Sunday, 30 June 2013

Birmingham IPC Athletics Grand Prix 2013

As some of you may know, last week I won a competition to design a logo for Hannah Cockroft - paralympic champion wheelie racer.

As a result I got to go to the Sainsbury's IPC athletics Grand Prix yesterday. I'll meet Hannah properly next weekend. There was a chance I'd get to say hi on Saturday too but the schedule meant it was unlikely.

 It was AWESOME.
Exhausting, but absolutely fabulous.

The atmosphere was lovely. And the people sitting next to us were rather fabulous....


Even though not every race went to plan
(I was so impressed with his composure afterwards - he must have been devastated)

It didn't detract from the overall event - complete with hideous orange clappy things.


I think my brother enjoyed it too....

I hadn't met Hannah. And the competition was nearly over - she'd obviously be busy afterwards. But then, thanks to Ben's VIP status, I managed to tag along when he got to meet the athletes!!



So not only did I see amazing sport and sportsmanship, I also spent time on the track mingling with a mix of up and coming youngsters keen to meet their heroes - and the heroes themselves. Yes, at different times I was within a few feet of David Weir (1500m), Aled Davis (Discus) [I really wanted to ask whether he'd seen my cartoon of him at the paralympics but was too shy!], Richard Shabel (Club), Jonnie Peacock (100m) and more.

And I got to chat briefly with Hannah Cockroft - and be introduced to her coach as 'My logo designer' - How awesome is that!! I was hoping to meet up with her after her obligatory pee and drugs test - but medical conditions and train times conspired against me.

By the time I reached the station I had over-heated, overdone it, coherent thought was gone, and I sounded like Dory when she speaks whale in 'Finding Nemo'.

Why, oh why did this have to happen then?


Yes. It is the absolute truth. My 2 operational brain cells then had a fight over whether to collapse on the floor, shut up and recover - or to chat and tell him I'm a cartoonist and he should check out my work. Consequently, I think what happened was a surreal mixture of the two. At half speed. With an added "'sss hot. mmm drunk." While little brother Stephen (who I introduced as 'My servant, Stephen' - or was it slave?) got out my cool vest and worked on returning me to a semi-human state.

Sorry Ade! The explanation you should have received is: I have Ehlers Danlos/Hypermobility Syndrome - a connective tissue disorder meaning (amongst other things) that all my ligaments are too loose, and my veins are also too stretchy, causing PoTS - the reason for my....floppy, uncoordinated, slurry...ness. In fact, I should have just shown you this card:

And as we left to catch our train, Ade called after us "Bye Hannah, and Slave!" (Little brother has my humour - and was rather delighted.)



Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Railway Success!

[Edited to add: I can confirm this has now all been addressed! Whoop for the power of stickmen!]

You may remember the 'too accessible loo' I recently discovered in a railways station concourse. Much to my embarrassment.

My initial letter didn't quite do the trick - they got the point about the window but it seemed that they thought I dislike the RADAR key on principle, and hadn't picked up that I was complaining about it being faulty. So a slightly less subtle email on what it is like to be walked in on/have the door left open as they walk away has resulted in assurance that the lock has now been looked at, is faulty and will be replaced.

And the window will be made more opaque.

Hurrah for station managers who respect my need to pee in private!

...at least, I HOPE so. Not been given a date for the works to be done, but I'll be keeping an eye on it to make sure it is.

Now I  just need to persuade them to change the symbol on the door....


...because lets face it, 'Accessible Toilet' in these circumstances doesn't seem quite applicable!


Friday, 21 June 2013

Back to reality

This last week has been in some ways a fabulous one:

I've entered a logo design competition for designing a logo for the paralympic Gold Medalist Hannah Cockcroft (please let me win!! PLEASE!!).

I've been contacted by a lift company who will be using my positive alternative disability logo to denote the accessibility of their new wheelchair lifts.

And I've been nominated for 2 awards at the National Diversity Awards, (one for Entrepreneurs of Excellence, and one for being a Role Model - both in the disability category) and got through their preliminary stuff and been asked to provide further evidence about the diversity related work I do!

How awesome is that!

All in one week!

