Category Archives: Campaigns

Why employers should make gathering disability data a priority

Disabled people can and want to work, but too many face barriers to entering and staying in employment. Whilst there has been an increase in the rate of employment, disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.

If we want to successfully tackle disability unemployment, then we firstly need to understand the scale of the problem.

We’ve been calling for businesses to improve their understanding of their disabled workforce. That’s why it’s positive that today the Government has announced plans to increase the gathering of disability data in the workplace. In a new framework it has published, the Government is encouraging employers to report on the number of disabled people they employ.

Below we outline what has been announced, and what we want to see happen next.

What does the framework focus on?

The Government has published a voluntary framework for large employers to report on mental health, well-being and disability.

On disability, employers are asked to report on the number of disabled people they employ, along with a narrative to explain what they are doing to recruit and retain disabled employees.

Why is reporting on disability data important?

Disabled applicants are a quarter less likely to be invited to an interview than a non-disabled person. And for every 100 disabled people who move into work, 114 leave.

By collecting and monitoring data on the number of disabled people in the workplace and their overall experience, employers will be in a much stronger position to understand where action is needed to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people, both in and out of work.

Employers already gathering disability data have told us about the value of doing so. Several have said that this information has helped them make the case internally for changes in their recruitment and HR practices.

We know that nearly half of disabled people have worried about sharing information about their disability at work. If reporting is to be a success, then employers will need to ensure their disabled employees feel confident enough to be open about their impairment or condition. This will help create a more inclusive and open environment for disabled people in the workplace, as well as ensuring that data gathered on disability in the workplace is robust.

What do we want to see building on from this framework?

The Government is taking an important first step in understanding better the barriers faced by disabled job-seekers and employees.

In order for reporting to have a real impact in tackling disability employment, there are a number of things that we want to see happen next:

  • The Government must ensure that there is a clear process for analysing any information gathered, and that this shapes future approaches towards increasing disability employment.
  • Any data collected and published by employers is easy to understand and is easy for disabled people to access.
  • As with the gender pay gap, reporting on disability data should eventually be a mandatory requirement for large employers, to encourage wider take-up of reporting on disability in the workplace.

What we will be doing next

We will be publishing a report early in the new year with data on the number of disabled people we employ, as well as data on staff well-being. This will be followed by a more comprehensive report looking at the experiences of disabled people at Scope.

We will also be encouraging employers to publish data in relation to their disabled employees. As part of this, we will be publishing a guide for employers setting out what data they should collect, and how to go about gathering this information.

Check out our website for information for disabled people in work.

Our toolbox of tips that every parent of a disabled child needs daily!

The Ratcliffe Family consists of two dads, Garry and Kyle, and four kids – Haydn, Isobella, Curly and Phoebe – three of whom have a disability. Haydn has cerebral palsy and is blind in one eye, Bella has Downs Syndrome and Curtis has a number of impairments and conditions including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, global developmental delay and he is blind too.

Here Kyle and Gary, write a letter to you to help you in the journey to get a better start in life for your disabled child.

Dear Parent,

We are writing to you as two dads of four awesome kids.  Three of whom have a disability. We wanted to let you know about some of the things we have picked up over the years.  Our toolbox of tips, tricks and attitudes that every parent of a disabled child needs on a daily basis!

Tip one

Our children get to do everything that every little person should do!

Never let anyone tell you that your child “can’t” do something because of their disability.

It’s currently Half Term, and our kids are already exhausted!  It’s only Wednesday and we’ve already been punting on the river in Canterbury, pumpkin picking in Medway, Chinese buffet eating, Leeds Castle exploring and sightseeing in London.

Two adults behind four children in a London Eye Pod. Two children are in wheelchairs and three are wearing hats.
The Ratcliffe Family on the London Eye

Curtis loves the smell of the flowers, Bella loves the variety of food at the Chinese, Haydn enjoys being surrounded by different people to talk to, and Phoebe (our non-disabled daughter) gets the chance to explore and climb.

Each of our children gets something different out of every experience. Our children get to do everything that every little person should do!

