#DSA and @SF_England have Failed Me: Crowdfunding a Laptop and Monitor for my Masters in Classical Studies

In March, I signed up for an MA in Classical Studies with the Open University. The course was fully funded (more on that in a sec but it’s basically a loan you pay back after graduation as long as you meet certain criteria). I plan to do the course in two years, part time.

I’m focused. I’m excited but I’m also stressed as fuck over the chaos it’s caused.

Now to the problem: I’m disabled and so was told I could apply for Disabled Students Allowance which (according to the team), that they would help me cover equipment (like a laptop and a larger monitor). I asked, specifically, when I put in the application if Apple items and things like the aforementioned ultrawide monitor would be eligible.

I was told, yes, they were.

I went into this, not feeling entitled but being reassured that my disability needs to be met. I assumed I’d be treated like non-disabled students and given any assistance I needed to be on the same page as every other student starting this course.

So I created my ideal equipment list, explained I was more than happy to contribute to the costs as well as justify each item, and waited…

But, Asha, you said the course was fully funded by Student Finance England, right?

It is. But…

Ideally, there should be enough to cover the £2400 for the first module and £4700ish for the second. I’m borrowing a total of £10,906. So, there should be around £3800 for a computer and monitor, right?

Yeah… No.

See I’ve borrowed the first module amount from the university, I need to pay this in October when my course starts. Student Finance England don’t just give you the full amount. It’s portioned out over three payments per year and however many years you tell them you’re doing the course.

I’m doing my course in two years, so two lots of three payments.

For year one I’ll get three payments of £1800, £1800 and £1850 in October, January and April. That’s £5450 in total, half my borrowed amount.

I’m using the first payment of £1800, plus £600 out of my January payment to cover year one. Year two will then be paid by a second loan, which I’ll then repay using the January, April and October 2020 instalments.

The remaining January and April 2021 payments will get me through my dissertation and the final year. I’m planning on doing a dissertation, subject to approval, that looks at Greco-Roman deities and their representation in computer games and other media like books and films. I’ll be using all my academic knowledge as well as my video gaming journalism experience to write this and I’m genuinely excited to get started.

So, as it stands, I have no money for equipment.

Back to DSA and SFE, who are responsible for agreeing to said equipment…

Now just because SFE okay the costs/equipment, it’s important to mention they require an ‘assessment’ which they outsource to various companies around the country. My local one took place in Norwich and by the end of it, I found a quiet disabled bathroom and cried.

Within ten minutes, I was told several things point-blank by the assessor:

  1. They (SFE) do not fund Apple equipment, even if there’s a legit reason for using that eco-system (in my case I use the built-in accessibility options). They will fund a laptop but it will be Windows-only and heavy. Apple is just too expensive.
  2. They will not cover the cost of a stand-alone monitor because, according to their logic, they’ve already supplied one in the aforementioned Windows laptop they’ll offer me. Also they’re using two utterly ancient and shockingly expensive pieces of accessible tech (JAWs and Supernova, both costing around £800 each per licence). I used both of these during my BA in 2002 . Just let that sink in for a sec. Also Supernova alone should turn a 15-17″ laptop into a 38″ monitor (Hint: No, it doesn’t).
  3. Don’t even get me started on a tablet. I bought an iPad of my own back just so I can read the set texts and it’ll take me until the end of the year to pay it off.

These three things made me literally want to walk out ten minutes in. I actually asked the assessor if I was wasting his time. This two-hour assessment cost £650, taken out of the ‘amount’ of DSA I’m eventually going to be awarded.

When I recovered myself, I emailed over my list and asked for them to put this through as the equipment I needed. I literally had to demand this as nothing they offered would actually be suitable for me as a blind person. I received an allowance for printing/photocopying and mentoring but the hardware was ‘pending’.

See, disability tech is expensive and it is, for the most part, dictated. I’m a former tech journalist and an expert about both my disability but also what I need to get myself up to par with those who don’t have my specific blend of issues.

