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Strathallan primary school Diversity Day - By Pauline Medd

Good morning everybody.

First could I apologise for being late, this is one thing about disability that people don't realise although I'm up at seven o'clock in the morning by the time my carers come in and help me to shower or wash, everything takes time so I can very rarely get to a meeting or an appointment before half-past 10 to 11 o'clock.

Could I ask who in the room either has somebody in the family who is disabled or knows somebody who is disabled?
If you could just put up you hand.

About six to eight children raised their hands out of each class. We had about four different classes.

I asked one of my carers if she could ask her grandchild (his name is Charlie he is six and quite a character) what would he say or do if he went to visit someone in a wheelchair, I was quite taken back by what he said------- he said I would ask if I could help them, or did they need something to eat and if the grandchildren were coming to play can I get the toys out, I have to say from a six year old that was amazing.

My name is Pauline Medd and I have been disabled for the past 33 years of my life. Two of my main disabilities are that I have MS, multiple sclerosis and I'm also diabetic.

I was 30 years old when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis by that time I had had my three children and spent time abroad in Africa. And by the way one of my children is a Down's syndrome young man. One of my daughters went to university and became a civil engineer she has now gone on to become an associate partner and a consultant in a health and safety company. My other daughter has gone on to become a very good hairdresser is now a wife and mother with a nine-year-old girl called Katie and an 11-year-old called Emma. So as you can see although my children helping me when they were younger it didn’t stop them from getting on with their lives in fact I think it made them stronger.

When I was younger my husband worked away a lot with his job so I did have to rely on my children a lot to do the various different jobs, I hope you children help out at home, but at the same time I was determined not to turn my children into little carers so by the time I felt I needed more help I managed to get home care to help clean the house and do the ironing, which is what used up most of my energy.

I have never let disability get in my road in 1994 I helped to setup Fife Independent Disability Network, which was 17 years ago. And that came about because not being able to get into places and not having proper disable toilets frustrated me.

We have one member of the group, Jack who himself is deaf deals a lot with hearing systems and he's worked a lot with the NHS and Fife Council, trying to make sure everybody is involved with meetings conferences by having the correct hearing system in place, or even a loop system at a desk that actually works, because if you can't hear something that everybody else can hear then you are being excluded and that is not a equality.

We have another member James who works a lot with transport trying to sort out the problems with the buses and trains, as far as access is concerned.  We are great believers that if it affects you then you're inclined to be more passionate about trying to sort the problem out.

Michael, who is our chairperson he gets more involved with legislation, that is the law and what is acceptable and what is not acceptable it is very important to know what you are entitled to. There's no point in various different governments passing laws if they're not going to adhere to them.

Robert, works on our website and newsletter the website is very successful we had 6995 hits in January and these are coming from all over the world I don't think there is a country that hasn't visited our website they have been as far away as Russia and South Africa.

Now myself, guess what I do kids, I'm the toilet lady, it's not that I clean them it's just that I know what they should look like. I always like to make sure that access is correct I get involved with schools and hospitals any new buildings any buildings that have been refurbished I like to make sure that the access and facilities are correct. I even looked over the plans for this school before it was built. So if there were any problems here I would love to know about them.

I'm working with Fife Council on the Access Awareness Group and the NHS Electric Wheelchair Group and the Disability Group. I'm also a Lay Assessor with the care commission. As you can see children just because I am in a wheelchair it doesn't mean to say I don't do anything, I don't do anything physically because I can't, but I do a lot of talking.

I started having to use a wheelchair 20 years ago a wheelchair is not a toy, it’s my legs it’s my way of walking about, that means I can go out and about like everybody else.

We have come a long way in 25 years with a level access into buildings and having disabled toilets because 25 years ago when my disability started to affect me I wasn't able to go to the places that everybody else could go.

It meant not being able to go to the same shops, restaurants, hotels, holidays, dentist, doctor, places of worship that your friend’s family want go to. The Bible says come ye all unto me, but how you can when you can’t get in the building because of stairs and that unfortunately was the case at most places.

You children have a beautiful new school here but when my children went to school I could not go to parents day, or the school concert because it was up stairs, have you any idea how it felt telling your children that you couldn't go and watch the concert or they would need to go to the dentist or the doctors on their own it’s not a nice feeling as a parent to have to do that to your children.


Now you know why I am passionate about access

And now children it's over to you, you can ask any question you like and I will answer you.

Questions that the children asked-------

“ Did you look at the plans when this was just a field”
“ How do you get to the toilet”?
“ My granddad walks with one of those metal things”
“ What would you do without Julie to help you”?
“ My granddad has a hearing aid”
“ My granddad only has one leg he is in a wheelchair”
“ One child was anxious that she wasn’t going to be able to go to Balwearie School like every body else in her class.


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Disabilities Fife
West Bridge Mill, Bridge Street,
Kirkcaldy, Fife, KY1 1TE
Scottish Charity No: SC 026112