“This is why I fight to overcome barriers to employment for disabled people.”

Max, a writer and Disability Gamechanger, writes about the challenges he faces finding employment as a person with autism.

I choose to fight for the voices of others on the autistic spectrum. Through my own efforts to find work and my writing, I aim to show that those on the autistic spectrum can play an important role in the workplace and indeed, society.

As someone who has a deep passion for social issues and strongly believes in the concept of society, I want to contribute to society through employment. And yes, I do realise that means paying taxes!

All I need is a bit of patience

Along my personal journey, there have been many positive experiences as well as challenges and people who have believed in me. I recently undertook a placement at a very inclusive and welcoming PR marketing agency in Barry, Wales. Here I was given the patience and understanding to build my confidence and work at my own speed. I am also working part-time with an education technology start-up to help develop kids and adults digital skills.

The main barrier for me in the past, and one which I still sometime face has been interviews. I often struggle to express all my strengths in the pressurised situation that is a job interview, and as a result I feel that employers only see my anxiety.

Though I recognise that verbal communications skills are important in marketing and any other employment sector, I know that once I settle into an environment I can achieve anything I set my mind to! All I need is a bit of patience.

One of the biggest impacts that such barriers have had on me are feelings of isolation and loneliness. I am sure these are feelings which are shared by many others in the disabled community.

A young man smiles with his dog
Max at home with his dog

Everybody has value to add

To achieve progress, I believe there should be a greater focus from employers on what  disabled people can do, not what they may find difficult at first. Just as everyone has their own weaknesses, everybody has value they can add to a team.

Creating an environment where all abilities thrive, enabling a wide range of talent, is key. Similarly, creating interview processes which are flexible and allow this talent to shine, I believe can be a positive step forward.

Take those with autism, for example. We are creative, focused and have attention to detail. These are all positive traits which can be valuable within a team.

By creating more diverse teams, this means that more organisations will have the ability to represent their customers and society. Surely, this is something we can all agree is a good thing.

It is time that we focus on ability, not disability.

Half of disabled people feel excluded from society and many say prejudicial attitudes haven’t improved in decades.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, so we all need to work together to change society for the better. 

There’s something everyone can do to be a Disability Gamechanger so get involved with the campaign today to end this inequality.

“This is how assistive technology is helping me live the life I choose”

A keen campaigner and writer, Raisa uses lots of different assistive technology to help her do day to day tasks. Here, she writes about some of these pieces of technology and how they help her live the life she chooses.

I’m very selective when choosing assistive technology. Of course, everything has its purpose, but if it is no use to me, there’s no point in using it.

For me, because I have the option, I don’t use assistive technology for absolutely everything. I’ve only considered using assistive technology seriously when I started university in 2013.

Because I was doing a Creative and Professional Writing degree, it was clear that there was going to be a lot of writing involved. There was no guarantee that I would be able to type everything up in time, by only using two fingers on the keyboard without a fast typist beside me. I was lucky in the sense that I got quite a lot of help through Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) at uni.

I’ve always had the habit of writing nearly everything by hand so I can literally see what I am typing, rather than transferring my thoughts straight onto a computer. I have never been able to do it. The only exception is when I compose emails. But even then, if my email is really long and I’m really exhausted, I would probably end up using some sort of assistive technology.

A woman laughs whilst talking in a group at the Scope for Change residential
Raisa talking to fellow campaigners

Technology has so many uses

I am (literally) using Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 to dictate this post in my bedroom. This version is pretty good. I was first introduced to this software in 2009, when version 9 came out. It was horrendous. No matter how much I tried to train the software to my voice there were too many typos per page. I literally wanted to rip my hair out.

I got Dragon 12 at the beginning of my university course in 2013. Thank God I did. There was just too much to do in so little time! Don’t get me wrong, it still makes mistakes, but they’re so rare that I can live with it now.

Something else I use quite regularly was my Olympus Sonority voice recorder. I used this device to record every single one of my lectures or big public events over the last five years. It’s great that they automatically convert into audio files that work on pretty much any device – so I could listen to them anywhere if I wanted to, either on my phone or laptop. It saves as a compatible file for your memory stick also – bonus!