DSA is supposed to supply equipment, in actually, aside from minor concessions, it’s not about having a person assessed, it’s about giving out the same stuff, regardless of your specific issues. Imagine being at boot camp and getting your kit, it’s not about checking clothing sizes or boots, it’s about being slung a duffle bag and shown to your dormitory.

So, if you’re blind they will automatically ‘offer’:

  • A heavy, Windows-based laptop. No, not a Surface or a hybrid. Just a cheap laptop.
  • Supernova.
  • JAWs.
  • A (grantedly useful) large print keyboard. Again, Windows-based.

Worse, I was put into a box and I really hate that.

So, I need help. Financing is an option but I’m wary of debt (bipolar and debt are a thing I’m trying to avoid.)

I don’t have to accept all or any of the equipment I’m offered. I do also have, if I accept hardware, to pay something like £200 to cover the cost of a ‘basic’ laptop. But why accept equipment which won’t come close to suiting my needs?

This why I’m asking for help.

Here’s my actual equipment list:

Ultrawide LG 38WK95C Monitor:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/LG-Monitor-38WK95C-W-Curved-LCD-Display/dp/B0798RDFK7
(£990)

I need a single large screen. My short-sightedness is so bad that the screen needs to be really close but also enough real estate that I can split-screen (for example) Microsoft Word and the internet.

13″ Macbook Pro: £1,780.00 (Inc. VAT)

I need a fast machine that is also light (I can only carry so much and must use a backpack when working Tate). I can do a lot on an iPad, true, but some things need a laptop. Apple currently has its 10pc off education sale on which means this machine should see me through to my Ph.D too. Added bonus: I can easily connect it to an external monitor (see above).

Desk Lamp
(
http://www.optimalowvision.co.uk/product.cfm?prod=368&dept=367): £75

This is a weird one, true, but this was actually one of the items recommended to me in 2001. I need a very white kind of light and this lamp lasted me over a decade until it finally died. I miss it, truth be told.

Logitech, C920 HD Pro Webcam (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B006A2Q81M): £60

My course involves the internet and the monitor I’m looking at doesn’t come with a microphone or camera. Hence the inclusion.

Conclusion

Essentially, to be able to comfortably do this Masters, I need to find £2920 to ensure that I’m on the same par as a non-disabled student.

In a perfect world, DSA would just cover this (and bear in mind, between the laptop and ‘specialist software’, we’re looking at around £2150 for a Windows machine, instead of the £1780 I need for an Apple machine.)

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

I hate asking for help but I need it. Everyone is keen on getting the token disabled students, it looks great on statistic sheets but actually making sure I can get access to the things I need is another story entirely.

So, if you can, I’d love a hand. Even if it’s just a couple of quid.

You can Paypal me at: https://www.paypal.me/ashabardonuk

Promises and Readers

© Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (aka @Snarkbat)

I did a class with Seanan McGuire and Cat Rambo (I’m a long-time member of the Rambo Academy of Wayward Writers) last week which left me thinking.

I want to make a promise to my readers: I’m working on a series and I want to finish it. I’m trying to flesh out how many books we’re looking at (I’m thinking five plus short stories). Also, I seem to be writing from the end first, rather than the beginning.

But I want to make a promise to you. To all of you. I am writing and I will finish this series.

We will get there.

Images of Japan

These were taken in April 2010, during a trip to the country, as an example of my photography skills.

An unexpected wedding procession at Meiji Jingu, Tokyo.

 

A school teacher educating his class, Kiyomizudera, Kyoto.

 

Teahouse at Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo.

 

Inui-san, a priest at Kamigamo Jinja.

 

Kannon at a Buddhist Cemetery, Tokyo.

 

The three streams at Kiyomizudera, Kyoto.

 

A temizu fount at a shrine, Teramachi, Kyoto.

 

Torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto.

 

「Now Loading…!」Cover Released! Coming This January!

