All posts by Alex Hazell

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 

Top films that portray disability

We asked our Facebook fans about their favourite films that portray disability. Here are the top suggestions:

My Left Foot

“One of the first films that focused entirely on a disabled character is most probably ‘My Left Foot’directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Day-Lewis.  I was merely a child slowly discovering the world and found so many aspects of the film that I did not fully understand but I did get from it that disability has its struggles and challenges but with it also comes strength and determination. The film tackled various issues that 26 years ago were considered a taboo such as suicide, love, anti-disabled attitudes and rejection of the disabled.”   – Raya Al-Jadir 

“My Left Foot was the earliest film I remember portraying disability. I remember being amazed at how determined the character was. ” – Libby

Inside I’m dancing

“Since seeing this film in school I fell in love and would recommend it to anyone, Inside I’m Dancing is one of the best films I’ve ever watched for showing both the highs and lows of living with a disability, it was so realistic and well written that when I found out neither of the actors were actually disabled, I was in complete shock!
Inside I’m Dancing takes both the good and bad points of being disabled and adds humour which makes for such a feel good film. Having cerebral palsy myself I believe that people with disabilities should be given the chance to show their amazing talents in the media instead of able bodied actors playing the part of disabled characters.”  – Michelle

The Imitation Game

“Although it’s never stated, I feel the makers of The Imitation Game wanted to portray Alan Turing as someone with an autism spectrum condition. The thing that makes the film extraordinary for me is that they got this so right, while not letting it dominate the story.

Autistic characters are so often portrayed as rude, oblivious and not having emotions. Autistic traits tend to be foregrounded in quirky diversions and gags, while the person’s achievements fade into the background. “Not fitting in” is emphasised to the point that you might think if you’re autistic, you’ll never have any friends. This is depressing, but it’s also untrue.

In The Imitation Game, Turing’s autistic traits are just part of who he is, and crucially, part of what his friends like about him. The highly emotional scenes where young Turing – brilliantly played by Alex Lawther – falls in love with a school friend, are enormously moving. Turing’s special interest in codes is beautifully laced through these heart-wrenching flashbacks, where it becomes a source of meaningful connection, not a freakish curiosity.

The things we struggle with are portrayed too. Being overwhelmed by noise or strong emotions, the lifelong project of understanding what others are feeling and the mysterious world of social rules. At least, this is what I identified with in Turing’s story – each autistic person’s experience will be different.

Despite the tragedy of the story, I left the cinema feeling optimistic. As Temple Grandin says, we need all types of minds.” – Suraya

Four Weddings and a Funeral

“I’ve always liked the character of David, played by deaf actor David Bower, in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Bower plays Hugh Grant’s brother, but the film doesn’t make a big deal of his deafness: the character is neither tragic nor endowed with special gifts. He’s an ordinary person who has a nice, jokey relationship with his brother – and they just happen to communicate in sign language. I love David’s dramatic intervention in the wedding ceremony, where Hugh Grant’s character translates David’s signed words for the congregation, transforming a well-worn cinematic trope into a funny and memorable scene.” – Kim Thomas

Transforming perceptions of disabled people in the fitness industry

Guest post from Josh Goodfellow, a 21-year-old fitness professional and bodybuilder. Josh has cerebral palsy which affects his lower limbs. Through his work he aims to transform people’s perceptions of disabled people in the health and fitness industry.

Three men in the gym with JGFitness clothesHow did you get into bodybuilding?

As a former sprinter I was always heavily influenced in sport and the positive effects it had on me and my cerebral palsy growing up. After retiring from the track, I started working in a local gym as a Personal Trainer. I wanted to find something that would give me the same competitive “buzz” that athletics used to. I began casually weight-lifting and after six months of training I got the bug and began to explore bodybuilding.

In April 2014, I found out about a show called Hercules Olympia run by the legendary Scott Horton. The show took place in May 2014 and to my knowledge it was the first show to feature a disABILITY Class among a mainstream showcard in the UK.

