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.

We need to do more for disabled survivors like me – Ashley

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

Trigger warning: mentions sexual assault, rape, suicide attempt

Ashley is a campaigner. As a survivor of sexual assault, Ashley is passionate about bringing about change for disabled survivors, who are often overlooked. Through Scope for Change – Scope’s training programme for young disabled campaigners – Ashley has teamed up with others to set up Disabled Survivors Unite. Their goal is to combat domestic abuse and sexual violence against disabled people.

As part of 30 Under 30, Ashley talks about the need for disabled survivors’ voices to be heard, shares their own journey and talks about their plans for the future.

I am a survivor of sexual assault

I’m going to share my story because I don’t want others to feel ashamed or alone. I was drugged and assaulted in London when I was 21. Due to my autism, I often go non-verbal under stress, but I was very clear that I did not want to have sex with this man, this stranger. What I wanted was of no importance to him. Afterwards, I fell into a deep hole that no one seemed prepared to help me out of. The knowledge wasn’t there for someone like me, a rape victim with autism, chronic illnesses, and ill mental health.

And so the months went by without proper support and, upon hearing the case would not go forward, I tried to kill myself. I remember waking up in the hospital bed with an apologetic doctor explaining that England didn’t have any support set up for people like me. My family watched as my physical health deteriorated and I retreated further into my head. No one knew what to do.

I found support from other survivors

Two years later, I made it to a survivor’s writing session and found a group of people just like me. Most had disabilities of varying kinds and it was the first time since my assault that I felt a sense of purpose. We decided to band together and start something – we came up with The (re)Storytellers Project.

The idea was to create a template to be used at universities for writing groups of survivors and victims to support each other, as the waiting lists for Rape Crisis counselling can be incredibly long. Through this group, I discovered that the most important thing to me was to protect the countless others who had been through what I had.

Ashley at a garden party, smiling with a drink

Working with other young campaigners

Through Scope for Change, a training programme for young disabled campaigners, I learned just how valuable our voices are as young disabled people. We were taught how to utilise social media, film, and various other campaign tactics to get our voices out there; but, most importantly, I think we all came away more confident in asserting ourselves and our varying needs.

It’s hard to express just how important Scope For Change is to me as a disabled person who has spent most of their life incredibly isolated – to be in a room full of fellow disabled people who want to change the world is absolutely glorious.

Why we set up Disabled Survivors Unite

I struggle every day with the knowledge that my situation is not an uncommon one. As I’ve become more involved with the disability community, it’s been made very clear that sexual violence is an epidemic that is rarely discussed with us in mind. It’s my goal to change that.

People like me often go unheard. Disabled people are desexualised to such a degree in the eyes of the public that the possibility of us being victims doesn’t even occur to people. When I was raped, my disabilities were ignored by those in charge of helping me.

At the Scope For Change residential several of us realised we wanted to campaign about similar issues. As a survivor myself, I’ve had many difficulties getting specialised support and couldn’t stand to let others feel alone in that. We want Disabled Survivors Unite to become a non-profit organisation built around fighting domestic abuse and sexual violence against disabled people.

Our plans for the future

Our first step towards our goal is The (re)Storytellers Project. With Disabled Survivors Unite, we’re taking that idea to the next level and collecting stories, letters, and notes of support, anonymously or otherwise, to better amplify the voices of disabled victims and survivors.

We hope that sharing these stories will both create a feeling of community for those involved and bring about change in the way that disabled victims and survivors are viewed and treated.

If you have been affected by the content of this blog, you can contact the Samaritans or Scope’s helpline for support.

To find out more and support Ashley’s work, visit Disabled Survivors Unite.

Ashley is sharing their story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Read other stories from 30 Under 30.

This World Music Day, record breaking pianist Nicholas McCarthy shares his incredible story

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Nicholas McCarthy is a British pianist. Born without a right hand, he was the first left-hand-only pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in London in its 134-year history. 

As part of 30 Under 30 he chatted to us about his journey to success and talks about breaking barriers, his love of music and his advice for other young disabled artists. 

Here’s an extract from the full blog which we’ve shared on Medium, along with some of Nicholas’ music. 

