Categories
Julie's Challenge Appeal

India Exploits

Imagine discovering the country of India which conjures up images of lush green paddy fields, brightly coloured saris, jasmine scented incense, ancient palaces and adorned maharajahs. A huge country, India is often known as the Indian subcontinent; at 3,287,240 km2 it makes number 7 on the top ten largest countries by landmass on earth.

Now imagine undertaking this challenge with a physical disability along with four able bodies guys from Rolls-Royce, discovering breath-taking mountains of the Himalayas as well as spending time in the slums of Delhi working on a local community project which caters for disabled children.

Julie McElroy from Glasgow, Scotland did just that, she flew out to Delhi with the boys from Rolls Royce naming Alan Mileham, Colin Summers, Graeme Hughes and Gordon Barr. She was born with Cerebral Palsy which has resulted in a mobility problem such as having walking difficulty.  She also has a mild speech impairment along with a manual dexterity problem and is profoundly deaf and wear two hearing aids.

Since childhood, Julie have embarked on various challenges and spearheading new initiatives however this latest challenge was going to take her into terrority  to see firsthand how some of the poorest disabled children lives in India and scaling new heights in the Himalayas. This exploit was to be completely different but was a desire that Julie had longed wished for to join an able bodies group on an expedition as she wants to embraced inclusion among her able bodies peers. When asking Alan and Colin about Julie joining them on the Indian’s expedition ‘The team have had limited exposure to disabled people and no prior experience with disabled adults. However we have a good team working spirit and early on we wanted Julie to be part of our team. Though good spirit and intentions are not always enough, I think that a little more research about the terrain and techniques for assisting people could have better prepare us for the Himalayas with Julie’.

In the build-up preparation, Julie forged a firm friendship with theboys as they set about climbing Ben Lomond together. This was great day out Julie recalled as it was good team-building day and this allowed the boys to see firsthand how I coped with the uneven terrain however she confessed she was extremely lucky to be given this opportunity and felt reassured to be in capable hands with the strongest boys on the planet!

Julie’s easiness and her ability to get on with anyone, she alleviated the fears and concerns that the boys of Rolls Royce had as Alan cited from ‘Our initial contact with Julie was via e-mail and a good rapport was quickly built up, I guess putting us at ease with each other. The team were a little nervous prior to meeting Julie mainly down to concerns around communicating (deafness and speech)this was quickly put at ease when we realised we could easily understand Julie and with a little thought Julie could understand us (if we were talking directly to her).  “Also I found myself adapting very quickly after meeting Julie. In the way that I talk, ensuring not to put my hands over my mouth when speaking and always addressing her face to face to allow her to lip read more’.

On arrival in Delhi, the team’s first stop was to visit the slums of Delhi and to pay a visit to the community project that the team would be working on. The project is runs by a charity called Deepalaya, is a non -government development organization working on issues affecting the urban and rural poor, with a special focus on children. It is because ‘Every child deserves a chance’ that the organization exists and works towards making that possible. For the past 32 years Deepalaya has been working in the urban slums of Delhi and has also made inroads into rural development in the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

For Julie, this was a personal and emotional journey to see some of the disabled children that lives in the slums as she commented when you see it on the TV’s news, you take an interests in it but when you come out to witness it for yourself it gives you a completely different prescriptive on how these children live and survive daily. It also made me realized how fortunate we are to have access to good health service.

Just walking through the slums of Delhi with Alan and our guide, it was unbelievable, poor sanitation, malnourished children, the smell says it all. It truly opens your eyes to how these poor disadvantage children survived. One thing that I was constantly aware of although I got used to it, is the amount of Indian people looking at you, if you were Western then they were bounce to scared at you but if you had a disability the scaring becomes noticeable as in India, people with disabilities are not seen in public, we saw some Indians with disabilities crawling on the street.  Even working on the community project, we interacted with the children who have profound learning disabilities.

What really saddened me is that during my years of education we had technologies to aids us with our learning and I believed without a doubt if these children were provided a basic laptop this would enhanced their intellectual ability rather than struggle to write on a piece of paper. India is still a developing country and still has a long way to when it will embrace people with disability as in the same way as the UK, they are now recognizing the talents of disabled people.

