I’ve been meaning to post this (it’s a gorgeous cover!). The first volume is out in a couple of weeks and I love working on this series so much, it’s chilled out and sweet… Get your copy here!
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?
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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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:
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).
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
My course involves the internet and the monitor I’m looking at doesn’t come with a microphone or camera. Hence the inclusion.
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
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.
These were taken in April 2010, during a trip to the country, as an example of my photography skills.
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!!!!
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: …).
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.
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.
* * *
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
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)
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 no longer have an iMac. Time of death was confirmed at 11:48am this morning. Apple are handling the funeral arrangements. Please do not send flowers, any donations should be directed to the new computer fund. https://www.paypal.me/ashabardonuk or https://www.gofundme.com/blind-author-needs-a-new-computer?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=campaign_link_t&utm_campaign=welcome
Because my moods have given me a short fuse of late (mainly turning my hyper-aggressive, it’s a symptom of high functioning depression) and Guide Dogs’ party line involves a frankly spineless response to dealing with unwanted human, I suggested our little group try passive-aggression instead. This mean we can be snide but not rude and express our annoyance without using the f word (which is a huge no no).
It also might prevent me from throttling half of Norwich.
See people annoy me; they talk to me as the non-blind communicator. Don’t ask me about a dog which is clearly connected to my friend. He’s obviously blind and known for sarcasm but he’s neither deaf not stupid. Oh and they like to barge into our conversations ad nauseam. Because apparently we need the non-blind to invade our privacy or we just cease existing.
What’s worse is that this happens All. The. Time.
Take out the guide dog and you’d never randomly insert yourself into another person’s conversation. EVER. It’s the hight of rudeness. But not when there’s a dog. That nulls and voids everything. Thus is it apparently okay for non-disabled people to do that to blind folk.
No it’s fucking not. Stop it.
Paul and I were in Waterstones having a cheeky coffee (actually cold drinks) while we waited for our respective buses to come in. I did the till run and got our drinks while Paul bonded sub-atomically with one of the rather comfy chairs. He does that. It’s okay. As the differently-blind, it’s sometimes easier for me to stand in queues or grab drinks and it was my turn to pay. Yay loyalty stamps!
Now it is widely accepted that all guide dogs are beautiful. Fun fact: there’s never been an ugly one. Even Labradoodles are pretty in their own kind of special way. So this gets commented on a lot.
Yes, we know, we live with them. No you can’t touch them, they’re working. Yes, even while we’re trying to chat.
Aka: piss the fuck off and let us drink our beverages and continue conversing.
So Paul starts dealing with Husband, an elderly chap with issues of his own walking, who seems determined to pet Gismo. I’m in the middle of paying so I only hear about this later. Husband wants and tries to pet Gismo and Paul puts a stop to it.
They’re sitting next to us, so painfully close it feels more like sharing a table though there’s a clear partition. I return with our drinks and Wife is trying to get to pet Gismo, who just wants love but is otherwise sitting quietly as he’s supposed to. He’s in harness but he’s already had some affection today so he’s after it if opportunities and people present.
Wife is given a firm: No.
Subtext: Not going to happen. Leave us alone. No asking six times in various ways will not change the answer.
She sits next to us and tells her husband off for petting the dog whilst occasionally throwing questions at us, depsite the fact we’re mid-way a conversation of her own. The hypocrisy is real: he can’t but it’s okay for her, apparently. Paul is fielding because has more patience than me. Oh it must be so hard, they’re so pretty. How old is he? Is he good? Paul replies like a star and I try to move back into our conversation bubble. I think we were discussing how to, realistically, ensure his next dog is called Karma. Because GDO jokes are awesome.
Then Cute Scottish Girl turns up. This is totally left field for me and it’s a welcome distraction as I am beginning to get pissed off with Wife and it’s been ages since we ran into each other. CSG loves guide dogs, Gismo leaps on her and it’s fine. I say the magic nickname to Paul and he knows just who I mean. Cough. CSG loves Uni, was one of the people who got me through losing her. That’s essentially been all her guide dog exposure though, except maybe meeting Brams once, I think. Obviously, it’s not a great example but CSG apologises and Paul gives her the okay.
Gismo purrs like a kitten.
Wife sees an opening.
The pair of them stand to go and suddenly she’s there, next to CSG and I’m like ‘CSG is Mars, you’re Pluto, bitch’. Because we have rungs and strangers don’t rank anywhere near people we like. Also you already tried this.
Cue, to Gismo: I mustn’t pet you.
Meaning: cat butt face It’s not fair that she can pet you and I can’t. Why can’t I pet you?
Because Wife is grasping for him, Paul starts petting Gismo to pull him back into the safe zone. Gissy collapses into a fur puddle and dog rug mode. I think he was hoping this would make her lose interest. Husband was obviously getting impatient and I was trying to converse with CSG, or at least bring her into our little chat group.
And then Paul finds that nerve, the one which makes him go silly. I gently chide Paul for tormenting him in public, Gissy’s back leg is going and then, it comes:
Wife: Oh you found his G Spot.
I’m sorry? All the WHAT?
My brain: WTF????!!!!! Did she just?
