Category Archives: Help and information

2017 AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards

Now in its seventh year, the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards is one of the most inspiring events of the year. It shows the incredible capacity of technology to improve all our lives. There were over 200 brilliant and life-changing projects to choose from but here are some of my favourites that improve the lives of disabled people:

AbilityNet Accessibility Award winner: Bristol Braille Technology

Bristol Braille Technology is building a revolutionary and radically affordable Braille e-reader called Canute, designed with and by the blind community. The world’s first multiple line Braille e-reader will launch by 2018 and it is hoped will be around 20 times cheaper than existing digital Braille devices.

BT Connected Society Award winner: Sky Badger

Sky Badger logo with animated cape
Sky Badger logo

Sky Badger finds educational, medical, financial and social support for families with disabled children all over the UK. Over the last five years, Sky Badger has supported over one million disabled children and their families. Sky Badger puts the emphasis on having fun.

Digital Health Award winner: Fizzyo

Both of Vicky Coxhead’s sons have Cystic Fibrosis and because of this they have to do an hour’s breathing exercises every day to keep infections at bay. She applied to feature on a BBC2 documentary The Big Life Fix and was introduced to Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge. She enlisted the help of Creative Technologist Greg Saul to create a device that could take the boys’ breaths and turn them into controls for a videogame. Combining gaming with saving lives proves a potent mix – see Fizzyo.

Digital Skills Award winner: FabFarm

FabFarm participants
FabFarm participants

FabFarm is a digital aquaponic farm that is designed, built and operated as a social enterprise by disabled students in Derry, Northern Ireland. Developed by the Nerve Centre, FabLab, it uses new and emerging technologies to help empower, engage and inspire 20 young people with special educational needs to develop new skills which are directly focused upon their employability in the digital marketplace.

There were so many other great projects that were shortlisted and deserve a mention:

AutonoMe is a support system that combines the power of video and mobile technology to help people with learning difficulties through everyday tasks.

Optikey is a new assistive on-screen keyboard, designed to be used with low-cost eye-tracking devices. It brings keyboard control, mouse control and speech to people with motor and speech limitations.

Signvideo  British Sign Language (BSL) video interpreting services can help deaf people communicate easily and professionally over the telephone or face-to-face, with hearing colleagues. Signvideo offers instant access to an experienced, qualified video interpreter within minutes, via PC or Mac, tablet or smartphone.

Read about the 2016 Tech4Good awards.

Read about Scope’s partnership with AbilityNet.

How to appeal a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit decision

Scope’s benefits advisor Debbie Voakes is presenting a set of films on how to appeal a PIP benefits decision. Read below for her guide to the five main steps:

1) The Mandatory Reconsideration process

You have one calendar month from the date on your decision letter to request a mandatory reconsideration.

Before you request a mandatory reconsideration go through your paperwork and pick out all the points that you don’t agree with. If possible, seek advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau, Disabled Person’s Organisation or a local welfare rights team. Don’t panic if you can’t get advice.

Review the PIP descriptors and work out why you should have qualified. If possible try and get some new evidence to support this. Call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and explain your reasons for disputing the decision and point out why you feel that you should have qualified.

Can you do the activity reliably, safely, repeatedly, to an acceptable standard and in good time? If not, you might qualify for a higher score.

If you have further medical evidence, tell the DWP that you’ll send this as soon as you can. If you can, send it recorded or special delivery. Keep proof of postage.

If you can’t meet the deadline, tell the DWP as soon as possible. It’s best to keep within the timescales but if you can’t you might be allowed some more time.

2) From Mandatory Reconsideration to Appeal Tribunal

The Mandatory Reconsideration will be carried out by a different decision-maker at the DWP. They will review the claim form, the assessment report and all the supporting evidence that you sent in.

If the decision remains unchanged after the Mandatory Reconsideration, you will receive a copy of a Mandatory Reconsideration notice. You will be sent two copies of this and you’ll need one copy to send to the tribunal.

You will need to download an SSCS1 form. 

Try getting in touch with a benefits adviser to start building your case and work out your chances of success.

