My 2018 in review

 

2018 has been the year of me being productive, determined and self-motivated. I would admit I haven’t achieved as much as I hoped this year. However I’ve discovered what I’m capable of and what I can accomplish with the resources and connections I have. Here is a roundup of all my achievements, activities and life changing events over the past 12 months.

Career

My greatest achievement has to be creating, running and maintaining this blog. In December, it celebrated its first anniversary. When I began this blog, I never thought it would be this successful, nor that I would enjoy writing it so much. I have gained more writing experience, learnt lots of blogging tips and “virtually” met some amazing like minded bloggers. It has also given me the opportunity to write guest blog posts and freelance writing.

Stick men at a job interview

Also this year I had another attempt of securing employment. The first 6 months I applied for several internships. One included a television production training scheme at Channel 4, where part of the application was to create a video on diversity:

Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful securing this position, plus others at BBC, ITV, The Guardian and Leonard Cheshire’s Change 100 scheme. In September, I had a job interview for an admin help-desk role at my former college but was rejected there too.

Disability Horizons

On a positive note, this year I increased my workload at online magazine Disability Horizons. As well as my community writing, I was given the opportunity to conduct interviews with various disabled people. My first, and most successful interview, was with BBC weather presenter Lucy Martin. In fact, it was so popular, it was rated our most read article of 2018. I also got a second chance to interview her about her catwalk debut at the Fashanne Awards. As a result of my success in securing numerous interviews, I have been given the task of planning, researching and conducting more interviews with high profiled disabled people in 2019. Furthermore, because I’ve been a regular and loyal writer for the past 6 years, I was offered to be included on their staff page and be given an official Disability Horizons email address which was a great privilege.

About DH screenshot - Emma Purcell has been a writer for Disability Horizons since 2012. She graduated with a Journalism degree in 2016 from the University for the Creative Arts in Surrey. She now lives in Alton, Hampshire and runs her own blog, Rock For Disability, where she shares her experiences of living with disabilities. She is also a Content Adviser for the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK. Emma has Cerebral Palsy and is registered blind. However, this has never stopped her being independent and living her life to the full. She has a passion for music and loves attending gigs and festivals. She also enjoys acting and performs at theatre groups. Her ambition is to become a music journalist for online, digital and broadcast media.

In addition, I was offered a couple of paid freelance writing jobs for external disability-related companies and hoping to secure more next year.

Muscular Dystrophy UK

I’ve also been continuing my voluntary work as a Content Advisor for the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK where I share my thoughts, opinions and ideas on the charity’s written and multimedia content. I attended my first annual meeting in London in October where I met some of the other members which was great fun. I look forward to finding out what projects we’ll be involved in next year.

AccessAble

Lastly, I was fortunate enough to become the Hampshire Champion for the disability charity AccessAble. In this role, I create blog & vlog entries to share accessible places in Hampshire. In November, my first vlog was published:

I hope the local authorities will take my message on board and I’m looking forward to see what other adventures I can share from Hampshire in 2019.

Education

Cartoon owl wearing glasses and holding book

Back in the summer, I was trying to decide if a Masters degree was worth pursuing. As part of my research into the idea, I spent the autumn attending university open day

My first open day was at UCA Farnham, to look at a MA in Digital Media. This was also the university where I studied for my undergraduate degree in Journalism. Because I was an alumni student, I only spent an hour at the open day. I met with the course leader at the television studio who was really nice and friendly. Unfortunately she was only available to speak to me for 10 minutes so I only got a brief overview of the course. I was told this will be a new course that has not been taught yet so she could only tell me minimal information. From what I understand, we learn different elements of digital media (e.g photography, animation, radio, web design), study the theory and business side of them and then we choose a specialism for our final project with support from industry experienced people in that field. If I was to do this course, I would consider either radio or web design. I did have multiple questions to ask the course leader but because the course hasn’t been finalised, she was unable to clarify everything I wanted to know about the course at this stage.

The next university I went to visit was Solent University in Southampton. Here I was interested in MA Journalism and Multimedia Communications. I have been told by former students and previous people considering Solent that they were not satisfyed by the quality of support and opportunities. However, I was still eager to check it out for myself.

When I arrived in Southampton City, my first impressions weren’t great. The directions and signposting for the open day entrance and parking wasn’t clear and my PA and I ended up driving around the campus several times before finding a disabled parking space. The space we did find was around the back of the building and was a 10 minute walk to the main entrance.

When we eventually arrived and I got registered, I began by meeting with the Access Solent team who provide academic support for students with disabilities. I got the impression from the woman who I was talking to, she couldn’t fully understand my needs and requirements. When I explained about needing support setting up equipment (eg laptop, mouse, ipad, keyboard etc), I think she thought I meant literally log in for me and carry out the work on the device when I meant physically take it out my bag, put it on my desk and plug it in if required. It also wasn’t very clear whether the university can provide learning support assistants or whether I would need to bring my PA to lectures and other academic events. From my understanding I just need to apply for DSA and put down what support I need then find out if I’m eligible and what support is available at that university when I enroll. Very complicated!