Hercules Olympia opened the door for disABILITY bodybuilding.  It’s success allowed disABILITY bodybuilding to develop and people began to understand why it deserved a place in the industry.

What are the benefits of bodybuilding?

When people think of bodybuilding they may think of negative stereotypes such as performance enhancing drugs and aggression. When I think of bodybuilding I see it as something that gives you the opportunity to change your life.

Bodybuilding changed my life and allowed me to take control of my cerebral palsy. I no longer let it dictate my life. Through adaptive training methods it allowed me to physically develop to what I am today. Granted, I still trip over fresh air from time to time, but that’s all fun and games!

Bodybuilding has also been a fantastic social outlet. The people I meet and converse with on a daily basis are fantastic. I have met some of my best friends through the industry.

What’s the reaction been like at the bodybuilding shows?

So far it’s been a HUGE success. The reactions we’ve got from the crowds, competitors and social media have told me everything I needed to know.

We’ve had such a great reaction that it has allowed the sport to grow and develop.  So much so that in November 2014 a federation called Pure Elite committed to hosting a disABILITY Class too. It’s given the athletes personal exposure and it’s given the sport the exposure and awareness it needs.

How can someone get involved?

First of all – you don’t have to decide to become a bodybuilder to get involved with the growing number of people with disabilities heading to the gym.

Getting active is crucial. You don’t have to lift heavy weights and count every calorie to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Get to grips with your condition, establish your boundaries and then work towards developing those boundaries as you become fitter and stronger.

If you want to get involved with bodybuilding start by researching training procedures that will allow you to train safely. Look for a coach or experienced professional that can work with you towards your goals. Finding someone that can support you is crucial. Without my coach, Steve Winter, I’d have found it incredibly difficult to get into the shape required to contest a bodybuilding show. A coach is also there to keep you mentally on track when things get difficult, and trust me… they will!

What are your hopes for the future?

2015 promises to be the best year yet with nine disABILITY bodybuilding categories already confirmed for 2015. I’d love to see disABILITY bodybuilding continue to grow – more competitions, competitors, and opportunities.

It’s fantastic to be part of this flourishing movement. I and my business JGFitness will ALWAYS be there representing and fighting the corner for disABILITY bodybuilding.

For details on the 2015 calender, advice, and competitive opportunities like JGFitness on Facebook.

We currently have a health and fitness Q&A with a disabled sports specialist happening on our community, so please do get involved!

Five things I’ve learnt about accessible events

Disabled Access Day takes place tomorrow. It’s a day about getting out there and trying something new! The Science Museum in London was recently named as one of the most accessible tourist attractions in Britain so we asked one of their Special Event Developers, Claire Hazell, to share their advice on how they do it.

Being a Special Events Developer means that my team and I write, develop and present a large programme of events aimed at families during holidays and weekends. We also run a variety of events aimed at making the Science Museum accessible to everyone. During my time I have learnt a lot about museums and their role in accessibility, here are my top five things:

1) There is a big difference between accessible and inclusive

Presenter signs
Presenter signs “Galaxy”. Everyone who attends the show learns a few science related signs.

Our deaf-led SIGNtific programme is a great example of an accessible and inclusive event. The science shows, storytelling sessions and workshops are all presented in British Sign Language and are suitable for both deaf and hearing visitors. They are on during the day and advertised to everyone that comes into the museum. It’s a great way to increase deaf awareness in hearing children and to include deaf children and adults in museum activities.

Our Early Birds early morning Autism event is different. The museum opens early five times a year for families with children on the autistic spectrum. The museum is quieter and there are tailored events and activities for the families. This event is accessible but does not include everyone. This is because it can’t include everyone; the reason we open it up to families early and make the spaces limited is so that the museum is quieter and has less going on. Families asked us to run the event this way and our research has shown us that this is the right environment for their needs.

2) Accessible means different things to different people

Gallery at the Science Museum
(photo credit)

Every visitor that comes to the museum wants to get something different out of their visit. From finding their favourite object, or enjoying a new gallery to just finding a toilet!

