Talking about disability: the best disabled vloggers from the web

Following the announcement of our 100th video on YouTube, we thought it would be the perfect time to share our favourite disabled vloggers across the web.

Their videos have given us plenty of food for thought, endless giggles and loads of inspiration at Scope HQ. Check out our dedicated playlist on our YouTube channel to see some of the best videos made by these brilliant disabled vloggers.

  1. The Mandeville Sisters


If you haven’t experienced the infectious energy of these two British sisters, we insist you check out their channel! With their 23,000 strong (and still growing!) subscriber fanbase, the Mandeville Sisters are taking YouTube by storm with their fun and, sometimes, controversial videos. Grace, the eldest of the two, was born with one foreshortened arm and often posts videos about the lighter side of having one hand.

  1. Fashioneyesta


Who says that being visually impaired means you can’t love fashion? This is exactly what UK based vlogger, Emily, asks in her channel dedicated to fashion, lifestyle and beauty. Never one to turn down the latest goodies from high street shops, she has a real passion for all the biggest trends. But don’t think it’s all just blusher and brogues; Emily tackles the day to day issues she faces as a visually impaired person, all in a fun and engaging way.

  1. Josh Sundquist


Josh is one of those guys who is good at everything. He’s a paralympian, bestselling author and motivational speaker. He’s loved for his boyish good looks, memorable raps and his penchant for the best Halloween costumes ever posted on the internet. Frankly, we’re a bit jealous! An amputee cancer survivor, Josh’s channel is filled with videos that focus on the positives and lighter side of having one leg. From awkward dates to finding his ‘sole’ mate, there is a video here for everyone to love.

  1. Bunny Hopkins


She is brightening up YouTube with her neon hair. 23 year old British-Canadian, Bunny Hopkins, is guaranteed to leave you smiling with her quirky and engaging videos. Bunny lives with a physical impairment and chronic illness caused by a rare disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Despite this, she always stands by her viewpoint that “it is what it is” and strives to be “positive in the face of adversity!”

  1. Tommy Edison


Unlike the other vloggers on this list, Tommy uses his impairment as the focus of his videos and they are some of the most entertaining pieces of film you will see on the internet. From getting people to try to describe colours to him, to describing his least favourite sounds – Tommy is out to get a laugh. He has managed to gain over 18 million views on his channel, which is no mean feat!

So, has this given you the urge to pick up the camera and start a vlog yourself? Is there anyone that you’d have liked to see on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

And why not subscribe to Scope’s official YouTube channel to be the first to see Scope’s newest films before anyone else. 

Please note: Scope is not responsible for the views and content produced by  the vloggers on this list!

“There is a buzz in the city” #100days100stories

Tom in his wheelchair
Tom is a film-maker living at Lewis Martin Court, Scope’s transition service in Cardiff.

Guest post from Tom Evans. Tom lives at Lewis Martin Court, Scope’s transition service in Cardiff, which is designed to support disabled people as they work towards living independently.

Tom has travelled extensively, is a fluent French speaker and has a degree in film studies. He’s made two short films since graduating from university and is about to start work on a new film project.

I was born in France and moved to different countries during my childhood, including Germany and England. Partly due to my health and partly due to my dad getting a job in England, we moved to mid-Wales when I was 12. I went to a mainstream high school there.

My impairment is cerebral palsy, which affects me in several ways. Whilst everyone’s disability is different, mine affects the messages from the brain to my legs. I used a walker for many years but I use a wheelchair now.

I did my BSc in Film at Staffordshire University and finished it in four years. I left University in 2009, and went back home to live with mum and dad for four years and did bits and bobs.

At home in mid-Wales, there wasn’t much for me to do – not many jobs, and definitely not for people who want to get into film-making. Once I heard about Lewis Martin Court (LMC), I wanted to come to Cardiff to find out more about it.

I wanted to live in LMC because it’s a transition service – it supports people like me to go from being at home to living on their own. It’s different to living at home.

There is a buzz in the city and I missed that when I lived at home. There are different cultures and different experiences; there are things to do.

My family would describe me as very different now. I would say I am different in a good way.

