Monday, June 29, 2009

Gone Paddlin!

I took a rather crippling loan from the spoon bank to attend BendyToo's 21st birthday this weekend.

Happily I love the hot weather so I'll be recovering in the sunshine for the next few days.

Less happily the tides are very low this week so I won't be doing any of this

Only a bendy person would have their arms/hands in such a strange position as part of normal movement!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Project

If any readers of this blog would be interested in contributing to a project to help improve the way companies provide services to disabled people could you please email me on:


benefitscroungingscum@hotmail.co.uk

We are really looking for contributions from those with disabilities or people who care for someone with a disability

Thank you!

Wednesday morning at 6.46 she is far away..

On Wednesday morning at precisely 6.46am I was startled awake by a loud drilling type noise. Somewhat confused I stumbled off to the loo, dislocated a few joints, threw oxycontin down my throat and got back into bed, completing the exciting ensemble by putting in some ear plugs. I figured that with the good weather the builders working next door had started early. There was no more noise and I woke in a better mood a couple of hours later.

When I woke for the second time I thought it was a bit odd that I couldn't hear any building works, but thought if they'd started that early it was to avoid the heat. Or something.

Later in the day I asked the builders if they'd started work early. They said no, in fact they'd been later than usual. When my neighbours came home from work I asked them if they'd heard the noise, as it had been loud enough to shock me awake I assumed other people must've heard something. The neighbours hadn't heard anything. They thought maybe I'd got the time wrong as their son fell down the stairs very loudly about an hour later*, but I'd not heard that, probably because of the ear plugs**.

It was, frankly, all a bit of a mystery. I knew there'd been an actual noise as opposed to my dreaming it because Bendycat had also woken up but I was no further along in finding out what it had been. The builders had suggested perhaps the garage in the next road had been working early, and in the absence of any other reason I thought that must be the case.





Until about 6pm when I went to get something out of my bedroom. There are lots of loose floorboards in this flat. I've placed my bedside chest of drawers over the loose floorboard in my bedroom as it was previously loose enough to trip me up. The weight of the chest of drawers means that every time I go into my bedroom it sets off my touchlight alarm clock, but doesn't trip me up. Seemed like a reasonable trade off to me.

However, this time I realised the loose floorboard was setting off more than my alarm clock. As I stepped on it the loud drilling type noise started up again. Only not quite so loud as it had been when I was sleeping with my ear next to it. Loud though. In the way that only a vibrator switching itself on against a wooden drawer base could be.

Oops!



*He's fine!
** A teenage boy living upstairs means I keep in a constant supply of ear plugs

Law student forced to work 'out of sight'...

Why? Because she has a prosthetic arm and allegedly did not fit with Abercrombie and Fitch's strict "looks policy"

See CharonQC

and

Usefully Employed

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BT and their broken promises

As anyone who follows me on twitter will be aware, I've been having a fucking nightmarepolite struggle with BT this week. Well, actually it's been going on for months but after I finally decided I'd have to face the stress it's started up again this week.

The problems started back in January when I moved into the flat. The phone line had been disconnected a few tenants back and so what should've been a simple process of getting a phone and broadband package set up became a mess. Initially I applied to talktalk as although they'd not been great for customer service, for approximately £20 a month for line rental, free calls to any landline and to multiple different countries so long as it was less than an hour per call, plus broadband...well, customer service is not the highest priority when the package is that good value. Unfortunately my landlord has never registered this property is flats rather than a house so TalkTalk were unable to tell which line was which and therefore unable to sort out activating the line. They advised me to speak to BT to sort out the line activation and then get back to TalkTalk to sort the package I wanted.

So, that's what I did. Except BT insisted they charged to activate the line. A charge of something like £70. Non refundable. I knew the BT sales team were talking rubbish, but after several weeks without internet access I was getting desperate. I was having to try and find places offering free wi-fi, which in itself is a problem in small town land. That's before you add in chaos of moving and trying to deal with all this with a disability that means it takes approximately 4 or 5 times the amount of time it takes other people to do things...if I can do them at all. So trailing round looking for wi-fi carrying a heavy laptop was leaving me spoon-less at a time I needed as many spoons as possible.

