Potential gigantic project, based in the UK

(note, even if in the US, please respond)

Hey everyone,
First of all thanks for reading. This is going to be a little sketchy as the hows have not all been figured out but I’m putting the feelers out there to see if anyone would be interested in either participating or would like a service like this.

Getting work here in the UK as a disabled person is no walk in the park. We all know the restrictions placed upon us and through my own experiences, I got to thinking. If I can’t get a job, why not create one. And not just one job either, hopefully many.

Here’s the idea in a nutshell. A charity set up for disabled people, run by primarily disabled people, services provided by disabled and abled bodied people to disabled individuals that require the services. What services you say?

How would you like this either in your local community or local city? A place to go to learn different skills in a friendly setting where you don’t have to worry about accessibility and you can meet others who may be in similar positions to yourself? A place that offered a variety of sports, horse riding, a range of performing arts, IT sessions, exercise and meditation classes all equipped with the support you may need or would like?

Have you ever gone to a gym and if you are a guide dog or service dog owner, have no where to leave your dog safely while you work out? This facility could solve that problem. and ever wanted to perform in a theatrical production but couldn’t find anywhere who would have the relevant access for you or refused your participation due to your impairment? This facility would allow you to explore your talents and meet people in a comfortable, warm and friendly environment while providing the access you want.

Want to learn to play a sport but your local area doesn’t have the equipment or the ability to let you join in? Here I would hope many sports could be offered within reason.

Experts have shown that interaction with animals is a soothing experience and horse riding is often used as a therapy as well as an exercise regime, but some schools are uncomfortable teaching disabled students due to lack of knowledge. Wouldn’t you like to ride and enjoy the responsibility of taking care of the horses?

Computers and technology are a huge part of our every day lives but sometimes people are scared to learn or would like to learn more. A computer suite with a variety of computers with varying operating systems, different mobile devices would be available with tutors to allow people to learn or create projects.

A kitchen to teach people independent skills or learn to cook new dishes would be ideal, giving friends chance to cook for each other, learn new recipes and skills in a fun and safe environment. Even having language courses and reading groups if that’s what people want to do would be more than welcome. Many options and many opportunities for disabled people to come together, get into work and help others.

Yes, it’s ambitious. And all the finer details are yet to be decided. But could anyone see this being a wanted project and if so why, and if not, why do you think not? Of course integration is wanted for most of us but sometimes its nice to have complete access as the norm rather than an after thought.

Please let me know what you think. And how I imagine you ask, am I planning on achieving this? On the whole, I have no idea. I’m not a business person as of yet but setting this idea up as a charity first and foremost after putting the feelers out is the first step. This could happen. It won’t be easy and not all services will be achieved immediately and will have reasonable fees for the consumers, but please, I would love to hear your feedback.
Cheers
Marie

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8 Responses to “Potential gigantic project, based in the UK”

  1. Chricket Says:

    This would be a wonderful project in the UK as well as in the US. If you need any help in the US side, feel free to ask and I’ll research it 🙂

  2. Sean Says:

    marie,

    It sounds like a very worthwhile project to me. I firmly believe that, for those with the ability, mainstream education is the best approach. The downside there of course is that you don’t get to interact with many blind people, just one more example of a benefit this idea could have.

    I’m no business person either, not in the terms you’d need for such an outing. but from a lay person’s perspective, a blind one who’s also looking for work with a variety of IT skills and yet no current employment? it sounds divine.

    there’s so much more to add to the idea, too, of course. Massage and other therapies. Pottery and crafts. DVD evenings and book clubs and pub nights and quizzes and celeb visits and tonnes of things besides. what a plan!

    • MJ Phoenix Says:

      Thanks Sean,
      Yes, all those kinds of activities would be more than a great idea. The broader the range, the more low cost the activity, the better. Thanks for your input and I feel your pain.

  3. Kim Says:

    Hmm, I like the idea but – here’s the first few things that popped into my head, both positive and negative:
    Where would this be situated? Finding a central point for such a centre – as I presume it would be a kind of centre could be very difficult, and it’d be impractical to have a couple, at least to start with.
    A lot of these things are offered at RNC – drama etc, and whilst I like the ideas a lot I wonder how much participation you’d get, for instance, enough to put on a show? or make purchasing gym equipment worthwhile?
    Age groups – blind folk like our sighted counterparts don’t just mix, teens to 60’s – would there be enough people?
    Costs – would you aim for like say a weeks stay/shhort-breaks, or more regular – i.e cookery every Wednesday afternoon?
    Also, and this may be the biggest thing – while the sighted world is a tough place, it’s where we live. I honestly like your ideas, and your thinking – please don’t think i’m being unnecessarily grumpy, I’m not, but is it actually helping to take blind people out of society more? now, this would work if it were a short-break thing, I think, but if people went to you to use the gym instead of trying to integrate with their local community I actually think it’d be harmful.
    Unfortunately I come from a business orientated family, so its natural for me to think bad before good, I’d certainly like to hear more though, and sorry if I’ve come across too grumpy.
    xx

