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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Mobility aids: Choose what’s best for you

Mobility – well, truthfully, difficulty in moving around, is something that many of us with multiple sclerosis and other disabilities must overcome.

And, for our benefit, there are numerous mobility aids on the market for us to choose. These vary from the basic walking stick, or cane, right up to the top of the range, road ready, electric power scooter.

But I want to talk about some options between those two extremes. Yes, I will restrict my comments to walkers, rollators, manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, and electric scooters. You see, except for walkers, I have experience using all of them.

Standard walkers are stable, and have sturdy metal frames providing solid support. Upper body strength is required as the user lifts it off the ground every couple of steps.

Wheeled walkers have two wheels and two standard legs. This is easier to move as  the user only tilts it forward to move.

Three-wheeled rollators are ideal for using where space is limited but they don’t have facilities like a seat.

Four wheeled rollators, with two ‘steering’ wheels at the front are easy to move and have seats to use if a rest is needed. They also have baskets or other carrying capabilities. Bakes are important, especially when going up or down slopes. They can also be locked on to hold the rollators still so the user can sit safely

Manual wheelchairs come in two basic types, one where the user has to depend on caregivers to push them about. The other is where users can move themselves using the large wheels that can be self-propelled.

Electric wheelchairs add to users’ independence but are usually heavy and  need wheelchair adapted vehicles to move them about. But now there are folding electric wheelchairs that can easily fit in ordinary carsElectric scooters are available in different sizes. They also improve independence and the smallest ones can be broken down into a number of pieces to fit into cars.

I tried a self-propelled manual wheelchair from Drive Medical but found it was little use to me as I only have one good arm, so still had to rely on Lisa to push my chair. Not that she minds, but it does nothing for my independence.

Three different scooters have been tested. One was too lightweight in terms of power. One was powerful enough but just too large, and the third was just too much to break down to pack away and then reassemble to use again.

A power wheelchair came next. And that was great but it was so heavy to unload from and reload into our seven seat vehicle.

Rollators and wheelchairs

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Next I bought a great foldable electric wheelchair from Better Products for Disabled People – and it is wonderful. It’s so much lighter than an ordinary chair but it is still too much to unload and reload a number of times in quick succession, or if it is only for a short period of time.

rollatorsSo, this week I took delivery of a brand new four-wheeled rollator from Performance Health (formerly Patterson Medical). My verdict? It’s fantastic and yesterday it enabled me to walk to my maximum limit of about 20 yards before I sat on the built-in seat for a few minutes.  Then I got up to walk another 20 yards.

It’s easy to get out of and back into our car. Of course, for longer distances, I will continue to use my trusty wheelchair.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Wife who is carer is really a wonderful, loving, angel

It’s been an eventful few days for the two of us at home here in Spain.

On Saturday, nine days ago, my beloved Lisa asked me to help put the washing out to dry. It’s an easy job that I can do sitting down, so I readily agreed. The trouble was that it was not one of my best days. Thanks to multiple sclerosis, I managed to fall while walking out of the back door onto our terrace.

I still have no idea how but the nail of the big toe on my left foot was torn upright. It was 90 degrees from its usual position. There was pain and blood – and plenty of the red stuff.

carerMy wife Lisa is also my carer and is quite used to me spending time on the floor and could not see my injury, so she didn’t rush to my side. But she certainly arrived fast enough when I told her what was wrong.

In next to no time, she had stopped the bleeding and strapped up my toe. Luckily, once bandaged, the pain eased so that it only hurt if touched.

Wife and carer is an angel

A couple of days later, I visited our doctor. He removed the dressing and the nail came off with it. The wound started to bleed again but he quickly stopped it and sent me to a nurse to get it redressed. That started a series of one visit every two days, something I had to get used to here. The Spanish health service goes the extra mile to see that patients receive the best treatment.

However, these regular visits to the health centre are putting more stress on Lisa. Lifting my electric wheelchair out of, and back into, our car is a task that should not be repeated often. Meanwhile, at home, she is doing virtually all the work. She is my carer and refuses to ask me to help in case I am hurt again. In fact, while doing anything involving standing or walking is difficult, I try to do what I can.

One thing though, Lisa is always so grateful for whatever help I can give. But all she does for me makes her even more than my loving wife and carer.

She is my wonderful, loving, guardian angel who walks here on earth.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Tackling wider medical subjects, not just MS

You may notice on this page that, besides running this website, I now write for Medical News Today. This is instead of Multiple Sclerosis News Today (MSNT).

