As of today, 32 Days Remaining has migrated to a new home http://www.slewth.co.uk and new name (the Slewth Press). I have decided to upgrade my wordpress blog to a new domain and hosting. With this move, I now have more control over the appearance and delivery of content – resulting in new options to enhance accessibility. I hope you will continue to read my blog, and will join me at slewth.co.uk. I will maintain 32 Days Remaining in a dormant state as an archive for the near future, but I encourage you to update any subscriptions, feeds or bookmarks from this site to the new address.
I recently ordered a new set of business cards to match my new prefix (Dr) and new email address. Previously I’ve relied on institutional business cards – however, as I’m now freelance, significant decisions have had to be made regarding content, design, usability and accessibility. Cost and convenience have also been important. As with all such things, time was short as I noticed several impending events careering towards me; (see my Twitter account @slewth for forthcoming tweets from the a11yLDN unConference on Weds 21st Sept 2011).
The need for speed led me to moo.com. Moo supply a huge range of designed templates, with options for those wanting to make their own. They print to both Premium and high quality Green standards. They can rush a print job and supply a sprint delivery also.
I chose the Less is More design by Jonathan Howells on several grounds: it uses a large, legible font, the contrast is reasonable and, importantly, there’s plenty of analogue hack space on the reverse. The cards arrived today – so I’m halfway there.
As committed readers will know, I also want braille for my business cards. My previous investigations in this area have led me to Azzabat, who have supplied me with transparent braille stickers that can be applied over a standard business card (or anything else). Azzabat frankly rock the opposition.
There are no set up fees, customer service is excellent and I recommend them highly, especially for institutions and other organisations. Importantly, as their labels are clear, they can be stuck to both sides of a business card (as pictured) – this is vital given the large (36 size) font necessary for braille - as it allows more space for contact information to be represented. Azzabat have a minimum order of 100 units with labels retailing at £0.85 ($1.33) per unit. This is well below other equivalent brailling services for business cards, but on this occassion I needed a cheaper option.
As a result, I’m taking a D.I.Y. approach. With a view to creating my own (opaque) labels for the reverse of my new cards. I’ve just ordered the RNIB‘s Braille King Pocket Frame. This is a small device that allows the user to create braille. The demonstration video below shows how it is used.
The Braille King Pocket Frame retails at £14.39 ($22.5). I’m really looking forward to trying this out. I’ll post the results back to this blog when the device arrives. Comments, as always, are welcome.
The Nottingham Research Network (Special Educational Needs, Social and Educational Inclusion, Health and Disabilities) has issued a second call for papers for their 6th annual conference, scheduled for Friday 13th January 2012. This free conference is a collaborative and friendly event that welcomes presentations from people outside academia, as well as those who have not presented before. At previous conferences delegates have represented local schools, councils, student and housing groups, charities, advocacy organisations, support workers, and academics from a variety of disciplines across Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham (to name but a few). I have a lot of affection for this conference – the inaugural conference was my first experience of having my presentation interpreted by a BSL interpreter – and this early postgraduate presentation subsequently led to my becoming involved with Human Factors research in Engineering, alongside my own work in Learning Sciences and Disability Studies. It is this kind of juncture, between social sciences and hard sciences, as well as the applied and practical aspects of the conference that make it so important to Nottingham.
This years’ theme is “Creative Approaches to Building Relationships”. At present there is no online presence for the conference (the network has previously been active on Ning) so I’m reproducing the call for papers in full here.
The Nottingham Research Network
(Special Educational Needs, Social and Educational Inclusion, Health and Disabilities)
6th Annual conference
“Connecting people with shared interests to promote increased collaboration”
Call for contributions on the theme of
CREATIVE APPROACHES TO BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
University of Nottingham
Friday 13th January 2012 from 9.00-16.00
We welcome proposals for presentations, workshops and/or innovative approaches. We are keen to encourage new presenters. Please contact us by September 22nd:
The conference is a local one, aimed at increasing communication between researchers, practitioners, learners and others in the field. However, the network is a successful one – entering the 6th year of this annual conference. If you are looking to establish a similar city wide, or sub-regional network, I recommend getting in touch with one of the contacts above for information.
I’ve written this post as part of Blogging Against Disablism Day, an annual event hosted by the Goldfish. Be sure to check out other contributions via her excellent blog. This post is about the closure of Skill, the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities in the UK, the only pan-disability organisation dedicated to promoting equality for disabled people in education, training and employment. Approximately two weeks ago the following message was posted to their website:
It is with great sadness that Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities announces that it has ceased operating. Following a period of financial difficulty, Skill’s Board of Trustees has decided that it is no longer viable to keep the charity open. The Chair of Skills’ Board of Trustees, Peter Little OBE said “This is sad day for all of us. We had recently appointed an outstanding new Chief Executive and agreed a clear strategy to reduce our costs and turn around our finances, but in the end time was against us” [...] It is hoped that others may step in to fill the gap this has left in the support available.
Does this constitute a suitable topic for Blogging Against Disablism? Well, read on. Unfortunately, I believe this loss will result in a kind of structural disablism rising unchecked. In the first place, I had hoped that this closure would elicit some coverage in national Education media, but it appears, to me at least, that current news frenzy dedicated to rises in tuition fees and wider issues of university funding have foreclosed on any coverage of this significant loss to the sector as a whole, and disabled students in particular. And this is a significant loss.
I was not aware of the financial difficulties facing Skill, and I have had few dealings with them directly. In these dealings, however, I have had a privileged view into some of the work they undertook – work that is extremely important – but receives little publicity. In my PhD thesis I identify Skill’s role consulting on the redefinition of UCAS and HESA’s much disputed disability codes – the cornerstone of the self assessment process that all students face when applying to Higher Education Institutions. In this consultation, they represented disabled students views, in a way no one else, seemingly, can. But this is by no means the most important work they’ve done. A recent response to government consultation, an evidence submission on The future funding for Higher Education is more typical of their output and their website continues to host a myriad of important documents for students and educators.
It is the loss of their expert advisors and staff that is the most worrying development, however, especially within a climate of cuts that are disproportionately hitting disabled people and students across the country. It is not simply that disabled students are members of both these groups. As the number of disabled students in higher education has grown under the auspices of equality legislation, a serious and unanticipated threat to disabled students’ participation has manifested in the administrative incompetence of the Student Loans Company.
On the 5th of February 2010, the BBC reported that:
Almost 12,500 disabled students in England are still waiting for grants to pay for specialist equipment, figures from the Student Loans Company show.
Since then, the SLCs failure to process 209,000 student’s grants and loans in autumn 2010, left half of all applicants waiting weeks, and in some cases, months for financial assistance. This had a direct and disproportionate impact on disabled students, threatening study and subsistence. As the Guardian reports:
At one point last year , 87% of the 4 million calls to the SLC were going unanswered. Disabled students were disproportionately affected, with three-quarters of the 17,000 disabled students who applied for loans failing to receive them three months into the start of term. (Guardian).
Horrifyingly, with a view to the this academic year (beginning September 2011), the same Guardian article reports that the Student Loans Company Faces Ongoing Risk. The authors note that in 2010 the Student Loans Companry was only responsible for processing the applications of new students. From this year the SLC will be responsible for applications for grants and loans from all students in England. The system was previously administered by local authorities.
In this context, the loss of any disability advocacy seems perilous. Who will step in to fill the gap?
***update*** As of the 6th July 2011 the Disability Alliance has adopted Skill’s critical services for Disabled Students. Their Skill web space is under construction.
Thoughts and comments are very welcome, as always.