Disability Innovations: Six apps we can’t live without

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology, including guest bloggers, like Sharon. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

In October 2011 I had a serious motorbike accident, 18 broken bones, cardiac arrest (twice), coma for a month and hospital for six months. Diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury amongst other physical conditions, my family and I are like other people living with a neurological condition and slowly coming to terms with a dramatic change in lifestyle.

In October 2014 we released the first issue of Health is Your Wealth magazine. This was created because although we understand there are many neurological conditions they tend to have similar challenges which can affect independence. The magazine is available electronically for free and is particularly suitable for people who have visual or co-ordination issues because they can zoom in on the text and turn pages easily.

The magazine is split into six sections and formatted so it can be easily read, lends itself to audio listening and is colour coded so the publication is easy to navigate. Amongst other articles each issue has a review of mobile phone, tablet and PC applications. The following are our top rated applications which are all free and can aid independence; we hope you will find them useful.

  1. SwiftKey Keyboard

 What does it claim to do?

Allows you to type quicker and easier. Especially good for people with co-ordination issues and impaired speed or performance

How friendly is it?

Easy and quick to install, however you may need to power off your phone and turn it back on

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android, Apple iPhones and tablets

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. One of those pieces of technology you wondered how you did without!

  1. Google calendar

What does it claim to do?

Helps you to remember what to do and when. Gives you reminders and lets you plan your day, week or month. You can see your schedule at a glance with photos and maps of the places you’re going, quickly create events all calendars on your phone in one place.

How friendly is it?

Very easy to use and quick once you know where things are. The interface is simple and straight forward to learn.

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android and Apple iPhones

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. Without this tool we would be unable to function.

  1. Evernote

What does it claim to do?

Allows you to jot notes down and carry them wherever you are. You can also to-do’s and checklists, attach files and search through your notes easily.

How friendly is it?

Easy to get started plus has lots of features that are inherent but the interface is so simple that if you want to use it just as a note taker then it works beautifully.

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android and Apple iPhones

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. If you are unable to write this application combined with Swiftkey keyboard will keep you organised and in control!

  1. Medisafe

What does it claim to do?

Helps make sure you take the right quantity and dosage of medicines at the right time. It also allows you to determine the shape and colour of the pill rather than know them by medical name.

How friendly is it?

Easy to get started and intuitive plus has most medicines already built in!

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Android and Apple iPhones

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. It’s awesome and is appropriate for various age ranges.

  1. Smart Recipes

What does it claim to do?

Gets you eating well balanced food, through existing recipes and a meal mixer option. Encourages you to follow simple instructions and has a shopping list function.

How friendly is it?

Extremely friendly.  The recipes are well explained. Detailing which ingredients you need, how long you will need to prepare and cook for plus what utensils are required.

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Available on Apple Store and Google Play

Review of application and rating

We give this a five star rating. It’s very good, simple to use and fun.

  1. Block Puzzle

What does it claim to do?

Helps to maintain or improve your logic and problem solving skills plus it’s fun! You have to fill the board by dragging different shaped blocks into the correct place to make a single larger shape, there are different modes and difficulty levels to try.

How friendly is it?

Block Puzzle is incredibly intuitive and fun for all ages and skill levels. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked!

What phone or system is it compatible with?

Available on Apple Store and Google Play

What does it cost?

Block Puzzle is amazing value, packed with over 6000 free mind-bending levels of increasing difficulty that’ll keep you busy for hours.

Review of application and rating

We give this a 5 star rating. It’s very good, simple to use and fun.

The magazine is released bi-monthly, starting in February and is distributed to major hospitals. To get the next issue free! go to the Health is your wealth website. Please note Health is Your Wealth magazine magazine is now formatted to work with the Adobe read aloud feature.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Got a question about technology? Join our Q&A about assistive technology

Z is for Zzzz

At the beginning of October we started our A to Z of sex and disability looking at the loves and lusts of disabled people in Britain today. So, as we put our A-Z to bed – how was it for you?

