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Pesky People’s new website


We have a new website please click here or on the image to be redirected


It’s Pesky People’s birthday


Pesky People started off on 1st September 2009 with a post about Orange mis-selling a mobile phone to Alison Smith.

1 year on we have launched our new website and hope you continue to visit us.

In meantime this wordpress blog will be updated to keep it live.

Visit Pesky People’s new website


We have a new Pesky People website with a new post. It is a temporary url until we get our host server sorted out.

National Digital Inclusion Conference restricts deaf access: ‘too busy’ to organise BSL interpreters. Read more

Another Blow to Disability Arts in Scotland?


I’m part of b)other a disabled LGBTGI arts exhibition taking place at Glasgow Museum of Modern Art in Glasgow till 14 Feb 2010.  

b)other is the title of the artists’ collective formed in July 2009 by  Sandra Alland comprising of 9 artists Stuart Crawford, Nathan Gale, Y. Josephine, Jennie Kermode, Rebecca Pla, myself, Penny Stenhouse and Kristiane Taylor.

The exhibition as put by  GoMA is part of their ‘social justice exhibitions’ with ‘ This year the topic is lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender life. The exhibition will both celebrate and raise awareness of LGBT people, their rights and history.’

Read more here (GoMA opening times), The Skinny review, Sandra Alland’s blog and other bits online.

Despite this GoMA are currently charged with a number of serious allegations in formal complaints submitted by the lead artist Sandra Alland in regards to disability discrimination, bullying and contractual and marketing failures by GoMA staff in what was supposed to be a residency specifically to support a disabled artist-in-residence (full post on this to come soon).

These allegations are still under investigation and yet whilst we have such serious discrimination of disabled artists under the umbrella of a ‘Human Rights’ exhibition – the latest blow to Disability Arts in Scotland has been reported by Etcetra Issue 492 Disability Arts enewsletter. It reads

A little over a year since the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) announced its plan to consolidate and develop Disability Arts in Scotland with its excellent “Ignite” one off funding programme, yet before the programme has actually finished we learn that the SAC Equalities Department is being dissolved and that the Arts and Disability Post (Robert Gale’s job) is to be lost.

We all suspected that as a result of recent financial turmoil equality would take a hit, but this is nothing short of nuclear.

This decision by SAC, made without consultation, to close this department and let Robert go, sends on a big clear signal to arts and cultural organisations in Scotland and beyond.

It’s going to be difficult for the Council to make an influential argument for inclusion, disability arts and equality in general, if it’s seen to be turning its back on these issues.

And it’s going to be easier for those arts organisations that deny how important being equal and inclusive is, to argue that they have neither the capacity nor the resources to become so.

We just hope that disabled people and disabled artists won’t miss out because of this step, and that it won’t leave a gaping hole in Scottish culture where there could and should have been a mountain.

Join Pesky and support us to fight this by adding your comments below – it will be passed on.

When is Deaf apartheid acceptable?


This question is prompted by two conversations I had on the same night whilst attending The Magic Hour screening at The Lighthouse Cinema in Wolverhampton on Tuesday (17th Nov 09).

The first I was told that organisations are deliberately not including Deaf people in their events because of the cost of booking British Sign Language Interpreters (BSL).

In contrast Justin Edgar’s commitment to make sure The Magic Hour is accessible to Disabled and Deaf audiences even involved stopping a screening – because the subtitles were not working. There were five Deaf people in the audience and one of the five shorts screened was made by a Deaf Director, writer and featured hearing and Deaf actors.

You have to see The Magic Hour – an electric series of groundbreaking 10 minute shorts by Disabled and Deaf directors. Led by 104films each of the five shorts were fantastic and had me on the edge of my seat.

So what happened why Deaf apartheid?

Earlier on in the day I applied by email to attend a one day scriptwriting course being held in Wolverhampton. I am a performance poet and wanted to develop ideas for an extended stage performance.

Brilliant I thought, a course I can be comfortable to attend as a disabled person (and Deaf). I applied, was emailed back that that my access needs  could not be met and BSL interpretation would not be provided. I was advised to take this up with the organisers (a disabled organisation).

