All posts by Pasca Lane

Pasca is the PR Manager at Scope

Disability in Britain: Then and Now… in statistics

Twenty years ago, we voted to change our name from The Spastics Society to Scope. On the day of the launch, we released the first of a series of reports called “Disabled in Britain: A World Apart”. They were based on what was at the time, the largest survey ever conducted of disabled adults in the UK. The reports found that many disabled people felt that they were living in a world apart. As an example, nearly eight in ten disabled people said that they often felt excluded from enjoying things that other people take for granted. While we don’t have directly comparable data, we have gathered available evidence from our own research and other sources, to get a sense of what life was like in 1994, and how it is today. Here are the stats: Infographic

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Disability in Britain: Then and Now

Twenty years ago, we voted to change our name from The Spastics Society to Scope.

We dropped a word which had become a term of abuse for disabled people. We chose a new name, “Scope”, to reflect our belief that a disabled person can achieve anything.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of this decision, we’ve been asking how far the lives of disabled people have changed in this time.

We’ve analysed data from 1994 and today. Check out our infographic and data blog.

We’ve also spoken to people involved with the name-change, disabled people, and have received contributions from well-known disabled figures from the words of sport, arts and media.

The decision

Valerie Lang, the first disabled woman on the executive committee of the Spastic Society:
“I just felt it had become unacceptable. I thought it was damaging to us, as individuals. It was a well-known term of abuse and I thought disabled people had enough to cope with without that.” (Read Valerie’s blog about the name change)

Richard Brewster, who was in charge of communications at the time of the name change:
“In the build-up to making the decision to change the name at all, a defining moment was when we saw the research that showed that young parents of disabled children were not associating with The Spastics Society… What the research said was that our future was walking away from us.”

The aspirations of disabled people are higher than ever

Julie Fernandez, actress, producer, campaigner When I meet and talk to young disabled people today… I can see that they have very different attitudes to say, twenty years ago. We have legislation now to support the rights of disabled people both at home and at work.  There are more accessible ramps, more disabled changing rooms in shops and lower reception desks in offices. It is wonderful to see how much more confident young disabled people are today as they expect equality and rightly so.

Julie Fernandez, actress, producer, campaigner:
“When I meet and talk to young disabled people today… I can see that they have very different attitudes to say, twenty years ago. We have legislation now to support the rights of disabled people both at home and at work. There are more accessible ramps, more disabled changing rooms in shops and lower reception desks in offices. It is wonderful to see how much more confident young disabled people are today. They expect equality and rightly so.”

Valerie Lang:
“Young disabled people today expect and demand the right to have access to things these days, that when I was growing up, we would have been grateful for.”

Sascha Kindred holding a medalSascha Kindred, six-time Paralympic champion:
“I experienced quite a lot of name calling back in school, but I always had my twin brother there to support me so it seemed easier to deal with.

“I definitely believe attitudes have changed since then as when I go back to schools now to speak about my experiences as a disabled athlete, the children are genuinely interested and I know a lot of other kids with disabilities have increased opportunities and facilities compared to my time at school. I still think we need to educate people further though as this will continue to increase awareness of the challenges people with a disability face every day.”

Alice MaynardAlice Maynard, chair of Scope:
“The big change for disabled people in the last twenty years is that we have higher expectations for our lives than ever before. That’s mainly down to disabled people’s campaigns. Change can really happen and the last 20 years are proof of that. Whether it’s representing your country as an athlete, starring in a national television drama, or being elected to office, we know that disabled people can aim high and succeed.”

In 2014, disabled people’s lives are still tougher than they need to be

Nicholas Hamilton, racing driver:
“People love to tell you that you can’t do something when you have Cerebral Palsy, and I like proving them wrong. There were so many barriers to me becoming a racing driver and I’ve overcome them. I hope that in another 20 years’ time no one will ever be saying ‘you can’t do that’ and everyone will be encouraged to chase their dreams.”

Julie Fernandez:
“As a disabled adult, it is very hard to get a job, and very hard to access benefits. In fact, I would say that many disabled people in the UK still feel like second-class citizens. I am still shocked that for many people I meet, I am the first disabled person that they know. And often they start out with lots of negative stereotypes. I think that although we are definitely in a better position than we were twenty years ago, we are still fighting society’s attitudes towards us.

Bethy Woodward, Paralympic medalist:
“I think that young disabled people today are ambitious and want to succeed in life, in whatever they chose to do. You do need determination. Unfortunately, as a disabled person you do encounter negative attitudes. People underestimate what you can do, just because of your disability. ‘When I started out in athletics, it was very hard for me to join an athletics club. I eventually found a coach who showed some belief in me and encouraged me, and he has been a great support. Hopefully I have now shown what I am capable of!”

