Scope celebrates 100 days until the Paralympics with #30towatch

It’s 100 days to go until the Rio 2016 Paralympics Games.

Scope is celebrating by throwing a spotlight on ‘the ones to watch’ – 30 extraordinary disabled people under 30.

These up-and-coming stars are our #30towatch.

With breakout sporting talent, creative entrepreneurs and innovators, actors and rap artists – the list showcases the disabled stars of the future.

London 2012 changed attitudes to disability and celebrated Paralympians as sporting equals.

But four years on, Scope polling shows that a staggering 76% of disabled 18-35 year olds say they are treated differently because they are disabled. The research shows that of those:

  • Just over a third (36%) said people seem uncomfortable and don’t know how to talk to them
  • A third (33%) said people patronise them because they are disabled.

Previous Scope research shows that millennials are twice as likely as older people to feel awkward around disabled people. And one-fifth of 18-34 year olds have actually avoided talking to a disabled person because they weren’t sure how to communicate.

Rio 2016 is an opportunity to talk about disability, challenge attitudes and increase understanding about what life is like for disabled people today.

We’re sharing blogs, films and images from our #30towatch throughout June, and bringing their experiences and expertise into the real world with Twitter takeovers and live Facebook Q&As.

Check out our blog for stories from a whole host of different disabled people from all walks of life who are doing the most extraordinary things. Some of our #30toWatch stories include:

  • Nicholas McCarthy who defied all odds to become the only one-handed pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in its 130 year history.
  • Scope supporter, blogger and businesswoman Kelly Perks-Bevington who has just bought a football club. She has plans to turn it into the most accessible club in the country.
  • Holby City star Jules Robertson who has beaten the stigma and attitudes around autism to become a show regular.
  • Natasha Coates, a disabled gymnast who is literally allergic to exercise. She has fought hard to win numerous British titles and is a firm favourite among the gymnastics community.
  • Powerchair footballer Chris Gordon who will be representing England in the World Cup next year.

To stay up to date with these amazing stories, make sure you keep checking out our 30 Under 30 hub page every day throughout June.

Game on! Looking at accessibility in video games

Phil, Scope’s Stories Manager, is a self-confessed video game geek. With game developers and software companies beginning to take accessibility in gaming to a whole new level, Phil and some of the campaigners from Scope for Change talk about their experiences and what should happen next.

I love video games. Sometimes, there is nothing better than holding off a zombie hoard or exploring the deepest, darkest corners of space. However, I will be totally honest and admit that I have never thought about the accessibility of gaming. It’s definitely something that I’ve always taken for granted.

So when Sony released a video last week which detailed the extensive list of accessibility features that they have introduced for the first time in their new game Uncharted 4, it really hit home that many disabled people have missed or are missing out on the gaming world.

The video follows Josh Straub, a disabled gamer, who met with developers of the game to express his frustrations of the lack of accessibility in previous games. Thankfully, the developers listened and introduced a whole host of different features to make Uncharted 4 one of the most accessible video games ever made.

I asked the Scope for Change campaigners to tell me their experiences of gaming and what they think needs to be improved to make games more accessible.

SamSam Pugh, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“I do love my video games. I often have issues with them not being captioned, especially with the influx of voice acting in video games – very often the actual game play will be captioned, but opening scenes and extra bits (like in game radio) just aren’t.

I feel like there are some elements of video games that would transfer really well over to a gaming platform designed with visually impaired people in mind. If you take the story and the voice acting and combine them with elements of choice and problem solving, you could create something really strong and immersive.”

Jack Welch, a young disabled man, smiles at the cameraJack

“I’m not much of a gamer myself these days, but I was always a bigger fan of the open ended and more relaxed options, as it was much better for staying calm (e.g. The Sims).”


JamieJamie, a young disabled man, smiles at the camera

“Since my stroke, I’ve lost most dexterity in my left hand and using the left trigger/shoulder buttons on my Xbox controller is very difficult. It’s a big problem for playing shooters as these are often the aim/throw grenade buttons. There are a lot of great games where these buttons are less important and phone games and a lot of PC games are far more accessible.

