Category Archives: Access all Areas

the problem with scare campaigns…

As the month of AAC Awareness (augmentative and alternative communication) draws to a close I was struck by the amount of times the QUIT Victoria ad from 2007 “Voice Within” has been running on TV.

Here’s the link:

It frustrates me that we are constantly bombarded by the insidious messaging prominent in this ad, that, if you can’t speak you can’t communicate – something AAC acceptance is constantly up against.

And… not withstanding, that once again “walking” is put out as the great ‘hope’ not “communication” (ugh).

I accept this ad is important in the context of “quitting smoking” but concede it is quite damaging to the ongoing awareness and acceptance of AAC – it’s pretty offensive.

This maybe have been something addressed (by AAC users and professionals) when it first aired back in 2007 but the reappearance of it during my TV watching was just a little jarring – particularly so when Mac is often watching when these ads come on.

I discuss with him why people choose to use that type of fear based portrayal and why it is so wrong.  We lump those people, the “fear mongers” into the same basket as the “pity peddlers” and the “disability charity merchants”… there is no place for them in our world.

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Filed under Access all Areas

fridge magnet friday…

I often hear parents of children with disabilities voice concern over people staring at their kids… but is the alternative better?

Louis Lim’s powerful observation makes me absolutely sure I will continue to embrace any prolonged gazes cast towards Mac.   I don’t ever want him to be invisible to his community, invisible to our society or to be “eliminated from our consciousness”.

So I guess I offer a word of caution to those who have difficulty accepting the ‘stare’. “Be careful what you wish for”, there might just be way more at stake if a stare, a sidewards glance, a gawk  or an outright ‘gape’ is eliminated – invisibility is a poor alternative.

Check under the fridge for more information on Louis Lim…

image of a fridge door with a stylised note pad (red) speech bubble shape with the quote "Growing up with a
belief that it was rude to stare at people 
with a disability or impairment meant that I gradually eliminated their presence from my consciousness" Louis Lim

Icon with text: Check out more of Louis Lim’s stuff  by visiting his website.  CLICK THIS ICON TO VISIT or if you are in Queensland Lim’s “Strangely Familiar” exhibit is on at the Brisbane Powerhouse until 15 Sept 2013 free entry!


Filed under Access all Areas, fridge magnet friday

the society I see… is the society for me!

I watch one of Mac’s classmates, “C” scurry back into the room after the bell had gone.

“Have you got one of those wheelchair sheets?” he asked the teacher, “I’m taking one home for my Dad.”

‘What’s a wheelchair sheet?’ you ask …

Well, it seems the kids are working on inventions and mods for Mac’s wheelchair at the moment, some work is going on in class… others are taking it home to keep working on.  But “C” decided his Dad will probably have some good ideas on how to make Mac’s chair work for soccer… C’s dad also uses a wheelchair.

I had a good chuckle with C’s mum about the fact her husband is now getting homework.

But… let’s just think about what is going on here.

Mac’s peers and Mac are designing wheelchair modifications and activities to make it possible for Mac to do more stuff WITH THEM.

I’ve seen a couple of the blueprints.

clipart image of a blueprint drawing with a ruler and pencil laying over them - blueprint sketch is ambiguous and not relevant to story - it's just an illustration

There’s a multi-net cricket catching contraption, a catapult style bowling attachment (yay for the girls for finally coming up with a catapult) and one of the boys is working on how to attach the class carpet sweeper to Mac’s chair, so he can help out with class chores.

Part of this ties in to their “Awesome in August” class challenge, but much of this innovative thinking has followed some of the other kids designing a way for Mac to play handball with them in the playground.

The handball idea was the kids’ initiative.  They do seek out our assistance (but generally only when they need me to buy something LOL).

This is our future generation, this is the society we get to look forward to.  A society where where inclusion and innovation reign supreme.

So why would anyone want less than this for their kids?

Why do people choose segregated schools, segregated classrooms or segregated activities?  Why don’t they want what is on offer in a place where “all means all”, where disability “value adds” and where innovation, problem solving and broader thinking is the norm?

I can see the society I want my son to grow up in, and I look forward to it.  I’m not convinced that the other choices don’t actually weaken a society.


Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!, things that make me go "glll"

happy fourth…

retro postcards greetings from Orlando & greetings from Los Angeles

We enjoyed our first ever Fourth of July in the USA last week.

Taking a weeks holiday on the way home from the Society for Disability Studies annual conference in Orlando, Florida we got to experience some wonderful times with great people both in Orlando and LA.

In true form we didn’t miss the opportunity to “pimp” Mac’s wheelchair – he was well and truly ready to celebrate in style with the rest of the USA.  A couple of flags some cut up plastic tablecloths woven to represent the USA flag on his wheels and his chair was right to go.

side shot of Mac's manual chair showing two small USA flags on each handle and the wheels with stylised/woven plastic to emulate the US Flag, woven red and white stripes on 3/4 of the spokes and blue woven with tiny white knots on 1/4

The exciting part was we actually got to participate IN the local parade with our friends and their friends who also had international visitors staying.  We helped decorate a ’66 Ford pickup, decked ourselves out in flag shirts from Old Navy and sat back and enjoyed the ride.


four pics inline 3 kids meeting Santa dressed in shorts and waistcoat with sleigh in background, Gina+Shawn+Mac family shot wearing USA tee shirts, Mac side on in wheelchair with two friends sitting on curb using his foot switches to chat, and the Ford truck with streamers and signs and our crew in the back for the parade.