I didn’t play piano until I was 14. I saw a friend of mine play a Beethoven piano sonata in assembly and I just had one of those moments where I thought “Oh my God, that’s what I’m going to do”. I had a small keyboard from years before so I got my parents to get it out of the loft and started really slowly learning. One day, my dad shouted up “Nick, turn the radio down” and it was actually me playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. So I said “It’s not the radio dad, it’s me” and there was a deathly silence from downstairs. Then they said “Do you want piano lessons? You’re quite good actually love!” — and of course I said yes.

After a two years of lessons my piano music teacher said I should go to a specialist school. My friend who played that Beethoven piano sonata had been to a specialist piano school with very high standards and I really wanted to go there. I knew I needed to audition so I rang up the headmistress. I remember it like it was yesterday. She said: “To be honest I haven’t got any time to see you because I don’t know how you can possibly play scales without two hands”. Being a cocky 15-year-old at this point, I replied: “I don’t want to play scales. I want to play music” and she put the phone down on me.

In my head, that was my one chance of becoming a concert pianist and I felt completely shattered. This woman, sadly, couldn’t think outside the box and I thought “That’s it, poor me”. Reality isn’t like that, there are many paths around things. I found a different way.

That wasn’t the only barrier that Nicholas has had to overcome. Head over to Medium to read about the path that he did take, which led to his record-breaking success at the Royal College of Music and performing at the London Paralympics 2012.

To hear more from Nicholas, visit his website and his YouTube channel.

YouTube gave me back the things I lost

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Shelly is a YouTube vlogger. She was diagnosed with a range of complex medical conditions at an early age and spent most of her childhood at home, in bed. She has recently been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).

For 30 Under 30, Shelly talks about how the internet, vlogging and YouTube have allowed her to regain a social life.

I’m a show off. Ever since I was five, I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be on the stage. Not on TV or anything but on the stage! I saw musicals and stuff when I was a kid and I was like “I want to be up there! I want to do that!”

To have to give that up was difficult.

I got sick when I was seven years old with a stomach problem. I just thought it was stomach flu but I never really got over it. Then at 13, I had to drop out of school when I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME) which slowly, steadily got worse.
It just drained the hell out of me and gave me multiple problems at the same time.

Then, at 15, I was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) which meant that I couldn’t take medication.

Video editing software showing an edit of one of Shelly's videos

Losing the life I was meant to have

I was not happy at all. I didn’t go out, didn’t go clubbing, didn’t meet boyfriends and girlfriends, I didn’t meet friends, I didn’t have all the kind of firsts you’re meant to have.

I didn’t have any friends because the only friends you have at that age are school friends aren’t they? I couldn’t even hang out with them on the weekend because I couldn’t get out of bed.

I became a loner really fast.

I got the internet in the end and met friends. Then I found a group of young people with ME and the internet opened me back up to having a social life. It wasn’t a physical social life as I still couldn’t get out of the house, but at least I was talking to people again!

I’d become really shy because I didn’t know how to talk to people. Being socially isolated, I hadn’t learnt how to talk as an adult and was still stuck as a 13 year old in a 21 year old body.

Shelly lies in bed typing on her laptop.

Becoming a vlogger

One day, I came across YouTube. I was hooked and came across English vlogger Carrie Hope Fletcher. I was looking at her videos, the way she edits and makes videos made sense to me. So I just started making videos randomly! I then found out about BookTube via a fellow ME Booktuber and friend, Daisy (AtThousandLivesofDaisy). That’s when my two interests came together – books and vlogging!

Benefits of vlogging

YouTube is a great platform and vlogging is a great way of opening up to the world without having to fit to parameters. You can do it at five o’clock in the morning, you can do it on your phone, you can do it without all the tech wizardry. I edit on Windows Movie Maker, I’ve never bought a piece of editing software in my life, I’ve never bought anything in my life to do YouTube. You literally just do it and start talking.

It’s a great way to spread awareness. You could vlog your day and show how your illness affects you. Being disabled, being bed bound, being chronically ill, you are limited and kind of stuck in your world sometimes. Vlogging just opens the world.

It’s a great way to take your mind off of life. I haven’t been doing very well so this has been my outlet. I can’t go out and do the things I want to do so this is my version of going out, talking to people, going to book groups and things like that.