Z for Zzzz is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability.

Here’s a quick summary of the coverage and the best responses to the campaign you may have missed:

Let’s Talk About Sex

The coverage kicked off with BBC Newsbeat featuring 19-year-old Jack and 24-year-old Holly who talked about dating, sex, disability and some of their awkward moments – Yes, disabled people do have sex – and maybe we should talk about it.

The story was also picked up by BBC Asian Network, who had an interesting discussion about how disability is seen in some Asian communities.

This Sex Is On Fire

The Telegraph’s Women’s Life section covered the campaign and the stories of Sam Cleasby and Emily Swiatek. They spoke about how being disabled has encouraged them to explore sex in a more radical way.

You Can Leave Your Hat On

The Femail section of The Daily Mail covered the campaign and Emily Yates, Sam Cleasby and Kelly Perks-Bevington shared their experiences.

The story included photos from the Undressing Disability campaign, and whilst most Daily Mail readers were hugely supportive of the campaign, commenting on the stunning photos and the bravery of the people involved, some weren’t quite as keen. Some politely asked them to their clothes back on, one reader wrote: “no thank you..I am eating my breakfast!”:

Let’s Get It On

G is for Gay happily coinincided with Coming Out Day and Buzzfeed wrote a indepth story about Charlie, who spoke about being bisexual and disabled.

The BuzzFeed LGBT community instantly fell in love with Charlie, commenting on how attractive and awesome he is. For some, the article drew awareness to discrimination that can happen within the gay community. For others the story rang true – “this article was so great in that it finally articulated many of my thoughts and feelings about sexuality, sexual orientation, disability, and the intersections thereof. Major props to you”.

All you need is love

We hope you’ve enjoyed our A-Z of sex and disability as much as we’ve enjoyed sharing it. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

We’d love to hear your feedback – comment below, tweet us or email awkward@scope.org.uk.

Disability Innovations: Sounds like an innovation in hearing aids

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology, including guest bloggers, like Margie. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

Margie is the Empowerment Officer at Scope and here she tells us about her favourite new piece of technology that makes hearing a more effortless experience for her.

How I found Resound Lynx2

Back in June of this year a friend bought to my attention the Resound Lynx 2 hearing aids that work through your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

I have to admit I’m a bit of an Apple fan so had to check this one out. Having worn NHS hearing aids since 2006 (which are free). I was somewhat shocked to find out that the cost for each hearing aid was £1600, but the private audiologist said I could try them for two weeks to see how I got on with them.

What are they like?

As soon as they were digitally tuned in to my particular needs, I was hooked. The clarity was amazing: using the app on your iPhone you have full control to suit your environment; you can reduce background interference such as air conditioning or wind: adjust tone for bass and treble; and control volume .

You can also produce settings for your own preference such as TV, music concerts and so on. Apart from all this when your phone rings it goes straight to your ears via Bluetooth linking- no more struggling to hear it ring! You can also use it to listen to your music, catch up on TV, films and any other sound though your apps and iPhone. Mind blowing!

Why I like them

I love them and they have made such a difference to my working life, hearing all that’s going on instead of missing all the gossip. It means life in general has a new clearer outlook. You can find out more at resound.com– it’s worth a try!

Have you tried this new equipment, or something similar by an alternative provider? If so we’d love to hear about it. Comment below or join our community to share your thoughts with others.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

(Photography by istock 2015, featuring models)

Tips for a stress-free Halloween and bonfire night

The nights are drawing in, which means Halloween and Bonfire night are almost upon us. For some disabled children, it can be quite a stressful time of year, so we’ve put together some top tips from our online community.  

Be prepared

Have a calendar, and count down the days to Halloween with your child. If they like knowing as much as possible about everything, it can be really helpful for them to learn lots of facts about Halloween such as where it originated from, and why it is still celebrated today.

Any day can be Halloween!