US flag merging into Aussie flag with stylised text "thanks for the memories"


Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!, things that make me go "glll"


Last week Mac made the trek to UOW (Dad’s University) for his participation in a session on ‘exposure to people with disabilities’.

You can read about the where/what/why here on Shawn’s most recent blog post over at Disability + Media Matters.

At the end of the session we gave an extra bit of ‘secret Mac business’ to these future journos by sharing a couple of our ‘tried and tested’ tips on how to photograph a group shot when “someone in the shot”, courtesy of some ‘not so great head control’, is often looking in the opposite direction to the rest of the group.

Seems like such a minor thing (and some might say superficial)… but could a poorly considered shot be enough for that person to be devalued in the eyes of another, could it send the message that they “aren’t even aware of their surroundings” and therefore “really disabled” rather than someone simply having poor head control?

EXAMPLE ONE:  point & shoot…

Traditional shot where you expect to have the whole group ‘looking down the barrel’

As you can see, Mac is NOT looking at the camera, in this instance it actually looks like he is looking at me so isn’t too bad, but what other techniques can we use?

Group shot with all looking at the camera except for 9 year old Mac.

EXAMPLE TWO: every which way but front…

Potentially a more social and natural looking shot than the one above.  The person with the disability isn’t the ‘stand out’ as the only person not looking at the camera.  Certainly works much better when the shot is actually in focus. ;-)

Group photo with everyone looking in a different direction.

EXAMPLE THREE:  follow Mac’s eyes…

This is my favourite, particularly when you get a run of three or so pics in succession.   Basically, the photographer (or a buddy beside them) will tell everyone where to look based on where Mac is looking.  We have plenty of birthday cake shots with everyone looking to the same spot Mac is – which is rarely at the cake –  it’s much more fun imagining what may have had everyone’s attention when you look back years later.  Once again, the person with the disability isn’t the only one looking away, it’s much more “look, is it a bird, is it a plane…” by the entire group.

A group shot where the group are directed to look wherever the pwd is looking, so all eyes focussed on the same 'off camera' spot.

So, there it is, “Secret Mac Business” and, in the words of my husband, “consider yourselves exposed”.

Do you have any tips and tricks to share?



Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!, things that make me go "glll"

the “wee three” at school camp

I could see them scooting along from the other side of the playground, three boys, one pushing Mac in his wheelchair, the other running beside.  There was a look of intent on their faces, they knew where they were headed… I had no such insight.

Across the basketball court, along the path, turn, oops steady the chair, back on the path, down another level, now heading away from me.

It’s too early for lunch, I thought… why are they headed down to the dining hall?

Across the pavement, turn again, sharp right, and then…
straight into the boys toilets.BoysToiletSign

It dawned on me… you know I have never taken Mac into a boys toilet block.  I guess you don’t when a) you are female and b) they aren’t actually accessible.

I chuckled as I thought about the fact there was no hesitation that Mac went with them, the other two (or one… who can be sure) obviously needed to go, so they all went.
I never considered part of Mac having an ordinary and inclusive life would mean going with his mates “to the dunny¹ for a leak².

As they were heading back into the playground Mac’s aide & I walked up to them and said, “we might take Mac to get ready for canoeing and go to the toilet” (adult code for diaper change).

“We just went” was the response by Mac’s mates in unison…

“Did Mac go?” we asked (somewhat bemused).

“Oh, nah, he didn’t, just us” they said flippantly, “alright then” they offered as they gave Mac up to Miss M and scooted back off to where they were going.

I love that they didn’t think twice about Mac being with them, I love they presumed they’d all gone since they were all in there, and I love they weren’t even the slightest bit phased by Mac ‘not going’.  It was more a case of “nah, he didn’t get his act together to go” rather than “OMG how would that even work”.

But, more than anything, I love that by being in amongst his peers Mac learns more age appropriate boy stuff than I could ever teach him.


1. dunny: Australian slang term for any toilet/lavatory 
2. leak:  slang for urinating



Filed under Access all Areas, friends, Inclusion... straight up!

walk like an egg-gyptian…

Easter time again so for Mac’s school that means eggs-on-legs, egg-o-ramas as well as the more traditional hat parade.

The benefit of getting two years of “eggs-on-legs” means the ability to ‘recycle’ – we embraced the chance to re-use one of the ‘eggs’ from last year’s walking egg / wheelchair contraption.

This year we added an Egyptian pharaoh hat left over from a fancy dress party a couple of weeks ago, some ‘walk like an Egyptian arms’ and covered the blue pants with two pieces of fan folded A4 paper stapled together with some glitter cardboard triangles.  A final flourish of some glittery paper around the eyes and our 2012 egg was now and “EGG-gyptian”.  It was a pretty good pay-off for about 20mins worth of work.

Here’s Mac, Luca and Miss A showing some of the finest eggs-on-legs I’ve ever seen.

Screen shot 2013-03-29 at 3.49.55 PM

And a blast from the past… I found this gem of Mac (R) and Luca (L) way back in pre-school circa 2007 when they were gorgeous little four year olds.


I strongly believe full and authentic inclusion in the pre-school and daycare settings should be the norm for ALL children.  Too many families are buying into the idea that Early Intervention centres are where you go ‘instead of’ pre-school.  Early intervention (the action not the place) is important but not at ‘any cost’… be wary of those claiming early intervention can only happen in a segregated setting – you might just end up on an undesirable path where your child loses their rightful and valued place in their community.   I spoke about this some years back at the Early Childhood Intervention Australia conference… my stance remains unchanged.

Click the folder if you are interested in reading the paper I presented to the conference.Folder-ECIA


Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!