All posts by danielmazliahscope

An organisation very much in its stride

Post from Scope’s new chair, Andrew McDonald 

It is exciting to be joining a charity that is clear in its purpose, clear in its strategy and ambitious in terms of what it wants to achieve. It is clear to anyone that has anything to do with Scope, that this is an organisation very much in its stride.

A huge amount of credit has to go to Alice Maynard. This is a very different organisation to the one she joined in 2008. It’s testament to her leadership. I have a tough act to follow and publicly I would like to pay tribute to Alice’s extraordinary achievements as Chair.

Why am I here?

First and foremost I’m a disabled person. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2007. Three years later, I was told I had prostate cancer, a condition that is now incurable. I have been profoundly changed by those experiences.

When first diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I wanted to get on with my life. But I also wanted to be open with my team. But colleagues advised me not to do so – “because you will be labelled as a disabled civil servant and it will end your career”.  I was really shocked. I decided I wanted to go ahead all the same because if I didn’t, I felt I was making it more difficult for the next person.  And if these attitudes persisted in the Civil Service, a relatively liberal and enlightened employer, what were things like elsewhere?

I went on to chair taskforces on disability in the civil service, each aimed at improving the lot of disabled employees. That experience left me with the clear conviction that we need to act to make our workplaces more open to discussion of illness and disability.   We need them to be safe and supportive environments in which everybody feels their voice will be heard.  And we all – disabled or not – have a responsibility to bring that about.

I know now that a diverse workplace is not just a fairer workplace: it is more likely to be a more effective workplace. At its simplest, if people come to the table with a diversity of experience, they are more likely to make better decisions.

Scope’s work on the ground, in Parliament and through campaigning to ensure disabled people get the support they need to find work and flourish in work is vital.

We need to get better at talking about disability. A recent book review of a thriller by Martin Cruz Smith noted that the author had just “admitted” to having Parkinson’s. Pause for a moment and you will see that that verb stares out at you as extraordinary. Again, Scope is on the case: Scope’s End the Awkward campaign is light-hearted but it makes a serious point.

I have learned a lot through my work on disability in the Civil Service. I have also written and lectured on my experience of disability. One of the most important insights of the last seven years – and one of my motivations – is that I have so much more to learn. Each of us has a particular, a unique experience of disability.   Recognising that and respecting it is crucial. .

What can I bring?

My first priority is to learn.  To learn about Scope and its work; to learn about how I can best make my contribution.

I have worked across government and at the most senior levels of government, developing and implementing strategies, leading organisations and delivering change. That experience has been supplemented in recent years by my time as a trustee at Action for Children and the Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

My last job was one of the toughest in the public sector. From its creation, I led the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), the body charged with sorting out MPs’ expenses and pay. It wasn’t easy. I steered it through some tricky times. I know the importance of listening when the going is tough. I know what is like to take tough, potentially unpopular decisions. And I know what it’s like to front those decisions.

I bring energy and enthusiasm for the vision and mission of Scope. From what I already know of Scope, I am clear that the next few years offer us a unique and exciting opportunity to bring about change, lasting change for disabled people. And to bring that about by putting disabled people at the heart of all we do.

I can’t think of a more motivating, or more important challenge.

(This is an edited version of Andrew’s speech at Scope’s Annual General Meeting on Saturday 18 October 2014)

Alice Maynard on her six years as Scope Chair

In October Scope’s Chair Alice Maynard steps down after six years.

Over the coming months we’ll be marking some of the big changes she has overseen.

We kick off today with Alice describing in her own words the highs and lows since 2009.

In her own words…

I’ve been Chair of Scope since 2008. I’m stepping down this year after two terms.

I’m most proud about how we’ve been able to turn the organisation around financially. Scope wasn’t in a great place. It was struggling to be sustainable. But we turned it around. That has given us the strong foundation to develop a bold, unambiguous strategy, and build an organisation ready to deliver it. We want disabled people to have the same opportunities as everyone else. Everything we do – from our care homes to our campaigns – has to reflect how ambitious we are when it comes to disability. But we have to be financially sound to be able to do this.

My background is in the private sector. Hopefully I’ve helped bust the myth that the commercial and voluntary sectors have nothing to learn from each other. We need to keep breaking down the barriers between the two and bringing learning across the divide.

Our relationship with Disabled People’s Organisations has improved. We’ve put time and effort into being an ally. I was privileged to have the launch of DisLIB as my first public event. If you want to see how far we’ve come, you just have to watch our new video on the ‘social model’. We’re a platform disabled people can use to explain in their own words to the public why thinking differently about disability makes all the difference.

