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We're all about changing society for the better, so that disabled people and their families can have the same opportunities as everyone else.

“This is why I fight to overcome barriers to employment for disabled people.”

Max, a writer and Disability Gamechanger, writes about the challenges he faces finding employment as a person with autism.

I choose to fight for the voices of others on the autistic spectrum. Through my own efforts to find work and my writing, I aim to show that those on the autistic spectrum can play an important role in the workplace and indeed, society.

As someone who has a deep passion for social issues and strongly believes in the concept of society, I want to contribute to society through employment. And yes, I do realise that means paying taxes!

All I need is a bit of patience

Along my personal journey, there have been many positive experiences as well as challenges and people who have believed in me. I recently undertook a placement at a very inclusive and welcoming PR marketing agency in Barry, Wales. Here I was given the patience and understanding to build my confidence and work at my own speed. I am also working part-time with an education technology start-up to help develop kids and adults digital skills.

The main barrier for me in the past, and one which I still sometime face has been interviews. I often struggle to express all my strengths in the pressurised situation that is a job interview, and as a result I feel that employers only see my anxiety.

Though I recognise that verbal communications skills are important in marketing and any other employment sector, I know that once I settle into an environment I can achieve anything I set my mind to! All I need is a bit of patience.

One of the biggest impacts that such barriers have had on me are feelings of isolation and loneliness. I am sure these are feelings which are shared by many others in the disabled community.

A young man smiles with his dog
Max at home with his dog

Everybody has value to add

To achieve progress, I believe there should be a greater focus from employers on what  disabled people can do, not what they may find difficult at first. Just as everyone has their own weaknesses, everybody has value they can add to a team.

Creating an environment where all abilities thrive, enabling a wide range of talent, is key. Similarly, creating interview processes which are flexible and allow this talent to shine, I believe can be a positive step forward.

Take those with autism, for example. We are creative, focused and have attention to detail. These are all positive traits which can be valuable within a team.

By creating more diverse teams, this means that more organisations will have the ability to represent their customers and society. Surely, this is something we can all agree is a good thing.

It is time that we focus on ability, not disability.

Half of disabled people feel excluded from society and many say prejudicial attitudes haven’t improved in decades.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, so we all need to work together to change society for the better. 

There’s something everyone can do to be a Disability Gamechanger so get involved with the campaign today to end this inequality.

“This is how assistive technology is helping me live the life I choose”

A keen campaigner and writer, Raisa uses lots of different assistive technology to help her do day to day tasks. Here, she writes about some of these pieces of technology and how they help her live the life she chooses.

I’m very selective when choosing assistive technology. Of course, everything has its purpose, but if it is no use to me, there’s no point in using it.

For me, because I have the option, I don’t use assistive technology for absolutely everything. I’ve only considered using assistive technology seriously when I started university in 2013.

Because I was doing a Creative and Professional Writing degree, it was clear that there was going to be a lot of writing involved. There was no guarantee that I would be able to type everything up in time, by only using two fingers on the keyboard without a fast typist beside me. I was lucky in the sense that I got quite a lot of help through Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) at uni.

I’ve always had the habit of writing nearly everything by hand so I can literally see what I am typing, rather than transferring my thoughts straight onto a computer. I have never been able to do it. The only exception is when I compose emails. But even then, if my email is really long and I’m really exhausted, I would probably end up using some sort of assistive technology.

A woman laughs whilst talking in a group at the Scope for Change residential
Raisa talking to fellow campaigners

Technology has so many uses

I am (literally) using Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 to dictate this post in my bedroom. This version is pretty good. I was first introduced to this software in 2009, when version 9 came out. It was horrendous. No matter how much I tried to train the software to my voice there were too many typos per page. I literally wanted to rip my hair out.

I got Dragon 12 at the beginning of my university course in 2013. Thank God I did. There was just too much to do in so little time! Don’t get me wrong, it still makes mistakes, but they’re so rare that I can live with it now.