Assistive technology can help you live the life you choose

A family friend showed me Apple’s voice recognition software and how it worked before I got my first iPhone. I got really excited by this. I wouldn’t use Siri in public, but voice recognition software on my phone has helped me do my most important job these days – dictating and replying to emails! I have a habit of sending really long emails! I don’t have to use my laptop, I just have to hold my phone in my hand and speak.

A woman laughs with another campaigner at Scope for Change
Raisa laughing with another campaigner

One of my really long emails to date, which I wrote by only my right thumb and predicted text (without using voice recognition at all), took me two hours to type. However, if I wrote that same email again using voice recognition software on my phone, it would have only taken me about half an hour. It is also a quick way to make notes in your notes section for reminders.

I personally wouldn’t go as far as using assistive technology to help me with absolutely everything. I don’t want technology to directly take over my life. However, I hope that this post has been helpful in showing how assistive technology can help you to live the life you choose.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, with digital and assistive technology playing a huge part in this. We all need to work together to change society for the better. 

There’s something everyone can do to be a Disability Gamechanger so get involved in the campaign today to end this inequality.

“Disability is full of compromises and workarounds”

Edith was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when she was 16. As her condition started worsening, it was essential that she found a social care package that met her needs.

In this blog, Edith writes about how finding the right social care package has enabled her to focus on the other important things in life.

Writing about my twice daily care visits feels like trying to describe brushing my teeth, or cutting my nails. It’s boring and I aim not to focus any great deal of time on it, it’s just an essential part of daily life.

A young woman smiles whilst sitting on a sofa, typing on a laptop
Edith sitting on a sofa with her laptop

I use a wheelchair full time, but the ‘book ends’ of my day are especially hard. Lying in bed overnight, my whole body stiffens up and takes a while to stretch out and co-operate. Come evening, fatigue has turned me to jelly.

Add in flare ups, temperature variations and colds or viruses. Each day is a surprise. My carer starts by stretching my legs in bed and helping me to a sitting position. Using a standing frame I transfer to my wheelchair, and in a subsequent set of routines I get dressed and ready for my day. The process is fairly cumbersome and long winded, but we go the fastest we can, totalling around an hour.

Night calls follow a similar set of processes, all made quicker and easier if I’m having a ‘good day’, but following a routine which we know well enough to follow without fuss.

It means I can focus on the rest of my life

My social care calls are crucial. Do I want to have company first thing in the morning? Would I love to get up and make a cup of tea then go back to bed for a few hours? What about those unexpected evenings out where one drink turns into many and you just re-adjust your 12 hour plan accordingly.

The alternative is being bed bound, in some residential home, or relying on my parents (while I can, then what?). So when it works, my social care support enables everything else.

With the essentials of personal care covered, I can focus on the rest of my life, the nights out, holidays, work, credit card bills… just life. To me social care is as necessary a part of my functioning as any of my healthcare, if not more so.

I’m frustrated by the wires I’ve had to untangle to get social care in place, the lack of transparency in funding and set up. It feels more vulnerable than the NHS and prescription meds, yet to me should be treated in the same way.

It’s all a part of my life I’d rather not have to incorporate, but fundamental for me to achieve, do, live or anything else.

Read more from Edith on her blog.

Half of disabled people feel excluded from society and many say prejudicial attitudes haven’t improved in decades.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, so we all need to work together to change society for the better. 

There’s something everyone can do to be a Disability Gamechanger so join the campaign today to end this inequality.

Will you be a Disability Gamechanger?

Today, Scope launches a new campaign to tackle disability inequality head on. Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs, James Taylor, tells us why it’s an issue we all need to get behind.

“Negative attitudes, poor access to support or transport, limited opportunities for work.

Disabled people tell us that these things matter. They lead to discrimination, to prejudice and to being seen as an afterthought.”

“The things that people say to you never go away. There have been times where bad attitudes have made me ask, what’s the point?” – Marie

“People with invisible impairments still struggle for people to ‘believe’ their condition is real.

On buses, trains and planes we’re often denied equal service and equal treatment.

When we want to go on a night out, the disabled toilet is often an extra storage cupboard, because we’re not thought of as customers.