We can be proud of ourselves and what we’re trying to do once again. We have helped people understand what it means to be disabled and the positive contribution we can make to society when properly supported (for instance, in managing the extra costs of being disabled).

The Olympic and Paralympic effect which, though patchy and in some ways hard to hang onto, has changed what people think is acceptable – for instance in access provision in the transport system.

In many ways, life for disabled people in 2008 was easier than it is now – it was just before the financial crisis, laws that demanded disabled people should be treated equally were being strengthened. The impact of the recession and austerity on disabled people and their families has been disastrous, taking away dignity and independence.

I think the future is a challenging place. But there are causes for optimism with the advances in technology that help people communicate, and manage their lives in innovative ways. There are real opportunities with the improvements in the built environment. But we are in danger of losing those opportunities if we don’t actively seek to capitalise on them.

People undervalue disabled people. You can see the impact from hate crime at the extreme end, to just not getting jobs because of unconscious bias at the other.

Scope in five years’ time. Stronger, louder, prouder! You can have as many Chairs in an organisation as you like, but without the volunteers, staff and supporters, nothing will happen.

A piece of advice for the new Chair of Scope? Look after Scope well – it’s precious. Keep it true to its mission in everything it does, use its resources wisely, and you can’t go wrong.

Representing disability throughout the BBC

The BBC is inviting disabled people with digital skills to a ‘Get In’ Day to hear about career opportunities. The event is at New Broadcasting House on Thursday 28 August 2014.

Ahead of the day Toby Mildon, from BBC Future Media – the team responsible for designing, developing and running digital services like iPlayer, websites and Red Button – talks about life at the BBC. He’s also a TV Disability Activator, working to make sure disability is represented within the business and on TV.

What do you do for the BBC?

I manage ‘user experience’ and design projects for news, the website or apps, and help commission digital agencies to do work for us. I also look after our Diversity Action Plan, which is an initiative to encourage more disabled people to join the BBC in both technological areas, and across the business. I advise our Director of TV on how disability is portrayed on our screens.

Every day is different – I might be brainstorming a project plan, writing a report for our leadership team detailing how a project is going, facilitating a creative workshop, drafting a contract, arranging pitches or meeting a head of commissioning to discuss disability stories and presenters; the list goes on.

What is the secret of your success?

I think it’s important to have three things in life: a back bone (and mine is reinforced from a spinal fusion!), a wish bone and a funny bone. If you have determination, dreams and a sense of humour, you’ll go far. I’ve managed to ‘tune into’ and be passionate about jobs that inspire me, which in turn motivates me. I believe in the BBC’s mission to inform, educate and entertain the world, and as long as I’m making a difference, I’ll enjoy my work. I’ve had several mentors and coaches to help me accelerate my career, including one through a Creative Diversity Network mentoring scheme.

What do you like about the BBC and working for it?

I believe in our mission, and I am proud of the high quality and world-class services and content that we produce. I work with really talented people who continue to inspire me. I’m also autonomous in my work – my line manager doesn’t micro-manage me, and I relish this freedom. For example, I’m able to write this article on the train so I can leave the office early, which helps with my life/work balance, and therefore my health.

I like that there’s quite a few disabled people in the office, so I’m not the ‘odd one out’. I have 24/7 care and my PA accompanies me to work to help with everything from feeding and going to the toilet, to moving around the office and scanning documents. The staff working at the Access Unit met me on my first day to assess me for what reasonable adjustments I needed, and later when my arms weakened, they made further adjustments, such as putting Dragon Dictate on my laptop.

What do you think are the main false perceptions around disability and employment?

I believe there are three top false perceptions about disabled people: That they are too costly to hire i.e. adjustments needed and sick leave etc; They don’t have the same stamina as non-disabled folk; They are somehow less intelligent.

All three are complete rubbish, and have been disproven by academics and government research time and time again! Disabled people need the confidence to see themselves as resilient and resourceful individuals, which is crucial for work. It’ll be a slow change because it’s about altering staunch attitudes. We need a combination of direct action, policy lobbying and disabled role models spreading positive vibes to make a difference.

Finally, what advice would you give to individuals with disabilities wishing to work at the BBC or in media?

