Emily Davison, also known as Fashioneyesta, is a Master’s Degree Student, Journalist, Writer, YouTuber and Blogger. She also happens to be visually impaired and works with a Guide Dog. Emily’s goal is to change perceptions of disability with her writing and love for making videos.
At 4pm today, Emily is doing a Facebook Live video Q and A. She’ll be talking and answering questions about fashion and beauty, writing, vlogging, attitudes and more. Here’s a little preview.
As a fashion blogger, I get a lot of comments about my appearance
People will say “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.
Style is a form of expression and it depends on passion and imagination and not on your level of vision. As a visually impaired person I appreciate clothes from the fabrics and embroidery used, to the outline of the garment and how it makes me feel when I wear it. I interact with style based on a number of different senses.
There are many different visually impaired people, who appreciate clothes for their shape, quality and attention to detail. After all, fashion is a creative outlet and is not exclusive to one set of individuals.
Emily Yates is an accessibility consultant, travel writer, presenter and freelance disability awareness trainer.
For 30 Under 30, we chatted to her about her involvement in making Rio 2016 more accessible for all, and her hopes for the legacy of the Games.
My passion for travel and accessibility started when I volunteered at the London 2012 Games as a Games Maker. I was invited to a press conference and Seb Coe happened to be sat next to me. I said that the Paralympics had “lifted the cloud of limitation for people with disabilities” and he re-quoted that in his closing ceremony speech. I thought to myself “Wow, if there’s ever been an opportunity this is it!”
So I called his office to ask if he could spare 15 minutes of his time and he very kindly said yes, and gave me so many contacts. I managed to get a meeting with the British Consulate in Rio, and with some Brazilian NGOs. This was back in November of 2013, and Rio was nowhere near ready for the Games at that point, but I so desperately wanted to work towards writing an accessible travel guide to 2016 and beyond.
Being an accessibility consultant for Rio was an amazing experience
Whilst out there, I was invited to a large meeting, run by the organising committee, to give a presentation on my experiences as a volunteer but also as a disabled person. There were members of staff there, volunteers, secretaries of state, ministers for people with disabilities; it was pretty nerve-wracking! A man called Vivaldo Rangel also attended to represent MetroRio – Rio’s equivalent to our Transport for London – and after my presentation he invited me to work as an accessibility consultant for them in the lead up to the Games. He ended up changing my life and I have so much to thank him for.
I worked with MetroRio for nine months, advising on everything from installing and modernising elevators, to equipment for those with visual and hearing impairments, bilingual signage and step-free access for those with disabilities, parents with small children and the elderly. I worked with architects to plan the layout for the new metro stations leading to the Olympic Park, but I don’t know if they’ll be finished in time which is a real shame. Vivaldo and I also trained some of the MetroRio staff in disability awareness (in an interactive and bilingual session!). It was really a truly wonderful job to have, and I have so many fond memories of my time there.
Writing an accessible travel guide with Lonely Planet
After my consultancy work I got in touch with Lonely Planet and asked if they’d thought about writing an accessible travel guide to the Rio 2016 Games. After some crazy email conversations with their accessibility manager, Martin Heng, I’ve just been out to Rio and written it, and it will be out in the next couple of months – how exciting! It’s what you’d expect from a ‘normal’ travel guide, but also has plenty of accessibility advice regarding places to eat, party and sleep, as well as the big tourist hotspots like Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf. Fingers crossed it’s really useful to all who use it!
The guide is being distributed free of charge so anybody can download it as an e-book. The International Paralympic Committee have also endorsed it so we’re printing 2,500 copies for them to give to athletes and their families. My ultimate dream would be that it really changes things for disabled locals as well.
Researching for the guide was a real eye-opener
Writing the guide was a really good learning experience for me as both a writer and a wheelchair user, as I slowly felt myself experiencing Rio as a local, rather than a tourist. At MetroRio, I’d got taxis or the underground to work, spent a lot of time in the office or advising in stations with Vivaldo, and then I’d gone to my apartment to sunbathe, go out with friends or sleep! Travel writing is an incredible job, and it was a very different experience to the one I’d had with MetroRio.
Firstly, I was alone, and whilst I was reviewing some amazingly accessible attractions and museums, I was also spending so much time trying to navigate Rio’s layout and districts, some of which are so different to the pretty inclusive Zona Sul, or South Zone, that most tourists stay in and I knew so well. It did open my eyes to how difficult travel can be if you have a disability, especially if you are living in Rio and have to navigate similar things on a daily basis, rather than for a two week holiday.