I tried a couple of times to sort out the line activation without a whopping charge, but in the end I was too tired and too stressed to deal with it so decided I'd have to do what BT advised, which was go with their phone/broadband package and avoid the line reactivation charges that way. As I say, I knew full well BT's sales team were trying it on, but I wasn't in a position to do anything about it. I was very, very foolishly reassured that the reason BT were charging double the price of my previous package and offering less for that price was because they provided outstanding customer service.

So, I signed up for BT's phone and broadband package, the most expensive one which includes the home hub and had no download limits etc at about £40 a month. Within a few days my first home hub arrived. Home hub was all shiny, black and pretty looking but like many pretty things, all it did was look pretty. It certainly didn't work. No matter how many times it was reinstalled, or how expert the IT skills of the person installing it, it simply wouldn't work. My laptop could pick up half a dozen other home hubs in the immediate area, but although it could see mine, it certainly couldn't access the internet with it. So, desperate for internet access I simply stuck an ethernet cable in and accessed the internet that way.

Whilst that solved the immediate problem of lack of access, it obviously didn't solve the non-working home hub problem. Eventually when I was a little more settled in the flat and could deal with the hours on the phone I knew it would take I phoned BT to try and sort it out.

The sales team couldn't deal with it of course, it had to go to technical support. BT's technical support is an offshore call centre, and to be generous the standard of spoken English varies wildly, as do the thickness of the accent's which can make the most grammatically correct English incomprehensible. Trying to explain to an overseas call centre operative exactly why you want to speak to someone based in the UK is difficult enough with a language barrier, and that's before refusal to deviate from the script comes in, or accusations of racism.

So, I spoke to the overseas tech support team. Multiple times. Every time I got to speak to someone either the connection would mysteriously disappear, or the operative would refuse to put me through to a manager. Asking to speak to someone in the UK felt like declaring oneself to be an active member of the BNP.

When I did get to speak to someone in tech support they'd insist on running through the same checklist over and over again. That someone in tech support had previously run through the exact same checklist did not count. There was one day I spent over three hours on the phone to the tech support team and ended up literally begging to be put through to the UK. A request which was repeatedly refused, lost or conveniently solved by hanging up on me. I don't consider myself a particularly highly strung person but by the end of all this I was a nervous wreck.

Eventually after multiple times running through the checklist I managed to get an overseas manager to agree to send me out a new home hub as mine was faulty. This they duly did and of course charged me a whopping £80 for the pleasure. As BT's billing and paperwork is so appallingly confusing I have no idea whether that money has been refunded. Tech support and complaints claim they cannot deal with that issue because it's a billing issue.

So, my second home hub arrived and I hoped that would be the end of that. I'd still be stuck in an extortionately overpriced contract, but at least all the services I was paying for would work. Stupid, foolish thought! The second home hub didn't work any better than the first. In fact it had the exact same fault the first one did. The computer could find the home hub but it couldn't connect to it, no matter what settings where changed.

The overseas tech team were very upset I refused to allow them remote access to my computer, but grudgingly agreed to run through the checklist without remote access. Unsurprisingly there wasn't a fault with any of the settings, but no matter what they tinkered with the home hub didn't work without a cable. They still refused to put me through to a UK based tech team.

After that I decided the stress simply wasn't worth it. I got one of my techy friends to set up my old Belkin router which worked fine wirelessly. Although there was still a problem with the connection dropping out at busy times, it was fine to view web pages but if you want to stream on something like iplayer the connection isn't sufficient to get through even a 10 minute video without flickering in and out.

Earlier this week someone phoned from BT to set up the BT vision I am apparently paying for as part of the package. I am completely unable to tell from the bills BT send what I'm paying for as it all comes separately. I do know the direct debits I set up aren't working properly as BT took £70+ from my bank account recently to pay for the next three months line rental. I decided that stress or no stress I was being completely ripped off for a service that doesn't work properly and that I'd have to do something about it.

So I called BT and explained briefly that there was a problem with the second home hub and the connection. The first person I spoke to insisted on transferring me to the overseas tech team, and when I asked to speak to his manager for the second time he simply hung up on me! I called back and spoke to someone else who did their best to be helpful and did actually manage after about 40 minutes of negotiating to book the UK based tech team to call back within 24 hours. They didn't but it wasn't far off that. Fortunately after waiting in for 24 hours I was still at home to receive the call.

