All posts by Neal Brown

Marketing Project Manager at Scope.

End the Awkward comes to an end: here are some highlights

With End the Awkward coming to an end for 2016. End the Awkward project manager, Neal Brown shares some of the top highlights.

Two thirds of people feeling awkward around disability, and some people feel so awkward that they’re avoiding disabled people altogether.

Considering 1 in 5 people are disabled, that’s a lot of time feeling pretty uncomfortable. We felt it was time to put a stop to it.

Over the last seven weeks we’ve been running our End the Awkward campaign, aiming to tackle the awkwardness that many people face around disability.

In this time our videos have been viewed more than 7.5 million times, and more than 71,000 people have visited our website looking for helpful tips.

Awkward moments

The reaction to the campaign has been fantastic. We’ve been inundated with people sharing their own awkward stories.

Jenny shared her experiences of awkward situations with her autistic child.

“As a parent of a little 4 year old who has autism and still learning to talk and has sensory issues yes people do react different and act awkward around my child… I’ve had people say there us something wrong with that boy. I’ve heard people say that we shouldn’t take our kids on buses. [The] End the Awkward campaign is doing an amazing job in raising everyday issues that people with disabilities face.”

While Adrianne shared this:

“Some guy asked what I had done when I came to the till in my wheelchair. But the awkward moment was when he kept prying after I said: ‘Oh, I’m just disabled’, and implied I must be injured and not sick.”

This year’s campaign saw us break new ground, partnering with UNILAD to create exciting new content. Have you ever used a guide dog as a sat nav? While we knew this was based on the real experiences of Emily, a Scope supporter, it’s a lot more common that you might think.

Gavin told us:

“In the 18 years of being a guide dog mobility instructor I heard stories like this on an amazingly regular basis.”

Ending the Awkward around the world

We’ve also inspired people across the world to start talking about these issues. In this video, RebelWheels NYC shares her thoughts on dating disabled people.

While our campaign is coming to a close for 2016, we know that there remains a lot of awkward situations around.

Help us to keep spreading the word by sharing our content with your friends, family and colleagues.

What End the Awkward means to our supporters

End the Awkward project manager Neal Brown, who has a hearing impairment, asks some of our disabled supporters what End the Awkward means to them and how it changes attitudes around disability. 

End the Awkward is just one of a number of behaviour change campaigns that have been run in the UK, tackling a range of social issues including racism, homophobia, and drink-driving.

These campaigns use different tactics for getting people’s attention. Stonewall’s ‘Some People Are Gay. Get over it.’ campaign was confrontational; NHS Stop Smoking adverts have used shock tactics with graphic imagery.

With End the Awkward, we’ve always taken a tongue-in-cheek approach, because we know that people don’t mean to be awkward, so we don’t want to point the finger.

We spoke to some of our supporters about what the End the Awkward campaign means to them, and have shared their responses in this post.

“Humour breaks the ice”

Carly smiling for a photograph
Carly

Carly Jones, an autism advocate, filmmaker and author, told us why she thinks humour is effective:

“Humour breaks the ice, it captures interest, it relaxes people and gives them permission to be human. In return they get to hear and really listen to what makes us human too.”

Behind the light-hearted tone, there is a serious message. We know from our research that two-thirds of people feel awkward around disability, and that over a third (34%) are actively avoiding disabled people because they are worried about being patronising.

Liam wearing radio headset, smiling at the camera
Liam

How did we get here? Liam O’Dell, a student, blogger and radio show host, shares his thoughts:

“For a long time, disability has always been seen as a mystery or a taboo. Everyone worries about slipping up or saying the wrong thing to a disabled person and everything becomes awkward when it doesn’t need to be. The lack of discussion involving disabled people is a long-term issue which has led to rude, embarrassing or laughable stereotypes being created.”

Real-life experiences

But End the Awkward wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t based on the real-life experiences of disabled people. I’ve had many awkward moments in my life where people assume that I’m being rude because my hearing impairment means I’m not engrossed in the conversation.

But I shouldn’t have to disclose my impairment when I go to the barber or the pub just to avoid being judged by strangers. When people find out about my impairment things do change. People start to feel embarrassed and become overly apologetic. I feel like I have to reassure them that it’s okay.

Layla posing for the camera
Layla

It’s not just me. Layla Harding, a Masters student, uses mobility aids and has experienced awkward situations as a result.

“End the Awkward is hugely important. When I use mobility aids I endure these awkward moments time and time again. Just yesterday I was encouraged to “get training for the 2020 Paralympics”, told that my having a disability was a “such a shame because you’re a pretty young thing”, and was congratulated for getting “out and about” on the tube.

During situations like these it’s extremely frustrating because there is so much you want to explain to people and teach them but it’s difficult to get it all across. That’s why I think End the Awkward is important because it hopefully makes people see disability in a different light.”

I don’t think that anyone wants to be awkward around disabled people, or that anyone chooses to be awkward. And disabled people can feel just as awkward as non-disabled people. End the Awkward helps by showing that we are not alone in our awkwardness, and that it doesn’t take a lot to be less awkward and make life better for all of us.

Over the last three years, End the Awkward has done more than challenge the awkwardness around disability. It has also played a role in empowering disabled people like business woman, Kelly Perks-Bevington, helping them to feel more confident and to achieve more.

Kelly, a young disabled woman in an electric wheelchair, smiles and waves at the camera
Kelly

“When I was first invited to do End the Awkward, I was skeptical. I never talked about my disability, as to me, it felt like it didn’t exist! And, although it still feels like that, I’m also proud to be disabled and I have a new confidence around the whole subject.

I think by working with Scope on End the Awkward I’ve really dealt with those confidence issues and embraced who I am! Wheelchair and all!”

People ask why we run End the Awkward when we could be lobbying government to directly improve the lives of disabled people. Well, we are still campaigning for disabled people alongside End the Awkward. But we will have more success campaigning if we have society on our side, and that starts with changing attitudes.

Read the rest of our End the Awkward blogs, or get involved in the campaign by submitting your awkward story.