What’s really special is that my time writing for Lonely Planet has really changed my own perceptions of my own limitations and capabilities. When it comes to large curbs and flights of stairs, I’m pretty useless, but I’m now great at asking a local for help in Portuguese! I feel that I have a duty to make sure whatever I’m doing is always helping to change the perceptions of others, too. It’s really important that disability has positive representation wherever possible, especially as this may be the only experience of disability the new people I meet might have had!
Why representation is so important
The Olympics and the Paralympics are so well publicised on a global scale. The more positive stories and anecdotes about disability and access that surround major events like these, the more likely it is that other businesses and companies at home and abroad will take notice.
I hope that CEOs of businesses watch the Games and start thinking about how many disabled people they’re employing and whether their workplace is accessible. This might be a ‘big ask’, but I’d also like to think that politicians will watch and remind themselves that what they need to be doing is ensuring that disabled people have enough support, equipment and resources to continue reaching their potential, be that in sports or other fields(!)
Advice for anyone with a disability going to Rio and the Games
First and foremost, remember that Rio is not the UK, and that patience will have to be exercised around accessibility, however annoying that may be. Anyone going to the Games will find that Brazilian people are ridiculously warm and friendly; you’ll never be waiting for more than thirty seconds for a bit of assistance!
By reading the Lonely Planet guide, contacting people ‘in the know’ and doing a bit of planning and preparation, you’ll be able to have a really amazing time. Book any flights and accommodation now, as time is running out and prices are soaring!
Francesca Mills is a 20 year old actor who has achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism. She is currently on tour with a Ramps on the Moon production,of the Government Inspector where she plays Maria.
As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, she talks about inclusiveness in the industry and her top tips for breaking into the world of theatre.
Kids who are interested in performing arts and children who have gone to drama school are much more open-minded and much more accepting. They just love anything diverse. So this meant that breaking into the industry was never an issue for me. No-one has ever been like ‘you can’t do that because you’re disabled’, my family and friend are always 100% behind me.
I think roles in theatre for disabled people are very important in changing attitudes towards disability.
Audiences are very accepting without realising it. If you’re out on the street just living everyday life, you’ll get stares and people don’t quite understand but if you walk on stage playing a character, it’s different. Maybe in the first two minutes an audience member might be thinking ‘oh that’s a little person’, but then they’ve completely forgotten and they’re completely on board with what you’re doing.
It may also make them think ‘why do I over-think this? Disability really isn’t a big thing, it’s fine’.
It’s also really important for kids to see disabled actors represented in roles of authority. In the show I’m doing now we have a deaf judge, who’s also a woman, which is brilliant.
How the industry has changed
I’m growing up in a time where people are starting to realise they should do projects that are inclusive. I’m lucky in a way that I’ve mainly seen the positive. People older than me have memories of a lot more prejudice. They’ve had a much more tough time which is good to know about because people can appreciate how it’s changed and how things are getting better. It’s on the way up.
From my experience, a lot of casting directors are becoming more versatile and opening their gates to disabled actors for parts that aren’t specifically disabled parts. If they have a brief for a blonde haired girl with blue eyes, they might open it up to someone with an impairment and it’s not an issue.
I think we’ve still got a long way to go but it’s better than what it was.
Advice for others
If you really want to do it, just go for it, even if people question it. My motto is ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish’. If you want to get into acting think about how you’re going to do that.
Get involved in local amateur productions just to get some confidence, like I used to do. See if local theatres are auditioning. If you’ve got an appetite for it just go for it and everything else will fall into place.
Just have fun and enjoy it because it really is the best job in the world.
Top tips for breaking into the industry
Have fun and let people know that you’re having fun, it’s really nice to see! I did Peter Pan in Wimbledon. I was playing Tinkerbell and there were kids playing the Lost Boys. Just seeing their faces when they were in the theatre and how excited they were was amazing. It’s just a really nice quality to have.
Go to the theatre
It’s important to go to actual shows and enjoy shows and see as many as you can.
Learn from everyone
Watch people and learn from them. With the amount of actors that you come across, make sure you ask questions. Watch their technique and etiquette. You can pick up a lot from people.
Never be late!