Soon I will be working on a film based in the UK. I will have a variety of jobs, but the main one will be continuity director. I will be based on set, and I will be in charge of the continuity of the scenes between ‘takes’.

It’s my job to ensure that every scene is set up exactly as the one before, unless the director wants it to look different.

In future I’ll have to start balancing work with living independently, and everything I am learning now is a positive step towards that.

Tom has shared his story as part of Scope’s 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign. Find out what we’re doing and how you can get involved

100 stories in 100 days – Scope’s new campaign

A lot of people don’t know a disabled person or really understand their life. As a result, almost two thirds of us feel awkward, panic or avoid interaction with disabled people – and that goes for politicians as much as anyone else.

At Scope we want the public to get to know disabled people, so we understand each other better and feel less awkward.

One way we do this is by sharing stories. For the last couple of years we’ve been working to give disabled people and their families a platform to tell their story – on our blog and YouTube channel, on the pages of our website, in our campaigns, and even in our fundraising.

Nothing is more powerful when it comes to challenging attitudes.

John lived in a care home for years, but he was always determined to be more independent. Now he is a tenant in his own shared home, and is supported by his local Scope service to organise his life as he chooses.John in a coffee shop

Danielle was struggling to cope with her son Aaron’s challenging behaviour. No one realised that he had autism, and there was no one to offer her any support. She’s now a befriender with our Face 2 Face service, and when she shared her story on our blog, other parents got in touch to say they’d been there too.

One hundred voices   

In the 100 days between now and the general election on May 7, we’re going to publish a new story every day from disabled people and their families.

Some of them have a dramatic experience to share. Some will talk about a particular cause that’s close to their heart. Some just want to tell the world what it’s like to be a disabled person living in the UK today.Mum and son with a fishtank

There are as many different experiences of disability as there are individuals, and we want to reflect that in the stories we share.

The storytellers, with our support, will make sure their local politicians see or hear their story.

Politicians of all parties have made a big difference to the lives of disabled people. It is 20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act, which enshrined in law disabled people right to be treated equally.

And we have come a lDominique with a screen attached to her wheelchairong way in the past two decades – the Paralympics, for example, was a break-through moment. But in some ways society is still playing catch-up.

We hope this project will contribute to politician’s understanding of disabled people and their families in 2015, and lay the foundations for policies that make this country a better place for disabled people.

Read the stories so far and find out how you can get involved.

If you’re a disabled person or have a disabled family member and would like your story to be part of this project, please email stories@scope.org.uk.

SENDirect: new portal will help families of disabled children find the right support

Mark Atkinson, Director of External Affairs here at Scope explains why SENDirect is so needed by families of disabled children. 

At Scope, we hear from many families who are struggling to find the right services and support for their disabled child in their local area.

Our research shows that a shocking two-fifths of parents have been unable to access youth clubs, play groups and other local activities for their disabled child.

Finding the right afterschool club, person assistant or childcare shouldn’t be a full time job – but parents tell us it is.

This week I attended the launch of SENDirect, which will revolutionise the way that families with disabled children access services and activities in their local area.

SENDirect is a one stop shop which aims to make it easy for families to:

  • See all the services in their local area, including how much they cost and what other families think about them.
  • Speak directly to activity providers about how they can include their child.

After the publication of the Support and Aspirations Green Paper in 2011, Scope has been proactively campaigning for councils to have inclusive and accessible universal services that all families can use.

Since the release of the paper, Scope has been a founding member of the SEND consortium and one of nine leading disability organisations working together to develop new products and services that meet the needs of families for SENDirect.

The timing of SENDirect is spot on. Last year the Government brought in a new requirement for councils to develop a ‘local offer’ of all the services and support for disabled children, and young people from birth to age 25.

When councils develop and review their ‘local offers’ they also have to consider the views of parents and young disabled people.

SENDirect puts families in the driving seat – and will help them shape the local market of services. If parents can’t find what they are looking for, the site automatically records the information and makes it available to commissioners or potential providers so they can develop new services.

So far 2,084 services are listed on the site and it’s growing every day.  I think it’s an exciting concept and we’re completely behind it.  Watch this space.