A very lovely and helpful lady called Lyn spoke to me. Unfortunately despite the tech team having run through the checklist countless previous times she had to do so again. Which is where we hit several stumbling blocks as my home hub isn't even plugged in. There's not much point as it doesn't work! Then we needed to test the line, which requires the front of the socket to be unscrewed and the cable put directly into a test socket. Fair enough, except being disabled I'm not really in a position to unscrew sockets. Lyn wanted to know whether I could arrange for someone to come and assist me with that, which, if BT had been able to provide me with an accurate time for the tech team to phone back could probably have been arranged. Problem is they can't provide any time and I can't get someone to come hang out in my flat for 24 hours hoping BT will call back.

The situation is now that I still have a home hub that doesn't work. I still don't know if the £80 I was charged for it, despite it being under warrantee has been refunded. I can't use any of the associated services I'm being charged twice the price every other company charges.

To be fair, Lyn did her best to help. She phoned the special needs team at BT after I pointed that sending an engineer out to a disabled person should be seen as a reasonable adjustment under the Disability Discrimination Act and not be charged for regardless of whose fault the fault is! The special needs team had no advice to offer except to send out a form to register me as a special needs customer. To do that it has to somehow go through the local authority. The same local authority who stopped providing care to people because it's too expensive. Lyn will be phoning me back either on saturday or sunday once I've received the form.

After all this the only thing I care about is how not to receive these services from BT. The special needs customer thing is utterly irrelevant to the problems I'm having. I don't see why I should have to pay to get out of a contract when BT haven't met their contractual obligations. I no longer want a 3rd home hub, I just want a reliable internet connection and phone line which I could have for less than half the price BT charge. Overall my experience of BT is that they are the most overpriced rip off on the market, which, considering the original sales pitch explaining prices are higher in return for excellent customer service, is frankly a steaming load of bull!


Update June 26th 2009:

"Just emailed Ian Livingston head of BT about all this http://tinyurl.com/l5rukv Will he reply? #BTbroadbandisshit
Within an hour of my posting this tweet yesterday announcing I'd emailed Ian Livingston about these issues a very nice lady called Kate was on the phone trying to sort out all these issues. She was very down to earth and pragmatic as us Northern girls tend to be and managed to cut through all the bureaucratic nonsense which was the main feature of this problem. The socket does not need to be unscrewed as there is nothing wrong with the line and she has ordered me a new home hub which should arrive today. She also went through all the billing issues with me, made sure the previous charges for the second home hub hadn't been added to a bill and sorted out the £73 which had been debited in advance for my broadband rental by making sure the monthly direct debits were working properly.

Hopefully the home hub will arrive today, and, bendy fingers crossed it will also work as a wireless router, I'll let you all know!

My advice to BT is this: if you got Kate to train all your front line staff and as an organisation took her no nonsense approach to getting things done you'd improve BT's customer service profile overnight!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Erotic By Nature

Some time ago I stumbled across this collection of images, Erotic By Nature, taken by photographer David Steinberg. One of the categories in his collection is Sex and Disability, the photographs are stunningly beautiful depictions of shared intimacy as they record the sex lives of actual couples, one or both of whom happen to be disabled.

Please be warned, these are photographs of full penetration and are absolutely not in any way safe for work or suitable for under 18's.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blue Badge Blunders! The police officer edition

Via Incurable Hippie, who twittered,

RT http://twitpic.com/7n0jr A police officer has just asked me to delete this photo of her van in a disabled bay (via @angusprune)



A police officer has just asked me to delete this photo of he... on Twitpic


Oh dear!

Update 1000 18/06/09 Click here for original image and blog about the situation over at Terence Eden's blog

Blue Badge Blunders! The upsidedown fine edition

I was alerted to this story of blue badge abuse by Bonetired. This is not the standard tale of blue badge abuse, that of perfectly fit, healthy and able drivers parking illegally in areas reserved for disabled parking, which is such a frequent occurrence I doubt there's a disabled person unable to offer examples of how this has prevented them being able to access the service or business they need. Whilst I'm on the subject I'd just like to point out this fantastic initiative by Manchester City Council who have both a dedicated team to tackle blue badge abuse, and a rogue's gallery listing names, addresses and punishments issues to those caught out committing blue badge abuse.

