Virgin Media Business’s VOOM: vote for your favourite disability product pitch

VOOM is a competition from Virgin Media Business giving businesses and professions the chance to pitch for a £250,000 ad campaign and £50,000 in cash!

Vote for your favourite pitches before voting closes on 23 May.

Here’s our round-up of some of the most interesting pitches we’ve seen which are about supporting disabled people.

Neatebox system

Women sitting in kitchen with guide dog using her mobile

The Neatebox app sends a signal from the user’s phone directly to staff in partnering businesses to tell them what the user needs and to give them tips on how best to interact and help.

Inclusive Leisure

Diagram of a gym

Inclusive Leisure wants to create a fully-equipped gym designed for disabled users but accessible for all.

Limitless Travel

Pier going out to lake and mountains. Text reads #Limitless

Limitless Travel wants to create a community of disabled travelers to share their knowledge and travel experiences.

Opening Minds Training

Disabled man with woman and shop assistant in a clothes shop

Opening Minds provides support and training to organisations from disabled people. The sessions give businesses invalue insight into how to be more inclusive and the challenges around accessibility.

Magnum Services

Magnum Services logo

Magnum Services uses professional amputee actors and makeup artists for simulation in film, television, emergency services and the military.

Access Champ

Access champ logo and website address - accesschamp.co.uk

Accesschamp wants to train hotel, restaurant and venue staff on how to provide outstanding customer care and accessible venues for everyone.

Everyone can play

Drawing of adventure play space

Thomley is an activity centre for disabled people with play areas, sensory room and a seven acre outdoor play space. They want to create a new exciting outdoor space.

Seable HolidaysGroup of people guiding each other down a road

Seable is a social enterprise which provides accessible and active holidays.  They want to recruit a larger team in order to scale up their business.

Vote for your favourite pitches before voting closes on 23 May. Find out more about how VOOM works.

Accessible holidays: how I became a cruise-convert

Fiona Gosden is the Disability Specialist at DisabledHolidays.com and is a wheelchair user with Ollier’s Disease. Fiona has travelled extensively throughout Europe and is excited about going even further afield as her confidence grows.

She is keen to support others with disabilities or health conditions to enjoy independence, gain confidence, and create happy memories by encouraging people to go on holiday.

Before I had experienced an accessible holiday, I felt overwhelmed by the thought of travelling abroad because of my previous experiences of the barriers and challenges I had faced.

The thought of travelling highlighted my disability and I felt disadvantaged compared to my friends who were always planning to travel. I thought it was easier to accept that I would never explore the world like they could, but then I thought ‘how is that fair?’.

When it was suggested that I should try cruising I imagined an over-crowded ship where I had to endlessly circle around looking for an available sunbed and feeling claustrophobic whilst away from land. I also imagined being restricted to staying on board because of excursions not being accessible – and what about if I couldn’t access all the areas of the ship?

I couldn’t have been more wrong!disability_cruise_SCOPE_blog2

“I’m now a cruise-convert”

I know others with a disability can experience the same anxieties about going on holiday, and I can completely relate to it, but I hope that this blog will reassure you that with a bit of planning and careful selection about which companies you book with, everyone can enjoy a wonderful accessible holiday. Despite my pre-conceptions about cruises, I am now a complete cruise convert – they are an absolutely fantastic option for an accessible holiday!

Here are some of the reasons I love cruises:

  • Accessible cabins – many ships have accessible cabins, and the newer ships in particular are excellent. They are larger than standard cabins, have wide doorways and a fully adapted wet-room with roll in shower. There are even companies that will allow you to hire equipment and deliver it to the cabin, including hoists and electric beds! It’s a wonderful feeling not having to worry about accommodation accessibility, especially if you have a balcony cabin to just sit and watch the world go by!
  • Visiting the world without having to fly, and only unpacking once! I have found long flights to be very uncomfortable and thought that there would be countries I could never visit, but cruising takes you to the locations you want to go – what can be better than having locations brought to the doorstep of your luxurious floating hotel!
  • Floating from city to city and island to island without having to consider the accessibility of buses, trains and ferries. Before cruising I often found it impossible to get to a bus stop let alone get on the bus, but when cruising adapted shuttle buses come to the ship so you can explore your destination without barriers.
  • Waking up to a new exciting place every morning and exploring a wide range of adapted excursions. The first time I cruised I didn’t realise that there were adapted excursions and I felt limited by barriers after I’d be dropped into a city on the adapted shuttle bus. I have now discovered adapted excursions which can be booked before your holiday to avoid stress and disappointment, and are a great way to see new countries and cities.
  • Relaxing on-board your floating hotel. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard that cruising was like being on a ‘floating hotel’. On board most cruise ships there is a huge choice of activities which are all accessible, including entertainment, shops, indoor and outdoor cinemas, swimming pools, a huge choice of restaurants and bars, outdoor activities and spas. The range of entertainment is genuinely staggering and the food in the restaurants is some of the best I’ve had; you could stay on the ship for days and still have more to do.

I have discovered that travelling with a disability is easier than I thought and it has helped me to discover who I am in a way that only a holiday adventure can bring. I haven’t felt like my disability is my identity since travelling and there are always stories and memories to share which means I can join in when my friends chat about their travelling experiences.

I am delighted to say I now work as Disability Specialist at DisabledHolidays.com (the UK’s largest travel company specialising in holidays for people with disabilities and mobility impairments), and I can use my experience to help even more people with a disability or health condition to experience a perfect holiday.

Working here has really opened my eyes; there’s so much more than I ever thought would be possible, not just in the UK but abroad too – from adapted cottages and caravans to villas and hotels (and even adapted skiing and safaris) – and , of course, cruises!

I want to enable others to experience the satisfaction I feel when I finish a trip and look back at everything I have been able to accomplish; a disability does not have to be a barrier to going on holiday. This satisfaction gives me the energy and motivation to plan future travels without feeling restricted.

Looking for more information on accessible holidays? Read our help and tips suggested by members of Scope’s community

My experiences of using taxis and minicabs: the good, the bad and the ugly

The Extra Costs Commission, a year-long independent inquiry into the extra costs faced by disabled people, found that disabled people may often experience a number of challenges when using taxis or private hire vehicles (PHVs), including overcharging, poor attitudes from drivers and an overall lack of accessible vehicles.

In this blog, Kelly Perks-Bevington, a twenty-seven year wheelchair user, tells us about her personal experiences of using taxis and PHVs.

As a business woman and someone with extremely “itchy feet”, I travel a lot!

When I am travelling in London, I am kind of limited in that I do have to use taxis to get around because there are certain tube stations that are still inaccessible. When I’m rushing from meeting to meeting, I find it easier to just Google how long a taxi is going to take and then hop in one. There’s less risk and you don’t have to worry if you’re stranded on the underground.

London is great in that it has a lot of black cabs and you can just hail one when you need one. But then sometimes you  call one over and the ramp in broken or they’ve got to go somewhere – basically any excuse not to get out and assist you getting into the car.

I’ve also noticed that there is sometimes a supplement when someone has to get out and put the ramp up for you. This can be up to £3 sometimes!

Often when I’ve phoned up for a PHV, it turns up and it is not suitable. I haven’t used an app to book a minicab yet but just tend to try and grab what I can get.

Kelly, a young woman, smiles in the back of a London taxi

Travelling in other cities

In other big cities like Birmingham and Manchester, a lot of companies advertise that they offer wheelchair accessible vehicles. However, similar to London  sometimes you can phone up, describe your exact needs and they will send a hatchback and expect you to fold your wheelchair up!

I’ve found that Cardiff is probably the best place for wheelchair accessible vehicles. The vehicles have straps and a proper area for you to sit in the back. It’s a lot safer than just being piled in the back of a black cab and rolling around!

Improving taxi and PHV services for disabled people

I’d want to see more training for staff so that they understand more about different disabilities they can expect to come across and the different equipment that people may use and how to assist these passengers.

A good number of accessible PHVs would be fantastic so that you’re not waiting an hour for one to arrive. It’s all well and good if you’ve got a couple of days to book in advance but what happens when you need to get somewhere in 15 minutes and you need to jump in a cab like anybody else would? You need to be able to work on a bit of spontaneity!