And while the two titles appear similar, there is no connection. Indeed, they are published by two separate companies.

I spent 10 months recruiting and building a team of patient columnists for MSNT and its sister titles, as well as managing and editing their content. Now, I am now concentrating on writing quality specialist articles for a market leading medical publication.

Medical News Today

medical news todayAs a features writer for Medical News Today (MNT), I am producing authoritative articles, about a variety of illnesses, for the digital publication’s much-respected Knowledge Center.

Founded in 2003, MNT has established itself as a market leader for medical news. It provides concise and accurate information that stands out in the ocean of content that is health on the internet.

Content is targeted to an educated audience of both healthcare professionals and patients. The editorial team provides news from evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies, along with accurate, unbiased and informative content from governmental organisations (e.g. FDA, CDC, NIH, NHS), medical societies, royal colleges, professional associations, patients’ groups, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, among others.

All areas of health and medicine

Medical News Today produces original, timely and authoritative information from respected and credible sources. The editorial team has a strict code of practice and covers all areas of health and medicine, including rare diseases and conditions. It strives to achieve coverage across all areas of human health, and its main content areas include:

  • News content produced and curated daily by its in-house editorial team. It publishes more than 60 articles per day.
  • Reference material covering issues that you find important – produced in-house and licensed.
  • Features and in-depth investigative reporting on health and lifestyle.
  • Opinions forums – allowing you to connect with other users.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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MS is No Excuse for Being Discourteous When Offered Help

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It was a trip, plain and simple, neither my leg giving way nor a fall. It was MS-related because it was directly caused by foot drop; the toe of my left shoe caught on the tiniest ridge at the bottom of a ramp.

My trip wasn’t dramatic, I didn’t end up on my face. In fact, I simply sat down on a small retaining wall of a flower bed, about two or three bricks high. No fuss, Lisa even told me afterward that I had managed to sit down quite gracefully.

After sitting there for about a minute, I could have stood up and continued my way inside the restaurant for our meal and, back in the U.K., that’s exactly what I would have expected to happen.

Not here in Spain, though! No sooner had I come to sit on the low wall than two young men from a group at a table on the terrace, rushed up and helped me back to my feet. But that was not enough for one of them; he was determined not to let go until I was safely seated at a table inside.help

I expressed my gratitude in Spanish and he returned to his group outside.

Lisa and I enjoyed our meal, three courses plus a drink and a coffee for just 10€ each (about $10.50, or £8.50), which is nothing to complain about.

Eventually it was time to leave and, as we came out of the door, the same young man who helped me earlier again sprung out of his chair to escort me back to our car. This time, I had not tripped or fallen; he just wanted to help.

We exchanged a few words in Spanish (not too many as I am still learning the language, but enough to guide him to the correct car, make him understand that I needed to go the driver’s side and then to, once again, thank him for all his help).

Like many people who have MS or any other disability, I am keen to be independent. However, not so fiercely that I would be rude or cause offense to anyone offering help. Even those times when I do decline an offer, I always do so in a friendly way and make sure that it is obvious that the offer was appreciated.

You must have come across people who are discourteous when offered assistance, which they reject with a terse “I’ll be all right,” “I can do it,” or worse, “Leave me alone.” These people are doing no service to themselves or the wider community of people living with disabilities.

Yes, I have multiple sclerosis and, yes, I have a disability that sometimes necessitates using a wheelchair. But the disease does not have me, nor has my desire for independence robbed me of basic common courtesy.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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MS Love and Care, as Only a Superwife Can Provide

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Thoughts of love were brought to the forefront of many people’s minds on Valentine’s Day, which is widely celebrated by couples both young and not so young. They usually buy cards and enjoy romantic dinners.

In our case, Feb. 14 also is Lisa’s birthday. So, to me, that is more important. We went out for her birthday meal — in fact two — lunch and dinner. And very good they were, too.

loveBut that got me thinking, Lisa is my wife and, as I have multiple sclerosis, also is my carer. However, she says that whatever she does as my carer is only what any loving wife would do for her husband. And, while I can see that is true to a certain extent, it actually goes further.

There can be little doubt that wives, or husbands, of people with MS do have to contend with more than those of people without a disability. Lisa, for example:

  • Provides extra support while I walk a little outdoors;
  • Gets my wheelchair in and out of the car;
  • Helps me to get up after a fall;
  • Deals with extra laundry if my bladder problems cause an accident;
  • Takes full responsibility for my medications, ensuring I take them at the right times;
  • Does all cooking, because I cannot do so safely;
  • Does all cleaning and other housework, because I cannot stand up long enough to help. (I do what I can sitting down);
  • Helps me shower, especially below my knees;
  • Helps me to dress as I cannot fasten buttons, tie shoelaces or do anything that requires manual dexterity;
  • Is my personal manicurist and podiatrist, taking care of my fingernails and toenails, because my weak left hand is incapable of cutting the nails of my right hand, and I cannot bend forward enough to deal with my toenails.