My daughter gets scared of the costumes at Halloween, so I encourage her to dress up at any time of the year to help her understand about costumes and that dressing up doesn’t change the person underneath the outfit.

Gauge your child’s reactions

Always keep an eye on how your child is handling the situation, whether it’s Halloween or fireworks. Even if you have prepared for every possible scenario, they may still have a difficult time engaging in activities. Pay attention to their cues and if it’s all too much, it may be best to remove them from the situation and go home.

Distract with snacks and games

Familiar toys, games and snacks can provide comfort and distraction from over-stimulating sights, sounds and smells. These favourites can also come in handy if your child gets anxious while waiting for the fireworks to start.

Wheelchair friendly pumpkin

Daisy can’t go out but she loves to answer the door in costume and hand out sweets. Last year we carved a wheelchair symbol into her pumpkin.

Knowing what to expect

Whatever you’re planning this bonfire night, make sure your child knows what to expect. If your child responds to visual cues, try showing them a video of fireworks (with the volume turned down at first). Although it’s important they know what to expect, try not to go overboard. Sometimes too much anticipation can be just as overwhelming.

Lead by example

If you’re calm, your child is more likely to stay calm. If you start getting anxious, they are more likely to pick up on your cues.

Keep your clothes on

Some children with sensory issues may not like the feel of costumes – a lot of them can be quite synthetic and scratchy. Try letting them leave their own clothes on – or pyjamas – underneath.

Wheels of pumpkins

I have seen some great designs on Google. Sadly, I am somewhat lacking in the artistic skills department so I will be keeping it simple by turning the wheels on my daughter’s chair into giant pumpkins!

Keep your distance

View firework displays from a distance. There’s no reason you have to be right up close. Most displays are better viewed from a distance. Stand away from the crowds. If you are having fireworks at home, let your child watch from indoors where it is warm and they can enjoy the display without the loud noises.

Use headphones

A set of headphones can help block out loud noise and reduce the anxiety that people with sensory issues experience around fireworks. You could even play soothing music through them.

Let your child take the lead

Don’t force your child into participating in Halloween. Let them engage with it however they want to and at their own pace. They may never want to take part, and planning a different activity to do on that day and evening could be a much happier and calmer experience for all involved

Alternative mask

If your child doesn’t want to wear a masks try giving them one on a stick that they can hold in front of their face as and when they want to.

Adapt your child’s own clothes

If your child doesn’t like wearing an unfamiliar costume, make one using their own clothes, so they feel more comfortable. For example, take old leggings and a T-shirt and tear them to make a zombie costume.

These tips were all contributed by parents of disabled children. Find more great tips like these, and share your own on Scope’s online community.

Y is for Yes! (Oh yes!) – #EndtheAwkward

Yes, (Oh yes!) to seeing more on screen loving with disabled actors and actresses playing the romantic lead. It’s the most entertaining and exciting way to break down the attitude that disabled people aren’t interested in sex.

As disabled actors recreate the famous ‘faking it’ scene from the classic rom-com When Harry Met Sally, Storme writes about the lack of romantic lead roles for disabled actors.

Y is for Yes (oh!) yes! is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability

(Sorry – this video is only available to watch in the UK)

Actor Storme Toolis caused quite a stir when she appeared in what was thought to be the only sex scene on UK TV involving a disabled character. At the time, Storme was starring as Holly Griffin in the long-running BBC1 drama New Tricks.

I’d love to play Shakespeare’s Juliet or Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett. But because disabled people are not conventionally seen as sexual beings there is a huge lack of disabled people in romantic roles.

The majority of society remains uncomfortable with disability and sexuality, and that is reflected in the very few roles disabled people do get to play.

I think things are changing slowly, but I would not say dramatically. It is going to take a while. It’s so important to see disabled people in the theatre, on TV, everywhere. It was the same with race 30 or 40 years ago, disability is a fact of life – if you don’t see life on screen or in theatre it’s not a true reflection of society. We need to do a lot of work before disabled people are seen in desirable and romantic roles.