However, I am finding it increasingly difficult to find accessible big budget titles as the industry puts more and more emphasis on making every button on a controller very important. The Dragon Age games are a good example, as the left trigger/shoulder buttons weren’t very important in the first 2 games, but control changes made the third game much less accessible. So it’s a very good sign that developers are becoming more aware of this and taking steps to make the games more inclusive.”

AliceAlice, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“Generally, games cannot be played by photosensitive people as most have flashing lights. They now warn people beforehand which is great as we can make an informed decision not to play. It would be amazing for games to be more accessible though!”


BeccaBecca, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“I like to play video games but I’m not very good at them! A family friend loves video games though and growing up I have noticed that not all games have consistent captions or subtitles which can be difficult for those with hearing difficulties.”


SarahSarah, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“Ever since I had my head injury, I had real difficulty with games and the noises and explosions. I have really bad reactions and hand eye coordination! My brother and my boyfriend love gaming and when they are playing the noises and lights really trigger me. I don’t really know how much of that can be changed as it’s part of the game really but it would be great if maybe the designers thought about it.”

HollyHolly, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera

“I don’t really game. There are a couple of blind gamers, but very few mainstream games can be played by us. Just three or four fighting games as far as I know.”


CharlieCharlie, a young disabled man, smiles at the camera

“I play a lot of games but only use subtitles as an accessibility option. Generally I think that the games industry is inaccessible, but is trying to reach out. Phone games and handheld games are probably, ultimately more accessible than console ones that use a controller. Games that are on the PC often have more accessibility options.

As with everything, accessibility makes everything easier for everyone and gives people the option to make the choices they want to, whatever media they want to enjoy.”

Close up of someone holding a Sony Playstation 4 controller

Accessibility in gaming is obviously getting better but there is still a long way to go before it can accommodate everyone. The news from Sony highlights how important it is for disabled people to start conversations with game developers on what they need from a game.

Disabled consumers have the power to help shape what the future of video gaming looks like and companies are listening.

Have any questions or advice about accessible video gaming? Join our online community and start a discussion today!

Cover image of Playstaton controller used under a Creative Commons license from here.

“The best way to challenge people’s attitudes by is getting out and doing things” – Gary Clarke

Britain’s Disabled Strongman competition returns this year and promises to be bigger and better than its successful launch in 2015. In this guest blog, organiser and strongman competitor Gary Clarke, who has cerebral palsy and is a support worker, talks about changing attitudes through action.

It’s a great year for disability sport. We’ve had the Invictus Games and the Rio Paralympics are later this summer. In the middle is Britain’s Disabled Strongman competition this Saturday (28 May).

In 2015, I fulfilled a long-time ambition of mine to set up a disabled strongman competition in the UK.  I’ve wanted to organise an event like this since taking part in my first competition back in 2011.

It’s a killer event that culminates with the atlas stone – lifting weights of up to 90kg between oil drums – which is a huge demonstration of strength and courage. I love that it all came from my determination to bring the games to the UK. That makes me very proud.

Disabled strongman preparing to lift the atlas stone
Competitor preparing to lift Atlas stone

Spirit of the Paralympics

I always look forward to watching the Paralympics. The strongman competition is very fresh and raw right now, but I think it’s on par with the Paralympics. The determination these guys have and the willpower to win – it’s the same spirit as the Paralympians. They’re doing it for the sheer enjoyment and thrill of winning.

Setting up the strongman competition is the best thing I’ve ever done to change attitudes and get people to think positively about disability.

People are going to take a step back and think wow; this guy is pulling a four tonne truck and lifting an atlas stone. How many people would think disabled people would be capable of doing that? The best way to challenge people attitudes is by getting out and doing things.

There are no limits, no excuses

I think some disabled people end up believing they can’t do things because that’s what they’ve been told. This competition proves that disabled people can do these very physical challenges and that events can be adapted.

The more people who tell me I can’t do something, the more determined I am to do it. Bringing disabled strongman to the UK was one of those things and I feel really privileged to have done it.

My inspiration is Arnar Már Jónsson, who started the disabled strongman movement in Iceland, where it has been running for 15 years. He was a pioneer and has made all subsequent events possible.