Our top 5 technology and innovation trends for 2015

New Year may now be a distant memory, but New Year’s resolutions are (just about) going strong and lots of us are still looking to try something new. As January is generally a bit depressing, we thought we’d share some of the exciting technologies and innovations happening in the disability field to give us all something to look forward to for 2015!

We’ve put together a list of five top trends and technologies that are set to gain momentum over the coming year, and which we hope will have a real impact on the lives of disabled people.

  1. 3D Printing

Although these nifty machines have been around for a while now, it’s taken a long time for them to start printing anything of any real use (who needs another 3D printed moustache anyway?). In November we met Mick Ebeling of ‘Not Impossible labs’, who founded ‘Project Daniel’ in 2013, a 3D-printing prosthetic lab and training facility for amputees in war-torn Sudan. Since then 3D printed orthotics are being developed everywhere from prosthetic limbs, to exoskeletons and wheelchair seats, and can reduce the wait for custom made equipment from 28 weeks to just 48 hours and for a fraction of the price. Project Daniel is just one of many inspiring examples of how 3D prosthetics are changing lives for disabled people on a global scale. With 3D printing set to grow 98% in 2015, and with 3D printers now available on the high-street, we hope 2015 will be the year when 3D printed orthotics become more affordable, accessible and widespread than ever.

  1. Wearable Technology

Wearables seem to be everywhere now from the Apple Watch and Google glass to health technologies like Kiqplan and Fitbit. With this newfound focus on health and wellbeing in mainstream wearable technology there is huge potential for wearables to be adapted to support disabled people with living more healthily and independently, such as SmartGlasses which help visually impaired people to see.

Another such technology that is still in development stage, but we are equally excited for is the VEST which stands for Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer. This non-invasive, low-cost vibratory vest allows those with hearing impairments to use ‘sound-to-touch mapping’ to interpret auditory information through small vibrations on their torso. VEST is an idea developed by Dr. David Eagleman and works on ‘sensory substitution’, the idea that the brain can gather data using one sense, and then transfer it to another sense. With projects like this already up and running thanks to crowdfunding it seems the possibilities for Wearable technology are endless!

  1. Shared economy

Another trend that’s become almost impossible to ignore is the growing ‘shared economy’. This has seen everything from Crowdfunding and peer to peer lending, to services such as Task Rabbit, Casserole Club, Airbnb, and even BorrowMyDoggy.com (yes, it really is a thing). We think there is huge potential here for disabled people to get extra support and through the collaborative economy, as well as being able to get involved and share their skills.

Spice Time Credits, a social currency, is one way this is happening already. It works on the principle of individuals volunteering an hour of their time, and in exchange receiving one time credit worth an hour, which can be ‘spent’ on events, training and leisure services. It has already proved hugely successful across England and Wales from communities to Schools and social care settings and has seen a huge increase of customer participation and new models of co-production developed. What’s great about Time Credits is that everyone’s time is of equal value, regardless of knowledge, expertise or skills, and offers real life experience where people are rewarded for their contribution.

  1. Connected home

Although being able to control your heating from your smartphone may seem a tad unnecessary and somewhat self-indulgent (maybe that’s just us?!), it does show exciting development in the world of smart machines and the connected home. At Beaumont, Scope’s residential FE College, we’re already using environmental controls within some of our living areas, to allow students the independence to control things such as their curtains, lights and doors, from their smartphone or tablet.

Samsung has developed its SmartThings home control system, which can be used to monitor and control connected items in the home from locks to light switches and plug sockets. We’re really excited to see the demand for these technologies growing in the mainstream market and we hope that such technology will soon become both affordable and widely available, as it has huge potential to revolutionise the very meaning of independent living for disabled people!

  1. Hacks and ‘making’

The work we have been doing with IKEA has opened up a whole new world of ‘hacks’ and ‘making’ to us. Everyone seems to be having a go at making ‘handmade’ products, and ‘hacking’ mainstream products and furniture to meet the needs of disabled people. The Wheelchair Liberator, developed by Malcom Rhodes, is one such example and a far cry from the traditional homemade jam and knitted jumpers!