This is what illness looks like

I think it’s great when disabled vloggers talk about their impairments on YouTube. You are showing real life and what it takes to get up out of bed and get ready and have as much of a “normal” day as possible like everybody else does. The only way people are going to notice is if you show or tell people. Otherwise you’d just be in the corner, in the dark, where nobody can see.

I don’t talk about the bad times, I don’t want to. I’m British with a stiff upper lip. Keep Calm and Carry On! I try to put a positive spin on things. I don’t want to sound like I’m a grumpy person moaning all the time but I’m sick. I suppose it’s just being honest and showing people that this is what illness looks like, don’t ignore it.

Shelly is holding a book and has a finger to her lips to signify that she wants someone to be quiet.

Shelly is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. This is where we are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Read other stories from 30 Under 30.

Visit Shelly’s YouTube page or follow her on Twitter.

Why Chris is re-creating some of the worst things he’s experienced

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Chris Amor is a 27-year-old university student, studying animation. Chris has dwarfism and experiences regular harassment, making him feel excluded and dehumanised.

As part of 30 Under 30 he talks to us about challenging attitudes and putting height discrimination on the same level as other forms of discrimination. Currently, he’s working on a short animated film which aims to do exactly that.

Attitudes can be a barrier

A lot of people still think it’s socially acceptable to mock and effectively dehumanise people with dwarfism. For me, the physical side doesn’t get me down, it’s the attitudes that other people have towards it. There’s still a big stigma around dwarfism and the way we’re portrayed as freaks.

People can also be scared to talk to me because they think I’ll be easily offended. I’d just prefer people to talk to me like anyone else, not focus on my dwarfism, just treat me like a person. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me either. I just want people to not care about how tall someone is. It doesn’t define who you are, at all.

Dating is another big thing that gets to me. There’s still a big stigma about men being shorter than women or couples with extreme height difference. People tell me I should date another person with dwarfism. Again, it’s dehumanising. It’s putting body before personality. Of course I’d be happy to date a person with dwarfism, but I want to date someone for who they are not just how they look. Why should it matter if the woman is taller?

Chris sitting in front of a brick wall, with his arms folded
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

Experiencing harassment at work

I’ve worked at a local pub for a few years. At first, I mostly did night shifts and of course people are drinking, and I was specifically targeted. I’ve had people run up behind me and try to pick me up, people patting me on the head, talking to me randomly about really personal and inappropriate things. People even take photos or secretly film me, purely just to portray me as being different.

It got to a point where I had a breakdown and told my family and my managers at work about it. They were very understanding and agreed that I should do more day shifts instead. It’s a lot better. And it’s nice to be able to just get on with your job without constantly feeling paranoid.

The effect of endless harassment

Endless harassment can create paranoia. You just constantly feel paranoid if there’s someone behind you or if someone’s got their phone out, are they going to take a photo of me? And it’s the principle behind it – that they’re going to share it on social media as a joke.

Because I’ve being experiencing it for a long time it can be difficult when I’m in certain environments not to be too self-conscious. For some people, it can lead to depression and even suicide. Comments and insults can be more damaging that physical assault, certainly for me – it’s just that concept of feeling excluded from society. And it also affects my confidence when it comes to working and dating.

I’m making a film to raise awareness

A lot of films about disabled people and their lives are focused on the physical or mental restrictions that they have but my film is purely focused on the attitudes of others. Through animation, I’m re-creating some of the worst things that I’ve personally experienced and things that other people have told me, exactly from that person’s perspective. Some people might see these things as just a little joke and say you lack a sense of humour, but it’s not about that. I’m happy to have the piss taken out of me for how I am as a person, not because of how I was born.

I hope the film will raise awareness and change perceptions. I want to put heightism on the same grounds of unacceptance that racism is. And I want to challenge the dehumanising ideas about what you shouldn’t and shouldn’t do – like disabled people shouldn’t be in a relationship with a non-disabled person or you can’t do this job.

Chris arms folded, in front of a garden
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

How we can change attitudes

I think a lot of it’s to do with media representation. Peter Dinklage, from Game of Thrones, is one of the few actors with dwarfism who plays a role that’s not related to his height. Some of the earlier roles for people with dwarfism like Willow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they were picked for those roles because of how they look. It gives them a label and a separation in that sense. I’m not saying that actors with dwarfism can’t play those kinds of roles, but height shouldn’t limit what they can and can’t do.

