Getting around in the 21st century

Who’d think a broken finger could lead to so many changes and reframing of viewpoints (mostly mine)?

No using crutches or manual wheelchair for one then two then 6 weeks.

Two months can cultivate a firm reliance upon a motorised wheelchair, that I continually reframe in my head as such when people refer to it as my ‘electric chair’. It uses electricity to power it, yes, but I am not being frizzled to death folks.

Kerbs are simple to mount and hills easier to climb. Remembering to clip my safety belt in the MPT was tricky at first. One taxi ride and feeling unsafe quickly reminded me that footrests and belts are there for a reason. Strapped in by the van’s belt I may have been, but safe I did not feel. Yoda says, “belt put on shall you, always in van.’ Yes sir. I no longer feel concerned backing out of the multi purpose taxi wobbling¬†side to side at a snail or hare pace fearing I will fall off the edge onto the pavement. Weekly visits to physiotherapy and doctor have cultivated a sedate, but steady, pace entering and later backing out onto the hoist. Vertigo is a thing of the past. Fears can be conquered.

An extendable stick aides in the picking up of so many bits and pieces dropped here and there. The redecorating of walls and doors is less of a concern now that the backwards operated joystick is under control. Missing paint. Wood. Ah what’s wrong with adding the odd new hue to the decor. ūüôā Why must I move the joystick left if I want to go right when moving backwards? My brain is confused. Cars work differently.

This chair not only saves me from being stuck in one place for months. It is supporting Lucy to lose the odd extra kilo from unexpected but ever so gratefully received treats that find their way to her when kitchen benches are further away than expected. The ever hungry bichon is starting to enjoy more jogs than walks since the wheelchair moves at a grand pace along the Booragoon Lake, now the pavement refurbishment has concluded. As long as the pavement looks relatively smooth and uncracked. She doesn’t necessarily feel the so pleased when we slow down quickly at unexpected cracks or rises in other footpaths that give me the jitters, not to mention when a driveway is uneven to the adjoining pathway on a trip to the local shopping centre or someone has parked over the walkway and I am uneven on grass and path. Nor do I feel so much joy when shops insist on placing their wares in displays in the midst of access pathways between the main carpeted displays. Seriously,¬†why do so many aisles end up in dead ends, blocked by hangers of more wares. How is a person meant to turn around in a tight spot even using the most fantastic of tiny circumference motorised wheelchair. Don’t you want my business Mr/Ms Shop Owner? What about my husband’s.

Once was enough for me to offer to play ‘trains’ with my husband going up a steep hill. When his manual wheelchair stopped abruptly on our first and only trip to/from to local shopping centre neither of us expected my wheelchair had a rather huge hiccup motoring him along intent on saving his shoulders. It’s a somewhat unique feeling when a heavy chair tries to do a mono/wheely on its back tiny wheels while a lighter chair wants to throw it’s occupant out front ways, having stopped abruptly at a most unexpected uneven rise in concrete. Heart palpitations. Lesson #657. I go on ahead, or hang back, while he travels at his own pace.

But all in all the past months have been fine. The first option of trying to work a manual wheelchair and not go around in a circle whilst pushing with one arm on two rims, one designed to steer me left and the other right, could have driven me barmy. So would have staying seated before the tv, appealing as it sounds for a tiny time. And yes I’ve read some excellent novels.

Mobility is much underrated. And can be achieved in so many different ways. Society has certainly advanced a long way from the days when I was two years old and relied on a piece of wood with castors fashioned by my dad so I could scoop myself around the house and garden. But that’s a story for another day.

Recognition: what does it mean to you?

Image from Jan 26 2015 ceremony at Saltwater Freshwater Festival. Man holds bowl with folage. Looks like part of a corroborree or special ceremony.
Image from Jan 26 2015 ceremony at Saltwater Freshwater Festival

Yesterday I enjoyed being part of the crowd in Fremantle watching the fireworks, reliving our engagement day 11 years ago on the south Perth foreshore.

As my husband and I listened to families and friends enjoying the evening we explored multicultural food stalls nearby. Children and adults of all ages and abilities celebrated a public holiday. Yet the paradox still exists. Cheers and clapping excited voices ‘ooh’ and ‘aaahhh’ commenting on the array of colourful fireworks in rainbow splendour, amazing shapes and sizes; smoke polluting the sea air; time, money and effort; creating happy memories; simple fun and enjoyment of the great outdoors; being together; families, communities celebrating; fireworks which could have fed, clothed and housed how many people….

26 January: a day of celebration or a day of mourning and invasion?

It’s not so clear-cut as I once believed – back before my days of working with Australians for Reconciliation. Then it was time to enjoy a picnic with family and friends, arrange a cocktail party or jazz evening; listen to music and watch the fireworks by the Albert Park lake.

