Wednesday, 11 November 2015

KT Hanna's Hybrid releases

I'm a couple of days late with this, apparently my body's response to the end of Pitchwars is to sleep all the hours, but my mentor KT Hanna's new book has just been released. KT* was helping me out with Graveyard Shift right up until the last minute, never mind she had the release bearing down on her, so a little signal boosting is the least I can do. Now go check it out! (And you've got about a day to take advantage of that sale on Chameleon, book 1 in the series).

*I shouldn't forget Jami Nord, my other mentor, who was kept busy hunting anglicisms and terminating them with extreme prejudice.


HYBRID (The Domino Project #2) goes out into the world today.

We're celebrating with an excerpt reading, and a giveaway!

If you haven't read CHAMELEON - it's on sale until the end of 11/12/15 for $0.99


K.T. Hanna reads an excerpt

As Sai recovers from her life-threatening injuries, she struggles to piece together her damaged relationship with Dom. He fights the parasite within, suddenly freed from the interference of the other Dominos in his head.
Inside Central, Bastian’s Shine dosing has become a dangerous dance. Enhanced security protocols and endless meetings have him on a tightrope, with little room to move without revealing himself.
When the GNW release the Damascus to begin their systemic hunt of the Exiled, the noose closes around the rebels and their allies. If they can’t disable the threat, the Exiled won’t be the Damascus’ only agenda.


Praise for Chameleon - The Domino Project #1

“Wow! A fast-paced, science fiction delight with fabulous action, a seamless world, and the most unique characters I’ve read in a long time.” Elana Johnson, Author of the Possession Series.
“Nikita-like post-apocolyptic novel with a heroine that would give Katniss a run for her money.” Alina @
Psionics is wicked cool and I wish a meteor would give me some super-secret powers. The logistics of the abilities are many, and normally would have been a nightmare to follow. Hanna handles it with enough subtle description laced through the opening chapters that you’re able to grasp their powers naturally. Heather @ Aussie Owned and Read
A seriously great sci-fi. Dark, edgy and complex. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s a gripping read because of the author’s tense voice; the characters are well defined, believable and likeable, despite all of their flaws; the story flows well; and the ending leaves you on edge to read more. If you like sci-fi, you will love this book. Kate Foster – Author of Winell Road
HYBRID is available at the following retailers


Celebrate HYBRID's release with us!
Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

KT Hanna, Chameleon Cover Reveal

My wonderful Pitchwars Mentor, KT Hanna, is about to launch her new book, and today it's the cover reveal, with a sneak-peak below, and a link to see the full thing (not forgetting those essential links to pre-order it). So here we go:

Hybrid is finally almost ready for release. S.P. McConnell worked magic again here.
Hybrid (The Domino Project #2) is the sequel to Chameleon. It's set in the wasteland of earth after a meteor shower causes ecological disaster, damages the atmosphere, and gives the gift of an alien parasite to the world. Book two furthers Sai, Bastian, and Dom's journey in their fight to live free from GNW imposed rules.
The goodreads blurb is as follows:
As Sai recovers from her life-threatening injuries, she struggles to piece together her damaged relationship with Dom. He fights the parasite within, suddenly freed from the interference of the other Dominos in his head.
Inside Central, Bastian’s Shine dosing has become a dangerous dance. Enhanced security protocols and endless meetings have him on a tightrope, with little room to move without revealing himself. When the GNW release the Damascus to begin their systemic hunt of the Exiled, the noose closes around the rebels and their allies. If they can’t disable the threat, the Exiled won’t be the Damascus’ only agenda
Without further ado - here's a teaser of the cover by the amazingly talented S.P. McConnell.

Go see the full cover at YA Interrobang!

Isn't it GORGEOUS!?!?!
Sit back and bask in this for a moment.
It's available for pre-order for $3.99 and will be available on November 10th, 2015!
Amazon Link
It will also be available in print via CreateSpace, Amazon, but best of all, the local indie store is being really supportive and already has it available for pre-order in print there!

Watermark Books


Haven't read Chameleon? There's still time to catch up!

Get it HERE!