I’m ridiculous with how early I am. It makes you more relaxed when you get to the theatre and have plenty of time. Never leave anything until the last minute. Give yourself time to settle ahead of a brilliant day.
Francesca 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 more from our #30toWatch on our website.
Chris Fonseca is a deaf dancer and dance teacher. He has performed internationally and recently featured in Smirnoff’s advert – We’re Open #deafdancers.
As part of 30 Under 30, he shares his story and talks about changing perspectives, becoming a dance teacher and why more deaf dance role models are needed.
I became deaf through meningitis when I was two years old. At first I tried hearing aids but unfortunately they didn’t work for me. The next step was for me to try a Cochlear implant which I had when I was about five. In school, I had speech therapy but I didn’t like it because I felt quite embarrassed and quite isolated. The deaf world is really small and I grew up going to mainstream schools which was quite difficult. Eventually, I started meeting deaf people and I realised “oh these people are the same as me”.
Developing a passion for dance
I started listening to music through friends. I could feel the beat through my Cochlear implant and I’d look up the lyrics to understand the words. Then my Aunty gave me a video called Breaking 1984. I was obsessed with it and I taught myself how to dance. Just through repetition and practising at first. Then I decided that I wanted to improve my skills but having no deaf role models made it really difficult. So I stopped, unfortunately, and I just carried on with my life.
Then, in my second year of university, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to get involved in a deaf dance group. Dance had been my dream for years, so I thought it would be amazing to get involved. It was fantastic because everyone was deaf and everyone had the same passion as me, and it was an opportunity to show both deaf and hearing communities that deaf people can dance. That nothing is impossible. We did a tour, then I left the group to focus on giving back to the deaf community.
What I love most about dance is the freedom and enjoyment. And it’s a stress release. It’s like when I’m dancing, I just kind of fall into my own world. Dance really is my best friend – it’s always there for me.
I started going to hearing dance classes in 2009. It was my first class ever. I went to the class and looked at all the people there and just noticed that their level was incredibly high. It made my confidence drop because hearing dancers are very, very fast. It’s fast paced and it’s not very accessible for deaf people. So I just focused on my skills and not on my deafness. There were a lot of mistakes to begin with but the mistakes just proved that I was trying. I just kept persevering with it over time.
I went to these classes regularly and when I struggled, I’d go up to the teacher in the breaks and say “can you please give me a cue?”. The teacher was like “You what, sorry?” and I’d say “I’m deaf so I could use a cue” and they’d be like “What? You’re deaf?”. I’m trying to show that, by getting these cues, a deaf person can dance.
I think a lot of hearing people are surprised because there’s a lot of stereotypes about deaf people and dance. They kind of look and go “Really? Deaf people can dance?” because a lot of hearing dancers connect to music through listening. But deaf people can dance in a different way. We feel the beat through vibrations and we look at the visual movement of dance. When I’m looking at choreography for example, I’m looking for visual movements and visual cues and then I feel the beat. And I guess that through telling hearing people that, you change their perception and they become more respectful.
I became a dance teacher to make dance accessible to deaf people
I started trying to get my friends to come to the hearing dance classes I was going to but they were like “no no no, it’s too scary, it’s not accessible”. I’d had the same experience so I encouraged them to just push through the barriers but they didn’t want to. I got home and thought what we really need here is a deaf dance teacher. So I decided to become one.
I went to an academy and learnt the skills and different methods of how to teach, how people’s learning processes work. Naturally, deaf and hearing people have different learning processes. Deaf people are reliant on counts, whereas for a hearing person most of it is sound. So I started teaching my class in 2013 and it’s still going now. It’s a huge passion of mine – teaching and dancing.
Being involved in the Smirnoff advert is one of my proudest achievements
Since I left the dance group, I really just focused on improving my own skills and teaching. Trying to break in as a deaf dancer is hard and you just kind of get ignored, so I really had to push to sell myself and bother a lot of people to get my work recognised.
Then, one day, I got a random email. I read it and I was like “Is this spam or not?” so I emailed them and asked them to clarify the information. I read all the information about the project and I thought “wow, this is incredible”. It was an amazing opportunity to create a platform to celebrate deaf culture and also help to change hearing people’s perspective.
Since then, time has gone really fast. I auditioned, did the shooting day back in January, then we released the advert in March and there’s been lots of promotion through social media and billboards all around the UK. It’s been one of my proudest achievements. The advert helps to change hearing people’s perspective about deaf people and show that they can do anything except hear.
