What does inclusive language look like?

I thought I’d revisit this issue, as I think a lot about the language I want to use in my research, and have had various discussions about language and inclusion over the last year.  Today seemed like a good to blog about it, since BBC Ouch are also talking about it – Viewpoint: Is it time to stop using the word “disability”?   The Social Model of Inclusion was first introduced to me in 2012 when I had my first Paragon encounter.  That same week, I was introduced to the principles of Universal Design, and I’ve been questioning everything I see and hear since…

Excerpt from “Inclusive Adventures in Mumbai”
(Originally posted by Diljeet Bhachu, 06-Mar-2015 on TheGither)
Last month, I took a short break from PhD-ing to go to Mumbai, India, with Paragon Music, an 
inclusive arts organisation in Glasgow.  In this post I want to ask some key questions that arose 
during the trip - please share your thoughts/answers!

The aim of the trip to Mumbai was to engage with ADAPT, an NGO whose aim is "to create an 
inclusive disability friendly nation".  ADAPT (Able Disabled All People Together) have three main centres in Mumbai - in Colaba (the original ADAPT centre, now delivering inclusive education 
from nursery through to school-leaving), Bandra (where we also stayed, alongside international 
teaching students who are learning about inclusive practice), and Chembur (a skills development 
centre for adults).  We ran music workshops with around 200 children and adults over the course of our stay, working with 3-4 groups at each centre.  These workshops exemplify Paragon's 
inclusive approach to music-making and musical engagement. In Scotland, Paragon works on 
the basis of the social model of inclusion - a way of thinking and doing that is quite embedded in 
policy at home.  In India, things are quite different - religious and cultural outlooks have left 
disabled people hidden and excluded from society, and on a practical level, the task of getting out and about is virtually impossible for many due to the condition of pavements and roads in 

QUESTION: Language – How much does it matter what words we use to talk about disability?  

There is a stark contrast in the terminology used in India and Scotland – we consider most of the terminology we have heard during the trip outdated but these words are accepted and understood in India.  Perhaps it is because they way they are understood that they are used, rather than out of ignorance or disregard for the disabled, or in an offensive manner as would be implied if they were used in the UK, so I am interested to know how and why terminology changes.  ADAPT was originally called the Spastics Society of India, when it was set up in 1972, and this name links to the UK’s own Spastic’s Society around that time.  ADAPT is still often referred to as the Spastic’s Society, even by the founder of the organisation herself.  This made me question the importance we place on words.  It seems that it is the shift in what words mean, or the way they are used, rather than the words themselves, that leads to new, more “PC” terminology.  We did meet several people in Mumbai who use the same terminology we do in Scotland, consciously aware of with the social model of inclusion and the language it promotes.  Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article that specifically discusses the use of the word “spastic”, with reference to ADAPT/SSI.

Earlier this year, I attended Disability Equality training that Paragon hosted.  This also included a lengthy discussion about language – what is useful language when talking about disability, difference, needs?  The language preferences according to different models of disability/inclusion have also been discussed at events hosted by Drake Music Scotland, to look at access to music education and the industry.  

On the one hand, it seems that words are really important – “dis” will always have a “deficit” connotation – yet recent experiences have shown that sometimes words are just a bunch of letters that have a common understanding attached to them.  Further, “disability” as a word can have very different meanings depending on the model through which it is used – social vs medical model for example.  Meanings are socially constructed and can change. Where does this leave us?


My week in numbers.

I had a meeting at SGSAH HQ this morning, which got me reflecting on some Summer School training I took part in back in June…

Of all of the training I’ve done this year, I have to say Chris Russell’s PhD project management course was the biggest surprise.  I thought about the PhD, as a process and a product, in ways I hadn’t considered before, and picked up some helpful tools for day-to-day working.  One of the most useful tasks, though, was to look at my week in hours to get perspective on what I’m doing, then think about what my ideal week might look like in hours, and then take baby steps towards that ideal week.

So here's roughly what I started with:
46 hours sleeping
30 hours in the office
18 hours cooking/eating
16 hours on social media
15 hours on trains
10 hours doing admin
8 hours watching tv
7 hours getting ready
6 hours at rehearsals
6 hours at non-PhD work
2.5 hours driving
2 hours doing my hair
1.5 hour painting my nails

Now begins the task of adjusting it...

