All posts by Alex White

Alex White is Scope's Information Content Manager.

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
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:

Pencils
Normal vision

 

Pencils seen with deuteranopia
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.

Voice recognition technology: FAQs

If I had a pound for every time I answered these questions, I could buy the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Does it work? 

Yes.

Really?

Yes.

How many words per minute can you type?

For this blog, about 30 words per minute. Normally I don’t have to produce words at speed but I would estimate that I am faster now than I was when I was working as a journalist typing with two fingers. NaturallySpeaking can type as fast as you can speak but you will have to correct any recognition errors afterwards. I would recommend this to anyone who would like to type faster.

How accurate is voice recognition?

For this article, Dragon Naturally Speaking has correctly interpreted 94% of words I have said. A further 3% required me to choose from a list of 10 words by saying ‘choose 4’ or ‘choose 7’. Even the best touch typists spell things incorrectly; Dragon Naturally Speaking will only offer me words that are in the dictionary.

The computer recognises your voice.  What happens if you have a cold?

I have used Dragon Naturally Speaking with a cold. As the computer learns from you constantly, after sessions like this I don’t save my voice files as recognition does depend on your ‘normal’ voice. You can also teach the computer to screen out unwanted noises like coughs and sneezes.

What about outside noise?

I have used my software in a busy and noisy press office quite effectively. The main problem I found there was colleagues tended to ignore me because they thought I was talking to my computer! One colleague’s sneeze was interpreted by my computer as ‘Honolulu’ and there was a door which closed with a sigh that used to come up as ‘fifth’ on my screen. You can train the computer to ignore these noises if they are persistent.

How long does it take to train?

I have trained a variety of people from actor Leslie Phillips to Dan Batten of Disability Now in an hour or so to understand the basics. Dragon Naturally Speaking’s initial training, in which you read from a variety of passages including Alice in Wonderland, takes a few minutes. This enables the computer to develop a model of your voice. It is practice that refines this model. So you can start using the software for dictation after an hour, but it really becomes efficient once you have customised it. The more you use it, the better it gets.  It’s a hell of a lot quicker and easier to learn than touch typing!

Can it do spreadsheets/tables/editing/whatever?

In theory, anything you can do with a keyboard or mouse can also be done via voice. Voice recognition technology is best for word processing and I wouldn’t recommend trying complicated design work with it just yet!

Find out more about assistive technology for disabled people on our Pinterest board.

Keep using the tablets!

Guest post from Margie Woodward, Empowerment officer at Scope.

Scope has run a pilot of 10 communication groups within all regions North, South, East and West during 2013 to enable us to communicate with disabled people in our services on matters concerning  policies and procedures, Scope’s strategic direction and future campaigns.

We also wanted individuals to try for themselves communication applications, leisure activities, networking abilities and generally experiment with technology.

Margie Woodward demonstrating the iPad

The iPad may not be accessible to all our service users but it is a start, to break down the barriers and to show disabled people in our services how such devices can change their lives.

Use of Pinterest

To share apps and other technology that might be useful and of interest to disabled people, we’ve created a couple of Pinterest groups on assistive technology and apps for leisure.

Let us know your favourites – we can all learn from each other!

Twenty years on: When I joined a newly named organisation called Scope

Writing this blog is going to make me feel very, very old.

Ben Elton with a Scope t-shirtIn 1994, I’d been out of work for 2 years on invalidity benefit (which then became incapacity benefit), but I wasn’t sure I wanted to work for The Spastics Society. It sounded old-fashioned and medical, and there were lots of spastic jokes from my childhood. (Even today if you Google Joey Deaconit will helpfully suggest “Joey Deacon jokes”.)

The promotion from ‘invalid’ to ‘incapable’ hadn’t satisfied me so I was still looking for work. When the Spastics Society became Scope, I decided to apply for its graduate scheme.

My first day was the Monday after Scope’s launch, which had been attended by up-and-coming comic Ben Elton and wispy-haired Minister of Disabled People William Hague.

Minister of Disabled People William Hague at 1994 launch of Scope
Minister of Disabled People William Hague at 1994 launch of Scope

Everyone was exhausted after two years of consultation and preparation for this major event.

The press attacked the charity for political correctness and throwing away a well-known brand. In some ways, it was just correctness. The Spastics Society was never just for people with spastic cerebral palsy, only one of three types of CP. When founding trustee Bill Hargreaves said, “I am a spastic”, it was medically inaccurate (as he well knew) as he had athetoid cerebral palsy.

“What does Scope mean?” asked the critics. The Oxford English Dictionary says, “The opportunity or possibility to do or deal with something”- it’s fair to say that this idea hasn’t gained as much traction as we might have liked. People still ask what does Scope stand for, thinking it’s an acronym. However, despite Matthew Parris’s assertion that people would call disabled people ‘Scopers’ (instead of ‘spastic’) as a term of abuse, I have never heard it.