Join Scope’s online community where you can share appeal tactics and ask our benefits advisors specific questions.

If your SSCS1 form is going to be late, explain this on the form otherwise your appeal will not be accepted.

You can choose to have an oral or paper-based hearing. An oral hearing is better because you will be able to put your case forward in person. Only choose a paper-based hearing if your evidence is strong and clear and points to a clear decision.

Send your SSCS1 form and your copy of your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice to the tribunal. If possible send it by recorded delivery or special delivery.

Remember to keep records of all telephone calls and paperwork.

3) How to prepare for a PIP hearing

The DWP will look at their decision again once they have received your appeal. They can revise your award at any point up until the hearing if, for example, you send in new evidence.

You will be told the date of the hearing 14 days in advance. You should receive directions to the venue with transport links, accessibility information and also expenses. Review your paper evidence and think about what extra evidence you might need. Attending the hearing and telling the panel about your disability counts as evidence.

You can send in evidence at any point up until the hearing but don’t save it all up for the hearing as this could delay matters.

All papers relating to the appeal will be sent to the panel members before the hearing. This will give them the chance to identify if there are any problems or issues that may affect the hearing from going ahead.

4) On the day of the hearing

Take someone with you. This can be your representative if you managed to find one, could be your partner, a family member or a friend.

The tribunal will be made up of a tribunal judge, a doctor and a disability specialist. All are independent from the Department of Works and Pensions. Their role is to check the DWP’s decision and to ensure that the law has been applied correctly.

This is your chance to talk about how your disability affects you, how you feel you meet the descriptors and anything else that went wrong during the assessment process.

Normally tribunals will make a decision on the day and will confirm this in writing.

5) Further appeal

If you’re unhappy with the decision made by the first-tier tribunal, there is a further appeals process. You can appeal to the Upper Tribunal if you believe there has been an error in law.

This is a very complex area and you will need the help of a solicitor or a welfare benefits specialist. There may be some legal aid available to help you with your case.

Read PIP appeal tips from our online community.

How to prepare for a PIP assessment

Preparing to attend a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment can be a difficult time.  Scope has created a short film to guide you through the process.

The PIP assessment letter

When you get your letter, check the date and venue of the assessment. If there is a problem, tell the Department of Work and Pensions or the assessment provider as soon as possible.

Ask for the support you need to attend the assessment

Check the parking and facilities near the assessment centre.

Read the assessor’s guidance beforehand

The more prepared you are, the easier it is to relax. Read the guidance a week before the assessment so you are prepared.

Take a copy of your application and supporting evidence

It’s useful to take along your evidence so that you can refer to it during the assessment to ensure you’re covering all the bases.

Don’t assume the assessor knows anything about you

Be as honest and open as you can about how your impairment impacts on your health and well-being. Think about the everyday things you do to manage your impairment. It’s important to go into as much detail as possible about what a day in your life is like.

If you make it seem as if you are able to manage doing something but normally you’re not able to do it, then the assessor may assume that you can always do that thing.

Don’t ‘put on a brave face’ about how you deal with your impairment.

Talk about support you need even if you don’t get it now

At the assessment you have to show what you can’t manage, not how you do.

Ask someone who knows you well to come with you

Take someone with you to your assessment. This can help if you need physical support to get to the assessment centre but also it’s useful to have someone else listening in and filling in things you may miss.

And if you can’t get support from a family member or a friend, maybe consider contacting an advocacy service or someone who can just be there to support you.

Read more information on PIP assessments.

How to employ your own Personal Assistant (PA)

We’ve produced a new video featuring  five top tips for employing a Personal Assistant.

1) Decide what support you need to live the life you want

Make sure you have a think about the number of hours of support that you need. You also need to decide whether you need to recruit more than one PA to support you. It’s a good idea to have more than one person, in case one PA is off sick or on holiday.

2) Think about how you will find the right person

You can advertise in loads of different ways. You could try the internet and Facebook groups. Do remember to keep yourself safe and carry out any interviews in a public place. Some local support organisations may be able to help you with this. Just remember, it might take some time to find the right person for you.

