Saturday, May 23, 2009


When I started work, okay, I was on minimum wage, but I had something that Steve and his high-flying techie friends didn't have. An office kitchen with a "help yourself" policy. While none of the people with 'proper' jobs were really about to take an 80% pay cut and relinquish their daytime internet access just for free tea, coffee, and biscuits, it did make me feel a little bit better. I had a Perk. I didn't have to drink hot coloured water from a plastic cup and pretend it was tea, and I never had to thump a vending machine which had eaten my last twenty pence piece but not dispensed my goodies. No tokens, no cards, no forms, no systems, no unspoken implication that given half a chance the employees would undermine the entire company with our gluttony... just a decent cuppa and a biscuit whenever I felt I wanted one. It must not be underrated.

Then the unthinkable happened. A couple of people went on diets, and the person who had been the most influential in keeping the biscuit cupboard stocked left for another job. I would go to the cupboard and find no biscuits - or worse, I would find half a packet of Custard Creams, which I detest. For the last few months, I've been taking my own snack in my handbag, which isn't a problem, but I did miss my mid-afternoon Perk of biscuitty goodness.

But yesterday! I don't know what compelled me to look in the cupboard, but I did, and lo, there was half a packet of Custard Creams, and... a pristine, unopened packed of chocolate digestives. Dark chocolate digestives. My favourite.

Could be it's the drugs talking - I am having a bit of a time of it and taking more than I otherwise would this week - but that packet of biscuits filled my heart with joy. I suddenly felt a lot more positive about all sorts of things.

Friday, May 15, 2009

eBay Ettiquette

For some reason I decided I was going to look at clothes on eBay last weekend. I don't especially need any new clothes, but I felt it wouldn't hurt to put on a few bids well within my "affordable" range. I searched specifically for brands where I already know what size will fit me, but that I can't normally afford to buy new.

On Monday, I won Top#1, a strappy party top which set me back £10 (plus £2 for p&P). I received the standard automated emails from eBay, paid with PayPal, and today, Friday, it dropped through my letterbox, safe and sound in a durable envelope.

So far so good. Except...

On Tuesday night, I won Top#2, which is an asymmetric 'everyday' kind of top and cost me £1.49 (plus £2.16 for p&p including recorded delivery). In addition to the standard automated emails, the seller sent a message to let me know she had posted the item and telling me the Tracking Number. Yesterday, Thursday, the package arrived. I opened the sensible waterproof envelope and pulled out the contents - but instead of cotton in my hands, there was paper. Neatly folded soft grey tissue paper, secured in three places with three tiny little shiny stickers. I actually wondered if maybe it wasn't an eBay purchase but a present! I undid the stickers and unwrapped it to find my new top, carefully pressed and folded and with a faint but pleasant smell.

Obviously I got straight on the computer to give the seller of Top#2 maximum positive feedback and also to send a thank you email.

But now I feel uneasy about feedback for Top#1. I mean, there was nothing wrong with that transaction, I don't have any complaints about it at all, I'd happily shop with them again. But then there's the Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs).

As well as going 'above and beyond' in terms of presentation, the seller of Top#2 was clearly better than the seller of Top#1 in three of the DSR categories - communication (they told me when they had posted the top), dispatch time (the top arrived less than 48 hours after the auction closed), and postage and packaging charges (charged almost exactly the same, but for a superior signed-for postal service, and nicer packaging).

So, having joyfully given the really-made-one-hell-of-an-effort seller of Top#2 a perfect DSR of 5-5-5-5 on Thursday, can I really, on Friday, give the entirely-acceptable-but-nothing-special seller of Top#1 an identical perfect score?

But if I don't, am I being unfair to the seller of Top#1? According to eBay's Help pages, sellers who subscribe to Shops:
"... will be required to maintain the following minimum 12-month average DSR scores in each of the four areas:

  • For a Featured Shop, maintain a DSR score of 4.4 or above

  • For an Anchor Shop, maintain a DSR score of 4.6 or above

Note: Failure to maintain these requirements will affect your Shops subscription, and you could be downgraded to a lower Shop tier with a different fee structure."

It's not like the seller of Top#1 has "failed" to provide an acceptable standard of service, and they shouldn't get downgraded just because I want to differentiate between 'good' and 'great' service.

Any eBay sellers want to give me their input?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Isn't this nice?

Things are ticking over really well at the moment.