I do love seeing the covers for manga I adapt. I’ve got quite a few on the roster for 2019 and Now Loading…! is first on the list. It’s a one-shot yuri title (female/female) set in the gaming industry. It’s a kouhai/sempai dynamic, with Takagi (our adorable protagonist) starting her new job maintaining a mobile game and forced to deal with her brash boss, Sakurazuki Kaori (who drinks more than I do), and also happens to be her professional idol.

The e-book/printed editions will be out on January 29th and can be obtained from all your favourite vendors by clicking here. Go check it out!!!!

Manga Adapation For Beginners

Saintia Sho: Before and After
『聖闘士星矢セインティア翔』: 日本語から英語へ

I’ve not been around much for the last year mainly because of Life. You know Real Life. I dated (and am now single again), I got to know Tate (she says hi!) and I’ve been otherwise occupied adapting manga for the English-speaking market, notably some soft yuri (girl x girl) titles and the Saint Seiya spin-off magical girl series, Saintia Sho

It doesn’t rely on me knowing or being fluent Japanese but those ten years of writing for anime magazines sure has helped. I can read Japanese (probably to JLTP 5/4), I just have shitty speaking skills (which is my project for the next twelve months or so).

The good thing is adapting isn’t translation, it’s editing.

Editing I can do. I enjoy it in this context. I work off scans or the original manga (frankly, given I’m still need a proper work machine, this is my next big purchase). I like using both. Each has their own perks: like double page spreads in print or being able to enlarge a panel to be able to make out the kanji. There’s a script, house rules, and at the end of it I get two author copies (one for my Shelf of Stuff with My Name On It, a second for reference).

Boy, are author copies shiny.

This is my part-time side-hustle and it’s fun. I get to geek out on [subject], I’m fast but thorough, I’ve got cultural knowledge (knowing what a mimikaki (耳かき) is and their role in Japanese culture came in handy recently). My autism superpower kicks in when it involves Latin and astronomy. I’ve also done battle with my deadly nemesis, the ellipse (That’s this: …).

A Japanese Earpick.

I’m going to update this site eventually and add in my adaptations to my bibliography. Rest assured, it’s awesome when you go into Waterstones and see your titles on the shelves. I’d like to freelance a little more widely but, for now, I’ve got plenty on my plate.

 

Blind Author Needs a New Computer Rig

This is a mirror of my GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/blind-author-needs-a-new-computer) but also includes a Paypal link (which I frankly prefer): paypal.me/ashabardonuk

* * *

Hi, my name’s Asha.

In 2011, I bought my second iMac.

Yesterday (5/3/2018) it died. Even if I can get it fixed, it’s a patch job and the clock is officially ticking.

I started thinking about the pros and cons of what to get next–then I remembered I’m broke. I retired in 2012 due to disability (I was diagnosed with Bipolar–Type 2 and high-functioning autism spectrum disorder) and have been trying to deal with life with a chronic illnesses ever since, including long-term anaemia.

I’m registered blind and this makes buying computers interesting, even ones from Apple which have all the awesome accessibility options.

I have the other RP: retinopathy of prematurity. This means I have no depth perception and I only have one semi-working eye. It also makes me short sighted which means I need things to be super close in order to see them.

For the last few years, my computer has sat literally in front of my nose and I still have to amp up the zoom settings wherever possible.

Basically, my visual impairment is very specific, I need things BIG. 27″ of screen is no longer enough and as much as I love iMacs, once a single part goes, you’re screwed.

So I want to buy and customise a new rig around an Apple device, probably a Mac Mini or, worse case, a new iMac. I want it to be as future-proof as possible and last a good five years. I also use Apple and all my apps are based around the OS so an £800 PC tower just isn’t an option.