I also think education is key to changing attitudes. When my film is finished, I want to send it to some film festivals and make sure it’s spread nationwide. It’s not about feeling sorry for someone. It’s about encouraging people to think “How would I feel if I was in that body and was being treated differently because of something I can’t help?”. One day I hope I can walk down the street and nobody cares about my height.

Chris is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. 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.

 

Nobody is ‘too pretty’ to be in a wheelchair – Sarah

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Sarah is a 29 year-old blogger who writes about beauty, lifestyle and living with chronic pain, as well as running #SpooniePost – a project to support fellow chronically ill people. She has a Masters in English and she’s also a trustee for Enhance the UK and the editor of their new online magazine, Liability Magazine.

For 30 Under 30, Sarah has written a guest blog about her passion for beauty and society’s problem with people who don’t ‘look disabled’.

I’ve experienced quite a lot of judgement, negativity and ableism over the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also had so many positive things happen too, but I wanted to address something that seems to be a common occurrence: the view that some disabled people don’t ‘look disabled’.

I don’t know where this skewed idea of what a disabled person looks like has come from, but I’m getting a bit tired of hearing that I ‘don’t look sick’, or I’m ‘too pretty to be in a wheelchair.’

Disability doesn’t discriminate

I’m a 29 year old woman who suffers with a long list of conditions that I won’t bore you with, but ultimately, I live with chronic pain. I use a powered wheelchair, various splints and compression supports, and I don’t ‘look sick’. Do you know why? Because disability doesn’t discriminate; my appearance has absolutely no bearing on my health.

How is pain supposed to be represented on the body? You could see the suitcases under my eyes from not sleeping due to the pain, if I didn’t hide them with concealer. You could tell me I look pale and ill if I hadn’t added foundation and blusher to my morning routine. Should I be covered from head-to-toe in bruises because then it’s visible? Then an outsider can see, and then they believe my pain is real. Then I’ll ‘look disabled.’

Sarah puts on pink lipgloss

Should I not care about my appearance because I use wheels instead of legs?

I make an effort whenever I leave the house. I make it my mission to go out at least once a week (unless I’m in a flare-up), even if it is just to the Post Office. I brush my hair and I always, always, do my makeup. I’m going out, once in seven days, I want to look presentable, I want to look cute, and make an effort. Should I not care about my appearance because I use wheels instead of legs? Should I not wear heels because I can’t walk in them?

I am just as entitled to slap on some lippy, blend out a smoky eye, contour my face like Kim Kardashian and rock stilettos as much as the next person, and my wheelchair, my disability shouldn’t determine whether I should or not. I’ve seen the sideways looks, heard the snide comments, and I’m here to tell you that disabled people have the same interests and insecurities as able-bodied people. I love beauty, I love playing with makeup, it makes the little girl inside of me happy; so when it’s time to go out, I do my best to make sure I present myself in a way that makes me feel good. After all, I put all these products on my face for my benefit.

Doing my makeup is a form of self-care for me

I’m a girly-girl, I love makeup, hair, lashes, nails; and being in constant pain has absolutely no impact on the way I look when I leave my house. Doing my makeup is a form of self-care for me, it makes me feel confident and it helps with my mental health. I know I’d feel self-conscious if I went out without some concealer at least. I don’t always put a full-face on if I’m just popping to the shop, but sometimes I do, and that’s my choice. Not for one second am I saying that you should wear makeup to feel better about yourself, because I’m not, it just helps ME take on the world.

Sarah strikes a pose wearing a black t-shirt and glasses

The perception of disability is looking like you’re suffering

But because I do wear makeup and I am disabled, there’s negative comments and misunderstanding among some. ‘Why make an effort, nobody will want you anyway…?’ ‘She’s wearing makeup, there’s clearly nothing wrong with her,’ ‘she must be better,’ – if only cosmetics had the ability to eliminate disability! This archaic way of thinking is still very much ingrained in some people as they don’t see the person, they see the disability; and it appears that the perception of disability is ‘looking disabled,’ looking like you’re suffering, being different. If you can’t comprehend that disabled people are so much more than their disability, your view is so outdated.

Wearing makeup does not make me or anyone else with a visible or invisible illness any less disabled; it doesn’t change our conditions in any way whatsoever. And no matter whether I wear a truck-load of makeup, wear the highest heels, have tattoos and piercings, it shouldn’t make you question if I’m faking, miraculously better or disabled.