The main Thing I want to tell the world about is something I've wanted to say for a couple of months now but haven't dared in case it turned out to be temporary. But it's looking more and more permanent, so here we go: I am no longer actively seeking different employment.

The reason for this is that my role at work has been sort of shuffled. In a good way. The company I work for are doing really quite well at the moment, so we have a lot of orders being placed, lots of stock coming in and packages going out. The 'role creep' kind of started with an increase in the number of packages that had to be sent Signed For or Special Delivery, so instead of spending five minutes a day sitting in the office carefully writing addresses into books and putting barcode stickers onto packages, it was more like half an hour or so. Then we got an arrangement with ParcelForce for the increased numbers of high-value overseas packages, and of course such packages often require more detailed customs declarations than a single CD does, as well as the information having to be correctly entered into the online system. From there it was a short step to assigning me other "office based" tasks - the increased volume of orders and stock throughput means there's a lot more admin to be done and much of it doesn't require a knowledge of classical music, just a reasonable ability with computers and some basic admin skills, which I've already got.

Which brought me to a stage where, of my average four and a half hour working day, I spend about one hour doing ParcelForce and Signed For packages, two hours doing other admin tasks in the office, one hour helping pick and pack CDs in the Despatch room, and half an hour sorting out the documentation for the mail sacks to be collected by Royal Mail at the end of each day. I have a variety of tasks, some more challenging than others, all of which I am capable of performing, and some of which I quite enjoy (for a given value of workplace enjoyment). I am working for a company who took me on as a disabled person (but not because I was a disabled person) and have been 100% supportive of my needs for the eighteen months I've been there. I get to use my brain and yet I also get to wear jeans and trainers to work.

I was applying for other jobs because nice as the company was I didn't want to spend the rest of my life mindlessly putting CDs in boxes. Now it appears I've won the best of both worlds.

And then, cherry on the cake...

One of my regular tasks is to deal with "deletions". This is when a customer orders a CD that we don't have in stock, so we ask a record label supplier to send us a copy, and then they tell us that the title has been deleted from their catalogue and they don't have any copies left. My job is then to remove the deleted title from our system, remove the deleted title from the customer's order, refund the customer's credit card, and email the customer to apologise and explain what has happened. It's a disappointing email. Which is why I find it surprising that a healthy proportion of customers actually bother to email back. Not in a ranty way either, just along the lines of "okay, thanks for letting me know," which for some reason makes me feel really happy - I think it's simply the idea that people have been bothered to be so polite.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

BADD 2009 Roundup

Phew. As Blogging Against Disablism Day gets bigger, it gets harder to keep on top of it. There have been some 200 entries this year, all of which can be found here. I've read about 120 of them since yesterday morning and now I can take no more. I will make the effort to read the others over the next week or so, but the intensive effort has to stop now.

For those of you who, for some strange reason, don't want to turn your eyeballs inside out and spend your entire Bank Holiday Weekend reading 200 posts about disablism, I decided to do like I did last year and post a rather more easily-digestible handful of my favourite BADD posts.

Remember, I haven't read all the posts yet and this is my top five percent of the posts that I have read, so if yours isn't in there, please don't take it as any kind of slight... oh, and it doesn't include posts from the half-dozen or so BADD bloggers who I consider "friends" because I felt that might be somewhat biased.

Laura at Gin & Comment: "Mainstream" schooling and disablism. A peripatetic English teacher in Japan writes about the different ways schoolchildren respond to disability when different approaches to integrated schooling are applied.

Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town: Can I have a seat? Discusses practical access issues in and around shops and services, and the issues involved in trying to explain access needs that go beyond having a ramp somewhere.

Dora Raymaker at Autism - Just Because I'm Quiet Doesn't Mean I Don't Understand. Required reading for those who assume that just because a person can't communicate verbally (or at all) and/or "looks disabled", it therefore means they can't understand what you are saying about them.

RachelCreative: When My Disability Is Invisible raises the problem of assumptions in the other direction - people assuming that you can do what they are demanding of you and that your requests for help or adjustments are merely contrariness that can be safely ignored. This post is accompanied by some of Rachel's own wonderful disability artwork.

Sanabitur Anima Mea: Mild and Severe disability. About dependence, interdependence, and 'degrees' of disability. As the writer says: "I don’t believe there’s anyone out there who has the special magical amount of severity which is enough to get your needs taken seriously but not so much you get considered worthless."

