Bethy Woodward

“I don’t like to think of us as disabled or able bodied, I just like to think of us all as athletes.”

Guest post from Bethy Woodward who’s competing in this year’s Commonwealth Games.

As I’m about to compete for the England squad in my second Commonwealth Games I think about how far I’ve come, but also how far para-sport has come.

This year’s Commonwealth Games will have the biggest para-sport programme in the history of the Games, and we’re integrated in with all of the other sporting disciplines too. I don’t like to think of us as disabled or able bodied, I just like to think of us all as athletes.

Because of my Cerebral Palsy, it’s like breaking through a brick wall when I race. You have to keep saying to yourself “Come on, push it! You’re going to do it” It’s like the Cerebral Palsy parts of you are lazy and you have to motivate them to do it. But it’s when I do that, then my body listens to me, and I can achieve amazing things.

I’ve always pushed myself from a young age. I loved being outside and being active, rushing around, abseiling off cliffs! I did struggle a bit to find an athletics club that would be willing to coach me, but there was one coach who showed an interest and encouraged me. With his support I started getting into competing, and I’ve loved it ever since.

It’s strange because there’s a sort of calmness that comes over me when I get onto the track, at the Athletics World Championships last year I got a silver medal in the T37 200m, and I also ran a personal best. I was concentrating so hard on the race that I didn’t even realise I’d won a medal till I looked up at the board!

The 2012 Paralympic Games were like nothing else, and it had always been an ambition to compete in our home Games. The fact that I went home with a bronze and silver medal was the icing on the cake! The crowd were completely magical, and their support meant so much to me.

In the Commonwealth Games I’m actually going to be competing in the long jump F37/F38, which is something different for me. It’s so great though to always be pushing yourself to try new things. A lot of people allow their disability to rule them but I like to think I can rule my disability.

The training can be around-the-clock, but I think that really makes me appreciate the time off I get to spend with my friends and family, and especially getting to just hang out at home with my two dogs.

I guess there are always more goals I’d like to achieve, another competition coming up, another personal best to beat; I don’t think I’ll ever stop striving to achieve more.

What would I like to do next? Well a trip to Rio in 2016 would be nice!

Follow Bethy on Twitter.

“So great you’re getting out the house” – Tips for traveling as a disabled person

Guest blog from TV presenter and campaigner, Sophie Morgan.

Sophie skingEarlier this year, I flew to Italy with an organisation called Disability Snowport UK. The plan was for us all to meet at Gatwick airport a few hours ahead of check in time so we would avoid any unnecessary and often unavoidable dramas that could arise when flying with so many different access requirements and special needs.

I arrived at the terminal on time and quickly spotted the group who were huddled by a cafe chatting; given that there were six wheelchair users on the trip it was hard to miss us! I wheeled over and introduced myself to everyone, before turning to go and buy a cup of tea.

“Morning love”, said the chirpy girl who took my order. “Where are you lot off to then?”

“We’re going to Italy,” I explained. “To learn to ski.”

She paused as she poured the hot water, “ahh, isn’t that nice!” She smiled down at me. “So great you’re getting out the house.”

I took my tea and returned the group. Six happy, independent, adventurous and fun loving young disabled people all smiled at me as I took my place amongst them but I didn’t smile back; I was angry.

What was it about a group of disabled people being together that brought out the ignorance in people? Why did that lady presume we didn’t get out the house much? Especially when in the past six months I have been getting out the house a lot! Travelling to New Zealand, Australia (three times), Cambodia, Malaysia, Morocco, Scotland and France to name a few! In fact, I had probably been to Gatwick nearly as many times as she has working there! So why did I suddenly feel I was no longer an individual, I was just a stereotype?

Sophie at the costThe reason I tell this story is because it is not uncommon and it is certainly not acceptable. Whether I travel by plane, train or automobile, it seems there invariably always comes a point when a problem with either attitude or access arises.

