Voting and Elections: know your rights and options

With the EU referendum approaching, we want disabled people to have a clear understanding of their voting rights and options.

We know that in the past disabled voters have struggled to cast their ballot. We want to make sure all voters, disabled and non-disabled, have the right to vote independently and in secret. If you are registered to vote, you cannot be refused a ballot paper or the chance to vote on the grounds of mental or physical impairment.

How to vote

In-person

You can vote in person at your local polling station. Before an upcoming vote, you will be sent a polling card if you are registered to vote. This card will tell you the location of your local polling station. Don’t worry, you don’t need to bring your polling card with you on polling day.

Your polling station should be  open from 7am to 10pm.

All polling stations should be wheelchair accessible and support disabled voters. If you need assistance on polling day, you can ask a member of staff, called a Presiding Officer.

If you need to use a disabled parking space, these should be clearly visible and monitored throughout the day.

Proxy

Can’t get to your local polling station? You can register to vote by proxy. Voting by proxy means that you appoint someone you trust to vote on your behalf.

Voting by proxy can be useful if you are worried that you won’t be able to get to a polling station on polling day. For example, you may have an on-going illness. You can complete and post a Proxy vote form, which is available online.

You and the person you nominate to vote on your behalf must be registered to vote.

Postal

Voting by post means that you will be sent a ballot form to mark your vote via post.

Voting by post can be useful if you are worried that you won’t be able to get to a polling station and would rather keep your vote secret.

You will need to complete and post a Postal vote form, which is available online.

Additional support

Presiding Officers

If you are voting in person at a polling station, there are a number of ways the staff, called Presiding Officers, can support you to vote.

Don’t worry if you can not mark your ballot paper, Presiding Officers may mark your ballot paper for you. You may also attend the polling station with someone who you would like to mark your ballot paper on your behalf.

Polling stations should be accessible for everyone wishing to vote. If for whatever reason your local polling station isn’t accessible, Presiding Officers should provide you with a ballot paper and allow you to vote outside of the polling station.

Tactile Voting Devices

Polling stations should provide tactile voting devices.

The tactile voting device attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered flaps (the numbers are raised and are in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.

A Presiding Officer or someone you have attended the polling station with can read out the list of candidates. You can then use the large numbered flaps to find the part of the ballot paper you wish to mark with your vote.

Large Print and Magnifying Assistance

Polling stations should provide large print versions of ballot papers.

Polling stations should also provide magnifying assistance. These magnifying sheets can be placed over standard and large print versions of ballot paper to make them easier to read.

Presiding Officers should be able to provide these aids on request.

What if my polling station isn’t accessible?

If you visit a polling station and find it inaccessible, you can complain to your local authority. You can find out the contact details of your local authority online.

You can also contact your local Electoral Commission office to find out more information.

Feel great with a bank holiday clear out!

Bank holidays. A to-do list. The two go hand in hand with an extra day to get those jobs done and de-clutter our homes.

Clear out your clutter

This bank holiday why not box and bag up toys, clothes, books, old phones and anything else you think needs a new home.

As summer, hopefully, approaches now is a great time to bag up those winter clothes you never wore, box up toys the children no longer play with and we all have that one cupboard for storing general clutter with no clue what is inside! This Bank Holiday we have the very solution – and you can get the kids on board too.

overflowing-box-of-toys-resized
Box overflowing with toys

 

Bank holiday to do list

Step one: Fill a bag
Step two: Drop it off at Scope
Step three: Feel great!

Now that we’ve given you your list of things to do, be ruthless and start this May clutter-free. Simply fill up as many bags as you can with clothes, shoes, DVDs, games, old mobile phones and take it to your nearest scope shop. It’s that easy and you will feel great in so many ways.

Clothing hanging up
Clothes hanging up

Gift Aid it!

A little bit more effort can make all the difference. Please Gift Aid your bag of goods. This means that for every £1 we make we can claim an extra 25p from the Government. Take a look at our Gift Aid terms and conditions.