Although it still used from time to time by high-profile Americans, ‘spastic’ as a term of abuse has become less popular in Britain. If for no other reason, less name-calling and abuse of disabled people justifies us changing to Scope. On top of which, more companies wanted to be associated with us and, more importantly, our name has become less of a barrier for disabled people and their families wanting to use our services.

If ‘spastic’ has become less used over 20 years, lots of new words have come into being. Scope began to use the word disablism in 2002 to describe discrimination against disabled people (a word coined by the disability rights movement many years before but still not discovered by Microsoft’s spellcheck).

Twenty years ago, these thoughts would not have been a blog (1997). You wouldn’t have been able to Facebook (2004) or tweet it (2006).

And there wouldn’t have been a 20-page Kindle (2007) e-book about the story of our name change either.

That’s enough new words – I must get back to twerk.

5 top tips for dealing with Christmas debt

And so begins another year. Welcome to 2014 from us here at the Scope helpline. May this year be a good one for all. Last year we saw savage cuts to the welfare state leaving our most vulnerable members of society in deep distress, anxious about their futures.

We have heard some shocking stories about how people are coping with the cuts and the challenges they’ve faced to get through each day on budgets stretched to the limit.

We wanted to turn our attention to the help available if you’re struggling with debt. At this time of year after the Christmas festivities have ended, we often look to our finances and realise that we’ve spent far too much money and have to pay it back and try to get through another year.

Here are the helpline’s top tips to help you get back on track for 2014.

1. Prioritise your outgoings

Your priority outgoings are rent/mortgage, Council Tax, utility bills and court fines. You should pay these bills first. If you are having difficulty with any of the above, please call us free on 0808 800 3333 and speak to one of our response workers or email response@scope.org.ukDon’t avoid dealing with these issues as they will get worse if left.

 2. Maximise your income

Are you getting all of the benefits you are entitled to? Try a benefits check with Turn2us – they may also be able to help you apply for other financial help.

3. Are you struggling with debt?

There are various sources of help available to help you manage your finances. You can seek help from charities such as Step Change, Money Advice Service and National Debtline. Do not pay for financial advice. There are plenty of advice agencies around who offer free advice. Avoid payday lenders who charge excessive amounts of interest and avoid debt consolidation without getting advice about this first. You can access money advice at your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, approach your local credit union and, in some areas, your local council.

4. Emergency help

If you find that you have no money for essential bills you can apply to your local council for welfare provision payments which replaced community care grants and crisis loans in April 2013. The Children’s Society has created an online database of services in your local area. Every scheme has different criteria but would usually be considered as a last resort.

5. Fuel costs

See the pages on our website to help you tackle your fuel bills and get help to reduce large utility arrears bills – see Scope’s information on helping with fuel costs.

A day in the life of an iPad

Guest blog by Margie Woodward, Scope Empowerment Officer

As part of my consultation work with users of Scope services, I have been using an iPad with disabled people who have had little access to technology before.

New technology has the power, literally, to open doors. I believe it can enable disabled people to exercise more choice and control in their daily lives.

To show what I mean, here are some examples of how an iPad can be tailor-made to an individual’s abilities and interests across a normal day…

7.00am The iPad’s alarm call wakes you up.

7.05am A light bulb moment…

It’s possible to use the iPad to control your light switches using the Wemo app.

8.00am Communicate with your support worker

Grid player is a very exciting application that enables disabled people to use symbols to get the app to speak what has been entered. By personalising the grid player, this has the potential to be a low-cost communication tool.

Speech therapists are enthusiastic about using iPads and have been assisting service users to create boards for their preferences. One person at Drummonds abandoned his much more expensive communications aid for an iPad, which he uses to communicate both in person and on Facebook!

9.00am With assisted technology from Perrero switch open door for support worker

One of our biggest breakthroughs was the discovery of a scanning switch to operate the iPad apps that uses voice over. Quite a lot of apps including music and media are accessible using the device. It is called the Perrero developed by RSL Steeper. The device is used with a single switch button.

11.00am Study

12 people at Drummonds are using the iPad to search the internet for history about Scope’s service and the artist John Constable’s relationship with the old rectory.

12.00pm Play chess

A game like Pool offers the chance to play a game that might be inaccessible otherwise. One person is playing chess independently in his own room and doesn’t need to go to the computer room to do this now!Man using iPad

1.00pm Order a taxi to go into town for shopping, a trip to the cinema or a doctor’s appointment

Someone used the Pages app to read GP’s handouts and prepare for a medical appointment. It also helped them create a one-page profile detailing their support needs and preferences.

2.00pm Shop online

The ladies at Laverneo needed new curtains for their bungalow and have been able to see what is available and what it looks like in the room. It would not be possible for all the ladies to go out together to choose but by using the iPad they are all involved in the decision of what to have.

