My Contribution to a Collection of Stories of People With Disabilities

I have always had an interest in using my life experiences to support other people who may be facing similar issues. For a long time, I have also had a love for writing, but never any real focus or direction for this. I have recently been given an exciting opportunity to share my story for a book, which will be a collection of stories about people with disabilities.

 

Initially, I was just going to contribute my story and have it written by a more experienced writer. After some thought, I sent a message to one of the project managers, giving him the link to this blog, so that he could see my writing style on a few different topics. His reply was that he thought I’d be able to write my own story.

 

Writing about my life was a much bigger challenge than I had first anticipated. If I tried to start by choosing which topics I wanted to write about, I found myself unable to start writing. My thoughts wouldn’t flow, and any attempts were just a clunky mess. Eventually I decided to start at the beginning and just write. So I wrote, and kept on writing. While other people were celebrating Christmas and New Year’s, I wrote. In every available bit of time I had, I sat at my computer and just kept on writing. At the end of about 6 weeks, I had over 20000 words. The problem was that I was supposed to be writing a chapter, not a whole book, and I was told this chapter was supposed to be between 2000 and 4000 words.

 

It was a challenge to decide what messages I wanted to get across in my story, which parts of my life I was willing to share with the world, and which parts of what I’d written seemed like they would fit together in a way that made sense. I had to do a lot of editing and rewriting before I was willing to let the editor and project managers anywhere near it.

 

Another thing that I found challenging was settling on a writing style that I was comfortable with. I’ve always felt more at home with creative writing, so sitting down to write a large piece of non-fiction didn’t come easily. Once I allowed myself to bring some creativity into it, everything came together a lot more smoothly. For quite some time, my story had no beginning. I just couldn’t work out how to start it, how to set the scene. Then one day the whole first paragraph landed in my head, almost fully formed, and I had to rush off and write it down before it disappeared again. The descriptive style felt just right.

 

Last week I got my first draft back from the editor. So far, this part of the process is running much smoother than I expected. I have a few small changes to make, and only one significant structural change. I have found our editor to be very respectful of my story and of the messages I want to get across. I have not had to fight to keep the important bits, and there have been no changes that have altered the meaning of anything I’ve been trying to say.

 

I’m not at liberty to talk about the contents of the book. Sorry, you’ll just have to wait for the book. We plan to have a manuscript ready for publishing at the end of June, and to have books on shelves before Christmas.

 

I’d like to introduce you to the team involved in the project. Please click here to meet the team

 

If you’d like to know more about the project as we get closer to publishing and then sales, click here to follow us on Facebook

 

Advertisements

Communication-Friendly Eateries: my accessibility project, primarily for the deafblind community

Last October I was fortunate enough to win a youth leadership scholarship from Deaf Can:Do, the Royal South Australian Deaf Society. I was awarded this scholarship to help me to undertake a project to create a directory of cafes and restaurants that have good accessibility for those in the deafblind community. While my focus is on deafblind accessibility, I will also be sharing this resource with the Deaf community and the blind community. If there is anyone on the autism spectrum, or with any other sensory access needs, who is wondering if this resource could be helpful, please feel free to get in touch. I will provide ways to contact me at the end of this post.

In the middle of last year, when I took on my volunteer role with the deafblind community, one of the challenges that immediately presented itself was the issue of finding meeting places that were accessible for all of us. Given that the term “deafblind” refers to anyone with a combination of vision and hearing loss, our community has quite a wide range of access requirements. When this scholarship was advertised, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to address these issues.

Unfortunately, the project has been off to a slower start than I had originally hoped. This is partly due to the fact that I took on a couple of projects that started at around the same time as each other. In some ways, parts of the project have also been a bit more complex than I fully understood when I started out. I don’t see this as a major problem, but it is definitely a learning experience.

So far, this project has definitely had its challenges, but I believe that all of these can be worked through. When I started out, I thought I knew my own access needs quite well, and that I just needed to make enquiries into the access needs of others in the community. During this time, my hearing has been deteriorating, and so my needs have been changing. As I have had time to get to know more members of the deafblind community, I have also gained a better understanding of just how wide the range of access requirements actually is. To help me to get a clearer picture of what it would take for a café or restaurant to meet as many of these needs as possible, I have created a survey, which I am trying to circulate to as much of the community as I can reach.

Please click here to take my survey.

Although the focus is on the needs of deafblind people, I would also appreciate responses from people who are either Deaf/hard of hearing or blind/vision impaired. If you wish to fill out the survey from the perspective of a professional or a parent/caregiver, it would be preferable if you have some awareness of the specific needs of deafblind people. I really want this project to address the access requirements of as many people as possible.

As well as the main goal of putting together a directory of places that are accessible, I intend this project to be an opportunity for community education. I am hoping this will be an opportunity to raise awareness among business owners about what they can do to make their venues more accessible and how to be adaptable with their communication. If you’re reading this and you own or work in a café or restaurant and want to know more about how to make your venue more deafblind friendly, I would love to hear from you.

Once I have a detailed picture of the community’s needs, I will be traveling around Adelaide and surrounding suburbs, assessing cafes and restaurants to see which ones meet as many of these needs as possible. I hope that some of those that are less accessible will be open to making improvements. I am also hoping to collaborate with some disability organisations later on in the project to arrange training for venue owners and staff in how to provide assistance to deafblind customers. A couple of examples of this would be some basic Auslan training, and how to guide someone to a table.

For anyone interested in following the progress of this project, I have created a Facebook page. This will be a place for me to post updates and seek community input. This is also somewhere that I can mention eateries that don’t quite make the final directory, but which stand out in some way. I hope this will establish positive connections with these businesses, and be an opportunity for education on where they could improve in the future. Anyone is welcome to follow this page. I am passionate about community education, and I welcome questions and feedback.

To keep up-to-date with the project’s progress, or to send me messages on Facebook about anything relating to the project, please visit the

Communication-Friendly Eateries Facebook page

To send me an email,

jasper.cleland@gmail.com