I’m disabled and I wear makeup, so what?

Sarah is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We’ll be 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.

To read more from Sarah, check out her blog Sarah in Wonderland.

Grace Mandeville reveals how to become a star on YouTube

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Grace Mandeville is a popular YouTube vlogger, as well as an actor, model and blogger. However, Grace says she just spends her whole life on Twitter!

As part of 30 Under 30 she talks to us about making videos, attitudes and her top tips for getting started on YouTube. 

How I started doing YouTube videos

I was going for an audition and I was talking to some of the other people in there and they were like ‘Oh I have a show reel on YouTube’. Suddenly I thought, with acting you have to wait for someone to say ‘yes you can have this role’ and tell you what to do, but with  YouTube you can just do it yourself, there’s no waiting.

I was born with what’s called a foreshortened limb. I just say I’ve got one hand – my arm ends just below the elbow. I found it really easy breaking into YouTube as a disabled person. I didn’t talk about my arm for quite a long time, just because I didn’t think it was an important thing to mention. It doesn’t define me. But then I did a collab with another YouTuber and there was loads of horrible comments about my arm on their video. That’s what upset me more – I didn’t think it was fair to them.

So I did a video and started talking about it. My audience has been really accepting and if that means that 75,000 people in the world have changed their attitudes towards it, then I’m happy with that!

Full length photo of Grace, standing in the middle of a road in the countryside.

Attitudes

I’ve had a few negative comments online. I did a video called ‘I have one hand’ and started it by making a joke saying my sister flushed it down the toilet, then I end up telling them the truth. I got a few people commenting saying ‘it’s all good, in a few years’ time you’ll be able to hide that and make your arm look normal again with the prosthetics that are being built these days.’ And I was like ‘no, did you not watch the video? I just said ‘I’m happy the way I am and I don’t want to change it.’ So they’re not exactly trolls but those are the comments that get to me. They obviously still don’t get what I’m trying to say.

There can be  negative attitudes in the TV world too. Not necessarily from actors but more like casting directors. There are a lot of auditions that I go for, where I turn up and they’re just looking for disabled people which is cool because I think it’s a step in the right direction and they need to include more diversity, but I want to go for parts because of my acting not because I have one hand. And that’s a big thing that I want to change so badly. For people to focus on the skills. Basically – just give me a good acting job!

Role models

There are very few disabled people on YouTube so I encourage it as much as possible. Even though I’m one of the few people doing it, I don’t see myself as a role model at all. What a lovely thing though. I do get nice messages from young disabled people. Especially on YouTube because I think it’s such an accessible way to connect people and on Twitter as well.

Head shot of Grace looking off to the side, next to a neon sign of Coca Cola

My top tips for breaking into YouTube

Talk about something you’re interested in

Don’t just talk about make-up because you think that’s a cool think to talk about. I couldn’t talk about make-up but I love watching the videos. Which is why we do comedy.

Don’t make them too long

Make your videos short and be concise. They can always watch more of your videos if they want more of you, but you don’t want them to lose interest.

Be topical

If you want your channel to grow, be topical. We did a sketch on Valentine’s Day that was about Valentine’s Day. So you can tweet it out on Valentine’s Day and everyone that’s interested in Valentine’s Day will watch your video. You don’t always have to be topical but it is good.

Get people involved

Make videos with people you want to make videos. I make them with my sister. Even if they annoy you, they might be better on camera than you!

Go for it

The great thing about it is you don’t need anyone’s permission – apart from your parents if you’re young. So you should just do it. I really wish that I did it like three years before I actually started it!

Grace joins us for a Facebook Live session at 4pm on Friday 17 June.

She 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.

To see more from Grace, follow her on Twitter.

A doctor said that he’d never walk, now he’s a professional racing driver – Nic Hamilton

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Nic Hamilton is a racing driver by profession and is currently competing in the British Touring Car Championship. He was born with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy and has caused a stir in the racing world as one of the few disabled racers on the track. He is now setting up XeedX, a website he hopes will inspire and motivate people from all walks of life.

As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, Nic talks about getting into racing, setting up XeedX and how he has exceeded expectations throughout his life.