4.00pm Skype family or friends

People in Scope services are now able to stay in touch with friends using Skype. Being able to see each other’s faces really helps those with speech impairments and people who use signing like Makaton.

5.00pm Bake a cake

An iPad can help with sequencing a task such as baking a cake. You can use switches to operate food processors too (very messy but quite fun!)

6.00pm Play Catchphrase!

At Sully day service, people are using the iPad and Apple TV for group activities like playing Catchphrase in teams. They are also experimenting with blue tooth technology for switches.

7.00pm Catch up on the news

The news group at Chester Skills Development Centre used a HDMI to IPad cable to view what was on the IPad on a TV.

Apps used by the news group are:

  • BBC Sport app
  • Coronation Street Spoiler
  • BBC Weather app
  • BBC News app
  • Stock Tracker
  • BBC Radio 1 app
  • Trading 212

9.00pm Watch a film

People can choose from a variety of online movie and TV services.

11.00pm Time for sleep…

At Rosewarne in Cornwall one person has been using the Sleep Easily meditation app, which enables her to have a restful night’s sleep.

• As part of BT’s Connected Society programme Scope, BT and the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Inclusive Design wrote a report, Enabling Technology. The report found that the key to creating enabling technology is, wherever possible, to support disabled people to create their own solutions.

Orchard Manor electric art exhibition

The young people (aged 18-26) at Orchard Manor Transition Service in Cambridgeshire will be exhibiting their UV art work from 4-14 July (Thursday to Sundays) in the Tavern Gallery, Meldreth.

Orchard Manor artists
Orchard Manor artists

This is a first for Orchard Manor and a real opportunity to let the community see some of the residents’ inspiring art work.

Art is used at Orchard Manor as a basis for skills development, providing an excellent tool for self-expression and choice-making. The young people have been involved in a variety of projects including set design (for films created in drama sessions), planning and creating a sculpture trail and making cards and bags for fundraising.

Over the last few months, the young people have been involved in UV art sessions. The studio has been fitted with Ultra-Violet lighting, which is especially beneficial for visually impaired people.

The artists are encouraged to experiment using UV paints. This includes people walking on, wheeling over, throwing objects at and pulling string along the surface of a large sheet of canvas placed on the floor.

The young people also looked at using different methods to create a painting and used large chunks of ice, which they rubbed salt into and made holes in before pouring paint over and leaving out in the sun. The finished pictures are beautiful marble-effect paintings like the one below.

UV artwork
UV artwork

UK Disability History Month

It was really pleasing to see that nearly 50 MPs signed an Early Day Motion supporting the launch of UK Disability History Month.

At a time when, quite rightly, MPs and disability organisations were focussing on the cost-cutting present, it’s worth remembering that history is important – it’s what makes us who we are, and there are many lessons we can learn from the past.

It’s also important that children today learn that the way disabled people are perceived has changed enormously within living memory. That’s not to say there isn’t ignorance and prejudice (in some so-called comedy, for example) but now disabled kids can see themselves in storybooks and can watch cool role models like Ade Adepitan and Cerrie Burnell on TV.

If disabled people are not visible in the community, the result is that nearly 40% of people (who are not disabled and do not have a disabled family member) don’t know any disabled people.

History and disabled people

And it’s the same with history. I have always felt passionately that history belongs to the people so I was glad that I could work with disabled journalist Chris Davies for Scope’s 50th anniversary to ensure that disabled people’s voices were at the forefront of his book, Changing Society.

One of the people we interviewed was the first disabled trustee and employee of Scope was Bill Hargreaves. Bill had been trying to publish his truly remarkable life story for years but couldn’t find a publisher. I promised him I’d get it into print, but sadly he died before I could – you can read Bill’s story in Can You Manage Stares?

I was pleased to lobby successfully for the inclusion of Bill as the third person with cerebral palsy in the Dictionary of National Biography, after the emperor Claudius (possibly) and Christy Brown, the author of My Left Foot.

Speaking for Ourselves

This got me thinking about who else was being ignored by history? That’s why I set up Scope’s pioneering oral history project, Speaking for Ourselves, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Sixteen disabled volunteers recorded 36 life-stories of people with cerebral palsy over 50. These 234 hours of recorded testimonies are at the British Library Sound Archive.

Our DVD teaching pack was launched in May 2006 and already there have been over 3,500 requests for packs from schools, colleges, local authorities and disability trainers throughout the UK.

As one of our volunteers said, ”Speaking for Ourselves is an exciting and valuable project. Why? Because disabled people are not included in social history. As a disabled woman with cerebral palsy, this opportunity to record our history is long overdue.”

UK Disability History Month is also long overdue; long may it continue!

All of the interviews for Speaking for Ourselves are available to researchers and the general public at the British Library Sound Archive.