All posts by Alex White

Alex White is Scope's Information Content Manager.

2015: a year in the life of Scope helpline

In 2015, the Scope helpline received over 17,000 telephone calls, 5,000 emails and responded to a huge variety of posts on Scope’s online community and social media networks.

People asked about all sorts of things relating to disability, from housing to Motability, from recycling disability equipment to taking part in sport. When we add views of our online help and information, we have supplied answers to over three quarters of a million requests in 2015. Continue reading 2015: a year in the life of Scope helpline

Disability services in Finland: a better life?

Recently Jean Merrilees returned from spending three months at a regional centre that assesses people for equipment in Finland, as part of her degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Northampton. Having worked for Scope for a couple of decades, advising disabled people on a wide range of issues, it was a good chance to reflect on how disability services in Finland compare to those in the UK. Continue reading Disability services in Finland: a better life?

Self-publishing: How do I publish my book?

Following our In The Picture campaign to include disabled children in the books they read, Scope published children’s storybooks,  My Brother is an Astronaut and Haylee’s Friends.

As a result, we receive quite a few approaches from people wanting to publish books about their experiences of disability, either as a disabled person or family member.

Much as we might like to, we can’t become a mass publisher but we’d love to see your books get published! Here are some people we know who have done just that.

Brighton Face 2 Face parent befrienders

Brighton Face 2 Face parent befrienders with their Paperweights book
Brighton Face 2 Face parent befrienders with their Paperweights book

Parents and carers of disabled children in Brighton and Hove joined a creative writing group and have published an anthology of their moving poems and short stories.

Kate Ogden, who ran the group, says: “The woman on my course inspired me, impressed me and surprised me. I believe it was the first course of its kind for parent carers, and I really hope it wasn’t the last. We have dreams of taking this nationwide, and the group went from struggling to say things out loud to shouting from the rooftops: our stories must be told.”

Parent Tracy Harding agrees, “We came together as strangers with something in common: coping with our children’s diagnosis through every type of obstacles life put in our way. All of us felt the therapeutic effect that comes from listening to others’ stories. Deeply identifying with every personal story. Opening our hearts and feelings with complete strangers brought us so close. Even though the disabilities were so diverse among our group our experiences were all so similar. Our anthology shows evolution and the journey from acceptance to continuing progress.”

The collection, Paperweights, is available to buy at Waterstones in Brighton  for a donation of £5. All the money raised from the sale of the books will go to the Brighton Face 2 Face appeal.

Beaumont College: Creating Catpig

Disabled students from Beaumont College have written and illustrated a children’s book called The Adventures of Catpig.


Beaumont’s Lauren Blythe says: “We created the book by hand using various craft materials, then we scanned each page into a Word document. We then printed these flat pages out and went around each character with a permanent marker due to our lack of Photoshop technology. We then scanned in our hand-edited pages and pieced them together on a Word document. The next stage was to send this document to a printing service”

“We have been lucky enough to win a creative enterprise award, which we collected at a local awards ceremony. We also did a speech using a communication device to share with the public something new they might not have seen before.”

Contact if you would like to purchase a Catpig book, mug or shopping bag!

Crowdfunding for books

Here are some examples of books looking for funding:

Tips for aspiring authors

Helping with the extra costs of disability: our new money information hub

Following the Extra Costs Commission, a year-long independent inquiry into the extra costs faced by disabled people, we’ve been working with the Money Advice Service to develop the information on our website so it has a greater focus on the needs of disabled people as consumers.

The Extra Costs Commission found that disability-specific information can be hard to find on the web unless you know it exists. As a result, we’ve created a new area of our website to provide impartial money management and cost cutting advice to disabled people.

We hope that this new hub helps to filter useful information and that our online community offers a space for disabled consumers to share shopping experiences and tips.

Extra costs of disability

On average, life costs you £550 more a month if you’re disabled. These costs make it harder to save and increase the likelihood of falling into debt. Here’s how our new hub can help:

Managing your money

To help manage the extra costs of disability, here are a few positive steps you can take:

Bank accounts, credit cards and loans

As well as free and impartial money advice, our new money section features video guides on how to choose a bank account and access to online tools that can help you compare prices.