I’m doing my best to change things. Recently, I’ve been working on a theatre project with the Barbican called Redefining Juliet. It’s a play based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but changing the conventional casting of the female lead. I have a lot of ‘different’ Juliets, a larger woman, disabled women; women who don’t usually get to play these types of roles.

Over half the cast is disabled. I wanted to challenge traditional perceptions of what society finds attractive and show different types of women in a desirable role. The response has been overwhelmingly good.

Scandalous

I did a very small sex scene in a programme called New Tricks a few years ago. All the publicity focused on this one scene.

The media was always asking if I was comfortable with it, if I was made to do it. I really enjoyed myself and I think it’s so important to show that disabled people have sex like everyone else.

I don’t know what everyone was so uncomfortable about, but I certainly wasn’t.  It was such an ordinary thing – a kiss and then a bit of a fumble with clothes. I do that sort of thing all the time. Lots of actors do nude scenes, Game of Thrones is full of them, but because someone is in a wheelchair and shows a bit of flesh it shocks people. It was so tame!

I’m not sure if the reaction would be different now. My family is from Ireland and there was a headline in the Irish Sun saying ‘Disabled sex scene causes scandal in New Tricks’.

Getting over it

Actress Storme Toolis laughingI always felt like I wanted to do a sex scene. I wanted to feel like I could be seen in that way – sexual and desirable.

With roles like Elizabeth Bennett, they’re just characters, anyone would want to play that role. I have the same desires as anyone else, but, because I can’t walk, society doesn’t allow me to be seen in that way.

I love burlesque.  It would be great to get involved with something like that. Sex and desire is part of enjoying life, disabled people shouldn’t be excluded from that. It’s part of life as a young woman, finding out and experiencing things, being able to express myself.

The lack of disabled people as sexual beings on screen reflects how the world is. Initially it’s going to cause some controversy, but it’s important to show it. Disabled people have sex lives, just because you don’t see it on TV does not mean it doesn’t happen.

When I did the Romeo and Juliet production, all these women that would never normally be cast in that role, as soon as they began performing their impairment or differences disappeared and they were desirable, sexual beings, they were Juliets.

The audience was far more receptive that we thought. Once they saw the actors in the part, they didn’t see their impairments. It shows that once you bring diversity and inclusivity to what people watch, they aren’t fazed by it – they get over it.

Y is for Yes! (Oh yes!) is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z

X is for X-rated #EndTheAwkward

Spinal cord injuries and other impairments can affect the way people feel aroused and reach orgasm. Broadcaster and journalist Mik Scarlet is unable to get an erection after a spinal injury in his teens. He explains how this has led him to explore alternative erogenous zones, multiple orgasms and no end of X-rated fun…

X for X-rated is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. This blog contains frank information about sex. It’s meant for people over the age of 16, so please only continue if you are 16 or older.

Sex is so much more than the method for making babies. It should be fun, exciting and a great way of bonding with a partner, whether they are the love of your life, your current squeeze or a one night stand.

It’s this element of their sex life that many spinal injured people feel they have lost, especially early on when they are learning to live with their injury.

But trust me – nothing could be further from the truth.

If you’ve lost the ability to gain erections, but can still feel aroused, then with a little effort you will find that you can achieve multiple orgasms. It transpires that it is the erectile system that prevents men enjoying sex in the way women can, and once you experience this you tend to not miss a ‘hard-on’ in quite the same way.

For those who have lost sensation, there is now a growing group of therapists and disabled people, myself included, that are promoting various ways of turning the erogenous zones on the parts you can feel into orgasmic zones, which opens up a whole new world of sexuality.

There are many differing techniques so it might be worth trying a few to see which suits you. But trust me; it really is possible to orgasm even if you are paralysed from the neck down.

Sure, sex after a spinal injury will be different than it was before, but with the right attitude, support and partner it can be better.