The more I travel – and I am actually writing this from seat 44D on Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to London – the more I am noticing that it is often the attitudinal barriers that are making me feel more restricted, not just the physical ones.

So, where do we start?

One of the major inhibitors of change in the UK of course is money. The disability policies of these travel companies don’t seem to think we are worth adapting for, we aren’t valued enough. And it’s this word that I think is key. What is our value?

Instead of airlines, train companies and taxi firms thinking of meeting our needs purely from a corporate responsibility perspective, being morally and politically correct, what if they thought of our demographic’s spending power, or so-called Purple Pound, which is an estimated £80 billion. Yes, eighty. Billion. If they built it, we would come!

We have to show the travel industries that a change in their attitude will make a change to our lives.  It is up to us to be the change we want to see!

On that note, I want to recommend a few things which have helped me over the past decade of traveling as a disabled person.

Get advice. Thankfully websites like Euan’s Guide (which Professor Stephen Hawking endorses) and the brilliant Blue Badge Style offer some invaluable advice, and there are always people online to ask for tips and pointers like myself and others.

Plan for the worst and hope for the best. I often expect to be treated poorly at airports for example, as then when I’m not, it’s a bonus! I was once poked in the legs continuously by a group of curious Indian security women because they didn’t believe I was paralysed, accordingly I missed my flight. I also had to be fireman’s lifted onto a flight in Nairobi once as there was no ambi-lift.

Don’t settle for anything less. I really think this is where we can make waves. We MUST complain, speak up or express ourselves when we have experienced discrimination. Be it to your local taxi firm, council, MP, media outlet or friend, if we don’t talk about the problems we are all facing on a day to day basis then nothing will be done. The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) will also advise you on your rights via their helpline: 0808 800 0082

The world is yours. Everyone has the right to travel, to see the world and follow their hearts, and where there is a will there is a way, or as my mum says, ‘where there is a wheel there is a way!’ Please don’t let fear get in the way; all of these horror stories can be overcome with enough planning, guidance and a good sense of humour.

And if anyone ever needs any advice or just someone to rant to please get in touch via my website . I would love to help if I can, that is of course if I’m not too busy yelling at a poor unsuspecting taxi man or confused looking air stewardess about my rights!

Happy travels and good luck.

Sophie shares some of her experiences in our End The Awkward films.

Making the case for the right to independent living

Disabled activists are coming together for a summit on independent living this week.

It’s vital and urgent. It comes as expert Jenny Morris looks at progress against the 2008 Independent Living Strategy that was backed by all parties.  She told me that ‘for the first time in the history of modern British social policy that things are going backwards’.

I’ve written before that for many disabled people, me included, it’s a daily struggle to get the support we need to live in a way that most people take for granted. I need support from a personal assistant to simply get up, get dressed and get to work.

I am acutely aware how fortunate I am that the council covers most of my care costs. Getting that support was extremely difficult. And now I’ve got it there are endless caveats and restrictions. For instance, sometimes I have to choose between getting support to visit elderly relatives or to go shopping to buy essentials. The council provision doesn’t cover both. None of the support covers the work I do for Scope – that has to come out of our own funds.

Those limitations can be intensely frustrating. But for many disabled people the restrictions on living their life, as a result of the ever increasing rationing of care, are much greater.

We have to make the case for a better funded social care system, which provides support that contributes to, rather than takes away, independence. Neil Crowther is absolutely right to re-ignite a discussion about the future of support for disabled people.

But that job has suddenly got much harder. I’m really worried about what appears to be a growing level of cynicism about the very principle of independent living – our aspiration to choose where and with whom we live and how we go about our daily life.

Last week as part of a debate on care homes, Labour MP Gavin Shuker argued that “there will always be some people whose condition is severe enough to rule out other options of care”. He is backed by a growing group of politicians who feel strongly that some disabled people simply can’t live independently. Michael Ellis MP joined the debate challenging the notion that care homes needed to change.

