Archive | October 2013

Is it too crazy?

You know, I have never been so scared for my country in my life (and I’m not as young as I look!). The government has turned on the sick and disabled and the media have got right behind that, demonising people who are by no fault of their own unable to comply with the rigors of the traditional working life.

I had a run in with a taxi driver – those well-known armchair politicians – who was driving me to the hospital for the latest in a long list of appointments. He said I could work if I wanted to. I said live a few months in my life and see whether you could keep working to the pattern set out by someone else while your body is demanding rest. I asked him if he thought I’d walked away from a very good salary because it seemed like a good idea to live on the breadline instead. He couldn’t answer me on that but stopped judging me.

And it occurs to me that there must be many sick and disabled persons in the same situation as me; still sharp of mind, quick of wit, able to live a useful and contributory life if only the flexibility were available. I didn’t want to stop earning and I’m sure they didn’t either. I tried returning and within four months was destroyed because I had to stick to a rigid and inflexible pattern. That could have so easily been different.

With the technology available and the kind of jobs that can be done any time during the day, why is it that those who can prove a genuine need are not able to work as their situation allows? The hours in the day when I am at my best vary from day to day. On this reasonably bright Saturday, I was awake and about early and could be completing a seven hour day of useful work at this moment. Tomorrow I might not be fully functional until afternoon, but I’d be able to do another seven hours then.

Show me the employer who will allow that sort of pattern. Show me the employer who will let me shuffle down the stairs when my situation allows, sit down at my laptop and just work, resting when I need to, but getting the job done. They don’t exist or if they do they are few and far between.

And why is that? Is it because a manager needs to be looking over your shoulder regardless of whether the work is getting done? That’s a little paranoid of the employer. Is it because they’re afraid that people will see that it can work and start asking for greater flexibility? I said if a genuine need is proven. Or is it because there is a tradition that says you must be incapable of doing your job, even under circumstances that empower you to do so? Now we’re getting closer to the mark.

There are many kinds of work where it doesn’t matter which hours in the day you work as long as you do work. You’re hardly likely to see a person with a disability scaling a ladder to mend a roof or rescue people from a burning building I grant you. But crunching data, writing articles, designing all manner of things from websites to automobiles – that can be done at any time within a 24 hour period. Why is that still not recognised?

So many talented people are lost to the working world because there simply isn’t scope to incorporate them. How closed-minded does that make the world? How rigid and thereby brittle? One day, business might realise that people with disadvantages are all the more driven to be the best they can be and give their all to everything they do. So they might not be able to attend meetings. Ever heard of video conferencing? The telephone?

And what I say to governments making it impossible for the disadvantaged to do anything with their lives, if you address employers and maybe even incentivise trying a new flexible approach as described above, you might find a lot fewer people are forced to walk away from a full time working life before it kills them. You might even find a massive boost to the nation’s productivity because of the talent and determination injected back into business.

If you agree, whether partially or fully, share this blog. Give people some food for thought on what could really be done to alleviate both the suffering being endured by the sick and disabled right now and the burden the government are so sure is to blame for everything that’s wrong with this country. Open some eyes and some minds and we might just start to see improvement.

Attitudes need to change. The traditional methods are not working and therefore nor are many people who could be. But we need to talk about it, theorise, explore and pioneer or nothing will get better.

This is just the very tip of an idea. A dream. And if enough people dream that dream, there just might be a chance of making it real. Is that too crazy?

Burble

I was going to post a serious blog about giving to charity and how dreadful I felt having to choose just one to vote for only this afternoon. But that would no doubt make everyone reading feel dreadful too and I don’t want to do that any more than I want to vote for one worthy cause among many equally worthy causes.

So instead, because it’s a dreary October weekend and the cold weather is really kicking in, I thought I’d share a bit of silly fiction instead. All new and expecting parents should take note:

Burble

“Aren’t you getting big?” Yes, but there’s no need to shout. I’m young, not deaf. You only hear baby burble when I tell you. I’m bigger than I was, yes. Still not exactly big though. Unless you’re comparing me to, say, this rusk.