If you’re the kind of person who is happy to take a leap of faith, just apply now through BBC Careers. If you’re fresh out of university, or have little work experience, check out our twice yearly extend internships for disabled people. If you need more input then seek careers help from a professional coach or mentor. A lot of it is about making connections and networking, so start talking to people and getting yourself known, online or in person. It’s so easy today to make connections through websites such as Meetup, LinkedIn or Twitter – you could even put a tweet out to try and organise work shadowing or work experience.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP to toby.mildon@bbc.co.uk by attaching a copy of your CV. Spaces are very limited and by invitation only. The BBC will provide Reasonable Adjustments for anyone selected to attend.

A version of this blog first appeared on Disability Horizons.

That Awkward Moment

A new romcom ‘That Awkward Moment’ has got us thinking about disability and awkwardness.

On the Scope blog we regularly hear from disabled people about attitudes to disability.

It can be serious. 

But more often than not it’s what you could call innocent ignorance.

And the results can be comedy gold.

Nothing beats Adam Hill’s line from the opening show of The Last Leg.

“I had someone ask me, when I said I had an artificial right leg: ‘Can you still have sex?’ Yeeeeeaah?! What does your husband do? Take a run up?”

Here are some bloggers on their favourite awkward moments.

Blogger Wheeler Wife lists some of her favourite Awkward Wheelchair Moments.

“Passing people in the hallway who plaster themselves to the wall in an attempt to let you pass by. Just last week a 250+ pound construction worker dropped what he was working on and assumed a body search position against one wall with arms and legs outstretched, panicking that he had not created enough space for me to get by. “Oh, you’re ok, I can get by,” I replied.”

We also like this post about a train journey from Danny Housley, the Social Media Coordinator for disABILITY LINK.

“I’m sitting by the door, getting ready to head to an National Federation of the Blind meeting and these people across the aisle from me are staring, and I mean staring hard. I’m pretty sure they were looking so hard that my face was almost bruised.  Anyway, the mother/guardian of these people (they were mid to late teens) leans in and whispers for them to stop looking.  They didn’t. Instead, they start waving and making faces, at which point I lean over and say: “It’s gonna freeze like that.” They looked horrified and the mother nearly fell out of her seat laughing (and then immediately turned on them for a scolding).”

Finally, it’s not real, obviously, but we thought we’d also stick in Francesca Martinez’s appearance in Extras…the whole episode is one big awkward moment.

This year we’re going to be launching a new bid to make people think differently about disability – we think we need to start talking about why these moments become so awkward.

To kick things off, we want to hear your awkward disability moments. Let us know below:

Honorary degree for Scope’s Chair

Alice MaynardScope’s Chair, Alice Maynard, has been recognised for her significant contribution to society by the University of York. The University, where Alice also did an undergraduate degree, has given her an honorary degree.

Alice has been chair of Scope since 2009. She is also founder of Future Inclusion Ltd, which works to encourage good governance, inclusive practice and ethical business.

Alice was previously Head of Disability Strategy at Network Rail, and in 2001 was seconded to Transport for London where she developed its first social inclusion plan.

Here is an extract from an interview with York Vision, in which Alice describes what the honorary degree means to her…

Firstly, congratulations! What does honorary degree from the University of York mean to you? 

Thank you. It’s amazing. It’s a bit like getting to the top of Everest (not that I ever have) without actually having to make the effort to get there. It was great getting the doctorate that I’d worked for, but I’d worked for it, whereas this is a real gift and an honour.

You have BA in Language from the University of York. How did your time at York help you become what you are today? 

I had a great time at York. I learned a huge amount – not just about language and linguistics. It was a time when I really became a grown-up. I began to understand what I was capable of in the big wide world. I was effectively a fairly small fish in a big pond rather than being the big fish in the small pond that I had been in the girls only special school I went to as a teenager. But I did end up using my language and linguistics. When I left York I was working in the IT industry, and my second job involved localising a US product for the European market. I found my linguistics really useful for that. It made me a valuable team member, and enabled me to demonstrate what I was really capable of and really shine. It was in that job, and the subsequent job with another US company, that I really established myself in business and laid the foundations that helped me get my MBA, set up companies, and even chair Scope.

What are the biggest challenges for disabled graduates entering the labour market in 2014? 