For this year’s competition on Saturday, we have double the number of competitors with 21 disabled athletes taking part in six events, and we’re expecting hundreds of spectators.  Last year we only had a seated class to include wheelchair users. We’ve added a standing class so that people with different impairments can compete on a more level playing field. We’re also lucky to be holding the event at the Strongman Sanctuary in Kent, where the whole team has been hugely supportive.

  • Britain’s Disabled Strongman competition is taking place at the Strongman Sanctuary in Kent on Saturday (23 May) from 10.30. Visit the event Facebook page for more information.


Make space for summer – clear out your clutter

With the May Bank Holiday around the corner, it’s a great time to have a clear out and make space for Summer.

Out with the old                

From the shoes you haven’t worn for years to the jumper you got for Christmas that didn’t fit, give your old stuff a new home for summer.

With summer only a month away, why not pop down to your nearest Scope shop and drop off all your unwanted stuff. Bring your We love clothes and accessories but also toys, homeware, DVDs and CDs.

Thought about Gift Aid?

For every £1 Scope makes we can claim an extra 25p from the Government. It only takes a couple minutes of your time but it’s worth it. Take a look at our Gift Aid terms and conditions.

A woman looking at items in a shop

We are grateful for all donations.  While we can usually sell most of them, here some of our shop team members tell us about items they couldn’t put on the shop floor

Sabrina: “The funniest thing I received was when a customer came in and donated a set of false teeth. I wasn’t sure what to say so I just said thank you”.

Danielle: “We were donated a used ‘toy for the bedroom’ and a gun. Funny enough we didn’t see who left the items but another customer thought the ‘bedroom toy’ was a back massager”.

Danni Jade: “A lady left a ‘how to poo at work’ book. I laughed for days – I didn’t think a book like this existed”.

Find your nearest Scope shop and clear out your clutter this summer. You’ll be making a huge difference to the lives of disabled people and their families. 

I’ve had many run ins with trolls and bullies – Harvey Price has scored a victory for now

Vicky Kuhn is a disability rights campaigner, journalist and blogger. In this guest blog she talks about Harvey Price’s recent TV appearance as a victory against cyber-bullies, her own experiences and why she’s supporting the campaign to tackle it.

This week Harvey, son of former glamour model Katie Price, spoke out on live television about the bullying he has endured online. Harvey is blind, autistic and has condition called Prader Willi Syndrome.

In his latest television appearance, it was easy to see just how vulnerable Harvey is. His Mum Katie insisted that he appear live, rather than in a pre-recorded segment, so that viewers could see just how hurt he has been by the attacks. When asked what he would say to someone being horrible to him, he blurted out “Hello you c**t”!

Despite the propriety of live television, support for Harvey has been immense, and he has received hundreds of tweets in support of what he said. This is a victory against Harvey’s bullies for now, but the internet is crawling with cyber-bullies and trolls who prey on anyone they see as an easy target. It is now expected that if you have any kind of online presence, you will have to deal with abuse from these sorts of people. I myself have had many run ins with trolls and bullies.

Wheeling the catwalk for ‘Catwalk of Diversity’

In April of 2015 I had the privilege of wheeling the catwalk with some amazing girls. Headed by Katie Piper, the ‘Catwalk of Diversity’ saw myself and my now very dear friends, strutting our stuff on the catwalk wearing some stunning fashion.

Vicky smiling and striking a pose in her wheelchair at the Catwalk of Diversity fashion show
Vicky striking a pose at Catwalk of Diversity

The twist on this particular event, hosted at the Ideal Home Show in front of huge crowds, was that each of us had something that makes us special and different. Two of the team, Tulsi and Raiche, are burns survivors and have visible scars. Brenda has alopecia and Lynn is missing an arm. Olivia has a large scar on her chest from multiple heart surgeries, and Jess and Kerri have visible differences too. I was the only wheelchair warrior that day.

The experience was magical and liberating, and being the social media butterfly that I am, I posted constant photos and updates during our run on the catwalk. All of the feedback I got in person was super positive, and at each show the audience was packed. People clapped and cheered and we felt amazing.