Savvy disabled consumers

We’ve also got money saving tips on a range of consumer issues, including:

Visit our money hub to find out more, or share your own money saving tips on our online community.

15 ways to search for jobs using social media

Future Ambitions is a brand new service aimed at supporting young disabled people aged 16 to 25 in Hackney, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets into long-term sustainable employment. Here are their tips to search for jobs online and using social media:

1) Ask your friends
Post a simple, polite, professional status asking if anyone knows of a place that is hiring. You may even want to be a more specific about your needs. Ask if anyone knows of an open position in the area you want to work in. Chances are that at least one person knows about a potential job opportunity. Even better, you may have someone ask for an interview right then and there!

2) Search
Put jobs into the Google or a company’s search box and see what comes up!

3) Like company Facebook pages
What are your interests? Like pages of companies you’d like to work for. They will often post their jobs on Facebook as it’s cheaper than traditional advertising.

4) Follow companies on Twitter
Follow companies you might want to work for. They may post links to their jobs on their Twitter feeds.

5) Search hashtags
#job is a good way to see jobs posted on Twitter or Facebook, you might need to narrow down the search to UK or local area only #job

It’s best to search Twitter at times when local companies would be posting jobs, for example, 9am -5pm.

6) Job search on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is like an online CV so follow the same rules:
• Be clear with your objectives in your personal profile
• List your most recent job or training first
• Be professional
• Be honest

8) Follow companies on LinkedIn
You can also follow a company on LinkedIn, meaning all the jobs they advertise come up in your news feed.

9) Be consistent online
Use your real name on social media, keep a consistent tone and think of it as your personal empire. Of course your Facebook ‘About’ will be different from your LinkedIn profile description. If you keep the general tone similar, you’ll look in control.

10) Google yourself
A bit obvious this one, but don’t just check the first page. Beady-eyed employers will go a few pages back.

11) Request your Twitter archive
Go into your Settings. Click the Account tab. You can find how to request an archive containing all the tweets you’ve ever sent. Check over the last two years. Use programs like Tweet Eraser to search for the offending tweets.

12) Find hidden vacancies
Many employers will fill vacancies by word-of-mouth, headhunting or recruiting internally. Knowing how to get yourself in contention for these roles could give you a major boost in finding your next role.

13) Use your network
Using your network is the other main way to find hidden positions. Past employers, colleagues, friends, family and just about anyone you meet can form your network. Serious jobseekers treat even the most casual of meetings as a potential job lead.

14) Make prospective calls
Even if an employer doesn’t have any current vacancies, they may be willing to create a position if an exceptional applicant comes along. Contact companies to ask if they have any opportunities for somebody with your skills. Call the manager of the department you’re looking to work in but avoid busy times. Follow up with an email, thanking them for their time and attach a copy of your CV.

15) Contact us
Future Ambitions is supported by the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation. For more information, call 07807 799 928 or email

Games all children can play

Jackie Hagan works with disabled and non-disabled children at Scope’s inclusive nursery at Walton Children’s Centre in Liverpool. In our new video, Jackie shows how it’s easy to include all children in play with a little imagination:

View an audio description version of this film

All families are different but one thing they all have in common is that all children have the right to play.

Regardless of your child’s age or ability play is fun, relaxing and is something that you can do together.

We live in a material world, but play does not have to be expensive. Children love to play with household items which can then be put together to make a sensory box to help children explore different textures and sensations.

How many times do we see children playing with the box instead of the toy; so why not use this opportunity to paint the box together and make a den.

Communication is key to children’s development and supports their social skills. Puppets can be made from wooden spoons and surplus material, or recycle your plastic bottles and using dried pasta and colourful paper make musical shakers.

Get down to your child’s level, play and have fun!

For more tips, go to our Games All Children Can Play pages.

Please note: supervision is essential. Don’t let children play alone with homemade toys.

