All posts by Scope Stories Team

Stories are at the heart of everything we do at Scope. Our blog is a platform for disabled people and their families to share their experiences and opinions.

Top 5 disability inclusive books – National Storytelling Week

Dan White is the author of the brilliant Department of Ability comic book, featuring a cast of superheroes whose impairments are their greatest superpower.

In this blog Dan runs down his list of the top five books that feature disability.

Disability in literary form is rare. I have searched, read and reviewed as many books as I could find that include it. Here is a list of my champion books. So, buckle up and, as my daughter Emily says to me as her wheelchair passes out of the house, “let’s roll!”

5. ‘Mr Millet’s farm’ by Catherine Lord

I had to include this. Catherine is the great undiscovered children’s author. So far wrongly ignored by mainstream publishers, Mr Millet’s farm is colourful and unique. Catherine writes with complete charm and understands both her subject and the little eyes who read it. It’s the story of Raj,  a wheelchair and the different animals that Front cover of Catherine Lord's book, Mr Millet's farm. It depicts a bear in a wheelchair on a farm.reside on the farm. The moral of the story is that it’s great to be unique and be who you are. The book aims to help raise awareness of disabilities from a young age.

Complete with wonderful, colourful illustrations, Mr Millet’s farm is perfect to read together with your children. It is an utterly beautiful book on acceptance and deserves a wider audience.

4. ‘Synthesis: Weave’ by Deane Saunders-Stowe

Disability Sci-fi? Yes! Science fiction is the most imaginative of all genres. To imagine a world that does not exist takes a special mind. And Front cover for Deane Saunders-Stowe's book, Synthesis Weave. It depicts a wheelchair user climbing up the side of a cliffto integrate disability makes that mind even more incredible. It shows a world in the future where disability and wheelchairs still have issues, but things have moved on. For instance, plasma limbs (spoiler alert), the uses of magic and the dangers of machine ethics give the book massive depth and the fact it has a wheelchair user climbing a mountain on the front cover sold it to me almost instantly!

3. ‘The Christmasaurus’ by Tom Fletcher

Well, I was sold on this because of the Christmas aspect! But the gem of this book is the fact that the main character uses a wheelchair. However, his disability is only broached almost a quarter of the way through and then it is dealt with swiftly and to the point.  Scope gave me this book to review and I consumed it all the way home from London. It was generally laugh out loud funny, the main character William is hilarious and a character in his own Front cover of Tom Fletcher's book, The Christmasaurus. It depicts a young boy riding on the back of a dinosaur surrounded by snowflakes.right.  You feel relaxed around his story and therefore laugh at his wheelchair accidents. You also get a darn good Christmas story to boot, with a dinosaur!

Tom has a talent for writing for kids that also sucks in the adult reader. Never have I felt more comfortable laughing out loud on the packed 5.30 from Waterloo. Diversity? Inclusion? Laughs? Nailed it.

2. ‘The Art of Disability’ by David Proud

David is a good friend of mine and an author to boot, however, that relationship has no bearing on his book being included here. Essentially a guide book for media types, The Art of Disability is a painstakingly sourced and written piece on the power of representation, it’s importance and how inclusion can be achieved in the wider media world. David, a wheelchair user, knows his stuff. His inveFront cover of David Proud's book, The Art of Disability. It shows a wheelchair user on a stage in darkness.stigations into the industry, his tips and his knowledge are evident.

Each chapter is easily digestible and informative for disabled people wanting to break into the industry. David is passionate and his experience, talent and knowledge ooze from the book. Full of quotes and humour this is essential for any disabled talent or any uninformed media executive.

1. ‘The Spiral Cage’ by Al Davison

Easily the winner, a graphic novel of such diverse beauty and power. I have re-read it constantly and it has had a huge impact on my work. Al the author gives you his life of being born with Spina Bifida from birth to present day in a series of incredible, stark, beautiful black and white images. The variant styles and text absorb you totally. Imagery is paramount and here Al uses many styles to illustrate his life from an era where being born differently meant different attitudes.

