It’s the year 2020, you walk towards the entrance of a well-known clothing chain as you walk around the store, you begin to feel the eyes of staff drawn to you. You continue to walk around then suddenly you hear a voice from behind you, “NO DOGS ALLOWED IN HERE YOU NEED TO LEAVE”. You stop and explain that the dog is an assistance dog, you are then repeatedly told you need to leave.
This situation happened to me, why? Because I have an assistance dog, most of you reading this will think so what! This is 2020 there are assistance dogs for a wide range of needs. So why do we repeatedly see people being refused into venues?
It’s a curious beast, your dog wears a jacket that identifies that it is a working dog, the staff see this yet still challenge inappropriately. This is not always the case; some staff are polite and are just checking and on occasion they will offer assistance. On other occasions they are shouting and aggressive demanding you leave.
These situations are embarrassing for the service user, it is sometimes difficult as a result of a disability, to just pop to the shops can be a challenge in itself, to then have the extra anxiety of will you or will you not be challenged.
All the above are reasons that contributed to the #NotJustADog campaign, the first call is for business to make changes to their policy and implement training. If you ask any business, they respond stating they welcome or allow assistance dogs into their businesses. This is amazing however because of the lack of education and or training this will always fall down.
I have recently been refused entry to a store I visited daily, why? because a new security staff member was not aware of the law, the policy.
So, if you run a business follow these steps.
- Review accessibility policies
- Train all staff (including third party service providers)
- Stop refusing access.
If you can do these basic steps right, you not only are treating people right but you are protecting your business and its reputation. If you work for a business that is to big to care then you should change the mindset and turn the commercial prowess into a leader of change.
In 2016 I was provided with an assistance dog, he was 6 months old and learning to become the most resilient and professional dog that I know and you will know as Ziggy @AssstanceZiggy on social media.
Why do I need Ziggy?
This is always a good question to ask, firstly because I don’t have a visible disability and secondly because since getting Ziggy my disability although ever present is managed.
What is the invisible disability ?
In 2009 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) , this was as a result of Military deployment to Iraq in 2003. This disability drove me to the point of contemplating suicide. Fortunately I overcame this and it has given me the drive and determination to turn my negative experiences into positive ones.
Not Just A Dog?
#NotJustADog is a campaign started in December 2019, as a result of multiple significant refusals into shops and restaurants, it extended beyond this to 10 separate incidents where I was challenged either inappropriately or accidentally by staff or security.
It became apparent that companies allow assistance dogs into their business however there is a gap in either education and awareness of staff and security.
#NotJustADog will be a multi phase approach to make changes around accessibility and prevent discrimination . Phase one is aimed at a social media campaign to get the conversation started. Around the UK there are a huge number of people and companies who are likely to be exposed to assistance dogs and their service users. By engaging with these businesses we will encourage them to not only look at their policies but to engage with their staff.
Follow the campaign on social media @assistanceziggy
Its 2019, the world is in the midst of a political whirlwind. There is no question that the United Kingdom is stepping forwards along with other countries around the world when it comes to its approach to disability. These changes have been more prevalent in the world of mental health, disability and racial discrimination. But what leads to these changes? Is it as simple as one persons opinion or belief? Is it the society change of approach?
There is no hard and fast answer to these changes and it could take years of unpicking to identify the specifics but not impossible. The focus should not be on the unpicking of the changes but developing on the positives that these have brought.
There is a difference in reality, everyone has to deal with different positives and battle through personal negatives. One aspect that seems to be forgotten in the modern world of social media is that there is no normal, there is no perfect. Behind the perfect impression is a true reality some people will openly display this in order to inspire others.
When it comes to the crunch, society brings many challenges. For many years humans have developed means to communicate, language has developed these changes have striated each generation. The times change and words evolve, they begin to be used in different context. Each year new words are selected for dictionaries and other words removed.
The world at any point would fair well from applying a basic theory in their communication style. The most important time to apply this is when you are delivering, receiving or sharing a message. Considering the way you deliver this the medium you do so are all important but the application of the following communication method will contribute to and develop your understanding.
This theory stems from conflict management, by understanding it you can develop a technique that meets your respective outcome.
The theory has four components, there is no hard and fast rule where it starts however its constant revolution, it can start at any point and be revisited throughout any communication. To apply this theory you need to consider who, what, how, where, when and why you are delivering a message.
The theory sets out the following;
- Your attitude affects your behaviour
- Your behaviour affects their attitude,
- Their attitude affects their behaviour
- Their behaviour affects your behaviour.