Meanwhile doubts over the principle of independent living are spreading in the media too.

Alice Thomson, a writer for the Times, recently described the prospect of living independently rather than staying in a care home as “no picnics, trips to the theatre or hair dresser — just long, lonely, empty days”. Her argument is that there isn’t enough cash in the system for people to be supported to live independently – so, should disabled people therefore shrug their shoulders and march back into care homes?

Further undermining the case for people being able to choose where and with whom they live, influential campaigner Rosa Monckton recently said in the Mail: “Local authorities argue that it is ‘a human right’ for people to live independently in the community. However, I am convinced this is a financially convenient ideology”.

It all feels a far cry from the moment in the 70s when disabled care home resident Paul Hunt organised strikes, management takeovers, and effectively led an exodus of residents from a large care home he later described to the Guardian as an ‘isolated, unsuitable institution’. This kick-started the modern-day disabled people’s civil rights movement.

I think this new cynicism in part comes from confusion about what we mean by independent living. We don’t necessarily mean living on your own – unless, of course, you want to. We mean having the right to make basic decisions about your life, and having the structures and support in place to make this a reality. New types of care mean we can support people even with very complex needs to make important choices.

We have come a long, long way.  As the Care Minister Norman Lamb recently said care homes are no longer the default. Yes, we have to acknowledge that the approaches we’ve taken haven’t always worked for everyone. But that should drive us to find new solutions not to abandon the principle and goal altogether.

We have two huge tasks in front of us. We have to make the case for a sustainable care system. We also have to re-double our efforts to make the case for the basic principle that disabled people aspire to the same kind of ‘ordinary lives’ and opportunities as anyone else.

Dan and Mel Blass's son, Oliver

“I’ve talked about doing a marathon for probably 10 years and this was the catalyst.”

Back in April, the sun shone down on 200 Scope runners taking on the Virgin Money London Marathon. Among the 36,000 runners taking part was Dan Blass, a father of one from London. I first met Dan and his wife, Mel, back in March as he was preparing for his first ever marathon. Their son, Oliver, was recently diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Despite seeing specialists since a very young age, they had a long battle to get Oliver properly diagnosed, including nine months’ worth of tests.

“Oliver was different to other children, and we couldn’t explain why. Because of the issues and complex needs he had, he would do things like lick the radiator and lick the floor where it was cold. You’d go out into an environment where there were loads of other kids, and it was very obvious that he was different but we couldn’t explain why. You’d put him down on the floor and he would only crawl a little bit and then he would start eating the end of the table. We laugh at it now because we understand what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, but until that point we closed ourselves off and saw fewer people. We didn’t really want to go out – not because you’re ashamed, but you couldn’t turn round and say ‘This is why he’s behaving that way’.”

Dan and Mel's son, Oliver
Dan and Mel’s son, Oliver

Mel explained that it was incredibly hard to get a firm diagnosis, “but as soon as we got one and accepted it, it made us even more proud of him. We knew he had problems, but we didn’t ever dream he’d have cerebral palsy. I even remember saying at the beginning [of the road to a diagnosis], ‘Oh yeah, but it’s not like he’s got cerebral palsy or anything, it’s not so major.’ He doesn’t look like what many people would think a child with cerebral palsy looks like. He can walk and he’s got a voice – he’s non-verbal, but he has a voice and he uses it.”

Oliver’s condition left many paediatricians guessing for nine months, with Dan and Mel persisting that his behaviour wasn’t right. “At first we went to a private paediatrician who told us there was nothing wrong with him at all. It was at a young age, but other things had been picked up by health visitors. I contacted the NHS to get him into the system and the paediatrician we got is fantastic.” Putting Oliver through months of tests was difficult on his parents, and particularly Dan. “It was certainly hard putting him through it, watching him being tested. He was getting to the point where he understood enough to know ‘Oh, it’s another person prodding me.’ He would cry as soon as somebody came near him, because even though he didn’t understand everything, he understood that things were going on. That was quite difficult.”