We see his formative years, his doctors, bullies, love and dreams being played in powerful, dedicated art. It is unashamedly rFront cover of Al Davison's book, The Spiral Cage. It depicts an abstract pattern with the close up of a face.aw both in language and style, but it is essential to read.  Sadly, out of print, but with a sequel in the works and a reprint hopeful, Al’s book needs to have a resurgence, especially today when it is more relevant than ever. The Spiral Cage is unlike any book on disability and that is what stands it out from anything else. It is so unique that people who buy comics for entertainment need to purchase this, as it will tell them something about life.

We ran a Twitter poll which showed that 3 in 4 people want to see more inclusion of disability in literature

So, for National Storytelling Week, we’re working on this. We’ll be asking for better representation of disability in literature, as well as celebrating some great work that we want to see more of.

To find out more about stories at Scope, head to our Stories Hub and please get involved with our activities for National Storytelling Week.

Not a superhuman? Never feel guilty for not doing ‘enough’

Anna Scutt is an actor, singer and hypnotist. In this blog she writes about the impact that adverts like ‘Meet the Superhumans‘ had on her, and how she’s come to accept that it’s okay to admit you’re not okay.

That ‘Meet the Superhumans’ advert. It, and programmes like ‘Disabled Daredevil’, used to make me feel inadequate for not doing something amazing like a bungee jump or a triathlon.  Until two things happened last weekend to change my mind.

One, I read Kim Daniel Daybell’s blog ‘You don’t have to be an athlete to be superhuman’, and two, I got talking to a man sitting next to me at the theatre.

“How does your CP actually disable you?”

He was very impressed that I had come to London on my own.  In the course of conversation, I told him I had also been to Milan to the opera, and that I’d sung in opera myself at university.  At which point he asked ‘Forgive me, but how does your cerebral palsy actually disable you?’

That made me think. Things that I consider ordinary – I drive, I sing, I’ve got a language degree and can watch all those Scandi-noir dramas without subtitles – non-disabled people consider superhuman because they realise that those things are way more difficult for me than they would be for them. They’re not being patronising, they’re just being non-disabled. He was genuinely interested though, so I answered his question: I am in constant pain. I didn’t tell him I hate it. And it took me a long time to admit it, but it’s OK to hate it.

Anna acting on stage. She sits on a mans knee, turned towards each other, in period costume
Anna playing Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest, with Paul Henshall as Jack Worthing

Never feel guilty for not doing ‘enough’

There are so many inspirational stories on the internet that not being OK with my CP made me feel like a failure.  But who doesn’t hate being in pain? That doesn’t make me a failure, it makes me human.

All these inspirational people tell you that you can do anything you put your mind to, but actually, ‘Yes, I can’ might not apply to you.  And that’s OK too.  I mean, it sucks, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I want to dance – tap, jive, quickstep – but my body doesn’t.  I am an actress and I would love to be in a lavish costume drama, but there aren’t many wheelchair users in Jane Austen.  Feel sad about it, feel angry, but never feel guilty.

Anna smiling at the camera in her wheelchair

If you want to play sport, opportunities have improved thanks to the Paralympics.  But if you don’t, nothing much has changed.  Coronation Street did more to raise awareness for me.  I used to get glared at in public if I got out of my wheelchair and walked, as if I was faking my disability. (I blame Little Britain’s Lou and Andy!)  But since Izzy Armstrong stood up out of her wheelchair at the bar of the Rover’s, the glaring has stopped.

Equality is still some way off, but it’s OK not to be a trailblazer or an activist. Someone else will raise awareness; someone will take that inaccessible shop to court, but don’t feel guilty if it’s not you.

You’re only human, after all.

If you want to find out more about Anna’s career, check out her webpage or watch her showreel. 

If you have a story you would like to share, get in touch with Scope’s Stories team.

 

“My guide dog isn’t a sat nav!”

Guest blog by Emily Davison, otherwise known as Fashioneyesta. Emily is a Scope for Change campaigner and stars in our new End the Awkward film made with UNILAD.

My name’s Emily Davison, otherwise known as Fashioneyesta. I’m a university graduate, writer, fashion and beauty blogger and YouTuber. I also happen to be visually impaired and work with a Guide Dog.

Every day I come across many misconceptions towards my disability and in turn I usually find myself in front of my camera or typing away at my laptop discussing these with my followers.

I was keen to take part in Scope’s End the Awkward campaign – to represent the sight loss community and to show that sight loss does not equate to ignorance, being un-fashionable or being stereotyped.