With coding now part of the national curriculum for all school children, apps are another thing that (almost) every man and his dog are having a go at making, and there really does seem to be an app for everything! The Apps for Good programme has seen a huge number of apps developed by young people aged 10-18 to address some of the biggest problems facing young people in our society. One such app is Supportive Schedule, an app designed to help people with learning difficulties and mental health conditions and their carers with daily routines. It provides pictorial guides to completing simple tasks such as making a cup of tea, to help aid their independence. It was developed by six young people at a school in Cumbria and won the Apps for Good award “Our World – encouraging sustainable and healthy lifestyles” in 2013.

From care sharing app Jointly, to diabetes management apps like Diabetes UK’s Tracker App, there are a wealth of apps out there designed to make life easier for disabled people.

We love this trend of people finding innovative solutions to their own problems. That’s why we’re working on creating a database of what we like to call ‘disability innovations’, to showcase the best technologies and creations out their making life easier for disabled people.

If you know of any such apps, technologies or innovations that are making a real difference to the lives of disabled people, then we’d love to hear from you!

We’d especially want to know if you have hacked or invented something yourself, so we can include them in our database and help you share them with others.

Get in touch with us at innovation@scope.org.uk or of course leave any comments below. 

Fluctuating and flexible support – why we need adjustment leave

Scope wants to close the disability employment gap. Disabled people can work and want to work – more than nine in 10 do work or have done in the past. However, only 45% of disabled people are currently in work.

In our  2014 report A Million Futures: halving the disability employment gap, Scope recommended the introduction of a new form of leave – “adjustment leave” as one way  to help disabled people stay in work. So we are delighted that The Work Foundation are now also asking for this in their new report Fluctuating Conditions, Fluctuating Support: Improving organisational resilience to fluctuating conditions in the workforce.

Adjustment leave reflects the fact that many people who are disabled or who have long-term health conditions experience changes in their impairment or condition over time.

It’s a new form of absence which would allow  the person to take part-time leave on a temporary basis at the same level of pay as would be accrued during pre-existing sick leave. Unlike sick leave, the individual is still working, but on a modified basis. Unlike part-time working, this change is intended to be temporary only – it is intended to help an individual “adjust” to a change in their condition.

Let’s take Mary. Mary has a condition which affects her joints and mobility and has recently become a wheelchair user. Everyday tasks – such as using public transport, or doing her shopping – are now taking Mary much longer than they used to. She is also experiencing much more pain and fatigue. Additionally, Mary wants to try a new therapy.  At the moment, she can’t manage work on a full-time basis, but she doesn’t want to lose her income or her independence. Her employers are keen to keep her skills, experience and expertise.

This is where adjustment leave would come in. Mary continues working, but she does shorter hours every day for a few months. This helps her to adjust faster to the changes in her life, and prevents her needing to take a full-time sickness absence. She is also continuing to be productive for her company at the same time. Once Mary has adjusted, she goes back to her old way of working.

Many employers are already doing this on an ad-hoc basis. Making this an official form of absence –  recognised by government, by HR professionals and most importantly, by employers –  would prevent unnecessary sickness absence and help disabled people stay in work.

Retaining disabled people’s talent makes good business sense. It’s time we step up to the plate.

If you have any thoughts on the report you’d like share, or a personal experience of adjustment leave, we’d love to hear from you.

Transforming perceptions of disabled people in the fitness industry

Guest post from Josh Goodfellow, a 21-year-old fitness professional and bodybuilder. Josh has cerebral palsy which affects his lower limbs. Through his work he aims to transform people’s perceptions of disabled people in the health and fitness industry.

Three men in the gym with JGFitness clothesHow did you get into bodybuilding?

As a former sprinter I was always heavily influenced in sport and the positive effects it had on me and my cerebral palsy growing up. After retiring from the track, I started working in a local gym as a Personal Trainer. I wanted to find something that would give me the same competitive “buzz” that athletics used to. I began casually weight-lifting and after six months of training I got the bug and began to explore bodybuilding.

In April 2014, I found out about a show called Hercules Olympia run by the legendary Scott Horton. The show took place in May 2014 and to my knowledge it was the first show to feature a disABILITY Class among a mainstream showcard in the UK.

Hercules Olympia opened the door for disABILITY bodybuilding.  It’s success allowed disABILITY bodybuilding to develop and people began to understand why it deserved a place in the industry.

What are the benefits of bodybuilding?

