All posts by Mike Rayment

Stories Officer at Scope

At the Commonwealth Games people said, ‘I didn’t realise you could throw that far’.

As another successful Commonwealth Games draws to a close in Australia we spoke to 2014 discus gold medalist Dan Greaves and  Laura Turner about the past, present and future of inclusive sport. 

Dan Greaves

I was very fortunate to be involved in the Commonwealth Games in 2014, it was an incredible experience. People came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I didn’t realise you could throw that far’. It was really great to demonstrate how powerful Parasport is and make an impact.

I came from a sporty background so I was pushed into sport and loved it. I was a swimmer first. Watching Adrian Moorhouse, Sharon Davis, those kinds of people, on TV doing so well at the Olympics. Atlanta in 1996, Linford Christie and Sally Gunnel. I was in school then, practising waving to the crowd at opening ceremonies. Four years later, I went to Sydney for my first Paralympics.

The impact of London 2012

You can still see the domino effect of London 2012. There are more people trying to get active and schemes popping up left, right and centre. It just shows you that there’s an interest in sport. If you really, really want to do it then it doesn’t take as long as you think.

Sprinter Laura Sugar, who has the same condition as me, told me that she was inspired after seeing an advert for London 2012 where I was talking about my disability. It took me back a bit, we get so wrapped up in our little world. So for her to then reach the Paralympic games, I was gobsmacked.

So, had we not had London 2012 we might not have had people like Laura now involved in sport. The more we can do to help promote it, get a bit of nostalgia going and keep it in people’s minds. It’s always going to be strong because we’re such a sport mad country.

Athletes of the future

Npower launch partnership with Team England
Dan and Denise Lewis with school kids

I’m now working with Npower and Team England to go into schools and encourage more kids to take up sport. It’s amazing to see how enthused they are. When I was growing up I didn’t have that opportunity and I would have really relished someone to come and show me their medals or talk about their experiences.

Just to give the opportunity to younger kids to say that they can do it and go on the same journey that other athletes have done. I hope I inspired some future champions –disabled or not. Sport is for everyone.

We’ve come leaps and bounds, a lot more people now understand Paralympic sport and they really enjoy it. When I was doing Paralympic sport in 2000 there wasn’t much media coverage, I think three members of the press came to greet us at the airport. Years later, at London 2012 Channel 4 had to put on an extra show because people wanted to watch it so much.

I think there are more opportunities now being given to disabled people across the UK to actually take up sport and they now know how to access those sports. When I was starting out I didn’t know who to contact or what organisation to go to. It just shows you now there’s been a complete overhaul and a lot more access for disabled people.

Laura Turner

Allowing Para-events to take place alongside main competition is fantastic. It gives spectators and supporters the opportunity to see just how much of an impact sport has on disabled people, both physically and mentally.

Laura Turner
Laura (left) competing with her co-pilot

Following its debut in Rio, it was great to see the Para Triathlon at this year’s Commonwealth Games, to see swimmers still get medals after being reclassified and new world records being set in Para Cycling.

Everyone should have the opportunity to take part in sport or do physical activity. I was 12 years old when I was introduced to sport, looking back this was too late in life. The Gold Coast set out to ‘share the dream’. I hope that the Games have inspired disabled people to want to have a go and I hope that Birmingham can do England proud in 2022.

Have the Commonwealth games inspired you? Let us know on Twitter

Find out how Npower and Team England are inspiring the next generation of athletes

Thanks to these mums, we’re getting closer to equality

This year for Mother’s Day we wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the mums who are campaigning and raising awareness to make everyday equality for disabled people a reality. ‘Not all heroes wear capes’ and thanks to their work, the world will be a better place, not just for their children but for your children too.

We wish we could thank you them all individually but, for now, here are the stories of just a few of the incredible mums we’ve been working with.

Christie

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Christie and her daughter Elise

Last year, among many other things, Christie starred in a Scope video talking about inaccessible play areas. The video was picked up by someone at the local park committee and a fundraiser was started. As a result, enough money was raised to make Christie’s local park accessible not just for her daughter Elise but all disabled children in the area. Christie also does a lot of awareness raising in the media and started her own Facebook page.

“As a family, you want to be out doing things but nobody ever seems to think about disabled children. I feel like Elise misses out because the world is still not accessible. Sometimes I don’t want to go to places, which means I’ll sit in the house and get angry at the world, then get sad for Elise, and sad for my older daughter Lucy.  But instead of letting it get to me, I’ve decided to change the world instead.