Making the museum accessible can mean different things for everyone. It could just mean giving someone a map so they can find their way around but it could also mean coming to an event which has provision for their needs. We try to make the museum accessible for as many people as possible and we are always willing to take suggestions and listen to what our visitors want from us.

3) Don’t make assumptions

Interactive gallery
Launch pad (photo credit Heather Cowper)

While planning for a recent Early Birds session we did some research and found out that sensitivity to loud noises was common among children on the Autistic spectrum. We decided that we should turn off all loud noises and try and keep the museum as quiet as possible. We had planned to turn on one of our large engines and as such included this in our visual story. Families were able to avoid the engine as it was only turned on late in the session. What we found was that lots of families loved seeing and listening to the engine and talking to our engineers about the engine. We assumed that this wouldn’t be the case because of some research we had carried out.

We soon realised that we should never assume and we use this attitude in all our new developments and make sure we look at developments from every angle and assume nothing!

4) You can’t do it alone

Where do you start when trying to run an event when you don’t know much about what the event would need?

You start with people that would know. When we developed our new audio described event we spoke to local councils, charities, specialist organisations, schools, other museums, and of course families themselves. The information from these groups was invaluable and will help the team provide a new event that opens up the museum and its collection to even more people.

5) Taking the first step is hard but the rewards are worth it

Convo 800x392All our events had to start somewhere. A brainstorm, a query from a visitor or an idea you have just before you go to sleep. But turning that first idea into an event can be daunting and sometimes scary.

All our events have amazing teams that run them and supportive managers to coordinate them. It is always an amazing accomplishment to open the door for an event for the first time. I loved seeing the smiles on the faces of the families when they came into the museum for our first Early Birds session, and I still find it amazing to see children communicating with our deaf presenters in sign language. I’ll end with a quote from one of them:

“SIGNtific is fantastic at encouraging children to learn about science without realising they are learning, a brilliant opportunity for deaf and hearing children and their parents to talk and share their experiences after the events. It is always a thrill to be a role model to all children at the events!”

Find out more about accessibility at the Science Museum.

Get involved with Disabled Access Day.

The top disability moments that got people talking in 2014

This year has been a rollercoaster ride for disability issues. We’ve already looked at some of the highlights of our own work, so here are some of the other highs and lows that got you talking in 2014. 

Role models

Five cartoon charactersA Scope favourite ever since he produced three illustrations for our In The Picture exhibition, Quentin Blake wrote and illustrated his first novel, The Five of Us, featuring five disabled characters.

A petition asking for Disney to create an animated hero with Down’s syndrome caused a big divide in opinion. Some of you wholeheartedly agreeing, and some of you thinking that it would only serve to exclude other children.

In October the first Disability Power List aimed to celebrate the most powerful, influential and inspiring disabled people in Britain. It was great to see our previous chair Alice Maynard, and so many Scope supporters make the list!

Stella Young, the outspoken and much-loved disability campaigner from Australia, sadly died suddenly earlier this month. Her Ted Talk in April was hugely successful, after she said that as a disabled person, she didn’t want to be viewed as ‘an inspiration.’

Court rulings and changes to the law

Disabled parking bayThis year there have been many stories in the media about the misuse of disabled parking bays. There were stories of everyone from MPs to soap stars misusing spaces. One man made headlines when he refused to let his car get towed away. Chris Welch got so sick of people abusing disabled parking spaces, that he started a campaign to make it illegal to do so. It seems like lots of you can relate to this, as it stirred up a lot of debate.

It’s not just car spaces that have got people talking – in early December the High Court decided that bus companies were not responsible for telling passengers with pushchairs to give up their space to disabled people.

On the very same day the High Court ruled the closure of Independent Living Fund for disabled people to be lawful, dealing yet another blow for disabled people living independently.

This year also saw the controversial Assisted Dying Bill introduced to the House of Lords which wants to enable terminally ill people to request assistance to end their own life. No doubt there’ll be much more discussion of the bill in 2015.

Challenging awkward and offensive attitudes

As well as our own campaign, there were many other stories this year about attitudes towards disabled people. Columnist Divya Babbar highlighted some of the awkward, rude and sometimes ridiculous things some people think are OK to say to a disabled person. This really got you commenting!