Then the trolling started

Never having any idea that the event would have so much coverage, I personally was stunned when I went in for make-up on day two and saw newspapers with our pictures and online glossy mags like Cosmo featuring us too. It was pretty overwhelming but nice that what we were doing was being well received.

This, for me anyway, was when the trolling started. There was a segment of the show where we wore t-shirts saying ‘what do you see’? The idea was to challenge people’s perceptions and get them thinking about how the world perceives disabled people and people with visible differences.

Vicky, a young woman, sits in an electric wheelchair wearing a Tshirt that says "what do you see?"
Vicky wearing the T-shirt that sparked her troll experience

I posted a picture of myself across my various social media platforms, and as you can imagine it was perfect troll bait. Answers to the question on my t-shirt ranged from ‘a fat b****’ to ‘an ugly cripple’ and everything in between.

I did get similar comments on other photos from the show, but I just shrugged them off. I am extremely proud of what we achieved in that show, and of the photos that I posted online.

I won’t let it hold me back

I still post lots of photos on my various social media platforms, and of course I get mean comments. A plus size girl in a wheelchair is always going to make an easy target for people who get a kick out of trying to tear others down. It’s no different to the playground.

People try to build themselves up by knocking others down. But I can take it. I’m an adult with healthy self esteem and a good sense of who I am. I put myself out there online on a daily basis, and anyone who doesn’t like it or doesn’t like me will be ignored.

We need to tackle cyber-bullying and trolling

When I remember how I felt at 13 when I was bullied in school for being different, I know how Harvey must feel. My bullies said things to my face and that was bad enough. Cyber-bullies are faceless and don’t have to account for their actions. They hide behind a screen and a username and the bullying is merciless.

For kids like Harvey, and others his age, it doesn’t stop when they leave school. I hope Katie’s campaign to tackle cyber-bullying gets a huge amount of support so we can stop vulnerable people from being targeted.

If you’ve been affected by cyber-bullying and trolling and want to share your story, you can get in touch with the stories team.

If you’d like to read more from Vicky, visit her blog Around and Upside Down.


Our new Stories and Campaigns hubs

Do you love a good story? Are you passionate about campaigning?

You’ll be pleased to know that we’ve just launched new pages which will contain all of our latest and greatest content.

Stories and Campaigns are so important to the work that we do at Scope, so we’ve given them brand new homes on our website with their own hub pages.


Stories are at the heart of everything we do here at Scope. The brand new stories hub will be your gateway to all of the best blogs and stories content we produce.

From here, you’ll be able to see our latest stories, find out how to contact the team and tell us your very own experiences.

Keep a look out on this page to stay up to date with our latest stories campaigns and content.

Visit the Stories hub.

Get in touch with the stories team if you’d like to share your story.

A young man videos himself using a digital slr camera


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.

From here, you will see opportunities to get involved and updates on our current campaigns including, End The Awkward, Scope for Change and School Role Models.

Visit the Campaigns hub.

Be sure to bookmark these pages and stay tuned for brand new stories and news on our campaigning work.

Staying in mainstream education with a visual impairment

A guest blog from Lucy Driver, a visually impaired student that decided to stay in mainstream education. She knows the benefits and disadvantages of access to education outside of specialist education for visually impaired students.

When my vision began to deteriorate, I found it difficult to access the relevant information about my sight loss and what impact it might have on my education.

I’m hoping that this blog about my experiences might aid those who find themselves in my situation, or are currently supporting someone facing a similar circumstance. I aim to do this by explaining what I did to enable me to stay within mainstream education.

Registering with the Local VI Authority

Registering with the local authority’s visual impairment (VI) education advisory service provides better access to the curriculum for students with a visual impairment. The process itself was relatively straightforward.

The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENco) at my school initiated my application. After the administrative side of things was complete, a specialist advisory teacher with the visual impairment team met with me at school for an informal assessment to establish my access needs.

I have since continued to meet with the same VI advisory teacher once or so a term. It can be of great benefit to be able to talk to an individual regarding what is and isn’t being done to support you as a student. It also provides you with some perspective, as you are able to discuss any concerns you may have with someone who has a bit more experience in bridging the gap between special educational needs and education itself.

Exam Modifications

A good exams officer is a blessing!