3) It needs to be a business relationship

It might seem like a great idea to hire your friend but remember that they will be your employee. You need to make sure they have the skills and qualifications necessary to do what you need them to. Remember, it’s important to ask for references and to do criminal record checks for your PA.

4) Think about the responsibilities that come with hiring a personal assistant

This can include managing direct payments and lots of other administration.

5) Remember you might be able to get help to become an employer

In some areas, it’s possible to outsource things like payroll and get extra help to become an employer. Your local authority should be able to advise you on what local support and information is available.

If you’re considering employing your own personal assistant, read PA tips from members of our online community. 

Visit our new online technology hub – in partnership with AbilityNet

Technology is transforming the lives of disabled people. We are working with tech experts from AbilityNet to highlight some of the software and equipment that can make life easier, more productive and fun in our new technology section.

Adapting your computer

Sometimes your existing computer has accessibility features on your existing PC that you might not be aware of. Try My Computer My Way, a free, interactive tool developed by AbilityNet that makes any computer, tablet and smartphone easier to use.

Check out our keyboard shortcuts, too!

Computers and autism

People with autism spectrum disorders can use a variety of multimedia applications and programs to experience the world around them within clear and safe boundaries.

How tech can support people with learning difficulties

Find out about touchscreens, keyboard and mouse alternatives and software that can help people with learning difficulties to access computers.

Visual impairment apps and suppliers

For people who have difficulty seeing conventional displays, there are many useful apps and specialist suppliers in visual impairment products. Other options to accessing information online include magnification and screen-reading.

Voice recognition

If you think you have never used voice recognition, think again! Voice recognition is becoming more and more mainstream so if you have a Windows computer or an Apple product, you already have it! Find out how you can use voice recognition more effectively.

Computer training and resources

One of the biggest barriers to disabled people accessing technology is training. We offer links to a wide range of private and voluntary organisations that offer computer training and support for disabled people.

Talk tech

Join our online community to talk to an AbilityNet advisor to discuss technology.

Read our equipment tips.

AbilityNet is a UK charity that helps older people and disabled people of all ages use computers and the internet to achieve their goals at home, at work and in education.

2016: a year in the life of the Scope helpline

In 2016,  the Scope helpline responded to nearly 20,000 requests for information and support by telephone, email and via Scope’s online community and social media networks. We also supplied answers to over one million requests for help and information via our website.

Your top 5 issues in 2016

Apart from wanting to know more about Scope, the top issues people contacted us about were:

  • Benefits and finance
  • Independent living
  • Social care and services
  • Transport
  • Employment

Funding the extra costs of disability

Unsurprisingly, the number one topic you ask about is benefits. To respond to this, we’ve employed an extra benefits and finance specialist  on the team.

To complement the work of our specialist advisors, our partnership with the charity Turn 2 Us offers an online benefits calculator and grants search tool. Since its launch in July 2015, thousands of you have used this free service to improve your finances, completing 8,100 benefits calculations and over 7,200 grants searches.

In 2016 so far, the calculations have identified over £319,000 per week in unclaimed benefits. This can make a massive difference to the lives of disabled people and their families, as this customer explains:

“Thanks to your brilliant advice, I have had some fantastic news. I applied for Attendance Allowance with the form on your website and I have been awarded £55.10 per week which will certainly be a big help to us. Thank you.”

We love it when we hear stories like this. Another customer contacted us following his failed application for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Our benefits specialist provided supporting information so that he could conduct his entire appeal himself. He went through two tribunals and finally, after spending a winter without heating and using food banks, he eventually won. He received a backdated payment of more than £5,000 as well ongoing ESA payments to support him to live.

Just the job!

Another caller who was out of work applied for a job at a company signed up to the Government’s positive about disability scheme. He met the essential criteria but had received a standard rejection letter so he thought he’d been discriminated against. We spoke to him about how to challenge the decision. The company reviewed his application and admitted a mistake had been made and he did indeed meet all of the essential criteria. They offered him an interview and he got the job!

