree viewing platform where people could watch, with their noses pressed up against the glass just metres from where I was attempting to fly. Did I mention it was a busy morning?

 

Not only did I fail but everybody witnessed it. To make matters worse, I received a conciliatory round of applause (which no one else got by the way), and one guy even tried to high five me.

 

I say “tried,” as when he put his hand up I didn’t see it and kept right on walking. Seems he didn’t realise I am blind either.

 

My ego was bruised and the feeling of pity from the watching crowd was palpable.

 

This, and only this was what got me to take my second turn.  Mercifully, this attempt was a success, and not surprisingly the video of this attempt is the only one I showed everyone. Damion however was more than happy to show everyone my failure.

 

I like to think this is because he is proud of me for overcoming the adversity.

 

Having experienced both now, I would have to say that the traditional version where you leap out of an aero plane from 14,000 feet wins hands down. If you are going to do them both though, indoor skydiving is a great place to start. But, if you are doing an indoor skydive, go the whole hog and add on a “high-fly” if it is available, it’s oodles more fun.

 

The indoor skydive did get the adrenaline pumping just as the original skydive did, I was shaking for hours afterward and this is a feeling I have been seeking since the original jump. But, with this I didn’t get the overwhelming urge to go back in and try it again.

 

It might be my ego talking, but I can’t see myself doing that again.

 

Now I have my heart set on zip lining. The higher the better. Anyone want to join me?

 

XOXO

 

PS – You can see the footage of my false start on the Inner musings of a funny looking kid’s Facebook page.

 

Stick to what you know, pick your battles and leave Wonder Woman alone!!

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Looking at us, you would think that my friend Neil and I are polar opposites. However, generally our moral compasses point in the same direction.

So, on a Saturday morning it is not unusual for us to conduct a rapid-fire conversation where (in between rubbishing the hell out of each other) we take it upon ourselves to solve all of the world’s problems while he tortures me with insane stretches. Neil also teaches me Pilates.

We are both uber fans of Wonder Woman and our world-fixing remedies can often involve her. On this particular day though, Wonder Woman or rather Gal Gadon, who played her in the most recent movie, was the one who needed our help.

After the death of Professor Stephen Hawking, she posted a tweet about her sorrow over his passing. Like millions of people the world over.

Ahhh, there is nothing more heartfelt than to share a message in 140 characters to someone you probably did not know, but whose name was trending on Twitter, with your closest followers.

Anyway, in her tweet, Gadon wrote (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Stephen, may you be able to walk with ease in heaven.” The response she got may have been a bit of a surprise to her, it was to me.

People told her that she was an ablest (someone prejudice against disabled people) because her tweet insinuated that due to the fact she can walk she thought she was superior to him. Or that just because he had a disability, which by the way was the least remarkable aspect of his existence, Hawking may have been unsatisfied and preferred a different body.

I know someone who died recently from lung cancer. When he died, people wrote, “breathe easy” in their tributes to him. How is it different?

Neil wondered what my take over all the commotion was.

Well, speaking as the oracle of all things disability, I think these people need to get a life. She was just trying to be nice, and maybe get a few retweets in the process. We’ve all been there.

I would quite like to know how many of these people are disabled themselves. And if they aren’t, why should they care?

Now, I did not know Professor Hawking myself, so I cannot tell you whether he resented his disability. But, expecting that he never once thought how much easier/better it might have been living how the other half lived is preposterous. Especially if you have had a taste of “the good life” as he had done.

Not to generalise here, but we all do it, disabled or not. In addition, doing it, does not mean we hate ourselves. It just means we might be having a bad day!

Stephen, despite his enormous intelligence was, only human.

I too admire Stephen Hawking. I am in awe of his intelligence and wit of course. But the fact that he carried on with his life as he knew it even after his diagnosis and never thought (to the best of my knowledge), to suddenly be a champion for the disabled community is to me, the best thing about him.

There is a myth out there that a disability automatically makes someone a tool for learning. Or, that if you have a disability then everything you do (no matter how small) is done to prove yourself to or inspire others. I call bullshit on that.