Tip two

Warrior parent needs to come out every so often

Be prepared to face a side of you that you might never have seen.  Warrior parent needs to come out every so often.  When your child isn’t getting a good deal, don’t be afraid to challenge people.  Whether in a shop, during a visit to an attraction or a medical service you encounter on a regular basis.

There should never be an apology or excuse made for our children.  We always make sure they are treated equally. Good luck to any shop assistant that thinks it’s okay to show us to the disabled changing facilities in a shop, that is clearly being used as a second stock cupboard. Not acceptable.

Tip three

Start to build up a series of questions ready to challenge systems

What to do when you are at your wits end with frustration.  It will happen, regularly. Usually with people that really should know better.

Start to build up a set of questions. Use flashcards if you need to in the early days. Some questions we have found useful are:

  • “What policy does this ridiculous decision come from?”
  • “What is your complaints procedure?”
  •  “Who is your line manager?”
  • “Explain to me how this decision is in the best interests of my child?”
  • “Do you know the contact details for our local MP?”

These are all useful when challenging systems – systems that were often designed for the majority of the population  – but never designed for the people that need them the most!

Tip four

Appreciate the small things. Celebrate the smallest steps

As we are sitting here, writing this letter to you, we would like to say to you, appreciate the small things.  Celebrate the smallest of steps.  Live in the present and be thankful for every little success.

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Curtis smiling

Yesterday, we took about 50 photos of our son, Curtis, who was having a particularly good day. Not because he had just won a football match, not because he swam a length of the swimming pool. Not even because he managed to tie his shoelaces for the first time. But because he smiled. Yes, that’s right. Curtis smiled yesterday. The most infectious, smiley smile that you could ever imagine. A smile that curled up one side of his face. A smile that said “I’m really happy today, dad”. A smile that made us smile too. It’s not the big things that matter when you have a disabled child. It is the smallest step, the greatest achievements that mean the very best.

Last tip

Worry about the things you can control

Having a disabled child will mean that there are dark days as well as light ones.  But hey, that’s parenthood!  If you have a non-disabled child, you might worry about their friendship groups as they get older. We have worries too, as parents of disabled children. All we would say is, don’t let things worry you that you can’t control.  Worry about the things you can control which is why, right now, we are off outside.  To swing on a swing, slide on a slide, to push some warm hot chocolate through a feeding tube, and hope and pray for one more sunny day.

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The Ratcliffe family enjoying the seaside

Your sincerely

Garry and Kyle Ratcliffe

Now is the Time to be a Disability Gamechanger,  sign our petition calling for a new Minister for Disabled Children and Families.

Appoint the first ever Minister for Disabled Children and Families. This appointment would lead to improved accountability for how laws and policies affecting disabled children and their families are made. A dedicated Minister can strengthen how Government and services like the NHS work together to make sure families receive the right support.

Writer Shaun Pye on exploring issues that affect many parents of disabled children, for BBC’s There She Goes

Shaun Pye is the writer of BBC4’s ‘There She Goes’, and is the dad of a 12-year-old girl with a chromosomal disorder.

In this blog, Shaun writes about exploring issues that affect many parents of disabled children, like him – and why now is the time to join our campaign to make life better for disabled children and their families.

Writing a personal story

In the weeks leading up to the broadcast of There She Goes I was extremely nervous. All TV writers worry about the response from friends, critics and the dreaded internet. But I was particularly worried about what the families of children with learning disabilities would think. I had always emphasised that this was a very personal story, about my family’s experiences with my daughter, and didn’t try to tell any wider story about living with disability. But still – I was terrified of how it would go down, all the same!

BBC4's 'There She Goes'

I didn’t need to worry. We had a screening for a wide range of charities, including Scope, which drew a very positive response. Then in the days after episode 1 went out – wow. The number of people who contacted me, or the production company, or the BBC, or took to social media. Overwhelmingly, support was phenomenal (so huge we haven’t had time yet to thank each person individually).