Hear from some of the storytellers in this film, highlighting the barriers disabled people face in their day-to-day lives.”

The scale of the issue

“Our latest research shows how many disabled people feel and experience this.

We spoke to disabled people right across Britain to find out about their day-to-day lives – what makes them happy, what angers or frustrates them and what they want to get out of life.

We wanted to understand what equality means to disabled people today, and we wanted to start from what disabled people think and feel, and how important independence is to them.

Overwhelmingly disabled people told us they want to be independent, to have confidence and to be connected through friends, family, colleagues and communities.

Yet for too many disabled people this isn’t the case.”

“I’ve been excluded from social situations or activities due to my condition. People make assumptions about what I am able to do. It’s really frustrating.” – Shani

“Earlier this year, Opinium polled 2,000 disabled adults for Scope and found:

  • 49 per cent of disabled people said they feel excluded by society
  • Just 23 per cent said they felt valued by society
  • On top of this, only 42 per cent of disabled people believe the   UK is a good place for disabled people

These statistics make it obvious that the fight for disability equality is far from over.

Throughout the last century we’ve seen action that has led to dramatic changes in our society, but our research demonstrates that there is still a way to go until all disabled people are able to live the lives they choose free from discrimination and low expectations.

At Scope we want to change this.

Whilst we might have protection in law, at Scope we know there is still a way to go until until all disabled people can enjoy equality.”

You can read more about the research in our report, ‘Independent, Confident, Connected’.

Be a Disability Gamechanger

“We have launched our new campaign calling on all those who want to work with us to show their support for disability equality. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bus driver, a politician, a teacher or an employer. You can all make a difference.”

We can’t do it alone. We know that we are stronger as a movement, as a community and as a force for change, when we work together.

If you, like us, want to end this inequality, join our campaign today.

Government outlines plans to make public transport more inclusive

Today the Government has published its new Inclusive Transport Strategy, outlining how they intend to make the transport network more accessible for disabled people. This includes over £300 million of funding to deliver the projects they’ve announced.

A positive commitment

The current transport system is set up in a way which deters – or even prevents – many disabled people from using it. The Inclusive Transport Strategy is a strong step in the right direction, dismantling some of the barriers disabled people face. This is not just about adjusting existing infrastructure to make it physically accessible, but tries to put the needs of all disabled passengers at the heart of designing our transport system.

Access for All

Our recent research found 40 per cent of disabled people have difficulty accessing train stations. The biggest announcement in the Strategy is that the Government is reviving the Access for All program, to provide funds to make railway stations more accessible. The £300 million which has been announced for the fund will go towards installing everything from lifts to tactile paving and automatic doors at more stations.

“I’ve lost out on great job opportunities because I arrived so late. There are no step-free stations near me so I have to drive everywhere, which takes so much longer” – Conrad

And this is on top of existing requirements for station operators to improve accessibility when they renovate their stations.

It’s not just railways that are getting an upgrade. The Strategy also announced that £2 million will be spent installing Changing Places facilities in motorway service stations, allowing more disabled people travelling by car to access a suitable toilet.

Attitudes

Disabled people frequently say that one of the biggest barriers to using public transport can be the attitudes of others. Whether it’s a non-disabled person refusing to offer a priority seat to someone who needs it, or a bus driver ignoring a wheelchair user at a bus stop, the attitudes of passengers and staff can make or break disabled people’s experiences of public transport.

“As I am young and have an invisible disability, I am often accused of not needing the accessible seats at the front of buses and…people rarely give up their seat to me when I ask” – Anonymous

The Inclusive Transport Strategy has recognised this, with a focus on both staff training and changing behaviours of non-disabled passengers. This will require bus and rail operators to provide disability awareness training to their staff, and the Government will spearhead a campaign to improve awareness of disability among all passengers.

The Rail Ombudsman

Even after the changes announced, things will still go wrong from time to time. While we want the Government and transport providers to work to eliminate these errors in the first place, it’s important that disabled people are able to complain and have action taken if things don’t go to plan with a journey.

The Strategy has announced a new Rail Ombudsman to help disabled people seek recourse. This body will have the power to rule on complaints relating to accessibility, and deliver binding judgements – meaning it can force train companies to act.