About the Author
KT Hanna has a love for words so extreme, a single word can spark entire worlds.
Born in Australia, she met her husband in a computer game, moved to the U.S.A. and went into culture shock. Bonus? Not as many creatures specifically out to kill you.
When she's not writing, she freelance edits for Chimera Editing, interns for a NYC Agency, and chases her daughter, husband, corgi, and cat. No, she doesn't sleep. She is entirely powered by the number 2, caffeine, and beef jerky.
Note: Still searching for her Tardis


To celebrate, we're giving away a copy of books 1 & 2! With an Amazon e-card, and a SWAG pack!
Winners will be announced on Monday October 19th!

Monday, 17 August 2015

#Pitchwars Mentee Bio

(If you don't know what Pitchwars is, I'm not the droid you're looking for)

((Actually it's a writing competition or sorts, where you compete for the attention of a set of mentors, who will help you whip your manuscript into shape in the hope of attracting an agent in its second round, and this is a who am I for the mentors))

So who am I?

I'm David Gillon (oddly enough), I'm 51, British, born in the Northeast (in the borderlands between the Mackems and the Pitmatics - these are genuine linguistic groups), but now living in the South East - actually I've lived in the South East since I was 21, so feelings about 'home' are complicated.

I was formerly a software engineer working for Evil Aerospace (no, they aren't really called that, but I'm under a gagging order not to name them, and I need to call them something, plus evil d'oh!), where I was involved in the development of fly-by-wire systems, head-up displays and weapon systems for aircraft ranging from the (Eurofighter) Typhoon, to the F-16 to the C-17, to the Boeing 777 (no, that one doesn't have weapons systems). This was quite literally the only job I'd ever had. Despite twenty odd years working for the Military-Industrial-Complex I'm a Bleeding Heart Liberal at heart (though the actual Liberals are well to the right of me).

Nowadays I'm a disability rights activist, which is linked to the reason I no longer work for Evil Aerospace, and the gagging order. I'm fairly complexly disabled, I'm hypermobile (aka Bendy), though fortunately I don't sublux (partially-dislocate) too many joints (DiversifYA did a piece on me and Hypermobility Syndrome here - I'd no sooner said I never have major subluxes than I had multiple shoulder subluxes and my hip has since gotten in on the action), I'm dyspraxic, and I'm neurodiverse in some currently undefined fashion - a psychologist spontaneously started assessing me for Aspergers during a pain management session a couple of years ago). These are all disabilities that are present from birth, but they're also all disabilities which have only been widely recognised in recent years. HMS became an issue in my mid-20s (which is fairly common), and I've been using various braces and mobility aids pretty much ever since, I recently became a wheelchair user, and have been kicking myself for not doing it 15 years ago. I wrote up my experiences of going to the last Worldcon - Loncon 3 - in a hire chair here and have a whole bunch of essays on the experience of becoming a wheelchair user that I'm probably going to create a new blog for in the near future. Obviously this means diversity in fiction is pretty close to my heart.

I've been an SF/F fan for as long as I can remember, I grew up on A C Clarke and Andre Norton books from our local library, and as my tastes matured and developed found Lois McMaster Bujold and C J Cherryh as particular favourites. I've been writing since my early 20s, but disability has been a major issue - creativity and chronic pain aren't happy bedfellows, I've finally gotten a decent level of pain control and significant writing is now a possibility again. I knuckled down last year to complete my urban fantasy novel Graveyard Shift, but was too late for Pitchwars 2014 and I've had to fight against some non-disability related medical issues to get its newest rewrite ready for Pitchwars 2015, but got there in the end.

I had one short story accepted for publication in the '90s, but that anthology never appeared, and I appear to have come very close to getting a story accepted for the recent 'Accessing the Future' anthology of disability related speculative fiction, but fell at the last hurdle/cut. I'm primarily a long-form writer, I just wish I had a long form body to support that! I've done slightly better with fact-based writing, having written for the UK broadsheet the Guardian, guest blogged for the campaigning group 38 Degrees and write on disability in both my own blog and in various other venues. I'm active on twitter, as @wtbdavidg, on disability, equality in general, and as a supporter of diversity initiatives in speculative and other areas of fiction such as We Need Diverse Books.