Almost universally it was from parents or siblings of children, although many now adults, with some form of disability. The message repeated over and over was “finally, a programme on television that tries to show what my life has been like”. Many said that other programmes had dealt with the subject matter but often portrayed the parents as saints dealing with a terrible burden, or portrayed learning disability and autism as some sort of superpower to be marvelled at. It’s neither – it’s something that’s amazing, boring, terrifying, funny, sad, uplifting … did I say boring already?

Some people commented on specifics,  the rituals around dealing with finding hidden poo, the bruises up the arm, the ordeal of getting their child or sibling to go for a walk. But many also talked about the broader issues in the programme, a lot of which chime with Scope’s current campaign.

Two hands high five eachother, and text reads: Now is the time to make life for disabled children and their families better. Scope = Equality for disabled people

Now is the Time

A key statistic is that 41 per cent of parents of disabled children say they were offered no emotional support during or after their child’s diagnosis. I’d say our parents and extended families tried to offer support. However, the theme of episode 1 is that a broad range of lovely people just wanted us to think that everything was okay. And it really wasn’t. This meant we had a lack of the support that we really needed.

Another key statistic is that 25 per cent of parents of disabled children feel more isolated at this time. Without question this happened to us. My wife didn’t want people telling her “nothing is wrong” because she knew there was, and if nothing was wrong with her daughter then by extension something must have been wrong with her.

An illustration of a parent and child, with text that reads: One in four parents of disabled children aged 0-5 became more isolated as a result of their child's diagnosis. Scope = Equality for disabled people

When it became apparent to everyone something was wrong, the last thing my wife wanted to do was see cute, bouncing, “normal” children at Tumbletots and NCT get togethers. She didn’t want the judgement of others, well meaning or not. She withdrew from social interaction. I just drank too much. It’s a source of great shame obviously but it is the truth.

One source of regret I have is that I didn’t try and seek out support earlier, from the likes of Scope and the other charities specialising in this field. I think it was from a sense of pride and a feeling that I would be judged? These weren’t rational and I wish I could tell my younger self just to go and get all the help I could.

Raising awareness

If in some small way ‘There She Goes’ can help raise awareness of these issues, promote a bit more understanding of learning disability and help improve the support networks people have access to, and encourage them to access them then, I’m very pleased.

As I said, this programme only ever tried to tell my story. It was a decision taken wholly because that would give the programme authenticity. But beyond that I didn’t think I had the right to try and import other families’ experiences. And anyway, I thought that my daughter was unique.

She is unique. She’s amazing. But a lot of our experiences it turns out are the same. My family have been truly blown away by the response of parents. It’s good to know you’re not alone.

Be a Disability Gamechanger and sign our petition calling for a new Minister for Disabled Children and Families.

Dear Minister for Disabled Children and Families

Carly is an Autism advocate, consultant and professional speaker. She didn’t receive her Autism diagnosis until she was 32, after two of her daughters were diagnosed. She found it a battle to get the voices of Autistic women heard and in 2008 started to notice a lack of understanding and resources when it came to autism and girls.

In this letter Carly shares her thoughts on why she is supporting our Now is the Time campaign, and how a future Minister for Disabled Children and Families can help disabled children and their families get the best start in life.

Dear future Minister for Disabled Children and Families,

My name is Carly. I am an autism advocate, the mother of autistic daughters, and autistic myself.

Like many British disabled parents, we want our children to have a better tomorrow.

We have the passion and the drive. We won’t stop until all UK children have equity, including our disabled children. We don’t want anybody left behind.

Our task is lifelong. Our resilience is remarkable. Our need for support to help our children live a fulfilling life, is at times desperate.

Talent is everywhere, opportunity isn’t

As an advocate I have the privilege (and it is exactly that) to work for phenomenal British pioneers leading the way in disability equality. Most recently, participation with Right Honourable Lord Holmes on his vital independent review on disabled applicants and public appointments. Lord Holmes so wisely said that, “Talent is everywhere, opportunity isn’t.”