I only do it for the attention!

XOXO

PS – The piece of equipment being demonstrated in this photo is called the Wunda Chair. So called (I think) because while you are using it makes you wonder why the hell you are doing this to yourself!

Indoor Skydiving Part 1: The differences between indoor and traditional skydiving

Regular readers of my blog may recall that in 2015 (after much deliberation); I jumped out of a plane at 14,000 feet.

To be clear, it was a planned tandem skydive and I had a parachute, there was no mid-air emergency.

Anyway, since then I have been searching for an activity to match the adrenaline rush and extremely awesome buzz that I experienced that day. I’ve tried jet boating, aerobatics, ridden a pony (hey, it was wild for me), and abseiling 160 metres down the side of a skyscraper in Perth’s CBD. These were all a lot of fun, but not quite the adrenaline rush I was searching for.

Then I discovered indoor skydiving, would this be my holy grail?

For those who don’t know, wind tunnels (as they are known) were originally invented so that scientists could study aerodynamics. Until, someone decided they could also provide a great recreational activity and money could be made from it. The first person to try it was former Green Beret Jack Tiffany in 1964.

Initially skydiving instructors used them to practice skydiving and in the early 80’s they became available for the great unwashed (who can tell I’ve been Googling?),

They work by blasting a cylinder, (about 6 metres in diameter of air upward. The wind speed can be up to 3000km/h and the force of the wind is enough to hold you up.

I imagined that the tunnel would look a bit like the room where Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe drink the drink that makes them weightless in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It wasn’t. It looked to me to be more like a cross between a fish bowl and a cookie jar.

As I mentioned I loved my skydive, so I was keen for this too. That was until I remembered that the part of skydiving that I wasn’t particularly fond of (the freefall) is exactly what the wind tunnel simulates. Oh shit, I didn’t really think this through.

I did my training and suited up. The outfit for indoor skydiving is cooler than a traditional dive. Then, I only got a helmet, goggles and a pair of clown pants to put on over my jeans. This was because you come into land by skidding on your bum.

For this, I still got the helmet and goggles but I got a full jumpsuit to wear as well. I felt a bit like an aviator pilot, a feeling I didn’t get when I did my aerobatic flight. Go figure.

Now, in skydiving you tip out of a plane so for this I imagined that I would have to leap off a diving board. Nope, you just walk up to the wind, lean in, and whoosh! You are not very high off the ground though, (a metre or so). It was a bit weird to be able to clearly see the floor.
Your “diving” position is different too. Here you need to pretend you’re a starfish but when you jump out of a plane it’s a sort of kneeling position with your arms crossed in front of you.

I had recently read in a history book called “ The United States of absurdity” about a very dodgy amusement park called “Action Park,” which existed in New Jersey USA in the 70’s and 80’s but was closed down in the 90’s for being too unsafe (google it, it’s fascinating).

They had a wind tunnel, and when your time in the wind was up, they just cut it and you fell. I had been expecting that this was how my turn would end too, but actually, the instructor just grabs the handle on the back of your jumpsuit and gently pulls you away from the wind. Thank God for that.

The tunnel itself is actually very similar to the freefall I did from 14,000 feet. Except the experience is longer (a freefall from that height is roughly 60 seconds) and this is not as cold. Possibly because this is indoors.

In next week’s instalment, read about my actual flights, the disaster and the success and find out the question on everyone’s lips, which form I liked better.

I bet you can’t wait…

XOXO

PS – to see video of the adventure, check out the Inner Musings of a Funny Looking Kid Facebook page.

 

A Bit of a Rant & a Fact about Pigs

 

The new cleaner started the other day and when I met her she said, “Yes, as soon as I saw you I knew why you needed a cleaner. You’d probably have trouble doing what I do given your disability.” Well, I was very indignant at this comment. The fact that I have hired a cleaner is because I am lazy not disabled, get it right! That and the fact that I barely have time to scratch myself and I am extremely itchy.