Our online community

As well as answering calls and emails, Scope helpline continues to play an active role in our ever-growing online community. We are investing more time in answering your questions online because we know that answers to one person’s query can help many others too. For example, one discussion has had over 12,000 unique page views, meaning that many more people are continuing to benefit from our expertise and advice.

New information products

As well as responding to a wide range of enquiries, we have also produced lots of new online information in response to popular demand:

  • Technology in association with Abilitynet
  • Equipment with Which? (coming soon)
  • Independent living, updated by our new specialist in social care.

In 2017, we will continue to trial new ways to deliver information content with pilot videos on PIP assessments, PIP appeals and employing your own PA.

We’ll also be launching a new information product that will help guide people new to disability, like this caller to our helpline:

“After working within the corporate industry for over 20 years, I have recently become disabled and found the past 9-10 months totally life-changing. I’ve called various places and not received the help or level of service I have just been provided. I don’t usually do this but I really want to make a point to applaud the level of service and professionalism your helpline has. I felt as though I have been treated with dignity and pride, and not made to feel uncomfortable talking about my disability. So thank you again.”

Goodbye to Veronica

2016 also saw the retirement of helpline manager Veronica Lynch who has worked on Scope’s national helpline since it launched in 1990. She retired in April after 26 years’ dedicated service and won a national award for staff with a long-term commitment to their cause and who had made a positive impact to people’s lives.

We miss her but, more importantly, so will the people who have asked for her support over the years.

One parent, whose twins have cerebral palsy, said:

“I can honestly say that I don’t think I could have coped had it not been for Veronica and the helpline. They have given me so much time and support through all my difficulties and battles.”

Have a happy Christmas and New Year!

Thank you to everyone who has contacted us in 2016 and may we wish you all a Happy New Year.

For free, independent and impartial information and support on the issues that matter to disabled people and their families, contact Scope helpline on 0808 800 3333 or helpline@scope.org.uk

Please note Scope’s helpline is closed 24 December to 28 December, and between 31 December and 2 January. 

Scope helpline receives no Government support: £12 can help pay for a call to the helpline this Christmas. Please support us if you can.

 

Being a young carer can be stressful, but Scope’s online community helped me

Catherine is 16 years old, and a carer to her brother and sister. In this blog she explains how Scope’s online community helped her with the frustrations and stress that being a young carer can bring.

Your support can make all the difference. Please give a gift today so that a young carer like Catherine doesn’t have to struggle alone.

Not your average 16-year-old

If you met me, you’d probably think I’m like any other teenager. But I’m not.

I’m a cleaner, a cook, a carer, a homework supervisor, a role model and a shoulder to cry on. That’s a lot to take on at 16 years of age. I’m a young carer, so I look after my brother, who has Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and autism, my sister, who has mental health issues, and my mum, who has ADHD. Phew!

I get up at 5:30am, and then it all begins, waking up the family, getting them dressed, making breakfast, giving them medication. Life is a balancing act!

Catherine and her younger sister
Catherine and her younger sister

Sometimes it all gets a bit much, so I’m glad I heard about Scope’s online community. It’s great because you don’t have to join a waiting list, or travel miles to talk to someone.

Scope’s online community is a lifeline to people like me.

It’s there 24 hours a day and there’s a whole community of people who’ve been through the same challenges and understand and can offer support.

I’ll never forget my first visit to Scope’s online community. I loved it straightaway – I saw how open everyone was about their feelings and personal battles, and I realised I wasn’t alone.

I’ve turned to the community many times since then, and it made a huge difference when my brother started hitting out at me. It was very hard to take when I was trying my best for him. But people on the community helped me see that it was his way of expressing his frustration – it wasn’t directed at me personally. And that frustration has gone away as we’ve settled into a new routine as a family.

The support I’ve received on the community has pulled me up when I’ve been down, left me in stitches when before there were tears. It’s helped me see that it’s okay to go through rough patches, and that I don’t have to feel guilty about struggling.

Looking to the future

There are so many people out there who could benefit from this 24 hour a day peer support network which is why I’m writing this blog. I want to make sure other families don’t have to struggle like I did and you could help Scope offer a lifeline to families like mine.

