From callipers to climbing Ben Nevis – Disability History Month

Mountaineer and writer John Hawkridge is 68. He is one of a number of older disabled people who contributed to the Disability Voices website at the British Library Sound Archive as part of Scope’s Speaking for Ourselves project.

For Disability History Month, John remembers when he could run as a child and how in later life he tackled Ben Nevis.

Wearing callipers

John as a boy sitting on a step
John as a boy sitting on a step

Unfortunately for me I got selected to be fitted with iron callipers. So all of a sudden you find yourself in leg irons, and you know from being able to run, they’ve put you in these leg irons, and you can hardly stand up, never mind run. And they put you in them, and they tighten all the leather straps on you when you’re in. You know, it’s basically, it’s just a form of torture; they’re just forcing your joints against what they want to do. And so, you find yourself, you might be wearing your callipers ‘x’ amount of hours a day. Now bearing in mind I could take these callipers off and run, and run, hop, skip and jump, that weren’t something that I enjoyed at all.

Climbing Ben Nevis

John Hawkridge
John Hawkridge

By seven o’clock I was out and away, and heading up Ben Nevis. Initially there was no one else about, and I had the route to myself, but as time progressed it wasn’t long before people started overtaking me. Throughout the day I made really steady and positive progress, and up through a place known as ‘the Red Burn’, and then the massive, steep zigzagging path that went to the sort of summit ridge, or plateau, and then finally across this, where there were still snow and an ice field to be crossed towards the summit, and I ended up, I arrived on the summit about four o’clock. There were a few people there, and one that stood out was an American chap who, when he saw me coming, started dancing up and down, shouting, ‘What the Hell? I’ve flogged my so-and-so guts out getting to the top of this mountain, and what do I find when I get here? A so-and-so cripple. You’ve ruined my day.’ At which he screwed his stars and stripes up, shoved it back in his rucksack, and stormed off muttering to himself; ‘And I don’t know how the hell I’m going to get back down again,’ and I leant over and shouted to him, ‘That makes two of us!’”

Hear about John’s descent of Ben Nevis with broken walking stick and boot.

Rock-climbing films

In the mid-1970s I’d bought a good-quality Super Eight Cine Camera and had made films of some of the walks that I’d done and rock climbs; the two walks which I’d filmed being the Three Peaks of Yorkshire and the Dales Way – a 100-mile walk from Ilkley to Bowness on Windermere, and also I had some quite good shots of me rock climbing at Ilkley and Brimham Rocks.

In the late seventies I had been showing these films at various places, you know, if I had to entertain anywhere I’d take along me Cine and compiled a film and showed these films. And the fact that I’d been doing these activities had come to the attention of Yorkshire Television who sent a producer/director out to see me, with a view to making a film, and I remember well as he watched this Cine film, an half-hour film that I’d put together, and when it had finished he says, ‘This is absolutely fantastic, this is absolutely brilliant,’ he said, ‘but unfortunately we could never show this or make a film about this, because the public wouldn’t be able to take it…’

Climbing Everest

Books by John Hawkridge

Uphill All The Way book cover
Uphill All The Way book cover

His first book Sticks and Stones was published in 1987. This was followed by Uphill All The Way in 1991.

Listen to John’s life story on the Disability Voices website.

Find out more about Disability History Month on our website.

Tell the Government what you think about the support disabled people get

The Government want to know what you think about their plans for changing the support disabled people get in and out of work. Find out how you can get involved. 

They want feedback on their proposals, and will be accepting views until Friday 17 February 2017. Anyone can respond to the set of questions they are asking. We’ve set out information on how you can respond to the consultation with your views.

First, you might want to read Scope’s blog for more information on what is included in the Green Paper. The Green Paper is available on the Government website in Plain English, Easy Read, braille and BSL.

Why should you respond?

The Government want to hear from you about your experiences of employment support services, experiences at work and how you think they can be improved. This is your chance to tell the Government what you think of their proposals and share your experiences and ideas for how workplaces and employment support can be improved for disabled people.

The questions cover important areas such as how the Jobcentre can provide the right support, what employers need to do as well as the kinds of in-work support that disabled people would like.

What will happen to your response?

The Government will analyse all the responses they get and decide which of the proposals they should continue with. They normally release a document setting out key themes from responses where lots of respondents were in agreement. They then decide on their next steps – for example which proposals to amend and which to no longer continue with – and published a more detailed document about their plans. This more detailed document forms the basis of the new legislation with Government will pass to enact their changes.

Your response, or part of your response, could be made public although it wouldn’t be attributed to you by name.

What to think about when writing your response

  • Include evidence – Try to back up your responses to questions with evidence. Examples from your personal experiences are a valuable form of evidence.
  • Answer what matters to you – Don’t be put off by questions which aren’t relevant. You can respond to as many questions as you want, so choose the parts that matter to you. If you want to mention something not directly covered by one of the questions, it’s fine to add this in or say if you think the Government have missed an important area.
  • Keep it clear – Write as much or as little as you want for each question but try to keep your points clear and explain the background to any specific examples, such as the particular service you were using or trying to access e.g. Access to Work.
  • Suggest ideas – The Government are looking for better ways of providing support so if you have an idea about what would help you or how you would change the system make sure to suggest it.

How to respond

There are a number of ways you can respond to the consultation:

Responding online

The online consultation form is hosted on the Department of Health website. This shows a landing page with a list of options.

The first of these is called “About you” and is mandatory. If you are responding as an individual you should select the ‘questions for individuals’ which will bring up 33 questions. You can choose which questions to respond to.

Fill in the consultation form online.

Responding by email

You can also send an email with your response, with an attached Word Document to workandhealth@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

Responding by post

You can post your submission to:

The Work, Health and Disability Consultation,
Ground Floor, Caxton House,
6-12 Tothill Street,
London,
SW1H 9NA

If you have any further questions please contact Melanie Wilkes, Policy Adviser on melanie.wilkes@scope.org.uk