Visual impairment and academic achievement are not directly related to one another; sight loss does not have to mean worsening academic performance.

Exam modifications are put in place to ensure students that require additional support are at the same starting point as students who do not. These can come in a variety of formats from enlarged font size to additional time allocation.

Prior to the submission of the application, everyone involved (the student, their parent’s, the school’s SENco etc.) will meet to discuss what modifications (if any) would be of benefit to the student. Once these arrangements have been agreed upon, the school’s examination’s officer will apply for the modifications to be made


The uses of modern technology to secure better access to the curriculum are endless. I use the following to enable me to work independently at school:

  • iPad – This allows me to read text books as ebooks, enlarge imagery and have PowerPoints emailed to me by class-teachers to eliminate the issue of whiteboard glare.
  • iZoom Software – This is a USB containing magnifying software that enlarges the screen format on computers. It can also re-colour the screen if needed.
  • Electronic Video Magnifier – I use this during my exams in order to further enlarge my exam paper manually. This means that I don’t need a reader, which enables me to work independently and at my own pace.

Coming to terms with sight loss

A diagnosis of sight loss is incredibly daunting on its own. Adding that to being a teenager trying to keep up with your peers whilst being conscious of the sight you have lost makes it a very difficult concept to explain to anyone that hasn’t experienced it themselves.Lucy strokes a dog under its chin

I do feel that it’s incredibly important to change attitudes towards people with sight loss, especially when everyone you’ve ever met starts a conversation with, “How many fingers am I holding up?”

Having these conversations sooner rather than later, enables the wheels to be set in motion. This provides peace of mind to both the student themselves and their family. It establishes the knowledge that not everything is changing and that going to school and obtaining the same qualifications whilst aiming for the same future as you would have previously, is not an impossible concept.

Our online community has a whole range of different tips. Visit our online community today and join the discussion.

What to expect from the Queen’s Speech

Today Her Majesty the Queen will deliver a speech outlining the government’s legislative priorities for the 2016/17 parliamentary year in what will be defining year for Prime Minister David Cameron.

We’ve been looking at the Bills which might be included in the speech, and the impact they may have on disabled people and their families.

Life chances agenda

On 11 January the Prime Minister outlined his vision for the government’s life chances strategy. The strategy outlines how the government plan to tackle social barriers and help children, born into disadvantage or poverty, through opportunities to advance themselves.  Many of the ideas in the Prime Minister’s speech could be launched within the Queen’s Speech.

The Queen’s Speech is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to build upon work on the life chances agenda to ensure that disabled people are able to reach their full potential. It is vital the government prioritises key issues of independent living; extra costs disabled people face and halving the employment gap.

An energy bill?

The Extra Costs Commission was a year-long independent inquiry that identified ways to drive down extra costs for disabled people. The report found disabled people spent an extra £550 (on average) a month – higher than normal energy costs was one area the Commission specifically highlighted.

The government draft energy bill will deliver an energy smart meter into every British home by 2020 and accelerate the time it takes for individuals to switch suppliers.

However, in order for disabled people to access information about different tariffs, it is important that energy comparison and switching services have accessible websites and offline support options as well, e.g. telephone. By failing to meet the needs of disabled people, businesses could be missing out on a share of £420 million in business each week.

As such, it is critical that the government and energy regulators take steps to ensure a greater focus by energy companies is placed on the needs of disabled people – one in three fuel poor homes has a disabled person in it.

A digital economy bill?

Another piece of legislation widely reported to be announced concerns telephone masts, broadband connections and digital infrastructure. The Bill is likely to be part of a broader digital strategy, launched by culture minister Ed Vaizey in late 2015 and will also feature commitments on a universal service obligation for superfast broadband.

However, 27 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet, compared to 11 per cent of the adult population overall. Therefore, any new digital strategy must tackle this digital divide and ensure disabled people can access the best deals.

Next steps

We are not expecting any further bills that relate to employment but it is important to ensure more disabled people are supported to find and stay in work and that this approach forms a significant focus of the life chances agenda. Last week the government announced plans to publish a Green Paper later in the year, a document setting out new policies, regarding a strategy for supporting disabled people.