For Mel, she was determined to get a diagnosis. “It was really important to me. Not that it changed anything – I don’t care if he’s got two heads! But it mattered, and I can’t explain why. The moment we had a diagnosis and it had sunk in, for both of us it felt like a weight had been lifted.” Dan goes on to explain that “there were definitely more tears shed in the run-up to the diagnosis than since the diagnosis. We do not feel sorry for ourselves or wish for different things, whereas before we were searching. Now there’s no need to search – it’s difficult to get the diagnosis, but once you do it’s a lot of help.”

Dan with Oliver
Dan with Oliver

Dan and Mel are clearly both very committed to their son, persisting to ensure he has the best support and stimulation possible including occupational therapy and sensory integration. It’s clear they have an eye to the future but it is still very early days for them in terms of Oliver’s diagnosis. Getting Oliver’s diagnosis was the catalyst for Dan to take on a challenge he’d been talking about for 10 years – the London Marathon – an emotional rollercoaster or excitement and apprehension. “I went through a phase where there was lots of pressure – you just think to yourself, ‘I just can’t let anyone down on the day’.”

The couple chose to support Scope as it captured a charity that helped others with similar needs to Oliver. “It goes to helping people, that’s the main thing.” Thanks to the overwhelming response of friends, family, colleagues and strangers, Dan has now raised more than £15,000. As well as support at work, Mel explained that Oliver’s nursery did a mini-marathon. “All the kids walked round the park – they raised £1,200, and that was just amazing. I think it makes a difference that it’s his first time running, and we’ve just had the diagnosis. For us, it’s been wow! We didn’t dream we’d get anywhere near this.”

Thanks to our runners hard work and the amazing support of their sponsors, they’ve raised over £278,000 for Scope with more donations coming in – people clearly can’t get enough of their amazing achievement and neither can we! A huge thank you!

Are you looking to do your own first marathon? We’re already accepting applications for the iconic London Marathon in 2015 – if you want to be on the start line apply for your place today.

Rapper Truth next to a wall

If I can make it – we all can

Truth is a 23 year old rapper, songwriter and producer from New Jersey. He moved to the UK at the age of 12. By the age of 14, he had began writing and recording his own music. His debut album is released on 10 August and tells the story of his life not only as a struggling rapper but as a disabled man.

Hi guys, I’m Truth and I have cerebral palsy, however, that isn’t what defines me. There’s more to me than that. I make music and by this I don’t mean I’m in a marching band. My weapon of choice is the microphone and I try to use it to tell stories, to entertain and to evoke emotion. Some of the songs I make can be seen as controversial but that depends on how you listen to them.

The majority of my songs are about what happens to me and people like myself on a daily basis. Things which, in my opinion, seem to be glossed over. Shop and club owners using health and safety law to take away our sense of humanity and equality. People asking how we have sex and people refusing to give us job opportunities.

Young disabled people don’t really have a voice in popular music and society doesn’t really know how to accommodate us. Where do you send a 21 year old that just wants to get out and do something with their life?

Music is my escape. With music there is no barrier. There is only one requirement: can you bring it?

My album entitled ‘Don’t Diss my Ability’ comes out 10 August and will be independently produced and released by myself. I want to ask people to buy it because I think the message needs to be heard and I will use any proceeds from it to fund a UK live music tour where I can really allow society to see things from our perspective.

If you’d like to know more about me and the music please visit:

Alex using voice recognition in his office

Voice recognition technology: FAQs

If I had a pound for every time I answered these questions, I could buy the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Does it work? 

Yes.

Really?

Yes.

How many words per minute can you type?

For this blog, about 30 words per minute. Normally I don’t have to produce words at speed but I would estimate that I am faster now than I was when I was working as a journalist typing with two fingers. NaturallySpeaking can type as fast as you can speak but you will have to correct any recognition errors afterwards. I would recommend this to anyone who would like to type faster.

