The top disability moments that got people talking in 2014

This year has been a rollercoaster ride for disability issues. We’ve already looked at some of the highlights of our own work, so here are some of the other highs and lows that got you talking in 2014. 

Role models

Five cartoon charactersA Scope favourite ever since he produced three illustrations for our In The Picture exhibition, Quentin Blake wrote and illustrated his first novel, The Five of Us, featuring five disabled characters.

A petition asking for Disney to create an animated hero with Down’s syndrome caused a big divide in opinion. Some of you wholeheartedly agreeing, and some of you thinking that it would only serve to exclude other children.

In October the first Disability Power List aimed to celebrate the most powerful, influential and inspiring disabled people in Britain. It was great to see our previous chair Alice Maynard, and so many Scope supporters make the list!

Stella Young, the outspoken and much-loved disability campaigner from Australia, sadly died suddenly earlier this month. Her Ted Talk in April was hugely successful, after she said that as a disabled person, she didn’t want to be viewed as ‘an inspiration.’

Court rulings and changes to the law

Disabled parking bayThis year there have been many stories in the media about the misuse of disabled parking bays. There were stories of everyone from MPs to soap stars misusing spaces. One man made headlines when he refused to let his car get towed away. Chris Welch got so sick of people abusing disabled parking spaces, that he started a campaign to make it illegal to do so. It seems like lots of you can relate to this, as it stirred up a lot of debate.

It’s not just car spaces that have got people talking – in early December the High Court decided that bus companies were not responsible for telling passengers with pushchairs to give up their space to disabled people.

On the very same day the High Court ruled the closure of Independent Living Fund for disabled people to be lawful, dealing yet another blow for disabled people living independently.

This year also saw the controversial Assisted Dying Bill introduced to the House of Lords which wants to enable terminally ill people to request assistance to end their own life. No doubt there’ll be much more discussion of the bill in 2015.

Challenging awkward and offensive attitudes

As well as our own campaign, there were many other stories this year about attitudes towards disabled people. Columnist Divya Babbar highlighted some of the awkward, rude and sometimes ridiculous things some people think are OK to say to a disabled person. This really got you commenting!

Toddler in a wheelchairDisabled children and their parents also shared their experiences of awkwardness and disability when we had an incredibly popular guest blog from Mary Evelyn Smith. She gave some basic advise on how to talk to kids about disability (and Voldemort).

On the more negative side – many of you were angry to hear the story earlier this month of a disabled boy who missed out on a chance of meeting Santa due to a “lack of disabled access” at a theme park.

Two comments this year stirred up huge public debates. In April the Mayor of Swindon caused an uproar with one comment about disabled people. However the reaction was insignificant compared to the anger in October when welfare minister Lord Freud suggested disabled people could be paid less than the minimum wage.

Celebrating great attitudes

Early in the year a mum of a young girl with autism wrote a fantastic blog as a thank you to the man who sat next to her daughter on a flight. Dear ‘Daddy’ In Seat 16C soon went viral and had many of you in tears!

Scouts badges including a wheelchair badgeIn April, Scouts introduced new disability badges for Cubs and Beavers. The badges cover things like how to push a wheelchair, learning the promise in sign language and making an assessment of disability access.

At Halloween many people loved the story of a stepfather who constructed an incredible tank costume. His son has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, and the dad wanted to make sure he wouldn’t miss out!

Sainsbury’s announced this year they’d been working with parents of disabled kids to create a more secure and accessible trolley. Hundreds of you told us the huge difference this could make. We were also pleased to see them include a seven-year-old model with Down’s Syndrome in their advertising. Let’s hope more supermarkets will follow in 2015!

We’re bound to have missed some! What disability issues do you think should have made the cut? 

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2 thoughts on “The top disability moments that got people talking in 2014”

  1. I reckon all the artists linked to the Unlimited programme and festival should be here too – artists such as Jess Thom who took Edinburgh (and increasingly the rest of the UK) by storm with Touretteshero’s Backstage in Biscuitland, Julie McNamara and her positive reframing of her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s in Let Me Stay, Owen Lowery’s incredible poetry, Katherine Araniello’s anarchic Dinner Party, Juan delGardo’s sumptuous and disturbing Flickering Darkness, the hysterical Wendy Hoose by Birds of Paradise, Chisato Minamimura’s unique choreography – showing sound as vision plus the work of Fittings, Jo Bannon, Ian Johnson and many others – http://weareunlimited.org.uk/commissions
    Despite battling barriers with Access to Work, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and the general increase in negativity surrounding disability, disabled artists spent 2014 creating stunning pieces that transform the perceptions of all. Just think about the impact of previous Unlimited commissioned disabled artist Paul Cummins and his poppies – Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – at the Tower… All these and more should be lauded!

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