This will be accompanied by a new system for registering complaints about bus services, which will go to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency who can take action against bus companies that don’t meet their obligations.

What’s next?

It’s worth noting that the Inclusive Transport Strategy contains many more proposed changes beyond the ones we’ve discussed in this blog.

While we have welcomed the Strategy, there is still much more to be done to ensure all disabled people are able to access and use transport as they wish.

As well as making sure the proposals from today are implemented in full, we’ll keep pushing the Government to make sure the transport system really is one that is fully inclusive and accessible to all disabled people.

Looking after working and service dogs in the extreme heat

Amit Patel is a speaker for Guide Dogs. He’s guided by Kika – who has become *very* popular on social media.

Unfortunately, Kika’s been having a few problems recently, coping with the hot weather – so Amit writes about his experiences below, and adds some tips for keeping your dog cool in the summer heat.

We can’t control the weather

As a Guide Dog owner, I know full well that the weather is one of those things that you cannot control and can really throw your routine out of the window. Extreme weather is challenging, whether it’s really hot or really cold, it will have an impact on your dog and how they work. But you can prepare for it.

In winter, there is the constant worry of grit getting in a dogs paws (the salt can burn them) and snow covering the ground means that a Guide Dog cannot tell the difference between the road and the pavement or anything hidden underneath in the snow. And let’s not even talk about the black ice!

The past few weeks however have seen the opposite extreme – with temperatures hitting over 30 degrees in the city and trains and tubes getting significantly hotter than that, I’ve had to make some tough decisions to ensure Kika’s well-being.

A Labrador with guide dog harness sitting in the aisle of a underground train
Kika the guide dog rides on public transport

It’s hard to keep cool

Kika is a beautiful white Labrador, but that comes with a very thick fur coat, which, coupled with her leather harness, means that she gets warm quickly. As if the outside temperature wasn’t hot enough, the pavements also heat up and can burn a dogs paws easily.

I rely on Kika to keep me safe, but if she’s hot and bothered, or struggling in the heat, she may find it hard to concentrate and as a consequence, won’t work as well. I’ve also found that like any of us, if she’s made to do something that she doesn’t like or doesn’t feel comfortable doing, like working when its uncomfortably hot, she’s less likely to want to do it again in the future.

I’m dependent on Kika to be able to get out and about in London but recently I’ve had to adjust my routine to avoid peak time trains. I’ve been going in extra early when its cool and coming back early before the evening peak. I’ve also taken alternative routes which have been unfamiliar and which require assistance – this makes journeys longer than usual but can also cause anxiety due to the change in routine. I’ve consciously been taking things slower with plenty of breaks for us both throughout a journey because of all this.

In our experience, extreme weather exacerbates issues on public transport too. Somehow lots of trains have been delayed or cancelled, with more last minute platform alterations than usual recently. Some days it’s been too hot to even attempt the trains during the daytime so I’ve had to take taxis home – adding extra time and expense.

Father with his guide dog and son standing outside number 10 Downing Street
Amit, his son, and Kika, outside number 10!

We still have to work

Like most people, we have to get to work regardless of the weather. I’m fortunate that my clients have been very understanding, I’ve managed to juggle meetings and work from home much more which has meant that Kika hasn’t had to work as much in the heat.

For the days that we have had to travel into London, we start our day even earlier with a good groom for Kika – this helps remove the shed hair, allowing the skin to breathe and trapping less heat in the coat. Kika has a very pink nose which is prone to sunburn, so I also apply a little sun cream (dog safe, of course) to her nose. The challenging part of this is that she always tries to lick it off! I also make sure Kika’s had plenty of cold water before leaving and I carry ice cubes in her water bottle so that it stays cool for as long as possible.

I’ve found that most restaurants and cafes are more than understanding given the extreme heat and will always provide water and ice for your dog if you ask for it. Stopping somewhere so that Kika can cool down is a great excuse for me to also take a break and have a cold drink.