Complicating this year's Pitchwars submission, I'm off sailing in the Med with friends from the 21st, and net connectivity in small Greek fishing villages may not be ideal. I'll make every effort to be available if mentors want to chat, but can't guarantee connectivity until I get back to Athens on the 29th, when I should have net access in my hotel, or be able to find it in a cafe. I then have a few days in Athens, flying back on the 2nd. The holiday is exciting enough, first time flying with the chair, first time touristing with the chair, but it's also doing double duty as research for a YA novel I was working on before the health issues temporarily derailed me. (If I get any late requests for partial or full MS I'm hoping to set up a dropbox folder mentors can get at)

And that's me.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Disability Confident and Disability Employment Figures

(This particular piece started as an attempt to get a comment out to DNS when my email froze up on me yesterday, but I've now got the up to date ONS figures via that DNS article and it seems a shame not to bring it up to date, though in effect I'm completely rewriting it).

What provoked this new piece is that DWP are once again beating their drum on Twitter for the increase in the number of disabled people in employment based on the latest Office of National Statistics report. 

Now their headline figure of 225,000 more disabled people in work versus a year ago is clearly a good thing, but last quarter it was 238,000 more disabled people in work versus a year previously, so is a fall to 225K good, bad or indifferent? Unfortunately it's difficult to tell, the Labour market has some significant seasonal variation, and, AIUI, the ONS figures aren't corrected for that, though whether disabled people should be as heavily affected by seasonality is questionable - there probably aren't many wheelchair users engaged in seasonal agricultural work, for instance. Equally Caroline Richardson noted in comments for DNS's article that the employed figure includes people on workfare and other purely temporary schemes, effectively the employed figure is being permanently bolstered by the size of the cohort on workfare at any one time, while the unemployment figure is systematically lowered by the same number.

The ONS data is a wall of numbers that really needs a graphical presentation, but I don't have the spoons to put that together at the moment, so I'm going to pull two comparisons out of the stats, change versus the last quarter, and change versus the last year. The bracketed numbers following the figures for the year are the actual current totals rather than the changes to give you some perspective on the size of each group.

For the last quarter (Jun-Aug 2015)
Employed Disabled People: Up 42K
Unemployed Disabled People: Up 22K
Economically Inactive Disabled people: Up 86K

For the last year (Sep 2014-Aug 2015)
Employed Disabled People: Up 226K (3,246K)
Unemployed Disabled People: Down 15K (423K)
Economically Inactive Disabled people: Up 133K (3,399K)

Ultimately it is the number of disabled people not in work that Disability Confident is supposed to challenge, that includes both the number of unemployed disabled people and the number who are economically inactive - not either in work or looking for it. A 225K rise in the year in the number of disabled people with jobs is positive, but the number unemployed is only down 15K, while the number of economically inactive is up by 133K. Clearly the number of disabled people captured in these stats is increasing, and that means a 225K increase in numbers employed isn't as impressive as it sounds, the fall in the number of disabled people out of work is much slower, and the number economically inactive is significantly worse, in fact looking at the previous quarter alone, more than twice as many disabled people became economically inactive as found jobs, while the number who are unemployed also increased, so that good figure for the year actually masks some disturbing numbers for the last quarter. 

Disability Confident is supposed to challenge the Disability Employment gap (the difference between the actual number of disabled people employed and the number of disabled people who would be expected to have a job if we were employed at the same rate as non-disabled). That is estimated at 2 million people, and Disability Confident is targeted at getting half of those into work, but DWP keep quoting increases in numbers employed, whereas we actually need to look at the decreases in those unemployed and economically inactive, figures which aren't nearly so good and in some ways are down-right worrying - what is driving the increase in economically inactive disabled people, a figure which dwarfs the number of unemployed disabled people roughly 8:1. Certain possibilities suggest themselves - fear of involvement with workfare, DWP's trigger-happy sanctions regime and general hostility towards disabled people within JCP (c.f. reports of disabled people being deliberately pressured in order to meet sanctions targets), not to mention the reported increase in hostility towards disabled people in the workplace as a whole, but none of these are things the government can afford to acknowledge, never mind address.  And of course there's also George Osborne's assertion in the budget (re the 30% cut in ESA) that we're all just lazy oiks who can't be bothered to work as a possibility, but I tend to class that as a disability hate crime rather than a serious policy suggestion.