When people think of bodybuilding they may think of negative stereotypes such as performance enhancing drugs and aggression. When I think of bodybuilding I see it as something that gives you the opportunity to change your life.

Bodybuilding changed my life and allowed me to take control of my cerebral palsy. I no longer let it dictate my life. Through adaptive training methods it allowed me to physically develop to what I am today. Granted, I still trip over fresh air from time to time, but that’s all fun and games!

Bodybuilding has also been a fantastic social outlet. The people I meet and converse with on a daily basis are fantastic. I have met some of my best friends through the industry.

What’s the reaction been like at the bodybuilding shows?

So far it’s been a HUGE success. The reactions we’ve got from the crowds, competitors and social media have told me everything I needed to know.

We’ve had such a great reaction that it has allowed the sport to grow and develop.  So much so that in November 2014 a federation called Pure Elite committed to hosting a disABILITY Class too. It’s given the athletes personal exposure and it’s given the sport the exposure and awareness it needs.

How can someone get involved?

First of all – you don’t have to decide to become a bodybuilder to get involved with the growing number of people with disabilities heading to the gym.

Getting active is crucial. You don’t have to lift heavy weights and count every calorie to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Get to grips with your condition, establish your boundaries and then work towards developing those boundaries as you become fitter and stronger.

If you want to get involved with bodybuilding start by researching training procedures that will allow you to train safely. Look for a coach or experienced professional that can work with you towards your goals. Finding someone that can support you is crucial. Without my coach, Steve Winter, I’d have found it incredibly difficult to get into the shape required to contest a bodybuilding show. A coach is also there to keep you mentally on track when things get difficult, and trust me… they will!

What are your hopes for the future?

2015 promises to be the best year yet with nine disABILITY bodybuilding categories already confirmed for 2015. I’d love to see disABILITY bodybuilding continue to grow – more competitions, competitors, and opportunities.

It’s fantastic to be part of this flourishing movement. I and my business JGFitness will ALWAYS be there representing and fighting the corner for disABILITY bodybuilding.

For details on the 2015 calender, advice, and competitive opportunities like JGFitness on Facebook.

We currently have a health and fitness Q&A with a disabled sports specialist happening on our community, so please do get involved!

Blue Monday? Pah!

Blue Monday is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. But we’d rather look on the bright side of life instead! 

We put a shout out on Facebook and our online community for positive stories. We wanted to know what great things disability has brought into people’s lives, the little everyday things that make them smile, and barriers that have been overcome. Here are just a small selection of what came back…

…from Facebook:

“I’m 23 and have cerebral palsy. When I was little, splints only came in plain white plastic. My Mum wanted to make them fun for me and she would put all sorts of pretty stickers on them :)” – Caitlin

“Waking up every day to my very smiley little girl makes every day a happy one for me even the rainy ones. She has CP and is the most determined little lady I’ve ever met. She has made me appreciate so much more in life and has taught me patience. She is my best friend and I love her more than words could describe.” – Elena

“I work with adults with learning difficulties and it’s such Young disabled man jogging with womana rewarding job. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d like to work. I go home every night smiling :-))” – Racheal

“Since our daughters diagnosis we have made some wonderful new friends. Also seeing my gorgeous daughters smile.x” – Lesley

“My lovely son and I running together makes me :)” – Michelle

…from our online community:

“Earlier this year I decided that it was about time I stopped worrying and started working towards my dream. So in September 2014 I started my own blog about living positively with Cerebral Palsy and mental health issues, since starting my blog I’ve had so much support and my confidence has increased so much. One thing that has made me incredibly happy is knowing that I am helping others so my ultimate dream is to set up my own business raising awarenessMotivational quote that reads: The Greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do and letting others know that a disability doesn’t have to stop you enjoying life :)”  – ChelleM

“When I was first diagnosed with CP, they said that I’d never be able to walk, talk or even think for myself but 20 years on and I’m a right chatterbox, I’ve got an awesome penguin walk and I’m able to live an independent life :)” – Dizzydingbat

“Having a disability, perhaps has taught me, to try not to be too hard on others, and not to be judgmental, and maybe a little more understanding, although I’m learning all the time!” – Noah

“My beautiful eldest son will be 21 on 19th January, he is on the autism spectrum and he makes me proud every day! He has achieved so many positive things, and overcome many challenges. I am grateful he is in my life ❤” – Vickey

 

What does good co‑production look like?