2014: a year in the life of Scope’s helpline

In 2014, Scope’s helpline received thousands of telephone calls and emails and responded to a huge variety of posts on Scope’s online community and social media networks. People talked about all sorts of things relating to disability, from housing to Motability, from recycling disability equipment to taking part in sport. When we add in the unique views of our information on the Scope website, all in all we reached over half a million people.

We thoroughly enjoyed hearing the reactions to the End the Awkward campaign and Strip for Scope. Thank you to all of you who got in touch with us, we enjoyed sharing your feedback.

We launched a revised version of the Parent Information Guide aimed at parents of young and newly diagnosed children and we have also been busy writing information products. Check out the Scope website for the following new information:


It’s really important that we keep up with all the changes that are happening in the disability field so we’ve been on several training courses. We’ve attended training on changes to the Welfare system including Universal Credit and PIP and we’ve learned more about Healthcare Budgets, Direct Payments, Housing, Community Care and special educational needs. One member of the team attended a two-day training session all about sleep.

Places we’ve been

Occasionally we manage to get out of the office and meet people face to face. We’ve visited some DIAL advisory groups and had a stand at Kidz in the Middle exhibition in Coventry, the UK’s largest exhibition for parents of disabled children and professionals. We were present at the SEN and Disabilities Conference at the Royal Society of Medicine and visited the Royal Bank of Scotland HQ. And we managed to get out to some Sure Start Centres.

The team

Each member of the helpline team has a specialism aligned to one of Scope’s strategic themes. As well as getting general information on all aspects of living with a disability, you can speak to us in detail about:

We also managed to fit in an office move with little disruption to the service, thanks to everyone’s hard work. And we’ve just recruited an extra team member.

The enquiries we receive on the helpline really help Scope to understand the issues that people are facing. This means that (with your permission) we can inform our colleagues what you are telling us and they can use that information to decide what campaigns or policy work we need to do. Your calls about the delays to PIP were very helpful. We collected evidence and sent it to the Department for Work and Pensions to highlight the various problems claimants were experiencing. Your calls also contributed to the work we are doing with our Extra Costs Commission. We’re always looking for stories and case studies to put forward to our stories team to raise awareness of the issues affecting the people contacting us. All of this work continues and we are excited about the new challenges ahead in 2015.

So we’ve been extremely busy supporting disabled people and parents with disabled children and we’re really looking forward to the year ahead. Thank you to everyone who has contacted us in 2014 and may we wish you all a very Happy New Year.

For free, independent and impartial emotional support or disability advice, contact Scope’s free helpline on 0808 800 3333  or You can also talk to others online.

Colour blindness, on top of everything else! What next?

Guest post from Kathryn Albany-Ward, Founder, Colour Blind Awareness.

Just over five years ago we decided to move our then seven-year-old son to a new school where he would be able to play sport every day. He is a very sporty child and was looking forward to it but within a week he was no longer keen to go to school.

Nothing strange about that you say – plenty of children would get cold feet in a new school. But the unusual thing was his reason – he said he couldn’t see who was in his team for games. This was unexpected! Even more so because his kit included a reversible rugby top – olive green on one side and maroon on the other. In-depth quizzing revealed an astonishing fact – our son couldn’t see the difference between the two colours!

Here’s why.

rugby shirts
Normal colour vision


Rugby shirts seen with deuteranopia

I didn’t initially consider these colours to be red and green so colour blindness wasn’t on my radar. Only after other incidents dragged themselves up from the depths of my subconscious, such as the time he couldn’t tell the difference between lilac and sky blue fabric conditioner in the supermarket and the trip to the fruit farm where he picked only unripe strawberries, did I finally click that he might be colour blind. Wow, he managed to learn all his colours without us, his nursery school or four primary school teachers ever having a clue he couldn’t actually see them. How did he do that?