Something else I use quite regularly was my Olympus Sonority voice recorder. I used this device to record every single one of my lectures or big public events over the last five years. It’s great that they automatically convert into audio files that work on pretty much any device – so I could listen to them anywhere if I wanted to, either on my phone or laptop. It saves as a compatible file for your memory stick also – bonus!

Assistive technology can help you live the life you choose

A family friend showed me Apple’s voice recognition software and how it worked before I got my first iPhone. I got really excited by this. I wouldn’t use Siri in public, but voice recognition software on my phone has helped me do my most important job these days – dictating and replying to emails! I have a habit of sending really long emails! I don’t have to use my laptop, I just have to hold my phone in my hand and speak.

A woman laughs with another campaigner at Scope for Change
Raisa laughing with another campaigner

One of my really long emails to date, which I wrote by only my right thumb and predicted text (without using voice recognition at all), took me two hours to type. However, if I wrote that same email again using voice recognition software on my phone, it would have only taken me about half an hour. It is also a quick way to make notes in your notes section for reminders.

I personally wouldn’t go as far as using assistive technology to help me with absolutely everything. I don’t want technology to directly take over my life. However, I hope that this post has been helpful in showing how assistive technology can help you to live the life you choose.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, with digital and assistive technology playing a huge part in this. We all need to work together to change society for the better. 

There’s something everyone can do to be a Disability Gamechanger so get involved in the campaign today to end this inequality.

“Disability is full of compromises and workarounds”

Edith was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when she was 16. As her condition started worsening, it was essential that she found a social care package that met her needs.

In this blog, Edith writes about how finding the right social care package has enabled her to focus on the other important things in life.

Writing about my twice daily care visits feels like trying to describe brushing my teeth, or cutting my nails. It’s boring and I aim not to focus any great deal of time on it, it’s just an essential part of daily life.

A young woman smiles whilst sitting on a sofa, typing on a laptop
Edith sitting on a sofa with her laptop

I use a wheelchair full time, but the ‘book ends’ of my day are especially hard. Lying in bed overnight, my whole body stiffens up and takes a while to stretch out and co-operate. Come evening, fatigue has turned me to jelly.

Add in flare ups, temperature variations and colds or viruses. Each day is a surprise. My carer starts by stretching my legs in bed and helping me to a sitting position. Using a standing frame I transfer to my wheelchair, and in a subsequent set of routines I get dressed and ready for my day. The process is fairly cumbersome and long winded, but we go the fastest we can, totalling around an hour.

Night calls follow a similar set of processes, all made quicker and easier if I’m having a ‘good day’, but following a routine which we know well enough to follow without fuss.

It means I can focus on the rest of my life

My social care calls are crucial. Do I want to have company first thing in the morning? Would I love to get up and make a cup of tea then go back to bed for a few hours? What about those unexpected evenings out where one drink turns into many and you just re-adjust your 12 hour plan accordingly.

The alternative is being bed bound, in some residential home, or relying on my parents (while I can, then what?). So when it works, my social care support enables everything else.

With the essentials of personal care covered, I can focus on the rest of my life, the nights out, holidays, work, credit card bills… just life. To me social care is as necessary a part of my functioning as any of my healthcare, if not more so.

I’m frustrated by the wires I’ve had to untangle to get social care in place, the lack of transparency in funding and set up. It feels more vulnerable than the NHS and prescription meds, yet to me should be treated in the same way.

It’s all a part of my life I’d rather not have to incorporate, but fundamental for me to achieve, do, live or anything else.

Read more from Edith on her blog.

Half of disabled people feel excluded from society and many say prejudicial attitudes haven’t improved in decades.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, so we all need to work together to change society for the better. 

There’s something everyone can do to be a Disability Gamechanger so join the campaign today to end this inequality.

Will you be a Disability Gamechanger?

Today, Scope launches a new campaign to tackle disability inequality head on. Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs, James Taylor, tells us why it’s an issue we all need to get behind.

“Negative attitudes, poor access to support or transport, limited opportunities for work.