In ten years’ time I would love it if I could just book a taxi or PHV and have it turn up in the normal allotted time and be easy to get in and out of, with no extra charges and no grumbling from the drivers when they have to give you a bit of assistance! It would be great to see this outside of bigger cities too!

Today Uber has launched UberWAV , a new service offering wheelchair accessible vehicles in London. This is a welcomed step to increase choice for disabled people when using taxis and PHVs.   

Invictus Games: getting ready for a summer of sport!

The Invictus Games start this Sunday, 8 to 12 May.

Prince Harry decided to create The Invictus Games after a visit to the Warrior Games in the USA in 2013. He saw how sport, competition and teamwork was a key driver in supporting injured service personnel to recover, physically and mentally from injuries. ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered’.

Prince Harry hugging an Invictus Games competitor

“These Games have shone a spotlight on the ‘unconquerable’ character of service men and women and their families and their ‘Invictus’ spirit. These Games have been about seeing guys sprinting for the finish line and then turning round to clap the last man in. They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together, not wanting to come second, but not wanting the other guys to either. These Games have shown the very best of the human spirit.” Prince Harry

The games are being hosted in Orlando, Florida this year, with a whole host of celebs and high profile people getting involved – including President and Michelle Obama.

See how Prince Harry responded to their fighting talk:

We’re really looking forward to seeing how the Invictus Games get the general public excited about disabled people competing at a really high level in sport. We feel like this is the perfect warm up to an exciting summer of sport, culminating in the Paralympics in September. We can’t wait!

Check out the Invictus Games TV schedule on the BBC. We’d love to know what you think.

If I became Mayor of London

Voting is in full swing as the people of London decide who will be the Mayor of their city. This time tomorrow, the decision will have been made and the new Mayor of London will be ready to make their first moves. We asked some of the Scope For Change campaigners what they would do if they became Mayor of London.

Becca

“I would endeavour to make all modes of transport accessible for wheelchair-users. I say endeavour, because I realise that this could be quite expensive, all things considered, and the term ‘disabled-friendly’ has a habit of being quite subjective. Therefore, a consultation for disabled people would be vital to get opinions on what needs changing. The fact that only 25% of tube stations on the Underground are accessible is a big issue that needs to be dealt with.

With more ramps and spaces for wheelchairs (which is also required in rail services), this will also benefit those with small children in buggies. ”

Becca, a young woman, smiles in a power chair

Jack

“I would establish a new free of charge emergency helpline for disabled people who are victims of disabilist attacks on the streets. I’d also ensure extra training is provided for police officers to effectively support those who are disabled or are vulnerable individuals generally.

A new Deputy Mayor will also be appointed with a specific portfolio in ‘Wellbeing and Inclusion’, incorporating the needs of disabled people and ensuring the emotional wellbeing of the population remains high on the agenda.

Lastly, I will work closely with TfL to make sure the process of fully accessible underground stations is accelerated, with the busiest stations taking priority.”

Jack, a young man, smiles at the camera

Becky

“I would  make sure that all of London’s transport system is accessible for everyone. The same with all of the attractions.”

Becky, a young woman in a power chair, smiles at the camera

Gabi

“As humans we are unique, we’ve travelled different paths and experienced different pain. I’d want to introduce methods to help people recognise difference positively; putting an end to stigma, discrimination, bullying and years worth of irreversible emotional damage.

Disability, ethnicity, sexuality, status, class, age, gender, religious and cultural beliefs will no longer be attacked or ridiculed. Having identified in my life as an openly disabled, gay, catholic, homeless woman, I feel best placed to head the ‘celebrating diversity’ campaign and hope to make this a citywide priority.

Challenge the stereotype, not the person!”

Gabi, a young woman, smiles at the camera

There’s still time to vote in today’s elections. Read our blog on voting to make sure you’re clued up on your rights and options. 

From Nike to Manchester United, brands are listening to disabled people

There have never been so many different ways to influence decision-making at all levels of society. Social media allows disabled consumers to have a direct conversation with brands and companies. They are taking notice.

Manchester United

Martin Emery is a life-long Manchester United fan and a father to three sons. Zac who is five years old, Ethan who is seven and Jordan who is now 18.