People have said that I’ve inspired them a lot and I’ve received a lot of positive messages which has been really lovely and heart-warming. My aim is to give something back to the deaf community and get more recognition of sign language. I want to show the importance of deaf culture and get hearing people interested.
We need more deaf dance role models
Teaching is my passion. I like sharing my knowledge and my passion with other dancer. I’ve noticed that lots of the younger generations are excited about getting involved with dance, they just need that little bit more encouragement.
When I gave up dancing, it was mainly because there were no deaf role models. Everybody has their dreams when they’re young but the first thing you need when you have that dream is a role model to give you that motivation, something to aim for. I went through a lot of struggles and barriers trying to learn in the hearing world, but now they don’t have to do that. I can pass what I’ve learnt on to them.
The deaf world is quite small and the deaf dance world is even smaller. Over time, I’ve tried to research and go out and perform in different places like Europe. One of my favourite things was when I went to perform at the Click Festival – a deaf film festival in France. It’s an opportunity for deaf people all over the world to come together at this one festival and I managed to meet some deaf international dancers there. It’s a great networking opportunity.
There’s obviously a lot of hearing role models for anyone who wants to be a dancer, but now, I think we need to have deaf dance role models too. My next step is to go on tour. I have more work to do to continue inspiring and breaking barriers. And I have lots of exciting projects to get involved in. All will be announced very soon!
Callum Brazzo is a 24 year old autistic performance poet and social entrepreneur from Lincolnshire. Performing his poetry at live events and on YouTube, he is getting a strong following.
As part of 30 Under 30, Callum talks about using poetry as an outlet and his new social venture, Spergy, which he has just set up.
My love for poetry was organic. It evolved out of my personal struggle. It was an escape for me because I was being bullied at the time. I was bullied for various things including my shyness, my lack of eye contact and my ticks. As they were physical ticks, people used to make fun of me because of those. I tended to push people away.
I became very depressed, I was on antidepressants and was juggled between psychologists. My emotions were very raw and I needed a platform to release that anger. My poetry was a way for me to communicate all of that in a positive way.
Giving something back
Poetry was and still is a positive outlet for me. I think everyone should try and find their own positive outlet.
‘Spergy’ is my social venture. It’s an arts based platform for people on or interested in the autistic spectrum.
It’s expressive, fun and free. I wanted to go give back to the community and offer an arts based outlet to them. Like I had whilst growing up. My personal journey has become a collective journey. That’s my way of giving back.
There was no defined starting point, it just happened. We’ve really had to operate on a shoestring but I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. It was so organic and it’s continuing in that fashion. The website is being built by the community. For example, there are certain groups already like poetry and food but people can add their own if they want. They can post whatever they like, it could be a painting or some photography.
It’s in its infancy at the moment but I’d like to make it compatible with EyeGaze technology and make it possible for people to use the site in different ways.
I want people to make what they want to make and to feel appreciated and valued for their work. I’d really like people to benefit in meaningful ways.
Some people don’t think autistic people can be creative. They think we have a rigid mindset. ‘Spergy’ and I can help to dispel that myth.
Joe Land AKA Landie is a 19 year-old video blogger (vlogger) who also owns a business called Social Land. Joe has hypotonia which affects his muscles.
As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, Joe talks about his passion for making and editing YouTube videos, starting a business, attitudes online and gives some tips for anyone who wants to start vlogging.
My interests and hobbies involve spending a lot of time making and editing YouTube videos. I especially enjoy the editing side of it. When you edit a video and it looks good and you’re proud of it, it’s a nice feeling.
Attitudes to disability on YouTube
When I first started making YouTube videos, people didn’t know I was a wheelchair-user at that point. The reason I didn’t say anything was because it didn’t really matter. But then, when I started to vlog, you could quite blatantly see that I use a wheelchair.
My followers’ attitudes didn’t really change. If they do bring it up, that’s fine, they’re just curious. If someone asks what’s wrong with me or asks questions – I see that as a good thing. The worst thing is when I’m out or something and there are just some people you can just tell are a little bit awkward. They obviously want to ask a question but they don’t. I just hate that. That’s the one thing that really annoys me because I don’t want people to feel awkward.
The reactions to the videos I’ve made about disability have actually been the best I’ve got. The videos have around 200 views but 40 comments which is a lot in comparison. People respond to it really well and it makes people ask questions.