Disabled people tell us that these things matter. They lead to discrimination, to prejudice and to being seen as an afterthought.”

“The things that people say to you never go away. There have been times where bad attitudes have made me ask, what’s the point?” – Marie

“People with invisible impairments still struggle for people to ‘believe’ their condition is real.

On buses, trains and planes we’re often denied equal service and equal treatment.

When we want to go on a night out, the disabled toilet is often an extra storage cupboard, because we’re not thought of as customers.

Hear from some of the storytellers in this film, highlighting the barriers disabled people face in their day-to-day lives.”

The scale of the issue

“Our latest research shows how many disabled people feel and experience this.

We spoke to disabled people right across Britain to find out about their day-to-day lives – what makes them happy, what angers or frustrates them and what they want to get out of life.

We wanted to understand what equality means to disabled people today, and we wanted to start from what disabled people think and feel, and how important independence is to them.

Overwhelmingly disabled people told us they want to be independent, to have confidence and to be connected through friends, family, colleagues and communities.

Yet for too many disabled people this isn’t the case.”

“I’ve been excluded from social situations or activities due to my condition. People make assumptions about what I am able to do. It’s really frustrating.” – Shani

“Earlier this year, Opinium polled 2,000 disabled adults for Scope and found:

  • 49 per cent of disabled people said they feel excluded by society
  • Just 23 per cent said they felt valued by society
  • On top of this, only 42 per cent of disabled people believe the   UK is a good place for disabled people

These statistics make it obvious that the fight for disability equality is far from over.

Throughout the last century we’ve seen action that has led to dramatic changes in our society, but our research demonstrates that there is still a way to go until all disabled people are able to live the lives they choose free from discrimination and low expectations.

At Scope we want to change this.

Whilst we might have protection in law, at Scope we know there is still a way to go until until all disabled people can enjoy equality.”

You can read more about the research in our report, ‘Independent, Confident, Connected’.

Be a Disability Gamechanger

“We have launched our new campaign calling on all those who want to work with us to show their support for disability equality. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bus driver, a politician, a teacher or an employer. You can all make a difference.”

We can’t do it alone. We know that we are stronger as a movement, as a community and as a force for change, when we work together.

If you, like us, want to end this inequality, join our campaign today.

Government outlines plans to make public transport more inclusive

Today the Government has published its new Inclusive Transport Strategy, outlining how they intend to make the transport network more accessible for disabled people. This includes over £300 million of funding to deliver the projects they’ve announced.

A positive commitment

The current transport system is set up in a way which deters – or even prevents – many disabled people from using it. The Inclusive Transport Strategy is a strong step in the right direction, dismantling some of the barriers disabled people face. This is not just about adjusting existing infrastructure to make it physically accessible, but tries to put the needs of all disabled passengers at the heart of designing our transport system.

Access for All

Our recent research found 40 per cent of disabled people have difficulty accessing train stations. The biggest announcement in the Strategy is that the Government is reviving the Access for All program, to provide funds to make railway stations more accessible. The £300 million which has been announced for the fund will go towards installing everything from lifts to tactile paving and automatic doors at more stations.

“I’ve lost out on great job opportunities because I arrived so late. There are no step-free stations near me so I have to drive everywhere, which takes so much longer” – Conrad

And this is on top of existing requirements for station operators to improve accessibility when they renovate their stations.

It’s not just railways that are getting an upgrade. The Strategy also announced that £2 million will be spent installing Changing Places facilities in motorway service stations, allowing more disabled people travelling by car to access a suitable toilet.

Attitudes

Disabled people frequently say that one of the biggest barriers to using public transport can be the attitudes of others. Whether it’s a non-disabled person refusing to offer a priority seat to someone who needs it, or a bus driver ignoring a wheelchair user at a bus stop, the attitudes of passengers and staff can make or break disabled people’s experiences of public transport.