Jordan has a number of medical conditions, which means he has learning difficulties, has many seizures a day and uses a wheelchair.

Martin and two boys outside Old TraffordMartin was initially told by Manchester United that he couldn’t seat his family together, and Jordan could only have one carer with him.

Things then got worse before they got better.

A club official emailed Martin to say: “there are some clubs that would welcome you with open arms and possibly ask you to bring as many family members as possible, the downside is it wouldn’t be at Old Trafford, most probably Rochdale, Oldham or Stockport”.

Undeterred, he set up a campaign and website United Discriminates and kicked it off in a blog a year ago.

Read Martin’s blog on the campaign.

The good news is that by the end of last season United had constructed a new accessible seating area for disabled fans, families and friends.

Consumers speaking out

Iconic high-street brand M&S recently launched an online range of bodysuits, sleep suits and vests with poppers in additional larger sizes. That was on the back of a Rita Kutt, the grandmother of a three-year-old Caleb, who has cerebral palsy, contacting the retailer. Read the discussion Rita set up on Scope’s online community.

They had difficulty finding clothes to fit him, as he uses nappies and is fed through a tube in his stomach.

Caleb’s family then set up a Facebook page called M&S and Me: Special Needs Clothing for Children, which now has more than 4,500 members.

When M&S wanted to test their new designs we arranged for parents from our Scope community to trial some sample sizes with their children. Their feedback helped to shape the products.

The new range of clothes cost between £3 and £7, cheaper than similar items of clothing for disabled children currently available in the market.

The influence of social media is growing

Social media allows individual consumers to have a direct conversation with brands. Nike developed an easy grip trainer in response to an open letter from a 16 year-old boy with cerebral palsy.

Lego introduced disabled characters after they were contacted by Toy Like Me, a Facebook campaign run by a disabled mum, who realised that there weren’t enough toys representing disabled people and children.

A growing number of businesses are taking action in response to the Extra Costs Commission, an independent inquiry that last year found daily life costs more on average for disabled people. In response to the report, ride-sharing app Uber launched UberAssist in the UK, a service that allows disabled passengers to call specially trained drivers.

Thinking about what disabled consumers need makes sound commercial sense

There are over 11 million disabled people in the UK and their spending power is over £200 billion a year.

In February, ticketing agent The Ticket Factory following complaints from disabled customers upgraded its booking system to allow disabled people to buy tickets.

Barclays Bank has launched a new portal on its website that supports businesses to make their services and products more accessible to disabled people.

What we need now is even more companies to listen to disabled consumers and recognise the power of the purple pound. Let us know in the comments below if you’ve come across any brands going the extra mile for their disabled customers. 

“It doesn’t need to control you” – Dystonia Awareness Week

James Sutliff is a Personal Trainer and Disability Specialist who has a rare neurological disorder known as dystonia. To mark Dystonia Awareness Week, James talks to us about coming to terms with dystonia and how fitness has helped him focus on moving forwards.

It happened in 2008, pretty much overnight. It was bank holiday Monday, I’d gone to bed as normal and woke up feeling unwell. I felt a bit sick, so I went back to bed and when I woke up my speech was slurred. It worried me but I left it for a bit. I didn’t go to hospital straight away.

When I did go to the hospital they admitted me straight away. Initially, they thought I might have had a stroke but that wasn’t the case. I was in hospital for quite a few days before they discharged me. They couldn’t really find anything, a cause or contributing factor. For a few months I was being seen by a specialist. Then my hands started deteriorating.

So they transferred me to specialists in London who were supposed to be the top guys in neurological conditions. So we went and I did lots of tests and they came to the diagnosis that I have a form of dystonia. We did some research, found out a bit about it.

All this took place over two years. It was very frustrating, there were no answers as to why I was suddenly this way and that meant no treatment. I thought it might just go away, and the doctors did, but that hasn’t been the case.

James, a young bodybuilder with dystonia, smiles at the camera

The condition hasn’t got any worse. It’s just not got any better. I think I manage it better now, but at the start I found it very difficult to come to terms with it.