I think the videos are quite good at making people be honest with you and interact with you because I’m making the video about it and I’m clearly not trying to hide anything. People quite like personal videos and that’s about as personal as it gets isn’t it really?
My tips for vlogging
The advice I would give to someone who is thinking about vlogging is don’t make it false. There’s nothing worse than when you watch peoples’ videos and you can quite clearly tell that that’s not who they actually are and that they’re trying to copy someone. Getting inspiration from someone is good but when people try to flat out copy, it’s just really cringey.
I use a Canon DSLR which is perfect for filming vlogs where I’m sitting still. But to be honest, you can definitely just vlog using your smartphone. If you are out and about, vlogging on your phone camera is ideal, especially with something like an iPhone 6 onwards.
People really worry about being awkward in front of a camera but, as long as you just act normal, it’s not going to seem awkward for the people watching it. If you worry too much about how you’re coming across, you can give the wrong impression. Don’t do it if you just want to get the subscribers because it doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to enjoy it to get the subscribers!
Kelly Perks-Bevington is an entrepreneur and business owner from the West Midlands who has spinal muscular atrophy type 3 and uses an electric wheelchair.
As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, she talks about getting into the world of work, her latest business venture and her aims of creating the most accessible football club in the country.
I wasn’t very studious at college so I was absolutely desperate to get straight into work. After loads of rejections, I got a job at a doctors surgery as a receptionist. It kind of lit a spark and made me think “I’ve got a path now”.
From there, I got a passion for being in the world of work. I applied to join a concierge company and I actually went on as an admin assistant there and worked my way up through the ranks until I had my own list of football clients. This is where my lifestyle company, G5 Lifestyle, started.
Alongside my dad, I also run G5 Sports Consultancy LTD which we use as a vehicle for all of our crazy schemes. We have used it to consult into different football clubs on their practices and football business.
On the side of all this, I also run kellyperksbevington.com which is a portal for me to write blogs about things I’m passionate about. I really enjoy doing that and have had a lot of interest from big companies and media outlets recently, which is really exciting!
Buying a football club
My dad and I established the G5 business and then we went and bought Kidderminster Harriers Football Club.
It all kind of fell into place really nicely. My dad was in talks with the club for a while and the closer we got to it, the more we saw it as a viable business. My dad has been in the industry for 30 years and I’ve been in it for 10 so we’ve both got a pool of contacts that could be useful to the club.
We just wanted to get everything going in the right direction and make the club function more as a business. We also want to create ways to make money off the pitch as well as on the pitch to keep the club afloat. We’re trying a couple of different things like diversity projects, education projects, development on the ground and making the club more energy efficient.
The club is over 100 years old and we’re going to take it into a new era and get it functioning like a modern day football club should.
The fans have been really grateful as we put a significant amount of money in to secure the future of the club. We’ve had a lot of positive reactions which can’t always be expected as we’re making so many changes to something that people are used to. The response has been great from all the fans.
We’re starting a women’s football team, we had a diversity day with the Panjab FA and Jersey FA, and we’re planning to set up a whole events programme for next year and get the whole community involved!
Making the club accessible
I’m a disabled person and the ground is not the best for me on a day-to-day basis. Upstairs we have our hospitality suite and our VIP boxes. I can’t gain access to any of that. Our boardroom where we have all of our board meetings is upstairs. Basically, all the good stuff is upstairs! There are also steps in the corridors of the offices at the club.
We’re putting ramps in where needed so we can take on more disabled staff and apprentices, other than myself and we’re going to put a lift in to the upper levels. Disabled fans will be able to enjoy the VIP areas as they should. They will be able to get access to all of the match day hospitality, as well as booking their private and corporate events upstairs with full accessibility.
We will also be adjusting our toilet facilities to make them better for every disabled person not just certain disabled people. The disabled seating will also be changed. At the moment, it’s on the front row, so I want to move it around so people aren’t just in the firing line of the ball during matches. I’ve nearly been hit in the face many times watching a match!
I think it’s so important to make these changes. I need to practice what I preach. I get really annoyed when I go places and I want to have the VIP treatment but I can’t. I just need disabled people to have the exact same choices and experiences as everyone else. I want to make sure they can come to the club and enjoy the football without having to make special arrangements. I want it to be smooth sailing for everyone.