But at the same time I've had a rough few days POTS wise. When I say rough I mean kinda horizontal. Spending large tracts of time semi-concious on my beanbag after every time I had to do something. A seriously floppy patch.

And yes, I am an expert when it comes to flop level assessment.

I'd managed to eke out my last few dioralyte rehydration sachets to last until my 'nuun' tablets arrived today.

Surprisingly the 'nuun's taste good. Consequently I've been drinking a LOT today.

And I feel SO much better.

And slightly sheepish.

My stupendous flop level wasn't due to lack of sleep, or meds reactions, or the weather, or some cosmic power stealing my energy. True, they may have played a part, but basically: dehydration.

And I even noticed on Wednesday that my nails stayed white for ages when pressed and thought 'that means something' but couldn't remember what......

Ooops!!

I turns out that neither success nor fun stuff can replace basic POTS management!

So if I moan about unscheduled excessive floppiness remind me to drink :D

And before anyone tells me not to feel bad about it - I don't. Mildly foolish and somewhat amused is more like it. After all, when you live alone and have to manage a condition that saps your ability to think clearly....errors happen. No big deal. I shall try not to repeat the experience but will soon get over the stupid amount of daytime TV I watched, and today's PA's will help clear the debris left behind by a seriously floppy week.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

National Diversity Awards nomination

The other day I received a message from one of my customers, they wanted to nominate me for the National Diversity Awards.

I was surprised and really pleased - it is nice to know that my stickmen are doing their job - communicating in a positive way about disability.

I have been nominated for the 'Positive Role Model' (Disability) category.

And I have had confirmation that I/Stickman Communications has been nominated in the Entrepreneur of Excellence (Disability) category at the UK's largest Diversity Awards.

People will be shortlisted based on quantity of nominations, quality of nominations, how strongly their work relates to the category they've been nominated in, and evidence provided by the nominee themselves.

According to the blurb from the charity I should now start a huge publicity campaign to shout about how awesome I am and how my stickmen are making the world a better place so I get more nominations. This strikes me as a bit excessive. So this blog is all you get: If you'd like to nominate me under any category you think fits me, please do so. If not - don't! :D

Below is the official press release info:

Hannah Ensor, a cartoonist from Oxfordshire has been nominated for the Entrepreneur of Excellence (disability) award at The National Diversity Awards.

The ceremony celebrates some of the excellent and inspiring achievements of positive role models and community organisations from across the UK. The awards aim to recognise nominees in their respective fields of diversity including age, disability, gender, race, faith, religion and sexual orientation.
 Hannah Ensor lives with HMS/EDS (being far too bendy and falling apart) and PoTS (tap-dancing heart and appearing drunk without alcohol). For her, life with an uncooperative body is normal and the freedom of having a great set of wheels is simply marvellous.
Although initially trained as an Environmental Health Officer, her conditions deteriorated significantly in her mid 20's and she was medically retired a few years later in 2010. Around this time, Hannah Ensor's stickmen based approach to disability started as a way to communicate while unable to put a sentence together. It naturally grew into a business - communicating about disability with charm, humour, and unerring accuracy. 
Her online shop www.stickmancommunications.co.uk stocks a whole range of her products, from stickers with her 'Positive Disability Symbol' design, to 'differently normal' wristbands, and Keyring Cards which help the user explain about their disability/how they are feeling/what they need effectively and with humour. From children's books full of life and laughter - which just happen to include disability as normal, to cartoon gift books suitable for all ages which communicate about various aspects of life with disabilities, with humour and unerring accuracy.
Alongside the shop, Hannah's blog, peppered with stickmen, works to raise understanding and acceptance of disability, not because she campaigns, but because she writes with openness and humour about her life in a way that is easy to relate to, and her enjoyment of life shines through.
Hannah also works closely with the Hypermobility Syndrome Association (for which she was appointed Patron for kids and teens in 2012) supporting others with her conditions and helping them make positive choices in managing it.
Some comments from her customers:
"Utterly inspiring and hilarious, she's changing perspectives on disability in a fabulous way"
"I would never have put a universal disability logo on the car because of embarrassment but now I have this positive logo and I love it - I even have it on my kayak and I'm proud to show the world I'm positively different."
"You have given me hope, thank you very much. I only saw dark days ahead of me but I think I should look at it differently. If I lose the use of my legs then there will be other experiences that I may never have tried. Thank you for being an inspiration with your attitude to life."
The National Diversity Awards 2013 in association with Microsoft will be held at The Queens Hotel, Leeds on September 20th.  Britain’s most inspirational people will come together to honour the rich tapestry of our nation, recognising individuals and groups from grass roots communities who have contributed to creating a more diverse and inclusive society.