You can’t give my guide dog directions!

In my new film, you see me in an awkward situation around one of the most outlandish myths surrounding my guide dog – which is the common belief that people can give her directions instead of myself, and that she can follow them like a GPS system!

But, of course there are plenty more awkward moments where that one came from…

‘You’re well dressed for a blind person’

As a fashion blogger, comments I hear a lot are to do with my appearance. People will say ‘you don’t look blind!’ or ‘you’re very well dressed for a blind person.’

As if anyone with a visual impairment – simply because they lack sight – cannot have a conception of style, beauty or looking good, which is of course not true.

‘She’s blind and she’s wearing high heels!’

Another one I encounter on a regular basis is ‘Oh my god! She’s blind and she’s wearing high heels, how ridiculous!’ My answer to this is what does sight loss have to do with the clothes I wear? In what context do those two things relate?

I chose to take an interest in fashion because I enjoy the shopping process, I enjoy looking and feeling good and I happen to love wearing high-heeled shoes.

Awkward speed dating

Another time I went speed dating, and after talking to the person opposite me for a few minutes I got onto the subject of being visually impaired.

When I told him about my vision he sat back, blinked and said ‘Oh…Well what do you expect me do say to that?’ And the conversation came to an abrupt, very awkward end.

Young woman sitting on steps near a beach

‘But you don’t look blind…’

On the bus one day I sat on one of the priority seats – those usually reserved for disabled people, elderly people or those with child.

But my guide dog was out of view and therefore to some I could appear to be a ‘normal person’ – a term I use very loosely.

An elderly gentlemen boarded the bus and said to me ‘Can you move please! These seats are for disabled people.’

It just so happened that my stop was next and so instead of staring a brawl I got up to expose my little four-legged friend, in all her guide dog splendour (neon harness).

There was a deadly silence…..He then responded ‘Oh god! No sit back down… it’s…it’s just…you don’t look blind!’

We all make mistakes

Awkwardness is something I experience in my everyday life, we all do, but disability shouldn’t be something to feel awkward about.

If you have ever felt awkward around disabled people – maybe you said something wrong or made someone feel embarrassed – the thing to do is simply apologise.

We all make mistakes in life and as long as we move forward and learn from them, this is what truly matters.

Follow Fashioneyesta

If you would like to keep up to date with my work you can find me on my blog, Twitter and YouTube. And don’t forget to share your awkward stories too as part of End the Awkward.

I want a t-shirt that says “I’m allergic to exercise. No, really!”

Natasha Coates is an elite disability gymnast and Scope Role Model. When she was 18, she suffered a life-threatening allergic reaction and went into anaphalactic shock. Following this she was diagnosed with the rare condition Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

In this film and blog, Natasha talks to us about competing in disability sport and how the Paralympics is helping to change attitudes towards disability.

I think the Paralympics in 2012 really helped attitudes towards disability. Joe Bloggs down the street might not have had any exposure to disabled people so it made people aware and seeing it on TV and having the athletes interviewed inspired a whole generation of disabled people. It’s definitely helped.

It showed people that being a disabled person doesn’t mean you can’t do sport. Exercise is for everyone, no matter what your age or ability. You can give it a go. You can always adapt things. The Paralympics showed us that.

I’d love gymnastics to be in the Paralympics and to say I was going to Rio but unfortunately it’s unlikely to happen in my career. There’s just not enough of us and there’s not enough international squads. You have to be able to do World Championships first before you can put in a bid for the Paralympics. Hopefully it will get there. I’d love to see it in my lifetime.

I want to pave the way for the next generation. If in 50 years time, gymnasts get the chance to do something I wasn’t able to, that would be amazing.

We’ve published the findings of a new poll which asked disabled people whether the Paralympics can change attitudes to disability and asked what life is like if you’re disabled in 2016. Read more about these findings.

British Gymnastics ensure that gymnastics is a totally inclusive sport and can adapt mainstream gymnastics sessions for disabled people. You can find your local club on the British Gymnastics website.

Jordanne Whiley: going for double-gold at the Paralympics

Jordanne Whiley is a Paralympian, eight time Grand Slam champion and Britain’s most decorated female tennis player of all time. She was born with osteogenesis, more commonly know as brittle bone disease.