This lack of opportunity for our disabled children fails to recognise the gifts and talents disabled youth have, this lack of recognition could come at a great cost to our country in the long term.

Some of the brightest minds that can serve our country not only reside in well performing schools but also in Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) schools.

I have a friend, the acclaimed artist Rachel Gadsden, Rachel has a visual impairment yet in her talks she explains that “you do not need sight to have vision“.

The saying, “The quieter the mouth the louder the mind” means that as assistive technology becomes more sophisticated, the loudest thoughts, minds and perspectives will soon be heard louder than ever before.

Many are left isolated and forgotten

Please visit the family homes where home educated children live.  The children who were “not able enough” to flourish to their full potential in mainstream schools, yet not “disabled enough ” to warrant a SEND educational provision.

There you will find new thinkers, leaders and cyber security experts of tomorrow.  The most creative of artists, inventors and entrepreneurs, are waiting for you to notice them.  They are all missing out on the governments most diverse forward-thinking schemes like Cyber first, aimed to be advertised in schools.

This grey area of education leaves many of our most capable children isolated and forgotten.  They are left without opportunity or support outside their family.  This comes at a cost to our wallet, to our mental health, to our relationships, to our physical health and the NHS. And not to mention the cost to wider society of all that lost opportunity.

Carly writing on a poster at an event all about equality
Carly is an Autism advocate, consultant and professional speaker.

We aren’t asking for pity, we are asking to be heard

We must see disabled children’s abilities and not just their impairments.

We need a minister to work alongside parents, and the existing Minister for Disabled People and Minister for Children to ensure that no grey area is missed. We need you to be concentrating on disabled children alone so that no task is deemed too big, too small, too out of remit to be pursued as a policy priority.

Minister for Disabled Children and Families, we need you to ensure that when any new Disability Act, policy or project is discussed, you are there with a fine-tooth comb.  You need to ensure disabled children are a part of that policy .

At present some policies are too vague to be implemented. Some Acts have been written with adults in mind, and although this is of vital importance, it leaves disabled children behind.

Now is the time

What if parents of disabled children were better understood and work with a Minister as agents of change, respected by professionals and not viewed as “hysterical” or “hard work”? The truth is we aren’t either, we are often just exhausted.

How much talent could be discovered if we supported the most underestimated?

What if we celebrated disability history and the vital contributions disabled people have made to the UK?

What if we had someone like you making it happen? Now is the time to help disabled children and their families get the best start in life.

Yours faithfully

Carly Jones MBE

British Autism Advocate and Mum

Be a Disability Gamechanger and sign our petition calling for a new Minister for Disabled Children and Families.

Young disabled people share their hopes for equality

Regardless of who we are or where we are from, we must work together to ensure that every member of society has an equal chance to participate in our democracy and to have their say.

Carly Jones MBE hosted an EqualiTeas event at Scope, inviting young disabled people to meet, talk about equality and democracy, eat cake and decorate biscuits! An event championed by UK Parliament, aiming to bring UK communities together to explore what equality means to people.

Carly is an autism advocate who has been tirelessly campaigning for equality for years after her own battle to get a diagnosis.

Here’s Carly’s story.

I asked Scope if they could support a celebration of the “equality of voting rights”, EqualiTeas event at their new Here East offices at Queen Elizabeth Park, Stratford. Here I am talking to the Scope team about the event.

Scope team filming Carly who is sat on a sofa.
Carly being filmed.

My hope in asking Scope and I to deliver a get together, was we would be in a better position to amplify the voices of disabled people in the UK. When Scope said they would love to host this event and provide social media and PR staff, plus camera people and scope story tellers all free of charge, I was elated and so grateful!

We created our idols on gingerbread

Guests from different age ranges, genders and disability, arrived from local and not so local areas. We ate cake, and drank tea. Younger guests decorated gingerbread into whatever their idols or ambitions were, which included an astronaut, a mortician and Phil Marsh from Scope.

A younger guest sat at a table painting gingerbread
A younger guest painting (with icing) their idol onto gingerbread.