I think that football clubs need to think about disabled people. If we take away all the barriers so people can just enjoy things without having to worry, people are more likely to come and enjoy things and put their money into your pocket.
The future is looking bright. The club as a whole are united now.
This Volunteers’ Week, we spoke to one of our volunteering and Scope for Change stars, Jack Welch, who gives much of his time to a number of different charities.
As part of 30 Under 30, he talks about how volunteering has benefited him. Several of the organisations he has volunteered for have also sent in some glowing testimonials.
Volunteering is a way to explore new opportunities and different ways of working. You can also meet new people and develop your networks. It’s the variety that’s always the most exciting!
I think there is a lot out there for people to get stuck into. Volunteering for charities doesn’t just mean volunteering in a charity shop – there are loads of different things you can do.
For me, volunteering has helped me to build on social skills, communicate with others and be a bit more independent. You really develop that over time. Although it’s volunteering, there’s an expectation of having a skillset that you need to commit yourself to.
It gave me the opportunity to move away from some of the troubles I had at secondary school. I’m not as anxious as I used to be. It’s been great to have a bit more independence away from home and the family. I’ve really expanded and broadened my networks beyond the safety of my closest relatives.
It’s really changed me. Five or six years ago, the thought of using public transport would have terrified me but now it’s just second nature. I travel quite a lot for my volunteering.
For someone thinking about volunteering, I would say go for it. If you spot something that might develop your skill set, help you move into employment or meet new people, get involved!
Be a bit brave, take part and go for it.
Testimonials for Jack
Jack has left a lasting impression at all of the charities and organisations he has worked for. Below are just a handful of the glowing testimonials given to us by some of these organisations.
Jessica Benham, Outreach Officer for Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
“Jack has been working with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for four years. He has attended workshops, engaged with Holocaust survivors and raised awareness about the Holocaust and subsequent genocides amongst his peers. Jack has been an exceptional member of the Youth Champion Board, contributing to the development of the Youth Champion programme to ensure that people aged 14-24 are empowered to hold their own activities for Holocaust Memorial Day.”
Dave Thompson, the Director of Dorset Youth Association
“We first met Jack many years ago as a quiet and shy young man.
Through the years we have seen him develop and grow as he has become involved in more and more community projects. Jack was heavily involved in our Young Remembers project which looked at the History of Dorset Youth Association (DYA) over 70 years. Jack and his peers were so passionate about their heritage and wished to continue to meet as a group to volunteer. Therefore staff at DYA attracted new monies to support the group in a major fundraising initiative. This investment attracted almost £40,000 and led to a new youth led project Walking in their Shoes.
Jack is always polite and pleased to volunteer his time to help others.”
Amber DeRosa, Participation Officer at the National Children’s Bureau
“Jack has been an active member of Young National Children’s Bureau (YNCB) since 2015. During this time, he has been actively engaged in a range of activities and events including speaking at conferences, debates and meetings, campaigning work and taking part in various discussion groups and consultations.
Jack is a delightful young person to work with. He continually makes valued and thoughtful contributions to NCB’s various programmes of work and through this he genuinely makes a big difference to the lives of other children and young people. He is hugely reliable and very dedicated to the activities which he volunteers to be a part of and is extremely popular across all of NCB!”
Harris Lorie, Programme Manager for Spirit of 2012
“Jack has been a highly committed and valued member of Spirit of 2012’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP). His contributions in our meetings are measured and thoughtful, drawing on a wide range of experience. He has assessed grant applications sensitively, impressing both other YAP members and the Spirit staff team. Jack volunteers enthusiastically for opportunities that come up, be that visits to our projects or attending a national gathering of youth panels. He always represents Spirit professionally, and creates great communications material for us as well. Thank you Jack!”
Ellie was just 18 years old when she set up CP Teens as a way of reaching out to other young people who feel a bit lost and isolated. The response was fantastic and CP Teens has grown into a vibrant online community. Now, at 21, Ellie continues to pretty much single-handedly run this amazing organisation.
As part of 30 Under 30, she talks about why she set CP Teens up, their progress so far and how the 2012 Paralympics inspired her to make sport accessible to more disabled people.
When I was younger, people at school all wanted to be my friend because I’m a little bit different and children quite like that. But as I got older, by 14 or 15 they didn’t want to be with me anymore. At the time I didn’t really realise I’d become socially isolated because I was concentrating on my studies, but when I left school my friends all went off to university and forgot about me.