That great feeling

In addition to having more space in your wardrobe, around the house and in the garden, by donating your stuff to one of our 240 shops, you will be helping us to support disabled people and their families. Every bag you donate raises about £20 to fund our work which is dedicated to making this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

For more information on how you can support us, please visit our website.

“We are reinvigorating the disability movement” – Scope For Change launches

Scope For Change is a unique scheme from Scope to train a new generation of young disabled campaigners. In April 2016, the first recruits attended a training bootcamp to learn the latest campaign skills and tactics.

 

Young disabled people who we speak to say there are still too many barriers in society that prevent them from doing the day-to-day things that many people take for granted.

Much of this is down to the physical and attitudinal barriers people face along with the negative attitudes towards disability.

Through this weekend, we hoped to give young disabled people the skills they will need to create their own campaigns to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Rosemary Frazer, Campaigns Manager at Scope, said “This has been a long time in the planning but it’s been worth every second of it. The positive feedback that we have had from everyone who attended shows that this hard work has really paid off.”

“Watching the campaigners getting stuck into their campaigning and getting excited about learning new skills was very emotional for me. I was reminded of myself at that age and how I was determined to campaign for disability equality through getting the Disability Discrimination Act.”

“I feel the future of disability campaigning is in very safe hands and I have no doubt that these young activists will achieve great things.”

As Charlie Willis said, these young campaigners hope that they can play their part in “invigorating the disability movement”.

We campaign on a local and national level to change attitudes and to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Visit our website to find out more about campaigning with Scope.

 

“Barack Obama just mentioned me in his speech!”

Becca Bunce is a disabled activist who set up IC Change, which campaigns to end violence against women. Here she talks to Scope about the importance of campaigning, and what it meant for her and her colleagues to be recognised by President Obama for bringing attention to this important issue.

Campaigning for social change can be a lonely pursuit. Little recognition is given for the days, months and years spent in planning strategies and tactics, attending meetings, finding allies and persuading your opponents to come over to your side.

So, imagine how it feels getting name-checked by the President of the United States?  This is exactly what happened to Becca Bunce a disabled activist who founded IC Change, a grassroots campaign group calling on the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women.

Paying it forward

At a town hall meeting in London on April 23, the US President Barack Obama told 500 young people to “reject pessimism, cynicism and know that progress is possible”. He praised Becca Bunce for her work and for ‘paying it forward’ and offering support to abused women around the world through the work of IC Change.

If the UK Government brings the Istanbul Convention into law, they will have to take all necessary steps it sets out to prevent violence, protect women experiencing violence and prosecute perpetrators.

Becca is someone I have known since she became a recipient of a scholarship previously funded by Scope to give a disabled campaigner the opportunity to take part in  Campaign Bootcamp.

Disabled people must be represented across all campaigns

“Scope kindly gave me the opportunity to learn exciting and valuable campaigning skills – and now I’m campaigning with IC Change to help create a society where women and girls can live free from violence and the fear of violence. Disabled women are two to five times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled women, but often their voices are lost in mainstream women’s rights campaigns. Disabled people must be represented across all campaigns, just as disabled people are represented across all of society.”

“Nothing prepares you for the President of the  United States mentioning your name.  It feels wrong that I’m being held up as an example when I’m working no harder than anyone else on these issues. I don’t like being in the spotlight – it’s the issues – not me which are important, but if it gets people to sign the petition and prompts others to support the work of IC Change then it will have been worth it.”

Making the changes they want to see in the world

Becca has inspired other disabled people to get involved in campaigning for social change too.  Several successful applicants to Scope’s recently launched campaigning skills programme, Scope for Change, applied as a direct response to reading about how much Becca had benefited from learning the skills and tactics needed for successful campaigning. Now they are making the changes they want to see in the world. 

Too often disabled people are forgotten about in our communities and their achievements can go unnoticed.  Hopefully the recognition given by President Obama to the work of Becca Bunce and other young people will help in showing just what disabled people have to contribute if they are given the right support and opportunity to do so.