Huge EqualiTeas posters were used to sound board our needs and hopes for equality. We debated as a group our answers to such questions as “what does equality means to you?” and “have you ever stood up for equality?”.

Our passion for the subject shone through and we noted our responses on the posters themselves.

Carly sitting on the floor writing answers to questions on to the Equaliteas posters
Carly writing answers to questions on the Equaliteas poster

Why this event is important

The reason Scope and I held this event was to ensure that disabled voices were heard in democracy. To inspire a younger disabled generation to not be afraid to step forward. There are approximately 13.9 million disabled people in the UK. We are an extremely large minority group.

To ensure that no one is left behind, our voices and suggestions must be taken seriously. We must have a seat around the democratic tables to fully represent the UK appropriately.

The group sat on chairs discussing equality.
We are having an in-depth conversation about equality.

Young people would like equality to work

Many wanted shops to be more disability friendly. For some their hope was a fair chance at education. Safeguarding and sex education for Autistic girls was of high importance to many, and more representation from the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic disabled community. Some wanted to get the job of their dreams because they were talented and they deserved it not just because they fitted a diversity box ticking exercise by an employer.

That in a way surprised me, we are often given the impression that young people of today, disabled or not, have some form of entitlement. To hear a young person not want special treatment but simple equality to work struck me as incredibly articulate.

Cakes with Equaliteas sticks in them in the foreground. Guests are in the background.
Equaliteas cakes

We all had fun

The guests seemed to really have fun. Parents of the younger guests got in touch to say how proud they were of their young person and to give thanks to Scope and myself which of course is incredibly kind and heartwarming.

Check out more of the story and photos on Instagram, watch our film of the event.

By @CarlyJonesMBE

What’s next

Next up is the Global Disability Summit 23 and 24 July again at Here East, Queen Elizabeth Park, Stratford with representatives of Include Me Too (Parmi Dheensa), the Department for International Development, British Council and UK government.

There is often an illusion that when the UK talks disability we do not include our own. This could not be further from the truth. There will be many British disabled advocates and activists participating at the Global Summit for others and our own countries benefit. It’s an absolute honour to be among them and share the voices, wants and needs of others is an absolute pleasure of a duty.

Take part in the conversation at #DisabilitySummit #NowIsTheTime.

If you have a story you’d like to share, get in touch with the stories team.

If you want to get involved in campaigns and make change happen, have a look around our campaigns page and get in touch.

My physical limitations are often the least of my worries – other people’s attitudes are the problem

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

Many people have responded to this, sharing their own experiences. In this guest blog, Chloe, who has cerebral palsy, talks about her life as a young disabled woman – and why she became a Scope Role Model to change attitudes.

I like to think that my impairment is a small part of me. In theory this is true, in practice it can be a very different story. Having cerebral palsy and a visual impairment does affect my life and always will do, yet the physical limitations are often the least of my worries. It is actually everything outside of what you would think that is the most limiting, with attitudes being at the forefront of it all.

Subtle prejudice is common, and can be just as frustrating

Negative attitudes towards disabled people are not always the more extreme things that may come to mind. It would be a lie to say disabled people are not faced with hate crimes and people being aggressive towards them. However, attitudes can be much subtler than this. From my own experiences it is so common for people to talk to the person I am with, even if it is about me!

The most recent example of this was when my PA was asked if I would like a copy of the menu in Braille, I was stood right next to her. I personally would not benefit from a Braille menu, but it is amazing the one was available. If the woman would have asked myself then the whole situation would have been perfect and incredibly accessible.

On the other hand, if they are talking to me it can come across as patronising or as if they know what is best for me. I fully appreciate that some people don’t know what to say, but why treat us like we are lower than you just because we have a disability?

Chloe standing in front of students, laughing
Chloe is changing attitudes through her work as a Scope Role Model

We’re seen as not capable of certain roles

I believe that current attitudes can also stem into the roles in society which we are able to play. Sure, we can be Paralympians, motivational speakers or disability activists. In fact I am extremely proud to hold of one these roles.