“As I am young and have an invisible disability, I am often accused of not needing the accessible seats at the front of buses and…people rarely give up their seat to me when I ask” – Anonymous

The Inclusive Transport Strategy has recognised this, with a focus on both staff training and changing behaviours of non-disabled passengers. This will require bus and rail operators to provide disability awareness training to their staff, and the Government will spearhead a campaign to improve awareness of disability among all passengers.

The Rail Ombudsman

Even after the changes announced, things will still go wrong from time to time. While we want the Government and transport providers to work to eliminate these errors in the first place, it’s important that disabled people are able to complain and have action taken if things don’t go to plan with a journey.

The Strategy has announced a new Rail Ombudsman to help disabled people seek recourse. This body will have the power to rule on complaints relating to accessibility, and deliver binding judgements – meaning it can force train companies to act.

This will be accompanied by a new system for registering complaints about bus services, which will go to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency who can take action against bus companies that don’t meet their obligations.

What’s next?

It’s worth noting that the Inclusive Transport Strategy contains many more proposed changes beyond the ones we’ve discussed in this blog.

While we have welcomed the Strategy, there is still much more to be done to ensure all disabled people are able to access and use transport as they wish.

As well as making sure the proposals from today are implemented in full, we’ll keep pushing the Government to make sure the transport system really is one that is fully inclusive and accessible to all disabled people.

My big challenge – running the coast of Britain for Scope

A year ago, Chris Shipley decided that he needed a new challenge. On 26 February 2018 he started out from Southampton on a 5000 mile trip around the coast of Britain, which he plans to complete in under 10 months. In this blog he talks about his challenge and why he’s raising for money Scope.

I took up running four years ago. Since then I have taken part in two obstacle world championships and a European championship. I came first in an 18 hour endurance run and finished eighth in Europe’s “toughest mudder” race this year. Last year, I cycled back home from Switzerland through some of the worst floods seen in France.

A new challenge

I like to stretch myself physically and mentally. I read a book about someone who cycled the coast of Britain and was inspired by the story. I always wanted to do a long trip on foot or by bike. I was Influenced by Ed Pratt who is cycling around the world on a unicycle.

I didn’t really plan anything!! I chose the direction and date and saved up some money. I tested out my gear by camping locally in cold conditions.

How it’s going

So far, I’ve ran over 1400 miles and had some great experiences along the way.

I set off from my home in Southampton and just over 2 months later, I reached the most northerly point in Britain – John O’Groats.

It’s tough going at times, I’m on my third pair of running shoes! I vary the mileage according to the terrain but most days on average I’ll do a marathon each day, around 26 miles. On my best day so far I managed an astonishing 42 miles.

I carry a tent, cooking equipment, food, clothes and not much more, so I can stop pretty much anywhere.

There have been a few ups and downs but I never let situations get me down. When I started my challenge the “beast from the east” arrived but I soldiered on. I’ve encountered all that the British weather can throw at me and still carry on!

Food keeps me going although I haven’t had a burger in a while! I keep focused on the goal ahead and reaching the end of the challenge. The fabulous scenery and people you meet are really helping to keep my spirits up and keep me going.

My nephew Alfie has cerebral palsy and he’s the reason I’m raising money for Scope. We love the work that Scope does to create equality for disabled people. My mum also works as a carer so it’s something we’re all really passionate about.

Raising money for a worthy cause that supports people is important to me. Testing myself both mentally and physically is also very important.

Highlights along the way

I’ve met many people on my trip so far and have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement. There really are some great people out there. I’ve even talked to pupils at a school about my challenge and used the opportunity to talk about Scope’s amazing work.

Man standing in a school gym

There have been so many highlights so far. Whilst running through Skegness, I saw an opportunity to top up my fundraising so I stopped and completed a “hang tough” challenge, went sailing in Scotland and even met a cyclist going around the coast of Britain going the opposite way and lots of other challenges.

Man standing outside a fairground ride.

If I reach my target, I’ll do an extra challenge

If this wasn’t a big enough challenge, I’ve decided to up the ante and complete a challenge within a challenge. If I raise £5000 before 21 June I’ll run for 24 hours straight from 6pm to 6pm the next day. Please sponsor me – not only will you been helping me achieve my goals,  but supporting a great charity that’s close to my heart.