No, this is something a little bit special. Or so Bonetired thought when he spotted it in the Worcester News. Ron Padwick, a 76 yr old great grandfather had parked his car and displayed his blue badge before meeting a friend for a cup of tea. Much to his shock, when he returned to the car Ron found a fixed penalty notice for £35 or £70 if not paid within 2 weeks. A fine the Daily Mail have already inflated to £75. Ron's 'crime' was to have displayed his blue badge upside down!

Sadly, Ron's fine is not unusual. There are instructions about how to correctly display a blue badge included with the information pack given on issue, but in practice many disabled people display their badges upside down or back to front. Poor manual dexterity, pain, or fatigue can all contribute to such simple, frequent mistakes and the majority of traffic wardens are sympathetic to such mistakes. Like any situation there are notable exceptions and Ron joins other disabled people to fall foul of this rule.

Clickety click!

A letter from the dental hospital has stirred my sluggish memory enough to remember I meant to write this post, erm ages ago!

I'm very lucky to have excellent teeth, unlike many with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, the odd bit of crumbling and gum recession are the most significant problems I have.

Gum recession or erosion is a very common problem in the general population, and often caused by overbrushing. For those of us with EDS the problems we have with proprioception can exacerbate the issue as we struggle to control our grip strength and ability to know how much pressure we're applying. It's especially important not to overbrush if your gums are already more fragile than normal.

I have a passion for cheap, pound style shops, so I was delighted to find toothbrushes designed to stop overbrushing in my local branch*. They are really aimed at children or teenagers, but I can vouch for their efficacy for adults. The nature of the brush means you can't use too much pressure because the brush clicks backwards making you aware you need to be more gentle to keep it in it's intended shape.

The toothbrush is the Wisdom Click toothbrush. It's an incredibly simple idea, but one of the best adaptive devices I've tried. Online it seems to retail for £2+ but I paid 49p each for mine. They're so good I've bought a stash of them...never let it be said Bendy Girl doesn't know how to live a glamorous lifestyle!

* Home Bargains. For anyone really desperate to know. Not that I can imagine why anyone would be!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From the British Legion, Dear Mr Griffin....

"An open letter from The Royal British Legion to Nick Griffin, Chairman of the BNP and MEP for North West England.

09 June 2009

Dear Mr Griffin,

We couldn't help but notice that there was egg on your face (and on your suit jacket) on the day after you were elected MEP for North West England.

Please don't leave egg on ours.

You wore a Poppy lapel badge during your news conference to celebrate your election victory. This was in direct contravention of our polite request that you refrain from politicising one of the nation's most treasured and beloved symbols.

The Poppy is the symbol of sacrifices made by British Armed Forces in conflicts both past and present and it has been paid for with blood and valour. True valour deserves respect regardless of a person's ethnic origin, and everyone who serves or has served their country deserves nothing less.

The Poppy pin, the Poppy logo, and the paper Poppy worn during Remembrance are the property, trademark and emblem of The Royal British Legion.

For nearly 90 years, The Royal British Legion has pursued a policy of being scrupulously above the party political fray. It is vital that everyone - the media, the public and our beneficiaries - know that we will not allow our independence to be undermined or our reputation impaired by being closely associated with any one political party. This is more important now than ever.

On May 27th, 2009, the National Chairman of The Royal British Legion wrote to you privately requesting that you desist from wearing the Poppy or any other emblem that might be associated with the Legion at any of your public appearances during the European Parliamentary election campaign.

He appealed to your sense of honour. But you have responded by continuing to wear the poppy. So now we're no longer asking you privately.

Stop it, Mr Griffin. Just stop it.

Regards,

The Royal British Legion"


For all of us who believe the BNP do not represent us or the Britain we live in, then please sign the 'Not in my name' petition

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

Freedom Fighting




On such a depressing day, particularly for those of us living in the North West, the best thing we can all do is put aside our anger and remember what it is we love about being British.