While 26 January 1788 marked the founding of Australia for some people, for many First Australians it was the beginning of the struggle for recognition as the original inhabitants and custodians of this land. For others, it is Survival Day‚ÄĒa celebration of the survival of people and culture, and the contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make to Australia.

Consider your viewpoint on Australia Day through looking at a 26 January fact sheet prepared by Reconciliation Australia.

Attitudes change. Times change. Traditions change. Some attitudes remain. The effects from some times live on. People change. People stay the same. History is there for us to remember and learn from. What is important doesn’t necessarily stay the same. It doesn’t necessarily change. It depends on our circumstances and value. How we react to it is what is important.

Consider what you hold dear and respect. Family. Community. Unity. Ability. Acceptance of difference and diversity. It’s more than tolerance. Saying Sorry. Hear felt sentiment reflected by heartfelt actions. Not an empty mouthpiece. Living for a brighter future embracing and supporting each other in all our similarities and variety. We’re all part of the human family. Pieces of a jigsaw which make a whole with time and patience; reach potentials given opportunities.

Image: courtesy of the Saltwater Freshwater Festival.

Disability and Diversity Training

Kerrie has experience in speaking to small and large community groups both locally and overseas. She addresses private and public organisations and offers disability awareness training to local, state and national government.

As a member of the City of Melville Access Advisory Committee Kerrie has helped train and inform local community government staff and has also spoken to other Town’s advisory groups and councils.

Previously in paid and voluntary capacities she addressed Rotary and Lions groups for fundraising and awareness raising purposes.

Kerrie has expertise in human rights issues such as disability rights; gender and development; cultural awareness; systemic and individual advocacy. She is also well versed in policy development, governance and administration.

Kerrie has a passion for seeing future generations become inclusive and accepting of diversity and speaks to school students on a range of issues.

To find out more about how Kerrie Duff Consulting can assist you take a look at the Facebook page or contact Kerrie via Linked In or Twitter.

About

Kerrie Duff Consulting

Motto: ‘To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.’ Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Kerrie lives in Perth, Western Australia, Australia and is the Sole Trader of Kerrie Duff Consulting.

She has a quirky sense of humour and has been (lovingly) called a craft-o-holic Рespecially  with quilting, patchwork and lace-making.  Kerrie occasionally masquerades as a mermaid with 3 other women (including at  the 2012 International Day of Disability  event in Northbridge )

She is a longstanding advocate for disability and human rights issues.

Kerrie’s awesome claim to fame is that she is a¬†Paralympian and won a bronze for the 400 meters freestyle in England, 1984, with a personal best time by 11 seconds, yes, 11. Others improve by 100ths of seconds. Not Kerrie. Who knows what she would have done if she didn’t miscount the laps and keep a bit in reserve in case she needed to do another 100 meters!

Kerrie holds a Masters of Human Rights (Curtin; 2014), a Bachelor of Arts (Monash; 1983), is a certified Training and Assessment trainer (Morley Training Centre; 2013) and a Leaders for Tomorrow graduate (2013). She has a Full Blue from Monash University for her sporting achievements and was awarded the inaugural Malcolm B Menelaus Award from the Spina Bifida Foundation of Victoria in 2003.

Kerrie grew up in Victoria and now lives in WA. She is married to Martin, puppy mummy to Lucy and aunt to Giselle and Felix.

Goals

  • Provide leadership and mentor youth and adults with disabilities to assist them to reach their potential.
  • Seek justice and rights for people whom society often overlooks or ignores.

Dream

  • Write children’s books. Maybe even an autobiography (when far older).

Specialities

  • Represented Australia internationally ¬†at:
    • 1994 Far Eastern South Pacific International Competition (Beijing) Swimming, Gold, Silver;
    • 1984¬†Paralympics (Equal ranking to Olympics for sport for people with disabilities) UK.¬†Bronze medalist 400m f/s
    • 1982, Far Eastern & South Pacific Comp’n (equal ranking as Commonwealth Games for people with disabilities), Hong Kong.Gold (2), silver (1), bronze (2); 1981
    • First Invitational Junior Games for the Disabled, Newcastle Upon Tyne,UK.
  • National competitions & A.U.S.S.I. Masters:various medals & Australian records
  • Employment history:
    • Current: National Disability Insurance Agency: Planning and Support Coordinator (while taking a sabbatical from consulting)
    • Previously: WA’s Individualised Services: communications officer (p/t); Rocky Bay: training department (casual); Options Employment: disability awareness trainer (casual); People With disabilities WA; Spina Bifida Association WA; World Vision Australia; Laserlife Australia.