You can sponsor Chris on his JustGiving page and follow his journey around the coast.

Our new report shows disabled people still face negative attitudes

Our new report, The Disability Perception Gap, reveals the extent of the negative attitudes that are held towards disabled people – and how many non-disabled people don’t realise the scale of the problem.

The way other people act towards us can have a huge impact on how we view ourselves and our role in society. An occasional moment of rudeness or being ignored may be a minor inconvenience or annoyance. But the more it happens, the more the impact adds up.

For many disabled people, this will sound all too familiar. Whether it’s outright hostility, or seemingly minor incidents that add up to a hostile atmosphere, prejudice remains a common occurrence. Negative attitudes from others can be one of the biggest barrier to disabled people living life the way they want, and more needs to be done to tackle them.

The research in this report was carried out on behalf of Scope by the National Centre for Social Research as part of the annual British Social Attitudes Survey.

What is the Perception Gap

According to our new research released today, one in three disabled people still feel that there’s a lot of prejudice against disabled people. But only one in five non-disabled people think the same. This is what we’re calling the disability perception gap.

It may seem self-evident that disabled people face prejudice, but many non-disabled people do not understand the scale of the negative attitudes towards disability.

Some difference wouldn’t be surprising – disabled people have to live with this prejudice every day, whereas non-disabled people may only ever know about it second hand.

But this gap is growing. In 2000, there was only a slight difference between the views of disabled and non-disabled people when it came to disability prejudice. Over the last 20 years, however, the gap has trebled.

Illustration of the gap in perception between disabled and non-disabled people
“The gap between disabled and non-disabled people’s views of prejudice has trebled since 2000” – Disability Perception Gap

There is now a real danger that many non-disabled people think that disability prejudice has been tackled long before it has been, which could block further attempts to improve the situation. Instead of this complacency, we need to make sure that the experiences of disabled people are listened to and put at the heart of any programme designed to address negative and harmful attitudes.

Being close to disability can help

When it comes to improving understanding, it seems that nothing beats personal contact with a disabled person. Whether it’s a colleague, a friend or a family member, having a relationship with a disabled person makes a real difference to non-disabled people’s attitudes.

For example, 10 percent of people who claim not to know any disabled people think of disabled people as ‘getting in the way’ some of the time – an opinion held by only 3 percent of people with a disabled colleague.

However, a third of the population claim not to know a single disabled person. This means that their views on disability are far more likely to be based on stereotypes than any knowledge of what life is like for a disabled person.

Any attempt to improve attitudes will have to increase people’s understanding of what it means to be disabled, and the challenges that disabled people face on a daily basis.

Driving change

To do this requires a concerted effort across society to tackle prejudice and negative attitudes towards disabled people. This should include a variety of spaces; from the classroom to the boardroom, and all points in between.

This is why we are calling for efforts to get more disabled people into work to be amplified. With only 7 percent of people saying they have a disabled colleague, a million more disabled people in work could make a real difference to people’s views of disability and disabled people.

It’s why we’re calling on the media to do more to ensure that disabled people and their experiences are properly represented on screen. By supporting disabled talent, they can show what it means to be disabled in 2018.

Such efforts on their own will help, but they won’t be sufficient. We need a coherent approach to improving attitudes across all areas of life. Earlier this week the Government announced a new working group to look at the issues facing disabled people.

We’re calling on this group, and the rest of Government, to take prejudice seriously and launch a new cross-departmental disability strategy, focussed on improving attitudes and reducing prejudice towards disabled people.

What comes next?

This report is the start of something, not the end. We will be working to better understand how negative attitudes impact on disabled people, and how these can best be tackled.

There’s no single fix for this problem, and as part of our campaign for everyday equality for disabled people, we’d like to hear about your experiences and what you would like to see change.

Will you support our campaign by telling us your experiences?

Could you be part of the next generation of disability campaigners?