Some people ask why I don’t just leave Kika at home? After all, I have a white cane and I’m trained to use it! But it’s not as simple as that. Kika isn’t a pet, she’s my Guide Dog and she’s been with me 24/7 since we qualified together almost 3 years ago. As she’s a working dog, she comes with me everywhere – to work, restaurants, the hospital and even holidays abroad. She’s never been left home alone for this very reason.

Kika - the Golden Labrador sat between seats n a train panting
Kika on public transport

Amit’s top tips for keeping your working dog cool in the heat:

  • Avoid working your dog unless you absolutely have to – can you work from home or get other assistance to help you get to work, e.g. a taxi or support worker
  • Carry plenty of water for you and your dog
  • Go early when its cooler, come back pre rush – as trains and tubes are considerably warmer
  • Groom your dog more frequently to remove shed hairs which stops heat being trapped in their coats
  • Sun cream on the dogs nose
  • Paddling pool! Great for cooling down kids as well as dogs
  • Ice cubes – both in water but they also make great treats in this heat
  • If you feel that your dog is overheating or struggling to cool down, then hose them down with cool water or apply a cold wet towel to their underbelly and paws. If in doubt, please call your vet.

You can follow Kika and Amit on Twitter – we highly recommend that you do.

Young disabled people share their hopes for equality

Regardless of who we are or where we are from, we must work together to ensure that every member of society has an equal chance to participate in our democracy and to have their say.

Carly Jones MBE hosted an EqualiTeas event at Scope, inviting young disabled people to meet, talk about equality and democracy, eat cake and decorate biscuits! An event championed by UK Parliament, aiming to bring UK communities together to explore what equality means to people.

Carly is an autism advocate who has been tirelessly campaigning for equality for years after her own battle to get a diagnosis.

Here’s Carly’s story.

I asked Scope if they could support a celebration of the “equality of voting rights”, EqualiTeas event at their new Here East offices at Queen Elizabeth Park, Stratford. Here I am talking to the Scope team about the event.

Scope team filming Carly who is sat on a sofa.
Carly being filmed.

My hope in asking Scope and I to deliver a get together, was we would be in a better position to amplify the voices of disabled people in the UK. When Scope said they would love to host this event and provide social media and PR staff, plus camera people and scope story tellers all free of charge, I was elated and so grateful!

We created our idols on gingerbread

Guests from different age ranges, genders and disability, arrived from local and not so local areas. We ate cake, and drank tea. Younger guests decorated gingerbread into whatever their idols or ambitions were, which included an astronaut, a mortician and Phil Marsh from Scope.

A younger guest sat at a table painting gingerbread
A younger guest painting (with icing) their idol onto gingerbread.

Huge EqualiTeas posters were used to sound board our needs and hopes for equality. We debated as a group our answers to such questions as “what does equality means to you?” and “have you ever stood up for equality?”.

Our passion for the subject shone through and we noted our responses on the posters themselves.

Carly sitting on the floor writing answers to questions on to the Equaliteas posters
Carly writing answers to questions on the Equaliteas poster

Why this event is important

The reason Scope and I held this event was to ensure that disabled voices were heard in democracy. To inspire a younger disabled generation to not be afraid to step forward. There are approximately 13.9 million disabled people in the UK. We are an extremely large minority group.

To ensure that no one is left behind, our voices and suggestions must be taken seriously. We must have a seat around the democratic tables to fully represent the UK appropriately.

The group sat on chairs discussing equality.
We are having an in-depth conversation about equality.

Young people would like equality to work

Many wanted shops to be more disability friendly. For some their hope was a fair chance at education. Safeguarding and sex education for Autistic girls was of high importance to many, and more representation from the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic disabled community. Some wanted to get the job of their dreams because they were talented and they deserved it not just because they fitted a diversity box ticking exercise by an employer.

That in a way surprised me, we are often given the impression that young people of today, disabled or not, have some form of entitlement. To hear a young person not want special treatment but simple equality to work struck me as incredibly articulate.

Cakes with Equaliteas sticks in them in the foreground. Guests are in the background.
Equaliteas cakes

We all had fun

The guests seemed to really have fun. Parents of the younger guests got in touch to say how proud they were of their young person and to give thanks to Scope and myself which of course is incredibly kind and heartwarming.