I always wanted to do racing. My brother Lewis had started to race when he was eight years old and we were following him and supporting him throughout his career. I was at every race, every weekend and it’s something that I always wanted to do but didn’t think it was possible due to my condition.

I had a little go in a car park when I was seven. It didn’t go too well. I ended up crashing into a kerb and down a ditch! My legs weren’t strong enough to operate the pedals. It was pretty much a no go for me at that point. It wasn’t looking good for me as that’s normally the time when you’d start your career in motorsport. It wasn’t until I was around 17 or 18 that we thought it might be possible.

Making adjustments

Cerebral palsy isn’t really built for doing all the strength you need to drive a car. I don’t think people realise how physical it is and how fit you have to be. I’ve had to really build up my strength, do my stretches and have a lot of physio.

I’ve had to adapt the car but I try and keep it as standard as possible. I still have pedals but I do have a hand clutch on the steering wheel so I have two pedals instead of three. The pedals are a little wider than standard so I have a bigger area to put my feet when I’m accelerating or braking.

To start with, it was very difficult. The first task was to obtain my race licence. Normally, for non-disabled people, it would take around two weeks. You just need to prove that you can drive a car at high speeds.

I passed the test first time, no problems. However, the governing body for motor sport had a lot of questions to ask in terms of my condition. It was quite difficult because they were really coming down hard on me and wanting every single little detail. It ended up taking me four months to get it and then every time I renewed it, it was always an issue.

However, since they’ve seen that I’m beating non-disabled people and that I’m making quite a name for myself, it hasn’t been an issue. Originally it was tough, but now it feels like I’m treated as an equal. I’m just trying to do the best job I can, be the best I can be and see where my career takes me.

Setting up XeedX

I basically thought XeedX up in my bedroom. I wanted to see if there was a way to use what I’m about and use the opportunities I’ve been given to give something back to other people.

I wanted to try and start a movement of people exceeding opportunities in their own way and wanted to put everyone on the same level. As much as everyone has a role model to look up to, people need to realise that they are most likely a role model to someone else also. I want to start moving out of the limelight and focus on people who deserve it more. It will be a way to motivate and inspire people.

My whole thing is being told I’d never walk to then going on to racing a race car. I managed to exceed all expectations of what everyone had of me and what I had of myself.

Throughout life, you’re always exceeding expectations. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, it could just be getting up and running to the shop or doing something you’d never normally do or something that you didn’t think was possible. I want people to start showing us what they’re doing.

The whole point of XeedX is to help people be proud of who they are and to make them realise that they are as important to society and the world as anybody else. If you put your mind to it, you can really push your limits and exceed expectations in any way that you can.

Nic, a young disabled man, is dressed in a smart suit and stands by a podium speaking to an audience.

Nic is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. This is where we are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Read other stories from 30 Under 30.

Visit the XeedX website to find out more and how you can get involved.

Wildlife photographer shares his top ten snaps

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Oliver Hellowell is a young nature and wildlife photographer who happens to have Down’s syndrome. This Nature Photography Day, Oliver tells us what photography means to him.

I was about 10 years old when I first started taking pictures. I like wildlife, I like birds and I like the landscape and taking pictures of the trees. I like water and I like going for walks out into ‘the wild’ and the countryside.

We once had an exhibition and lots of people came to see my pictures. I gave a speech and we sold lots of pictures and with the money I bought a Chinese takeaway for us on the Sunday night when we finished, and bought a week in a holiday cottage in Wales in the middle of nowhere! I’m very proud when I have an exhibition.

My fans say ‘that’s amazing!’ about my pictures and write messages to me. I like it when we get more places to put on the map!

You should give photography a go. Just do it. Just go out there and do what you want!

As part of 30 Under 30, Oliver shares the top 10 photographs that he has taken.

Canada Geese Flying

This is my all-time favourite image. I have a canvas of it in my bedroom. This is my best one with the three Canada geese flying.

A photograph taken by Oliver Hellowell. 3 Canada geese fly over a field

Clown fish in an anemone

I took this through the thick glass of an aquarium which is very difficult. I got the clown fish just right – it’s a really good picture.

A photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A clown fish hides behind an anemone

Cormorant

I took this one and the cormorant was in the tree and looking out and I got it.

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A cormorant bird sits in a tree.