On meeting Julie, she possesses the drive and determination to leads an independent life however during her trek in the Himalayas she admitted this was far harder than all her previous exploits as she was among an able bodies group. I found the terrain in the Himalayas tough at times to walk on. It was so frustrating and emotional at times because I kept falling a lot whereas at home I rarely fall.

First thing she noticed that the terrain was completely different as when she out in the countryside back in Scotland, she uses her walking poles to assists her whereas in India she relied on help from the boys and the boys were happy to provide assistance saying that
When Julie finally allowed us to support we quickly developed a good technique, that with the support of two of the team we could get over a range of different obstacles on the assent. It was very clear to me that Julie was having to work around twice as hard as her able-bodied team mates. The main thing we all noticed was Julies determination and she gained the respect of the team through her tenacity and toughness’. Nobody there was in any doubt that Julie gave 100% effort on the day and pushed herself to the limits of her abilities‘.

The community project was my most rewarding experience out of the whole trip because she could understand and empathized with the children’s difficulties. Whereas the Himalayas presented her with even greater challenges however this trek in the Himalayas has inspired Julie to decide what she will do next!

For Julie and the boys of Rolls Royce, although this intensive expedition was challenging, it has changed them in how the perceived about life, forces Julie and boys about assumptions of someone having a disability who equally capable as Colin puts it ‘travelling with Julie has changed some preconceptions I had around people with disabilities in a positive way’.

Personally for Julie, she feels this trek had marked a new vision in her life. When asking what she will do next she says ‘That would be telling!’

Categories
Self Motivation and Learning Technologies/Media/New Media

Disabled People VS Online Forums

From my disability connections, I was approached by MRUK, who are a research company. Firstly, Scotrail has asked them to conduct online focus groups with respondents who travel by rail and have mobility or disability issues. Capability Scotland pointed out that online focus groups are often not fully accessible and face to face can be better, but MRUK have said that they have previously conducted face to face focus groups so this time are just looking at conducting online groups.

Due to one of my many areas of interests, is with accessibility with assistive technologies, I decided to share my thoughts on learning experiences after taking part in the MRUK research.

A question to ask yourself: is web-based forums in danger of replacing real interactions with people?

It is clear that web based technologies is on the rise and they all have their benefits to everyone and those who have disabilities. When it came this forum which I clearly enjoyed very much and transport accessibility is a major issues for some disabled people especially with the revamp of Queens Street for the Commonwealth Games, I was keen to ask the question how does Scotrail plans to cope with disruption to passengers safety without even mentioning disabled passengers too. Do they also plan to embed assistive technologies in and around the station?

During my recent trip to London last week, I was introduced to a new useful contact who is the Head of Disability and Inclusion of Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) was keen to gets my views on public transports i.e. why do like the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) in comparison to not using Scotrail much. It was merely down to accessibility issues. If more assistive technologies on the trains and at station that may assists me better.

Anyway, back to the topic agenda about online learning experiences, I feel there is necessary place for e-learning and online forums as participation process as it encourages people with disabilities to come forward and from what I gathered from the online forum’s experience more disabled people feel comfortable being upfront online forum rather than voicing publicly in open-spaces. (I know all too well – doing and delivering presentations is a daunting experience for anyone). Overall, MRUK were excellent and more forums research should be conducted this way as long as these research companies continue to meet the accessibility needs of participants through various means of technologies then this will go a long way in terms of time and cost-saving issues for everyone involved. We are inevitable going to see more web-focused programme being delivered all types of education sectors as it is their best response to slashed budgets and other factors. My generation are responding to social media and using the web as their study and to keep in touch with their peers.

The balance on the otherhand need to be strike with real interaction with people as that equally important or we risk becoming too dependent on remote learning on the web!

Categories
Self Motivation and Learning

INAUGURAL WILDERNESS WEEKEND SUCCESS

On behalf of Forestry Commission Scotland:

An innovative new outdoors project that introduces disabled people to woodlands and green space has taken its first six participants to Arran to take part in an inaugural ‘Wilderness Weekend’.