Check out more of the story and photos on Instagram, watch our film of the event.

By @CarlyJonesMBE

What’s next

Next up is the Global Disability Summit 23 and 24 July again at Here East, Queen Elizabeth Park, Stratford with representatives of Include Me Too (Parmi Dheensa), the Department for International Development, British Council and UK government.

There is often an illusion that when the UK talks disability we do not include our own. This could not be further from the truth. There will be many British disabled advocates and activists participating at the Global Summit for others and our own countries benefit. It’s an absolute honour to be among them and share the voices, wants and needs of others is an absolute pleasure of a duty.

Take part in the conversation at #DisabilitySummit #NowIsTheTime.

If you have a story you’d like to share, get in touch with the stories team.

If you want to get involved in campaigns and make change happen, have a look around our campaigns page and get in touch.

How growing up with cerebral palsy helped me achieve my dream of being an author

Throughout her life, people have made Rachel feel like she couldn’t achieve as much, because she has cerebral palsy. Those negative attitudes always spurred her on and today her hard work has paid off. Not only is she realising her dream of publishing a novel, she’s done this alongside her full time job, proving that with hard work, you can achieve anything.

In this blog, she writes about determination, pursuing your goals and seeing disability as a strength. 

Having had cerebral palsy since birth, I realised when I was in primary school that I would always have to work harder than everyone else to achieve my dreams.

I worked so hard to learn to walk, to hold pens, to tie my shoelaces and to fasten buttons. Sometimes, I’d become angry and frustrated at not being able to do things my friends could but then I started to think about alternative ways of doing things, such as getting Velcro put on my shirts and shoes.

I have difficulty holding a pen, so it took me longer to write essays and do homework. Despite that, I loved writing diaries and stories as a way to understand my experiences and I dreamed of being a writer.

Having spent hours of my childhood having physio on my legs and hands to improve my co-ordination, it was ingrained in me that if I put the effort in, I would reach my goals. Which is why, when working full-time as a primary school teaching assistant, I decided to stop writing in my notebooks and actually knuckle down to take writing seriously.

My own experiences shaped my novel

When I started my novel, I wanted to use my writing as a vehicle to say something about my life. I chose to write about a young woman with a facial birthmark and relate some of my experiences and feelings growing up with cerebral palsy through her.

One theme in particular is how suffering cruel comments as a child forms her view of herself as an adult and how she finally accepts herself. The main difference between my central character and me is that Ivy can cover her disfigurement whereas my impairment is on view to everyone I meet.

People sometimes make judgements when they first see me. I’ve also had strangers ask what is wrong with me which I find intrusive. I can almost hear them breathe a sigh of relief when I say ‘cerebral palsy’ as they can compartmentalise me beneath that neat label.

A book on a table next to a mug of coffee

Not giving up

There have been some evenings after challenging days in school when I just felt like sitting in front of the T.V. instead of looking at a computer screen for three hours. But having a long-held dream in my sights of becoming an author, I stuck at it.

Early last year, I submitted my first three chapters and synopsis to half a dozen literary agents. A couple got back to me to say that they liked my writing but my novel didn’t fit their list. Although disappointed, I was heartened by their response to my novel and I wasn’t about to give up on my dream.

The theme of the book is about putting the past behind you to live every day in the best way you can, which resonates deeply with me and I felt it was a message other people should read. So, I was delighted when the Book Guild offered me a publishing deal!

Seeing disability as a strength

From an early age, having cerebral palsy has given me a different perspective on the world to most people, forcing me to question why people act the way they do towards me, aspects which I’ve incorporated into my writing.

Writing is also all about hard work, routine and perseverance. Growing up having to spend hours learning how to walk or how to pick up and use a pen gave me qualities which have enabled me to complete my novel and achieve my dream of becoming a writer.

Somehow, I’ve managed to write a novel while having a full-time job and I think it’s my sheer determination that has got me through it.

Having cerebral palsy has not only made me into the writer I am, as I touch on disability themes in my work, but it’s been a defining factor in achieving my writing dreams. 

Roses of Marrakech by Rachel Clare is out this week. We’ll be giving away two copies over the weekend via Facebook and Twitter, so get involved!