“Shall we go for a nice walk in the park?” Well, really that’s more fun for you than for me. You’ll be walking and I’ll be lying there in the pram with nothing to look at but the clouds and that stupid smile you put on whenever you look at me. Then you’ll meet someone you don’t even know and they’ll ask if they can hold me and you’ll say yes. I’ll scream and squall because I really don’t want to be pawed at by strangers. They might have all sorts of germs! Then you’ll say you’re sorry, poor baby must be tired.

I’ll be tired alright. Tired of being treated like a baby. Okay, so I know technically I am a baby and I haven’t quite mastered the controls of this body yet, but I wish you’d realise that just a few months ago I was the greatest mathematician in the world who happened to get hit by a bus. Perhaps I should have calculated its speed better. You know that thoughtful look you tell everyone about? That’s calculus that is. Calculus in my head. And according to the contract I’ll forget it all before I can talk. Next time I’ll be ready for the bus.

JAM 2013

The charity vote is here in case you’re still reading. £50,000 pounds for the winner. I voted MS Society because I know them well, know they’re often forgotten and know every penny counts.

Enjoy the weekend!

Taking literacy to a whole new level

It’s not often a project comes along that captures my imagination quite so much as the one I’m about to describe. I’ve recently had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of Steve Monosson, Creative Director at Borne Digital, based in New York. Now, Steve’s a nice guy, very talented, makes me laugh and then I asked about the project he’d mentioned in another context.

Stylus screeches across the vinyl, my eyes grow wide and I think “whoah”.

This is not some little creative venture. This is ground breaking stuff taking literacy education to a whole new level. Borne Digital produce books for reading on a tablet. eBooks. But these eBooks are created with multiple layers of content and the level of difficulty adapts to individual learning ability. Kind of like a level-up when you reach a certain stage in the game.

Read MSNBC’s article about this and vote for Borne to get a very important chance to be heard.

We all know how kids thrive in an interactive environment. We all know they’d rather be on the iPad than reading a dowdy old paperback. And quite importantly it is now known that many people with dyslexia are better able to read from eBooks. What Borne have done, are doing, combines all of these factors and more.

Imagine if, when you were learning to read, your books had adapted to meet your ability. Imagine how much less pressured that would have made reading aloud to the teacher. Imagine how rewarding it would have been to see how far you had come in the space of just one book.

Now put yourself in the place of the teacher who, with Borne’s technology, is able to focus more on what matters and less on how to make reading fun and engaging no matter what level individual children are at. Have you breathed a sympathetic sigh of relief yet?

Key quotes from founder Daniel Fountenberry carried in the MSNBC article:

“We want to use technology in ways that empower teachers and that allow all children to reach their full potential.”

“Reading is fundamental to learning, and learning is fundamental to human development. Reading is the basis of all learning, and we all know the impact of not being able to read–what it does to a person’s self-esteem.”

I urge you to read the article if you haven’t already and see what this is all about. And check out the Borne website too.

There are so many benefits to Borne’s work. Most importantly, it changes reading from something children feel they ought to do into something they love to do. That has lifelong positive repercussions. And as if that wasn’t enough, Borne Digital seek to bring reading to the most impoverished areas where it can be of most benefit.

But there are so many potential applications beyond the classroom too, which I’ve no doubt Borne have already anticipated. This is brilliant, potentially world-changing stuff. I can’t help but be 100% behind it and so much hope it finds its way to the UK.

Please vote for Borne to have that all important opportunity and spread the word. Share this blog, share the article, do what you can to make this project the enormous success it deserves to be. If you are, or have contacts that could be, of influence in education, in literacy organisations, in government, in big business that might like to support the project, please let me know and I will pass details on immediately. This is huge. Let’s make it huger!