Shoe story

Shoe iconGuest post from Joanna Sholem

Five months ago when asked for our dreams and aspirations for the future as part of Scope’s re-brand, I contributed this (designed by my colleague David Hibberd) representing a wish for more ‘balance-able’ footwear. As someone whose impairment means I can’t grip with my toes or balance well, most glamorous shoes fall off my right foot or make me trip over. It may seem insignificant but is something else to set me apart. Then I found this Jagger shoe (thanks to an observant friend). Surreal!

I wrote to LK Bennett’s chief exec, founder and creative director to describe the impact that getting shoe design ‘just right’ can have. Will request that one of letters is cc’d to whoever created the Jagger shoe.

To the shoe designers of LK Bennett

This card does not contain sufficient space to tell you how much your JAGGER shoe has thrown me for a loop, a huge, beautiful, technicolour hoop. In the autumn, I created an icon for Scope’s (a national disability charity) new visual identity as part of our re-brand.

It was an image to represent my wish for the future that disabled women will be able to choose sexy, glamorous shoes, just as anyone who isn’t disabled can. (For those of us whose impairment results in poor balance, it often feels as though the pretty, elegant shoes for not for us and it’s just another thing that sets us apart, making us feel even more different). Therefore, I said I wanted a world where there are shoes that look hot, fit us, and that we can stand up and walk in.

One of our design team drew the shoe. Look for something you might notice… does anything jump out at you???

It’s as though in October, one of you had mind-reading superpowers. One of my colleagues was sent an ad for your shoes last Friday and was immediately struck by the coincidental similarity. I went to your St Pancras store and tried them on. Lo and behold, I can walk in them! It is very surreal but I wanted to i) thank you for bringing my dream to life, and ii) say, now that you know how amazing and empowering a shoe that makes me feel so wonderful is, please keep going!!

Kind regards, Joanna Sholem

Postscript The manager and two of the staff at LK Bennett/St Pancras have been absolutely lovely. They listened patiently to me try and explain and really ‘get it’. I’d like to publicly say how much I appreciated Ayesha and Cristina’s help.

@CarolineCooke Start by searching for Scope’s story gallery – scroll down to the image of a red high-heeled shoe. That’s mine – my icon to … represent what I want the future to hold. My colleague, David drew my dream shoe that I, with poor balance, could wear. Now, look again at the shoes LK Bennett have created. Notice anything familiar??? It’s as though their designer read my mind.

Joanna Sholem ‏@BookJo I’m still a little dazed by the coincidence – determined to celebrate it and encourage shoemakers(!) to make wide variety of… shoes that make disabled women feel that glam, sexy shoes are for them, too. It’s a small step toward an inclusive world.

Joanna Sholem ‏@BookJo These aren’t just shoes; putting them on my feet is transformative. Feel ready to take on the world. Being able to wear… glamorous shoes like anyone else without worrying about if I can walk in them is magical. Could fasten delicate straps of dream shoe without struggling/having to ask for help and for all good shoe companies to include balance-able shoes.

Joanna Sholem‏@BookJo Just dropped into LK Bennett St Pancras to speak to Ayesha, the amazing manager, to tell her that I didn’t hold out against temptation #Shoe

@Marikacobbold @elizabethbuchan Guess what I did at about 7:45 last night? Yes. That’s right. I did.

@Marikacobbold @elizabethbuchan Decided that as is extraordinarily rare for one’s dream to be realised, I just had to do it. Will be walking… up and down lots of annoying hills to get my legs into state worthy of such beauty. For fun, would you two try them?

“This photo has a work-related story behind it, besides the joy of trying on a pair of beaut – i- ful sandals.

Now, when Scope was developing its new visual identity as part of our re-brand, we were asked to come up with a personal story about what full inclusion and limitless potential’ d mean to us and an icon to represent it. Guess what mine is?

Here is the story I wrote months ago:

“I’d love to have a wardrobe full of stylish shoes that fit (industry set up for those that can grip with their toes – makes many shoes impossible or painful to wear).”

Anything look familiar?Jo Sholem

Under-representation of disabled people in public and political life

While disabled people have a vital contribution to make to public and political life, they are significantly under-represented throughout our political system. The reality is that Parliament is nowhere near reflecting the proportion of disabled people in the UK, and local government reveals a similar story in terms of the level of under-representation.

The consequence of this is that the quality of our government suffers from the existing lack of representation. As the Government presses ahead with a wealth of reforms that will have a real effect on disabled people’s lives, it is essential that their voices are being heard – now more than ever.

Tackling under-representation of disabled people

The different barriers that prevent disabled people from standing for elected positions have been widely examined by the Speaker’s Conference on parliamentary representation a few years ago. The Government has already acted upon some of the recommendations, for instance by committing to establish a dedicated fund to address the extra costs faced by disabled people in standing for election.

We know the additional financial disadvantage – arising, for example, from the cost of employing an interpreter or from the extra cost of taking a taxi rather than a bus due to the inaccessibility of transport – is a real concern to many disabled people who want to put themselves forward and stand for election. Over the last months, Scope has been working with the Government to help develop the fund.

With the fund set to become operational by later this year, this will no doubt represent a crucial moment in terms of improving disabled people’s participation in public life. In the meantime, we are seeing welcome progress on a number of other proposals.

Following the consultation last year, the Government is now publishing guidance for political parties to ensure that parties are clear about their legal obligations. Many disabled people fear that their reasonable adjustment requirements would not be met if they were to stand for election.

In light of this, the guidance is welcome indeed. All political parties have important roles to play in making sure that disabled people feel confident about seeking support and are provided with the reasonable adjustments they need, thus enabling them to perform to the best of their ability.

In addition, the Government is also currently working with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to develop a training package for disabled people wishing to access elected office – which is due to be launched in the months to come.

We still have a long way to go before there is any prospect of achieving an equal representation of disabled people in public life. More needs doing, but as Lynne Featherstone, the Minister for Equalities, writes, “These policies are just the start of what we are doing to make Parliament and councils more representative of the people they serve.”

What is absolutely clear – and as the Minister acknowledges – is the positive effect this would bring in terms of decision-making: “As the Minister for Equalities, it seems obvious to me our democratic institutions make the best decisions when they have a mix of people with different skills, backgrounds and experiences, from right across the country.”