 

Learning to run again as an amputee – Chris’ story

In 2008, keen runner Chris and his wife Denise both lost their left legs in a motorbike accident. Together they recovered and Chris was determined to keep running. He’s since taken part in long-distance runs and triathlons, and in January 2016 he climbed Kilimanjaro to celebrate his 60th birthday. Chris is running the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Scope in October. In this blog he talks about learning to run again and why you shouldn’t let anything hold you back.

Getting back into running

There aren’t many amputee runners so a lot of it you just have to figure out for yourself. One of the first books I read after the amputation was Chris Moon’s autobiography. I got somebody to bring it to the hospital. I knew I needed it for inspiration, to get me excited about the possibility of running again!

We met with three prosthetic companies. When I asked about running, one of the prosthetists said he’d never had anyone wanting to run before but agreed it would be possible and his company would find a way. He actually got Oscar Pistorius’ prosthetist to come over and get me fitted up with a running leg that had an articulated knee. He got me running very quickly but it took a year until I could run 5km continuously with it.

The right prosthetic makes all the difference

After a while he suggested I try a pylon leg, which is one without an articulated knee. I really wasn’t keen because the movement is different. With an articulated knee the leg comes straight through, but you have to swing a pylon leg out to the side for ground clearance which looks awkward. But he said “Believe me Chris think it would make a big difference”. So we went to the running track, fitted the leg and I broke my 400m record within about 10 minutes!

We were told this statistic: if you’re a below the knee amputee you use about 15-25% more effort. If you’re above the knee, which I am, it’s 60%. It’s a lot of work! But with the pylon leg I can bounce along quite comfortably. Now when I’m running I’m not thinking about the leg. It’s just heart, lungs and the clock – just like it used to be.

Chris running the half marathon in Qatar
Chris running the half marathon in Qatar

How training has changed

Where we live is a fantastic place to run. There’s a National Trust property 500 metres up the road. You can run for miles on beautiful trails.

I’m slower now so the training takes longer; I have to plan it a bit more. I used to be able to run around six minutes a mile, now anything under 10 is good! Training for a half marathon now is a bit like training for a full marathon before the accident. I have done a full marathon with my pylon leg but it was a massive undertaking.

You have to take care of the stump, making sure you have Vaseline in all the right places! If you do get a rub it can stop you from training for about a week. You’ve also got to find a way to control sweating because the liner will start to slip. A friend suggested I try a car cloth because it absorbs a lot of moisture and it doesn’t slip. So I tried that, put the liner over the top and I’ve never looked back! It’s made a huge difference.

Advice for others

Get in contact with other people with a similar disability and find out what’s possible.

When I was training for my first triathlon I had no idea where to begin, particularly with cycling. I found para-athlete Sarah Reinertsen’s website and sent her an email. Within a couple of days she came back with a four page response with all the information I needed! I just used that as a guide book. The reason I can cycle is because of that email.

When we were still in Houston I spent some time chatting to a depressed young man who was just amazed that I was racing with an above the knee amputation. He’s racing now – and that proved to me that it’s not just about being physically able to do it but psychologically able too. So if I can inspire others, that’s what I’d like to do.

Chris running the half marathon in Houston, Texas.
Chris running the half marathon in Houston, Texas.

Don’t let anything hold you back

Despite our injuries we haven’t changed inside. We’re the same people, life goes on and it can be as enjoyable. It’s just a new normal.

Some of the runners I used to train and race with aren’t able to compete any more because of various injuries or health issues. Whereas I’m still thinking “what can I take on next?” – so I’m really not complaining!

I did my first triathlon in 2011 and it was just fantastic to learn a new endurance sport, something I’d never done before and with only one leg – it’s just incredible. And I climbed Kilimanjaro this year with my son – it was a treat for my 60th birthday!