For Disability Confident to reach its 1 million target, it needs to get all c400K unemployed disabled people into work, and then persuade another c600K disabled people who are currently economically inactive to return to being jobseekers, and then get them into work too. As Disability Confident is solely targeted at employers it is difficult to see how they intend to achieve this, but it is clear that other DWP initiative intended to pressure disabled people into work seem to be at least as successful at pressuring them entirely out of the workforce as into work.

There aren't any answers in the new data, but there are a lot of disturbing questions.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Geekfest: Wheelchair Using Fans Not Wanted?


Nine Worlds/Geekfest were very quick to reply and address my points, which I'm genuinely very impressed by, and where they had missed out on an update (the FAQ page), they quickly adopted my suggested wording for making it clear that the suggestion wheelchair users should consider the Marriott was room availability,  not a general recommendation. (I think there was an under-estimation of how seriously wheelies might take being 'advised' to use another hotel, most walkies don't understand just how unaccessible the built environment still is to those of us who come with wheels attached). The agreement to reimburse wheelchair users for taxi fares between the con hotels is a good compromise to the accessibility problem.

So am I completely happy and am I going now? Not entirely and probably not. Geekfest have fixed the access problem, but the problem still existed until a month before the con without being addressed, that's something that needs to be addressed for Geekfest 2016. The issue splits into two linked points, with the first of these being the attention given to access in the initial con hotel choice. It looks awfully like that got overlooked this time around, with the result that attendees were booking into hotels it was physically impossible for some of them to get between. That's a pretty fundamental problem. Either you pick hotels wheelchair-using fans can get between, or you make sure there is some accomodation in place and publicised in time for people to make informed hotel choices (and that second option is very much the worse of the two). The second point follows on from that, access information needs to be in place from the moment booking opens, if not before, because wheelchair-using, and other disabled fans, have to make serious decisions about whether their needs are being addresssed and whether getting between places will still leave them able to enjoy the con. Access isn't something you can leave until the last minute.

That last point is why I'm probably not going. I'm neurodiverse as well as a wheelchair user, and for various reasons taxis stress me badly. The solution will work for most people, but for me it just creates more problems. When I found myself thinking "well maybe I could use my wheelchair as a walker between hotels, that'll get me past the lack of kerb cuts and avoid needing to use taxis" I realised that I needed to say no, because either I was going to wear myself out physically or mentally. (And to be fair to Geekfest I've also thought of another way to use the money, it's likely a combination of both reasons, rather than solely one on its own).

I hope Geekfest 2015 goes well. I trust Geekfest 2016 will do it better still.


When a friend noted she was planning to go to 9 Worlds/Geekfest, due to be held 7-9th August at Heathrow, I was initially excited, I'd missed going to Eastercon for health reasons and this looked like a good substitute. Heathrow is a bit too far to commute from Kent, so I went to check the con hotels for accessibility, and that was when I was left with a nasty taste in my mouth.

How to Book A Hotel Room
The convention hotel for 2015 is the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow, on Bath Road just north of London Heathrow Airport. Rooms at the Radisson are now sold out. We've agreed convention rates at two nearby hotels:
  • Renaissance Heathrow - £89 / night for one person or £99 for two. The Renaissance is on the other side of Bath Road. It's close to the Radisson, but you have to cross over pedestrian crossing points as Bath Road is a large dual carriageway. The crossing points are unsuitable for motorised wheelchairs as they are not properly lowered. It's about a five minute walk at 'standard' walking speed. Google Maps walking directions are incorrect for this route as you can just go straight between the two sites.
  • Park Inn Heathrow - £86 / night for two people, or £77 for one person. The Park Inn is also on Bath Road, on the same side of the road as the Radisson, but there are a couple of junctions, a few unrelated buildings, a petrol station and a McDonald's between the two hotels. It's about an eight minute walk at 'standard' walking speed​​.
Both hotel rates include free breakfast and in-hotel wifi. Bookings are made with the hotel rather than Nine Worlds, and they can take bookings over the internet or by phone. For wheelchair users, we would advise considering the Marriott hotel. The Marriott is slightly closer than both of these - it's further down Bath Road on the same side as the Radisson, has good access facilities, but we were unable to agree an affordable room rate with them.​​​​ It's about three minutes walk at 'standard' walking speed, with one junction to cross.