Astrid at Astrid's Journal: BADD Behavior: Disablism in Psychiatry. Raising the point that some behaviours considered undesirable by mental health professionals may not be a symptom of the patient's condition, but might be a sane and understandable response to the (wilful or incidental) dehumanising treatment imposed on patients by those professionals for their own convenience.

Tony at Cynical Chatter From The Underworld: Fear and Loathing in the UK. Cynical indeed, a dark post about the negative portrayal and poor treatment of disabled people in our society, and the lack of meaningful protections against the consequences of this.

Enjoy. I'm going to go remind myself what natural light is all about.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Well-meaning Insults

For Blogging Against Disablism Day 2009.

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2009

On April 13th, I posted to alert my readers to the annual Blogging Against Disablism Day event. I was umm-ing and aah-ing over what particular topic I should write about - and then, like a gift from the gods, came this comment:

hi mary--
have been reading your blog for a bit, & this is sort of a response to your wanting to have a kid with steve.

it makes me sad to read your struggles, but i would beg you to leave that idea (or even adoption or fostering behind.)

how on earth could you take care of a child when you spend most of your time seriously broken? you seem like a lovely person & to put a child in that position would be cruel no matter how much you craved being a mommy.

please be careful, stay on birth control & accept that your fate is to not be able to go down a maternal road.

best to you. sandy

My first thought was to write a blogpost (or fifty) explaining exactly how Steve and I intend to deal with some of the challenges posed by parenthood, the potential solutions we've discussed about logistics, equipment, safety, human support and so on. But why? This isn't a parenting blog, and until such time as Steve and I decide to take active steps to make a family, there's no good reason for it to become one. Justifying my life choices to internet strangers seems like a poor way to spend my time and energy.

That's when I started to become angry. Of all the topics covered on my blog, from knitting to job interviews, from Social Services to fun days out, how is it that a stranger feels the need to "respond" solely to the idea of Steve and I having a family together - an issue last mentioned several months previously and in the context of a 99 things blog meme?

Simple answer: Disablism.

This wasn't a personal attack on me, or even a well-meant but blundering remark on my life as an individual. It had very little to do with Mary, Batsgirl, aged 27 and living with a boyfriend and a robot vacuum cleaner.

Sandy wasn't thinking about my personal capabilities, or my personal circumstances, or my personal motivations - how could she? I'm hardly the world's most regular blogger and only a fraction of my life is displayed on here. She was writing about a stereotype of a disabled person, or as she put it, someone "seriously broken". When that stereotype was challenged by my offhand mention of a one-day ambition to have a family, she was so shocked by it that she felt the need to "beg" me not to do it.

Sandy was assuming that, as a couple which includes a disabled person, Steve and I would be unable to raise a child.

Sandy was assuming that Steve and I would be unable to consider our own circumstances and resources and make a sensible decision for ourselves, and that it was therefore perfectly okay for her to tell us what we should and should not do with our lives.

Sandy asked "how on earth could you take care of a child?" as a rhetorical question - she wasn't interested in waiting for (let alone listening to) any response before moving straight on to dictating my "fate" because she had already made up her mind that a disabled person such as myself cannot take care of a child.

Sandy cannot open her mind enough to consider that a child who has a disabled parent could be happy, comfortable, loved and well looked after. She considers disabled parents to be "cruel" for inflicting their horrible crippled selves on an innocent kiddie. I suspect she's thinking of the telethon image of a melancholy 'young carer' gazing soulfully out of the window and begging for their childhood back. This article by Lucy Scholl offers a different perspective, as does this one by Laurence Clark.

Sandy was writing about her own prejudices, her own unsubstantiated views, and her own baseless assumptions. Sandy was writing about her fears, her closed-mindedness, and her negative mental picture of disabled people - and then superimposing all that onto me to pre-emptively accuse me of child abuse.

That's disablism.

What's encouraging, though, is that the tide is turning. After responding to Sandy's horrendous comment, I tweeted about how gobsmacked I was, and within minutes support was arriving in the form of blog comments, tweets, emails and suchlike, much of it from friends who aren't politically- or disability-minded. More and more 'ordinary people' are becoming more and more accepting of the idea that a disabled person is every bit as much a person as one who is not yet disabled. As a civilisation we have a lot of that journey still ahead of us, but I take heart from the knowledge that significant steps have been and will continue to be made.