It’s hard to comprehend because physically to look at me, my disability is quite silent. I don’t generally look like a ‘disabled person’. I’m not in a wheelchair; I don’t have a missing limb. So people are often shocked. They think I’m taking the piss.

Using fitness as a focus

I had always kept in shape through rugby. I really found a focus with fitness. That’s what keeps me healthy – mentally and physically strong. I still do find it hard sometimes. But fitness has helped me to come to terms with dystonia. If I look good and I feel good I forget that I have dystonia.

I’m really passionate about fitness and I came across a scheme called Instructability which is aimed at people with disabilities who’d like to work in the fitness industry and help to train and rehabilitate people who also have disabilities.

Because of the situation and what happened to me, I want to help people who have disabilities and help them through fitness. Fitness has helped me to fight against my condition. It makes me feel better, look better and with that, sometimes when I’m training I forget I have a disability.

James, a bodybuilder, lifts weights in a gym

Dystonia and the future

It doesn’t need to control you. You can manage it and it’s just about finding the way to do that. Don’t let it stop you from doing anything. I’m not going to lay there feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to do something.

Dystonia does have an impact on things and it does make life a little bit difficult but I won’t let it beat me. If you let it beat you, it makes it worse.

Visit James’ Facebook page for brilliant training, dieting and day to day living tips. Scope’s online community also has a number of tips around fitness. Visit our community today and get involved.

“You have to fight being pigeon-holed”

Guest post by Tom Garrod, an events manager, public speaker and councillor in Norfolk who has ataxic cerebral palsy. Here he shares his experience of being a councillor and what being a disabled person in politics can mean.

I was elected as a councillor when I was 19 and I have been a councillor for six years. People are still surprised when they meet me as their councillor, they’re surprised I’m the bloke from the leaflet! I think this is equal parts my age and my disability.

You have to fight being pigeon-holed because of your age, your disability and your label. I’ve been asked “Tom, you’re very young for a councillor, do you think the council should be run by teenagers and young people?” And I said no, of course not. You couldn’t have a Tom Garrod, a councillor for Norfolk smiles at the cameragroup of 60 or 70 year olds running the council. They would be missing a different perspective. You need a mix.

Sometimes I have the same issue with my disability. A role relating to disabilities came up in the council and someone said “Tom that’s a perfect role for you! You know what disabled people are like.” And I said , what do you mean? I have cerebral palsy. I don’t have autism or Down’s Syndrome. I’m not blind and I don’t have hearing loss. I have no idea about lots of disabilities. But there was the assumption that I’m part of that label and we’re all the same.

Don’t make assumptions

I think being disabled can give you that perspective. My experiences have taught me not to make assumptions. I don’t know what it’s like to be a blind person but I know that I don’t know. I know I need to go and find out about these experiences. When you commission services, you’re not treating a disability. You’re treating the effects.

I remember being really nervous when I gave my first speech to the council as a councillor. It was budget day so the full council was sitting. I was nervous not only about the politics of what I wanted to say but also how I was going to say it. Would I be listened to?

The leader of the council helped me with my speech and afterwards I asked him what he thought of how I delivered the speech? He said what was interesting was that five councillors spoke before me and there was the usual chatter as they talked with people whispering, making comments. But when I stood up to speak you could tell everyone was nervous about not understanding me, so everyone stopped and really listened to every word. I thought I was the only one nervous!

Because of my disability, I make a conscious effort to only speak if I have something to add. With my disability, I have a subconscious instinct of thinking, do I need to say what I want to say? How can I say this as effectively as possible? Of course, I do enjoy the sound of my own voice but only when it makes difference. Otherwise, what’s the point?

It’s time to get involved

Now is a brilliant time to be involved in politics. When I was elected, during the first round of budget cuts, people said, “Tom, you could have chosen a better time to get elected. Maybe when there was more money about!” But I see it as now being an important time, with real decisions being made at a local level. If you’re a young person or a disabled person and you want to be involved in politics, just ask. Don’t take no for an answer.

With approaching local council and London Mayoral elections, as well as the EU referendum, we want disabled people to have a clear understanding of their voting rights and options. Read our blog about voting and elections for more information.

Header image: Norfolk County Hall, Martineau Lane (Graham Hardy) / CC BY-SA 2.0