This project is to encourage more people with disabilities to access woodlands and green space and is part of Forestry Commission Scotland’s widerCentral Scotland engagement strategy.

Delivered in partnership by Forestry Commission Scotland and The National Trust for Scotland they have worked with Scottish adventuress Julie McElroy to develop the Wilderness Weekend, which saw the group taking part in a range of outdoor activities.

Participants, aged between 20-74 years old, got involved in a series of pursuits including arts and crafts and woodland walks. They also explored how people lived on and off the land and learned how to light fires from sparks, gather food and build a shelter.

Hugh McNish from Forestry Commission Scotland said: “As an organisation we believe in encouraging everyone to access woodlands and
experience the outdoors. “Current evidence shows that disabled people do not access the outdoors as frequently as able-bodied people. We want to tackle this and encourage more people with disabilities to access their local woodlands.

“By running unique weekends such as this, we are actively helping to remove any obstacles for disabled people to enjoy the outdoors and benefit from the experience too.”

A keen adventurer, Julie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was a child and is eager to help more people with disabilities experience the advantages of the outdoors.  She added:  “I have always had a love of the outdoors and I was really passionate about getting this project off the ground. It has been a real challenge, but finally being able to get participants across to Arran to take part is a great feeling.

“This course is designed to enhance the confidence of the participants and also increase their personal development, by allowing them the chance to take part in a series of tasks and adventures that they haven’t before.”

Notes to news editors

  1. Forestry Commission Scotland works as the Scotti Government’s forestry directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
  2. The National Trust for Scotland is one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities, which relies on the financial support of its members to funds its important work of caring for the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy. The Trust cares for a range of sites on Arran, including Brodick Castle and Country Park and Goatfell.

                                

Categories
Self Motivation and Learning

Challenging Your Perception of Leadership

Julie is now becoming renowned for her leadership expertise. A far cry from a few years, she felt lost on where to take her vision of leadership forward into the future. However, thanks to RADAR (Royal Association for Disability Rights) who have nurture Julie’s leadership expertise and thus Julie has now become the forefront of sharing her leadership experience and embedding her skills into many other areas.

Recently, Julie was asked to share her vision of leadership with the Wilderness Foundation UK who were keen to gets her opinions on ‘What Leadership means to her?’ and how she manages to unleash the potentials in other individuals and the projects she been involved to date. Julie believes there are key attributes required to be a good leader and they comprises of: confidence, vision, passion, motivation and organisation.

Julie also realizes as part of leadership it also comes with self-empowerment. This empowerment enables you to achieve or overcome difficulties as she says there are solutions to each one whether it may be making a change in tactics, different strategies to draw on. In order to fulfil your potential, you have to have the motivation, passion and the focus to succeed. She was beginning to handle a lot in a short space of time in her years of growing up and felt competent to share and inspire other i.e. putting her skills and life experiences into practice and embedding them into new situations. From there onwards, the empowerment to try new things and change people perception of someone like myself who has a disability thus in turn can be respected citizen, self responsibility and leader which come with confidence.

When working with people whether they are disabled or able bodies, learn to see what they can do rather than doing it for them or avoiding it. It naturally for people to focus on what disabled can’t do however, we need to adopt in a change in attitude on focusing on what disabled can do as I find there are things that I would like to do but it is looking at the picture/situation as a whole and implementing a strategy to coping and participating in mainstream activities.

More recently on one of her projects, she was involved in putting her judgement forward for the participants to be selected from the Disabilities Wilderness Project. We had a good response of applicants and it was interesting reading their desire to take part in the project. As one of the project’s leaders, you want to select people who are going gain skills that will give them the confidence to progress or use the experience to do other activities when they go home.  It is all about understanding other people’s strengths and weaknesses and what they will bring to the team.

Julie was the first disabled person to have secured the Sirius Environmental Leadership. In her application form, there were many highlights that secured her place and for Wilderness Foundation UK it was about meaningful inclusion knowing how to make this programme accessible for the like of Julie to fulfil her potential. Julie says ‘We need to reinforce participative approach as this will enables organisations like Wilderness Foundation UK to excel in confidence which will grow and in turn will allows them to improve inclusivity and diversity practices. The ending results will pays off!