Catherine typing on her phone
Catherine using the online community from her mobile phone

Catherine is now helping others

I’m doing everything I can to help Scope myself. Now I also volunteer as an online community champion, to make sure people feel welcome on the site. I want to say thank you (times a million) to all supporters of Scope. Scope’s online community has been a lifeline to my family and I know it can be to others.

Catherine’s story shows that young people’s lives can be changed for the better with a friendly and accessible community, available anytime anywhere.

Donate today to support our work with young carers like Catherine.  

You could help ensure a disabled person and their carer always has someone to turn to. 

“All I really wanted was to work, so I could be independent.”

Harrison is just one of thousands of young disabled adults who have struggled to find work. Here he explains about the barriers he faced on his journey to permanent employment. Donate today and support our work with young disabled people.

Have you ever felt really let down? Like there’s no hope? A year ago, that was me. Like so many disabled people, I was constantly being overlooked by potential employers. I kept applying and applying for work. But I kept missing out. At first I didn’t let it get to me. But after a while I got so stressed. I started to think there was no point.

“Employers judged me, without finding out what I could do”

I’ve always been a people person. I’m not shy, I like talking and I’m good at understanding people. I love the theatre and have done some acting and backstage work. So I knew I had lots of skills to offer. But, when employers found out about my learning disability they judged me, without first finding out what I can do. I even started one job, but they let me go with no warning. I didn’t believe in myself at all. I felt really down and useless.

Harrison with his employment advisor, Jo.

Everything changed for me when I met Jo from Scope. She encouraged me to join a work programme where I learnt about everything from how to tell an employer about my impairment to time management skills.

“When I finally got an interview with Morrisons I was so nervous”

I worked on a new CV and learnt how to fill in application forms. My confidence was really low because I’d been rejected for so many jobs. But the support I got made me realise that there are many jobs I can do, which helped improve my confidence a lot.

When I finally got an interview with Morrisons I was so nervous but I had a lot of help with my preparations. I practised and practised answering questions. When the interview day came, I remembered what I was told. And I got the job! I was so happy and excited, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew. The support I got helped me get my job at Morrisons. With your help, other young people can get the right support too, and show employers what they can do.

Harrison working on the checkout at Morrisons.

“My life changed because of the support I had”

I’ve been working at Morrisons for 10 months now. My supervisor helps me remember the things I need to ask customers, like if they have a loyalty card. He says I’ve taken to customer service like a duck to water. I know they want me to succeed here because they do everything they can to support me.

Now I’m earning my own money, I’m saving up to move out from my parents’ house into my own place. It’s great that I can see a future where that happens. I want all employers to be as supportive as mine. My life has changed because of the support I had and now every day when I go to work I feel confident and independent!

Harrison’s story shows how with the right support a young disabled person can get a new start and chance to achieve their dreams.

Donate today and help disabled people like Harrison get in to permanent, sustainable employment.

With your support we can make sure disabled people can get the right support, and show employers what they can do.

Tech4Good awards: inclusion means everyone’s a winner

The Tech4Good awards were created by the charity AbilityNet with the help of BT to highlight the empowering influence of digital technology – whether it’s at home, at work, in education.

There were lots of great ideas this year but here were some of my favourites that used technology to make the world a more accessible place for disabled people.

Wayfindr

Visually impaired woman uses smartphone to navigate in station
Visually impaired woman uses smartphone to navigate in station

Accessibility Award winner Wayfindr is an audio-based, open source app that allows visually impaired people to navigate the world independently. It uses smartphone technology and offers directions for stations, hospitals and shopping centres. In the future the project aims to provide navigation wherever you are in the world!

OxSight

SmartSpecs
SmartSpecs

OxSight have created ‘Smart Specs’, an augmented reality display system that allows people to regain a sense of independence. It helps make sense of the physical environment by simplifying the ambient light, translating it into shapes and shades so that people can discern physical objects and perceive depth.