Getting a new rig would involve:

  • A large screen (at least 30″ with really good resolution): £500+
  • A maxed out Mac Mini or, if it’s not updated by the point I need it, a 27″ iMac: £1500-£3000
  • A microphone and webcam: £100
  • A secondary screen for using media (prob a 50″ smart TV connected to the main computer): £600
  • Sundries (cables, a decent set of speakers, a lamp): £100
  • Anything more will go to paying GFM’s cut which, as I understand it is, 2.5% per donation, plus 20p. See:  https://www.gofundme.com/pricing

Why do I need this?

I have two passions: the first of which is writing. I was a journalist first but then made my way into fiction. I’ve published several novels, written hundreds of short stories.

Here are some of the projects I’m working on:

The second is my side-gig, a hobby I have helping adapt manga. From a practical perspective, while I have a laptop, doing this on a tiny screen is just impossible. I can do it in a pinch but not permenantly. I need to be able to see and read the Japanese scans and because of the way I need to resize them, I need more screen real estate than I have.

Because of my disabilities and my attempts at getting out of manic-induced debt, I simply don’t have the cash to replace my largest piece of kit. At nearly eight years old, my iMac has served me faithfully but now I need something more.

My income is fixed and I don’t have the six months I need to save for a new rig. I need everything sorted by May in order to be able to continue writing and my side-gig with no distruption. Because of my income, I’m hesitant to accrue more debt, especially as it’s taken me nearly four years to drag myself out of a mire as it is.

So, I want to ask for help. I need to write to stay sane, I need to so my side-gig in order to be able to earn a little extra to–as my Nanna would say–‘afford some jam to put on my bread’.

I’d appreciate any help you can give, even if it’s just a shout out.

* * *

One of the things I’m currently doing is looking at a replacement rig, this is basically researching prices, makes and models, as well as bearing in mind that it’s March and Apple usually announces stuff at specific times in the year so saying a Mac Mini will cost just over £1600 might not mean that’s how much I end up paying for one, especially if it is refreshed this year.

My new rig is also more than just more than a computer. I realised I need a new desk to put it on: my current one is a decade old and … well bowing. You can see where the weight of my old one has warmed the whatever laminated wood it was made with. A new desk, a good one from Viking Direct is just shy of £200.

The rest of my initial list is the following. This is a guideline, it will change, but I like having an idea of cost. It also includes random ephemera like a surge plug and a desk lamp (which is also kinda important as I have photophobia and need a very specific kind of light to be able to see, I also need it behind me as light in the face means an instant ‘do not pass go’ and involves migraines. Those are not fun.

Mac Mini (2011) – https://www.apple.com/uk/mac-mini/ (£1,636.00)

40″ Philips BDM4037UW/00 40-Inch 4K UHD 3840 x 2160 Curved LED Monitor – Silver –https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KUQJ414/ref=psdc_428652031_t3_B01MSYXDC7 (£558) – OR –

Samsung C32F391 32-Inch Curved LED Monitor – White Gloss – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Samsung-C32F391-32-Inch-Curved-Monitor/dp/B01DTLSQA2/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_5?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=7WW9X1F6810X9PP3WD0E (£260.73)

Logitech Z200 Multimedia Speakers/PC Speakers – Midnight Black –https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00FSF2OSS/?coliid=I225PLEE5GOBMU&colid=1O8K11RBNQSUP&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it (£26.99)

Samsung UE49MU6500 49-Inch Curve TV – Silver – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06Y1QJC3G/?coliid=IQI9E3TX35PBS&colid=1T230OVCHQEZQ&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it
(£559.99)

Desk Lamp – http://www.optimalowvision.co.uk/product.cfm?prod=369&dept=367 (£70.00)

WD 8 TB My Book Desktop Hard Drive – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LWVT81X/?coliid=I2U5ONKZJM0MTP&colid=1T230OVCHQEZQ&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it – (£179.00)

Extension Lead – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XPMQ14S/?coliid=I90N083QHCYVN&colid=1T230OVCHQEZQ&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it (£17.99)

A webcam and decent microphone is also on the list but I’ve not researched those yet

This list, which is neither final nor complete, tots up to £3250. It doesn’t include GFM’s fees or other things which may crop up. But, for the sake of transparency, I wanted to post it to give people an idea of my ideal wish list, even though it’s going to be sometime before I even think about going shopping.

