Help HMRC to help us

One of my roles (when I’m not  running my business www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk or Baking Blind www.bakingblind.com) is trying to advise  HMRC on making services more accessible.

They are currently looking for self-employed people or business owners who are registered for VAT and who use adaptive software (for example, screen magnification or a screen reader) and who handle their own tax affairs.

They are seeking willing volunteers who will assist HMRC in improving  the experience of users with access needs.

There are two parts to the VAT service:

  • The ‘Sign Up’ journey, which involves basically signing up for the service, and
  • The ‘View and Change’ part, where users can update their details and make VAT payments, etc.

To help them evaluate this service to the customer, the team are looking to recruit assistance from two user groups:

  • Accountants who represent business owners, and deal with tax affairs on behalf of their clients.

( The team are very eager to recruit access needs users who are accountants and although they estimate the low possibility of this, it would be extremely beneficial to their work.)

  • Unrepresented users who are dealing with their tax affairs themselves.

(The team hope that unrepresented users would be easier to recruit, although these users must be customers that actually run a business and deal with their tax affairs themselves, but also have access needs and need the use of assistive technology to perform digital tasks.)

In terms of the actual research the team would conduct, they would be looking to organise face to face sessions with users, which would allow them to use their assistive technology to perform the tasks the team would assign.

The structure of the session would follow the pattern of providing the users with a scenario, which will be similar to their actual situation, and then give them a task to complete. So, for example, the ‘Sign Up’ task would simply be for the user to sign up to the service, whereas the ‘View and Change’ task would have a couple of different parts to it, which could be something such as changing a phone number or making a payment.

Matty, who works for Capgemini, would be pleased to assist any potential users by discussing further explanations and requirements with any interested parties.

If any customers are willing to assist or have any questions regarding this research, please contact Matty O’Carroll direct :

Matty O’Carroll | User Researcher | Customer Strategy & Tax Design | 07944 187124 | matthew.ocarroll@digital.hmrc.gov.uk

 

Get nominating!

 

I’m very honoured to be judging the “Inclusion“ category award in this prestigious BBC event.  There are six other categories too.  I’m sure that many of you will know someone who perfectly fits the bill.  Please do take the time to put them forward.

BBC Radio Solent announces the launch of their Community Heroes awards.

In a year where the station will celebrate its 50th anniversary on December 31, BBC Radio Solent is reaching out to the heart of its communities, showcasing the people, their stories and the work that goes on across the region.

The awards aim to recognise unsung heroes across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight, celebrating individuals and groups who go the extra mile to make their community a better place to live and work in.

Head Judge, Managing Editor Sarah Miller, comments, “We’ve been at the heart of communities for five decades so it felt like the perfect time for the station to celebrate some of the work carried out every day by people in the South. Solent has always been a station that cares about the community, running campaigns that are about improving people’s lives and showcasing the amazing work that happens in the south.

“It’s the perfect chance for communities to come together and nominate their local hero! I’m looking forward to reading the nominees’ stories, whether it’s about someone’s bravery, companionship or kindness. I know the strongest stories will make powerful listening on BBC Radio Solent.”

There are seven categories to choose from, including Volunteer, Young Achiever and Coastal. Portsmouth sailor and fellow judge, Geoff Holt, who was awarded an MBE for services to disabled sailing, said “On a daily basis I see amazing people doing amazing things to help others. So often these people give their time and commitment to others asking nothing in return, these are the unsung heroes within our community. I would encourage people to nominate their Community Hero so we can learn and share the work of these amazing people.”

The seven categories are as follows:

Young Achiever – Awarded to anyone aged 18 or under, who has demonstrated maturity beyond their years.

Coastal – someone who gives their time, energy & passion into making our coastline a better place, whether by marine conservation, protecting the environment, education or saving lives.

Services – Presented to a member of the emergency services or the armed forces for commitment to their profession.

Carer – Someone who cares for an individual or group of people on a regular basis.

Good Neighbour – Awarded to an individual or organisation that helps make the neighbourhood & local community a better place to live or work, either on a regular basis or through a single act of kindness or courage.

Inclusion – an individual or group who strives to break down barriers, enforce positive messages, reach out to minority groups and bring people together.

Volunteer – Awarded to a person or group who gives up their time voluntarily to help others, perhaps contributing to local sporting life, helping out at a local charity or good cause.

The BBC Radio Solent Outstanding Achievement Award – a winner from the above categories will be picked as our overall Hero.

Head to bbc.co.uk/solent for the terms, privacy notice and details on how to nominate; the closing date for entries is midnight on March 1st.

 

Best wishes

 

Penny

Tel: +44 (0)1329 841814

 

Disabilitydynamics.co.uk

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Director Disability Dynamics: Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Registered in England and Wales Registration No: 04058702

Registered address: Laylands House, 25 Catisfield Road, Fareham, Hampshire, PO15 5LP

 

 

 

 

Know an ambitious blind person?