We are looking for aspiring young campaigners to join Scope for Change, our campaign training programme for disabled people aged 18 to 25. It’s a free, six-month programme, and no previous campaigning experience is needed. Find out more and apply to take part.

Disabled people face many barriers to equality – whether it’s negative attitudes, unnecessary extra costs, inaccessible environments or a lack of support in education or work. But we know that it doesn’t have to be this way, and that young disabled people have the drive and skills to help make change happen.

We first launched the Scope for Change programme in 2016 to support young disabled people gain the skills and confidence to campaign on issues they cared about . This first group of campaigners set out to tackle a variety of issues: encouraging museums to be more autism-friendly, making British Sign Language lessons at university more accessible and affordable, gaining step-free access to local transport, and raising awareness of hidden impairments.

Ellie, who took part in 2016, campaigned for greater accessibility at nature reserves. Here’s what she had to say about her campaign:

“I want to further educate those working in the conservation sector to make sites of natural interest as accessible as possible: providing ramps up to bird hides, having blue badge parking spaces, braille or audio information boards, allowing assistance dogs, and accessible toilets… Opening up the senses in particular for those with profound and multiple disabilities is so important – and where better to do that than a national park?”

It wasn’t just their campaigns that benefited – many of the group said that being part of Scope for Change gave them a sense of solidarity with other disabled people and boosted their confidence. No longer feeling like they were working alone, the campaigners could collaborate, share experiences and learn from each other.

Why get involved?

Now Scope for Change is back for a new generation, to tackle more obstacles on the road to everyday equality. We want disabled young people to be empowered to make decisions about their lives, influence change, and make real progress in their communities and wider society.

Over a six-month period, we will support the Scope for Change group to plan, launch and their own campaigns to make change on the issues that matter to them. This will be backed up with ongoing support from Scope staff and a three-day residential training event to learn all the skills needed to create a winning campaign strategy.

Does this sound like the opportunity for you? Apply for Scope for Change now – applications close on Monday 28 May.

Local elections 2018: Make your vote count

Local elections will take place in England on 3 May 2018.  In this blog we talk about the importance of voting and how disabled voters can access their polling stations.

150 council seats across England will be up for election, including all seats in London’s 32 boroughs. There will also be direct elections for the Mayor of Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Watford and the Sheffield City region.  Find out if elections are taking place in your area.

It’s important that the voices of disabled people are heard in local elections. Local councils make decisions on a range of issues such as housing and planning, waste collection, road maintenance and local transport. Councils also provide a range of services in areas such as social care and health. Voting, as well as taking part in election events in your local area, gives you the chance to tell your local councillors what’s important to you and what you would like to see them do.

Access to polling stations

All polling stations should be wheelchair accessible and support disabled voters. If you need to use a disabled parking space, these should be clearly visible and monitored throughout the day.

There are lots of ways you can be supported to cast your vote inside a polling station:

  • If you cannot mark your ballot paper, members of staff called Presiding Officers may mark your ballot paper for you. You may also attend the polling station with someone who you would like to mark your ballot paper on your behalf.
  • Polling stations should provide tactile voting devices. The tactile voting device attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered flaps (the numbers are raised and are in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.
  • Polling stations should provide large print versions of ballot papers.

Polling stations should be accessible for everyone wishing to vote. If for whatever reason your local polling station isn’t accessible, Presiding Officers should provide you with a ballot paper and allow you to vote outside of the polling station. Find more information about getting assistance at polling stations. If you visit a polling station and find it inaccessible, you can complain to your local authority.

Voter ID pilots

The Government are trialling voter ID pilots in five different local authority areas. This means that if you are voting in Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford or Woking you will need to take ID with you to the polling station to vote in the local elections. Without it you won’t be able to vote.

The ID requirements are different in the different council areas. If you live in one of the five areas, you can find out what the ID requirements are where you live.

Make sure your voice is heard in the local elections on Thursday 3 May.