I Need to Update This More

I’ve not been around much due to infections, Christmas, winter and the whole guide dog aftercare thing (Tate says ‘Hi!’). Let’s proceed with the annual bullet-proof list:

  • I need to update/overhaul the site, redo my bibliography etc. I’m also anaemic so I can’t be arsed to do much right now.
  • Ditto my Patreon.
  • The weather sucks today.
  • Tate has a box so she’s all good. We taught her to pee, y’all! Like on command, or just letting us know when she needs to go. Woot!
  • Tate is also an officially trained escalator guide dog. This is super important as she finds it So. Much. Fun.
  • We’re going to London next month to do the tube … and buy manga at JP Books 😀
  • I got my ‘author’ copies of Saint Seiya: Santia Sho Vol. 1. I’m actually the localiser for the English edition of the series, which is really quite cool. It basically involves lots of editing and polishing of the script so that it flows but still retains the nuances of the original. This is the #sekitthing I’ve not been talking about on social media.
  • I’ve seen so many movies. Black Panther is awesome.
  • I’ve spent the winter mastering my slow cooker. I rock. So does stewed pork belly in gravy.
  • The cats are all good: Isis is in most of the day now, Ceri is still obsessively stalking Tate and D just wants to boop her with his claws. This is not allowed.
  • I am writing, it’s just slow going.
  • More to come, etc.

Here Cometh 2018

The shift from one year to another is always weird for me.

I’ve been doing very little (aside from watching Netflix and trying to figure out how many stories I need to edit for submission in January. Oh and wine. Wine is good.) Tate is doing well, though it’s taking a while for her to get used to life. She’s now counting cats each night and curling up on me as I catch up on Reddit every morning.

I’ve been using a kakeibo (家計簿/かけいぼ), or household ledger, to try and help with my debt repayment and finances. I’ve also gotten myself a new fridge, freezer and oven which is awesome. I feel like a total adult but, at the same time, I’ve also been doing Sekrit Things (which I’ll talk about in February) that have taken a good portion of my time.

Christmas/Yule has been chilled. I had multiple guide dogs and so much chocolate. It was nice to have friends visiting, if I’m honest. Though poor Tate was exhausted from the constant activity. I cooked a lot (mainly risotto) which was nice. I like hostessing for guests.

I don’t really have a list of resolutions. I’m very anti-January but, that said, I have things I want to do in the new year, from working more on novels and Patreon, to getting myself back in the black and going to Bath/London. I watched feeds from Japan, from Ise and Tokyo, which makes me want to try and focus on my language learning.

Happy New Year, folks, and here’s hoping it’s a good one.

Meet Tate

I’ve been AFK for a while but meet the reason why: Tate.

She’s a full Labrador with a cheeky sense of humour and a love of socks. I’ve had her nearly a month now and she’s settling beautifully. Her favourite things include cats (she, D and Ceri are bonding on a cellular level), her ragger and working. She’s a very particular, chatty dog and loves attention.

We’ve been having some issues with separation anxiety so, yesterday, I got her a bed for my room and a terry cloth whale. It worked like a charm. She’s comfy, content and sleeping right through the night where previously she’s been waking up from nightmares.

Work-wise, she really enjoys it. We’ve been doing new routes locally and Tate isn’t a people dog, so she’s focusing on her work. For a dog, she’s actually quite introverted unless it’s someone in my circle of friends and guide dogs. Even better, she’s essentially a clone of my beloved Bramble, except she’s mine and just as affectionate.

We qualified last week, which is a great feeling. I think we’re going to have a great partnership but, for now, Tate is settling in. More photos will follow, I promise. Tate has an account on Dokonoko as well as my Instagram feed.