When I incurred my spinal injury I thought my sex life was over, but nothing could beat the sex I have now. A lot of that is due to my injury and how it made me re-examine what it means to have sex.

• Read Mik’s article about sex and spinal injuries in full at Pos’ability magazine.  

In this video, Mik reveals how to create orgasmic erogenous zones anywhere on your body and how to enjoy “thought orgasms” by conjuring up your sexiest, X-rated fantasies.

• This video first appeared on the Wellcome Trust’s blog, Mosaic.

Helping with the extra costs of disability: our new money information hub

Following the Extra Costs Commission, a year-long independent inquiry into the extra costs faced by disabled people, we’ve been working with the Money Advice Service to develop the information on our website so it has a greater focus on the needs of disabled people as consumers.

The Extra Costs Commission found that disability-specific information can be hard to find on the web unless you know it exists. As a result, we’ve created a new area of our website to provide impartial money management and cost cutting advice to disabled people.

We hope that this new hub helps to filter useful information and that our online community offers a space for disabled consumers to share shopping experiences and tips.

Extra costs of disability

On average, life costs you £550 more a month if you’re disabled. These costs make it harder to save and increase the likelihood of falling into debt. Here’s how our new hub can help:

Managing your money

To help manage the extra costs of disability, here are a few positive steps you can take:

Bank accounts, credit cards and loans

As well as free and impartial money advice, our new money section features video guides on how to choose a bank account and access to online tools that can help you compare prices.

Savvy disabled consumers

We’ve also got money saving tips on a range of consumer issues, including:

Visit our money hub to find out more, or share your own money saving tips on our online community.

Disability innovation: Introducing tech fortnight with eye gazes and music

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier.

We are having a tech fortnight to focus on technology and hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field. In this post we hear from Chris, director of The Apogee Project, who tells us which assistive technology he thinks is making a difference to disabled people.  

I work with disabled people all over the UK.  Most of these people are unable to express their feelings, emotions, wants and needs. They can’t tell us when and if they are happy or sad. It is usually impossible for them to initiate a conversation – or even get involved in the conversation – without a huge amount of support and facilitation.

Every day I travel the country meeting people who have a whole range of abilities and diagnoses – from Rett Syndrome to Cerebral palsy. My job is all about creating opportunities for people, with the help of assistive technology: from switches to eye gaze and head trackers  to sensory rooms. My small team and I work with individuals, their families and support networks to integrate technology into their lives and help them to communicate, experience and express themselves.

Which technologies work the best?

That is a huge question. Working predominately with disabled people who have profound and multiple disabilities, I have found the most exciting developments and opportunities coming from the fantastic leap forward in Eyegaze technology and the resources developed around that technology.

Eyegaze technology has enabled us as professionals, support workers and family members to gain an insight into what someone is thinking and understanding, by being able to track and tangibly observe their reaction to stimuli and what captures their attention on a screen. There are,  of course,  a wide variety of variables and, in some cases, large obstacles to overcome – and if that’s the case, then that is the starting point for our journey.

We have seen young people start off by moving lights around a screen with no demonstrable signs that they understand they are causing a reaction and then with the right support and teaching strategies move on to use Eyegaze with a computer as a communication aid. I hear so many similar stories as this scenario plays out more and more in schools and homes across the world.

So, what have I learnt?

The biggest learning curve has been around our expectations when working with someone and the power of motivation. Quite often people are not given the opportunity to use certain technology or explore certain activities because they haven’t demonstrated an understanding of what we might think should be a prerequisite skill to that activity. If someone hasn’t demonstrated an understanding of cause and effect, for example, then people often don’t try out choice-making activities.

What would I recommend?

At The Apogee Project, we often use a fantastic piece of music software called Beamz with our eyegaze users. It requires a relatively accurate manipulation of the mouse pointer across four purple lines to activate a musical sound. There are also small buttons to control certain functions, such as turning on the background music. Which helps disabled people with limited communication to interact and communicate.