IanIan Macrae, editor, Disability Now:
“I’d say that as equality legislation has been eroded, and as the voices of disabled people in the media and as a movement have been made much quieter, fewer opportunities have been made available to fewer disabled people. In the 90s, we were seen as empowered and entitled to greater equality and more rights, and we were able to present ourselves as such… Now we’re defined in terms of having become more needy, vulnerable, and requiring support – through benefits, for instance – rather than needing more rights and greater equality.”

And some say that public attitudes are actually getting worse…

When we asked disabled people on Facebook how things have changed in the past 20 years, the majority of respondents said that attitudes have actually got worse.

“I actually think we’re going backwards. We were making so much progress, but since this government have been in power ignorance has reared its ugly head and now people are suffering as a result.”

“Socially nothing has changed in fact I think it’s worse. Because social opinion is influenced in many ways, I believe socially we are seen as a scourge better put down than supported. It’s frightening, an now our financial security is threatened too.”

“I rarely get offered a seat on the bus now, since the rise in the disabled = scrounger debate.”

“There’s been no change people still treat us disabled as second class citizens and this government doesn’t make things any better.”

Challenging attitudes to disability in 2014

Twenty years on from our name change, Scope is once again going to be tackling public attitudes to disability. We’d love to hear your views on what can be done to challenge attitudes to disabled people.

People like me should have a voice #BornRisky

Guest post from Kate Caryer. Kate is one of five people with communication difficulties who have joined Channel 4’s continuity team this December, to introduce some of the channel’s biggest shows.

Along with brain surgery, bar maiding and ballet dancing, continuity announcing was a career I had never considered suitable for me, as a person with athetoid cerebral palsy and no speech.   However, along with four colleagues-turned-mates, each with different communication impairments, I’ve joined Channel 4’s continuity announcers for 10 days in December!

To get some idea what I am on about, watch me here introducing my all time favourite show, The Simpsons:

I am on a mission to tell the world that people like me should have a voice! Being a continuity announcer fits right in with this aim I think!

So how did the Channel 4 thing come up? Well, I entered a singing competition!!!

As I can’t speak, let alone sing, I was told to go away!  So I decided to give this continuity announcing lark a try!  (Only joking.)

Actually what occurred is that the clever minds who came up with the idea of having voices from people with different communication difficulties announcing their peak-time shows, contacted organisations and charities that work with such people. This included Communication Matters, which is an organisation that is about AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) – or other means of communicating for people without clear speech. They share my passion for greater awareness of communication aids and non-speech communication.

The chairwoman contacted me about this possible opportunity and I absolutely loved the concept!!  (I would love the idea even if I wasn’t involved!)  

I was asked to do a screen test at Channel 4 in September which was really exciting! Due to the uncertainty of the project (at this stage, it was just a good idea) I was sworn to secrecy.   I wanted to tell absolutely everyone, especially the people at the Communication Matters conference in September that I attended just a matter of days before I went to Channel 4 for the first time!

By coincidence, at that Conference I delivered a presentation and discussion on the media portrayal of AAC users.  Like most disability media portrayal (Paralympics excepted – thank you Channel 4) it is often pretty dire and full of pity for the so-called ‘victims’ of impairment.  It was agreed that AAC users should be shown in the media doing things other than simply being an AAC user.

This is exactly what Channel 4 is hoping to achieve with this project when they say, “we want to give them a platform and normalise the presence of disabled people on TV by adding fresh, representative voices to the rich diversity of our existing pool of announcers.”

I have no speech at all so I use a communication aid called a Pathfinder.  I am lucky I am able to use a keyboard to work a special programme that uses icons to speed up communication. However there are many communication aids meeting the needs of most people who can’t speak, whatever the level of their physical skill. That I use a communication aid has become a matter of fact to me, my family and friends. What is interesting is how unknown people react to me using, what seems to them, a magic box.  I must say the reactions have been odd, not down-right negative fortunately, like when I go to quiz nights everyone wants to be on my team because they assume my communication aid can magically get all the right answers!!

The great thing about Channel 4 is that we were treated like any continuity announcer, so we wrote our own scripts; hence you would hear our own voices, albeit mine with some fantastic tweaks from the Wonderful Wendy who worked as hard as me programming my communication aid to sound fantastic!

The Wonderful Wendy is one of my partners on the Unspoken Project, a theatre project where the issue of communication is at the centre. This is important because, like television and other media, we think the world of drama rarely gives voice to people with communication difficulties and we want to change this. We hope to do this by a number of ways.

One of our plans is to produce a play where the main voice is from a young woman who has no speech. We want to tell the unspoken story of her getting a voice and coming of age. At the moment we are holding variety nights on 25 January and 18 March at Tottenham Chances, 399 High Road, London, N17 6QN. Entry is £7. All proceeds will go towards the Unspoken theatre project.

The nights put all kinds of voices in the limelight. If you would love to perform on one of our nights, we would be delighted to hear from you! Also we are always looking for audience members to come to our January and March shows.  You can contact us by e-mail, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook – watch this space for our website!