Welcome to Bennett's World: a collection of articles and references covering a wide variety of topics in which I am involved. I am a very political person but I have no allegiance to any political party. Follow me on twitter @colinhove

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Recent News - Seminar and Maiden Speech

Visit to Groningen I recently attended the Acquired Deafblind Network Seminar in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands. These seminars take place every two years and this one was held from 1-5 November 2006. As is my practice for these events, I arrived a couple of days early in order to get a feel for the city. I was lucky enough to get an Easyjet ticket from Gatwick to Amsterdam for £17. The rail fare from Amsterdam to Groningen was about EUR 28. I was given amazing service right from the aeroplane to the correct platform at the railway station at Schiphol (Amsterdam Airport). I met by arrangement Hubert who has been a resident of Groningen for some years after having studied there. This often happens in that city as it does in Brighton. Hubert has very little sight and it was quite amusing how we asked passers by at the railway station to lookout for another blind man. We spent a little time together and visited the tourist office to find a 'pension'. I found a very convenient place right in the centre of the city and it cost only EUR 20. The proprietress was kindness itself. In fact I spent another day in Groningen after the conference and stayed at the same place. I was only one of I think two participants at the seminar who had Usher Syndrome (or a similar problem) but had no guide/communicator. I did get a lot of help from other people although sometimes it was difficult because of the lighting conditions. The main problem was the low light level in the dining room. Obviously the dining room of a standard hotel has lighting geared to suit the usual visitors. I have to say that every room used during the seminar was well equipped with an infra-red system (to help people with hearing problems) and so I was able to follow the proceedings very well. The seminar was very expensive especially for someone such as myself paying for it out of his own pocket. There are other points about the seminar which I will develop in a friendly way elsewhere. However, overall I found it useful and enjoyable. I could not obtain a cheap flight home so I took a Eurolines bus from Amsterdam to London Victoria. This cost EUR 42 inclusive and I have to say that the driver, a Dutchman called Derek, was amazingly helpful and understanding. He even walked me from his bus at the arrivals section of Victoria Coach station to the departure section - even to the stand for my bus to Brighton. That was 5:30 am and he had been working non-stop since 7:00 pm the previous evening. Off course I shall be e-mailing Eurolines to express my appreciation for this help which is characteristic of the help I receive on buses, trains, boats and aeroplanes. I have never had a bad travel experience. You might like to look at the website for the 2006 ADBN Seminar here. Visit to the House of Lords I had a very pleasant day at the House of Lords in London on 21 November 2006. This was the day of the maiden speech there of Colin Low who is now Lord Low of Dalston (in the London Borough of Hackney). This where he lives. Five peers were making their maiden speeches on that day. A group of Colin's friends met him near the reception area of the Peer's Entrance to the House. I got there early, and found the reception as helpful as always. He told me that Colin had already made his mark in the House of Lords dur to his amazing powers of navigation. I have been to that area before and there used be an open coal fire there which was so wonderful to sit by and wait for the person for whom you have an appointment. That has gone now and the receptionist and I jointly lamented its passing ! At about 2:15 pm Colin's party, (many of them blind) where led to the Peer's Lobby. We waited there for the Speakers procession to pass through on its way to the Chamber. We then went to the Public Gallery of the Chamber where we sat through two hours of normal business until 4:30 pm when Colin made his Maiden Speech. There was one other Maiden Speech before his. Colin's speech was faultless and very well received by the Peers. You can read his speech as recorded in Hansard here. This is well worth reading and is a cogent explanation of the situation of many blind people in the UK. It struck just the right note: informative, critical but not carping. It was clear to me that Colin already has a warm following in the House of Lords and he will be a great asset there for all blind people and indeed disabled people in general. Soon after Colin's speech, Lord Morris of Manchester made a supporting speech. Lord Morris was formerly Alf Morris the Labour MP, the first Minister for the Disabled. He took this post in 1974 and it is interesting that he is still an active Parliamentarian. I was able to hear every word of the proceedings and this is because there is an excellent induction loop system serving all parts of the Chamber including the Public Gallery. The same is true of the House of Commons and that fact has enabled me to hear debates in both Houses over the last decade. Regular readers of my blog will know that this area is an obsession with me ! At about 5:00 pm we were taken through to one of the tea rooms where we were entertained to an old fashioned tea, sandwiches and cake event although Colin himself could not join us until later. I was able to have a chat with Lord Morris who I had not spoken to for 42 years. At that time I was working in Manchester. We later adjourned to a nearby bar, of which there are many in the Houses of Parliament but I left early as I just cannot engage in conversations in noisy environments. There is no doubt that Colin will be able to make a very useful contribution in Parliament although as he is still Chairman of RNIB and has many commitments, he will not be able to spend a lot of time there yet. I know that he is willing to receive information that will assist him in informing our legislature.


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