What bothered me with this assumption was that she made it based solely on my physique and the fact that I had a walking frame. It never occurred to her that (just like most of her other clients) I actually have other commitments which have a higher priority. One of them being work, which allows me to pay her!

She also seemed to be under the impression that my parents had bought me the apartment in order for me to “learn” to be independent. They did not. All because Mum happened to pop in while she was cleaning to see how I was, as I was home sick yet again. Isn’t that what Mums do?

I wish I had a dollar for every time she told me how great it was that I am “allowed” to live on my own. In fact, I live with Damion, my live-in lover (also known as my boyfriend). I wonder what she would have to say about that.

The irony is that despite her patronising she did an awesome job. Oh well, at least its extra motivation to go to work on a Friday.

Then, at the gym a few days later, I almost was stuck in the wheelchair lift (I had Cecily) because some bright spark decided to park their bike up against the door while I was upstairs doing my workout. Apparently they “didn’t realise disabled people used the gym.” Fair enough, it is not as if we might like to improve our wellbeing or anything.

People, enough with the low expectations towards people with disability. It is getting very old!

However, perhaps the icing on the cake came yesterday afternoon…

I was waiting for the lift of my apartment building. A be-suited woman, who I estimate was somewhere between 30 – 50 years old, carrying a file (aka, looking very important) and a fancy pants bag which I quite liked, almost barrelled me over as she got out.

For the record, I was standing well back from the door (learnt that the hard way). She just was not watching where she was going.

Then, instead of apologising, she just said, “Your parents must be so good” and walked off. What?!

What is up with people this week?

On a totally unrelated note, I am very fond of the phrase “sweating like a pig”.Today I found out that pigs do not actually sweat. Nope, they wallow in mud or water to cool off as it has the same evaporating abilities as sweat.

How interesting…

XOXO

32: A Year in Review

 

Almost every night for the past month, I have been dreaming about kittens and every night more and more of them appear.

I am not a cat person so I decided these dreams must have a meaning, and I went on a mission to find it.

As you may have guessed, I am the kind of person who will read a horoscope, and pick out the good bits and discard everything else. With dream interpretation, I was no different.

I sifted through information that indicated I was pregnant (I am not, I checked), and that foretold of an upcoming betrayal from a loved-one (“snore”).

But my favourite?  Apparently, kittens in dreams indicate that I have an unrequited sexual fantasy that I am trying to suppress. Really? How interesting.

Then I found one that said that dreaming of kittens meant I was in a transitional phase that would lead to independence.

Ah ha! Now, this is something I can work with.

During my research, I also discovered that I share a date of birth, the 16th of December with Ludwig Von Beethoven and Jane Austin. This has nothing to do with anything. I just thought it was cool.

My 32nd year has been my best yet. I moved to my very own place and finally began living like a proper adult.

Damion moved in and for the record, we are living together out of wedlock (what an inviting term) and we have no plans to get married so stop asking.

I have somehow landed in a job that I genuinely enjoy and that I get to flex my creative. muscle in. I am also a very active member of the team, something that has been missing in my work life for some time.

My blog seems to be gaining steam and I have had some awesome opportunities to appear in other publications and as a guest blogger. I have had a few lovely people get in touch to say they enjoy my writing and are learning a lot. I love when this happens. It spurs me on.

In bucket list news. This year I finally got to fulfil my dream of riding a horse…err pony and I successfully managed to abseil 160 metres down the QV1 Building completely by myself. I even got to see my beloved Fremantle Dockers win a game live and in person.

I learnt that when setting up a home you should always buy a bigger fridge than you think you will need as every man and his assistance dog will assume you are starving and bring you food. Trust me, I had to get a second freezer. I am not complaining by the way.

Best of all, this year is the first one since I went blind in 2009 where I have not been admitted to hospital at all! I have had far fewer infections this year too. This in itself is a major miracle.

On my last birthday, I was not very well. I had a blood infection, which had seen me need to take three months off work. It affected pretty much my whole body. I was really stressed out and as you can imagine, quite depressed.