There are enormous challenges for any graduates entering the labour market in 2014. When I graduated, it wasn’t all sweetness and light – I had a choice between two jobs and, fortunately, the one I chose was secure. Had I chosen the other, I would have lost it straight away. They rescinded their offers to all graduates because of the economic conditions at the time and several of my student friends were affected. But I guess today part of the issue is there are just more graduates now than there were in 1980. So if you’re disabled, the competition is even more fierce, and although the attitudes of many employers have improved over the years, disabled employees can still be seen as a potential burden on the firm rather than a really valuable potential employee. Disabled graduates need to demonstrate even more strongly, therefore, what their ‘unique selling point’ is and find a company that will appreciate them. But they still need to look for somewhere they can work that they can really passionate about, though, because if you enjoy your work you’re most likely to shine – and doing something you hate is pretty miserable anyway!

What do you hope to achieve as chair of Scope?

At the very least, I’d like to think I’ll leave the organisation in a better place than I found it and give the next chair a solid foundation to build on. But really I want to make sure that when I step down in October this year I leave an organisation that is fit for the future and better able to achieve its vision of a world where disabled people have the same opportunity to achieve their life ambitions as everyone else does. To do that, I have to make sure that the Board is fit for purpose: that the right people with the right skills, who are passionate and knowledgeable about the issues, are round the table, and that they work effectively as a team. Then they can both support and challenge the Chief Executive and his senior team as they implement our strategy so Scope can drive the change in society that will move us all ever closer to that vision.

Care, employment and families – big week for disability

It may be the last week before Christmas, but politicians are making time between mince pies and mulled wine to look at a couple of important disability issues.

Today MPs have their first opportunity to debate the Government’s plans for reforming local care – including capping care costs for elderly and an end the postcode lottery in care.

Councils say the crisis in social care sits behind big health issues such as pressure on A&E and GPs – if older and disabled people don’t get preventative, community care, they risk becoming isolated and slipping into crisis.

The Care and Support Alliance – representing 75 charities – is today saying that the bill is a real achievement but risks being undermined by a funding black hole which has forced councils to restrict who gets support.

The CSA has published new research from the LSE that reveals that if we had the 2008 care system today another half a million disabled and older people would get preventative, community support.

Sitting behind this is massive, historic under-funding. Government spending on social care would have had to rise by an additional £1.6 billion just to keep pace with demographic pressures. Instead councils have had to reduce their budgets by £2.6bn in the last three years alone, according to social services directors.

The story is on Sky News and in the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Times.

Meanwhile Scope has been asking disabled people to talk about why social care is important to them and encouraging the public to show that it thinks the Government needs to act on care.

Then on Tuesday the Government is going to be talking about getting more disabled people into work.  This is a huge issue. And it’s great that the Government is committed to tackling it. BBC’s In Business programme last week, which previewed some of the announcement, is worth a listen.

We’ll also be looking out for news on Children and Families Bill tomorrow.

Families have told us that they really struggle to the support they need in their local area. This bill will mean that councils will have to publish a ‘Local Offer’ of services available in the local area. Local agencies like education and the health services will have to work together better to plan and commission services for disabled children.

These are positive moves but we have been pushing for stronger guarantees that families with disabled children and young people will be able to hold local agencies to account for the delivery and quality of services set out in the Local Offer. Without this, families will be left with the same battles they encounter now in trying to get support. We’ll be keeping a close on the crucial final stages of the bill.

National Paralympics Day: join the legacy debate

Saturday is the first National Paralympics Day. It’s one more chance to relive the magic of London 2012.

The spotlight will again be on Queen Elizabeth Park. Here’s a plug from Paralympic Judo bronze medallist Ben Quilter:  “There are elite sport matches taking place at the Copper Box Arena, opportunities to meet Paralympic athletes, come-and-try sessions for people to get involved in, and the fantastic Liberty Festival to experience”.

The milestone is also another chance to ask if the Paralympics improved daily life for disabled people.

To mark National Paralympics Day we’re publishing exclusive new interviews with gold medal-winning Paralympian Sophie Christiansen – who’s going to be at Queen Elizabeth Park this weekend – and Tyler Saunders, who left his job last year to make it in wheelchair basketball.

Paralympian Sophie Christiansen asks ‘Did the Paralympics improve the lives of disabled people?’

Professional wheelchair basket player Tyler Saunders  says “Disabled sports have slipped back into the shadows.”

Here is an interview with Tyler reflecting on a what’s happened since London 2012, and here’s Tyler doing pull ups sat in his wheelchair!

And check out disabled entrepreneur (and good friend of Scope) Martyn Sibley. He’s setting off on an epic journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End in his electric wheelchair. Martyn hopes to raise awareness of the challenges disabled people face and how they can be overcome… even if you’re not a gold medal winning Paralympian.