Why I wanted to fundraise for Scope

In 2012 I joined my daughter in her first half marathon, ‘Run to the Beat’. We decided to raise funds for charity and, as a para-athlete, Scope was the obvious choice. Recently, Scope emailed me about Royal Parks and I thought “I would love to do that”. I love those parks and used to train in them when I worked in Central London. It’s also a chance to raise money again for Scope – it’s perfect!

Join Chris and the rest of Team Scope by running the Royal Parks Half Marathon this year. Sign up for £25 today and take on the challenge!

To read more of Chris and Denise’s story visit their website. You can also sponsor Chris here.

How are disabled people represented in advertising?

Channel 4 announced last week that they’re giving away £1m of advertising airtime for brands which feature disabled people during the Paralympics.

We can’t wait to see the winning ad. Hopefully it gets viewers, broadcasters and advertisers to think more about how disabled people are depicted in adverts.

Frequently, disabled people are absent from advertising. Despite there being around 11 million disabled people in the UK, you can count the number of disabled people shown on TV adverts right now on one hand. It’s fantastic that Channel 4 are doing this, but is it telling that they feel the need to?

When disabled people are portrayed, it’s often to highlight their inspirational story and how they’ve overcome it – or to create an emotional reaction from the audience.

Many people refer to this as ‘inspiration porn’ – used to inspire or motivate (often non-disabled) people to achieve more (and buy more things). As Charlie Swinbourne noted in the Guardian, “Disabled people aren’t here to inspire you“:

“The biggest problem with inspiration porn is that although it shows people overcoming disability, it often means disabled people are not shown as being complex human beings, with more to us than the sum of our disability alone.”

Is representation improving?

Scope For Change and disability campaigner Sarah Troke thinks representation of disabled people in the media is improving:

“I think that representation of disabled people in the media is definitely improving! Channel 4 has done an amazing job of challenging perceptions of disability and the awkwardness around disability –  especially with The Last Leg.”

“It’s so important that people with disabilities are featured in the mainstream media and advertising – particularly if they are showing them as independent and capable of participating in everyday life –  not only objects of charity.”

Sarah thinks that the way disabled people are depicted in the media can have a huge impact on the general public’s perceptions: “One of the most important things in the disability rights movement is challenging negative perceptions and attitudes about people with disabilities. The media is the most effective way of reaching huge audiences and challenging people’s perceptions.”

So with that in mind we’ve tracked down some recent adverts we think show disability in a positive light. They’re far from perfect –  but hopefully serve as stimulation for any brands hoping to  take on Channel 4’s advertising challenge.

Smirnoff Presents Chris Fonseca: We’re Open #deafdancers

You might have seen this ad on your Facebook feed last month. We like that it’s fun, inclusive and dynamic and doesn’t treat Chris any differently from the rest of the dancers. Not sure what all this has to with Vodka however.

Guinness: Wheelchair basketball

Guinness have a history of creating innovative and memorable adverts, and made this TV ad in 2013. It’s a bit ‘inspirational’ but should be applauded for showing a disabled person kicking ass on the court.

You Said We Did – Barclays Talking ATM

This is great. It’s not emotionally manipulative, and doesn’t have sad music or an ‘inspiring’ message. It’s funny and functional and shows how Barclays are improving their products for disabled people.

AXE – Find Your Magic

AXE have got a lot of attention from this advert released in Janaury 2016. It’s refreshing to see a deodorant brand celebrating difference (and indeed disability) in depicting masculinity in an inclusive fashion.

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Hearing Hands – Touching Ad By Samsung

This ad from Samsung has had over 13m views on Youtube, and it’s clear it’s had an emotional effect from reading the comments. It’s uplifting and well-intentioned, but is it using disability just for emotional effect?

What do you think of these adverts and the way they treat disability? Seen any adverts that float your boat or grind your gears? Let us know in the comments below. 

It’s amazing to be running for Scope in memory of my friend

Louise is taking on the iconic London Marathon tomorrow! Here she talks about what’s inspired her sign up to the challenge and raise money for Scope. 

“It’s amazing to be running for Scope in memory of my friend, as well as taking on a personal challenge.”