If you have a story you’d like to share, get in touch with the stories team. 

I’ve been left on trains and called ‘a wheelchair’ – train companies need to improve their treatment of disabled customers

This week, BBC Rip Off Britain highlights the experience of disabled passengers on trains. Far too often, inaccessible transport stops disabled people from enjoying the same opportunities as everyone else. In some cases, people have been through stressful and upsetting incidents – from train staff forgetting them to being treated like an object. In this blog, Steph shares her experiences. 

Every day across the UK 100s of disabled people are left stranded on train platforms. As a wheelchair user, I use trains frequently to go to work and to socialise. But, of course, the one thing that I’m constantly aware of when travelling is accessibility.

When it comes to train travel, both locally and nationally, train companies have issues with the way that they deal with disabled people.

If you’re disabled, you always have to plan ahead

I have to plan my journey before I go anywhere in ways that non-disabled people don’t need to, and I rely on the services of train companies to get me to my destination without a hitch but this isn’t always the reality.

There have been instances when a member of staff at my local station has been unable to put me on or take me off the train due to medical reasons. They said “Our staff will always do their best to assist customers, but there may be occasions when they do not have the physical ability to place ramps. In such circumstances, alternative transport will be arranged.”

While they do offer a taxi to take me to the next accessible station, this can take over an hour to arrive, or they ask me to phone them in advance to book travel, which isn’t always possible.

I feel panicked when assistance doesn’t show up

Sometimes, when you can book assistance, nobody shows up. There have been several times when I have booked assistance with a train company and a member of staff has failed to meet me at the station, leaving me panicked because I don’t know whether they will come and take me off before the train departs.

And it’s not just me. Ceri Smith, Policy Manager for the disability charity Scope, spoke on BBC Wiltshire in April and said that ‘1 in 5 disabled people who have booked assistance on a train only to find that there isn’t assistance to get off the train at their arrival station’.

This is a very simple part of the service I expect as a disabled person. But when this occurs, I am left questioning why I should book assistance in the first place if this need can’t be met.

Steph a disabled woman smiling, sitting in her wheelchair in front of a radiator and white wall

I can’t use some train stations, so journeys take a lot longer

Not being able to go to a station due to lack of physical access is also an issue. My local train company, has a policy in place to order a taxi to take me to the next available station. This sounds like a good idea in practice, but the reality I’ve found to be completely different.

I went to Port Sunlight on a trip to the theatre and I found out at Central Station that it wasn’t accessible. It really baffled me that this is the case as Port Sunlight is a prominent tourist attraction.

I needed to travel to the nearest accessible station and get a taxi from there. There weren’t any accessible taxis available, and so the suggestion was to get one from Liverpool which would take over an hour at least.

Things like this are a real inconvenience to me.

Things are improving, but there’s more to be done

Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t staff who do their jobs well and provide great service for disabled people because there are and that certainly has been the case for me.

There has been improvement. Under the Access for All programme, introduced in 2006, The Guardian stated that ‘150 stations have been upgraded to remove barriers to independent travel, including by installing signs, ramps and lifts. A further 68 are under construction or in development.’ But, at the same time, I feel that disabled people are still not being taken seriously across the board when it comes to train travel.

It would be fantastic to see train companies work with disabled people directly to ensure that the policies they offer, when it comes to an element of the journey not being accessible, are realistic. And if they aren’t, they need to find an alternative that really works.

Also, the attitudes and terminology staff use towards disabled people who travel by train are important too. I’m not an object, so don’t call me a ‘wheelchair’. Instead, use the term ‘wheelchair user’, it’s far more appropriate.

We want to feel empowered, respected and valued just like non- disabled people. There’s progress that is being made, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

Keep the conversation going on Twitter by sharing your experiences, tagging @Scope and using the hashtag #RipOffBritain.

Or join the discussion on our online community.

My physical limitations are often the least of my worries – other people’s attitudes are the problem

Our new report, The Disability Perception Gap, reveals the extent of the negative attitudes that are held towards disabled people – and how many non-disabled people don’t realise the scale of the problem.