For Scope it is really important that we ask disabled people about legacy.

The Government had big ambitions for how the Paralympics could change the lives of all disabled people (not just Paralympians), and although legacy is a long term project, a year on is a good time to ask how it’s going.

The legacy debate has been bubbling away for the last month.

In July the Government published independent research. Well known former Paralympians had their say. Scope has been asking disabled people, what they thought, and in August we published a summary of their views.

Overwhelming people said that 2012 was an incredible moment, but that one year on legacy is in danger of going off course as a result of hardening attitudes to welfare and a crisis in living standards for disabled people.

There’s still time to join the debate. We want to hear your hopes for Paralympics legacy and what needs to be done to achieve it. Tell us on Facebook or tweet using #paralympicseffect and #NPD13.

Have the Paralympics improved the daily lives of disabled people?

To mark the anniversary of the Paralympics we wanted to know if disabled people thought London 2012 has improved their lives.

Lord Coe says legacy is a ten year task, but this is a useful point to ask how things are going.

In July the Government argued that the “Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”.

Two well-known former Paralympians – Ade Adepitan and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – have recently had their say.

But the views of ordinary disabled people are missing from the debate.

Over the last month we’ve been gathering their comments and opinions – through a poll of a thousand disabled people, through social media and also by looking at what they’ve been telling Scope recently about their lives in 2013.

We think this provides pretty compelling evidence that the Paralympics Legacy hangs in the balance.

There’s lots of ways to tackle the issue of legacy.

But we thought we’d take as our starting point, what the Government said it was hoping for: a change in attitudes and improvements participation in sport and community engagement.

We review these ambitions below and also on the Scope blog publish a collection of quotes and comments from the disabled people we spoke to.

Changing attitudes

Disabled people feel strongly that what’s said publicly is crucial in shaping attitudes. Behind this is the shocking fact that 90% of Britons have never had a disabled person in their house for a social occasion.

So it’s no surprise that disabled people, charities and the Government all saw the Paralympics as an opportunity improve hardening attitudes.

And – in the short term at least – most people think it did just that.

Surveys in the aftermath of the games pointed to an improvement in public attitudes. Lord Coe declared that ‘we’d never view disability in the same way’.

Scope’s new poll backs this up. Some 70% of disabled people think that the coverage of the Paralympic games had a positive effect on public perceptions.

Scope’s chair Alice Maynard describes the Paralympics as “a breakthrough moment”. She says: “Disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly”

But where are we one year on?

Recent Government figures show that over half of a sample of the public (regardless of whether they are disabled or not) said the Paralympics gave them a positive view of disability.

There have been moments when – like in 2012 – positive disabled role models have had a high profile in the media. Channel 4 brought back the Last Leg. Comedian Francesca Martinez hailed comedy as the new Paralympics following disabled comedian Jack Carroll star-turn on Britain’s Got Talent.

British double leg amputee and Paralympic Gold medalist, Richard Whitehead, is running a marathon a day this summer from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

But our new poll suggests that despite all this, disabled people remain concerned by public attitudes to disability.

81% of disabled people say that attitudes towards them haven’t improved in the last twelve months – with 22% saying that things have actually got worse.

Of the respondents who have experienced a decline in people’s attitudes over the past year, 84% think media coverage of benefit claims and the welfare system has had a negative effect on public attitudes.

That last point is crucial.

Despite welfare fraud being 0.7% of the benefits budget, the Government regularly contrasts the hard working person gets up early for work, to his benefits claiming neighbour’s whose blinds are pulled.

Cabinet members have had their wrists slipped for misusing welfare statistics. But people continue to think benefit fraud is worse than it is.

Tanni Grey-Thompson recently summed up the impact of the myth that most people who claim benefits are scroungers: “I’ve lost track of the number of letters from disabled people who have been spat at in the street…One letter I received described how a disabled person was in a bus queue and someone came up and started asking them how many thousands in benefits they were costing.”

The Government’s own analysis of 2012 legacy raises this as an issue. Against this back drop, it says: “How long the uplift in public attitudes will last is more questionable”.

That’s why Scope is using the anniversary to call on the Government to halt the scrounger rhetoric once and for all.

Participating in sport and engaging in the community

One important fact first: the 2012 had a huge impact on Paralympics sport. As the head of the British Paralympics Association recently underlined, its profile and its funding are both greatly improved. Paralympians go to Rio with huge confidence.