    • MJ Phoenix Says:

      Kim,
      I value your input. This has been an idea of mine floating around in the big old brain bugging me relentlessly. OK, RNC offers drama courses and even those are limited to only LSC students. When I attended RNC, I was not permitted to do performing arts under the RTU. I’m not necessarily looking to promote qualifications, I’m aiming for more of a social level within some activities. The IT, and possibly doing languages and what not maybe a different course of action. Location is something I am thinking about and I appreciate your concern about the gym and sighted integration but I don’t know how friendly your local gym is, but mine is not. After trying a few gyms, I ended up buying home equipment and wouldn’t even dream of asking to join any of the fitness classes. Sadly, doing aerobics is challenging within an abled body group and although I fully accept what you have pointed out, I can’t help but feel that even though integration would be awesome, it is not always possible for everyone. This is also aimed at all disabilities and as I said to someone earlier, if a abled bodied person wanted to come along, I wouldn’t see fit to turn them away. However I would love to see opportunities created for disabled people and for those same people in turn to have access to such things. Breaks could be one option and although I’d love for tis to be a community thing, breaks and maybe summer camps for younger people would be also something that may need to be looked into. A city would be ideal, or just outside, with immense amounts of good public transportation links. If Liverpool can have its own deaf choir, I think this could be utilised by many. Wheel chair users, deaf, blind, etc. age groups may work in some instances, IE I did theatre and our range of ages often was quite wide. Other things may vary. Initially community style usage, IE cookery on Wednesdays and theatre club Tuesday and Saturdays may be more beneficial to gain popularity and judge for further extension. Tahnk you so much for your questions. Kim I’d love your input on this further, Sean’s too. It’s a dream right now but I think it could help those who need this kind of thing, or just want it, to gain so many skills and not the certified ones, the social, confidence and self esteem. Hope I’ve answered your questions and feel free to ask any more. 🙂 🙂 xxx

  4. Kim Says:

    I’d love to help in any way I can – like I said it’s just my nature to look at the potential downfalls first- I hate getting excited over things to see them fall apart!
    I do agree gym-wise, it’s just a case of being careful – methinks.
    Oddly, Sean and I always wanted to do something based around I.T there are a lot of disabled people with very poor I.T skills – and lacking the necessary know-how with their adaptive equipment, we looked at running some kind of place where in-depth I.T stuff could be taught to improve confidence and employability, so i do agree with you in many ways.
    Aim small though – places like this take years to establish. But seriously, any help you’d like, or just to bend an ear – feel free!
    🙂
    xxx

    • MJ Phoenix Says:

      thank you Kim. I shall want that ear at some point or other. The IT thing is important to me. As is sports and the performing arts to allow people to express themselves. I’ve been incredibly lucky, I’ve found a horse riding instructor willing to teach me, yet the sighted world is scared to death to allow blind riders that priveledge when it can help them grow in so many ways. Although skills will be provided, I want this to be more of a skill builder rather than an educational institution, with the possibility to interact and socialise and have fun. I wish the world was different in regard to integration, believe me, I attended mainstream high school and primary and did theatre but only after the old director left and we were blessed with someone who realised I was better backstage in the dark than any of the sighted kids. Unfortunately, as an adult, its harder to find social activities and I truly appreciate your questions, they’ve made me think. and aiming small, I’m starting off petite. This is purely in research stages believe me but that whole thing is like a ten year plan. Take care and thanks again. 🙂 xxx MJ Phoenix mjphoenix@phoenixquils.com

      google talk mjphoenix@phoenixquils.com twitter http://twitter.com/MJ_Phoenix website http://phoenixquils.com

  5. Vince Thacker Says:

    Hi, Marie,

    My first thought was, “You must be mad to contemplate this sort of project when the economy is falling to bits and organisations are closing down right, left and centre”. And my second thought was, “The world needs people mad enough to dream”. So don’t let me or anyone else put you off your dreams,

    I’d better explain where I’m coming from. Apart from being blind, I have a background in social work, and soon after qualification I was thrown straight into managing voluntary organisations, including a community based day centre (not the traditional idea of a day centre, mind you), a housing scheme for people leaving psychiatric hospitals and a disability advoacy project. I’ve also worked as a disability careers person.

    You don’t have to stop at the charity model of organisations. There are a few social firms or social enterprises that not only serve disabled people but employ a high proportion of disabled people too.