Grey Squirrel

I was on a day out with my friend Adrian and I got this picture of a squirrel. I got it straight on and he’s got his paws up eating and everything it’s brilliant. 

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A grey squirrel eats a nut with its front paws.

Red Kite

I took this at the International Centre for Birds of Prey in Newent. I love the sharpness of this one and the brightness of the eye. It’s just very cool!

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A red kite bird of prey looks menacing.

River Dart in Devon

This is a long shutter speed shot which I’m very pleased with. It takes a bit of effort and you have to keep the camera dead still or on a tripod. I love the colours in the water.

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A shot of a still river shaded by trees. The trees are being reflected in the water,

Single swan

I waited as all the swans bobbed their heads up and down in and out of the water to pick up the food which had just been given out and sunk to the bottom. I waited to catch a shot with just one head and beak showing.

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A group of swans huddle. One swan has his head poking up out of the group.

Tulips

I said to my mum, “Mum you know those red flowers outside in the corner? Well, look! I really got them!”

A close up shot of a bunch of red tulips

From the ground

When I’d just taken this, I called my mum over to where I was standing, pointed to the ground and said, “see that bit of ground there? I’ve just got it just right! See the little green leaves and the light? I got that perfect!”

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A close up shot of the forest floor. A number of small plants are growing through the the soil.

Watersmeet in Devon

I was very pleased with this long shutter-speed shot. I got it by standing my camera on a rock.

Photo taken by Oliver Hellowell. A small waterfall in a river. Trees surround the banks.

Oliver is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. 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.

You can visit Oliver’s website to see and purchase his photographs as prints or greetings cards. You can also like Oliver’s Facebook page and get up to date news from his sightings in your newsfeed. 

Meet Britain’s most decorated female tennis player of all time – Jordanne Whiley

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

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.

With Rio 2016 fast approaching, Jordanne is training hard in the hopes of getting double gold. As part of 30 Under 30, she talks about how she got into tennis, role models and her other passion in life, singing.

When I was three years old, my dad took me out to Israel because he was competing in a tennis tournament. I was just going out with my mum and he was playing a match one day and I just wanted to play tennis but obviously I couldn’t. My dad’s friend gave me a racket and ball and I just started hitting it. Then it was all over Israeli news and newspapers. Basically, it all just kicked off  because I was three, in a wheelchair with my legs in plaster playing tennis.

I became professional around the time I was 16. I’d just qualified for Beijing Paralympics and I wasn’t expected to but I got the wild card. I actually qualified on my sixteenth birthday so that was a nice surprise! When I came back I quit academic studies and became a professional tennis player.

Tennis is such a great game. You have fun and the social life is great. It really helps you become comfortable with your impairment as you meet loads of different disabled people. It can really help you accept yourself.

Role Models

When I was growing up, I didn’t really have any role models to look up to. I don’t really like looking up to celebrities and people like that because I don’t know them. They could turn out to be something they’re not.

If I looked up to anyone, I’d want them to be a real person, not a celebrity. For example, I had my dad for a lot of it, he was my coach until I was 12 and both of my parents were very supportive of my career. It was kind of like just me and them for a very long time.

Some people say I’m contradicting myself because they think I’m a celebrity role model. But I don’t see myself as that. I don’t own 300 Bentleys and live in an 80 room mansion, I’m a real person. What I say and what I do is always from a real person’s point of view. I’m not interested in becoming famous, I just want to influence, help and inspire people.

Jordanne, a young disabled woman, looks determined whilst holding a tennis racket
Photo courtesy of RGK

Being comfortable in your own skin

I’m disabled and don’t look like Paris Hilton but I’m successful. 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.

Don’t dwell on things you can’t change and focus on the things you can change, like your success in your field or your attitude towards other people or yourself. I would like to help people see that.

If you listen to my story, I was bullied in school quite badly, I never grew to five foot and I don’t have nice legs. But I don’t worry about any of that because I can’t change that. When you do put that to one side and just focus on the things that matter, it’s so much better. Just focus on doing something you love. You might want to dance but you don’t think you’ve got the body to dance. If that’s what makes you happy, just go and dance. Who cares what people think?

Life outside of tennis

Monday to Friday, I train from about 10am-4pm. I get home late evening and then I’m pretty knackered to be honest! I do cook and bake a lot and if I have the time, I do grow my own vegetables. I just like doing normal, domestic stuff.