But for ordinary disabled people the jury’s out.

The Government says “Participation in sport and recreational activity by disabled people increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2012 from 2005/06”.

Sport England says 362,000 more disabled people now play sport than in 2005, but it is estimated that only 18% of disabled adults undertake physical activity for more than 30 minutes a week, and those with impairments are still around half as likely to be active than their able-bodied counterparts.

This is echoed in Scope’s poll, which reveals only 10% felt that the Paralympics had inspired them to take up a new sport or re-visit a sport they once did.

Meanwhile when it comes to volunteering, the Government says: “The Games also opened up a range of volunteering, cultural and sporting opportunities for disabled people that did not exist before. Participation in volunteering by disabled people increased year-on-year to 2012, compared to 2005/06, and 4% of Games Maker volunteers had a disability.

But Research by Disability Rights UK and Community Service Volunteers has found evidence that many people with disabilities are experiencing a surprising level of difficulty in finding volunteering roles.

As Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said recently: “If you can’t get out of bed or get washed in the morning, then you can’t change the way people think, you can’t take part in sport and you are not going to be involved in the community.”

Disabled people have three big challenges before they even get to the sports club or volunteering centre: getting the basic support from their council, getting about and paying the bills.

Getting the basic support

Disabled people rely on support from their councils to get up, get dressed, get washed and get out of the house.

But councils have been upping the bar for eligibility, with 83 per cent of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system. Support for those in the system is being squeezed. A Scope survey found almost 40 per cent of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs.

Angela from Luton talks about the impact this has on her.

The Government recently committed to investing £3.8bn in social care and its Care Bill reforms are introducing a cap on costs and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care.  But the Government has also said the plans will set as standard the higher level that most councils have moved to. According to the London School of Economics (LSE) this will leave 105,000 disabled people outside of the system.

Paying the bills

Life becomes more expensive if you’re disabled and you’re more likely to be on a low income if you are disabled. Living costs are spiraling and income is flatlining for everyone. But recent research showed just how tough things are for disabled people.

One in ten disabled people have used doorstep loans, compared to just 3% of the general population. Fifteen per cent of disabled people – over double the rate for the public (7%) – use loans to make ends meet.

Here’s Susan from Ealing talking about her financial predicament.

What’s the Government’s response to the financial crisis facing disabled people? It is taking away £28bn of financial support, sticking with both the broken system for deciding if disabled people are entitled to out-of-work support and the discredited Work Programme, which has spectacularly failed to support disabled people into work.

Accessibility

There was an ambition for the 2012 Games to be the ‘most accessible ever’ and TFL in particular took measures to improve accessibility. But in 2013 it remains a fact that 66 of the 270 Tube stations are step-free. ONS data shows that nearly half disabled people have had issues access leisure activities.

Scope polling suggests the real issue when it comes to accessibility people’s willingness to do something different or be flexible to accommodate a disabled person. Last summer 76% of disabled people told us they have experienced people refusing to make adjustments or do things differently. We regularly hear from disabled people who talk about this issue. Buses don’t stop. You’re not let into a club or bar because you ‘look drunk’.

As Scope’s Tom Hall recently told Marketing Week, disabled people and their families represent 20 million potential customers. Both local businesses and big brands should be doing so much more to tap into the £80bn purple pound.

Disabled people and their families debate the ‘Paralympics Effect’

What difference did the Paralympics make to the lives of disabled people? Did it change attitudes? Did it increase opportunities to play sport or volunteer?  Disabled people, their friends and family have their say on whether the Paralympics has made the country a better place for disabled people.

#ParalympicsEffect


Sophie Christiansen OBE
, London 2012 Paralympic Games triple gold medal-winning equestrian, said:
“During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Great Britain saw what disabled people could do. It was a turning point in perception. However, it was just the start. Just like not every able bodied person is not going to run as fast as Usain Bolt, not every disabled person is going to be a Paralympian. The challenge is now bridging the gap between the disabled community and Paralympians. The government’s initiative for role models is key to this to show that you can achieve in anything, whether it be in business, the arts, sport, academia, media, even if you have a disability.”

Richard Whitehead MBE, London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medal winner, said:
 “The 2012 Paralympics sent a powerful message that a disability shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals. We hopefully inspired disabled people. We hopefully made the public think differently about disability. For me it’s not about looking back. We need to look forward. You don’t have the Paralympics every day, so how else can we show the world what’s possible once you start living a life without limits?”