I felt like there was nothing out there for people like me, socially and I didn’t have the confidence to go out and get a job. So I decided to set up CP Teens. I wanted to connect other people who, like me, just felt a little bit lost and to tell them that they’re not the only people out there who feel isolated.
The response was amazing
At first I just set up a Twitter account because I was a bit bored! I thought it was going be something I would get tired of after a week and never log back on, but I woke up the next morning and people like Francesca Martinez and Sophie Christensen were followers!
Other young people were getting in touch saying “I’m a teenager too and I feel the same way, it’s so nice to find someone else.” I got so many emails like that I couldn’t believe it. So I just kept going. I set up a website and then a Facebook page and it just kind of grew.
I just thought it was me feeling that way so it was really nice to know I was helping other people through my own experiences. It made me feel less alone. I’ve met some really cool people too and I even hear from people overseas.
Reaching more people
On CP Teens there’s an online service so people can connect and chat. We have social get-togethers and we do a ball every year. Teenagers and young people from across the UK come together. It’s really nice. We have a RaceRunning club which is really good and we also have a partnership with Accessible Derbyshire. They do loads of accessible activities – canoeing, climbing, you name it.
I get a lot of parents [contacting me] who have young children who’ve just been diagnosed so I’ve set up another part of CP Teens called CP Tinies and CP Tweens. It covers 0 – 13 years and children can get involved too. I want it to be for everybody.
In my gap year I got into Paralympic sport and it just changed my life so much. I started to wonder how many other young people like me think can’t do sports. So I decided to do a degree in Sport Development and Coaching. I’ve just finished my second year and I’m really enjoying it. Eventually I’d like to incorporate it into CP Teens and bring my two passions together.
Hopes for the future
Ultimately, I want to do CP Teens full-time. I only do it very part-time at the minute because of university, but I think if I put in more hours I could make it so much better.
We already have over 2000 followers on Twitter and more than 1000 likes on Facebook. The website gets about 1000 visits a day which is pretty cool (and scary!) and I get about 25 emails a day too. It’s hard trying to fit it in around university but in the summer it does get easier.
We’re just about to get charity status so that will be really good. At the moment, because it’s not got a registered number, people can be a bit dismissive of it. We’ll also be able to apply for funding and have charity partners so we can do more things. I just want to see it grow and grow, and reach more people.
I get so many emails from people saying “because of CP Teens I’m much more confident and I’ve done this and that”. I can remember, before CP Teens, thinking I was the only person on the planet with cerebral palsy. I think it’s important to let people know that they’re not alone.
It’s 100 days to go until the Rio 2016 Paralympics Games.
Scope is celebrating by throwing a spotlight on ‘the ones to watch’ – 30 extraordinary disabled people under 30.
These up-and-coming stars are our #30towatch.
With breakout sporting talent, creative entrepreneurs and innovators, actors and rap artists – the list showcases the disabled stars of the future.
London 2012 changed attitudes to disability and celebrated Paralympians as sporting equals.
But four years on, Scope polling shows that a staggering 76% of disabled 18-35 year olds say they are treated differently because they are disabled. The research shows that of those:
Just over a third (36%) said people seem uncomfortable and don’t know how to talk to them
A third (33%) said people patronise them because they are disabled.
Previous Scope research shows that millennials are twice as likely as older people to feel awkward around disabled people. And one-fifth of 18-34 year olds have actually avoided talking to a disabled person because they weren’t sure how to communicate.
Rio 2016 is an opportunity to talk about disability, challenge attitudes and increase understanding about what life is like for disabled people today.
We’re sharing blogs, films and images from our #30towatch throughout June, and bringing their experiences and expertise into the real world with Twitter takeovers and live Facebook Q&As.
Check out our blog for stories from a whole host of different disabled people from all walks of life who are doing the most extraordinary things. Some of our #30toWatch stories include:
Nicholas McCarthy who defied all odds to become the only one-handed pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in its 130 year history.
Scope supporter, blogger and businesswoman Kelly Perks-Bevington who has just bought a football club. She has plans to turn it into the most accessible club in the country.
Holby City star Jules Robertson who has beaten the stigma and attitudes around autism to become a show regular.
Natasha Coates, a disabled gymnast who is literally allergic to exercise. She has fought hard to win numerous British titles and is a firm favourite among the gymnastics community.
Powerchair footballer Chris Gordon who will be representing England in the World Cup next year.