However, attitudes often limit us to these roles and society forgets we are capable of being their retail assistant, accountant or hairdresser. They forget we have dreams and aspirations just like them over the career we want. I understand that some impairments may limit roles we have to a certain extent but that’s for us to figure out – not to be told by members of the public.

Negative attitudes have made me doubt myself

These types of negative attitudes can have a significant impact. Despite attitudes being the opinions of others, it can make you feel incompetent and less worthy of certain opportunities.

On the other hand, at times it can be hard to justify your own achievements beyond ‘they only gave that to me because I’m disabled’. This is reinforced by the attitudes of other people. It is hard to overcome these views when you are faced with it every day and can be extremely damaging.

It can also lead to moments of doubt, even if this is completely out of character. I clearly remember struggling to walk up a school corridor because I had a cast on which was painful. Two girls, who were several years below me, walked past and for some reason I couldn’t help but be so disappointed in myself.

I’d just become Assistant Head Girl and I was so proud of this but couldn’t help thinking “How on earth are you good enough to be Assistant Head Girl, potentially having younger students look up to you, when you can’t even successfully walk down a corridor!”.

I have learnt that this internal monologue is not true at all, and yet I thought this because of the attitudes I am surrounded by. Fighting them away would have been near enough impossible if it wasn’t for my incredible support network.

Chloe smiles at the camera, with seated students behind her
89% of students felt less awkward about disability after attending a Scope Role Models session

I became a Scope Role Model to change attitudes

So, what is the next step? We cannot go on like this and something must change. In my opinion, improving attitudes can come about by challenging stereotypes which often are deep- seated within society.

We need to open our eyes to the reality of having a disability and that we are not as far forward as we believe. This includes the fact we can play a role within society, but also that having a disability can be hard and can be extremely challenging to live with at times.

Scope Role Model programme is working on normalising disability in schools around the country and I love being part of this. I don’t mind being asked questions by the students and I will be honest with them because this is the only way progress is going to be made. Not everyone has to share their story, but I choose to do so.

Why not see a disabled person as an individual who is just as unique as yourself? A person who is just as capable and who has needs that are just as important. Treat us the same as you would a family member, friend, work colleague or professional. With respect, humanity and belief.

Chloe is a student, writer, disability activist and Assistant Coordinator at CP Teens UK. You can read more of Chloe’s work on her award-winning blog.

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

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

Will you support our campaign by telling us your experiences?

People think there isn’t much prejudice towards disabled people, but this is my daily reality

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

In this guest blog, Abbi, who has brittle bones, talks about her life as a young disabled woman – which is far from prejudice free – and why it’s vital that the public recognise this.

It’s May 2018, and my friends and I are on a university reunion weekend in Cambridge, dancing the night away in our favourite shabby student nightclub. As always, my being disabled is a practical consideration of the night – my friends are well-trained in lifting my wheelchair up steps, or dancing in a protective circle if the club is particularly crowded – but beyond that, I’m just part of the group.

Until suddenly, I’m not.

First, I notice a group of boys with a phone camera trained on me, laughing. The boy holding the phone turns the screen to his friend, who laughs too. In the centre of the screen is a video of me, dancing. I shrug it off.

Just as I’m beginning to forget the incident, a man leans down to my shoulder. If I were non-disabled, I might think he was going to offer me a drink, or warn me I’ve got my skirt tucked into my knickers, but as a young disabled woman in 2018, I know exactly what’s coming.

“I just want to say,” he shouts, “I think you’re really inspiring…”

Abbi, a young disabled woman, smiles as she sits in her wheechair

I live my life under the scrutiny of strangers

It’s been four years since Scope’s last report on public perceptions of disability, and I’ve been dancing in that Cambridge club for all of them. Perceptions have changed – but not enough. Disabled people continue to be stereotyped either scroungers, raking in benefits without contributing to society; or inspirations, overcoming all odds to bravely struggle to the shops (and maybe winning a few Paralympic medals along the way).