It turns out my son has a severe colour vision deficiency (CVD) and will never be able to see some colours. Here’s what he sees:

Normal vision


Pencils seen with deuteranopia

Frustratingly his new school had no idea how to support him and I discovered that not only was there no meaningful information on the internet then, but also that colour blindness is not considered to be a Special Educational Need so there is no official guidance for teachers. Perplexingly, teachers are not trained in how to support colour blind pupils, even though 1 in 12 boys (and 1 in 200 girls) are affected – that’s one in every classroom! I found this shocking. Within a week I realised that my son was at a definite disadvantage, not just in the classroom but in everyday situations, so I set about raising awareness of colour blindness myself.

Having set up the Colour Blind Awareness website to help other parents and to provide information for schools, it took me another couple of years to realise the plight of children with CVD who also have other SENs to contend with.

I was suddenly struck by the idea of a bright non-verbal child, perhaps with severe cerebral palsy, trapped and unable to tell their carers that he can’t tell the difference between the red and green corners of his simple encoding board. I was horrified at that thought and immediately contacted Scope.  I am delighted to say that this guidance on CVD is now available on the Scope website.

Please contact Colour Blind Awareness if you have any queries and we will do our utmost to support you.

UK Disability History Month: war and impairment

1958 Adana printing machine (2)We’re in the midst of UK Disability History Month, which runs until 22 December. This year’s theme is war and impairment. To mark this, here’s an edited extract from Can You Manage Stares?, where Bill Hargreaves recalls his wartime work from running his father’s soap factory to entertaining the troops…

Soap maker

On Friday 13 December 1940, papers came from the Government, requisitioning the factory premises. The Luftwaffe had got to know where all the major aircraft factories in Britain were and so they were dispersed to other sites. One of these was my small soap works where they wanted to build Spitfire wings. We were told we had six weeks to get out of that factory and if we weren’t out they would come and forcibly remove all the machinery.

For six weeks I found myself having to cope with staff I had never had to cope with in my life, to pay them, to give them instructions, to make the soap, to fill orders, to take the orders, to see things were delivered on time and all this sort of responsibility at the age of 21.

The soap works duly closed. There was nowhere else to go, so suddenly I was out of work. Now my stepmother, to be fair to her, fought tooth and nail for me. She said, “You cannot take my son’s factory away. He is disabled. There would be nothing else for him to do.” “We can’t help that,” they said, “There is a war on.” And that was the end of my career as a soapmaker.

Counting nuts and bolts

My father took me to the nearest labour exchange but the manager said that there was nothing that he could offer. I was asked to take a job in the bus garage across the road, which had also been requisitioned. They were also making Spitfire wings and I was asked to go into the stores and sort out nuts and bolts. That’s all they thought I was fit for! I soon became very discontented with my lot.

In the end I created such a fuss about counting bolts and nuts that they said, “The only place for you is Birmingham,” but the bombs were dropping there and so many people had been killed. I said, “I couldn’t care less. I want to go where the action is.”

I obtained a post as a clerk with Vickers Armstrong at the great  aircraft factory in Erdington, where they produced 20 Spitfires a week and 40 Lancaster bombers a month.

I could not write sufficiently well and so they gave me a typewriter, which I was able to manage using two fingers. During the war the able-bodied in industry became very scarce indeed, and this gave disabled people like me a chance. As a result my employers decided to use my other skills, and I was promoted to head of a section dealing with the dissemination of modifications to Spitfire fighters and Lancaster bombers.

Entertaining the troops

I channelled all my energies into ventriloquism. During the evenings I was asked by the YMCA Travelling Theatre to go out and entertain troops in lonely gun sites throughout the Midlands area.

Most nights I used to finish work, go into the men’s cloakroom, change into a dress suit, white tie and tails, and put on stage make-up. The theatre was a large, specially adapted furniture van. When you let the side down, there was a stage with footlights and all the rest of it.  They had a piano and everything. We used to travel to a gun site, set up stage and start. Several times aircraft came overhead, the air raid sirens and the klaxon horns went and the audiences disappeared! There I was in mid-sentence suddenly without an audience and having to dive for cover myself.

