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Last Updated: Monday, 1 December, 2003, 06:40 GMT
My London: Drawing attention to disability
Ju Gosling
Ju Gosling became disabled in 1990
Ju Gosling PhD, who describes herself as a webmaster and multimedia storyteller, suffers from a degenerative spinal disorder. The 41-year-old talks to BBC News Online about how she campaigns for disabled rights through her art.

My take on disability, is that to describe someone as disabled is, in a way, absolute nonsense.

We are all this unique mixture of strengths and weaknesses - it doesn't matter if they are emotional, physical or intellectual.

And this can change the course of our lives.

Anyone can become disabled.

From the disability rights perspective it is not the disability that is the impairment but the way you are treated in society.

We must to remember that over the course of our lives, unless we die tragically young, we are all going to become disabled
Ju Gosling

There are false ideas and perceptions, so that the only images you see of people that are not regarded as physically perfect, are either charitable or medical images.

Mostly though, disabled people are invisible.

Because of my illness I am largely house-bound, so I can't really go out and chain myself to a bus.

So I try to raise awareness using the opportunities I have as an artist to highlight issues and generate debate.

Newham, the area in which I live, has a reputation for being poor and very hard - which it is.

But for me it is a very good area to live in.

There has been lots of work done on very basic things like dropped kerbs.

DISABLED LONDON
2003 is the European Year for Disabled People
There are more than 1.4m disabled people in London - about 20% of the city's population
17% of working age Londoners are disabled - about 810,000
People from minority ethnic groups are more likely to be disabled than people from white groups
In 2001/2 the unemployment rate for disabled Londoners was 11% compared to 6.2% for non-disabled Londoners
During 2001/2 the average hourly rate of pay for disabled Londoners was £10.25 - compared to £12.74 for non-disabled people
39% of disabled 16-24 year olds participate in some form of education compared to 50% of young non-disabled Londoners
But also many of the shopping centres are accessible, the local buses are great, there are accessible stations, the Docklands Light Railway has always been accessible and the Jubilee Line is accessible.

Even on the streets, you might get some tough looking kids but even they will hold doors open for you or apologise if they get in your way.

On the other hand central London can be unnecessarily difficult.

I don't think there is any real recognition that in many other parts of the world the situation is much better.

You do see shops where the steps are so small that it would have been just as easy to put in wheelchair access ramps or stores so cramped that you can't get your wheelchair round.

I think things are changing but not quickly enough.

I would like to see Ken Livingstone do more.

City Hall is a brand new building, but it's horrendously difficult for disabled people to use on a number of levels.

Wheels on Fire by Ju Gosling
Ms Gosling tries to inspire debate about disability through her art
Often it is the staff rather than the building that makes somewhere wheelchair accessible.

I think transport is a huge issue in terms of improving the Tube and the buses and not just saying we'll do it in another 20 years time.

Blue Badge holders may be exempt from the congestion charge but some people who can't climb steps or have mental health problems still have to use their cars.

They are not eligible for a Blue Badge and are being unfairly penalised.

We must remember that over the course of our lives, unless we die tragically young, we are all going to become disabled.


My London is a series of features about life in the city which will be on News Online every Monday. If you have a story suggestion please send an e-mail to: londonnews@bbc.co.uk.




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