I’ve lost count of the number of times total strangers have unexpectedly started pushing my wheelchair along streets or across roads, apparently never considering how I would have appeared there in the first place, had I not been able to push myself. I’ve been ‘brave’ in supermarkets and ‘inspiring’ at bus stops; I’ve also been ‘faking it’ in a Blue Badge parking space, and ‘milking it’ at a train station.

I live my life under the near-constant scrutiny of strangers – yet, according to Scope’s recent study, only 22 per cent of non-disabled people still feel there is a lot of prejudice against disabled people, compared with 32 per cent of disabled people.

Until people acknowledge the persistence of prejudice, nothing will change

It’s true that, in theory at least, the UK is becoming more disability-friendly. Accessibility information is often clearly advertised on websites for theatres and events; job applications often reference the employer’s commitment to equality; high-profile court cases such as Doug Paulley’s case against FirstGroup suggest that disabled people can go anywhere, achieve anything.

In practice, even where buses and trains are accessible, wheelchair users continue to be refused access because the designated spaces are filled with luggage or pushchairs. Disabled people have to apply to an average of 60% more jobs than non-disabled people. People with invisible disabilities continue to be berated for using accessible services, or reported to fraud prevention hotlines (despite disability benefit fraud rates standing at under 1% – the lowest of any benefit). Even my own doctors are often surprised that my wheelchair is self-funded, wrongly assuming – like many non-disabled people – that the NHS provides appropriate wheelchairs for free.

It’s easy to see how non-disabled people might believe we live in a largely ‘disability-friendly’ country. The reality is starkly different – as disabled people, and their friends and families, know all too well. And until the non-disabled population recognises the persistence of prejudiced or unequal behaviours, attitudes and systems towards their disabled counterparts, it is impossible for the balance to change.

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

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

Will you support our campaign by telling us your experiences?

The things that people say never go away

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

Marie is a college tutor, wife and mother whose experiences feature in the report. In this blog, she revisits some funny and not so funny moments, and talks about the impact of negative attitudes.

I’ve got osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bones. It means my bones can break easily so I use wheelchair, I can’t stand or walk. I’ve experienced negative attitudes throughout my life – some awkward moments you can’t help but laugh at, and others which have actually held me back from living my life.

Because I’m disabled I couldn’t possibly have a love interest

I can’t tell you the number of times people have bumped into lampposts or tripped over on the street because they are too busy staring at me. When I’m out with my husband Dan, it can be even worse.

Once, when we’d just started dating, we were on the way home from the pub, holding hands and we stopped to look at the stars. What could be more romantic? A kiss seemed like the natural thing to do.

After a moment, I became aware that a police car was driving past very slowly. The officer was staring out of the window and was concentrating so hard on us that he ended up mounting the pavement and crashing into a street sign. We couldn’t believe it! A few seconds later he sped off, clearly embarrassed.

We still laugh about that incident now. We have to laugh – if we took these things too seriously it could start to mess with our heads.

Marie and Dan kiss outside the church on their wedding day
Marie and Dan share a kiss on their wedding day

We often hear people making comments. People don’t blink an eyelid if they see any other couple kissing in the street but because I’m in a wheelchair and Dan’s not, we become an immediate target. I think when people see us, they can’t quite believe that a guy who isn’t disabled could have fallen in love with me.

If Dan and I aren’t being affectionate, it’s a different story. Trying to convince people he’s my husband takes some doing. One time, a hospital consultant asked me if Dan was my dad! When I said no, she presumed he was my brother, then my uncle, and finally my carer. I let her go on and on before she petered out. It’s that  assumption that because I’m disabled I couldn’t possibly have a love interest.

I was told “We don’t have any jobs for people like you”

When I finished my degree in Health and Social Care in 2011 I didn’t have a lot of luck finding a job. I went to the Job Centre for support and their attitude was “Why do you want to work?” and “We don’t have any jobs for people like you.” There was no help or aspiration.

Being told not to bother working made me feel angry and upset. I’d spent so many years studying, I’d put everything into my degree, I’d worked in the past and I wanted to progress. It made me feel worthless, like I couldn’t contribute towards society like anyone else.