    Whatever you decide to do, you need to set it up in the same way as any other business, for business it is, even if not profit-making. As it says in the IChing, “it profits one to appoint helpers”, and you cannot do it all yourself. Whether it’s a company, charity or social firm, you’ll need to gather around you a management committee or board or whatever you’re going to call them, for legal and practical reasons. These will be enthusiasts who will bring different expertise to the project and be willing to bang their heads against the wall trying to secure funding and shaping the ideas that will be acted out in the project when it becomes a reality. Whatever you do, you will need to have a set of clear objectives to put in front of funders, new management members and potential customers. Well, if you don’t like customers, maybe clients, service users or why not members? Oh, yes, and the bank may want to see a business plan.

    I’ve got to agree with your aim of employing other disabled people, tough as it is for most of us in the workplace. When you get as far as recruiting workers, you may want to make one of the criteria for getting the job “first-hand experience of disability” or similar. You might come in for some stick for indulging in this kind of positive discrimination, but it has been done before, and was indeed the ethos of the advocacy project I mentioned before.

    I don’t know where you envisage this service being set up, but whatever area it is will have a range of services for disabled people already. Could I suggest that you research pretty carefully what’s there, what’s missing and what the demand is for the things that are missing. You don’t all want to be tearing your hair out trying to keep up with a popular line of work, and you don’t want people sitting about bored for lack of take-up. Maybe some kind of survey of people’s wants and needs would be a good plan, though it might be quite tricky knowing how to frame it.

    Who’s going to organise all those activities? Does it really all have to come from your project? What I’m getting at is that there might already be organisations that are wiling to work in partnership to provide them in the project’s area. Riding for the Disabled comes to mind, so does AbilityNet when it comes to I.T. training. To run all of the activities in-house you’d have to win the odd Lottery roll-over, but if you go in for such partnerships, you might be making good use of existing resources.

    Yes, sports, performance, animals – all potentially great confidence boosters. I’m a bit more cautious on the arts and crafts thing, and some people may have unhappy memories of being kept quiet by such things in hospital or a traditional day centre. The experience could be deadly or creative and exciting – all depends on the quality of people you can attract to organise the activities. Local arts organisations might be keen to get involved, or alternatively may not understand the brief.

    Gyms – well, the impression I get is that they’re inaccessible, I don’t understand what they do but it does seem boring when people talk about it. If you can make this kind of activity interesting and accessible, well, I don’t know how, but it would be good. Maybe a tie-up with the Inclusive Fitness Initiative would unearth the right kind of expertise for this. Maybe low-tech ways of exercising would be easier to provide and take part in than those that are so reliant on machinery with inaccessible displays and no doubt horrendous maintenance costs. Getting enough exercise is certainly a good issue to tackle for a lot of us.

    Cooking is a good one too – I wonder how many blind and other disabled people feel it’s not safe to cook, or live on microwave ready meals? Yet cookery – and maybe gardening to produce some of the ingredients – is another creative and confidence boosting activity for many.

    Many of these things, though, are rather “fluffy”, if I may make so bold. Do disabled people in the area get a fair deal from the benefits agencies, social services and the like? Is there accessible transport? These are quite hard issues for many, and may affect their ability to take part in everything they’d like to. If you’ve done some market research into what people want, have they mentioned advocacy, or support with Direct Payments, or benefits advice? You maybe don’t know at this stage, but I thought these were useful questions to leave hanging in the air.

    My own prejudice is that where possible, disabled people should have access to mainstream facilities, but I realise that that isn’t always realistic, so some special services by us and for us come as a welcome alternative.

    Setting up a charity isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t trivial either – I’ve got the white hairs to prove it. You may find that you get the charity set up, have a decent team of management members and a starter pack of funding. Perfect! But then, and this seems quite perverse, some of the management members lose interest, and you’re starting over again. People get tired after so many meetings and funding bids and what not, and once you start getting paid staff, they may feel side-lined or less important. This isn’t fatal, but I’ve noticed it a few times in my career.

    When you appoint your first manager, well, this is a key post, and the person you appoint may well set the tone for the life of the project. You will probably have to go in for quite a prolonged brain-storm and recruiting campaign to get the person you want, who may come from some other field – wasn’t the present CEO of Guide Dogs a military man before? But if the person has the right ideas, that doesn’t seem to matter.

    I didn’t mean to go on so long or sound so preachy, but I hope there are some useful ideas here. Good luck, and get back to me if you want by all means.

    Vince.
    E-mail – vip_uc@yahoo.com
    Blog – The blind Buzz – http://nystagmite.wordpress.com
    Web site – Vince’s Parallax – http://www.freewebs.com/batfromhell/
    Twitter – @batfromhell
    YouTube slide shows (yes, blind photography!) – http://www.youtube.com/user/visigoth999
    Flickr Photo-stream
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/12203105@N04/

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