(my italics, note that the pricing information given for the 'official' con hotels isn't repeated for the one wheelchair users are being advised to use - too embarrassed? Note also that there is no indication as to whether the junctions between the Park Inn and the Radisson have kerb-cuts - and the petrol station and McDonalds are also likely to be a problem for that. And if the route from the Renaissance isn't suitable for motorised wheelchairs due to lack of kerb-cuts it probably isn't suitable for most manuals either, not all of us can wheelie up a 6" kerb.

I need to know distances, not 'x minutes at normal walking speed' - here's a clue, people who need to know don't walk at 'normal' speed, and I need to know if every junction and entrance (McDonalds, petrol station) on the route between hotels has a kerb-cut, because falling arse over tit out the back of my chair into a busy road trying to wheelie up a too high kerb does not appeal).


From the access page

Whoa there! This policy is from Nine Worlds 2014. We're at the same hotel for 2015's Nine Worlds, but we're still reviewing all of the content on this page.

 (my italics, it's a month to the con, and you still have accessibility covered by a placeholder? Seriously!?!)

In summary

We’re running at the Radisson Edwardian, Heathrow. We have step-free access, accessible toilets, gender neutral toilets, designated quiet space, car parking, kid-friendly content, a minority of clearly marked 18+-only content, and space for feeding and changing. We’re running as 75-minute sessions with 30-minute breaks, and attendees can enter and leave sessions as they like. The Radisson has a limited number of wheelchair friendly / accessible hotel rooms. We recommend the Marriott next door as an accessible alternative if the Radisson books out.
(my italics, they recommend the Marriott, but don't mention it isn't a con-hotel)


Nine Worlds 2015 will be held at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Heathrow. The following is a brief overview of some of the hotel's features from an accessibility point of view; if you have any specific access queries please contact, tweet @9Waccess or contact the Radisson hotel directly.
The main circulating and social space for Nine Worlds is in the atrium at the top of the building. Access from the lobby is by climbing 38 steps (with four landings) or by lift; the lifts are not directly in the lobby/atrium but are clearly signposted along a side corridor. Lifts are big enough for a standard wheelchair plus companion, although users of larger wheelchairs or scooters may have difficulty. The lifts contain mirrors to aid reversing out.
The atrium is naturally lit from a glass ceiling and consists of smaller self-contained areas. These are connected by walkways and shallow ramps (including temporary ramps which will be in place for the duration of Nine Worlds where necessary).

One area is earmarked for possible use as a children's area; access here is down two steps which may not be possible to ramp. More information on this will be available in due course.

The main entertainment and vendors areas are in a large room off the atrium. This room is a couple of inches below the level of the corridor, with a carpeted ramp in the doorway. The entertainments and vendors room, along with most side rooms, are carpeted. Access to this room is through double doors which are held open when the room is in use.

Direct access to the main convention bar is down two steps from the atrium; step-free access is via a ramp at the opposite end of the atrium.
 (my italics, people with powerchairs or scooters may have trouble accessing the main con area? WTF? Why are they in this hotel with so basic an access fail?And as for scored-through access information, does that mean it's no longer relevant, no longer accessible or what? Access to the bar is pretty damned fundamental as far as I'm concerned!)

Hotel layout - Marriott


 (Note, no mention that the Marriott isn't a convention hotel, in fact no explanation why it's mentioned at all - if you can't even list the relevant hotels?)