In this blog she talks about her hopes for Rio and why she wants to show young people that no matter what your background, or how you look, you can achieve anything.

My love for tennis started when I was three

I had my first leg break when I was three months-old and I had my last one at 12 years-old. In between that I had about 26 breaks. When I was three, my dad took me out to Israel because he was competing in a tennis tournament. I was in a wheelchair with my legs in plaster at the time. I didn’t think I’d be able to play but my dad’s friend gave me a racket and ball and I just started hitting it. Then it was all over Israeli news! I got a trophy from the tournament too. It all just kicked off after that.

I became professional around the time I was 16. Before that, I was part of the Tennis Foundation performance programme and I’d won national championships but not at a professional level. I was at school and I wasn’t sure if I was going to carry on with tennis or go into further academic studies. Then I qualified for the Beijing Paralympics on my sixteenth birthday, which was a nice surprise! So I went to Beijing and when I came back I quit academic studies and became a professional tennis player.

People care about the Paralympics a lot more now

In Beijing tickets weren’t sold and people were told to come and watch the Paralympics and told when to clap. Four years later, in London, there was an arena with 17,000 people who turned up to watch my bronze medal match. In just four years, that’s pretty incredible! I’m hoping that Rio will do just as well.

The sport has changed massively too. I’d say that wheelchair tennis is up there as one of the most successful Paralympic sports. The top ten men and women in the world are just a ridiculous standard. It’s actually world class tennis not just “disabled people playing tennis”. Some wheelchair tennis players have got fantastic profiles for themselves.  My own profile has shot up since London 2012.

Jordanne on the court, about to hit the ball

I want to be a role model for young people

When I was growing up, I didn’t really have any role models to look up to. I don’t like looking up to celebrities because I don’t know them. If I looked up to anyone, I’d want them to be a real person. I had my dad for a lot of it. He was my coach until I was 12 and both my parents were very supportive of my career. But it was just me and them for a very long time.

I want to be a real role model to people. I don’t own Bentleys and live in an 80 room mansion – I’m just a real person. I’m very successful in what I do but I’ve been through struggles. Paralympians have a good opportunity to become those kinds of role models. And I do look up to other Paralympians myself.

The bigger my profile gets, the more chance that people will listen to me. So when I’m trying to influence young girls to stop worrying about their body and get on with their lives, I’m more likely to have more impact. That’s what really drives me. I’m not interested in becoming famous, I just want to influence young people.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what background you’re from, what shape and size you are, you can still be successful. You don’t have to look a certain way to fit into society.  And if people think badly of you, you don’t need them in your life.  I know the people around me will always support me and accept me for who I am.

The Paralympics can change attitudes towards disability

The Paralympics definitely have the ability to change attitudes towards disability. You do have the group of people who think the Paralympics is just a load of disabled people playing sports, “Aww, let’s give them a chance!” but then there are other people who have seen it who are like “Actually, these people are world class athletes. Their disability doesn’t mean anything.” People making judgements should just watch some of it. They will be amazed at what they see.

It’s difficult because a lot of people don’t know what wheelchair tennis is. It’s really sad because it’s such a brilliant sport.  As well as that, you have fun, the social life is great and you meet so many different people. It really helps you become comfortable with your impairment as you meet loads of different disabled people. It can really help you accept yourself.

My hopes for Rio

Training is going really well. I’m definitely in a good position for Rio. A lot of people, including myself, know that I can go for double gold. I don’t want to let anyone down. I know I’ve got it in me to win two golds which is exciting. I just need to go out and play my best. I’ve trained for this for four years!

Visit the ParalympicsGB website to find out more.

Jordanne was one of our #30toWatch in our 30 Under 30 campaign. Find out more about Jordanne’s life and career

Photo credits: Header image courtesy of RKGsecond image courtesy of The Tennis Foundation.

“My life is pretty damn awkward” – find out what is making Kelly cringe

Kelly has shared her embarrassing festival tales, is on a mission to make the UK’s most accessible football club and even let us film her when she tied the knot last year!

Now, as part of End the Awkward 2016, Kelly is back to share even more stories that will make you cringe and want to #EndtheAwkward.

Have you got an awkward story to tell? Tell us your story today.

As a generally average British girl, my life is pretty damn awkward anyway so having a disability and using a wheelchair often makes it even more so. The hilarious thing is, it’s often not me that’s feeling awkward.