Many disabled people want to work and are pushing hard to find jobs, but they continue to face huge barriers. Too many disabled people are not able to access the support they need to enter and stay in work and the Green Paper is an important opportunity to address these issues and we hope the government does so.

Scope will be following the speech and subsequent closely, analysing how the measures announced will affect disabled people. Follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with how the speech unfolds.

#HackOnWheels – Help us build the wheelchairs of the future

Help disrupt disability! #HackOnWheels is the movement to inspire a community of wheelchair users, hackers, designers and makers to create the world’s first open source, fully customisable wheelchair.

#HackOnWheels are hosting their first UK event event on Wednesday 18 May at Here East, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – Register on the #HackOnWheels website to attend

In this blog post, #HackOnWheels founder and Scope’s Vice Chair Rachael Wallach tells us more about the event, and how and why you should get involved.

Rachael Wallach smiling for the camera
#HackOnWheels founder Rachael Wallach

In order to give freedom and independence, a wheelchair must be fully customised to the body, the lifestyle and environment of its user. With traditional design, manufacturing and distribution this can be very expensive. Digital fabrication, open hardware and the maker movement offer a radically new way of creating affordable customised wheelchairs.

The story behind #HackOnWheels

The story behind #HackOnWheels starts a few years ago when I was backpacking around South East Asia and India. As a wheelchair user I realised I was hardly seeing any other wheelchair users and virtually no independent ones. So I started to connect with NGOs on my journey to try and find out why. They told me that the reason why my wheelchair gives me independence is because every length, angle, contour has been tailored to meet my individual needs; it has literally been made for me.

A 3D model of a wheelchair user
3D printing in action

With traditional manufacturing techniques being fully customised to my body, to my lifestyle and to the environment that I live in comes at a very high price. My wheelchair costs about £3,000, which is at the low end of the spectrum. But in a country like Laos, that’s more than six times the average annual salary, so it’s just not affordable.

A year later, I happened to read an article about 3D printing, which explained that digital fabrication is a way to manufacture customisable items more cheaply. Based on my experiences backpacking, I wondered whether it might be a way to reduce the cost of making fully customised wheelchairs. At first there were stumbling blocks because it was right at the start of the digital fabrication revolution and equipment was still very expensive.

In December I was on holiday in Jordan and by coincidence I came across Refugee Open Ware who use digital fabrication to support refugees. They showed me a 3D printed functional prosthetic hand that had cost them just $39 to make. Thinking it was impossible I asked about the design costs and they said there were hardly any because they had used an open source design shared online by an organisation called e-NABLE. They had just spent a bit of time adapting it so it looked like Ben Ten’s hand, the favourite cartoon character of its 5-year-old owner! This idea of combining digital fabrication with open source design really excited me prompting the question; could we do the same for wheelchairs?

3 men looking at a projector with some designs on
Some of the hackers get to work

Let’s get hacking

In February I organised a hackathon to explore the idea with BeeTwo, a lab for social innovation backed by the Erste Bank Group, the Technical University Wien and open knowledge Austria. It was held in the Happylab Vienna, which is a local ‘maker-space’. The challenge was to develop design concepts for a fully customisable wheelchair that could be made in a publicly accessible maker-space from off the shelf materials.

The 30 participants included wheelchair users, students, coders, artists, engineers, makers, product designers, management consultants and bike makers and they created four design concepts.

The first was for a wheelchair frame for adults. It was fully customizable because it was made out of off the shelf carbon fibre tubes that could be cut to any length with joints that were 3D printed so each angle could also be customized to the user’s specific needs.

The second was for a children’s wheelchair frame with parametric joints that could be adjusted so the chair could grow with the child.

The third was for a castor fork (the bit that holds the front wheels together) that could be made without welding, which was challenging because the castor fork needs to be super robust as well as being able to hold differently sized wheels because some sizes more suitable than others for different types of terrain. The last was for a backrest and seat that fit the exact contours of the user. It used a 3D body scan of their back and bottom and sent this information to a CNC mill, which cut a piece of high density foam into an impression of their body.

The next hackathons

We want to establish a community of wheelchair users, hackers and makers to create, refine, adapt and share designs and make fully customized wheelchairs.