Understanding these four points will contribute to a more conducive communication.
There is without doubt a homeless crisis in the UK. Over many years it has been attributed to lack of affordable housing, lack of access to social housing and lack of government support.
Throughout the UK homelessness has been approached from different angles, some of which has hit the headlines in various news media including the following;
At least 13,000 hero soldiers left HOMELESS after leaving the military – and almost all have PTSD
The Mirror/ Sunday People
More than 60,000 veterans are homeless, in prison or suffering with mental health
The Daily Post (wales)
Do these facts and figures ring true? Simply put no, I am firmly of the opinion that these figures are banded around, to insight political arguments or debates, it is apparent that these can lead to progress however, it also is clear that lots of time is spent talking about it rather than resolving it.
What is worrying is that Veterans are being used as political pawns, there are a huge number of service leavers that leave and contribute to society but also, they provide support for fellow veterans.
Companies like Combat Pest Control Recruit veterans. Why? Because most service personnel can turn their hand to anything and not only that they are reliable they are dependable. More and more is being done to recognise that veterans have transferable skills.
The Armed Forces covenant is in place, a number of companies have signed up to this covenant and this has encouraged business to openly recruit from the veteran’s community.
This doesn’t solve the homeless crisis, no, but it does show that it is possible to achieve beyond the military.
Having spoken to several homeless individuals across London, I gained the understanding that some of these people are there through choice. Others for circumstances beyond there control. The reasons varied from losing their job to family break up to drink and drugs.
The cross section consisted of eight people three female five males, one stated he was a veteran. This was an unchecked claim. I did not pry I just spoke to them, about the reasons they were homeless. Some of the problems were the lack of social housing, the lack of support. The veteran stated that because of his nomadic lifestyle he didn’t stay in one place for more than a week.
Some other factors included drink and drug abuse meant that they couldn’t get mental health support as they needed to address the abuse first!
Another issue raised was that they wanted to work however as they didn’t have an address they struggled to secure work, they also were not able to draw benefits because of the lack of address.
What did this show, well this showed that there was a significant gap in communication, because if you wish to claim you can use the following as addresses;
- hostel you’re staying in
- friend or family member
- day centre if you’re sleeping on the streets
- local jobcentre
A number of homeless people across the UK need support, it is now winter, it is wet, the weather forecasters rumour that we will be set for a big freeze.
Homelessness has been around for centuries, this is due to society. It is now more and more prevalent in cities and towns across the UK.
I don’t have a resolution, but I want it to be clear that a larger proportion of veterans leave and succeed, the ones that don’t need that extra support and guidance. It is time to change in a number of areas, these changes are happening and progressive. Lots of people donate to charities and as not for profit you expect them to spend the money to provide services.
This isn’t always possible, and people regularly take them to task however this is a charity wide issue. As a charity grows it needs to run like a business and needs to employee and pay appropriately to remain effective, and to provide the right support.
There is a crisis it is not just veterans and there are no clear states on the divide that exists but if you need to employee someone employee a veteran. Even if they don’t have the skills you want, they will be dedicated enough to gain them.
Don’t just walk past a homeless person speak to them, you don’t have to give them money, but you can buy them a hot drink or some food. It’s the time of year to be nice to one and other. How do I know this? Because it is a day in the year you don’t have to be kind once.
Work Life Balance
For years people have spoken and used the term ‘work life balance’. What does this mean?
It is described as the balance between that an individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life, including social life, family life and leisure. This list is not exhaustive.
In the UK a full time employee is entitled to 28 days paid leave per year. This differs for part time workers. There is no doubt that the nature of life means that the balance is work, work and life.
As a base 2018 there are 252 working days. Leaving 113 days that are not earmarked as work days. This means that the importance of understanding how to manage your own work life balance and not rely on others, you are the master of your own fate.
This is a fast paced world, you will realise that the most of your time is spent at work so why on earth do we spend forever looking for the work life balance when we should be focusing on a life balance!
Its time to change, I can’t tell you how to do it, there is unsurmountable amount of people out there who claim to be able to change your life. You are the only person that can change this yes YOU!
Lets change this talk of work life balance and focus on enjoying life, happiness breeds happiness much as negativity breeds negativity. I am not saying spend your life working I am saying spend your life enjoying your days, they are finite.
Life can be rough at times there is no doubt but you should never give up. We arrive in this world screaming naked and helpless, you can make the path to death your own crucially never give up.
Finally if you need help to feel good then seek it, if you feel good share it we are in this together. Make life good not just a balance.