What does your week look like in numbers?

My version of the REF – Research Event Food

Since I seem to be a conference/research event addict, I thought I’d dedicate a blog post to the food I’ve eaten at some of the various events I’ve attended.  I will add to this every now and again, but here are a few highlights to start, in no particular order…

  1. SAME Conference 2015, University of Stirling – THREE COURSE MEAL!  Possibly the only time I’ve had a 3 course meal for lunch at a conference, including a salad bar and a choice of 3 cakes for dessert.  While the food was great, eating so much made me want a nap before the afternoon sessions…
  2. BERA Social Justice SIG seminar, BERA Conf 2015, Queen’s University Belfast – nothing says “education conference” like queuing up to collect your packed lunch bag, complete with a piece of fruit, chocolate bar and bag of Tayto crisps!  #backtoschool
  3. SGSAH Research Blogging Training, University of Glasgow – Scones, glorious scones.

Screenshot (14 Sep 2015 23:20:20)

4.  EdD Conference, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge – ALL OF THE CAKE.  I’m pretty sure I came home from this conference quite a bit heavier than I arrived.  So. Much. Cake.
5.  University of Edinburgh catering do very addictive chilli rice crackers.  Be prepared to eat an entire bowl if you’re at any reception events on campus.
6. I went down to Keele University for the AHRC North West Consortium PG conference and we had a lovely dinner at Keele Hall. I definitely came home heavier than I arrived, for I had not one but THREE pieces of cheesecake for dessert. Decisions are not my strong point – word to the wise, I don’t make selections for dessert, I eat them all.

Because one type of cheesecake is never enough...
Because one type of cheesecake is never enough…

7. A new entry and a first for the University of Strathclyde TIC cafe.  It would be an understatement to say this is an improvement on the food options when I was a student here…  Courtesy of Sempre I had the following lovely meals at the Music and Health conference!

Yummy all around, but APPLE PIE.
Yummy all around, but APPLE PIE.
I definitely didn't see food this healthy at Toby's on Jordanhill Campus...
I definitely didn’t see food this healthy at Toby’s on Jordanhill Campus…







8. The humble risotto ball. Thanks, SGSAH.  As much as I look forward to the research that’s being shared at Doctoral Researcher Impact Showcase at The Lighthouse every Summer School, I also look forward to these little nuggets of happiness. 

little nugget of happiness
colour co-ordinated cupcakes anyone?












9. Back in August I co-ran some training in Aberdeen (did someone say boats?)… Not only did we get cupcakes, we got cupcakes THAT MATCHED OUR COLOUR SCHEME. Extra bonus points for that, well played University of Aberdeen… 

10. International Society for Community Music, I take my proverbial hats off to you. York St John University wins a prize for this epic cake selection. As Prof Lee Higgins put it, cake is, after all, the national food of community musicians… JUST LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THOSE SLICES!


NEW ENTRY 11. Edinburgh University makes its second appearance, this time a fancy 3-course meal, courtesy of SGSAH… click the arrow to the right to see all 3 courses and the menu…

What’s the best conference food you’ve ever had?  Comment with your top conference/university event catering experiences and I’ll add them!

Unfortunately, doing a worst food list is a bit risky but maybe one day…

NEWSFLASH: I have scheduled time off!!

After an hour of peer-pressure from PhD pals (thank you, Deirdre, Tomke and Sergio, also Chris for calling me out as a workaholic last night), I have officially blocked off 19 days of holiday between now and January 5th.

I’m not going to lie, my anxiety levels rose as I physically scored out dates in my diary.

Exhibit A: Scheduled time off.
Exhibit A: Scheduled time off.

So, let it be known – I’m on holiday from Thursday 15th – Sunday 18th October, and Monday 21st December – Monday 4th January, inclusive. 

During this time I will not be doing ANY work.  NOT EVEN EMAILS!  Instead, I will bake, watch movies, read books for fun, paint my nails a lot, SLEEP, EAT and most importantly, RELAX!

I’ve got mail. Lots of it.

As I write this, I’ve just spent the last hour (10-11pm) writing emails.