I started a Facebook page called Elise Smashed It. I want everyone to see what an amazing little girl Elise is. I hope it raises awareness and changes perceptions about disability. I want to help other parents too and show them that there is hope. It might not be the life you were expecting, but it’s not the end – it’s just the start of a different life and you’re not alone.”

Marie

Marie w flowers
Marie at the park with her son Mark

Marie has worked with us on some of our biggest campaigns including The Disability Price Tag and Work With Me. Marie’s motivation to fight for everyday equality is her son Mark. Her impairment doesn’t affect her ability to be a great mum, but she’s told us about unfair barriers that have an impact on family life.

“As a mum, I’m just like any other parent – disability doesn’t change anything – but I do face unfair barriers that have an impact on family life. I need a new wheelchair but it will cost £9,000 and we’ve been told we have to pay for that ourselves – which we can’t afford. I feel guilty as a parent because when my wheelchair breaks I haven’t been able to do things with my son Mark, like take him to the park.

Mark is always doing things and he most definitely doesn’t see me as anything other than ‘mum’, but he shouldn’t have to miss out. Something needs to change because it’s not fair. We should be able to do things like any other family.

My husband Dan and I have started making an album for Mark, for when he is much older, to show him all the times I have done things for magazines and TV, to raise awareness and create change.”

Sarah

SarahB
One of Sarah’s many ‘toilet selfies’ – to raise awareness of inaccessible toilets

Sarah is a campaigning to improve the accessibility of toilets and bathrooms in the UK. Her blog about her son Hadley has significantly raised awareness of the issue, including her toilet selfie advent calendar that went viral in December.

“Hadley was about three years old when he got too big for baby changing units. I realised my only other option was lying him on the floor, which was a bit of a shocker.

Until then I believed accessible toilets contained everything a disabled person needs. It was a huge eye opener for me. I decided there and then that I needed to get involved in campaigning.

In the long term I don’t want Hadley being an adult and having to fight his fight. If we don’t stand up for our kids who else will?”

Carly

Carly UN
Carly and her daughter ‘following in her footprints’ at the United Nations

It took 32 years for Carly to get her autism diagnosis, after years of being misunderstood and brushed off by professionals. Now Carly works tirelessly to raise awareness of autism and girls and create equality for people with autism . As a single mum to three daughters, two of whom are also autistic, she’s creating a better future for them and setting a wonderful example as a role model. This year Carly was awarded an MBE for her work, which notably includes a speech at the United Nations.

“In 2008, I was told by educational staff that it was impossible that I could have two autistic daughters because autism only happens to boys. Every book I picked up to try to understand and support my daughters all referred to ‘he’ or ‘my son’. There was nothing for girls. I just thought why? I’ve been working to change that ever since.

It’s a really exciting time because I’m looking around and seeing so much more awareness of autism and girls. People finally believe we exist – yippee! That’s my first eight years done. Now my next eight years will be about making sure we have equality; making sure we have the same protection and opportunities as everyone else.

Navigating an untrodden path is scary but it leaves established footprints for our daughters to one day follow.”

Join the conversation on Twitter and tell us about some of the amazing mothers we haven’t mentioned.

World Book Day – “How many characters can you think of that have a disability?”

To celebrate World Book Day yesterday (1 March) , we got in touch with writer and blogger, Emily Davison to talk books. Emily recently graduated with an Masters in Children’s Literature and was keen to tell us about some of her favourite disabled characters in Children’s and Young Adult Literature. 

World Book Day one of my favourite days of the year. Many of you might be dressing up as your favourite storybook character today, but ask yourself this question; how many characters can you think of that have a disability?

Admittedly there is not a huge deal of authentic disabled characters represented in children’s literature, however that certainly doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t any at all. There are a number of authors who have created authentic, relatable and positive disabled characters in their books and today I wanted to acknowledge their efforts.

So, without further ado, let’s begin!

Charlie Ashanti from Lionboy by Zizou Corder

Book cover of LionBoy

The Lionboy trilogy is a series about a young cat-speaking boy Charlie Ashanti who embarks on a journey across the world to rescue his kidnapped scientist parents.  Charlie is an incredibly interesting character alongside being mixed raced and growing up in a bi-cultural background, he also lives with an invisible disability. Charlie has asthma and throughout the series has to deal with the task of managing his health condition, alongside being the hero of story.

The series is an example of a book that features a disabled character without pigeonholing it as the main aspect of the book. Charlie is an empathetic, clever, competent and incredibly brave character and one that no one could help but admire.  This book remains one of my absolute favourite stories.