People who we have struggled to engage in any kind of activity will work for an hour or more moving a mouse pointer for music! Another huge motivator can be social interaction with peers. Playing simple switch games and introducing an element of competition creates a fantastic energy and just seems to motivate people into achieving things outside their assessed level of understanding.

I believe technology really does have the opportunity to unlock potential for disabled people. The important thing is not to give up. It’s all about spotting the little things – those seemingly insignificant details that can send you exploring in a new and fresh direction with someone. It’s always worth presuming that someone understands more than they are able to demonstrate. That’s what keeps us pushing the boundaries for them.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Chris is running a technology question and answer session on our community about assistive technology. If you have any questions, then get involved.

V is for Vibrator – #EndtheAwkward

Whether it’s your magic wand that grants your wishes or a rampant rabbit that hits the spot, vibrators come in all shapes and sizes and there’s plenty on offer to keep you coming back for more.

Romina Puma, a comedian who has muscular dystrophy, is calling on women to forget diamonds and realise vibrators are actually a girl’s best friend.

In this video and blog, she opens up about her experiences using sex toys and how they can keep her going all night long.

V is for Vibrator is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disabilityThis blog contains frank information about sex. It’s meant for people over the age of 16, please only continue if you are 16 or older.

The power of persuasion

I never used to masturbate at all. Probably because coming from a Catholic Italian family you can’t talk about sex let alone touch yourself!

My best friend introduced me to the world of vibrators. She told me to experiment with them, so I could understand my own body. Before then I didn’t think I needed the help of a vibrator but my friend kept saying, “try, try, try” – She finally convinced me!

Being a beginner

So I decided to visit a sex shop. I remember when I walked in there were so many vibrators to choose from – I didn’t know where to start! A shop assistant spotted me a mile off. She was like yep – it’s her first one! She approached me and said “Can I help you with anything?” I said “yes! I don’t know – help!” And she said “This one here is for beginners”.

I came home afterwards and tried it out… And honestly I couldn’t stop! It was like that scene from ‘Sex in the City’ when Charlotte gets a rabbit and the other girls go to her flat to rescue her from using it because she couldn’t stop!

Learn how to pleasure yourself

Using a viComedian Romina Puma delightedly posing with two of her favourite sex toys in her bedroom brator helped me learn so much about my body and which position is the right one to make me come. Now when I have sex with someone I know how I like to be pleasured – how to reach that goal! Sometimes it can be difficult, especially when you don’t have a full relationship with a guy or it’s your first time in the sack together. My motto is if it doesn’t go well, you can always wait until he leaves and then take your rabbit out of the drawer!

For me a vibrator is such a great Plan B! I used to always go out on the pull when I wanted to find sex, but now I’m getting old and lazy, using a vibrator can be so much easier.

V is for Vibrator is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z.

W is for Would you? – #EndtheAwkward

The answer from these loved-up partners of disabled people is clearly ‘I would!’ Three lovers tell us what drew them to their partners, and some awkward moments they’ve encountered as a couple.

W is for Would you? is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability.

Claire on Mike

Bride and groom in a field
Mike and Claire on their wedding day last year

“He instantly made me laugh which hasn’t stopped since!”

I first met Mike 11 years ago through being introduced by a friend on a night out at a local bar.

We said hello etc., and at the end of the night Mike offered my friend and I a lift home. We accepted gratefully as taxis were a nightmare at that time of night!

He dropped my friend off first and then dropped me home and as I was getting out of the car he cheekily asked me for my phone number. He later told me that that was all part of his plan when offering me a lift!

We met up for a meal a week later and a few times after that and starting seeing each other more regularly.

First impressions

My first impression of Mike was I thought he was very charming and very good looking! He was so sweet and I could tell straight away he was interested in me.

I wasn’t really looking for a boyfriend at the time but there was just something very intriguing about him, and he instantly made me laugh which hasn’t stopped since!

