Contact details

As well as being a freelance writer I am also a qualified counsellor and I work for a low cost counselling service in Exeter and for the NHS Gender Clinic also in Exeter.

Simultaneously, I work as a Disability Member of the First Tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber sitting on disability benefit tribunals on an ad hoc basis.

As a writer I specialise in writing about disability and health.

My articles have been published in the Guardian, Times, OUCH! [BBC disability website], Disability Now, Broadcast, Lifestyle [Motability magazine], The Practising Midwife, 'Junior, Pregnancy & Baby', Writers' News, Able, Getting There [Transport for London magazine], Junior, Community Care, DPPi [Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood International]. I have also had articles commissioned by Daily Mail.

For more information about me and for examples of my writing please see below.

If you would like me to write an article for your publication, about any aspect of disability, please do get in touch:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Riding the Paralympic Wave. What next?

I have to be honest I never thought I'd get into the Paralympics.  It was hard to see that they would provide the sort of thrill that Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Usain Bolt and so many others did at the Olympic Games.  But I was wrong.

We've had 11 days of sporting excellence of the Paralympic kind, with Ellie Simmons, Jonnie Peacock, David Weir and Sarah Storey among many others putting us on the edge of our seats and reigniting Great Britain once more.  For the last 11 days disabled people have been the darlings of the British population.

The media coverage has been enthused, positive and prolific.

What a contrast to the coverage that disabled people were getting before the Paralympics by certain media outlets who were largely demonising disabled people as work shy, benefit scroungers.  An image that the Government seems happy to perpetuate as it makes stripping disabled people of as many benefits as it possible can, through their current welfare reforms, a much easier job.

Dare we hope that the Paralympics will inspire a more accurate coverage of disabled people's issues?  

I hope that at the very least the Paralympics highlighted an important point - that disability can happen to anyone. 

C4's excellent coverage saw some of the Paralympians telling their stories - some told stories of how they became disabled through illness, accident or war.  I always find it ironic that people are happy to vilify disabled people and label them as work shy or scroungers as a justification for taking away their benefits when the fact is that anyone can become disabled.

So if you are someone who thinks the Government's welfare reforms are perfectly acceptable even though they have the potential to push many disabled people into povery and dependence on the state, would you be quite so accepting if that disabled person was you?

Positivity about disability is currently riding high on the crest of the Paralympic wave - could this really be the dawn of a new era in terms of media coverage of disability issues?  We'll just have to watch and see.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Paralympics - portrayal pros and cons

The Paralympics is a tricky thing in terms of its portrayal of disabled people.

It's possible that confusion might kick in when viewers start to think 'well if that wheelchair/amputee/blind person can do that why can't they all?'  But it should be obvious that in the same way that not all non disabled people can become Olympic contenders neither can all disabled people become Paralympians.

The Paralympics features an elite sector of the disabled population who have trained extremely hard to be the best at their sport.  Simple as that really.
There is an interesting mix of responses to these athletes - incredularity, admiration, pity, recognition of the competitive spirit, 'what's wrong with him/her', use of words like 'suffer' or 'superhuman'.

The thing about all these responses is that they are actually pretty understandble given that on a day to day basis the vast majority of the public don't have any contact with disabled people and they don't get any real insight via the TV, radio, in magazines or papers because disabled people just don't feature that much in the media.

However, I'd like to think that people's perceptions may start to positively change as a result of this mass Paralympic coverage - gosh there must have been more disabled people on TV these last few days than there has been in the last few decades!

So at the very least this coverage means the public are seeing disabled people - both athletes and spectators - who are getting on with their lives, doing things for themselves, being positive about their impairments, looking fabulous and being fit.  A lot of that would fly in the face of many people's perceptions of disability. 

What the coverage obviously won't show is what it is like to be a disabled person on a day to day basis, living in the real world - facing attitudinal, physical, financial and bureaucratic barriers at every turn.  

Whether this 'reality' coverage will come after interest in disability has been piqued as a result of the Paralympics we'll have to wait and see.  I really hope that will be the case then maybe we can finally start to shift the inaccurate view of disability once and for all.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Guardian newspaper travel article featuring me

Just back from our summer holiday, went to Fitou in France and Castelldefels near Barcelona, Spain. 

While I was away I was included in a Guardian travel feature 'Access all Areas' about accessible travel/holidays for disabled people.

Find my bit, complete with family pic, just over half way down under the title 'Accessible Brtain':