Category Archives: Real life stories

How it feels to experience endless harassment, just because you look different

Chris has dwarfism and experiences regular harassment. For Hate Crime Awareness Week, read his blog about the effect this had on him and why he’s keen to change attitudes.

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

Experiencing harassment at work

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

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

Chris arms folded, in front of a garden

The effect of endless harassment

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

Because I’ve been experiencing it for a long time it can be difficult when I’m in certain environments not to be too self-conscious. For some people, it can lead to depression and even suicide.

Comments and insults can be more damaging than physical assault, certainly for me – it’s just that concept of feeling excluded from society. It also affects my confidence when it comes to working and dating.

Changing attitudes

Through animation, I re-created some of the worst things that I’ve personally experienced. I hope it will raise awareness and change perceptions. I want to put this kind of harassment on the same grounds of nonacceptance that racism is.

I also want to challenge the dehumanising ideas about what disabled people shouldn’t and shouldn’t do. I think education is key to changing attitudes. One day I hope I can walk down the street and nobody cares about my height.

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

Why you should run the Royal Parks Half – from someone who’s done it!

When keen runner Chris lost his leg in a motorbike accident he was determined to keep running. Last year he ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Scope and in this blog, he tells us why it’s such an amazing experience.

Getting back into running was a long journey. One of the first books I read after the amputation was Chris Moon’s autobiography. It got me excited about the possibility of running again!

The training does takes longer but don’t let that stop you. Get in touch with other people with a similar impairment and find out what’s possible. I learned that the right prosthetic makes all the difference. The first time I tried a pylon prosthetic I was dubious but we went to the running track, fitted the leg and I broke my para-athlete 400 meter record within about 10 minutes!

The Royal Parks is such a beautiful route

Last year I did the Royal Parks for Scope. I love those parks and used to train in them when I worked in Central London. It was good to go back. Despite losing my leg, I haven’t changed inside. I’m still the same person, life goes on and it can be as enjoyable. It’s just a new normal. I like to challenge myself and I’m always thinking “what can I take on next?”

It really is a beautiful run and the autumn weather was perfect – a beautiful, still, chilly morning with glorious sun rising over the trees. It took a while to get going because of the number of runners but once I got going, I relaxed and settled into a nice rhythm past Buckingham Palace. As well as the parks, you pass so many amazing London landmarks. They were familiar to me from years working in Central London offices and running at lunchtimes. Memories flooded back.

All the support spurs you on

With my right leg doing all the work I find uphill gradients take their toll so I eased up a little. Then I spotted the Scope supporters at their cheer spot and exchange shouts with them which spurred me on! I had my name printed on my vest and get lots of personal encouragement. At the halfway point, I saw that I had three minutes in hand, so I was feeling pretty good!

Just after 10 miles a runner suddenly brakes in front of me and I lose my footing. I almost save myself but eventually lose it and fall heavily on my right knee and forearm. Many hands lift me to my feet – I think I’m okay and I walk for about a minute, testing my body. There are lots of concerned spectators and runners who call to me. The camaraderie is great.

It’s less than a straight mile to the finish. I push myself and enjoy the cheering of the crowds for the last few hundred metres to the finish banner. And there is my wife, Denise, with that big smile, just past the finish line.

We called in at the Scope tent to see our friend Nicola Gale in the events team and then it was time to tackle the journey home to a long, hot bath and an even longer nap. Thanks to everyone’s support I raised £668 for Scope, beating my fundraising target of £300 and I beat my time target of 2 hours too! It was an amazing experience. If you’re thinking about doing it, don’t hesitate to sign up with Scope!

13.1 miles. 4 Royal Parks. 1 Team Scope. Get your Royal Parks 2018 place with Scope today.

My message to employers: disability is not a weakness

Azar lives in London and wants to work in the financial markets as a currency trader. He’s well on his way, with a 2:1 in business management, but he feels that attitudes need to change if he’s going to be successful.

Past job interviews didn’t go well – employers would focus on his impairment which made him feel uncomfortable and lose confidence. He’s supporting our Work With Me campaign to ensure that employers see beyond disability and focus on his strengths.

I have cerebral palsy which affects my right side and movement. It’s not immediately noticeable but there are small things that could make a big difference for me in the workplace. For example, I can’t type, so I use software programmes where I speak and it automatically writes down what I’m saying.

I found it really hard looking for work. I always tried to hide my impairment but during interviews employers would ask “Do you have a disability? How will you be able to do the job?” which made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to answer it.