In terms of what’s next, we need more hackathons to grow the community and develop more design concepts. Then we need challenge prizes and competitions to support people to refine the designs and prototype them. Once we have our first makeable open source designs we can start sharing them online and developing a library of designs.

If that’s got you excited and inspired then join our event on 18 May at Here East in the Olympic Park to help create the first open source fully customizable wheelchair!

Visit to find out more about how you can get involved.  


#Attenborough90: Why nature should be accessible for all

Ellie is one of our Scope for Change young campaigners. Here she talks about how David Attenborough inspired her to fall in love with nature, and why she believes everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy it. Ellie standing in a corridor, wearing a blue jumper with a dog on it, and smiling

An inspiration

From a young age, I remember waiting in anticipation on a Sunday evening for the latest wildlife programme, narrated by the voice of the natural world, Sir David Attenborough. He’s ensured the BBC have covered a wide diversity of animals from dung beetles to red kites, to snow leopards over the years. This week he turned 90, and the nation has been celebrating by re-visiting many of his iconic TV highlights, such as when he was preened by mountain gorillas in 1979 for Life on Earth.

David Attenborough has inspired many people in this country and the world to stand up and take notice of the animals and plants we share the earth with. As a result, people are more actively involved with local and national wildlife charities, learning about conservation and many have been inspired to work in the industry.

Everyone has a right to enjoy nature

Only a couple of weeks ago, David Attenborough opened Woodberry Wetlands, a new nature reserve owned by the London Wildlife Trust, which is accessible to all. In an interview with BBC news, he talks about the importance of access reserves:

“We are part of it and if we lose contact with the natural world, you lose contact with a great source of pleasure and delight which is your birth right.”

Disappointing experiences

I regularly walk to my local community garden. It’s brimming with wildlife and it’s where I take many photos of toads, grasshoppers and buzzards. My favourite animals are insects, especially butterflies.

Last year I looked into volunteering with my local butterfly conservation charity, as I wanted to learn how to survey species and the different tools used to conserve them. I don’t drive because my cerebral palsy and learning difficulties effect my hand-eye coordination. So I tried to find alternative public transport to get me to the nature reserve, but because I live in such a large county, a lot of the transport isn’t very regular. You have to really plan in advance to make sure you can get home.

In the end, I decided not pursue the role because of the practicalities in getting there and back. It made me feel down because I knew in my heart it was something I really wanted to do, but due to circumstances it wasn’t realistic. It’s a shame there aren’t organisations working with the major environmental and wildlife charities to support more disabled people to get into conservation. I very much doubt I’m the only person with a disability who’s wanted to be involved in this area and been let down.

Getting my ideas together

Though not all has been lost! I’ve had really positive experiences with my local Wildlife Trust. I’ve been involved in various activities, such as getting teenagers interested in getting outside, and supporting primary school children to build insect hotels. At the beginning of this year I was invited along with four other volunteers to be part of Darwin’s Childhood Garden project. We were all asked to contribute something to the project, and I decided to run a workshop for children with disabilities from a local school. We’re now in the process of waiting for funding for it, but in the meantime, I’m wanting to create greater awareness about why nature should be accessible to all.

My campaign to make nature more accessible

‘All for nature and nature for all’ is the name of my campaign. I want to further educate those working in the conservation sector to make sites of natural interest as accessible as possible: providing ramps up to bird hides, having blue badge parking spaces, braille or audio information boards, allowing assistance dogs, and accessible toilets. I’d also love more exclusive workshops that allow disabled people to participate as much everyone else, and having resources such has easy-read, Makaton and BSL signers and accessible transport when needed. Opening up the senses in particular for those with profound and multiple disabilities is so important – and where better to do that than a national park?

I would like to see that nobody is left behind in my campaign. This week, wildlife presenter Chris Packham opened up about his life with Asperger’s. It really highlighted to me that we need to do more, so that many other disabled people feel they can be involved with the natural world.

Ellie would love to hear from disabled people about their experiences at nature and wildlife reserves – the good and bad! Whether you volunteer yourself at your local wildlife park, or have an experience to share from a trip to your local nature reserve, it will really help Ellie to build her campaign. Please leave a comment below.