So many times throughout my life, I’ve been avoided, talked down to and just plain ignored because of my disability. I can make light of it now but it’s actually a really serious and sad issue.

At all kinds of places (bars, hotel, airports, restaurants) people just plain ignore me! It’s the worst! They will do anything from talk to the person with me, blankly stare at me as if I’m speaking a different language and other times just pretend that I’m not there! This is definitely the worst kind of awkward interaction and it can really effect your confidence as a wheelchair user.

It’s hard enough to keep the confident facade going as a young adult as it is, so when throwing a wheelchair into the mix, it gets harder.

Kelly, a young disabled woman in an electric wheelchair, smiles at the camera with her friend

Avoiding the awkward

I’m ashamed to say there have definitely been times where I’ve avoided situations or asked someone else to do something for me to avoid awkward interactions (such as reaching card machines in shops, signing room check-in keys when the counter is literally higher than your head).

I’ve realised, this is simply the worst thing I could do.

I’m the kind of person who likes to challenge myself daily, to the point of painful fear and regret. You’re talking to the girl who auditioned for The Apprentice with no business plan when she was 18! Sometimes I just love being uncomfortable. However, the kind of uncomfortable that avoidance brings is a kind of deja vu uncomfortable that on bad days you just don’t want to deal with.

The good, the bad and the awkward

Sometimes, when I’m out, people will just not talk to me. They will literally avoid talking to me to talk to anyone who is with me, whether it’s my mom, my husband or a friend. They will talk to them rather than me.

There have been times that I’ve been answering back and they’ve been sending their answers back to me via other people, like they are a spirit and I am using the person I am with as a vessel to communicate!

Now I know a lot of my disabled friends have experienced this and I think it’s one of the most common awkward and annoying moments that I experience.

But don’t get me wrong, using a wheelchair definitely also has it’s upsides!

A group of young disabled people in electric wheelchairs pose for the camera at a music festival. They are all wearing rain macs
Kelly and her group of friends at a music festival

As many of you know, I love festivals and I’ve been to most of them. I was recently at a music festival (I won’t say which as I don’t want anyone to get in trouble!) where myself and two others (both wheelchair users) literally just walked into the VIP area.

We weren’t asked if we had tickets or wristbands, we weren’t checked at all. So we spent most of the afternoon enjoying the hospitality that we hadn’t paid for. Thanks to the awkward security guard for not asking any questions!

As some of you may also know, I was an overly rebellious and not always well behaved teenager. At college myself and my friends were caught by the police doing something bad and teenager-like. The police proceeded to arrest all of my friends, except me, and took them to the station. At the time, this really annoyed me! Shouldn’t all police cars be able to transport electric wheelchairs? But now I look back on this and I guess it was a good thing as I got off scot-free!

A group of festival goers (some in electric wheelchairs) pose for the camera
A sunny selfie of Kelly and friends at a music festival

End the Awkward is returning and we want to change even more attitudes around disability.

Got a really awkward story? We’d love to hear about it! Has anyone ever tried to avoid you or acted totally awkwardly around you? Tell us your story today.

We picked our #30toWatch, now it’s over to you

Throughout June, we shared one story a day from disabled people under 30. We wanted to help change attitudes towards disability by showing stories from disabled people who are doing extraordinary things.

Among these 30 amazing stories, we’ve had disabled racing drivers, actors, campaigners, musicians and gymnasts.

We’ve heard about volunteering stars, campaigners doing amazing things and Paralympians who are looking forward to Rio 2016.

The blogs have been a huge success and have been read by tens of thousands of people. We’d like to say thanks to those of you who have read and shared them and, of course, a big thank you to the 30 disabled people who have shared these fantastic stories.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now it’s over to you

We always want to hear new stories about disability. Our blog is a platform for disabled people and their families to share their experiences and opinions. Get in touch with the Stories team today to share your story.

You can also visit Scope’s website to find out more about stories at Scope and to meet the team.

If you missed any of the 30 Under 30 campaign, you can still read all of the stories on our website.

Instead of venting my anger towards people, I’ve put it into a song – Smiiffy the rapper

Smiiffy is a 21-year-old rapper from Birmingham who is looking to challenge attitudes and raise awareness of mental health and disability.

