Share your awkward moments

On the Scope blog we regularly hear from people about attitudes to disability. It can be serious. But more often than not it’s just a bit awkward – what you could call innocent ignorance.

We want to shine a light on the awkwardness that many people feel about disability, and want to hear from you.

Have you been in an awkward situation?

You can share your awkward stories with us in the comments section below, with the hashtag #EndTheAwkward, or email us at awkward@scope.org.uk.

We’ll share them online – so let us know if you want to be anonymous.

Some of our favourites so far

“I was talking to someone in a wheelchair with amputated legs. I was so overly conscious of not saying the wrong thing that I barely said anything at all!”

“I was in the city centre once when this guy walked past me. He was so engrossed in staring at me and my wheelchair, that he didn’t notice the lamp-post he was about to walk into…”

“I met a woman who has restricted growth at a friend’s place. She asked me if I fancied a cup of tea. I had a vague and distant memory of having been told that you should never offer a disabled person help, unless they ask for help. So I just watched her struggle with the kitchen that was literally over her head, until she gave up.  I wouldn’t have hesitated to ask someone who was say, 4’11”, if they needed a hand with things out of their reach. But for some reason I felt like it was legitimate to apply a different rule when someone’s 3’6”. Cringing now.”

“Whenever I go to an appointment, I can’t stop myself smirking and giggling when the receptionist invariably tells me to ‘take a seat’, then notices the wheelchair and gets all flustered!”

“I was in a newsagents. a guy was silently hovering behind me, when suddenly without a word he grabbed hold of my chair and wheeled me to the opposite end of the magazine rack! Turns out i was in the way of his mags, but who knew! Haha!”

Share your experiences with us in the comments section below, with the hashtag #EndTheAwkward, or email us at awkward@scope.org.uk

Let’s end the awkward

By Richard Hawkes, Scope’s Chief Executive.

In 2014, life’s still tougher than it needs to be if you’re disabled.

Across society disabled people face an extra costs penalty that must be tackled, many need better social care in order to live full and independent lives, and disabled people want to work but too often are stopped from achieving their ambitions.

Half of disabled people have experienced discrimination in shops and 4 out of 10 have often missed out on a job because of what employers think about disability.

What underpins all of this is attitudes and understanding.

Current attitudes towards disability

Today we are publishing a new report about attitudes in Britain today which shows that most of the public are uncomfortable speaking to a disabled person.

It turns out – in true British fashion – that we feel awkward and don’t know how to act.  The majority of the people we spoke to said they would worry about speaking about disability in front of a disabled person, with many worrying they would say something inappropriate or use an offensive term by mistake.

One of the big surprises for us was that younger people are more likely to have negative attitudes as older people.  It’s led to some 18-34 year olds actually avoiding talking to a disabled person because they weren’t sure how to communicate with them.  It looks as though there’s a generational issue we need to tackle and that’s a big lesson for us.

There is a positive side to this in the research we’ve carried out.  Many people said that simply getting to know someone disabled, or getting advice from disabled people, would make them feel more confident when meeting a disabled person.

We are serious about helping change attitudes – so serious we changed our name 20 years ago.  So we’ve looked hard at what more we can do, especially taking into account the evidence about younger people.

End the Awkward

Today Scope is launching a new campaign to ‘End the Awkward’ – to out the awkwardness that lots of people feel in everyday situations, and begin to shift the attitudes of a younger generation who might not have thought a lot about disability.

We’re launching a series of three adverts (watch below), which will premiere on national television this Sunday.  They’re fronted by the brilliant comedian Alex Brooker who presented “The Last Leg”.

Alex guides people through different awkward situations they might face, like “do I bend or not bend down to talk to a person who uses a wheelchair”, and helps people see what they could do in that kind of situation.

We’re also publishing some practical tips, to help people navigate a whole range of situations.  At the heart of it it’s about seeing the person not just someone’s impairment, treating someone with respect and getting to know them. Throughout, the campaign has been developed with a range of disabled people and the younger people we’re trying to reach, so it’s as true as possible to people’s real experiences and disabled people’s advice.

Comedy and seriousness

We don’t want to point fingers and we’re using humour as an approach, partly because we hope it will appeal to younger people, and because we’ve been inspired by disabled comedians like Alex, Jack Carroll and Francesca Martinez.

End the Awkward deals with the issues in a lighthearted way, but it of course touches on the other more serious issues of how we treat disabled people in Britain in 2014.

This campaign is just one part of our wider work.  We speak out against negative attitudes – like when the Mayor of Swindon recently described disabled people as “mongols” – and we continue to campaign on lots of the big issues disabled people tell us are affecting their living standards.

What do you think?

We’ve launched this campaign specifically to get a new, younger generation thinking about what we can do to include disabled people more in our lives.

If we get less hooked on the fact that someone is disabled, and instead just get to know them as people, I think we can end the awkward and make a step towards Britain being a better country.

Watch the films below, share them and find out more about the campaign.  I’d love to know what you think.