I start at CSG and then at Paul, who is giving me his ‘I might be blind but WTF?’ stare. I’m sure I misheard but then, oh it continues:
Wife: I suppose it’s easier with bitches.
I stare at CSG, whom I have shamelessly flirted with. I like girls and she’s called CSG for a reason (Scottish is apparently a turn on for me; I blame Outlander). Wife might have said something else but I’m mentally trying not to piss myself laughing and Wife mercifully goes away.
The three of us howl so hard, I’m pretty sure books fell off the shelves downstairs. We all check each other to ensure this wasn’t a shared hallucination. Nope, Wife genuinely didn’t know what she’d meant. As we all have very, ehrm, adult minds and I’m known for my flexible sexuality, we all start assuming this very crazy lady was either genuinely unaware of what she said or really didn’t engage her brain.
Regardless, we don’t do THAT to dogs. Ew.
But, oh, friends, it was hilarious. A true moment I wish I’d had the foresight to record and put on YouTube. I haven’t laughed that hard in ages.
Definitely beats passive-aggression though.
But, seriously, people, leave a guide dog in harness alone. Leave their humans alone too.
Quetiapine and I have an interesting relationship. Technically I’m good with quetiapine, it’s when you add in diazepam and Ambien when things get fun.
This is said with as much sarcasm as I can muster. Seriously.
The problem is I have brain damage, specifically periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). This was basically a side-effect of oxygen toxicity from being premature (and it’s why I have retinopathy of prematurity as well). Now in a normal brain, you might stand a chance but as mine has severe rewiring issues caused by hypoxia, the ASD and bipolar angles as well. All this is on top of long-term benzodiazepine use. I’m screwed.
Last time I got so scatty I literally couldn’t do anything as I’d forget it ten minutes later. This time I’m aware and trying to prep for the worst. This means I’m on low-dose diazepam (for anxiety) and avoiding taking anything to help me sleep. This isn’t an issue right now as the 300mg of quetiapine is basically knocking me senseless. It lasts about a week but this has been extended because I had a party (and thus skipped a couple of doses) due to alcohol consumption and a general desire to be, you know, conscious.
I’ve already noticed a lapse in my cognitive functions; I put things down and forget them. I’m a natural multi-tasker but this has meant not even going near the kitchen, let alone leaving anything on a stove. If I do cook, I prefer the boiled egg method where you put potatoes or eggs in a pot of boiling water/slow cooker and then just let them cook. No gas involved. I forgot my potatoes for thirty minutes tonight. This is why I eat out.
In some ways, I’m in a better place to do this than I was. I write down stuff religiously as well as keeping a diary of where I was/who I was with and what I’ve done during the day. I also spent the afternoon documenting the contents of my fridge/freezer/cupboards to help me manage my shopping (lists and visits to supermarkets) more effectively. Fridgely lets me take photos of the stuff I have, note expiry dates (milk is a big issue for me, ditto eggs) and also compile a shopping list when things get low. Even better, when I restock and scan the barcode, it remembers the item so within a few weeks I should have this down pat.
But I’ve noticed my concentration is fleeting. I’m leaving tasks half-finished, unable to concentrate on anything more complicated than Futurama. I tried a couple of hours of ARIA the Animation (one of my favourite chill out anime series) but couldn’t focus on translating the dialogue on the fly and write at the same time. Thing is, I can’t sit and focus and watch something either. I need to do more than one thing because it’s how I function. I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions.
I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions. My Midori helps in a lot of ways, not only am I tracking spending and have a diary plus braindump journal in there, the very act of writing helps hammer things home in my brain. Typing can’t hold a candle to this.
That and awesome friends who were there the last time this happened and have seen me at my flakiest.
But it’s tiring. The memory issues make me anxious about safety. Cooking is right out. At the same time I really want a drink and, as I’ve been spending a lot of time in the courtyard of a very nice inn, I’m keenly aware everyone else is drinking and I … can’t. I got my story into crit this week but that’s about it and I’m frustrated that words just aren’t coming. The pressure leads to anxiety which leads to stress which just makes things worse.
At the same time, one thing I do want to do is start some kind of gratitude journal. I picked up an A5 Hobonichi Cousin Avec (which runs July to December) as I wanted to try one out as well as the Tomoegawa paper. I’ll prob pick up an A6 version in September (along with the cover etc) in order to document the coming year. I just can’t do anything until I hear about my PIP and that, too, is stressing me out. But I have started doing things and one of the bits I’ve enjoyed about having a paper diary is being able to stash tickets or postcards in it, things which were tangible proof of events.
This week, for example, I went to a book signing by M.R. Carey at my local Waterstones. I love The Girl With All the Gifts, especially the movie version, and it was so nice to get out after hours, as it were, and not have to worry about getting home. The bus stop is 3 mins from where they were having the talk and my favourite driver, Tony, tends to be doing that shift. I also had a bottle of wine which led to a fun 45 minutes of him remaking on my bladder. Git. The point is, I feel able to do things because I want to. I was going to go home at one point and I’m so glad I didn’t.
I’m not normally an evening person but, right now, that’s when I’m the most conscious.
I’m having to slow down a lot but I’m still here. I have to remind myself to do things, to take my medication with regularity but it’s baby steps until I figure out how my brain wants to play, nicely or not.