For 30 Under 30, he spoke with us about how he is using his music to spread awareness of mental health and what he hopes his music will achieve.

It’s really important to be open about impairments as it can help break down barriers and end stigma.

I have Bilateral Perthes’ disease which means my cartilage is degenerating. It’s quite painful now and again but I’ve learnt to live with it. I’ve had around 15 operations and probably a lot more to come in the future.

I also have depression, anxiety, memory loss and probably a long list of everything else!

I’ve been quite open about it, however I haven’t always been confident in talking about it. I always had the fear of being rejected by people if I told them. Lately, I’ve become a lot more comfortable from support online and have opened up a lot more.

Smiiffy, a young disabled man, smiles by a microphone

I find comfort through using humour and writing music. My music is all about my experiences but I sometimes also write songs about experiences of people I’ve met.

Knowing that there are people listening to the lyrics and finding them relatable is brilliant.

You wouldn’t believe I have anxiety when I perform on the stage, everything just kind of goes away. I’m in my element and absolutely love what I do.

An exclusive rap for 30 Under 30

It’s time I show some clarity

I face facts and reality

Every single person is perfect the way that you are

Don’t let any physical or mental issue break who you really are

I’ve had shackles on my wrists and I’ve been scared to speak

I’ve had times where I’ve let tears take over my cheek

But now I’m stronger than that, that’s what you call unity

And when I feel this strong there’s nothing that anything can actually do to me

You can see more from Smiiffy on his YouTube channel and by following him on Twitter.

Smiiffy is sharing his story as part of 30 Under 30. Throughout June, we have been sharing one story a day from disabled people who are doing extraordinary things. Visit our website to see all of the stories in the campaign.

My role on Holby City helps change attitudes about autism – Jules

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Jules is an actor and a regular on Holby City. He also happens to have Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism.

As part of 30 Under 30, we chatted to him about acting, attitudes and how Access All Areas helped him break into the industry.

My love of acting came from watching a lot of Steve Martin movies which made me feel really good. I also loved going to the theatre and the cinema. I watched lots of films and always thought I’d like to do something like that. Acting made me feel good about myself. I think that really inspired me.

I did a course through Access All Areas, who also now act as my agent. I made some good friends during that time and it was a really good experience because it helped my acting. I improved so much. It meant I could get to the next level.

Landing a role on Holby City

I got an audition thanks to Access All Areas who also now act as my agent. I was fabulous (as always!) and I passed the audition with flying colours. It was very challenging at the beginning because I was walking into something completely new. As the months went on I became comfortable and settled in well and I actually really like it now. I think I’ve come a long way in the last year. I always jump out of bed with enthusiasm, even though I’m leaving at half 6 in the morning.

I play Jason Haynes. He has a different type of Asperger’s to myself. I think he’s a lot geekier than I am. He’s a very nice man but he lacks confidence. I feel like I’m playing a completely different person. That’s why it’s interesting. It’s really fun on set with the cast and crew. It’s a long day but it’s good. I always feel very proud of myself at the end of the day. I feel like I’ve tried my best and done a good job. I like that lots of parents with autistic children have enjoyed it. It’s a great thing that I’ve been able to do.

Jules, a young disabled man, plays a character smiling and lying in a hospital bed on Holby City

I hope attitudes in the industry get better

There was a point where I was very frustrated with the industry because I was seeing all these films that had a character with autism and it was so often played by a neuro-typical person. In Rain Man and Black Balloon, for example, the actors in those two films don’t have the condition. It’s frustrating that directors and producers don’t do enough research because there are people out there with the conditions that can play these parts.

It’s important for disabled actors to play disabled characters, and I think they can play characters who don’t have a condition too. I want the industry to be a little bit more understanding and to not ignore autistic talent like it has done for far too long. I would say it’s improving now but it could get a lot better.

I think it’s really good that shows like Holby City are starting to look into diversity more. When I first started I saw one negative comment on Facebook, someone who followed the show who didn’t understand Asperger’s. But everyone else has been really supportive.

It’s great to have role models

Steve Martin, John Travolta and Morgan Freeman are some of my favourite actors, and Kevin Spacey, Tim Robbins, Jeff Bridges – I’ve got lots. Jim Carrey as well. All these people make me so excited to be an actor and it’s really great to have these role models because I happen to think that actors and comedians are the best people in the world.