Throughout the years, it has been motivation and more recently self leadership skills that had helped Julie possess the qualities of leadership.

Categories
Julie's Challenge Appeal

YOUNG SCOTS ADVENTURESS PUSHES HER DISABILITIES ASIDE TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN HIGHER

Remarkable young Scots adventuress Julie McElroy – who has cerebral palsy – is embarking on a formidable challenge to climb the Himalayas in five days to raise money and awareness for a Scottish charity that provides vital therapy for children with the same condition.

Although Julie’s cerebral palsy means she has serious walking difficulties, co-ordination, and speech and profound hearing impairment, along with manual dexterity problems, she is determined to climb the Himalayas in aid of the Bobath Scotland Children’s Cerebral Palsy Therapy Centre.

Twenty five-year-old identical twin Julie – who received specialist therapy at the Bobath centre in Glasgow as a youngster – is embarking on ‘Julie’s Bobath Challenge’ on September 30, to help Scotland’s children with cerebral palsy.

It’s not the first time feisty Julie has demonstrated that through determination, self-belief, drive and stamina, people with cerebral palsy can push the boundaries and realise their full potential.

Julie, who again proved her determination to push the boundaries by recently completing the Sirius Environmental Leadership Scholarship with Wilderness Foundation UK which consisted of canoeing and wild camping in the north-west of Scotland in Loch Shiel.

She says “ I hope my zest for life will help in it 16-year history, Bobath Scotland help hundreds of children to realise their potential and live life to the full, as I have always done.

“The Himalayas challenge, I hope, will spearhead in the coming year in a bid to highlight the wonderful work of this children’s charity. Bobath Scotland has made such a difference to the lives of so many families like my own, and I’m proud to be associated with it.”

Jim Campbell, chairman of Bobath Scotland, said: “Of all the talented, ambitious and motivated young people I’ve been privileged
to meet over the years, Julie must surely be among the most remarkable.

“She is a true inspiration, and our charity is proud to have such an admirable ambassador to fly the flag for Bobath Scotland.”

Categories
Self Motivation and Learning

The Concepts of Learning – Parelli

Life is strange when so many things occur that lets us go our separate ways in life however our connections with riding, the threads remains.
Judith Wright my former riding instructor approached me to come down to Greenarces Riding School and participate in a session about Parelli. Unknown to me, I thought this would be interesting and worthwhile going to see what it was all about.

To gives you an overview of my connection with Judith and riding itself. I started riding with the Riding for Disabled Association in Glasgow at the tender age five and progress with knowledge and ability to learn to ride and lead a horse without assistance. Judith was my first helper on my
first day at riding and I had a black horse called Smokey whom I accustomed to very quickly. Throughout my fifteen years with RDA (Riding for Disabled Association), I had lots of different horses, Harry who was Palomino; Solo was a grey; Harry and Solo were my favorite horses as they were fast and energetic, just like me!

Judith was one of the best helper we had for our class, not only the same personality of fun, laughter and spontaneous characteristic we both had.
It was Judith’s passion, devotion and welfare about horses in all direction that allowed me to become a rider in my own right.  During my ten years with Judith’s presence at the Riding for Disabled Association at Sandyflat, Judith quickly rode to the challenge and asserting leadership positions at the RDA from being a helper to our class’s instructor.

When Judith became our class instructor, she was aiming high with me and a few fellow capable riders, teaching us to canter, show-jumping, trotting – you name it everything that Judith knew, she wanted us to excel to our very best!! Judith was a hard foot-step to follow when she
relocated to Irvine.

After sixteen years at Riding for Disabled Association at Sandyflat, I decided to hang up my gears and pursue other interests not to forget my transition to University was a factor at the time.

Upon a visit to Greenarces Riding School in Irvine to see Judith but more importantly to learn about Parelli. What is Parelli? It focuses on teaching the human rather than training the horse if that makes sense?

Learning comprises of many concepts and it appears Parelli breaks the detailed knowledge into finer and simpler knowledge. It also gets the rider to think how the horse is likely to approach each task with the rider. The Parelli programme helps potential riders understand the psychology, personality and nature of horses. It becomes the basis for a deep, seamless and mutually beneficial human-horse relationship. Is that just fascinating?