Many people have responded to this, sharing their own experiences. In this guest blog, Chloe, who has cerebral palsy, talks about her life as a young disabled woman – and why she became a Scope Role Model to change attitudes.

I like to think that my impairment is a small part of me. In theory this is true, in practice it can be a very different story. Having cerebral palsy and a visual impairment does affect my life and always will do, yet the physical limitations are often the least of my worries. It is actually everything outside of what you would think that is the most limiting, with attitudes being at the forefront of it all.

Subtle prejudice is common, and can be just as frustrating

Negative attitudes towards disabled people are not always the more extreme things that may come to mind. It would be a lie to say disabled people are not faced with hate crimes and people being aggressive towards them. However, attitudes can be much subtler than this. From my own experiences it is so common for people to talk to the person I am with, even if it is about me!

The most recent example of this was when my PA was asked if I would like a copy of the menu in Braille, I was stood right next to her. I personally would not benefit from a Braille menu, but it is amazing the one was available. If the woman would have asked myself then the whole situation would have been perfect and incredibly accessible.

On the other hand, if they are talking to me it can come across as patronising or as if they know what is best for me. I fully appreciate that some people don’t know what to say, but why treat us like we are lower than you just because we have a disability?

Chloe standing in front of students, laughing
Chloe is changing attitudes through her work as a Scope Role Model

We’re seen as not capable of certain roles

I believe that current attitudes can also stem into the roles in society which we are able to play. Sure, we can be Paralympians, motivational speakers or disability activists. In fact I am extremely proud to hold of one these roles.

However, attitudes often limit us to these roles and society forgets we are capable of being their retail assistant, accountant or hairdresser. They forget we have dreams and aspirations just like them over the career we want. I understand that some impairments may limit roles we have to a certain extent but that’s for us to figure out – not to be told by members of the public.

Negative attitudes have made me doubt myself

These types of negative attitudes can have a significant impact. Despite attitudes being the opinions of others, it can make you feel incompetent and less worthy of certain opportunities.

On the other hand, at times it can be hard to justify your own achievements beyond ‘they only gave that to me because I’m disabled’. This is reinforced by the attitudes of other people. It is hard to overcome these views when you are faced with it every day and can be extremely damaging.

It can also lead to moments of doubt, even if this is completely out of character. I clearly remember struggling to walk up a school corridor because I had a cast on which was painful. Two girls, who were several years below me, walked past and for some reason I couldn’t help but be so disappointed in myself.

I’d just become Assistant Head Girl and I was so proud of this but couldn’t help thinking “How on earth are you good enough to be Assistant Head Girl, potentially having younger students look up to you, when you can’t even successfully walk down a corridor!”.

I have learnt that this internal monologue is not true at all, and yet I thought this because of the attitudes I am surrounded by. Fighting them away would have been near enough impossible if it wasn’t for my incredible support network.

Chloe smiles at the camera, with seated students behind her
89% of students felt less awkward about disability after attending a Scope Role Models session

I became a Scope Role Model to change attitudes

So, what is the next step? We cannot go on like this and something must change. In my opinion, improving attitudes can come about by challenging stereotypes which often are deep- seated within society.

We need to open our eyes to the reality of having a disability and that we are not as far forward as we believe. This includes the fact we can play a role within society, but also that having a disability can be hard and can be extremely challenging to live with at times.

Scope Role Model programme is working on normalising disability in schools around the country and I love being part of this. I don’t mind being asked questions by the students and I will be honest with them because this is the only way progress is going to be made. Not everyone has to share their story, but I choose to do so.

Why not see a disabled person as an individual who is just as unique as yourself? A person who is just as capable and who has needs that are just as important. Treat us the same as you would a family member, friend, work colleague or professional. With respect, humanity and belief.

Chloe is a student, writer, disability activist and Assistant Coordinator at CP Teens UK. You can read more of Chloe’s work on her award-winning blog.

Scope’s report is the start of something, not the end. We will be working to better understand how negative attitudes impact on disabled people, and how these can best be tackled.

There’s no single fix for this problem, and as part of our campaign for everyday equality for disabled people, we’d like to hear about your experiences and what you would like to see change.

Will you support our campaign by telling us your experiences?

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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