I hope that I’m seen as a role model. I hope that I’m encouraging people with other conditions or people who are on the spectrum and have autism or mild learning difficulties. If they watch me on Holby City I hope I’m showing them that it can happen for them and they shouldn’t lose faith and hope. I’m sure they can do it if they put their mind to it.

I think that I’ve done a good job at making people more aware of autism and making it relevant in the acting world. I’m showing that if people with autism want to do this kind of work they can, and it’s not impossible.

My advice for other young disabled actors

Keep a positive frame of mind and try your best. Of course there will be hard times but you’ll get through it. Try your very best to get where you want to go. Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you want but maybe it just takes time.

Holby City has been the highlight of my career. It’s a very rewarding job and I’m hoping that it will lead to other work in the future. It’s been my first big break really. I’d love to do movies here and in America, more TV and theatre. I’d like to do a whole variety of things.

Jules is sharing his story as part of 30 Under 30. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

Setting up a disability community gave me a sense of belonging – Sam

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Sam is a student at Oxford and a Scope for Change campaigner. She is the current President of Oxford Students’ Disability Community and a founding member.

As part of 30 Under 30, Sam talks about the difficulties she faced when she started university, feeling isolated and how setting up a disability community changed things. 

For as long as I can recall, I’ve had a hearing loss. I remember my mum telling my teacher on the first day of school that I couldn’t hear well, and I got my first pair of hearing aids when I was 7. Despite my hearing loss I’ve always been in mainstream education, and coped pretty well. I never had any trouble with the work, made friends easily, and my hearing loss was largely an afterthought. This changed drastically when I left for university.

For the first time I began to think of myself as disabled

The switch from a small classroom environment was jarring, and I found I couldn’t hear at all in lectures. At school I’d been taught by the same teachers for years, but at university I had new tutors every term and not all of them understood my hearing loss. The majority of socialising took place in pubs, bars, or at dinner with the rest of my year group – I had a great group of friends, but spent most of our time together desperately trying to pick out their lost words from a solid wall of sound.

I didn’t know how to ask for help, and I felt like I was the only person struggling. At the same time my hearing began to deteriorate faster than it had ever done before, and at the end of my second year I found out I was now profoundly deaf. For the first time I began to think of myself as disabled.

I was becoming increasingly isolated

I’d never known anyone with a disability growing up. I’d met one other deaf person at university, but nobody in our social circle was disabled. I found myself becoming increasingly isolated – I couldn’t talk to my friends about losing my hearing as they had no experience of it themselves, and it was less upsetting to stay in on my own than to go out and struggle to hear the conversations. I was desperately unhappy.

Sam smiling, holding up a sign that says We Unite

Setting up the Oxford Students’ Disability Community

About a year and a half ago, one student at the university sent round a Facebook message inviting other students with disabilities out for a drink and a chat at a local bar. I didn’t know anyone, but I decided to go. About 20 other students turned up, and when we got talking and it was like a light had been switched on.

All of us were having a hard time, with tutors and peers not understanding our disabilities, and some of us had been experiencing discrimination because of this. Before, we’d all been convinced our troubles were individual, but it was now strikingly clear that this was a problem for many other disabled students at the university. We banded together, forming a working group of disabled students – the Oxford Students’ Disability Community (OSDC).

We began to spread the word, communicating with the university to improve support for disabled students, running social events, and starting a Facebook group where students with disabilities, mental health conditions and specific learning difficulties could ask each other for advice or support. We became the student union’s official disabled students campaign, and before long we found ourselves with a community of more than 400 people.

I no longer feel alone

For me, that sense of community is so important. So many of us had found ourselves isolated by our disabilities and the way others responded to them. I had never felt more alone than when my hearing began to decline, but once I began to meet other disabled students I realised I was anything but.

We have a wealth of shared experiences and whilst our disabilities are different, I’ve found we can relate to each other in ways no one else has done before. That understanding is so important in a culture that so frequently ignores and alienates the disabled, and I feel so grateful to have found it. OSDC has given me some of my closest friends, helped me find my voice as a disabled person, and fostered an overwhelming sense of belonging.

To find out more, visit the Oxford Students’ Disability Community’s website. 

Sam is sharing her story as part of 30 Under 30. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.