Martyn Sibley, co-founder of Disability Horizons, is travelling in his wheelchair from John o’Groats to Land’s End to celebrate the Paralympics effect. He said:
“I was spellbound by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it wasn’t just the sport… it was the electricity in the air, it was the collective community consciousness and for me it was about the big bright light put on disability never before witnessed in the four corners of the UK.”

Marie Andrews, 30, from Milton Keynes volunteers two days a week at a centre for integrated living where she gives advice to disabled people. She agrees that the Games changed the way people think:
“I’ve noticed a shift in attitudes since the Paralympics. People in the street are not staring as much, they’re not as judgmental. I think the Paralympics helped the public realise that just because someone is disabled, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve. They are seeing disability in a new light. Don’t get me wrong, I still get looks but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.

Alice Boardman from Lancashire is the mother of two boys with autism aged six and seven. She said:
“I feel frightened for the future with the budget pressure on all services.  It seems we are in a fast accelerating downward spiral with being able to care for disabled people. But the Paralympics has given me huge confidence that disability is slowly becoming more socially integrated and celebrated in a positive way.  It felt like the first event that truly combined the able and disabled worlds in joint appreciation of the talents of disabled sportsmen and women, and I hope this will continue to ripple in a positive way though other areas of society.”

‘Could do better’

Alison Walsh, Channel 4 disability executive, said in response to what more the media should do:
“My answer is just do it. Less talk more action. Be prepared to take some risks with new talent – find people who are right and work hard to develop programmes that are right for them. The Paralympics gave Channel 4 a vehicle for disabled sports presenters but they can’t just be dusted off every four years, and they shouldn’t be confined to presenting disability subjects; they must be developed on as presenters who can work across different sports and all sorts of genres.

“Cast disabled actors in roles not written as disabled characters. Don’t forget to cast disabled contributors wherever you are featuring general public in reality or factual entertainment shows. Stop airbrushing us out! Behind the screen the same – take risks, make an effort to attract the talent. And disabled people – bash down our doors…”

Speaking on the link between comedy and attitudes, comedian Francesca Martinez said:
“I bet Jack Carroll’s jokes helped a few people think differently about what it means to be disabled. Like me, Jack uses humour to challenge attitudes to disability, much in the way that Britain’s Paralympians did with their amazing achievements last summer. A year on from the games, it’s got me thinking: could comedy be 2013’s Paralympics?

“I think disability is normal – it has always existed. It’s not abnormal because it’s part of life. Of course it brings struggles, but many of those struggles come from society’s inability to deal with difference.

“Comedy lets us tackle ‘difficult’ subjects in a light-hearted way. It lets you by-pass the discomfort that bubbles up when people worry too much about what to say. I try to turn people’s fears into jokes, because I find that people are more receptive if you make them laugh. And, do you know what? Disability can be funny! Some people think I’m talking about an issue, but I just talk about my life, which is what every comic does.”

Jane Jones from Cornwall, is the mother of a Jacob who is disabled:
“I feel that while the Paralympics gave families of disabled people hope and inspiration, since then the steady decline of funding and respect for disabled people from many places has made it harder to cope.”

Mandy (via Facebook): “I feel it did make a difference at the time but the attitude is swiftly changing back due to poor reporting making people with disabilities look like ‘scroungers’, or worse. Is this what the government wants?”

Pauline (via Facebook): “The attitudes of many have changed I think on a practical level access, facilities etc there has not been a lot of change and there needs to be more done”

Lizzy (via Facebook): “The Paralympic Games really excited my son he wants to compete but in our area there are no sports for disabled people let alone disabled children. Our local swimming pool is not very accommodating either.”

#ParalympicsFail

Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now:
“The thing about the Paralympics always was that they happened in this bubble of hyper reality. Real life for disabled people was never going to be like that again. So now here we are with people under threat of losing their social housing homes, others left stranded on a work programme which doesn’t work for them, people dreading the all-too-real eventuality of losing a disability benefit.”

Jenny (via Twitter): “Paralympics showed us great achievements but #ParalympicsFail as government and media give scrounger image”

Angela Murray is a disabled former volunteer of the year from Luton she said:
“There’s no middle ground in the way the media think about disabled people: we‘re either lazy benefit scroungers or people to be pitied. I don’t want the public thinking I’m sitting at home demanding benefits but neither do I want people to be sympathetic to the point of patronising.”