Our service in Leeds has been awarded a certificate of appreciation for “true co-production” from EPIC Leeds. We asked Sara Smithson, Chair of EPIC Leeds, to tell us about the award and the importance of co-production:

The Certificate of appreciationEach year EPIC Leeds take time out to celebrate successes and say thank you to those who have worked with us to make Leeds a better place for disabled children, young people and their families. We have seen significant changes over the past year with introduction of the special educational needs and disability reforms and roll out of the Independent Support Programme. In these changing times, partnership working and listening to parents is crucial to make sure the benefits of new legal rights become a reality.

Why did you give Scope an award?

Because of them having developed such a fantastic relationship. We like Scope’s enthusiasm to improve the world for disabled children and young people. Scope says ‘yes’ to ideas and new ways of doing things which was evident in development of the Independent Support programme:

  • Researching through semi-structured interviews, focus groups and activities with children and young people. Getting their views on what was and wasn’t working in the SEN process and what they’d like to see from the upcoming independent support programme.
  • Working with parents, children, young people and frontline professionals to design a service which was meaningful to them and would work in the ‘real world’.
  • Having ALL parties round the table to create a Memorandum of Understanding. Sometimes this involves moving meeting dates four times to accommodate everyone’s diaries. Doing this shows the importance placed on representing everyone’s view.
  • Creating an atmosphere where all partners can collaborate, discuss and work out a way of making this programme work. And recognising that the expertise is in the room and no single party can achieve this alone.

In your view, what does good co-production look like?

To put it in a nutshell: being equal partners in every aspect from the beginning. Doing things together and not having things ‘decided for’ and done ‘to you’. EPIC created a guide to Effective partnership and consultation (PDF). I would urge every organisation or agency to use it to direct how to work with families with disabled children. It describes ways of creating an ‘us together’ rather than the age old ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach which ticks boxes but doesn’t create meaningful relationships and a real change.

What difference does good co-production make to disabled children, young people and their families?

Ultimately it means a better world for disabled children, young people and their families. Their views, ideas and contributions are included in things that affect them. When co-production is done well, there is no longer a perceived hierarchy of opinion, everyone’s experience, thoughts and insights are valued. Who wouldn’t want to feel valued and listened to?

Coventry welcomes our new Face 2 Face service

(Pictures by (c) Jon Mullis/Bullivant Media 2015)

Last week we launched a new Face 2 Face service in Coventry. We shared the stories of two befrienders – Donna and Louise. During the event we asked attendees to share their hopes for the service. Here are some of our favourites:

“May the parents get the help they need and deserve. Go Face 2 Face Coventry!”

“All the best for the new Face 2 Face project in Coventry. It’s very exciting to see it taking off in the area – a very needed and worthwhile service.”

“A friend when in need is a friend indeed! Good luck for a successful future.”

“Through the launch of this service that no parent or carer of a disabled child feels isolated or overwhelmed by emotions but can receive the help they need to move forward.”

“Welcome to Face 2 Face and your befrienders. The support that they offer will be invaluable to parents in the area. As a parent of adults with hidden disabilities, I recognise the isolation and confusion – your volunteer will give much valuable support. Thank you!”

“Welcome to Coventry you are a necessary and important organisation doing a wonderful job. As the Children’s Champion for Coventry I would like you to know my door is always open to you, should my support be needed.”

face2face1

Local groups and the council also came out in support:

“A much needed service for Coventry Parents… a big welcome” – The Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS)

“Hope the future helps parents feel that they are not isolated and have nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about and that they should be very proud and feel special that they have been put into an unknown situation but have a beautiful child. This is a brilliant service. Good luck” – Young Carers Service.

“Good luck with the new Face 2 Face service” – Shine Charity

“Looking forward to working with you all in the future!” – RNIB Three Spires Academy

“I think your service will be so valuable in Coventry. So many parents need support, and ask what support is out there for them. Good Luck” – CEREBRA

Find out more about Face 2 Face in Coventry.