Hotel layout - Sheraton Skyline


(Note, no mention that the Sheraton isn't a convention hotel, in fact no explanation why it's mentioned at all - if you can't even list the relevant hotels?)

Restaurant layout - McDonald's

As a lot of Nine Worlds attendees use the McDonald's on Mondial Way outside the Radisson, we had a brief look here too. The step-free route from the pavement has narrow chicane barriers across the footway which would block access for users of most mobility aids including wheelchairs; the only way of avoiding these is via the roadway. The building has automatic doors opened by push buttons, although these were not working when we visited. Assistance dogs are welcome.

(my italics, this seems to confirm there are access issues between both secondary hotels and the main con hotel)


No access information is given for the two actual secondary con hotels, the Renaissance and the Park Inn. The price difference between the official con hotels and the one wheelies are being advised to use is marked: Radisson Con-rate: ? (not stated in faq, presumably as sold out), Renaissance Con-rate: £89, Park Inn Con-rate:£77, but Marriott £127. So that's between £38/a night and £50 pound a night extra, a minimum of £114 extra for a wheelchair user who wants to stay three nights to ensure they see the whole con.

It looks awfully like Geekfest have stuck with a semi-accessible hotel rather than look for a better one as that's convenient for them, then negotiated con-rates with different secondary hotels to last year without giving any thought to accessibility, then stuck up an oh, wheelies had better stay at the Marriott excuse when they realised it's an issue, and just hoped they could keep quiet about the cost issues this imposes on wheelchair using con-goers.

Not impressed, don't know half the information I need, have no confidence in the rest, refuse to be exploited for being a wheelchair user, probably not going :(

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Disability Confident in its Own 'Inspirational' Words

I went through the tweets from attendees at the Swansea Disability Confident event yesterday, pulling out the tweets that show how the attendees see disabled people. Individual names and twitter accounts have been redacted, corporate accounts left intact. I have added commentary below some of the tweets in italics, reflecting on what they tell us about how the attendees understand disability.

Inspiring tales

A moving story from <redacted>, telling the room about his personal journey to employment
- speaker had a learning disability, let's get the pity party started!

<redacted> shares his inspirational story - internships play a big part

Inspiring and powerful stories and such a positive atmosphere

Inspiring morning at #disabilityconfident

<redacted> shares her inspiring story from the TREAT trust
- wheelchair user, 'inspirational' goes into overdrive

<redacted> of  Treat trust giving an #Inspirational talk

@equalapproach <redacted>, Treat trust discusses her personal journey. Never judge a book by its cover
 - sounds okay at first glance, but referring to a wheelchair user? Little creeped out by this one.

Being inspired by <redacted> from TREAT Trust Wales
- that makes four inspirings for a single speaker, interesting, if *headdesk*worthy, reaction to the wheelchair

@indycube "Focus on ability rather than disability" - Inspiring words from <redacted>
- but what about the needs that result from our disabilities? (and five inspirings)

@equalapproach Review your recruitment processes to check they are #inclusive and #accessible
- might want to review your recruiters and managers too, a non-discriminatory process is only as non-discriminatory as those who run it

@CardiffREEDHR Fantastic morning with @Delsion_ in Swansea. 1/3 disabled people WANT to work... #disabilityconfident
- worried a leading national recruiter sounds so surprised!

@CardiffREEDHR THANK YOU for inspiring us to enable the disabled. "our greatest need is to feel needed" 
- What the Actual Fuck?

@CardiffREEDHR Inspiring to hear <redacted> talk about the struggles & frustrations of students with learning disabilities.#disabilityconfident
- Scary our leading recruitment firms are so out of touch on disability

@AdmiralJobs: Amazing Inspirational speakers at #DisabilityConfident #Swansea
- Scary our leading recruitment firms are so out of touch on disability

Fantastic #disabilityconfident employer event today in #Swansea and inspirational speakers

Attended #disabilityconfident seminar in Swansea today #inspirational

@CodenSolutions awesome conference bringing disability on the employment agenda for our city #disabilityconfident #SwanseaCity #inspiration
- another recruiter

And because none of the attendees will understand why this is an issue, the late, great, Stella Young and I'm Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Is Disability Confident Too Embarrassed To Talk About Disability Discrimination?