Toddler in a wheelchairDisabled children and their parents also shared their experiences of awkwardness and disability when we had an incredibly popular guest blog from Mary Evelyn Smith. She gave some basic advise on how to talk to kids about disability (and Voldemort).

On the more negative side – many of you were angry to hear the story earlier this month of a disabled boy who missed out on a chance of meeting Santa due to a “lack of disabled access” at a theme park.

Two comments this year stirred up huge public debates. In April the Mayor of Swindon caused an uproar with one comment about disabled people. However the reaction was insignificant compared to the anger in October when welfare minister Lord Freud suggested disabled people could be paid less than the minimum wage.

Celebrating great attitudes

Early in the year a mum of a young girl with autism wrote a fantastic blog as a thank you to the man who sat next to her daughter on a flight. Dear ‘Daddy’ In Seat 16C soon went viral and had many of you in tears!

Scouts badges including a wheelchair badgeIn April, Scouts introduced new disability badges for Cubs and Beavers. The badges cover things like how to push a wheelchair, learning the promise in sign language and making an assessment of disability access.

At Halloween many people loved the story of a stepfather who constructed an incredible tank costume. His son has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, and the dad wanted to make sure he wouldn’t miss out!

Sainsbury’s announced this year they’d been working with parents of disabled kids to create a more secure and accessible trolley. Hundreds of you told us the huge difference this could make. We were also pleased to see them include a seven-year-old model with Down’s Syndrome in their advertising. Let’s hope more supermarkets will follow in 2015!

We’re bound to have missed some! What disability issues do you think should have made the cut? 

Join in the conversation in 2015 by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.

Why do the majority of disabled toilets have no facilities for disabled children?

Guest post from Darren Phelps, who has a 3-year-old son with Cerebral Palsy. Darren has been lobbying major supermarket chains about their disabled toilets only being set up for adults.

When out and about with my son, who cannot take himself to the toilet without help , we have always struggled. Disabled toilets are rarely equipped for children. We have to hover our son over the toilet as he is unable to sit on his own because of his disability. He goes very tense and struggles to go to the toilet and my partner is finding it harder to lift him as he grows.

I started my campaign by lobbying the “big four” supermarkets -asking why they ignore the needs of disabled children. I contacted all of them with simple suggestions on how to improve their toilets without costing a fortune. My suggestions were:

  • A simple step that would make it easier so that a child could be high enough to be able to balance with help and a boy to go for a wee.
  • A removable seat (most parents of a disabled child will have these at home) that would help most parents whose children have problems standing even with assistance.

Two out of the four supermarkets responded with the standard “we will raise this issue next time we look at our disabled toilet structure” – no timescale or agreement that it’s an issue. I’m still waiting for one to respond.

Tesco really surprised me, they took the time to ring me and listen to the problem. They agreed that this is a major issue and thanked me for bringing it to there attention. They also said they will implement my suggestions in my local store and they will also log it as a nationwide problem and roll out the changes nationwide! Let’s hope they stick to their word.

I now plan on taking my fight for disabled children further – lobbying government to force changes into how disabled toilets should be set up and that they actually cater for children as well!

“Want my space? Take my disability!”

Guest post from Chris Welch who is campaigning for the law to be enforced to stop people using disabled parking spaces when they shouldn’t.

I am registered disabled and I use crutches or my wheelchair to get around. I am married and have five children aged 3 to 10 years. If it wasn’t for my car, I’d never get out anywhere, especially when winter comes. But let’s backtrack a bit.

Have you heard of the spoon theory? It rings true with a lot of disabled people, including myself. The idea is that you’ve 12 spoons per day and each spoon represents part of your energy allowance for the day. A lot of people with disabilities have a very limited amount of energy, so everyday activities are a huge challenge.

Going shopping

My nearest superstore is a mere five minute drive away. I get up and get dressed and take my medications and my wife kindly fixes me some breakfast; out of the 12 spoons I had at the start of the day I have used at least three already.