“I’ve had people look down on me and say stuff like ‘do you think you can’t work just because you use a wheelchair?’ But at the same time I’ve had people say ‘of course you can’t work, you’re in a wheelchair.’ Neither attitude is helpful.”

“I remember one interviewer being really impressed with me. He practically told me I’d got the job before the interview was over. But I saw his face change when I asked him to help me get out of the building because I couldn’t get through all the doors. That was it. I knew I had no chance.”

Pauline (via Facebook): “No decent member of society can possibly agree with what is happening. It is undoing all the good that the Paralympics did to change attitudes. Life is so difficult for everyone it should not be made even more so for some members of our society who need and have a right to financial help.”

Helen (via Facebook): “Any positive attitudes the games produced has disappeared because of how the Government and the media are portraying disabled people as benefit scroungers and workshy within their welfare reform hype.”

Rebecca (via Facebook): “Rubbish – and given the fact that many Paralympians will face losing their DLA over the coming years, their “opportunities” are likely to decrease, rather than increase. And as for public perceptions – seeing superhuman paralysed people or amputees running/swimming etc, just made many people say “well if HE can do that, why can’t you…?”

John (via Facebook): “My sons special needs school has lost its sports field don’t get me started in this subject, I only have to walk into Starbucks to find teenagers mocking my 13 year old son with regards to his disability.”

Paula (via Facebook): “No definitely no improvement. I was told by someone that being disabled I should look to the Paralympics to see what I could achieve if i tried. My husband can ride a bike but he’s no Chris Hoy…..”

Loretta (via Facebook): “No attitudes haven’t improved. Sport is still extremely exclusive. My son has no provision to play tennis competitively as he has cerebral palsy and autism. Advice from the LTA is to put him in a wheelchair so he can play wheelchair tennis as they don’t cater for other levels of physical impairment!”

Scope wants to know what you think. Leave a response below, let us know on Facebook or
tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

Meet our new Director of Communications

Mark Atkinson
Mark Atkinson

Mark Atkinson, who’s currently Director of External Affairs at Ambitious about Autism, is starting as Scope’s new Director of Communications and Marketing in October.

Mark has worked at Ambitious About Autism for three and a half years where he has led the introduction and development of a new brand and identity. Before that Mark worked at the Youth Sport Trust,Citizens Advice and the Local Government Association.

Here he explains why he’s excited to be joining Scope and some of the important lessons he’s learnt in his career.

What was your big break?

I spent four years working for the Citizens Advice service and was asked to lead the charity’s response to a review of its statutory funding. It was known as a ‘zero based review’ – meaning that you start from position of the charity receiving no financial support from government and work upwards until you reach a figure where the charity could ‘function reasonably’.  There was a huge risk to the organisation and the network of bureaux. I managed to protect the money that came from Government into the Citizens Advice service by demonstrating the reach, impact and overall return on investment. It was a great campaign and I learnt a lot about how to influence, manage relationships and the importance of keeping focused. The experience helped me to get my next job at Citizens Advice – which was to lead a large communications team.

What’s one important lesson you’ve learnt?

I’m a firm believer in trusting your instincts. That’s not to say that evidence doesn’t matter because clearly it does, but I do believe that your first assessment of a situation or opportunity is often reasonably accurate.

What excites you about Scope?

I have been a long-time admirer of Scope having worked in the third sector for much of my career. The opportunity to join the organisation as it works to embed an ambitious strategy is one that could not be missed. I can’t think of a more exciting communications and marketing challenge than changing society so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. I looking forward to joining the team and supporting Scope to grow its brand and influence over the coming years.

Have you had a notable mentor?

I’ve worked with some incredibly talented people throughout my career. I learnt a great deal from Phil Swann when we worked together at the Local Government Association. He was the Director of Strategy and Communications and was the brains behind the LGA’s policy and campaigns effort. He is massively creative, thoughtful and, importantly for me, he has a great sense of humour.  Working with Phil was a real highlight of my career and, more than anything, I learnt that you have to keep resolutely focused on the end goal and not get too distracted by the tactical issues that come along.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing disabled people?

I’ve worked for a disability charity for the past three and a half years and so I know that life is really challenging for many disabled people. There is a toxic mix brewing across society which is fueled by a significant reduction in public expenditure, meaning that local services are harder than ever to access, combined with a deeply unpleasant narrative around those who rely on the welfare state for support. Disabled people and their families are disproportionately paying the price and, more than ever, Scope has a critical role to play in changing attitudes across society.

Read the press release from Scope