Big Brother host Brian Dowling and CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell will be hosting this year’s event. The awards have also gained support from a number of celebrities including Stephen Fry, Beverley Knight and Ade Adepitan - and the Likes of Paralympic champion Jody Cundy, and Journalist Amal Fashanu were amongst last year’s attendees.

The largest diversity awards ceremony of its kind has generated great sponsors such as the co-operative Group, Sky, The Open University and Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Theresa McHenry, of Microsoft UK, said ‘The National Diversity Awards are a wonderful way to recognise the extraordinary contribution of real people to our communities.  It’s a delight to be able to support this fantastic celebration of local heroes.’

Amongst last year’s winners was gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who scooped up The Lifetime Achiever Award; Trade Union activist Zita Holbourne who was awarded the positive role Model for Race and The Anthony Walker foundation, a charity established following the tragic murder of its namesake in a racially motivated attack.

The National Diversity Awards received an astonishing amount of nominations for last year’s event.

Paul Sesay, Chief Executive of The National Diversity Awards said, ‘if ever there was a time to celebrate and elevate the truly staggering diversity of talent the UK has to offer – it is now’

‘I know another fantastic spectacle of role models will be delivered and recognised this year’.

Nominations are now open and close July 19th 2013 - so don’t miss out on your chance to get involved!

Shortlisted nominees will be announced shortly after this date.

To nominate Hannah Ensor please visit: www.nationaldiversityawards.co.uk
Or for a nomination form please email: emma@thediversitygroup.co.uk

Friday, 14 June 2013

Highlights from Disability Exhibition 'Kidz Down South' - Reading.

Yesterday I went to the Kidz Exhibitions 'Kidz Down South' event. For me, it was WAY better than Naidex! It just was.

I spent my time between being Hannah - HMSA Patron, Hannah Esnor - Stickman Cartoonist, and just Hannah, a bendy wheelie looking for solutions.

Here are some of my highlights:

Discovering 'Stabilo' cushions from aatgb.com - positioning aids/cushions. They are soft, you mould them to the shape you want/rest limb in them in a good position, attach a vacuum pump - they 'set' in that position: hey presto ability to relax and stay aligned, no splints involved!! They aren't designed for bendies, and technically it was a seat cushion, but oh my word, SO efffective! (And they liked my stickmen.)

I may possibly have spent ages chatting to the sales guys so I could rest my wrist in soft, perfectly aligned, heaven for as long as possible. (spending several hours slow wheeling round the event was not the best thing to do with hands overused the day before)

Home for Home Care - a residential care and support organisation created by parents who know from experience. They seem a truly awesome organisation. I loved their ethos and positivity. (And they liked my stickmen)

The lady who stopped me to ask about the Helium - had a lovely chat about chairs (and I may have referred her to GBL wheelchairs) It was quite funny cos we were right next to the RGB wheelchairs stand - and there was me telling their customer that a Quickie branded chair was awesome! Sorry, wheelie seller.

DeNovo footwear...ok, so technically they are for kids, but they go up to my size - and they do really cool, custom made Doc Marten style boots, that don't cost much more!

Lunch break.
via the 'Stabilo' stall....I managed to adopt their 'base' cushion, nicely moulded to my left arm, for the duration of lunch break. 
Sitting outside eating a bacon bap I got chatting to 3 OT's. Did some more HMS educating, 'accidentally' got onto the subject of stickmen, only for one of the OT's to say "The stickmen?! That's you! I've seen them before, they're great!"

go back to return the Stabilo....and fail. Instead I reset it for my right arm and keep it for the rest of the day - wheeling round using both hands, and resting the right one while chatting. 