The organiser was at the screening and I asked why this was the case. I was told they only had £500 to run the course and so they couldn’t afford to pay for BSL support.

My response was to ask

‘so you are saying Deaf people can’t take part” (that’s right)

“I am Disabled and also Deaf so I can’t take part?” (that’s right)

‘if a person is a wheelchair user and also Deaf they cannot attend because you will not provide BSL support?’ (that’s right)

This scriptwriting course is for disabled women only. The application form asks asks: Do you have any access requirements?  If so, please state:

I was also told that a number of Deaf organisations in the West Midlands had said they would refuse to be involved with any events involving disabled people and also that they would tell Deaf people not to take part.

Due to Deaf politics I can only guess which WM organisations said this but I cannot prove it.

The Deaf community sees itself as a linguistic minority and not Disabled – this is very true. BSL is a recognised language with its own syntext, structure et all.

I am part of that Deaf Community but do not agree that we Deaf people should be continually enforcing self-apartheid in any such way, or letting others to do it for us.

The conversation continued: I was also told that since Deaf people did not want to be included in disabled-led events why should they a) bother providing this support and b) the cost of SLI’s (sign language interpreters) were too much anyway.

Also a lot of (mainstream) organisations are saying they will stop providing BSL interpreters altogether because of the cost.

I was horrified. I went  into the film stunned. A disabled organisation openly telling me that they will not involve Deaf people in their activities? Should I be pleased to be told that they would support and fund a Deaf-only scriptwriting course if asked? It felt like a trade off.

104 Films Director Justin Edgar told me after  the screening that last weekend in Sheffield they stopped a screening of The Magic Hour – because the subtitles were not showing. The film was copied into Blue Ray format but accidently left off the subtitles so they halted the screening.

The audience were in uproar! Hearing people yelling (about the deaf people in the audience) ‘Start the film – give them their money back!’ … ‘Let them watch it on dvd!’

Five deaf people in the audience protested back. Justin held his ground and luckily they finally found a DVD copy to screen so everyone was happy.

This raises a fundamental issue what responsibility event organisers have.

  • Why should you make an event accessible?
  • What makes an event accessible?
  • How do you include people (both Disabled and Deaf)?
  • Do you make it fully accessible or exclude some people because you do not have the funds?

I say do it right from the start – no excuses. The Disability Discrimination Act has been in force since 1995. Put your house in order. Do what it takes. Challenge the funders.

We (Disabled and Deaf people) have enough discrimination in our lives every day without disabled and deaf organisations doing it to themselves and our own communities.

Do you want to be sued under the DDA? Believe me, I am thinking of using it!

The DDA aims to end discrimination that many Disabled and Deaf face. It is unlawful for businesses and organisations to treat disabled people less favourably than other people for a reason related to their disability.

So can a Sign Language Interpreter (SLI) can earn £45,000 – £91,000 a year?

The problem with booking SLIs is the fact they are so expensive. I agree £600 for 2 SLIs for a one day event is alot. But SLIs can charge what they like (anything from £25-£50 an hour, even more). SLI’s and booking agencies also charge a minimum call out fee of 2 hours even if the meeting/event is only an hour long (3 hour fees or more at weekends / evenings). You also face a cancellation fee too.

So this means SLIs are potentially making between £45,000 – £91,000 a year out of us Deaf people (based on earning anything between £25 -£50/hour a day (7 hours) based on a 5 day week.

Bearing in mind the extended cost of studying to be an interpreter and the professionalism involved I agree a professional rate has to be paid.

However Signature (previously known as CACDP) and ASLI abolished their guidelines around pricing (convenient eh?). Now it is a free for all and the casualties are the likes of me and other Deaf people who depend on interpreters as a main means of communicating in the hearing world along with cash strapped voluntary organisations.

Should I be surprised that event organisers are ignoring the needs of Deaf people?

Please note: if the figures I quote above are wrong I will correct and retract this immediately.

So, what do we do?

Lots. I’m going to focus on one of many things:

Obtain proper funding is crucial for access and inclusion. Funders need to address this as part of their application criteria and make it part of the guidelines. If it means less projects are funded as a consequence then maybe that is not a bad thing.