Lisa maintains she does nothing special and it is all part of being my wife. She says she does it because she loves me. Well, I can see her point, but I also have my own opinion: The additional work of a carer requires something more than a wife; it needs a Superwife. Yes, it involves love too, the type of love that involves being prepared to do anything. Lisa is such a Superwife with that deep, committed love. I am so blessed to have her by my side.

How does your wife, husband or partner care for you? I’d love to hear and share your story.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Worry Less to Reduce Unnecessary Stress

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Stress is like a light that turns on when you need it. But when you can’t turn it off, you run the risk of burnout, which can impact your health, according to the U.S. National MS Society.

I often have said that I don’t suffer from stress. But, looking back at my life, there are examples of stress that weren’t recognized at the time.

stressIn fact, everyone suffers from stress from time to time, but when you have a chronic disease, such as multiple sclerosis, it can be bad news. The NMSS says: “Chronic stress weakens the immune system and increases the risk for a number of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Most research studies about the effects of stress on MS have been inconclusive, but one recent study by David Mohr, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco, found significant increases in MS relapses following stressful life events.”

Stress adds to our everyday burden and often can make MS symptoms worse. We all need to relax more and not let things get on top of us. So, what can we do about it?

First, we need to worry less. Some worry more than others. In my case, I have a simple attitude about worry. If a problem rears its head, there are two possibilities. One, it’s something I can fix, so I do. Two, it’s something I can do nothing about, so I wait until it comes to its natural conclusion. Either way, there is no point in worrying.

It works for me, maybe you’d like to try it, too.

There is no point in worrying out about things you can’t actually achieve. Instead, focus on what you can do and do well.

Most of us have things we’ve done in the past of which we might not be very proud. But it’s in the past and not worth worrying about. It is time to live for now and the future; put the past behind you, where it belongs.

Fatigue takes its toll on many us and I’d say that most people don’t realize what that is. They think we are talking about being tired. However, those closest to us know the truth and will readily accept that we feel too bad to join in whatever has been planned. They also know that you cannot always go out to dinner or whatever. To avoid undue pressure and stress, we all need to learn that it’s OK to say “no.”

There are those who say that exercise is good for us and that it helps to de-stress us. No doubt that’s true, but exercise is not possible for everyone with multiple sclerosis. It all depends on individual capabilities. That’s why it is essential that we each choose an exercise program that we can follow and enjoy.

One last thing: It is important to exercise our minds, as well as our bodies. Quizzes, puzzles, reading, a hobby – these all help keep our minds active.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Looking back to move forward into 2017

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It’s New Year’s Eve and so tonight we bid farewell to 2016 and prepare to welcome the infant 2017.

At this time every year, we hear some people say that they are glad to see the back of an unhappy time and look forward to a hopefully better year ahead. On the other hand, there are others for whom the last 12 months have been good and are hoping for that to continue.

yearThat made me think about how 2016 has been for my beloved Lisa and I. Not usually being one to formally sit down and take stock, this seems to be a good time to do just that. So, let’s take a quick look back at the old year as it draws to a close.

Having moved from North Wales in the UK to Andalucía in the south of Spain in November 2015, this year has been spent largely adapting to the different lifestyle, local customs, dealing with a change of language, a new currency and so on.

Home

Our home itself is superb, being detached, all on one floor with level access at the back and a purpose-built wet room installed in place of the bathroom. It also has extremely low maintenance gardens, front and rear, as well as off-road parking.

The living room and kitchen/diner are joined by a wide arch while another links the living room to the interior hallway that has doors to the wet room and two bedrooms. The arches give more than enough room for wheelchair access if required. Overall, we have twice as much room here in Spain than we did in our apartment in Wales.

Health

The year did not start out too well when I had to be rushed to hospital when my urine turned to blood with a little urine mixed in. It turned out to be nothing to do with multiple sclerosis but as a direct result of blood thinning medication prescribed in the UK as part of treatment for a heart condition. Unknown to me at the time, the situation was more than serious; it was life-threatening. Amazingly, the Spanish health service had the problem under control in just six hours and discharged me after only two nights in hospital.

Since then, my blood thinning medication has been changed and has been kept under control.