I drive over to the supermarket from my house. I arrive to find that not one of the disabled drivers parking spaces is free. I search for a space near enough and without any other vehicles near it so that I can park my car and get my wheelchair out with the help of my wife. The whole car park is on a slight incline, not enough to notice in a car, but you notice it when you’re pushing a full trolley and even more so when you are attempting to get to the shop in a self-propelled wheelchair.

On my way to the shop I notice many of the cars parked in disabled spaces do not have the necessary blue badge displayed. I am already exhausted from the short trip across the car park when the driver bounds back to his car. “Excuse me, do you realise that this space is reserved for the disabled?” I ask. “Yeah but I was only a few minutes getting some cash out mate” responds the offender and he gets in his car and drives off. His ‘few minutes’ just happened to coincide with my attempt to find somewhere to park.

I had to do something about it

The extra exertion to get from my car to the shop means I cannot immediately join my wife shopping, so she has to leave me in the coffee shop. Whilst I am sat there I feel the waves of fatigue pressuring me to sleep. I sip my coffee and then I begin to feel something else. Anger.

I was sick of hearing “I’ll only be five minutes”, “I’m just getting some cash out” or the one that really annoys me “I’m waiting for someone” – as if that makes any difference! Why is it that people feel it is okay to park in our spaces?

After speaking to other disabled drivers, locally and online, I realised I was not alone. Disabled parking is so often abused it has become the norm for those with disabilities to put up with.

So I created a Facebook group called “Want My Space? Take My Disability!”  for the disabled drivers fed up with the situation, their partners and carers, from all over the UK. The group has become a place for sharing experiences, ideas and friendly conversation.

Petitioning the Government

As the numbers in the group grew I began to realise just taking pictures of offending cars and posting them to the group to embarrass the offenders was not enough. We started a petition with the aim of getting the law changed, to protect those who view these spaces not as a perk but as utterly essential.

There are a few aspects to the petition, but basically it calls for the UK Government to enforce the law and stop disabled parking space abuse. The petition also calls for changes to be made to ensure the facilities provided meet a minimum standard.

This is a national problem and the Government needs to realise there are a lot of disgruntled disabled drivers who’ve had enough of the selfishness. At the time of writing the petition stands at over 1100 signatures and the group has over 500 members.

We are even on Twitter @Spaces4Disabled! It is of course early days yet, but I am confident as more hear about it, the group and the signatures will grow.

Then we can tackle something else!

I hope you’ll join the group, sign the petition and follow us on Twitter. After all, the more people the louder the voice!

Photo by Elliot Brown.

“I never want another parent to feel as desolate and as frightened as I did”

Guest post from Yvonne, author of The Special Parent’s Handbook.

When my children were little, one by one they were each diagnosed with devastating disabilities. I was overwhelmed with emotions, I was exhausted and lost. It got even worse when two of them were also diagnosed with additional life-threatening illnesses which lasted for several years. I really didn’t think I was going to cope – I knew nothing about disability or how to support a child through serious ill-health.

IMG_0010_NEW

Now, all three of them are on the brink of adulthood, they all survived, in fact they have done a lot better than mere survival. We pulled together, we muddled through, and we learnt to laugh a lot too.

I never want another parent to feel as desolate and as frightened as I did. So I’ve written the book I wish someone had given me in those bleak early days.

The Special Parent’s Handbook

The Special Parent's Handbook

It’s a comprehensive parenting manual for families like ours. It’s packed full of all the tips, tricks and strategies we learnt – the things we discovered and invented along the way as we stumbled from one crisis to the next.  It has lots of quirky solutions nobody else would ever think of unless they also have children like ours.

A doctor can tell you how to manage your child’s condition but this book shows you how to care for your whole family. It will help you get through those long hospital admissions that are often part-and-parcel of having a serious disability. It will talk about how to cope with those days when you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of negative emotions. It also has lots of ideas to make sure your other children don’t miss out, and real-life solutions to things that most people wouldn’t even understand. I’ve written extensively about how to get the best outcomes for your child from all the meetings, appointments and funding decisions which cause so much frustration and heartache.