How accurate is voice recognition?

For this article, Dragon Naturally Speaking has correctly interpreted 94% of words I have said. A further 3% required me to choose from a list of 10 words by saying ‘choose 4’ or ‘choose 7’. Even the best touch typists spell things incorrectly; Dragon Naturally Speaking will only offer me words that are in the dictionary.

The computer recognises your voice.  What happens if you have a cold?

I have used Dragon Naturally Speaking with a cold. As the computer learns from you constantly, after sessions like this I don’t save my voice files as recognition does depend on your ‘normal’ voice. You can also teach the computer to screen out unwanted noises like coughs and sneezes.

What about outside noise?

I have used my software in a busy and noisy press office quite effectively. The main problem I found there was colleagues tended to ignore me because they thought I was talking to my computer! One colleague’s sneeze was interpreted by my computer as ‘Honolulu’ and there was a door which closed with a sigh that used to come up as ‘fifth’ on my screen. You can train the computer to ignore these noises if they are persistent.

How long does it take to train?

I have trained a variety of people from actor Leslie Phillips to Dan Batten of Disability Now in an hour or so to understand the basics. Dragon Naturally Speaking’s initial training, in which you read from a variety of passages including Alice in Wonderland, takes a few minutes. This enables the computer to develop a model of your voice. It is practice that refines this model. So you can start using the software for dictation after an hour, but it really becomes efficient once you have customised it. The more you use it, the better it gets.  It’s a hell of a lot quicker and easier to learn than touch typing!

Can it do spreadsheets/tables/editing/whatever?

In theory, anything you can do with a keyboard or mouse can also be done via voice. Voice recognition technology is best for word processing and I wouldn’t recommend trying complicated design work with it just yet!

Find out more about assistive technology for disabled people on our Pinterest board.

The disabled footballing icon who won two World Cups

Guest post by Amit Sharma, Associate Director of Graeae.

I’m a massive football fan. I’ve been in love with the beautiful game since I was about seven years old. I’ve played for my primary school in competitions, with my mates in the park, and support the greatest team in the world – Liverpool Football Club (although I’m yet to play on the hallowed Anfield turf!). I was also quite fond of Argentina as a national team, not least because of Maradona, and the ever growing battle between him and Pele to be named the greatest ever footballer. However, there’s always been a player who gets missed off the list when it comes to discussing the best. A man who played alongside Pele and when both played in the same team neither ever lost a game. A two time World Cup winner who almost single-handedly won Brazil the title in 1962. Nominated in FIFA’s Team of the 20th Century, and whose name sits above the home dressing room in The Maracana, the most famous stadium in the world: Manuel Francisco dos Santos – better known as Garrincha.

When I became Associate Director of Graeae I wanted to look into creating a show that would be cross- culturally specific to Rio and the UK as they are hosting the Olympics and Paralympics after London in 2016. Graeae haven’t done a sporty type of show before and I was trying to rack my brain to see who might fit the bill. I then had my eureka moment and thought of Garrincha.

Garrincha
Garrincha

I’d come across Garrincha a long time ago when watching a documentary. The pictures were black and white, grainy, and the clips of him on the football field didn’t last long. There was mention of him having ‘funny legs’ but nothing more than that. What I didn’t realise was how complex a character Garrincha was.

Born in the outskirts of Rio, Garrincha had a right leg that turned inwards and a left leg that turned outwards and when given a football he became a genius. Off the field, his life was turbulent. Garrincha’s relationship with Elza Soares, a famous samba singer, proved captivating and he was an alcoholic which eventually took his life at the age of 49.