I’ve sung my whole life. There’s videos of me as a kid singing Spice Girls when I was five or six. When I was in my teens, I was obsessed with Shakira so I only used to sing her songs. As I grew up and my voice developed, it developed like Shakira’s voice! I’d really like to get into singing a bit more as I love it.

I wrote my own song about my boyfriend. For Christmas he bought me a package to go and record it professionally and put it on iTunes. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would. The song is actually really good. It’s kind of similar to Lukas Graham’s “Seven Years”. It’s not mushy, it’s about a real life relationship.

Keep a look out for Jordanne’s track on iTunes.

Jordanne is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Read other stories from 30 Under 30.

To find out more about stories and how they are at the heart of everything we do at Scope, visit our new Stories hub.

Featured image courtesy of The Tennis Foundation.

The football player who is representing England in the World Cup – Chris

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Chris has spinal muscular atrophy and from a young age has been playing powerchair football. With the sport constantly changing, Chris is gearing up to represent England in the Powerchair Football World Cup next year.

As part of 30 Under 30, he tells us how the sport has changed and why people should get involved.

I’ve always been football mad.

At school I was playing on my knees in goal, driving around on the floor until my muscles deteriorated. Then I got involved in wheelchair football. I was at secondary school and my P.E. teacher heard about trials that were going on at Aston Villa at the time. I’d never heard of the sport, never seen the sport played. So I got the afternoon off school, went down and had a look. I used to play by perching on the end of my seat and kicking a ball around in the garden with my brother so it was a bit of a shock when I arrived.

Back then it was a great big football and half a car tyre strapped onto the front of the wheelchairs. I actually burst out in tears. I was like “This isn’t football. I don’t want to play this.” It was more like bumper cars than football. But my dad was there and he encouraged me to give it a go. I fell in love with it and I’ve not stopped playing since.

Chris, a young disabled man in an electric wheelchair, smiles at the camera

The sport has massively changed since I started playing

There’s a national programme, there’s two national leagues with 12 teams in each and there’s regional leagues. Back when I started there was no real backing, we played in everyday wheelchairs so it was just whatever you could ‘bodge job’ up to play. It wasn’t very professional. But now we’ve got specific chairs for the sport, specific equipment and a national league structure behind it.

Rather than the car tyre on the front of the chair, we’ve got a clip on attachment that’s a solid metal structure that you use to knock the ball around. The ball itself has gone down to half the size.

It’s given the sport a whole new lease of life. It’s quicker, it’s more enjoyable to watch. The ball gets kicked around with a lot more power so a lot of people that are watching are pretty gobsmacked when we’re smashing the ball around the court.

The game has been taken to a different level.

Representing England

My first involvement with the England team was in 2011. It’s all performance based. The coaching staff are all involved in the league so they’re just scouting the team, scouting the players. Then you get invited across for trials. And you’re just hoping to keep receiving an email saying “we’re inviting you back for the next one” and I’ve been in the squad ever since.

There’s been three World Cups now and 10 competing teams in each so far, from other counties world-wide. There’s been a qualification process to getting in the World Cup whereas before it was if you wanted to and if you’ve got the finances to do it. So now, fingers crossed, next year will be the most competitive World Cup to date. We had to qualify through a European qualifier.

It’s not a Paralympic sport yet but in 10 years’ time, I hope it will be. That will give it the bit of extra profile it needs and the professionalism it needs. It will allow people to view it as an elite sport rather than just an opportunity. Lots of people around it just see it as “oh great my son or daughter gets to play”, instead of “my son or daughter could be a gold medallist”. Fingers crossed that happens.

Two disabled men in electric wheelchairs play a wheelchair football match

I would recommend it to anyone

At matches people can expect a lot of excitement. You get plenty of action. It’s kind of one of those sports that you have to see it to understand what it’s all about.

Fingers crossed, as it grows and we can open it up more to the general public, people will take a genuine interest and, fingers crossed, watch England win a World Cup.

I’ve always been quite a competitive person, so it gives me that opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Having the opportunity to grow as an athlete, being able to play in the World Cup and travel the world playing football, it’s been great. I would recommend it to anyone.

Chris is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We’ll be 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.

To find out more about powerchair football, visit the Wheelchair Football Association’s website.