It’s also a story of our family growing up. If you read it, you’ll get to know Francesca, Toby and Adam along the way too. I’ve used dozens of things that really happened to illustrate ways of getting yourself out of the tightest of corners.

I’ve shared all the things I learned the hard way. It’s the “dos and don’ts” guide to steering your way through – and I’ve also passed on some of the mistakes I made!

The response so far

It came out in June, and the response has been better than I could have possibly wished for. Dozens of parents have contacted me to tell me how much easier things are for their families since reading the book. GPs have told me that they have adopted new approaches when seeing patients with a learning disability because of what they have learnt from it. Great Ormond Street Hospital liked the book so much that they have ordered a copy for every ward so that all their parents have easy access to it. The reviews on Amazon can’t seem to praise the book enough. I even received a very special letter this week  from Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, who praised the book.

If you do read it, I’d love to know what you think, your feedback will be really helpful! Lots of people have already asked me to get started on another book – so anything you tell me will help me know what I should write about next!

Find out more about the book:

The top ten misconceptions about visual impairment

Guest post from  Emily Davison, a writer, fashion blogger, English Literature student  and YouTuber. She also happens to be visually impaired and works with a guide dog.

Emily with her guide dog Unity
Emily with Unity (photo from Guide Dogs)

Do you ever face those moments in your day where something cringe-worthy happens to you? Do you find yourself thinking how wonderful it would be if the ground would swallow you up?

In life I find that there have been many obstacles that I have had to face. But, one thing that never seems to vanish are the questions I get due to my disability. Some of them are the most awkward and frustrating moments I can recollect. Some make me want to recoil in sheer mortification.

Recently I created a video on my YouTube channel after reading an article by a young women in a wheelchair about the top ten sayings and questions that she gets due to her disability. It inspired me to relate my own version about visually impairments. Scope invited me to discuss my views on these misconceptions right here on the Scope blog.

1. “Won’t glasses help?”

I get this a lot when first meeting people and after what seems to be an eternal age of hearing it, I feel that it is time to set the record straight:

I am not a martyr. If I can improve my life in any way – I do.

But, alas the problem lies not in the eye but in the optic nerve and for me, as with many people with sight loss, glasses do not help. In short, if glasses did help me I would certainly be wearing them.

2. “Are you training that guide dog?”

There seems to be a misconception surrounding guide dog owners and the way that they mobilise in society.

Having switched from using a long cane to a guide dog, my walking speed and posture has changed an awful lot and I now walk in a confident manner and with purpose.  If a person with a guide dog walks confidently and ‘not like the stereotypical blind person’ this does not mean they must be a guide dog trainer!

3. “How long have you been blind?”

One of the biggest stereotypes around sight loss is that everyone who uses a long cane or a guide dog must have no vision whatsoever. One person with a guide dog may be fully blind, another may have some remaining vision like myself. I would always advise that when you discuss the topic of sight loss with a guide dog owner or long cane user that you use the term ‘visually impaired’ as it a more accurate representation of sight loss.

4. “You’re so normal!”

This comment, in my opinion, appears to imply that people with sight loss or other disabilities are less than ‘normal’.

Everyone is different. There is no such thing as a normal person. Disability is one small part of a person and should not be used to classify their place society.

5. “But you’re looking straight at me?”

Different individuals have different levels of vision, one person may be able to read print, whilst another may be able to see color. Some people with sight loss may be able to give you eye contact, or at least use their hearing to look in the direction of where your voice is coming from. Never presume that sight loss is all in black and white, because there are many different shades in the spectrum!

6. “She’s blind! I’ve got a chance to pull her!”

This is one of the more uncouth sayings I get in social situations such as the pub or a restaurant.

Some people think that my sight loss will increase their chances to ‘pull’. In the past this has shattered my confidence and made me recoil from dating situations. My sight loss should not be used as an advantage for other people to exploit.  Disability as a whole is something that is misunderstood when it comes to dating situations and that is why I praise Scope for including dating as a key aspect of their End The Awkward campaign.