As far as MS is concerned, of course it is still here – and always will be – but things have changed for the better. I visited the AA Maximov centre in Moscow in October to be assessed to see whether or not I would be likely to benefit from having HSCT. Four days of intensive health tests led to me being told, on the downside that the chemotherapy drugs might pose an unacceptable risk because of my heart condition. However, on the upside, all the MS lesions in my brain and spine are old and inactive; there is no current inflammation.

Interestingly, in order to help maintain this inactivity, I was advised by Dr Fedorenko to avoid all vaccinations – including the flu vaccine.

He also revealed that my vitamin D level was far too low. It was not just insufficient, it was even lower. It was classed as deficient. He advised taking a daily vitamin D supplement to correct the situation. Since starting to take this, I have seen improvements in balancing and walking ability although not endurance, have found muscles to be getting stronger (well, less weak), have suffered far fewer falls, and generally feel more ‘able’.

Writing is a passion of mine and to have expanded from this blog of mine to Multiple Sclerosis News Today is therapeutic in more ways than one.

Finance

The cost of living in Spain is certainly lower than in the UK. Groceries, car fuel, even the cost of eating out – everything seems to cost less here than in Britain, except electricity. And the knock-on effect of those cheaper costs means that our income goes further than before. Indeed, earlier this month, I managed to pay off a credit card!

Language

Linguistic skills have never been my strong point. At school, I spent five years studying French to quite a poor standard, and living in Wales for 23 years left me really unable to speak Welsh, although I can sing its national anthem Mae hen wladfy’n hadau and, from memory, can reci.e the countrhy’s longest place name, the Anglesey village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwerndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – oh, and I can spell it too.

The Spanish language is a lot easier and, although I am by no means fluent, I can take part in basic everyday conversations and can understand basic newspaper stories.

To sum it up

So, all in all, 2016 has been a positive year for us. How was it for you?

Happy New Year

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Barclay death highlights right to die

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Andrew Barclay, a 65-year-old British man, died earlier this week. But not any form of death because Andrew, who had multiple sclerosis, chose to end his own life at the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland.

He was accompanied to the clinic by his wife and reporters from the Daily Mirror, a British newspaper which has published a detailed story about Andrew’s condition and his decision to end his own life. You can read the Mirror story here.

Whatever you may think of Andrew’s story and decision, I am not going to enter that discussion but, instead, l want to look at the whole assisted suicide issue.

There are two main types of argument used to support the practices of euthanasia and assisted suicide. They are the ethical and pragmatic arguments.

The first is that people should have freedom of choice, including the right to control their own body and life (as long as they do not abuse any other person’s rights), and that the state should not create laws that prevent people being able to choose when and how they die.

The cases … both for and against

Meanwhile, the pragmatic argument is that euthanasia, particularly passive euthanasia, is allegedly already a widespread practice, just not one that people are willing to admit to, so it is better to regulate euthanasia properly.

On the other side of the fence there are four main types of argument used by people who are against euthanasia and assisted suicide. They are known as the religious, the ´slippery slope’, medical ethics, and alternative arguments.

These can be briefly summarised as:

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Dignitas clinic, Switzerland, with founder Ludwig Minnelli. (Photo: Daily Express via Google Images).

Religious – that these practices can never be justified; for example, many people who believe in God say no-one has the right to end a human life;

‘Slippery slope’ – this is based on the concern that legalising euthanasia could lead to significant unintended changes in our healthcare system and society at large that we would later come to regret;

Medical ethics – that asking doctors, nurses or any other healthcare professional to carry out euthanasia or assist in a suicide would be a violation of fundamental medical ethics and, for doctors, the Hippocratic oath;

Alternative – that there is no reason for a person to choose to die because they don’t have to suffer either mentally or physically as effective end of life treatments are available. Because of this, euthanasia is not a valid treatment option, but represents a failure on the part of the doctor involved in a person’s care.

My view may not be yours

Where do I stand? You may well ask!

Well, my religion’s tenet is ‘if it harms none, do as you will’ and so my beliefs don’t tend to fit in with mainstream faiths. That being the case, I cannot accept the religious argument. Choosing to end your own life with your family’s understanding, is not hurting anyone else.

Switzerland has amply demonstrated that the ‘slippery slope’ is not inevitable. They have ample checks, medical and otherwise.

Asking medical professionals to get involved would not be as awkward as may be imagined. There are plenty now that would like to help people with unendurable and never-ending pain to close their lives with dignity. Anyway, it would only be voluntarily not compulsory.