I’ve cheered at 10 London Marathons – here’s why I keep going back

The clock is already ticking – just 5 days until the start of the Virgin Media London Marathon 2018. This year over 100 brave runners will be taking part to raise money for Scope. And we’ll be fielding another team on the day – the volunteers who shout themselves hoarse at our cheering points*. Carol, a veteran of many cheering points, tells us why the marathon is such a great day out, even if you don’t run.

This year I’ll be taking part in my 10th London Marathon (cheering point). Every year people ask me “What’s the big deal? Why are you so excited?” and I have to confess that it’s addictive.

Collage of marathon costume photos including a dog, Mr Tickle, T Rex and the Tardis
Did I mention the Marathon costumes? They are epic!

Logically, standing around for the better part of a day to watch more than 35,000 total strangers run past should not be so rewarding, but it is. This year there’s the added bonus of fine weather but frankly most of us would be cheering in the pouring rain if we had to.

There’s a great party atmosphere at cheering points; usually someone is playing music loudly nearby, and you know that you might meet some old friends and certainly make some new ones. In fact, the Marathon has been described as “London’s 26-mile long street party”.  But there’s more to it than that.

In a small way, you’ve helped someone achieve something awesome

Predictably, when someone in your charity’s running shirt passes by, the whole cheering point loses its collective cool; everyone goes wild, bangers are banged, whistles blown, and high-fives exchanged. But most charity cheering points will tell you that they don’t just cheer their own runners – they’ll cheer everyone, especially those runners who look like they need a boost.

And that’s when the Marathon Magic happens – when you spot a total stranger, flagging a bit as they run by.  You yell out their name and a bit of encouragement and you can see it having an effect. They perk up a bit, maybe even smile. Sometimes eye contact is made and you get a thumbs up. Sometimes they might even be able to gasp out a “Thank you” but that’s just a bonus.

After my first marathon charity cheering point, the fundraising team got a letter of thanks from one of their runners. This is from memory, but it went something like this:

“It was my first London Marathon and I didn’t know what to expect. By the time I got to Canary Wharf I was really struggling but then I rounded a corner and a wall of orange went berserk.

And in that moment, I knew I was going to make it to the finish line because ahead of me on the route there were more pockets of total strangers willing me to finish and no way was I going to disappoint them”

And that’s why we do it. You know that in a small way you’ve helped someone achieve something awesome. For me, that’s a pretty good use of a Sunday.

My top tips for cheerers

The runners get plenty of tips for getting through the day, but I’ve picked up a few myself for cheerers:

  • Essentials – water and food. You might be standing directly opposite a coffee shop but, once the runners start coming through, there’s no way you can reach it if it’s on the other side of the road.
  • Tech issues  – if you’re planning to take photos make sure you’ve got an extra camera battery or a spare power supply for your phone. Also, once things get busy, just accept that you will miss great stuff if you’ve got your head down over your phone. Getting a signal can be tough too, especially anywhere around the finish line.
  • Timing – check what time the runners will start passing your spot and allow plenty of time to get there. Areas around tube stations tend to get really jammed and, even with stewards directing traffic, you can spend 15 minutes just covering 100 yards.
  • Clothing – Check the weather forecast on the day but layers are best. If you’re standing with a charity, allow room for a T-shirt to go over the top. Also bear in mind if it’s sunny, that the sun will move (obvs!) during the day. Although you may start out chilly and in the shade, you might be in full-on sunshine by lunchtime – so it’s hats and/or sunscreen, people.
  • If you’re not on a charity cheering point (WHY NOT?), try not to be standing downstream of a water point. Once they’ve re-hydrated, runners tend to drop their bottles and, if any runners accidentally kick or tread on a discarded bottle, the contents can go everywhere, but mostly all over you. I found this out the year that Lucozade pouches – briefly – replaced water. It was sticky.

If this has made you realise what a great day out you’re missing, there’s still time to join one of Scope’s cheering points. 

You can just show up on the day or sign up online to get last-minute updates and information. Either way, here is all the information you’ll need.

*Purple wigs optional