William Trundle from The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

Christmasaurus

 The Christmasaurus tells the magical story of William Trundle who forges a very special friendship with a dinosaur. As a wheelchair user, William knows what it feels like to be different but that doesn’t stop him from having the journey of a lifetime when he and the Christmasaurus embark on a journey to return to the North Pole.

Tom Fletcher doesn’t scrimp on the important details that come along with being a disabled child, like when William gets bullied for his disability and experiences feelings of isolation or when William can’t use stairs due to his wheelchair. Past all the twinkling lights, singing elves and the magical dinosaur the story tackles serious issues of bullying, loss and overcoming internal ableism.

Linh Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

lunar_chronicles

The Lunar Chronicles is a dystopian fairy-tale centered around the young cyborg mechanic Linh Cinder. Cinder is an amputee, having lost a hand and foot as a result of being caught in a fire accident as a child. However thanks to the advances of future technology, she becomes a cyborg fitted with computerised prosthetic limbs which enable her to regain her mobility.

Alongside her battles against the evil Lunar, Queen Cinder also battles prejudice and discrimination as a Cyborg, something that I as a disabled woman could relate to. Sometimes where disability is concerned especially in the fantasy or sci-fi genre there are more disabled characters than you might imagine, you just need to try looking at it another way.

Vanez Blane from The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan

DarrenShan Saga

Now although Vanez Blane is a minor supporting character in the series, his story is certainly one worth mentioning. Vanez is the robust Games Master of Vampire Mountain, responsible for training the Vampire Generals.

He’s strong, skilled and and a highly respected Vampire in the community. Vanez is also partially sighted, having lost an eye in a fight with a mountain lion .Despite losing his sight, he continues to train the would-be Vampire Generals and can still put up a good fight in any duel!

Ms. Elwyn from Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman

Moses goes to concert

Moses Goes to a Concert is a fascinating depiction of deafness with its illustrations of sign language and its inclusion of a large cast of deaf characters, including Moses the protagonist. However, the character I want to draw your attention to the Ms. Elywn, a Percussionist who also happens to be deaf. On a visit to a concert she inspires Moses to one day become a percussionist like herself.

Her presence in the book is incredibly empowering to readers and reminds us all not to presume a disabled persons capability.

So those are a few of my favourite disabled characters that I have come across in Children’s Literature. Do you have any to add to my list? Comment below with your favourite disabled characters from literature.

You can see more of Emily’s work on her blog

“A wheelchair is just a seat you’re sitting in.” – International Wheelchair Day

Today (1 March) is the ten year anniversary of the first International Wheelchair Day (IWD). To celebrate, we spoke to the event’s founder, Steve Wilkinson, who told us how he turned it into a global event and why it’s such an important date in the calendar.

I was born with Spina Bifida back in 1953. I had a wheelchair when I was a kid, but preferred to walk, which I could do thanks to the calliper I wore and the walking sticks I used right through until about six years ago.

In 1987 I was on holiday in Florida and went to the Disney theme parks and hired one of their chairs. The freedom it instantly gave me was huge. When I got home, I got my own wheelchair and it allowed me to go much further distances and more comfortably. I couldn’t get anywhere without it now, it’s my life.

I started to campaign about wheelchairs and disability in the 90s when I saw how difficult it was to get into places and the access issues wheelchair users faced.

I worked with a lot of organisations on accessibility issues and campaigns. It made me realise that I wanted to start my own business. I’ve learnt over the years that a lot of good ideas fail because they don’t get enough mass engagement. That’s the biggest thing you need to give an idea momentum.

International Wheelchair Day was born

In February 2008, I started researching International Wheelchair Day and was surprised to find that there wasn’t one. I’m quite an adventurous person so I thought let’s just do something and see what happens.

I chose 1 March in memory of my mother because when I was a child, she was everything to me. She pushed me, both physically in my wheelchair and also as a person to take on challenges and be a positive person. She was my inspiration.

So on 1 March 2008, I put a post out on the internet about it announcing ‘Today is International Wheelchair Day, I know this because I just invented it’. However, these were the days before Facebook and Twitter were big things and nothing happened.

A year later I put another post up and again nothing happened. The third year, I discovered that a disability group in Salisbury had recognised IWD and were having a meeting about wheelchair access. I thought, ‘get in, somebody’s found it!’

It was 2011 when things actually took off. Hannah Ensor, a wheelchair user and a talented cartoonist, got in touch to say she’d heard about IWD and that she’d designed a logo for it. So that was it, out of the blue we had a logo. For every year since, Hannah has designed the official logo and every year it’s slightly different.