The Great British Public Toilet Map

Toilet map on smartphone
Toilet map on smartphone

The NHS has estimated that 3-6 million people manage reduced continence due to medical or health reasons. Public toilets are a necessity, but with funding being cut, they can be difficult to locate, and are often not accessible. The Great British Public Toilet Map provide a database that allows you to filter results to suit you, including finding accessible toilets and baby changing.

South London Raspberry Jam

Inspired by his love of coding, and his Tourette’s Syndrome diagnosis at the age of seven, Femi Owolade-Coombes set up a crowdfunding campaign for an Autism and Tourette’s Syndrome friendly ‘South London Raspberry Jam’. As a result, Femi has introduced over 100 young people and their families to coding – all for free, and all at the age of just 10 years old.

AsthmaPi kit

But the overall winner of Tech4Good is aged just nine years old! Arnav Sharma has an aunt with asthma and set out to find out more about the condition and how he could use tech to help. Using Raspberry Pi, gas and dust sensors, Arnav’s AsthmaPi kit can help parents of children suffering from asthma. Using email and text message alerts, patients receive prompts to take medication and reminders for review visits.

Read more about the Tech4Good awards.

Staying in mainstream education with a visual impairment

A guest blog from Lucy Driver, a visually impaired student that decided to stay in mainstream education. She knows the benefits and disadvantages of access to education outside of specialist education for visually impaired students.

When my vision began to deteriorate, I found it difficult to access the relevant information about my sight loss and what impact it might have on my education.

I’m hoping that this blog about my experiences might aid those who find themselves in my situation, or are currently supporting someone facing a similar circumstance. I aim to do this by explaining what I did to enable me to stay within mainstream education.

Registering with the Local VI Authority

Registering with the local authority’s visual impairment (VI) education advisory service provides better access to the curriculum for students with a visual impairment. The process itself was relatively straightforward.

The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENco) at my school initiated my application. After the administrative side of things was complete, a specialist advisory teacher with the visual impairment team met with me at school for an informal assessment to establish my access needs.

I have since continued to meet with the same VI advisory teacher once or so a term. It can be of great benefit to be able to talk to an individual regarding what is and isn’t being done to support you as a student. It also provides you with some perspective, as you are able to discuss any concerns you may have with someone who has a bit more experience in bridging the gap between special educational needs and education itself.

Exam Modifications

A good exams officer is a blessing!

Visual impairment and academic achievement are not directly related to one another; sight loss does not have to mean worsening academic performance.

Exam modifications are put in place to ensure students that require additional support are at the same starting point as students who do not. These can come in a variety of formats from enlarged font size to additional time allocation.

Prior to the submission of the application, everyone involved (the student, their parent’s, the school’s SENco etc.) will meet to discuss what modifications (if any) would be of benefit to the student. Once these arrangements have been agreed upon, the school’s examination’s officer will apply for the modifications to be made

Technology

The uses of modern technology to secure better access to the curriculum are endless. I use the following to enable me to work independently at school:

  • iPad – This allows me to read text books as ebooks, enlarge imagery and have PowerPoints emailed to me by class-teachers to eliminate the issue of whiteboard glare.
  • iZoom Software – This is a USB containing magnifying software that enlarges the screen format on computers. It can also re-colour the screen if needed.
  • Electronic Video Magnifier – I use this during my exams in order to further enlarge my exam paper manually. This means that I don’t need a reader, which enables me to work independently and at my own pace.

Coming to terms with sight loss

A diagnosis of sight loss is incredibly daunting on its own. Adding that to being a teenager trying to keep up with your peers whilst being conscious of the sight you have lost makes it a very difficult concept to explain to anyone that hasn’t experienced it themselves.Lucy strokes a dog under its chin

I do feel that it’s incredibly important to change attitudes towards people with sight loss, especially when everyone you’ve ever met starts a conversation with, “How many fingers am I holding up?”

Having these conversations sooner rather than later, enables the wheels to be set in motion. This provides peace of mind to both the student themselves and their family. It establishes the knowledge that not everything is changing and that going to school and obtaining the same qualifications whilst aiming for the same future as you would have previously, is not an impossible concept.

Our online community has a whole range of different tips. Visit our online community today and join the discussion.