Attitudes

Woman standing, man in wheelchair and toddler
Mike, Claire and their toddler

Mike may get the odd glance from people when he’s in his wheelchair, and again people do stare when he’s walking with his crutch, as he walks with quite a visible limp. But Mike is never bothered by this.

He usually ignores it – or if it’s children staring they will quite often come straight up to him and ask what’s wrong with him and he’s happy to tell them about his disability.

He feels it’s important to let children know that some people are and will be different to them.

He sometimes sees parents almost trying to drag their kids away looking embarrassed; I guess they find it awkward to interact with a disabled person.

But Mike would rather they let their kids ask him so they won’t grow up not knowing how to approach and deal with someone who’s disabled.

Filming for ‘End the Awkward’

The one time where people were really staring at us and murmuring to one another walking past, was when we were filming the ‘kiss’ scene for the ‘End the Awkward’ campaign.

We got quite a few strange looks then, as I was sat on Mike’s lap whilst he was in his chair and we had to snog the life out of each other… A number of times due to all the takes!! I guess people were just intrigued.

Popping the question

Man in wheelchair with toddler on lap
Mike with the couple’s two-year-old on holiday

We were engaged for 12 years before getting married. Mike proposed to me in Paris! We had gone there for his birthday.

I remember on the second night there I was in the shower in the hotel and when I came out, there he was on one knee wobbling all over the place (he’d been practicing it and I’d walked out just as he was struggling to get up again!)

We laughed our heads off. We finally got married last August 2014 and we have a beautiful two-year-old son.

Lindsey on Peter

A very awkward taxi moment… “Men need sex from a real woman”

Woman and man smiling at the camera in wedding clothes
Lindsey Marie and her husband Peter on their wedding day.

I’m in a taxi, we have stopped en route to our destination to get cash out of an ATM.

My other half jumps out to do it, leaving me with the driver. The driver makes conversation.

“Is he your family?” He asks with a smile.
“My other half” I respond.
“Oh, your husband. Does he look after you?”
“We look after each other, it’s a marriage” I tell him, somewhat pointedly but still nicely.
“He must love you to make such sacrifices” He then offers.

Astonished and trying not to make snap judgements towards his meaning, I give him the chance to clarify:
“I’m not sure what you mean by sacrifices”

He stammers a hint of embarrassment but proceeds, “well men need sex from a real woman, can you still do that?”

Shocked, humiliated and angry I tell him: “My husband makes no sacrifices in that regard but I’m sure he will appreciate your concern.

Now you may not consider me a real woman, but I am a real customer and I need a real taxi driver to keep his opinions to himself and drive this car, can you still do that?”

My husband, having got the cash from the machine climbs back in the cab and we continued our journey in awkward silence.

Diane on Mik

Diane and Mik's faces, Diane smiling, Mik with a bit of a scowl

Mik and I have known each other for 26 years, been a couple for 20 and married for 10 this November.

We met out on a Friday night at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, which was one of London’s premiere alternative clubs back then.

I thought he was really good looking, very cool but a bit of a lady killer. Everyone wanted to go out with Mik, but I wasn’t sure if he was a ‘player’ or not.

Inappropriate questions

Over the years we have been asked so many inappropriate and personal questions, but the weirdest thing is that women just think they can sit on Mik’s lap without asking, or even knowing him!

They get a bit of a shock when I pick them up and unceremoniously drop them on the floor. Mik’s far too polite, but I’m not!

We were in a nightclub once and someone came up to me, pointed at Mik and asked “Is that your husband? You must be a really nice person!” We both got so angry.

Us against the world

We just handle these situations with a sharp retort. It kind of brings us closer. “You and me against the world baby!”

It always amazes me how ignorant people can be about disability, especially as when we were younger, on the alternative scene, it wasn’t a big deal.

We didn’t care if someone was different because they were disabled. We all wanted to be different and individual – and Mik was that with bells on. He has always been a one off!

W for Would you? is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z.