Trendsetters has been a lifesaver for me! – #100days100stories

Katherine has been involved with the Trendsetters programme since she was 12. It aims to let young disabled people make new friends and learn new skills. Katherine is sharing her story as part of the #100Days100Stories campaign

I’ve been a Trendsetter since the project was started back when I was just 12 years old. Back then the scheme to help young disaKatherine at school in between her classesbled people was just a pilot programme. I’m now approaching my 18th birthday and I can’t believe that I’m going to be leaving Trendsetters. The prospect makes me really sad!

The project has been a lifesaver

The project has been a lifesaver for me as it’s given me new skills to handle my disability as well as the support from fellow Trendsetters who were both older and younger than me. I’ve loved having the opportunity to work both individually and as part of a bigger group. I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the scheme. I now want to help other people have a similar experience that I had with Trendsetters. It’s so important that young disabled people and their families and friends can get the support they need. I’ve learnt so many things growing up with a disability that could be helpful to others.

Future plans

I’m now in my last year of school. I’ve been in a mainstream school for all of my life and I’m now doing my A-Levels in biology, chemistry and maths. I’ve had cerebral palsy which has been a minor complication for me, as it means that I’m a full time wheelchair user among other things, like not having full hand control. Mostly I have difficulty multi-tasking (shouldn’t every girl be able to multitask!?).

When I’m not studying I’m just like any other teenager, but I especially enjoy creative writing. I’d love to do more writing about some of the issues teenagers face, like bullying, self-image and making people think a bit more about what they have and who their role models are.

I’d love to write more about how disabled people deal with people’s reactions so I can tell other young people that you don’t have to be superman/woman all the time and that at times you will get awkward situations and questions from friends and others. Trendsetters helped give me the confidence to write, speak out and help other disabled people. I can’t wait to put some of the skills I’ve learnt in to practice and to stay involved with Scope’s work!

Find out more about our 100 days, 100 stories campaign and read the rest of the stories so far.

Being a part of the ‘Battle for number 10’

RosemaryI’ve often watched political programmes such as Question Time and thought, ‘What sort of people apply to be in the audience?’ Well last night I found out at the Battle for Number 10 event on Channel 4 and Sky News.

I applied and was lucky enough to get chosen and got to put a question to David Cameron.

The audience were all gathered together a couple of hours before the programme began and we were all quite nervous and excited. I had many great conversations with people discussing our particular issues and sharing our views.

Why did I want to take part?

Despite there being 11 million disabled people in the UK, we hardly ever see disabled people in the media and our issues are seldom discussed by politicians.

As we head towards a General Election it is vital that all candidates are aware of the issues of concern to their disabled constituents. Jobs, good social care and support, access and improving attitudes are key concerns for all disabled people and we must see improvements in all of these areas if disabled people are to play our role in British life.

It was great watching Paxman do his usual grilling. I was question five on the list and as I was listening to the other questioners I suddenly forgot what I had planned to ask! Inside I was in such a panic as everything just fell out of my head. Thankfully, as Kay Burley called out my name everything just came back to me.

I was very encouraged by Mr Cameron’s response on employment. He didn’t know I worked for Scope but I was delighted when he adopted our goal of halving the disability employment gap by the end of the next parliament. This means a million more disabled people getting into work! That is such a fantastic goal and a truly transformative measure.

Rosemary listening to David Cameron

The challenge now, for whoever leads the next government, is to make this goal a reality. It’s an ambitious goal. The Prime Minister is right – some of the answer lies in improving attitudes of employers. But we also need more flexible workplaces; more personalised back to work support; and Government programmes to boost jobs and growth must focus supporting more disabled people in work. We’ve set out our policy ideas.

In the coming weeks I would encourage everyone to speak with all their parliamentary candidates and remind them of the key issues affecting disabled people. I got on this programme by simply applying online and I was very lucky in having my question chosen. I would urge more disabled people to apply to be a part of similar programmes where key issues of the day are discussed. Too often disabled people are invisible in the media and our voices go unheard.  We can change that but we have to be willing to play our part and get involved at every opportunity.

So who will get my vote? Well that’s a secret I’m keeping until 7 May  but I’ll certainly be voting. We all should.