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.



8 thoughts on “Let’s end the awkward”

  1. It’s a great campaign. Everyone can relate to the akwardness you feel at times or sticking your foot in it, no matted who you are talking to.
    But what about those with hidden disabilities, those not in a wheelchair etc that have autism who also have to go through that awkward stage and struggle with jobs and life. So you may not see the disability at first. But isn’t it just as important to highlight the awkwardness they face when people realise they are “different”.

    1. My thoughts exactly Amie, it’s a problem that only arises because people haven’t thought about it during their pasts and would feel inclined to ignore it.

  2. Hi i hope you’re well. I saw the report on Sky News this morning. It comes as no surprise to me that 66% of the people polled find it awkward to talk to us disabled people. My mate Tony and i have been doing stand up comedy as a double act for just over 3 years now and i’m pleased to say that the majority of people like our humour which is a mickey take of our disabilities. Tony has Cerebral Palsy and i have Spina Bifida. We’re trying to show people that we have intelligence and it’s not all doom and gloom being disabled. Some would say that we’re not politically correct as we use the C word to describe ourselves but everything we say in our act is only about us. We have 3 videos on YouTube that between them have over 2000 views with thankfully no dislikes up to know. If you’d like to have a look then search Comedy Act – Special Needs. Keep up the great work, Jeff

  3. As a parent of a beautiful 10 year old girl with Angelman syndrome,I would love to hear how different people deal with ‘the awkward’, especially how they deal with people pointing, staring, micky taking, explaining to their children totally inappropriately in loud voices as if we cant hear etc.
    I think I get it right most of the time and manage to ‘turn the other cheek’ or use ‘nice put downs’ to mumbly tutters on trains etc;- “Im sorry if my daughters permanent life-long condition is causing you a temporary inconvenience” or “you’ve been staring pointing and giggling for some time now, is there something you would like to ask me about Siouxi’s disability?” however I’ve come close to losing it with ignorant adults several times especially when I’ve had a stressful day with challenging behaviour etc: a group of tourists (from a country who reputedly are shamed by and hide their people with disabilities away) started obviously, and not in a good way, pointing and taking pictures; i have to admit that one of their camera’s nearly finished up in the Thames.

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