What makes you smile?

It’s World Smile Day today and we wanted to celebrate! So we asked our online community and social media followers to tell us what disability-related things make them smile. They didn’t disappoint…

“My son makes me smile. He is 17 and has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. No matter what he goes through he always manages to smile! I don’t know anyone more positive, determined and brave!!”  – Julie 

A small present bag tied at the top with a

“I run a non-profit making happiness bags for chronic illness sufferers to help them to smile, and it makes me smile too!” – Pippa 

“My beautiful daughter has taught us so much through her disabilities, she’s taught us how to love purely, that people that mind don’t matter and that people that matter don’t mind, and how to cope without sleep on caffeine and adrenaline alone. But most of all she has taught me to be the parent my children need me to be. Xx” – Emma

“Knowing that composers of old like Mozart,  who I believe was deaf, and others who had disabilities including blindness accomplished very famous pieces of music. And learning that Einstien was dyslexic and turned out to be a genius. Learning of those who had all kinds of disabilities that make a difference and make their mark today, another who comes to mind is Stephen Hawking. Makes me smile to know of those who overcome and prove their worth in society. How can anyone not smile at those facts!” – Bobby  

“Seeing the smiles on the faces of children we’ve helped every month :)” – Challenged America, supporting disabled kids in the US

“Helping good causes makes me smile” – Dave

Young disabled man smiling in a swimming pool, supported by a carer“Greig’s joy when swimming is palpable. Perhaps it’s the freedom. He can’t say, but his smile speaks volumes!” – Geoff 

“Someone smiling at me makes me smile – it’s infectious. I like to put them on my tweets to infect Twitter :)” – Invisible Mum

“My eldest boy is going through a lot to try and diagnose him… He makes me smile knowing that at the start of his journey docs said he may never be like other children.. yet you would never know the problems he faces to look at him!! He is my superhero… He is the reason I smile!!” – Donna 

“When people realise disability isn’t something to fear!” – Ryan

“My son randomly throwing his arms around me telling me he loves me and it’s shining through his eyes.” – Nykoma

If you have any smiley stories to add, please tell us!

‘Are you blind, love?’ Why attitudes matter – #EndtheAwkward

Guest post from Elin Williams, a student from north Wales, who is visually impaired. In this post for our End the Awkward campaign, she talks about two different types of awkwardness she’s encountered.

Scope’s research shows that two-thirds of people feel awkward around disability, so when Emily Davison aka Fashioneyesta asked me to join in with Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, I couldn’t wait to get involved and share my own cringey moments…

‘Are you blind, love?’

A few years ago I was travelling alone on a train. I hadn’t long been travelling independently, and was still getting used to using my cane on a regular basis. Growing up, I always felt that the cane made me stand out and was reluctant to use it for fear of not looking ‘normal’.

Elin, a young woman, with her guide dog

So there I was. Along came the food and drinks trolley, and I plucked up the nerve to say ‘excuse me’ to flag the trolley down. I think this was the first time I’d ever done this – not being able to make eye contact or see people’s facial expressions has always made me  nervous of situations like this.

I asked the man pulling the trolley: ‘Do you have any drinks on this trolley?’

My inquiry was met with the scornful reply: ‘Ha! Are you blind, love?’

‘Well, yes,’ I said, lifting my folded cane from the seat next to me to show him.

The deathly silence that enveloped the passengers nearby let me know this encounter hadn’t gone unnoticed. I obviously couldn’t see how red he went, but considering the tremor in his voice, and how his hand shook when he dropped my change, I think he was a little embarrassed.

But he’d embarrassed me too. His smart-arse attitude made me feel so small and stupid.

A better experience

Only about a month ago, I and two other visually impaired friends had just got off a train and were standing outside the station, figuring out whether to get a taxi or to walk home. I had my guide dog Jazzy with me, while both my mates were using canes.University of Chester student Elin Williams aged 19 from Porthmadog with her guide dog Jazzy. Elin was born with a degenerative condition called Lebers Congenital Amaurosis and lost most of her vision when she was 15. A Welsh speaker, she is studying English Literature. Elin has written a first person story about her first year with Jazzy as a student.

A young guy came up to us and quite smugly said: ‘Did you have fun hiking today, guys?’

‘Those are some funky looking hiking sticks you have there,’ he elaborated, going on to ask us where exactly we’d been hiking, in Cambridgeshire, where there are no mountains…

It finally dawned on us that the guy had mistaken the canes for hiking sticks! We explained that we hadn’t been hiking, that we were blind and that they were our canes, whilst trying not to laugh along with his mates who’d witnessed his blunder.

Pointing to Jazzy, I added: ‘Yeah, she’s my hiking dog. I ride her up the mountains…!’

The poor guy was pretty embarrassed and very apologetic, but we reassured him that we weren’t offended.

It’s attitudes that make things awkward

From my experience, it’s much better to laugh at yourself and with others rather than get stressed out or touchy about silly mistakes.

Elin walking with her guide dog

What makes it awkward is when the perpetrator can’t laugh along with you, because they’re too mortified at having possibly offended you to see the funny side. It makes it much more awkward than if they’d just share the joke.

End the Awkward is a fantastic stepping-stone towards dispelling the taboo that surrounds disability, but I think it’s also important to remember that it starts with us as disabled people.

If you’re uncomfortable about your impairment and don’t know how to talk about it – and laugh about it – you can’t make others feel comfortable addressing it either.

A version of this story was first published on Elin’s blog, See My Way. Want to know more about ending the awkward? Watch our awkward short films, produced in partnership with Channel 4.

Photos courtesy of the Daily Post, north Wales.