We see it time and again, some DWP apparatchik or businessman tweeting that the only cause of the disability employment gap - the 2 million or so disabled people who should be in work if we were employed at the same rate as non-disabled people - is that business is embarrassed by disability.

Now that would be bad enough, it would be like employers being embarrassed that a job applicant is black, or a woman, or gay, or Muslim, and denying them a job because of that. But when we talk about people being denied jobs over their ethnicity, their gender, their sexual orientation or their religion, we don't call it 'embarrassment', we call it discrimination. Why is disability different?

In part this may be a historical problem common across the whole non-disabled population. I've had non-disabled people tell me I'm lying when I describe on-street harassment, up to and including physical assault, that has happened to me personally and where disability was clearly identified by the perpetrators as the reason for the attack. For some endearingly naive people this is part of a refusal to believe that anyone could attack disabled people, though sadly this is usually often coupled with a perception of us as less than adult. For others the reasoning seems murkier, perhaps because harassing disabled people as 'scroungers' and 'frauds' is something they feel encouraged towards by right-wing media and the scrounger rhetoric it has rammed down our throat for five years now, and to admit that that is discrimination would be to condemn themselves.

It may be that the designers of Disability Confident at the Department of Work and Pensions shared that problem, and sought frantically for some reason that would explain 2 million disabled people denied work without needing them to use the discrimination-word. But shyness and sensitivity are not qualities typically associated with DWP, so why 'embarrassed'? Why not 'bias'? Why not 'widespread contempt for Equality Act 2010'? Why not 'bigotry'? There are plenty of options that could have condemned the failure of employers to employ disabled people at the same rate as non-disabled, yet DWP chose to go with 'embarrassed'.

So when an employer bins a CV because it mentions disability, he's embarrassed?
So when an employer discounts a disabled applicant because they turn out to be disabled at interview, it's because he's embarrassed?
So when an employer forces a disabled worker out for daring to ask for a reasonable adjustment under EA2010, he's embarrassed?
So when an employer bullies a disabled person until finally they can't take any more, it's just a little light-hearted embarrassment between friends?

Let's remember that the latest Workfare figures show that employers would rather employ an ex-con (14% with a 'Job Outcome') than a disabled person (10.2% with a 'Job-Outcome', 5% if they are ex-Incapacity Benefit recipients), against 24.7% for the scheme as a whole.

Let's remember that a recent survey by the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI)  showed 37% of disabled people felt they had been discriminated against in the recruitment process, and the real figure is undoubtedly higher given the impossibility of knowing if your CV was binned for mentioning disability.

Let's remember that a survey of employers just before the recession announced it a triumph for equality that around 26% of employers would consider employing a disabled person who had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit, never mind that that meant 74% of employers had declared they would rather break the law than employ a disabled person (it being illegal to consider disability in an employment decision).

Is it just possible that 'embarrassment' isn't an appropriate description? Did anyone at Disability Confident think to ask actual disabled people what we think? It's not as if 'Nothing For Us, Without Us' is the fundamental tenet of disability rights or anything. Oh, hang on, yes it is. So imagine how disabled people feel when Disability Confident dismisses 2m disabled people who should be in work but are denied that right as just the result of a little embarrassment?

I've been there on the front line of disability discrimination, having the manager responsible for my career development tell me (when he was sure there were no witnesses), that my disability made me an unacceptable risk to his schedule and that under no circumstances would he put me into a job at my own grade. And when I was finally forced out of the company after a four year fight I had the very senior recruiter handling my 'outsourcing' take me aside and say "You need to understand that with your level of disability there is no chance of your getting a job in the private sector, and next to none in the public sector", a statement other recruiters later confirmed.

None of these people seemed 'embarrassed' about my disability, thought to give the recruiters their due they did seem embarrassed at acknowledging the discrimination I faced as a disabled job hunter. And I've talked to far too many other disabled people, who had faced identical contempt for our rights in the workplace, to believe that I am some kind of anomaly (the only anomaly was my ex-employer 's claim to be a national leader on workplace equality).