I was finding myself through ventriloquism. People were seeing me as a ventriloquist and not as a disabled person. That was the making of me, really. That got me into society because I found something I could do better than most people. This was the key. I could shine. I found that my disability didn’t matter.

Can You Manage Stares? by Bill Hargreaves is available as an ebook. 

Twenty years on: Changing our name

Nigel Tuckett
Nigel Tuckett

Nigel Tuckett joined The Spastics Society on 4 January 1980 as a graphic designer. Previously Nigel had been working as the creative director in an advertising agency in Nigeria. He set up in a small office at the end of the corridor in the Society’s HQ in Park Crescent in London. It was the hot metal era of the mechanical typesetter, manual typewriter and Rotring pen – when cut and paste meant literally cut and paste! He headed the Creative Services department that brought in the new Scope brand in 1994.

Attitudes were changing

Public convenience poster
Public convenience poster

“Disabled people were starting to have more of a voice within the organisation, encouraged by the new chief executive Tim Yeo. The charity began to take a bolder stance in their advertising with a series of black-and-white posters that highlighted attitudes to disabled people. There was one showing a lift with a wheelchair user who couldn’t reach the top button. There was another which showed steps leading down to some ‘public conveniences’ which were neither public nor convenient to the wheelchair user pictured by them. The one that caused the most trouble portrayed the taxman as a bank robber with a stocking on his head and a sawn-off shotgun, stealing VAT from charities!

In the field of film, Nigel Evans was highlighting the shocking reality of long-stay ‘mental handicap’ hospitals where a boy was shown tied to a pillar in the middle of a ward.

Our name was holding us back

Despite the progressive advertising, what was holding The Spastics Society back was its name. It had become an embarrassment because of the derogatory use of the term. Companies who wanted to support us said they couldn’t because of our name. Also it was proving a difficult name to work with graphically – a three-word name plus an explanatory strap-line, “for People with Cerebral Palsy”!

Fundraisers reported feedback from potential supporters to the Executive Council. Alpha, a group of disabled people who acted as a sounding board for the organisation at that time, also told the charity that the name did not have confidence of most disabled people.

Most staff wanted the name to change but they had to stand at the back of the room, along with disabled people who also didn’t have the vote. The extraordinary general meeting voters were made up of local group representatives who were mostly parents.

It was nail-biting stuff. It was by no means certain that the local groups would vote for the change. The local groups (who were independent charities in their own right) were worried about the potential loss of income and of disappearing into obscurity.

What name?

After the vote, there was a small matter of the name. I was practically involved in meetings with branding consultants Interbrand. We produced a long list of names and then reduced them down to 15 and then just 5. We designed logos for the five alternatives and I presented them to Executive Council who then had to recommend a name to the membership. Cerebral Palsy Society was a front-runner, but there were concerns about people’s ability to say it. Capability was another possibility. Scope was just a word, wasn’t it?

There were quite a few sun motifs and also a few flags in the preliminary visuals. This was eventually echoed in the publicity stunt for the launch where the biggest flag in the world was unfurled by soldiers abseiling down the front of St Thomas’s Hospital in London, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Practical considerations

After the name Scope and its design were decided on, our in-house Creative Services department took on the task of implementing the new identity. A key element of this was developing the sub-branding where all our departments and services were united under our one main logo. We sent a questionnaire to departmental managers, fundraising shops and local groups to find out what print requirements they would have. This included letterheads, business cards, compliment slips, till receipts, swing tickets (price labels), collection boxes, posters, point-of-sale materials, information leaflets and stickers, exhibition stands and signage for our schools, skills centres and regional offices. It was an exciting time chivvying people to find out what was needed, managing multiple checklists and meeting tight production deadlines. Under the direction of the shops’ marketing manager, Chris Wallace, shop fronts were all changed overnight in 300 sites – quite a logistical feat!

In my 28 years with Scope, I wish we had been able to change attitudes more but the name change and our distinctive new branding system helped to unify the organisation and to express what we stand for more clearly.

Read our ebook on Scope’s name change.

Find out more about Scope’s history.