Current Affiliations:

  • Rocky Bay’s Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Advisory Committee

Past Affiliations:

  • Women With Disabilities Australia – Board member
  • Women with Disabilities WA: President
  • Diverse Leadership WA – public officer
  • Telethon Kids Institute/ UWA School of Population & Health- Consumer representative: Developmental Pathways Project
  • People With disabilities WA – Vice President
  • Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association WA: Vice President
  • Genetics Support Council WA: Treasurer
  • Spina Bifida Foundation Victoria: Board member
  • Spina Bifida Association Victoria: President
  • Yooralla: Board member

The power of story telling

Are you looking for a children’s¬†book¬†to explain what spina bifida is to a niece, nephew, son, daughter or neighbour etc? Or maybe want a book on diversity and acceptance to read to school students? Then check out ‘Right Under my nose’, a text I learnt of via the International Federation of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.

Some of you may know I was on the IF Board for four years, another life ago. With Eli, a lass from Norway (General Manager), and Sonya, from Qld (Social Worker), I planned and facilitated the first IF workshop for adults with this condition. This was revolutionary.

Most conferences until then were a forum traditionally for parents and professionals. They focussed on medical issues, and mostly concerning children. For some families such details are needed, yes,

But the time has long gone when this was enough and appropriate.

Parents at the 2002 conference and workshop in Dar es Salaam heard how Eli, Guro, I and a few other adults grew up; about how we were active in our own local communities; the activities we participated in; our highs and lows. This is not to say our way was the only way. No, But it did give an idea of what is possible when barriers are overcome. Sharing our experiences helped bring parents together as never before. From this conference a new parents’ association formed and people would talk to each other and swap solutions while waiting at future clinics instead of being isolated and keeping to themselves.

Since then adults have played a strong role in the IF conference program and planning of most, if not all, conferences. The stories shared during those initial Oslo and Dar es Salaam workshops bore testimony to the strength of story-telling and sharing with and amongst peers.

So taking time to read a picture book might sound unimportant to some. But it can have a big impact. Right under my nose deals with some sensitive issues. It does this in a dignified manner and although I might have unapproached some of the text differently, I am glad it is out there.

As a bookworm of old, who has scoured shelves (and now kindle-land) I read of the Little Mermaid, Cinderella, The Little Prince and many other texts which helped shape my views. It is exciting to discover more and more books which children with different experiences can relate to.

Growing up I was interviewed by an author for a book in which she combined some of my traits with some of two of my friends. The result was a story of a young girl who goes to hospital during school holidays to save missing school. An older boy helps her accept this part of her life. One day I intend to take the themes in ‘Boy on Sticks by June Epstein further. Scope exists for adventures and simple daily life experiences to develop into another book. My grade 3 view of Leo’s scouting experiences and the young lass’ grief at seeing her dressing gown packed have expanded. I now know they reveal only part of the characters’ rich young lives with their varied potential.

The Genetic and Rare Disease Network speaks of us being more than the sum of our genese. This is so true.

When Eddie shares part of his story, in Right Under My Nose’ it reveals how important it is for us all to have dreams, challenges and independence. At times this is achieved by self advocacy. At other times family, peers or others may become the advocate or supporting person.

Continue reading

A Weekend of Firsts – part 2

And back to the firsts –

Regular readers will know about our white fluffy Bishon frese Lucy.

White fluffy Lucy, our white bishon frise, when younger and hoarding a collection of odd shoes.
Photo of Lucy when younger and hoarding shoes. Thankfully, she now only likes Martin’s furry lambswool slippers.

Work Life Balance signpost Stock Photo - 14094848¬†Well, in getting myself ready to resume wheelchair basketball after many a decade of inactivity, I¬†decided to do a few drills at the local primary school’s basketball¬†court.

On weekends we often head to the shops ,and while Martin buys the paper and milk, or a warm treat for lunch, Lucy and I generally explore the local surroundings – meaning I learn to negotiate rough pathways and steep kerbs when people park inconsiderately across their driveways.

Traditionally we’ve walked through the local park and checked out the swings and play areas that offer a seat for the weary. ¬†However pup moves faster and I get less exhausted when we take the wheelchair.The gradient is still a challenge for my stomach and shoulder muscles – although the ease at which this often is reduced by simply pumping up flat tires is somewhat miraculous I must say.

So of late we tend to¬†visit the primary school’s basketball court and do suicide drills, i.e. I push fast from one end to the other and she runs. This works two fold. I get fitter and she gets tired.

Lucy the pup asleep, curled up warmly on our study chair.
Tired puppy

Exercise is good. Yes. Mobility is vital. Yes. Fitness is important. Agreed.

But back to the weekend of firsts.

Using a wheelchair, opens windows to new and varied experiences. It offers flexibility in mobility so I can explore more of Rotto and other places.

It also has new challenges to overcome. And not just people’s perceptions, which interestingly (sadly/predictably/ concernedly) do differ from time to time when I meet them at meetings or in the street – me sitting instead of standing as I generally do using crutches (or sticks as I tend to call them). But we’ll look at attitudes another time.

Continue reading