That was important because someone else had recognised the day and made it feel official. From there it’s just grown year on year.

Going global

In 2012 I went to Australia and met with a disability group in Adelaide and Gail Miller, the author of a book about life in a wheelchair. They were keen to recognise IWD and we held an event attended by the South Australia Disability Minister and Kelly Vincent, a member of the South Australia parliament (who was also a wheelchair user). They also helped me get some interviews on the radio in Australia and it just really took off there.

That year I also got an email from a woman in Nepal. They were having a parade of 80 wheelchair users in Kathmandu to celebrate International Wheelchair Day. For me, that’s become symbolic of what this day is. It’s all about engagement of people in a collective event. Last year they had 239 wheelchair users in their parade. They’re doing it again this year.

IWD2016 Nepal 5(Parade with close up banner)
International Wheelchair Day parade in Nepal 2016

What’s next?

Every year I wake up the day after IWD, go online and discover all these different events around the world where people are celebrating it. It’s really gone viral. If you google it now, there are thousands of mentions of it. It’s got a life of its own!

A girl got in touch with me recently and told me that she wasn’t able to get out of bed most of the time. However, the five minutes that she spent outside in her wheelchair on IWD was her celebration. I just think that’s a fantastic story.

The wonderful thing about IWD is that there’s no one way to recognise it. People celebrate it in very different ways.

There are big events happening across the world. People mark IWD here in the UK and in Australia, Nepal, Senegal, South Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the United States of America. There are probably events elsewhere that I’m unaware of. It’s fantastic!

This year is the 10th anniversary of the first International Wheelchair Day, I hope it continues to grow and more people can engage with it and feel a part of something.

 Find out more about International Wheelchair Day.

Just because I’m disabled, doesn’t mean my boyfriend has to be

Online dating has opened up new ways for people to meet and find love but for disabled daters it also brings preconceptions and challenges. For Valentine’s Day Michelle from Liverpool shared her experiences with us.

At school I was very sheltered, I never felt disabled until I went to a mainstream college. Nobody else in my class was disabled and it was a bit of a culture shock. I was in a class with 17 other girls and as difficult as it was for me, I also think it was difficult for them because they’d not grown up around someone who was disabled.

A lot of people I was around in college believed that if you were disabled you’d never have a boyfriend or never want a boyfriend. They’d say things like “you haven’t got a boyfriend, have you?” but actually, at the time I did. When they found out they’d then assume that obviously he must be disabled too. But just because I’m disabled, doesn’t mean my boyfriend has to be and in fact, he wasn’t.

Once you talk to a person and they get to know you, they get to know you as a person and it’s a lot easier to break down those barriers. But unless they take the time to get to know you, it’s hard. That can be especially hard when it comes to dating.

Woman smiling
Michelle’s had some awkward dating experiences

I was born like this, it’s not special, it’s not different, it shouldn’t be an issue

I’m single at the moment and I do find dating difficult. Online dating is particularly awkward as I have to explain that I’m disabled. If you walk up to someone in the street they can see it straight away but online I never really know what to say because to me it’s not spectacularly different. I was born like this, it’s not special, it’s not different, it shouldn’t be an issue. But you never know how someone else is going to react.

Whenever I meet someone online I let them know I’m disabled by saying ‘I’ve got Cerebral Palsy which means I’ve got a slight limp.’ One time I went for a drink with a guy I met online and when I got there he said to me:

“You said your limp wasn’t really that bad but it is.”

I was like wow, what do you even say to that? I said, “no I don’t think it is that bad”. In what world is it okay to say that? You would never say to someone, “you’re not as good looking as your picture”. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t see him again after that.

I think it would help if people were generally more open minded about who they date; get to know the person, don’t be so superficial. I know to a lot of people looks are really important – and they are to me too – but if more people got to know a person rather than basing everything on what they look like it would make things a lot easier.

It’s important to find someone attractive but looks fade and a personality doesn’t. If you’re going to be with that person, they’ve got to be a good person. To me that’s a lot more important than what a person looks like.

Dating will always be difficult whether you’re disabled or not. I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t find it awkward. But if you do need some advice then Phil Lusted’s tips to end awkward dating moments is a good place to start.

I haven’t got anything planned for Valentine’s Day this year, I’ll probably watch a film and eat some ice cream. It’ll definitely be a lot better than some of the recent dates I’ve had.

Want to read more, check out our A to Z of sex and disability. 

You can also discuss sex and relationships on the online community.