Photo pf Louisa smiling at the cameraI live in South West London with a group of friends and work at a school as a secretary. I have just qualified as a personal trainer and am generally an active person. I ran my first London Marathon in 2015 so I’m really looking forward to improving this year and trying to do better than my last time. I am being a bit optimistic and aiming for the four hour mark!

Remembering Tom

This year I chose to run for Scope because I have known people who have disabilities and know the impact that disabilities can have. My family friend Tom had muscular dystrophy and used a wheelchair from quite a young age. He was cared for at home by his mum, and later on he was able to live in a supported living home. He wasn’t able to live by himself, but it was really nice that he had a place that gave him some freedom; he loved his independence. Tom sadly passed away at the age of 21.

I am partly running this marathon in memory of Tom. He was a real computer whiz and loved the sounds he could create and pictures he could make. He also loved photos and enjoyed showing us his photo albums and pictures of his family. He loved my mum and enjoyed it when she used to babysit for him when he was living at home. As I said, he also really valued his independence.

His family are lovely and pleased that I am remembering Tom by running for Scope. It’s always nice to have someone close to you remembered by someone else. They will be cheering me on; hopefully they can spot me in the crowds!

What keeps me going

Part of what spurs me on is that I enjoy a challenge. My main aim is to do better than I did last year and to know that I’m still improving. My dad did the marathon when he was my age and I know that he is really proud of me, which also keeps me motivated.Scope cheerers at the London Marathon

I love the support at the marathon; there are three to four miles where you want to collapse but the rest is just such a fantastic atmosphere. It’s really great wearing your charity’s shirt across the line and it’s amazing to be running for Scope in memory of my friend, as well as taking on a personal challenge.

I actually want to be part of the crowd one year as it looks like a really good day out. If anything I think that it might be harder standing in the crowd all day than actually doing the running!

We have lots of lovely Scope runners like Louisa taking part in this week’s London Marathon, many of them running in memory of someone special. If you’d like to get involved, you can sponsor Louise, or you can help us cheer them on!  

If you’d like to donate in memory of someone special to you, get in touch in the comments below or email us. 

Cheer on our runners in the London Marathon

Come and volunteer with our events team at the London Marathon on Sunday 24 April and join our cheer spots along the route. You’ll be helping keep our 120 Scope runners motivated to keep going! 

Our main cheer spot will be near St George’s Gardens (102-106 The Highway, Shadwell, E1W 2BU), where runners will pass by at miles 13.5 and loop back around so you will see them again at mile 21.5. We will have cheer equipment, t-shirts and drumming facilitators so you can create some groovy rhythms and support our fundraisers on this incredible challenge. Cheering really does make a difference to our fundraisers and we pride ourselves on being one of the largest and fun cheer squads on the route!A screenshot of the google map showing the cheer spot location

We also have a cheer spot at mile 25 next to Embankment tube station, so you can help the runners along their final stretch to the finish line.

We hope to see you there! If you have any questions, email events@scope.org.uk 

Why I’m running the London Marathon for Scope

Ruth is running the London Marathon for Scope this weekend. Here she says what’s inspired her to get training. 

“When it gets hard I remember I am running for Maria.”

I’m from Durham originally, I lived in Newcastle while I was at university and then in nearby Gateshead for several years. I now live in east London and work for the University of Sunderland.

I like all aspects of keeping fit and I’ve recently taken up boxing and yoga – which have really helped with the running training (which is not as kind on my knees the older I get). I am also currently studying for my PhD which should take up all of my spare time – but have suddenly found that I can be easily distracted by trying to teach myself the guitar and any opportunity to see live music!

The London Marathon is the greatest running event

All in all I have run 12 marathons. My fellow Geordies will hate me for saying this (as we love the Great North Run so much) but for me the London Marathon is the greatest running event. I love the atmosphere and the crowd, I love feeling like for one day only London belongs to runners and not cars. I love running past my office in Canary Wharf, and past my front door and of course up the mall to the finish.