Next I went to the main atrium where stalls were set up. I said I was interested in the MA Journalism and Multimedia Communications course and they took me to a stall. However the course leader was held up in a talk and In the meantime, I was suggested to head upstairs to meet with the postgraduate enrolement and finance team. I did so and they gave me an outline on how to apply for the course and how to apply for student finance. This was sort of useful but I kind of knew most of it already.

I then went back downstairs to wait to speak to the course leader. After about another 15 minutes of waiting, I finally got to speak to him, along with the course leader of the Public Relations and Multimedia Communications. I was interested in both Journalism and PR and was curious to know what would be best. After a lengthy discussion, I’m still unsure. I was told they are both very theoretical based courses with research, essay writing and exams. Hearing this has put me off as I’ve never enjoyed the essay and exam elements of study and prefer practical experience. On the other hand, I understand the importance of having industry knowledge and research skills.

The one part of this university that particularly interested me was Solent Futures. They are a department that provides support to current and former students in finding employment or starting up their own business. They support with CVs, job applications, interview skills and help searching for paid employment, internships and work experience.

The third open day I attended was at Highhbury College in Portsmouth to look at an undergraduate course in Journalism. Although I already have an undergraduate degree in Journalism, I liked the look of this course because it gave you work placements at the local newspapers. I emailed the course leader to check I would be eligible for this course considering I already have a degree. He said it was fine and I attended an open day. This course did not impress me much either. It sounded very similar to my previous course and had elements such as court reporting, shorthand writing and exams, which I’m not particularly keen on nor have physical ability to complete. The learning support team were not very helpful either. I asked all the relevent questions; what kind of support do you provide? Do I need to apply for DSA? But the woman I was speaking to just kept saying once I’ve enrolled they will do an in-depth assessment on me and kept speaking to me as though I was deaf or stupid.

I was scheduled to visit University of Chichester and Bournemouth University but due to personal commitments, I had to cancel. however I do hope to attend future open days in the coming months.

Overall I’m still unsure as to whether I want to pursue a masters degree. None of the universities I have visited so far have appealed to me.

Health

This year my physical health has been as good as a physically disabled person can be and with the exception of three operations. The first was in June to have an anaesthetic block put in my left leg due to having pain over the past nine months.

Catheter bag

Eight days later. I had a life changing surgery where I had a suprapubic catheter fitted. This was to help me have a more active lifestyle without having to rely on inadequate accessible toilets. Moreover, every three months I have a district nurse come to my house to change the catheter, which can be a strange and unpleasant experience. And finally in mid December, I had my annual eye surgery at Moorfields Eye Hospital to remove the calcium buildup on the surface of my left eye. I am still recovering now and my vision isn’t great. Therefore I am heavily relying on audio description and voice-over software to complete work and watch television. However I hope there will be improvement by the time I go for my checkup next week.

The thing I’ve been battling most of this year has been my mental health. In October 2017, I began cognitive behavioural therapy. This is a talking therapy whereby I discuss skills to improve my mood and deal with difficult situations. The greatest challenge I faced was dealing with difficult and unreliable carers. This was causing my mood to be very low, feeling stressed, anxious and depressed and on some occasions suicidal. In October this year, I was discharged from the service feeling a lot more positive and confident dealing with these difficult situations.

Care

Talking of carers, my mission to secure a good quality care team with an affordable budget has still not been resolved. In February, I was rejected NHS funding – again! Social services are still refusing to increase my social care budget. Therefore 14 months on, my Mum is still caring for me a majority of the time and I’ve only had 3 live-in carers all year. The first worked with me for six weeks then left the company for “personal reasons “. The second had never done live-in care before and was not confident enough and quite immature and irresponsible. The third only began at the beginning of December and I just found out this week that she will be leaving the company in 2 weeks. So the care search begins again. I just need someone who is experienced, organised and willing to support me in all aspects of my life.

Emotions

The saddest event to come out of this year was losing my beloved pet rabbit Mickey. I only had him 2 years and he was expected to live a long life of up to 8 years. It was so inexpected and a sudden death. I miss him every day and he will never be forgotten.

Hobbies & Activities

When I’m not blogging, writing, researching, job hunting or stressing bout carers, I love to act. In September, I joined an adult drama group at The West End Center in Aldershot. The first term we did our Christmas performance Olivia Twist; a modernised version of Charles Dickens’ tale Oliver Twist. Next term we have no perforrmance but will have different workshops in various acting techniques.

This year I also enjoyed a nice collection of live events; 7 music concerts, 1 festival and even a comedy night at the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club in Portsmouth.

In addition, I got to enjoy three trips to Bristol, several BBQs and even a day out at FriendsFest 2018.

Emma, her Mum & friend posing at Monicas large yellow frame

What to expect in 2019?

In 2019, I hope to increase my blog audienc e(which you can see has had a bit of a makeover this week), secure employment or gain more paid freelance opportunities, find a decent care team (which still looks very unlikely) and continue to enjoy my drama classes, attending live events and spending quality time with those I love.

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Published by Rock For Disability

This blog follows my life as a disabled person, reports disability news, share music reviews, give advice pieces, shows multimedia content plus much more!

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