I felt like the odds were stacked against me

Getting rejected again and again, you feel like it’s because of your impairment and that made me want to give up. I couldn’t explain cerebral palsy confidently and it made me feel like it was more of a weakness than I strength. I had all the skills but I felt like I was being judged. It seemed like employers were thinking there will be other people who aren’t disabled who can do the job better.

Work With Me

There’s a lack of awareness and understanding. I feel like employers don’t know how to adapt to disabled people’s needs, they just don’t think about it. Companies should be open about starting conversations in a way that’s not off putting. Their attitude should be “If you have an impairment we’re going to provide you the support you need to prosper in this role.”

A million disabled people can and want to work, but they’re not being given the opportunities. I think campaigns like Work With Me can have an impact by helping more disabled people get in to work and show what they can do. Work With Me can also educate employers about what they can do to improve and show them that it’s not about disability, it’s about competency.

Scope storyteller, Azar, holds up a placard which says #WorkWithMe
Azar is supporting Scope and Virgin Media’s new employment campaign, Work With Me

My advice to others

Knowing that there’s a million disabled people who, like me, want to work but aren’t being given the chance, makes me feel so frustrated. It makes me more determined to prove to employers that disability isn’t a weakness. My advice to other disabled people looking for work is use your strengths and show employers that disability doesn’t define you – you can defy the odds.

I feel more confident taking about my impairment now and what I need to prosper in a company. I feel more sure of myself and my skills. To all the employers who are put off by disability I want to say: don’t judge me by my impairment, judge me on my skills and my experience, look at my track record. Cerebral palsy is not a weakness and with the right adjustments I can succeed.

Be part of making change happen. Find out more about Work With Me and share the campaign on your social media networks using #WorkWithMe.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people.

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

Marie is a college tutor from Milton Keynes. Although her current job is ideal, she’s experienced barriers and negative attitudes in the past, including the time she was told ‘not to bother’ working. She passionately believes that everyone should be given a chance and is supporting our Work With Me campaign to make that a reality.

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. The condition can make me very tired and there are nights when I can’t sleep at all so it would be difficult to do a typical 9 to 5 job.

My current employer is understanding of my needs and the job I have is so flexible. I’m able to work from home which suits me perfectly. If I can’t pick up work on a certain day, they’ll email it across or agree a different time for me to collect it. But it hasn’t always been so easy.

“We don’t have anything 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 pretty much “Why do you want to work? We don’t have anything for people like you.” There was no help or aspiration.

Being told not to bother working it 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. It was frustrating.

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.

A disabled woman, Marie, holds up a placard which says #WorkWithMe
Marie supports Scope and Virgin Media’s new employment campaign, Work With Me

Work With Me

Knowing that there’s a million disabled people out there who want to work but are being denied the opportunity, it makes me angry because everybody should be given an opportunity. We all want to contribute to society.

I think a lot of employers don’t want to hire a disabled person because they don’t understand disability and they just want the ‘perfect’ person. So, the way to change negative attitudes is for those of us who are disabled to prove them wrong. To show that we can do it, and it doesn’t matter if we use a wheelchair or we’re visually impaired – with the right support, it doesn’t affect your ability to work.

My advice to employers is just give someone a chance and think about what they can do, not what they can’t do. When I got my current job, the feedback was really positive. The interviewers said that I was confident, I clearly knew the subject and I had all the skills. Why can’t all employers be like this?

People shouldn’t be put into a box. Some people can’t work, but that’s not the reality for many disabled people. That’s why I’m supporting Work With Me. I think this campaign is going to open people’s eyes. Unless you see stories out there, people won’t know what’s possible.

Please join me and help change the future of employment for disabled people.

Be part of making change happen. Find out more about Work With Me and share the campaign on your social media networks using #WorkWithMe.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people.

Don’t focus on my impairment, ask me what I can bring to the role

After graduating from university, Lauren embarked on a long and difficult journey to find a job.  In support of our new campaign, Work With Me, she spoke to us about the barriers she faced and gives some advice to disabled people who are still searching for a job.

When I graduated with a good degree and lots of volunteering experience, I thought I would find a job pretty quickly. Instead, I applied for over 250 jobs in a variety of roles but I only got interviews about 5% of the time. I said that I was visually impaired on my applications and my CV. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and I wanted to be open from the start.

Scope’s new research found that when applying for jobs only 51% of disabled applications result in an interview compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants. So it’s not just me. When I did get interviews, they didn’t ask the questions I expected.  They were more focused on my impairment than what I could bring to the role. I feel like people underestimated what I could do because I was blind.