For me the most important part of my British identity is freedom. Freedom to believe in whatever I choose to believe in, and so long as they harm no-one, the freedom to live my life in accordance with those beliefs.

My family were immigrants, Jews fleeing the persecuti
on of Russian pogroms on my maternal side, and Irish seeking work on my paternal side. Such a background means I believe in freedom of thought and expression so vehemently that regardless of my disgust for their politics I absolutely support the right of parties such as the BNP to believe whatever they want to believe.

Previous generations laid down their lives for us to be able to live in such freedom. It's equally important now that we fight as bravely as they did. Instead of guns and bombs our weapons should be freedom and justice. It's too easy to think that nothing we do makes any difference and become apathetic. Just one small gesture performed every
day by each one of us can make enough difference to change our society.

Today my gesture was to visit the grave of Lieutenant John O'Neill, VC. Lt O'Neill is buried in the cemetery a few streets away from my home. His grave was looking like it needed some love and attention when I discovered it a few days ago, so today I returned to clean it.

What will your gesture be?


Friday, June 05, 2009

Woohoo!

Until further notice I plan to be dancing on the political grave of James Purnell. Well, if I could keep my joints in place I would. As that's unlikely to happen until someone invents time travel and a cure for dodgy collagen I will content myself with having thrown yoghurt all over myself earlier today, such was my excitement when I saw he'd resigned.

Sadly, I don't suppose Mr Purnell will be signing on, because nothing, nothing, nothing would be sweeter revenge than seeing that weirdy looking little creep suffering the hell of a benefits application. Still, I can dream, and how I will.

Please don't anyone suggest in the comments that this might be a well timed bid by Purnell to leave the ship before the other rats realise it's sunkdrown slowly and horribly, I at least want the weekend to celebrate!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

BNP fail to see the point of keeping disabled people alive

Today in England the elections for the European parliament are held. As so many people wish to protest against New Labour and the all party expenses scandal smaller parties are expected to do well. In many areas the BNP ( British National Party) have been campaigning heavily. Most people are aware that the BNP are primarily racist thugs, but I doubt as many are aware of their views about disabled people.

After the tragic death of David Cameron's son Ivan earlier this year Jeffrey Marshall, senior organiser for the BNP made this statement on an internet forum:

"We live in a country today which is unhealthily dominated by an excess of sentimentality towards the weak and unproductive. No good will come of it."

Later, in response to other comments on the site, Marshall allegedly wrote

"There is not a great deal of point in keeping these people alive after all."

Many people, including myself, are so disillusioned and disgusted by the behaviour of politicians they don't know who to vote for, or even whether to vote at all. Whilst that's understandable, it's also likely to lead to gains for extremist groups such as the BNP.

A society should be judged by how it cares for it's most vulnerable. The BNP believe that to be an excess of sentimentality and can't see the point in keeping such disabled people alive. Is that the kind of country we really want to live in?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The John Lewis List

It's official. A judge has ruled the cost of a bed on the John Lewis list is 'a bit high'. But then, Joseph Hill from East London is not an MP, just an ordinary person who decided to challenge the limits of state assistance and funding for disabled people by applying for disability awards based upon the John Lewis list.
In case anyone wonders, apparently Mr Hill was entitled to £200.

Blue Badge Blunders!


Following the incredible (ahem) success of Bog Off! I'm delighted to bring you the associated series Blue Badge Blunders!

The first in this series of blue badge related blunders has been sent to me by Brainblogger, a fan of the Bog Off! series who suggested a similar series for parking offensives related to disabled parking bays or blue badges and their abuse. Similarly to Bog Off!, if anyone would like to send in photos I'll add them to either series.

It's a bit tricky to see just how badly this car's been parked from the photos, but I admire the jaunty angle the owner's used to ensure the maximum amount of spaces are taken up by their car. Of course it didn't have a blue badge!

That said, once I find out where in the country has empty disabled bays like that, I'm moving!

Thanks to Brainblogger, author of the excellent How can you take it easy when you are already taking it easy?

Monday, June 01, 2009

The sun is shining

So until further notice (ie the rain!) I'll be bikini clad in a patch of sunlight somewhere. Hope you're all too busy enjoying the sunshine to even see this post! BG x