The Association for Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists was there - so I put on my 'HMSA Patron' hat and had a good chat. Going to put them in touch with the HMSA. (And they liked my stickmen)

Tom Tag - a great way to help kids remember what they need to pack for school. A really good design - you could tell they were thought up by someone who has 'been there'. A practical solution to a problem. (although, of course, my highly biased opinion is that they'd look better with stickman cartoons).

The lady from Contact a family. Turns out her son has autism and HMS, so I put my HMSA hat back on and told her 'our' info was amazing and forums brilliantly moderated. (I also told her I was biased). And of course general chat about HMS and things that can help various issues. (And she liked my stickmen)

The 'hyperbaric chamber' guys (pressurised Oxygen chamber - like for divers with the bends.) 'The Light Clinic' in Reading. Sounds like it might be worth a try - given it can help with healing (constant HMS/EDS injuries) and PoTS 'lack of oxygen to brain' issues. Not cheap at £60/hour, but I've decided to start saving. (And I didn't even mention stickmen.)

Compression gloves. Oh they are heaven. I use sports compression which helps a bit, but the full on compression would definitely help more. So when I see my physio next I'm going to start working on getting some!

Wheelchair Dance Sport Association. Because dancing is awesome. And the random chap on another stall, who I ended up chatting to for ages - the stall was for mobility aids, but in his spare time he runs a dance school for kids, and was keen to include all kids. So if you know any kids with disabilities near wellingborough who want to dance - check out http://www.goldstarzdance.com/index.htm  - contact Keir. (and they both liked my stickmen.)

And then back towards AAT to return the cushion again, being accosted by the 'Home from Home Care' chaps on the way past, and ending up selling them my sample set of 'Differently Normal' wristbands.

Time to return the cushion. Never before has it been so hard to leave a cushion behind. I will be getting one. A small one first (costing around £170) Not for using on days out - but to use as a night-time/resting support for whichever joint will otherwise hinder my sleep the most.

This decision was confirmed when I got home. My wrists had been subluxing all day, and needed a rest, so I was sat watching TV with my night resting splints on. Which completely immobilise the hands and are made of hard plastic. Oh how I missed the soft supportiveness of the stabilo. Especially when I wanted to use the TV remote - I couldn't simply use my hand then return it to it's supported position. I could have cried. For not having a cushion I only met today. I'm sure they might work for my ankles and knees too. I even dreamt about the darn things last night!

Overall conclusion? I need to start some serious saving. I need a 'Base' Stabilo Posture Cushion. And possibly more. Some people are fabulous. And I fully intend to have a stickman-selling stall at the next one.

I've just checked the dates. The exhibitions in Coventry and Manchester are both on 'Jab Day' (I have an injection every 21 days which helps me stay conscious) No way can I do a major event then unless my condition management drastically changes.

Fingers crossed that the next Kidz South event is on a suitable day!

(And no. I have not been paid by Stabilo/AATGB to write this. But I might see if I can wangle a good discount, given that I'm telling the world that their products work for me....It's ALWAYS worth a try.)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The too accessible loo.

A while ago I had an 'interesting' accessibility experience. So I decided I'd send them a letter: (the stations name has been removed because I only sent the email today - I'll give them time to respond before naming them. I was hoping to send it to the station manager but can't find his email address, so it's had to go to the general 'customer enquiries' - although I'm posting a hard copy to the manager later.)

Dear Sir,
RE: Accessibility at [RAILWAY STATION]

It is with great pleasure that I inform you, as a wheelchair user who often uses [RAILWAY STATION]  that I have found the staff helpful, polite, and generally rather awesome.
However, there is something which really needs to be addressed. The accessible toilet (the one near customer information desk on platform x) is, ironically, rather too accessible.

Did you realise that when it is dark and the toilet user turns the light on, the translucent glass window between the person on the loo and platform x becomes….shall we say…significantly less opaque? The individual can then be clearly seen by all on the platform. Even a simple piece of hardboard would solve the issue as a temporary measure.

Taking this public display one step further, did you realise that there is no effective privacy lock on this accessible toilet?


Some of your staff are aware of this because when I asked about it they said they had been told that “It is designed that way, so if someone needs assistance and pulls the emergency chord, someone can get in to help.”

True, there needs to be a privacy lock over-ride mechanism, but it should be as outlined below – not through use of a RADAR key (widely available and the equivalent of a door handle).