Again, Scope’s research shows that this feeling is shared by many disabled people. Over a third (37%) of respondents who don’t feel confident in getting a job believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition. Towards the end of my job hunt I wanted to give up. I just didn’t think I was ever going to get a job. I knew I could do it but by the end it I was like “Can I?”

Eventually I was given a chance, and my employer was supportive right from the start. I want to see that happen for more disabled people. Latest Government figures show there are one million disabled people in the UK who can and want to work but are currently unemployed. It’s really unfair.

Change is possible

Disabled people face barriers left, right and centre. I want to contribute just as much as anyone else – and I can.  Having the right equipment ensures that I can do my job as well as my sighted colleagues and that’s provided through Access to Work. It doesn’t cost my employer anything.

Attitudes need to change. Employers often focus on limitations rather than the unique advantages that disabled employees can bring. For example, we’re incredible problem solvers because we have to be. All we want is to be given a chance. That’s why I’m supporting Scope and Virgin Media’s new campaign – Work With Me. I hope you will join me.

Be part of making change happen. Find out more about Work With Me and share the campaign on your social media networks using #WorkWithMe.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people.

If you’re disabled, finding a job can be a difficult and disappointing experience – help us change that

Josh is 32 and lives in London. He is supporting Scope and Virgin Media‘s new campaign Work With Me, which aims to bring about real change, to ensure that disabled people who can and want to work, are given the same opportunities as everyone else. 

I graduated with a degree in Politics and International Relations in 2011, then I moved back to London and primarily looked for jobs in public administration. I’ve had a lot of voluntary opportunities but only two paid jobs.

I suppose, like many disabled people, I’ve found it difficult to go through the traditional channels. I’ve done countless interviews and applications but only had probably one or two interview opportunities from that. I think a lot of my work experience has been down to sheer perseverance.

I feel like the whole process of finding work and applying for jobs is so stressful for disabled people. There were days when it was terrible. You’re just sending loads and loads of messages but getting no response other than the standard email just sent by the system.

Scope’s new research found that when applying for jobs only 51% of disabled applications result in an interview compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants. Also on average, disabled people apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people when searching for a job. For me, it’s been a really difficult and disappointing experience.

Barriers to work

Behind any possible opportunity that I might get, there are always considerations that non-disabled people don’t have to concern themselves with. I’m always looking for opportunities but those opportunities need to physically work for me and there don’t seem to be many of them. I felt really supported in my last job but one of the reasons I left was that the travel was just impossible.

Support from the Jobcentre doesn’t really work for disabled people because it’s a very standard process, they’re not offering bespoke support. Sometimes you go to these places and their advice is just to do things that you’re already doing. Most of the time I made my way there for a face-to-face appointment and they would just ask, “How is your job search going?”  – just the basic questions.

The disability advisor in one Jobcentre was so good but that support wasn’t available in every Jobcentre. It just seems to be luck whether you get one. Having someone who could look at things from my point of view really helped. Sometimes, it was just having somebody to actually talk to who understood.

Attitudes can be a barrier too. Scope’s new research found that over a third (37%) of respondents who don’t feel confident in getting a job believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition.

Personally, I’ve felt quite intimidated bringing up my adjustment needs with potential employers because you just think “Well, if they find somebody who can do the typical 9-5, they’ll go for them.”

Work With Me

The latest Government figures show there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to work but are currently unemployed. I think that’s a real scandal and a real loss of potential.

That’s why I’m supporting Work With Me – a three-year initiative by Scope and Virgin Media which aims to understand and tackle the barriers disabled people face getting into and staying in work.

The campaign is inviting members of the public, employers and Government to work together to address these issues more quickly. So join me in supporting this campaign to ensure that disabled people who can and want to work aren’t denied the opportunity any longer.

Be part of making change happen, find out more on our website and share #WorkWithMe on your social media networks.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people. 

“They told me Evie may never sleep”

Meet Sarah, whose daughter, Evie, suffered from severe sleep issues for the first six years of her life. The lack of sleep affected every aspect of Evie’s life, including her health and her ability to get on at school. 

Have you ever gone without sleep? If you have, maybe you’ll understand when I say I don’t know how we survived. My six year old daughter, Evie, slept for as little as two hours a night, and it affected my whole family.

Living a nightmare

It was a nightmare – that’s the best way I can describe it. Except a nightmare ends when you wake up. This didn’t. There was no escape.