Woman wheelchair user holding a sign saying "#workwithme"
Marie features in Scope and Virgin Media’s employment campaign, Work With Me

I decided not to put that I was disabled on my CV because I felt like I wouldn’t get an interview. I often managed to get interviews but when I turned up I could tell by people’s reactions that I wasn’t going to get that job. I think it was largely because they didn’t understand my impairment and didn’t want to take the chance.

If you’re disabled, it can be difficult to progress in your career too. I’ve had many different jobs and at times I felt like I was being treated like a child because employers didn’t allow me to use my skills and knowledge. I ended up leaving one job. If people aren’t going to accept me for who I am and what I can do, why stay?

The things that people say to you never go away. There have been times where bad attitudes have made me feel like “What’s the point in working?” I just wanted to find an employer who would give me a chance, like anyone else would be given a chance.

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

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

Will you support our campaign by telling us your experiences?

Our new report shows disabled people still face negative attitudes

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

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

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

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

What is the Perception Gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being close to disability can help

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

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

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

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

Driving change

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

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

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

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

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

What comes next?

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

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

Will you support our campaign by telling us your experiences?

Why I encourage talking about mental health at work

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May) is focusing on stressNot only can stressful work environments impact on your mental health, if you don’t feel supported, it makes things even harder.

Richard worked for years in a high pressure environment which sometimes made his OCD symptoms worse, but he carried on working, until the attitudes of his managers  made it impossible. Now Richard has set up his own company where he promotes a supportive work environment. In this blog, he shares his story.

I’ve experienced symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) since childhood, and was formally diagnosed at 25 whilst working as a producer at an independent production company in London.

Talking about my OCD never seemed like an option

Looking back, I think the moment to moment existence of being a freelancer, constantly having to think about your professional reputation in an environment with high staff turnover and time pressures, made talking about my OCD never seem like an option, although sometimes it could be hard to hide from colleagues.

I never took a day off sick, and if anything I think my OCD may have increased my work productivity as losing myself in work could be a distraction from my anxiety. But there is no doubt that being in high pressure work environment could make my symptoms more distressing, which impacted on my overall well being and personal happiness.

It was during this time that my symptoms intensified , I was experiencing intrusive thoughts and my obsessive behaviour escalated to point where even simple day to day tasks such as leaving the house were taking up to an hour to complete.

It felt as if I was at a point of crisis. I reached out to some close friends and with their support and encouragement  I eventually gained the confidence to visit my GP.

Throughout this, I was still going to work, I didn’t take a day off, and was doing my job.

Unless the ‘old Rich’ came back, my job would end

I lost insight into my OCD day by day and my anxiety levels continually rose.  I didn’t receive any support from my colleagues until one day when two of my senior managers asked to speak to me.

I was taken into a meeting room and told that they wanted the ‘old Rich’ back. Still terrified to admit I was unwell, I sat through the conversation not able to say a word. The conversation resulted in me being told that unless the ‘old Rich’ came back then my job would end.

There was no sense of compassion or concern, no observation that my behaviour could have been a symptom of my mental health, or that I could of been struggling and unwell. My contract shortly ended and I didn’t work at the company again, not that I wanted to.

Creating a supportive work environment

In 2010, a few years after this experience, I set up my own production company, along with a close friend. The pressure of that can sometimes exacerbate my symptoms but the reward and freedom, and having supportive colleagues that understand the realities of OCD and its impact, has been really valuable.

I think my experience with OCD may have contributed to the kind of work we now specialise in; human interest stories of challenge and triumph.

As an employer, I encourage openness, celebrate diversity and champion difference. I genuinely believe that we are all different, we all have our struggles and creating a supportive work environment not only enriches those we work with but also benefits the work we do.

Mental Health Awareness Week is a great time to talk about mental health and reduce the causes of work-related stress. If you’d like help creating a mentally healthy workplace, have a look at the resources on Mind.

If you’re experiencing problems with your mental health, or worried about someone you know, you’re not alone. There are a range of ways to get help.