Garrincha playing football
Garrincha (left) during the World Cup 1962

I’ve never known of any disabled footballing icons. I’ve never known of any disabled icons who have won World Cups. I’ve never known of any disabled icons that are revered as he is in Brazil where he is affectionately known as ‘The Angel With Bent Legs’. I had the privilege of going to Rio last year and whenever I mentioned that I was planning to do a theatrical performance of his life people were excited and wowed. The goodwill was overwhelming. The highlight of the trip was having the opportunity to meet two of his daughters and to get their approval to do the show.

What I want to do is to open the door for the world to know a little more about this charismatic character. Knowing what I do now about Garrincha I would have loved to have said his name whilst dribbling passed my friends. A footballer with a similar mobility impairment to mine who won two world cups. How cool would it have been to imagine you were Garrincha alongside Pele and Maradona?

Hopefully with this show it’ll inspire the next generation to become their own Garrinchas.

Graeae is a disabled-led theatre company which breaks down barriers, challenges preconceptions and boldly places Deaf and disabled artists centre stage.

Volunteering changed my life

Scope supports the DIAL Network, an independent network of local disability information and advice services, run by and for disabled people.

Every year the DIAL Network helps over a quarter of a million disabled people.  A volunteer tells how she was helped by Disability Equality North West (DENW).

Disability Equality North West LogoIf I’m honest, I’d never considered being a volunteer.

I’d always been in paid work and that’s what I did. But, as my condition started to get worse, it made it harder to commit to long and strenuous hours of work. My eyesight was getting worse and I was getting very wobbly on my legs. I stopped work and this left me with a lot of time to think and I ended up being quite down. I struggled to find the motivation to fill in application forms for work. I’d been attending some sessions through the job centre to help me back into work and one of the advisors suggested volunteering. I wasn’t totally sure but it certainly didn’t sound as heavy and stressful as finding paid work. I was then introduced to DENW.

Whilst looking for work, I had been considering a role that didn’t require me to stand up for long periods of time because of my mobility issues. I met with staff at DENW and they said there was a role updating a database on the computer. This was something I’d never done before, so I was worried. However, the staff reassured me, saying that I didn’t need experience as they would support and train me to learn the role. During the time I volunteered in this role, staff gave me every encouragement and there was a good friendly atmosphere. I started to get more confident on the computer and I have learned this new skill. Outside of DENW, I made contact with my local tenant’s group and my new confidence helped me get involved with them. This led to me eventually taking on the role of vice chair of the management group there.

The data input role came to an end later in the year and fortunately I was offered support to find an alternative volunteer role elsewhere. I am really interested in history, reading and improving my mind. I regularly visit the local museum to look round and see all the history of the city. While talking through my options, I found out that I could be a volunteer with the museum – showing people around, talking to people about exhibitions, visiting schools or organisations to do talks. This was all very appealing to me and I opted to follow this through. The volunteering co-ordinator helped me to fill in the forms and went to an informal interview with me at the museum. He helped as a link with the museum staff and provided a reference.

I have now recently completed an induction with the museum and have started some volunteering sessions. One session I really enjoyed was a reminiscence session. Volunteers had to bring in an old item – I brought in an old handbag – and talk through where it was from and the sentimental value. This drew in a lot of interest from visitors to the museum and was a very enjoyable afternoon.

Since volunteering with the museum, I have also been offered a volunteer befriender role with Age Concern, visiting an older person in their home, to offer some company, tea and a chat. It seems a while ago now when I first thought about volunteering. Yet I have experienced so much, done lots of new things, made some new friends and despite my personal impairments, my enthusiasm and commitment to volunteering remain strong.

Find out more about Disability Equality North West or see some more information about volunteering.

Giving disabled children the childcare they deserve

As we move towards the General Election in 2015, childcare is high on the agenda of all three political parties.

That makes a lot of sense. Good quality childcare is a win-win for any government. It allows parents to work and has long-term social and educational benefits for all children, especially those who are disadvantaged.

Families with disabled children are financially disadvantaged by the extra costs of disability:

  • It costs three times more to raise a disabled child
  • Mothers of disabled children have one of the lowest employment rates of any group in society
  • Four in ten disabled children live in poverty.