Perhaps on this particular week during my riding days, I had a horse called ‘Tommy’, he was Brown horse; very big and slow. I knew instantly that I had my works cut out with him, getting him to walk, trot – it was getting frustrating. Therefore, I am now contemplating to whether having had Parelli session would have taught me the knowledge of the psychology behind ‘Tommy’ and given me the necessary skills and knowledge to acquire to get ‘Tommy’ to walk, trots, rather than gets frustrated with him. Only Judith could stand and look killing herself with laughter as I do my utmost to move ‘Tommy’!!
(Judith and I had a good friendship which was clear to see.)

Having taken part in the new relationship-based approach “Natural Horsemanship” which is now recognized worldwide as an innovative and effective method of natural horse training, I would ethos that Parelli is roll-out to those who have a combination for physical and learning disabilities. I believed embedding this programme to that category of physical and learning disabilities as some riders in my class weren’t adept to riding independently. Whereby having classes of Parelli will give all riders a good grounding about horses and what you can achieve with horses from psychological aspects and what would be expected when you get to ride a horse.

People learn by different methods, but I believe those who learning disabilities and complex needs should have an equal opportunity to learn and find routes to progression in any vocational skills and horse riding is one of them. It is a sport that allows human to become good friend with their horse.

The Parelli concepts could assists disabled people to nurture their confidence therefore, horsemanship skills training will help with developing confidence building and in turn it will stimulate trust with their horse before transferring the practical work in riding.
The Parelli is coherent path that should be introduce to enable those riding a horse have a good understanding at all levels.


Now I perhaps wonder why my horse wouldn’t do as it was told when I was riding. I just assumed he was having one of those days that didn’t want me to ride him. Now I know it is the key to understanding the psychology and the nature of your horse that will foster your relationship into becoming a good rider.

For further information on Parelli visit: www.parelliconnect.com

Categories
Diversity and Disability

Julie Goes The Distance

Julie Goes The Distance for Cerebral Palsy

Julie McElroy – who has cerebral palsy – is embarking on a cycling challenge to raise money and awareness for a Scottish charity that provides vital therapy for children with the same condition.

Although Julie‟s cerebral palsy means she has serious walking difficulties, co-ordination, and speech and profound hearing impairment, along with manual dexterity problems, she is determined to complete the gruelling 89km cycle ride from Edinburgh to Glasgow in aid of the Bobath Scotland Children‟s Cerebral Palsy Therapy Centre.

Julie’s Challenge is to raise funds and awareness for Bobath Scotland Children’s Therapy Centre in Glasgow, which supports children with cerebral palsy; further applauds the centre’s 16 years of continued service to children diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Julie is now planning an 89km cycle ride form Edinburgh to Glasgow. This ride is specifically to raise awareness and money for Bobath Scotland Children’s Cerebral Palsy Therapy Centre in Glasgow.

Edinburgh to Glasgow is to be the first leg of ‘Julie’s Challenge in aids of Bobath Scotland.’ Her route will be through Broxburn, Linlithgow, Falkirk and Kirkintilloch ending in Port Dundas, Glasgow where Bobath Centre is located. The route can be difficult for even an experienced and able-bodied cyclist, but Julie is determined to push the boundaries of her own abilities. Her ride will take place on the 31 March and the goal is to finish the same day.

For safety reasons, she will be accompanied by The Bike Chain’s Mark and Colin Cadden, along a route that can prove challenging, even for reasonably fit, able-bodied cyclists. Due to Julie’s profound hearing impairment, the bike has been fitted with mirrors to help her to judge traffic.

To donate to Julie’s Challenge appeal: http://www.justgiving.com/JulieMcElroy

More information about Julie’s Challenge will be announced in due course.

Categories
Diversity and Disability

Understanding Other Expectations

Everyone has their own expectations of what they want to achieve in life and should be given the encouragement to do so.

In this article, I am talking about expectations of disabled people when it comes to finding a suitable job in the competitive job market. I have the same expectations as able bodies to attain a career in my relevant field of information technology/technologies.