So here's a novel idea for Disability Confident, let's show the confidence to call it what it is: Unembarrassed, unpunished, institutionalised Disability Discrimination.

And until we challenge it, whether through Disability Confident or a scheme that actually addresses the needs of disabled workers and job seekers, rather than one that tries to drape a veil of embarrassment across the whole, horrible, discriminatory truth, we won't actually do anything to change the reality and allow disabled people to compete on an equal footing in the jobs market.

If 2 million people in any other minority were denied work through discrimination then it would be a scandal in every newspaper and news report in the land, but because it's disabled people being victimised people just try to write it off with an excuse: 'they'd be more trouble', 'they cost more', 'they can't be relied on'. Take those words, now imagine applying them to a worker who is black, or gay, or Muslim. Unpleasant taste in your mouth? That's the taste of discrimination, now imagine the stench of it from our side of the divide.

So long as industry, and Disability Confident, pander to the perception of disability as a problem, it will remain a problem, and the truth we face will remain not 'embarrassment', but open and winked and connived at Disablist Discrimination.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Problem With Disability Confident

The Minister for Disabled People, blowing his trumpet for Disability Confident, tells us (those of us on Linked-In anyway) that the number of disabled people in work is up 238,000 year on year, that's good. Not mentioning that the number of disabled people who are economically inactive also rose, up 49,000, or that the number of disabled people who are unemployed only fell by 73,000, that doesn't inspire confidence, disability or otherwise. In fact if we assume those extra economically inactive disabled people were previously unemployed, then the overall change in non-working disabled people is barely 24,000. The disability employment gap, between number of employed disabled people and what it would be if disabled people were employed at the same rate as non-disabled is about 2 million, Even if we accept the minister's 238,000 figure, that means we need 8 years of similar progress to eliminate the deficit. If it's the fall in unemployed and economically inactive we should really be looking at, because of disabled people being squeezed out of the benefit system (I'm one) then we're actually looking at more like 80 years before equality. I don't know about other people, but I'm really not prepared to wait that long.

The problem with Disability Confident is that it isn't actually confident about disability. If we want equality in the workplace then we need employers to perceive disability as normal, but Disability Confident, and indeed all DWP disability initiatives, are heavily based around inspiration porn (the portrayal of disabled people as somehow 'inspiring', which is uniformly loathed by disabled people), this isn't normalising perceptions of disability, it's actively denormalising perceptions, and trotting out Paralympians at Disability Confident events (or war veterans like Simon Weston) simply serves to further denormalise expectations of us. Beyond that it's clear that Disability Confident perceives disability as a 'problem' that needs to be explained away to employers. If you pander to the perception of disability as a problem, then it will remain a problem.

What has been clear from the outset is that Disability Confidence lacks the confidence to challenge established views of disability, that it does not want to confront employers over workplace disablism, the reality so many of us face in our careers, the reality that ends careers (mine is one), or prevents them from ever starting. When Disability Confident says 'look at how much longer disabled people remain in post' and tries to sell that as a positive attribute, then how many of us stop to think, to realise that disabled people like me stay in post longer because our careers are held back, because we fear being unable to find another post, because we can't find employers willing to take us on. Staying in post longer isn't a virtue to sell us by, it's a symptom of the discrimination we face.

Ultimately Disability Confident lacks ambition, or is that aspiration? It has targeted the low-hanging fruit, employers who are already willing to employ disabled people, but just aren't very good at it. I had an employer tell me the other day that disabled people campaigning for equal employment rights were 'a cancer', that he would only employ disabled people if he could pay them a lower rate, and that he would rather relocate abroad than obey the Equality Act. You may label him an exception, but it was a manager saying much the same who brought my career to a halt, and I've met an awful lot of disabled people with similar experiences. If Disability Confident truly wants to make a difference, then it is going to have to challenge this sort of ground-in, embittered disability discrimination in employment, because, until it does, disabled people's CVs will keep on ending up in the bin.