Now, far be it from me to cast doubts on the ‘alternative’ argument but the so-called ‘end of life’ treatments are purely palliative in nature. They relieve some symptoms to reduce pain etc but do little, if anything, for quality of life.

Now, at present, at just a year younger than Andrew, nothing could be further from my mind. Despite having lived with MS for 16½ years, live is good, and is for living. I can’t imagine ever making the same decision that Andrew Barclay made but I think we should all have the legal right to make it.

What do you think? Do you agree? I’d like to know.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Disability Employment: Nothing Changed in Ten Years

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It is now 10 years since my disability, serious mobility issues caused by multiple sclerosis, caused me to leave my last full-time employment.

For a few months, I hung onto the notion that there must be some role for me; one that could be done sitting in an office without too much moving about. Back then, there was no wheelchair in the equation, just a walking stick – or cane as my American wife prefers to call it.

Employment hunting was not easy, however, and it soon became clear that a pattern existed. And it was often carefully disguised as an equal opportunity (EO) policy. In short, although you could avoid mentioning your disability on the application, they discovered it on the EO form. Strangely, despite being well qualified and experienced, whenever an equal opportunities form was involved, I was never invited for an interview.

Then there were other companies without an EO form. There everything went fine until they asked those of us being interviewed to complete a medical questionnaire.  Then the shutters dropped and, suddenly, another candidate was better qualified. Really? Every time?

Frustrated, I explained the problem to my employment adviser at the local Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Jobcentre. She answered by suggesting I transferred to what was then called Incapacity Benefit, which I did.

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Johnny Mercer MP speaking, Lisa Cameron MP, Philip Connolly of Disability Rights UK, and Lord Addington.

Fast forward 10 years and you could reasonably think that things would have changed, that it would have got better. But no, it seems to be the same.

The deplorable situation has been highlighted as part of a new report by the UK’s all-party parliamentary group for disability (APPGD) – which has cross-party support. The report said people with disabilities are facing “institutional disablism” at the hands of both public and private sector employers.

It suggests that the government needs to take a far tougher stance on dealing with employers that discriminate against disabled staff and would-be employees.

The Disability News Service said that the Ahead of the Arc report – which is supported by MPs and peers from seven political parties – calls on the government to drop its opposition to regulatory action that would force employers to take action.

The AAPGD report says: “It is time to consider abandoning a voluntary-only approach towards requiring employers to measure and to increase disability employment.”

Evidence suggests that the failure of public and private employers to provide appropriate support to disabled people in the workplace and to offer fair access to start-up funds, business advice and business networks amounts to “institutional disablism”, the report says.

It goes on to suggests that employers found to have discriminated against disabled people should face lesser penalties if they have “substantive” equality policies in place.

And it says the government needs “a tighter legal framework” to ensure that disabled employees are no longer “managed out of the workplace” by their employers, something that is happening to an estimated 35,000 to 48,000 disabled people every year.

Based purely on my own experience, I would say that “substantive equality policies” are not enough. They are worthless if not implemented. Implementation needs to be rigorously monitored and enforced with severe penalties for employers failing to deliver.

Anything less than that is a complete waste of time.

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ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Would you like a helping hand? Maybe not, but …

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Giving help to someone with multiple sclerosis, or any other disability for that matter, can be fraught with difficulty for the well-meaning person. And that difficulty comes as much from our reaction as to any mistake on the part of the person offering to help.

Yes, we all like to do what we can, to maintain as much independence that we can and we have all met people who show an amazing amount of insensitivity; virtually forcing us to begrudgingly accept their interference. You know the ones, they don’t so much offer to give assistance as swing into action to give help before you have time to react.

helpBe honest, how often have you felt “put upon”, that the offered assistance was really unwanted and unwarranted interference? I suspect, more often that most of us would like to admit!

Additionally, many of us have often fought to preserve our much-valued independence and used, intentionally or not, a terse “I can manage” or “I don’t need your help” – probably said snappily.

In the face of such responses, it should be no surprise that so many people who could help decide not to do so. In fact, fearful of being given the proverbial brush-off, they often don’t even offer.

It really does not cost those of us who are disabled to be polite. We can all learn to treat with courtesy the people who want to give their assistance. That’s not to say that we always have to accept, far from it, but surely we can say “thank you” for the kind offer while politely saying that we are able to do it ourselves.

Saying “no, thank you, I can manage” doesn’t have to be rude or give offence.

Like cleanliness, you will find that politeness costs nothing. What’s more, it doesn’t hurt. No, really, it doesn’t.

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ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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