Filled with despair

Stand by for a toot!

I’ve been working in the disability field with Government Departments, businesses and employers, charities and more for over 20 years but feel an utter failure as the battle for fairness seems harder than ever.

A bit of history: more than quarter of a century ago in 1995, there was the Disability Discrimination Act that placed legal duties on all sorts of bodies to make reasonable adjustments.   In 2010, the Equality Act was more specific about requiring all those public, private and voluntary sector organisations to make information available in alternative, accessible formats.   But we are still banging our heads against this brick wall and the most awful ignorance and prejudice.

This is the sort of stuff I face in just one week:

* One new disability charity wanted a quote for their leaflet.   Not only did they want to define me by my disability rather than my professional activities, they had the temerity to re-write the quote into the most ghastly mediocre and mundane words alongside factual errors.   I stepped back from it all.

* Another charity was trying to set up on-line links between visually impaired people.   It all fell apart as their hierarchy had decreed use of a notoriously inaccessible on-line conferencing system.   Pity their procurement team were so completely ignorant of the law, their beneficiaries, their needs and accessible technology.   One wonders how they manage to operate at all.

* I was asked to take part in some research into disability and employment, but the consent form wasn’t accessible.   It is (nearly) laughable to ask blind people to tick or initial boxes.   Even if I could, how would I know which side of the paper to scan and send back to them?   My solution was to write a statement confirming I’d read everything, gave my consent and an electronic signature.   But not good enough for their ethics committee.   Their solution: they’d send a hard copy.   Did they think I’d miraculously recover my sight?   When ethics are so blinkered about reality, I wonder whether they have any credibility at all?

* An environmental charity was seeking membership and donations.   I would have been interested had they been able to provide information in some accessible way – a simple Word document attached to an e-mail (how quick, simple and cheap is that?).   But all too difficult.   Yet they claim to have an “equality and diversity specialist”.   Pitiful.

* I wanted to get more involved in the sous-chef’s beekeeping but, once again, the national association doesn’t provide information in a format I can read.   Their response: they are “actively” pursuing a solution – it has already taken them 11 years not to succeed so I’m not holding my breath.

Most of this is probably less important and little skin off my nose but restricts how I can take part in the life that others enjoy.

But it becomes more crucial elsewhere.   Take health for an example.   Years ago, the (then) Chief Medical Officer reported that blind people have more health problems than others.   One reason is not difficult to find: the NHS is still appalling at making adjustments for people who can’t see.   Telling our GPs about our needs doesn’t make any difference.   Imagine the fun and games of opening a package with all sorts of paraphernalia.   Eventually, I discover it is a bowel cancer test kit.   I leave it to your imagination as to how blind people can manage to use it, complete any paperwork and return it.

In the midst of this pandemic, resorting to on-line “E-consult” seems to be the only way to get some health care.   How do we do that when we can’t see the screen?

Making information and communications available to everyone isn’t just about equality and fairness, it becomes a matter of life and death.

If you are involved in sending out information: a simple Word attachment without fancy layouts, logos etc is quick and easy – or just paste it into an e-mail.   Done and dusted: legal and fair.

Cath from Blind Veterans contributed the ginger cake featured on the latest on-line live baking session https://youtu.be/myfVZVzVflU

.   We were all rather concerned that the mix was too wet, cooking in the microwave was too risky and that it just wasn’t done.   But her 9-minute cake turned out beautifully.   The trick is to have faith in the timing and accept that it will continue to cook while resting.

It is not a cake that is going to last as it gets somewhat dry after a couple of days.   I treated mine more like a pudding: cooked in a silicone ring mould which left the perfect opening for accompanying pear slices gently cooked with crystallised ginger plus the reduced poaching liquid.

145g milk.

115g butter.

85g syrup and treacle (about 2 tablespoons of each).

85g brown sugar.

115g self-raising flour.

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.

1 teaspoon mixed spice.

2 level tablespoons ground ginger.

Pinch of salt.

2 eggs, beaten.

 

Gently heat the milk, butter, syrup, treacle and sugar until warm and the sugar has dissolved either in a pan or the microwave.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl (I used a hand whisk).

Add the heated ingredients and mix in.

Add the eggs and mix well.

Pour into a microwave-proof ring container that has been lightly buttered and floured.

Cook on High Power for 9 minutes.

The cake should feel barely done: soft and spongy but will get firmer as it rests and cools before turning out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I needed cheering up

It is taking years to repair and recover from the accident in 2017 but I’m battling on.