I have worked with countless recruitment agencies to seek the perfect job! Some have understood my expectations my desire to work for these well known companies and other recruitment agencies, simply don’t understand the expectation of an disabled individual! (I realized that must be a challenge because everyone is unique in their own way when it comes to talent!)

Three of my contacts who work in recruitments have been supportive as they assist you enabling you to start or progress with your career goals.  This particular recruiter, strike me that he was very engaging and understands my expectations in terms of where I want to be. When you going through recruitment, you have to be focus and clear about what you want and then the recruiter can help achieve your objectives and prepare you for the recruitment stages. It becomes a vision of partnership.

More recently, I was put through my paces of rigorous recruitment process completing against other many of whom who were non disabled. It was rewarding experience to be given the opportunity to complete in this competitive job market. They were so supportive in leading me through each stage of the process. I felt reassured and kept informed of the development.  It no wonder that I gained a positive experience from them.

The company has welcomed my feedback to address this recruitment strand in relation to disability recruitment. Perhaps the company want to seek new ways of working to recruit and create a diversified workforce within their company. Perhaps they feel the need to be empowered to look at implementing change were a diverse candidate can feel confident in applying to these multi-national companies.

These companies need to look at their long term objective in relation to diversity and what they need to achieved these different results, it will be the case of trying different approaches.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

 

Categories
Self Motivation and Learning

Personal Development Planning (PDP)

More and more nowadays, everyone is having to become an effective self organiser, learners and self-managers with the development of a wide range of skills and attributes that link to long term Personal Development Planning (PDP).

Due to the increasing diversity of people, society in general, businesses and education are responding accordingly in order to adapt to economic and current trends. This is to ensure and determine that a suitable route is properly directed so career paths are pursued that would ultimately maximise potential in development. This in turn, would put the nation both domestically and internationally at an advantage. This would enable to endeavour to take the necessary steps forward to keep one step ahead of consumer requirements so that needs are both met and satisfied and future business is continued.

I have been interviewed regarding an interesting topic about ‘How to keep motivated’ I believe the skills required for this are self learning, responsibility, accountability and leadership. Embedding skills in the learning becomes an integral part of the personal development process.

Professional development refers to skills and knowledge attained for both personal and professional development. This encompasses all types of facilitated learning opportunities, ranging from college degrees to formal coursework, conferences and informal learning opportunities situated in practice. It has been described as intensive and collaborative. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching, and communities of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance.

It is essential to build upon concurrent experience to grow and foster your personal and professional development. Another factor that drives professional and personal development is constructive alignment. Today, we have a duty to be inclusive, encourage deeper and wider approaches to become self organizer, learner and self manager.

Categories
Diversity and Disability

Disability is the last taboo!

 

I was invited to London to present alongside with speakers: Alexandra O’Dwyer, Director of Communications and Marketing, Scope and Kirsty Monk, Accessibility Manager, Southern Railways and Cheryl Campsie, Forster PR.

 

This innovative business debate was evolved around on businesses interested in changing practice and thus build a society in which disabled people have the same opportunities as those without – critical in an era of financial cutback.

 

How can companies, charities and policy makers address the imbalance between the number of disabled people in our society – and representation in work, in the media, and everyday life? We discussed the attitude change – which in an era of austerity costs nothing.

 

To see through change it will require understanding, team work and communication from all businesses, charities and policy makers to work together to address the prejudice face by disabled people and their preconceived capabilities of securing their career in the job markets.

Together, we must adopt the ‘right’ attitudes and behaviours and embracing talents of a diverse workforce with disabled people making a contribution by working alongside business professionals. Business leaders need to take a collaborative and creative approach on recruiting people with disability and ethic population in the workplace.

The future must be on building an inclusive business development for everyone. The ethos of the business community to address of mis-preconception of disabled people to work alongside business professionals, it would help improve business performance related to talent management, productivity, customer access, technology and embrace new developments.

 

Everyone and disabled people too must be readily committed to make a clear commitment to ensure that businesses recruit the very best disabled leaders for the future but we are too often we hear that the talent doesn’t exist externally.

Time for empowerment, motivation, active engagement, communication and interaction among businesses, charities and policy makers.

Real accessibility, real visibility!