 

If I can win, anyone can!  This international prize was the key impetus behind my Baking Blind world tour www.bakingblind.com and the videos  demonstrating that blindness or any other disability needn’t hold anyone back. https://youtu.be/5zDdbTdWulM

Now is the time for anyone else who wants that vital boost to their ambitions to step forward and grab this opportunity with both hands.  And, if I can help with any advice, I’d be delighted so please get in touch.

Here’s the information about the 2020 prize:

Watch this 2-minute video. Click here: WHY YOU SHOULD APPLY FOR THE 2020 HOLMAN PRIZE.

The 2020  Holman Prize for Blind Ambition is requesting applications through March 15.

Now in its 4th year, the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco’s Holman Prize for Blind Ambition is an international competition that is awarded annually to three blind individuals who wish to push their limits. It is named for James Holman, a nineteenth century blind explorer, who was the most prolific traveller before the era of modern transport. Each winner will receive up to $25,000 to support their adventure. From traversing the Bosporus Straight via solo kayak, to hosting the first conference in Mexico for blind children and their families led by blind professionals, to creating an app to enable blind citizen scientists to participate in the search for exoplanets by listening to space, our nine winners so far (hailing from five countries on four continents), have each found unique ways to forever change the world’s perception of blindness.

A big idea, a quick application form and a 90-second pitch video are all that is needed to apply. For inspiration, here is the YouTube Playlist of 2019 Holman Prize Finalists.

 

LightHouse is welcoming applications until March 15, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Applications and information are available here: holmanprize.org/applyIf you have any questions, please contact us at holman@lighthouse-sf.org.

 

Champion community spirit

Start your New Year by celebrating someone who makes a difference to our local lives: the BBC Radio Solent  Community Heroes Awards  https://www.bbc.co.uk/radiosolent.

I’m honoured to have been asked to judge one of the awards (Inclusion) but also wanted lots of other local people to be featured too.  Who do you know who has given years of unsung community service; who has changed lives or attitudes; who makes the lives of others better and happier?

All of you would fit one of the categories or know someone who does – so please get nominations in.  It would be wonderful to see some familiar faces at the dinner please.

Here are the details of the awards and nomination process:

There are seven categories as follows:

Young Achiever – Awarded to anyone aged 18 or under, who has demonstrated maturity beyond their years.

Coastal – someone who gives their time, energy & passion into making our coastline a better place, whether by marine conservation, protecting the environment, education or saving lives.

Services – Presented to a member of the emergency services or the armed forces for commitment to their profession.

Carer – Someone who cares for an individual or group of people on a regular basis.

Good Neighbour – Awarded to an individual or organisation that helps make the neighbourhood & local community a better place to live or work, either on a regular basis or through a single act of kindness or courage.

Inclusion – an individual or group who strives to break down barriers, enforce positive messages, reach out to minority groups and bring people together.

Volunteer – Awarded to a person or group who gives up their time voluntarily to help others, perhaps contributing to local sporting life, helping at a local charity or good cause.

PLUS

The BBC Radio Solent Outstanding Achievement Award – a winner from the above categories will be picked as our overall Hero.

Nomination Details:

  • Must be over 18 to nominate someone.
  • Must have the nominee’s permission to put them forward for an award.
  • The deadline for nominations is midnight on Sunday 1st March 2020.
  • The shortlisted candidates will be announced on Friday 13thMarch
  • The Awards Dinner will be on Monday 30thMarch 2020 at Carey’s Manor in Brockenhurst   – hosted in partnership with student chefs from Brockenhurst College.

 

 

Happy Christmas from Baking BLind

Greetings for your Christmas festivities as I celebrate an amazing three years of these blogs and videoshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xHayRrW9XM&feature=youtu.be

It’s difficult to believe everything that has happened since those very first Christmas cakes in 2016, captured by my brother Martin.  Soon after, my nephew Toby took over as videographer and, within months, we were competing for the Holman prize run by San Francisco’s LightHouse organisation for blind people.     There was stiff competition from 200 other blind people from 27 countries, but I was lucky enough to be one of the winners.  The $25,000 contributed to the costs of my adventure cooking across six continents, captured by Toby’s camera skills.  We spent nearly three months travelling and cooking in America (San Francisco and Virginia Beach), Costa Rica (San Jose and Tamarindo), China (Chongqing), Australia (Kiama, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth), Malawi (Lilongwe) and back in the UK.  It was exhausting, exhilarating, exciting and only possible due to the outstanding support of fabulous people at every location.

If you check out this video, you’ll see/hear that it was made in December 2017 when I was due to explore more cooking opportunities in Europe.  But it was never posted then as I was involved in a major car accident and ended up in French hospitals for 5 months.  I was extraordinarily lucky to survive at all and might have been paralysed from the neck down without the expertise of the French health services.

It’s still a long road to recovery as I’ve had to learn to sit, stand and walk again, overcome Post Traumatic stress Disorder, memory, concentration and speech problems – and more.

But, by summer 2018, I was able to cook again, and we created a new series of videos with other blind people in Hampshire.  I was privileged to receive an Honorary Doctorate and return to San Francisco  to make a presentation to the LightHouse gala dinner in November 2018.