So while the staff at [RAILWAY STATION] are to be highly commended, please either reduce visibility through the window in the accessible toilet and replace the faulty lock, or in the interests of equality, please remove all privacy locks from the standard toilet cubicles and add suitable viewing windows.

I look forward to being able to pee in private on my next visit.

Yours sincerely,

Hannah Ensor

New York's 'new handicapped symbol' and me.

Fascinated.

Someone in New York designed a new 'Handicapped' Symbol, and 'New York' is going to use it. It's been all over twitter and facebook for weeks.

Reactions have been mixed - some like it, others are indifferent, dislike it, some argue it will confuse the public by looking too able so they won't help. They might have a point - I'm not sure.

But I'm not really sure why it's such big news. Symbols will naturally change over time - and within different contexts different versions are surely completely applicable.

Personally - I like that the this 'new' symbol highlights that it doesn't have to be standard to work. Why not have different ones - recognisable but suited to their context.

I would like the New York symbol in my local gym, for example. A symbol portraying speedy athleticism would be perfect there.

But to be honest, (this is my blog and I'm entitled to be biased) I'm not taken with a sporty symbol for general use. Why? Not everyone is sporty. So having an overtly sporty image for general use feels a bit odd. I still prefer my design.

Image description: adapted accessibility symbol, with arms raised above it's head and a broad grin.
Admittedly, not everyone can wave their hands above their head, but everyone can have a positive attitude and a rich and fulfilled life. And I think my symbol says this better.

Yes I may need help with stuff, but I have no need of pity because Life is Good.

And if I was, for example, visiting the zoo, or the shopping mall, or travelling by train, being signposted to the accessible entrance by this would make my day.

(Perhaps I need to start creating metal signs with it on. If your company needs some, email me)

Monday, 3 June 2013

Dancing: Hannah Style

A couple of years ago I discovered that if I concentrated on moving with all my joints in good positions - like a professional dancer - my joint stability improved. So I make a cup of tea in 'Ballet mode'. And my shoulder and wrist remain attached!

As my core stability improved through years of physio and exercises, I thought maybe I could use dance as a form of excercise - practicing controling my joints but in a way that is so much more fun than gym work. I called around several local dance classes. The responses were either that they 'didn't do that kind of thing' (i.e. wheelchairs) or that 'Yes, we are inclusive - you can sit out when we do the foot work'. Neither response gave me any hope that I would be encouraged to find the things that I am good at, and to dance in a way that makes the most of the abilities I have.

I had almost given up when I discovered 'Dugout, Oxford'. I wouldn't even class them as 'inclusive' - because they don't 'include'. You join. You are a dancer. You are one of the group, and valued as such. 

I first went to Dugout just over 2 years ago, but after a few sessions had to drop out due to my POTS. However, I am much better at managing it now so I rejoined in February. And I love it.

This was the first time I've been involved in a dance performance and it was brilliant fun. (my solo is at approx 10:10)

(You can hardly tell I'm wearing a cooling vest underneath that top!)

I had to explain beforehand 'I will collapse after we finish, I will lie on the floor until I regain enough consciousness to function. This is totally normal, and I'll be fine in a bit.'


But it was worth it.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Beautiful mail.

Receiving the first copies of your own work in print is special.

Indescribably special.

Something that has been in my mind for months - even years, which I have worked on hour after hour. agonising over layout, colours, which images work best, repeatedly re-wording the simplest phrases - has miraculously gone from screen and imagination to reality.



When I've been working on something so closely for so long it's hard to see it from the perspective of the finished article - I see the tweaks that need to be made and my dilemma over whether to add another 5% to the Cyan colour on the cover.

But when the proof copy arrives in bound, printed form... it's like christmas-come-early.

So I've made my final changes and approved the final files! The release date is 1st July 2013, but they can be advanced ordered through my website.

I already have orders waiting from UK, Australia and USA.

But the best bit? 

They do their job. Before my dance performance the other night (the first I've ever done) I used the PoTS book (proof copy) to explain my condition to another dancer so they wouldn't panic when I crashed out afterwards. It worked - and they chuckled through their lesson rather than getting scared by medical jargon. Then they read the hospital book, and actually laughed out loud.

Some days I think I have the best job in the world.