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OK Theresa and Jeremy and Tim and Nicola and Leanne and all the other pavement walking, door knocking, Manifesto-pledging Parliamentary candidates currently pounding our Nations’ streets, I have some questions for you. And, as a disabled person, I’m pretty sure there are many others from my community who have questions for you too. Why are you not speaking to us? Don’t we count? Don’t our votes matter to you? I hope not.

What I want to know, exactly, is what the political big-wigs and hard-hitters and movers and shakers in this country can offer to us? What promises can you give to all of us. What promises or pledges will you make to us? According to all the statistics I have been able to find, there are around 12-13 million disabled people in this country, what are you going to do to our lives any better for us? Are you totally disregarding the collective power and magnitude of disabled people’s votes and the votes of our families and friends? I hope not. Do you really think you can continue to either demonise us or watch others doing the demonising without us noticing? I hope not. Are you going to continue putting our needs to the back of the queue? I hope not. Are you going to go on ignoring us? I hope not.

Well, here are my questions at any rate.

We are told that Social care in this country is in crisis. That there is not enough money to pay home-carers and unpaid carers a decent wage or benefit that reflects what they do to support and enable us. What are you going to do about it? We are the net users of that care, what are you planning on doing to alleviate the situation and ensure that we get the care we want and need to allow us to live our lives to the full?

What are you going to do?

Many of us need to use aids and adaptations in our daily lives such as hoists and wheelchairs and hearing aids and aids for people with visual impairments. What are you going to do so that we can all get the best equipment we need to live without having to fight for every nut, bolt, screw, , plug, cable and electronic component?

What are you going to do?

Then there is the constant battle to find a home, a place to live which can cater for our access needs and accommodate us properly and in comfort. It’s often one of the greatest obstacles we face but one where we appear to get little or no help in getting what we need. What are you going to do to ensure that there are houses and flats and bungalows available which allow us to live in the community with our families, alongside our friends and neighbours without having to fight for funding for alterations and adaptations?

What are you going to do?

How are you proposing that your party will ensure that disabled children and young people can receive the education they need and deserve alongside their non-disabled compatriots? How are you going to try to ensure that they can all study together and not be segregated due to an impairment meaning the school or college is physically inaccessible for all?

What are you going to do?

Everyone falls sick at some point in their lifetime, what are you going to do to ensure that everyone can access the healthcare we all need and not find it being rationed according to how much we need it and how expensive it is? How are you going to give us access to the doctors and specialists and the nursing professionals we need in our hospitals? Are you going to ensure that these professionals receive salaries that reflect their skills and dedication? Are you going to make sure that they have working conditions such as hours and breaks that allow them to do their jobs to the best of their ability and not want to leave?

What are you going to do.

Then there the employment thing. We are told that everyone must work and get a job. What are you going to do to ensure that disabled people who can work get the support they need to do so safely and successfully and that those that can’t work due to their impairments are not demonised and punished for daring to be sick and disabled. Many of us would like to have the opportunity to do something, however small, what are you going to do to help us? How are you going to promote disability in the workplace so that those of us who can work and want to work get the support we need and the opportunity to do so?

What are you going to do?

Talk to us and tell us how you are going to help and support us. Why should we vote for you and your party as opposed to the other parties and their candidates? What are you going to do that will make a difference for us? Don’t write off 13 million potential voters. Please talk to us and tell us what you’re going to do to help us. If you want my vote give me a reason to put my cross next to your name on the ballot paper. What difference are you going to make to my life? Why should I vote for you, please tell me.

What are you going to do?

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I am absolutely furious with my Housing Association, London and Quadrant Housing Trust.

I have been a tenant of theirs for almost 30 years now and they KNOW about my impairment and the fact that I am now restricted to bed 24/7. It’s on my record. Yet the way I have been treated by their employees today has been disgusting.

Let me explain.

This morning, when my carer arrived, we discovered that there was no hot water in the tank and that the heating was off. Once my carer had managed to deal with everything that needed doing – she had to boil a kettle so she could help me wash – I set about ringing to get someone round to deal with the situation.

And that is when my problems really started.

The first thing that happened was that I encountered a recorded message on the direct dial maintenance line phone. It informed me that, as it was the weekend, the Maintenance Department was now closed until Monday morning and that I should phone back then, during office hours. Not good. A long weekend of freezing to death loomed large. No thanks!