It was that dinner’s charity auction that produced our next series of videos featuring a blind technology guru from Linked In – he paid an outrageous amount to the charity for the challenge of coming to cook with me for a few days in August this year.  Finally, I recorded a “Christmas special” feature with the local Talking News team – hoping to reach other blind and visually impaired people here in Hampshire.

Throughout the last 18 months, Toby and I have been plugging away to edit the hundreds of hours of video material we recorded.     Sometimes it has been a struggle with my health and medical conditions, but we have finally done it all – and weekly blogs throughout too.

Now I’m looking forward to this 2019 Christmas and have been busy throughout the seasons of the year, ready to create Christmas hampers for my family and friends.  This year, there’s Christmas cakes, puddings and mincemeat, marmalade plus apricot and cherry jams, tomato chilli jam, crystallised orange and quince .  There would have been more if I’d had the time and perhaps more preserving will be my next goal: capturing the tastes and textures of produce at its best.

I’ve been trying to write the book too:  a combination of travel and recipes punctuated by  dramas: nearly stranded by the Costa Rican tropical storm; prevented from leaving China; Toby’s near-drowning in Australia;  my accident and all the other tribulations and frustrations along the way.  But every part of this adventure has had its joyous side, wonderful people and life-changing experiences.  I’m still the same person at the end of it but, hopefully, a bit wiser, stronger and happier.  What more could anyone want?

My greetings and heart-felt thanks to everyone who has supported me every step of this adventure – just taking the time to read this and perhaps share it with someone else makes a difference.  Baking Blind isn’t about me but about helping other people realise that blindness or any other disability  doesn’t change the people we are, our ambitions and aspirations.  Just give us the chance to achieve them.

Happy Christmas and may the New year bring new challenges and successes.

 

 

 

 

 

Home-made Christmas presents and pies

Here’s how to make your own Christmas mincemeat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCNMLQN37mE&feature=youtu.be.  Add a ribbon to the jar for a truly personal present or turn it into delicious treats to share with family and friends – or even the postman!

I was creating this traditional recipe, full of fruit and spices, for a seasonal special recording by the local Talking Newspaper team.   And the whole process is so straightforward that anyone can do it – it just takes talking scales for someone like me who can’t see.  And it’s the perfect recipe for using up those tail-ends of bottles of sherry, brandy, port etc.  If you have the time, it’s worth soaking the dried fruit in the alcohol for a few days (or more) before simply adding the rest of the ingredients, stirring and popping in the oven at the lowest temperature for three hours.   Remove the mix and let it cool a little before potting up in warm sterilised jars from the oven and its done.

Throughout I was chatting to Suzie, Chairman of Fareport Talking News, and Dee, her recording specialist.  Together with other volunteers, they create weekly recordings of the news and other articles to send to visually impaired people across our area of southern Hampshire.  Recordings are delivered on memory sticks that can be played on a computer or laptop.  For those who don’t use tech, there are special “speaker boom boxes” designed to be easy-to-use by anyone with little or no sight.  These boxes will also play audio books and have big buttons that can help anyone with limited hand movements.  Linking someone with limited sight to the local Talking Newspaper service could be a perfect Christmas present for them.

Suzie and Dee were enthusiastic about my kitchen equipment and particularly liked the electric lemon squeezer.  The only special “blind” equipment I have is the talking scales, thermometer and labelling system –all the rest are just mainstream High Street products.  But I do choose with care so the lemon squeezer isn’t just super-efficient but is much better at keeping the pips out of the juice; my “kettle” dispenses exactly the right amount of boiling water at the press of a button – no more pouring and guessing; the bread-maker produces the perfect dough or loaf but without all the mess of hand-kneading.

Blind people can be as good, or bad, as anyone else when it comes to cooking but a sharp knife in experienced hands, using all the senses and getting the best from kitchen gadgets makes everything so much easier.

 

 

One fifth of the world marking this day

What are we called: handicapped, crippled, disabled, impaired, mad, deaf-and-dumb, blind, peg-leg and much, much more and none of it great.  There are about 1.3 billion people, a fifth of people around the world, living with the consequences of physical or mental   ill-health.  Anyone reading this almost certainly knows friends or family members  who have disabilities and today’s the day to stand up for them.

Can the world afford to write us off?    Aren’t we voters, tax-payers, workers, customers, thinkers, artists, inventors, musicians, friends, spouses, parents, children just like everyone else?

Too often politicians, employers, businesses and public servants just see us as too difficult, too expensive and not worth bothering about.  Check out what they are doing on this International Day of People with Disabilities.    Ask them what they are doing to make all our lives better, happier and fulfilled.

https://www.google.fr/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=2ahUKEwiF1PaN55nmAhWGmBQKHXONCsEQFjABegQIAhAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.un.org%2Fen%2Fobservances%2Fday-of-persons-with-disabilities&usg=AOvVaw2pBKKvdEGf9h3HeoAmxmaq