A lot of this was because I never had a spare second to scratch myself, I was finding my feet in a new job and I was trying the independence thing for the first time.

I found myself in the position I had always wanted to be in but without the ability to enjoy it. There was only one thing for it. I needed to slow down and cut down on my stress. Here is what I did.

As a people pleaser, I constantly feel the need to prove my worth to others.  I just cannot say no.

Consequently, if there is a committee to join or a cause that needs help, you can bet I was somehow involved.

Despite being afraid that people would be let down, this year I stepped down from all of these, always apologising profusely and offering to join back up “next year” to appease my guilt. I probably will not though if I am honest.

I have stop trying to make my life resemble a Hollywood movie too. I decided that I do not need to accept every single invitation I receive.  It is better for me to say no to attending something that would be awkward for me because of my various disabilities if it means I feel safer.

 

What is the point of going, not being able to participate and feeling like a moron? The anxiety in the lead up to events such as this is not worth it.  No one really cares how many Facebook check-ins you make anyway. Further, friends who do not understand why you cannot attend their event and make it a big deal, are possibly not good friends at all.

Ironically, in doing this, I am possibly the busiest I have ever been and I find that I enjoy things a lot more. It is funny how life works!

Speaking of false friends, I have also done a comprehensive clean out this year. As a person with a disability, I had a lot of acquaintances but very few real friends. I defined a real friend as being someone who wants to spend time with me because they enjoy it. Not because spending time with me makes them, feel better about their situation/body. Or worse, because they feel the need to fulfil a civic duty.

To those who have never had to deal with it this might sound harsh. If my being around happens to inspire you then so be it, but I have things to do.  So, if you need someone to make you feel better about yourself see a counsellor

Congratulations to those still in my life by the way.  You have made the cut LOL!

Finally, I have learnt that my relationship with Damion is perfect as long as it works for us.

The biggest lesson that I have learnt this year is that if you constantly feel the need to tell people how happy you are and how perfect your life is, it is probably not. A full social life and a million thank you gifts for favours are nice but a sleep in is better. And, the word “no” is fun to say. Ask any toddler.

Independence Ahoy!

I credit this new philosophy with the massive improvement in my health.

As I write this my 33rd birthday is two days away. I wonder what lessons the next year will bring.

Happy birthday to me!

 

XOXO

There is an “I” in Team

I always get angry at myself when I leave a shop or venue and feel flattered that whoever I was dealing with spoke directly to me. It annoys me that it happens so rarely that I feel as though the attendant in question deserves a medal of honour for their efforts. Even when in fact it really shouldn’t be an effort at all.

Even worse, if ever I have an encounter with a child where they don’t go tearing from the room at the sight of me, I feel the need to heartily congratulate the parents on a job well done and in some cases, adopt the child.

I get that it’s my issue and that only I can overcome it, but the fact is that there are very few situations, (other than those in my own apartment) where I don’t feel singled out as the weird-looking disabled one.

I can’t really write about it either. In a recent post, entitled “Please stop helping me without my permission. It really is a pain in the arse”, I wrote about why I have the right to be left to my own devices, and I was told I was just ungrateful.

It’s easy to say that. You’re not the one with the painful bruise on your backside!
This being said, I got a real shock on Monday during our team meeting. We were discussing possible venues to get together to celebrate Christmas when suddenly someone chimed in with “we’ve got to make sure it’s accessible for Nina.” For a second I didn’t even realise they were referring to me.

In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit that, at first, that was because I couldn’t really hear the conversation properly – thanks to the humidity I was having a “bad ear day”.

However, it was also because at that moment (despite being very aware that I was hearing impaired), I had somehow forgotten that disability and in particularly mobility were an issue for me. I don’t remember a time where this has happened before.

Later, when I was back at my desk, opening my daily can of Coke with a fork (that I keep in my desk drawer for just this purpose), it occurred to me that this is why I felt so “normal” here. Because I can do normal things my way and no one really cares.

To me, this is the actual meaning of inclusion.

XOXO