7. “I don’t know how you do it!”

As a writer, my thesis on life is to experience as much of the world and people within it as possible. Meet new people, experience different cultures and live for every second. Time affects us all, disabled people included, and I believe that it is imperative to design your life in the way you wish and to gain autonomy over yourself. The comment of ‘I don’t know how you do it’ suggests that every disabled person is an isolated person afraid to live their life.

Never let any part of yourself hold you back, you are in charge of your disability, it is not in charge of you.

8. “You’re so trendy! You don’t look blind!”

I am still shocked by the amount of people who pass this comment with a look of incredulity on their face about how my dress sense amazes them.

Having sight loss does not have to affect a person’s relationship to fashion or style. Style is a form of expression and it depends on passion and imagination and not on your level of vision. As a visually impaired person I appreciate clothes from the fabrics and embroidery used, to the outline of the garment and how it makes me feel when I wear it. I interact with style based on a number of different senses. There are many different visually impaired people, who appreciate clothes for their shape, quality and attention to detail.

After all, fashion is a creative outlet and is not exclusive to one set of individuals.

9. “How does your guide dog know the bus numbers?”

Whenever I hear this comment I want to laugh until my sides are sore. Instead, I simply bite down hard on my tongue to keep in in place and politely inform the individual that a guide dog can only do certain things. Guide dogs do not have the power to talk or read, they follow instructions from the owner and help them to mobilise and get on and off public transport. The owner has to have full knowledge of the route they intend to take and the dog will act as the car.

10. “She’s so pretty! It’s such a shame she’s disabled!”

This is occasionally followed by the slightly more mumbled comment of “what a waste”. When I hear this my tongue takes on a life of its own and sets the world to right! My appearance is not ruined by the fact that my eyes do not work in the same manner as the majority.

I speak to everyone who reads this and considers themselves disabled. Your disability is not a shame and as so long as you are happy in the skin you are in, never allow anyone to convince you that it is!

You can read more on my thoughts and opinions on the topic of disability, style and identity by following me on the links below. Everyone is welcome on my social campaign to rid the world of its misconceptions of not just sight loss but disability in general. Come and join me, have your say and let’s make a change for good!

I also appear on RNIB’s Insight radio at 2.15 pm every Friday.

Share your awkward moments

On the Scope blog we regularly hear from people about attitudes to disability. It can be serious. But more often than not it’s just a bit awkward – what you could call innocent ignorance.

We want to shine a light on the awkwardness that many people feel about disability, and want to hear from you.

Have you been in an awkward situation?

You can share your awkward stories with us in the comments section below, with the hashtag #EndTheAwkward, or email us at awkward@scope.org.uk.

We’ll share them online – so let us know if you want to be anonymous.

Some of our favourites so far

“I was talking to someone in a wheelchair with amputated legs. I was so overly conscious of not saying the wrong thing that I barely said anything at all!”

“I was in the city centre once when this guy walked past me. He was so engrossed in staring at me and my wheelchair, that he didn’t notice the lamp-post he was about to walk into…”

“I met a woman who has restricted growth at a friend’s place. She asked me if I fancied a cup of tea. I had a vague and distant memory of having been told that you should never offer a disabled person help, unless they ask for help. So I just watched her struggle with the kitchen that was literally over her head, until she gave up.  I wouldn’t have hesitated to ask someone who was say, 4’11”, if they needed a hand with things out of their reach. But for some reason I felt like it was legitimate to apply a different rule when someone’s 3’6”. Cringing now.”

“Whenever I go to an appointment, I can’t stop myself smirking and giggling when the receptionist invariably tells me to ‘take a seat’, then notices the wheelchair and gets all flustered!”

“I was in a newsagents. a guy was silently hovering behind me, when suddenly without a word he grabbed hold of my chair and wheeled me to the opposite end of the magazine rack! Turns out i was in the way of his mags, but who knew! Haha!”

Share your experiences with us in the comments section below, with the hashtag #EndTheAwkward, or email us at awkward@scope.org.uk