Nothing daunted I decided to search online until I could find another number with a human being to talk to at the other end of the line as I was certain there must be an Emergency, 24 hour number I could call listed somewhere. Sure enough, I eventually managed to find one for the L&Q Head Office and, when I rang that, I was immediately put through to their Emergency Maintenance Department. It was now around 11.30 am.  

The woman I spoke to took my details and, once I’d explained about being severely disabled and restricted to bed, said that she would call the boiler engineering firm they used and that someone would be round before 4pm. Sorted. Re-assured that everything would get dealt with relatively quickly, I settled back to wait for a knock on the door and the promise of warmth once more.

But, even though the minutes and hours ticked slowly and icily past, nothing happened.

Nothing at all.

Finally, at about 4.45pm, fed up and freezing, I rang the same number I’d found this morning once more. This time I got a different receptionist who, once she had taken my details, looked me up on her computer and told me there was no record of my call from this morning noted at all! Not a word. As a result, no engineers had been contacted and no-one was coming.

Yet again I explained the situation and my circumstances and the fact I was freezing and that’s when she said something that infuriated me. Despite the fact I had told her, only minutes beforehand, that I was restricted to bed due to my impairment and unable to get up or walk or go out at all she told me there was nothing she could do before Monday and that, if I was cold, I should go out, buy a heater and boil a kettle if I needed hot water.

Just what part of ‘Paralysed’, ‘Restricted to bed’, ‘Severely disabled’ and ‘Unable to walk or to move about’ is so difficult to understand?

After huffing and puffing and coming very close to bursting into tears of frustration I went through it all again and, finally, she said she’d phone the engineers and ask them to ring me and tell me when they’d be round.

And then she hung up on me!

Four hours later, engineers conspicuous by their absence, I have just finished my third call of the day to the, so-called, Emergency Maintenance Line and, yet again, I have been promised that someone will be out tonight and that I will be getting a call from the Engineers themselves to tell me when the visit will be.

It’s not looking promising and I am disgusted by the way I have been treated. If nothing hapens soon I have a pretty good idea what I’ll be doing tomorrow, and it won’t be shivering silently in a corner. 

London and Quadrant maybe a Social Housing firm but, as I’ve learnt today, if you’re severely disabled and have an urgent issue that needs fixing, ‘Don’t hold your breath’.

Well, that’s interesting.

I am a Housing Association tenant and I have just received my quarterly residents magazine from the HA and I think I am being discriminated against.

Not me personally but me as a disabled person.

Apparently my area is a test area for Housing Association tenants who want to buy their own home under the Government’s much-trumpeted new ‘Right to Buy’ scheme. Now, I am not actually interested in buying, I am more than happy to go on renting, but I thought I’d read the article anyway just to see what was being proposed.

That’s when I found that I am not eligible, despite living in a pilot area.

Why, I hear you ask.

The reason, as usual, is simple. My impairment. The fact that I am severely disabled is proving to be a barrier once again. According to the article, some types of home and tenancies are not included in the pilot, including homes like mine that have had adaptations made to cater for a disabled or older person’s particular, disability related needs.

Now, that smacks of discrimination to me. The article is saying that, if the Housing Association had not made some adaptations because of my impairment nearly twenty years ago, I would now have the right to buy my house, should I want to. Because of those adaptations it appears I don’t have that right.

Now, I am happy to acknowledge that, before we moved into the house, the Housing Association made extensive adaptations such as wider doorways, a wheelchair accessible bathroom and moving the front doorway to accommodate ramped entry to the property. Those adaptations were done using a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) from my local Council. When we were discussing this with the Housing Association, back in 1997, we agreed that we would live in the house and pay rent for a minimum of ten years. We have done this. We have now lived in the property and paid our rent for sixteen years. We have abided by our agreement.

So, why does this mean that, should I wish to buy my home the way the Government wants me to, I can’t. My impairment prevents me from doing so many things, am I now to be prevented from becoming a home-owner because of it? That’s what it sounds like to me. Most people on my estate will be able to buy if they want to, disabled and older people who have had adaptations done, like me,  won’t. That doesn’t sound very fair to me.

