Nathan, 19, is a wheelchair user and has been a campaigner on disability issues for the last 10 years. On 7 May he’ll be casting his vote for the first time. Here, as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign, Nathan reflects on campaigning and politics.
I am a young leader of the Birmingham Ambassador Club for the charity Whizz-Kidz. One of my responsibilities under this role is to lead on the Space Invaders Campaign.
This is a campaign to raise awareness of the misuse of disabled car parking spaces. I quickly realised we couldn’t simply fight the campaign on the principle that you are not disabled so you shouldn’t park here!
Instead I fought the campaign on the issue of an improved economy. If disabled people are allowed to get a parking space, they can get out to work more easily, and shop in a store freely, which contributes to the local economy. It makes sense!
Voting for the first time
Campaigning for change is very important to me and I am really looking forward to casting my vote on 7 May in the General Election. I believe it is vital that disabled people engage with politics, as too often our issues are not discussed.
I am really excited and it got me thinking about how 10 years ago I started my very first campaign; it has been many years of hard graft, with sometimes sleepless nights, but it has been worth it.
The start of it all
I knew that they had just passed a law that meant all public buildings should be fully accessible and so it seemed a bit strange that the official home of the Prime Minister wasn’t also classed as a public building.
I was so angered that I wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and other ministers. I was contacted by the Parliamentary Officer at Scope, who invited me to visit Downing Street with them.
We went down to London and arrived at the famous black iron gates where I faced my first public relations (PR) task by being interviewed for Central Tonight, my local news programme.
They asked, “What’s next for you?” I couldn’t reply with the truthful answer “I don’t know!” I decided to go instead with the stock response, “I will hopefully do some more campaigning and become an MP one day”.
It’s hard work
From this first foray into campaigning I have had to work hard to ensure that I remain at the top of my game.
It is a common misconception that the only thing campaigners have to do is stand and talk about their issue, but there is a lot more to successful campaigning.
Many campaigning skills are the same skills we all need in any work situation, including critical thinking, presentation skills and understanding of financial and social trends.
I do not accept the argument that the only way to gain greater public awareness for disabled people and the charities that support us is to make everybody you are appealing to sad all the time.
Whilst I appreciate that it can sometimes be very difficult for disabled people, I believe it is better to highlight the positives than the negatives and show what it could be like rather than play to people’s perceptions.
If like Nathan you are a campaigner between the ages of 18 and 25 and would like to develop your campaigns skills further email: email@example.com for more details.
You can find out more about the lives of people like Nathan and others in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.