Running in memory of my friend

My friend Maria was the most loving, funny and beautiful angel. Her smile could light up a room. I was Maria’s babysitter throughout my teenage years and her whole family are very close friends of mine. Maria died suddenly in October of 2015 and it hit me very hard, it seemed so unfair that such a beautiful person was taken from our lives.

This year as I’m running in memory of my friend, I feel it will be an emotional day. I find that I think a lot about her on my long runs. and when it gets hard I remember I am running for Maria. I will be raising a glass of something sparkling to her on 24 April after the run!

Why I chose Scope

A selfie of Ruth in her purple Scope running vestThe reason I chose to run for Scope is that I’ve always had a connection with disability. My parents travel to Lourdes in France every year to take ill and disabled people there and I have travelled with them since I was a child. My mam also worked her whole life in a special needs school, and for a number of years I got involved in volunteering as a swimming and athletics coach, and taking young people with disabilities to Italy annually for a skiing trip – which was always a memorable experience.

Ruth is just one of our amazing Scope supporters taking part in this week’s London Marathon and one of the many runners who will be taking part in memory of a loved one. We know that she will do Maria proud! If you’d like to sponsor Ruth, visit her fundraising page

If you’d like to donate in memory of someone special to you, get in touch in the comments below or email us. 

It took me 30 years to make myself heard – World Voice Day

For World Voice Day we’re reposting this guest blog by Mandy, from Hereford. For the first 30 years of Mandy’s life, staff caring for her thought she had no awareness of the outside world. When someone finally realised how much she understood, they helped her get a communication device and Mandy was finally able make her voice heard. 

I was born in Warwickshire in 1965. I have cerebral palsy and use a motorised wheelchair, as well as a communication device which I operate with the back of my hand.

I did not get this device until I was 30 years old. Until then, I had no way of communicating except with my eyes and facial expressions.

Mandy at home, with photos of friends and family on the wall behind her
Mandy at home, with photos of friends and family on the wall behind her

Decisions made for me

I went to boarding school and then to a residential college in Devon. This would not have been my first choice, but the decision was made by the teachers from the school. I would much rather have lived closer to my family, but I was not given this option.

Then I moved into a residential home in Essex, 150 miles from home. It was a big home with 30 people in it, and only five support workers.

I used to get very angry and frustrated, because no one ever asked me what I wanted.

The staff and other professionals did not realise how much I understood, so they did not spend any time with me and I was often not allowed to make my own decisions.

It left me wondering – why? I could see other people making their own decisions. Yet I could not, just because people didn’t take the time to get to know me and understand my needs and wishes.

Finally getting a voice

In the late 1980s I moved to Hereford to live in a shared house run by Scope. I had my own room, but shared the house with a number of other people whom I had not chosen to live with.

A support worker noticed how much I understood, and helped me get a communication device. I mastered its use quite quickly, and could communicate properly for what felt like the first time.

This is where I began to feel a turning point in my life. Imagine what it was like – having a voice after all those years.

I contacted social workers, and with the help of my family and key worker, I started to make my case for living in my own home.

I had to work very hard at making people realise that it would be possible – that I would be able to cope with a more independent lifestyle where I could be in charge of my own life.

Mandy in her garden in Hereford
Mandy in her garden in Hereford

My own home

I got involved with Hereford Services for Independent Living (SIL). With their help and that of my social worker, Maggie, I claimed the allowances I needed to help pay for rent and 24-hour care.

I was very fortunate to get a fully accessible bungalow, and in August 2001, I moved into my own home. Now I really began to feel my confidence grow, and I gained more strength to make my own decisions and speak out. I built up a team of personal assistants by advertising, recruiting and interviewing. SIL supports me to arrange my finances as an employer and helps me sort out relief cover.

My support workers work a 24-hour shift, sleeping in my spare room overnight. This means I can organise my day however I choose without having to work around shift changeovers.

I recently completed a college course, and have also taken a creative writing class and written poetry. I have an active social life and often visit friends.

At this stage of my life, I feel more confident, decisive and stronger than I ever have before.