Those who know me will have realised that emails take up many hours of my day.  I have 4 accounts in use at the moment, and also alias email addresses for different “hats” within email accounts.  The sole reason I got my first smartphone a few years back was so that I could access emails on the go.

I’ve been given advice on establishing an “email hour” with new and old contacts, and how to get long-term contacts used to the idea that I might not email back for a while.  Yet, I still haven’t managed to bring myself to do any of this.

The thought of being away without access to emails for a week, by choice or not, scares me – purely because I know what’ll be waiting when I reconnect.

What are your strategies for email management?  How long do you spend on yours?  What is your email traffic like? 

In recent months, I have changed my phone syncing preferences so that I only get emails to my phone a handful of times a day.  This has helped, and I rarely reply to emails from my phone anymore, unless it’s really important and I know I won’t be at a computer for the rest of the day.

At the moment I’m torn between whether I should try an email hour a day for all emails, or setting aside a few hours once a week to get through all of my emails for one or two particular hats.  The problem is, I’m not sure there exists a day where I’m consistently in the same place, with the same free hour to do emails – seminars, meetings etc.   I can’t be sure that the WiFi on the train will work for me to use my morning commute, and the train home is usually too busy to get my computer out.  Lunchtime is when I stop looking at the computer for an hour, and I’d rather not deal with emails in the evening when I get home  – I’m not even in my pyjamas yet and it’s nearly midnight!

Having thought about what I can do that works for me short-term without confining myself to a set time for emails, tonight I took a big step… I have officially changed my syncing preferences on MacMail to… MANUAL.  Here’s hoping I remember this decision in the morning, or I might wonder why I haven’t got mail by lunchtime…!

I’m off to send one last email, then I think it’s time for bed.

My Musical History – Part 2: Skills

In an earlier post, I identified some key elements of my musical history – relating to my cultural and religious roots as a Punjabi Sikh growing up in Scotland.   I often wonder how I got to where I am, and how my early experiences have contributed to my achievements at a later stage. In this post I want to talk about some things I did for fun as I grew up, but only recently realised how significant they were in developing skills that I would not otherwise encounter until much later in my music education – probably too late to get to where I am now, had that been the case.

Aural skills

From an early age, I had access to electronic keyboards (hand-me-downs from my older sister).  I have lots of memories of exploring the demo tracks, trying to learn the melodies.  Learning things by ear, as you now know, was a key element of my learning within the religious context.  It’s definitely something my mum recognised early on, as she would ask me to learn melodies of hymns from cassette tapes and CDs.

Improvisation and composition

One of my favourite keyboard activities at home, after some time, was to improvise over the demo tracks.  Of course, I had no idea what improvisation was at that point, and it was always for “play” and not with any conscious learning or intention to do something serious with it.  I also remember working on these improvisations with a view to playing the same creations – and so I began composing in a very informal way.

Transcribing and arranging

This is a story of a single project I embarked on at 10 years old, and one that I didn’t think about until I was 20 years old and wanted to do something similar.  

In 2000, my primary school celebrated its 50th anniversary.  To celebrate, each class was given a decade, to contribute to a concert that marked the school’s life in music over the years.  My class were given the 80s.  By this stage in my primary school life, I’d been playing recorder for 4 years formally (through a lunchtime class run by one of the teachers), although I’d made my sister teach me on my first recorder (10p from Woolworths, got to love the 90s…) so I’d had an extra 3 years of informal experience before that.  Anyway, back to the story – I was a huge Abba fan at this point in my life, so I decided I wanted that to be a part of my class’s contribution to the concert.  After what must have been many hours of listening, figuring out notes with the aid of an instrument, and scribbling them down on manuscript, I arrived at a 2-part harmony arrangement of Super Trouper for 4 recorders!  I sadly can’t find the original written copy, since I didn’t acknowledge this as a significant moment at the time, but if I do I’ll upload it.  

The realisation of what I’d done came 10 years later, when I decided I wanted to arrange pop songs for my flute quartet, and on thinking about how to go about it, I realised I’d already done it! 

As an aside, I’ll add that I also learned the glockenspiel(?) melody from the end of Band Aid’s “Do they know it’s Christmas” by ear, for that concert – thanks to my p7 teacher seemingly picking up on my aural skills.