Arts Council England already does this. Disabled and Deaf access costs are included as part of  their Grants for Arts guidelines ( see example budgets) and the costs are accounted separately in the the proposal. However it focuses on individual artist costs rather than organisations event costs for audiences.  Applicants are not obliged as part of the funding criteria to make their events accessible. Capital grants funded under National Lottery scheme do.

ACE will pay for someone to write a bid on behalf of a Disabled or Deaf person if they are unable to do so. I know having been paid to write  the funding bids  for other disabled artists. Do any other funders do the same?

On that note did you know:

Annually Disabled & Deaf people contribute over £50 billion to the economy?

15% of the population could be defined as being disabled under the DDA

Thank you Virgin Trains


Dear Virgin Trains,

Thank you for your brilliant response to Pesky People’s complaints and blog about my nightmare journey back from Glasgow. Thank you for your effort to compensate my experience – unexpected and very much appreciated.

Richard Branson didn’t respond in person but …

Friday morning brought a delivery;I thought it was my wee nephews Xmas presants bought online. WRONG.

I took pictures. Technology fails me. I cannot get them uploaded into this blog. You get a description instead:

Two boxes, in living room, one with air vents waist high, other smaller. I’m dressed to walk the dogs, I’m a mess with hedgehog hair.  It’s 8am. I’m puzzled (they don’t look like remote control vehicles with inbuilt helecopters). Tequila the cat is very curious. As always he inspects.

I’m told a helpful suggestion: ‘That contains wine’. The other ‘flowers’. They did (nearly missed the wee box of Champaign truffles hiding in the straw in an elegant white bag tied with a white bow). The flowers are huge and elegant full of woodland flowers including thistle like ones (I can grow veg but don’t know flowers except Daffodils and Scottish thistles).

The truffles fantastic. The red wine is for tomorrow night. The gifts are lovely.

It made my day – from feeling so crappy of late.

That was not all:

From Customer Services I also received:

  • an apology and promise to take on board my complaints as well as further discussion
  • an offer to refund my ticket (£69.85)
  • 2 first class return tickets for two on their service

Richard Baker, General Manager for Virgin Trains (Liverpool, N Wales & Chester) put the stops out. He took up my tweet complaints and blog. Lots of emails back and forth.

Richard put me directly in touch with Gary Iddon, General Manager for Virgin Trains Midlands area (based at Wolverhampton). Gary has agreed  to meet me again to discuss access issues and I look forward to it. I was also upgraded me to first class on my last journey back to Glasgow on 5th November. It was wonderful; free Wifi, Earl Grey tea on tap and a peaceful journey – yes I did tweet! Arrived at Glasgow Central only 5 mins late.

Thank you Virgin Trains. you completely put the stops out in response. It is very much appreciated.

I’ve been travelling on trains since I was 11 years old, (by myself). Started with winter journeys  to Ayr from Glasgow for school and in summer from Arbroath (where Robert the Bruce signed the Declaration of Independence for Scotland). I have many tales to tell.

Update: Virgin trains misery


Following my last post about my  Virgin train misery and tweets flying around @virgintrains on twitter. It has achieved some short term results – whilst I travel back up to Glasgow today.

  • Richard Baker General Manager for Virgin Trains Liverpool, North Wales & Chester to London routes arranged for me to meet Gary Iddon, General Manager of Wolverhampton Station. It was brief but we will meet again to discuss disability access on their rail line;
  • I’m sitting in First Class –  upgraded for the outward journey thanks to Richard Baker. It has made my return back home to Glasgow a lot more pleasant (which would have cost £104 return – £35 more than the standard ticket I bought (that also includes a 1/3 off with my Disabled Rail card).
  • Virgin Train Customer Services Senior Manager are also investigating my complaints regarding Sunday’s nightmare journey.

Do you have any suggestions to put to Virgin Trains? I think we feel we do not have opportunities often to engage with corporate companies like this.

As a Deaf person mine is good accessibility at all times especially during train chaos. Updates via text / notices /twitter messages so I do not have to ask people sitting by me whilst travelling (make use of those hash tags on twitter) and more Disability /Deaf awareness training for staff. Oh and first class travel every time.

What’s your wish?