Despite this, disabled children are too often missing from the childcare debate. This means their needs are not reflected in government solutions – such as support with childcare costs.

We are pleased that the government has started to listen to organisations like Scope (and our partners at the Disability Charities Consortium) about inconsistencies in guidance and legislation that unintentionally exclude disabled children.

This week in response to our concerns, the government clarified that the new Tax-free Childcare scheme will cover specialist childcare registered with the Care Quality Commission, as well as childcare registered with Ofsted. This is welcome news which means parents who buy childcare from short-breaks and domiciliary care providers – often because this is the only or best option available locally – will now also receive a 20% discount on their childcare costs.

(letter transcribed below)

letter

The clarification comes in the same week that an important parliamentary inquiry led by Pat Glass and Robert Buckland MP shed further light on how difficult it is for parents of disabled children to find suitable childcare.

The simple fact is that the childcare system is failing disabled children and their families:

  • Childcare costs up to eight times more for disabled children
  • There isn’t enough childcare for disabled children with complex needs and there’s a gap in the childcare market for older disabled children
  • Disabled children are turned away by mainstream providers who lack the confidence, training and resources to include them
  • Disabled children can’t access their full legal entitlement of 15 hours of free early years education

As the inquiry recommends, two good places for the current government to start addressing these failings would be to:

  • Undertake a cross-departmental review of funding to identify where support must be improved to meet the extra costs of childcare for disabled children and remove barriers to access
  • Pilot more flexible financial support for parents by increasing the upper limit of capped childcare costs under Universal Credit and the Tax-Free Childcare scheme

We hope the government will accept these recommendations as a way of building on the introduction of the Tax-free Childcare scheme under the Childcare Payments Bill.

Before 2015 all political parties must commit to tackling the lack of affordable, inclusive, high quality childcare for disabled children. Only then will parents get the support they need to work and disabled children the start in life they need and deserve.

Introducing our new online community!

We are excited to announce that our new online community is now live, and waiting for you to join! Please do check it out and tell us what you think.

You can visit the online community from the homepage of our website. It only takes a minute to register, and once you’ve signed in, you’ll be able to set up your own profile page and introduce yourself to others.

The new community represents the best of our old forums and also incorporates content and features from Netbuddy, which merged with Scope earlier this year.

Those of you are familiar with Netbuddy will recognise many of the features people enjoyed before, including the wonderful community champions, who will be there to welcome you to the site and make you feel at home.

Our community champions come from all walks of life – some are parents, some are professionals and some are disabled people. They have all volunteered their time to make sure the community is a safe, supportive place to be.

In addition to our community champions, we also have a growing number of community advisors, who can answer your questions in their specific area of expertise, such as education, sex and relationships, and behavioural issues. From time to time, they’ll also be joining us for web chats and live events, which you can find out more about in our forum news.

New features

There are lots of new and improved features in the new community too, such as the ‘thanks’ button, which lets you thank people for their advice … and links to social media, so you can instantly tweet or share information you have found useful. Now you’ll be able to follow discussions and topics you’re interested in, and you’ll be notified when people comment on conversations you’ve either started or joined.

You’ll see we’ve set up some groups you may want to join, for example a group specifically for disabled people and a parents and carers group. There are also forums for discussing practical issues, such as work, money, benefits, equipment, technology and education. There are almost certainly going to be others people will want to set up, and we’d love to get your feedback on this. Please let us know if you’d like us to create a new group for you.

This is just the first stage of the new online community.  We’ll be developing it further over the coming months, so please tell us what you’d like to see. Next, we’ll be bringing over the tips from Netbuddy, so this is really just the start.

If you would like to know more about the tips and Netbuddy, you can read the Netbuddy story here. We hope you enjoy using the new community and swapping ideas and information with other people. This is your space, so let us know what you think!

Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.

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