I suspect that the issue actually surrounds the scarcity of accessible and adapted properties amongst the social housing stock in the pilot areas but that is not disabled people’s fault. That is the fault of the Housing Associations and, ultimately, successive Governments, for not building enough suitable homes for all the people who may need them. Why should disabled people miss out on a opportunity that is to be granted to so many other people? Why should we be left out in this great rush into home ownership? People with Housing Association homes that have not been adapted will be able to benefit from grants and discounts if they want to buy the property they have lived in for many years but not me or other disabled or older people. If we want to buy a house, we must buy on the open market without a grant or discount. We would have to pay more that a non disabled person buying a similar Housing Association home. That doesn’t sound very fair to me.

If I had the money, the time and the inclination to do it, I might consider instructing solicitors to take this matter to court as the discrimination issue it surely must be. People with adapted properties are not able to buy their homes and people with adapted homes are either older people, disabled people themselves or have a disabled person living in the property such as a disabled child and we are precluded because of this.

How much more blatant does discrimination have to be? As far as I am concerned, not very.    

I am absolutely fuming. Steam coming out of my ears, effing and blinding fuming.

Why? I hear you ask.

OK, bear with me. Here’s the situation for you.

My Housing Association, the one I have rented a home from since 1987, has been doing big renovations works to all the houses they own in my estate. They have been ripping out and replacing all the kitchens and bathrooms with nice new shiny ones. I live in one of the properties which was due to have this much needed work done. Over the past few weeks we have had designers and tenant liaison officers and surveyors traipsing around the house doing everything that needed to be done before the work could commence. My daughters and their friends have spent many hours packing and clearing all our goods and chattels from the rooms where the work was going to happen and storing them in nooks and crannies upstairs. My ex-partner has, very helpfully, come from the other side of London and taken mountains of rubbish to the tip for us. My carers have done their best, without complaint, to work around the amount of kitchen equipment that has had to be put been put in the room where I sleep and spend my days.

After much planning and faffing the contractors started my new kitchen last week and a lot of fuss, noise and dust it has been so far but, it’s being done.

Now, every other tenant who has had this work done has had both rooms dealt with at the same time but, due to my disabilities, they decided they would deal with my kitchen first and then do my bathroom as soon as the kitchen was finished. I was then told that, because we have Christmas happening, my bathroom would be done after Christmas.

So far so good…

I have now been told, unofficially, that the renovations contract is coming to an end early and, whilst the kitchen work is OK, because the bathroom hasn’t been started yet, it’s not going to happen at all. I am so angry.

There is a very good reason why the bathroom hasn’t been started yet. The fact that I am a disabled person with care needs so it was decided that dealing with two rooms at once would be too disruptive. In other words, if I hadn’t been disabled and it had been possible to do both rooms at the same time, the way the Housing Association has done for other tenants, then the bathroom would have happened. They are saying that due to the reasonable adjustment that they made for me by doing the two rooms one after the other because of my disability, I now won’t get the bathroom done at all. In my opinion, this can’t be right. In my opinion this is this disability discrimination and I am absolutely furious.

There is a lot of repair work that will still need to be done in there anyway which would have been dealt with in the bathroom refit that is now not going to happen. The skirting and pipework boxing was ripped out by workmen ten years ago so they could repair damaged pipework. The workmen never came back to sort it out. This would have been repaired in the new bathroom. We had a  new combination bidet and toilet installed two years ago when the old one broke. It has never been commissioned so the bidet part has never worked. It would have been commissioned for the new bathroom. Our current bathroom, which was put in especially for me, is not a wet room which means I have been unable to have a shower since I came home from hospital in February and have had to make do with bed baths instead. My new bathroom would have been a wet room. The tiles are all coming off the walls due to some major cracks that need dealing with and new tiles need to be put up. The new bathroom would have meant the cracks were filled and new tiles were put up. I am now told that, due to my disability, none of this will happen. All this work will still need to be done but, when is anyone’s guess.

I am not going to let this rest. I refuse to go down without a fight. My half-done kitchen looks as if it will be beautiful, I want my promised and much anticipated bathroom too. I want the pipework boxing in. I want proper skirting boards. I want no cracks in the walls. I want tiles that don’t keep falling off. I want a toilet and bidet that works. I want a proper wetroom. If my Housing Association try to fob me off I will be looking for a legal representation and I will be taking this further. Why should I, just because of my impairment, get left out. I’m sorry but it’s just not happening, you’re messing with the wrong girl.