Each time I feel more confident and try to be more active, there seem to be disastrous consequences.  Last year, I managed to strain my back when I was stowing away a box of accounts.  A few months ago, I broke my hand just moving too fast through the house.  This time, I pottered around a garden show (short walks, then rests) and did the baking session a couple of days later.  The upshot has been a back that doesn’t work and the need for a wheelchair for a medical appointment.  I’m too young for all of this stuff.  Roll on the emergency physio session: there must be light at the end of this tunnel.

Meanwhile, it has been an exciting week with the sous-chef potting up his first honey harvest of the year and gaining a distinction in his initial beekeeping exam: a gentleman and scholar.  The friendly Council pest-control operative was reassuring that we don’t have a rodent problem and, even better, she turned out to be a girl.  Wonderful that there’s no sexism amongst ratcatchers!

The shortbread recipe for the on-line cooking session worked https://youtu.be/oaKxOGEXldI.  A topping of sliced strawberries  and clotted cream produced the classic strawberry shortbread dessert.  I was good and sent some over to the neighbours.  I’m more reluctant to share the Millionaire version but they’ll last longer in the fridge (allegedly).

Most cheering was one of the on-line blind cooks who has re-gained his kitchen confidence through the baking sessions – it is what they are all about.

I have Karen to thank for the basic recipe – my trusty co-cook – and can blame her for the vagaries of mixed metric and Imperial measures!

 

250g butter.

4oz caster sugar.

300g plain flour.

 

Pre-heat oven 180c, Gas 4.

Cream the butter with a wooden spoon until soft.

Add caster sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.

Stir in flour until the mixture binds together.

Knead lightly to form smooth dough.

Lightly butter a loose-bottomed bun tin (or baking sheet).

Press portions into the bases of the bun tin (or press out the shortbread and cut into circles or triangles and place on baking sheet) and prick each biscuit several times with a fork.

Bake for 12-15 minutes for individual biscuits.

They will look pale gold and feel softly firm to touch.

Cool and finish as you wish.  Here are three choices:

  1. Simply dredge with caster sugar.
  2. Top with a generous layer of caramel (tin of caramelised condensed milk) and a layer of melted chocolate for Millionaire’s shortbread. Chill.
  3. Slices of strawberry marinated in a dash of Cointreau plus the juice of an orange with its zest (or use a good strawberry jam) and top with a layer of double or clotted cream. Chill.

We will be making a ginger cake in the microwave next time in just 9 minutes.  Join us at 1030 on 12 July by signing up free at:

Facebook event link:

https://www.facebook.com/events/806006046955175

 

Eventbrite link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/baking-session-for-visually-impaired-people-ginger-cake-tickets-160566860803

If you have difficulty signing up with EventBright, contact Open Sight on  02380 646 385  and they’ll do it for you.

 

 

 

Missed the boat

 

Just when “substantial meals” are no longer required, I’ve got around to making Scotch eggs.

The hand fracture is doing well and I’m starting on the exercises to re-build strength – how am I going to grapple ingredients to the chopping board with limp wrists and weak digits?

I’m back on RNIB Connect radio (Read On programme) this week (Friday at 1300 – available on-line and via Alexa) with more book reviews.  This time I’m talking about Len Deighton, one of my all-time favourites since the 1970s and I must have re-read his books at least every 5 years.      My weekly book rate is at least three detective/thriller/Scandinavian noir books – just light reading for relaxation – but there’s the occasional classic thrown in for when I’m feeling more intelligent.  The joy of audio books is that I can read them anywhere (cooking, swimming, trying to sleep) and they bring the writing alive – it is amazing to discover Trollope’s humour (Anthony rather than Joanna).

A note for diaries: World Baking Day on 17 May and another Exclusive for Visually Impaired People live on-line bake-in.  We have had people from all over the world signing up – it’s free and fun.  This time I’ll be featuring hot water pastry in some dead simple pork pies.    Get your ticket here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/x/exclusive-baking-session-with-penny-for-visually-impaired-blind-people-tickets-51057187113

(Don’t worry about signing –up – it’s a way to avoid any of us getting trolled)

Meanwhile, these Scotch eggs are quick and easy, perfect for a picnic now that we can all roam a little further and the weather is better:

2 eggs.

350g sausage meat.

Breadcrumbs.

Spray oil.

Prick the ends of the eggs and cook in boiling water for 4 minutes.  Remove and place in cold water.

When cool enough to handle, remove the shells and pat dry.

Season/flavour the sausage meat as you prefer: pepper, garlic powder, chopped herbs, chilli – all, none or whatever tantalises your taste buds.

Divide the sausage meat in half and press out as thin as possible without it breaking up.     Wrap the meat around each egg, pinching together the joins.

Roll the covered egg in the breadcrumbs and spray with oil.

Place on an oiled baking sheet and cook for 35 minutes, turning half way, at 180C, Gas 4, 350F.

Serve with the chutney of your choice – ours is apple, date and walnut.