We felt terrible through the day and the night. As many as 80 percent of disabled children have sleep problems, and Evie, who has autism and hydrocephalus, was severely affected. Any loud noises frightened her. Bright lights hurt her eyes. She was very tearful, and emotional. She was often ill. She began to hate school because she struggled to make friends and spent a lot of time alone.

I knew how she felt, because I was tired, drained and often ill myself. I felt isolated too. I felt like no one understood. When I asked for help, I got nowhere. I was told that disabled people just don’t sleep, and that we just need to learn to live with it. But we couldn’t.

Finding a solution

I find it unbearable knowing that there are disabled children and families still trapped in that nightmare, thinking that there’s no way out. Because there is – there’s Scope.

I can’t tell you what it felt like to finally find help. Scope understands how severe sleep problems are, and how profoundly they affect a disabled child and their family. Most important of all, they have solutions – tried and tested techniques that can be used to get a disabled child to sleep. Their Sleep Solutions service runs training workshops and clinics for parents like me.

The training came at just the right time – I was at a really low point and was losing hope that things would ever get better.

Techniques that work

With Scope’s help, I looked at everything we did again – from what time Evie and her little brother, Isaac, got into their pyjamas to what we did before bedtime. I learned that even though watching television seemed to calm them down, the light from the screen tells their brains to stay awake.

The training even taught me what kind of food we should eat to induce melatonin – the hormone that makes us go to sleep.

We put together a new routine for bedtime, and I stuck to it even though the first ten nights were exhausting. There were times when I felt like giving up again, but Scope was there for me.

Now our nightmare is over

As the weeks went by, Evie woke up fewer and fewer times during the night. Her behaviour during the day improved too – she became much calmer. Isaac asked me if I had a magic wand that had made Evie nicer. But it was sleep – just sleep.

Except it isn’t ‘just’ sleep. You only realise how important it is when you don’t have it.

Thank you for your support

Your donations help Scope run this vital service which made such a difference to my family.

Sleep is so important to a child’s development. It helps them grow, learn and become more independent – it’s a key part of ensuring disabled children get the best start in life. And that means it’s vital to Scope’s work to make sure disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

I’ve seen the difference Sleep Solutions has made to Evie. She’s now doing well at school. She’s gone up five reading levels in six months and it means so much to me to see she has two new friends. She doesn’t just sit in a corner with ear defenders on any more. She can finally play, like any child should have the opportunity to.

Now I work for Scope Sleep Solutions myself and help other families who have gone years without support. Thank you for making my work possible.

We plan to expand Sleep Solutions so Sarah and the team can provide vital support to more families. If you’d like to make an extra donation you will be helping to make sure disabled children get the best start in life.

“It’s not just about sport, it’s about accepting people for who they are”

John Willis is the founder and Chief Executive of Power to Inspire, a charity all about inclusion through sport, based in Cambridge. He was born without fully formed arms and legs, and last year he took on a challenge to try all 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports.

In this blog he talks about changing attitudes and why sport for all is so important.

I was interested in sport from a very young age. Unfortunately, there weren’t many opportunities to get involved in sport at school.

A few years ago I was nagged by a friend into doing a Triathlon relay – I did the swim. We had a great time and it showed that disabled people and non-disabled people can do sport together, you just have to design it and think about it and adapt it.

John Willis, a disabled man with foreshortened arms and legs, waits on a diving board for the signal to dive into the pool, in front of an audience of adults and children
John waiting on a diving board for the signal to dive into the pool.

I did another challenge the following year – 50 1000 meter swims in 116 days – which was quite something and it took me all around the country. I spoke to well over 3000 children and adults about sport. I set up Power to Inspire to take this even further.

Changing attitudes at an early age

Through Power to Inspire, we go into schools and clubs and talk to kids about inclusive sport and we got our games going in schools last year. Everybody seems to have great fun – from mainstream kids learning about inclusive sport to running mixed games where we take mainstream kids into SEN schools.

At one session, we turned to the P.E. teachers and said “Everyone seems to be having a fantastic time, you must always be in and out of each other’s schools with being just down the road from each other” and they said “We’ve never been in each other’s schools before”. So we’re breaking down barriers.

Children trying out new sports like archery and goalball.
Children trying out new sports like VI football and floor lacrosse

It’s fantastic to see kids learning together. It’s not just about sport, it’s about accepting people for who they are. There’s a real demand for our games in schools. We want to keep doing more of it and spread the word. We’re also talking to various clubs about doing big accessible events.

2012 created a huge change in this country. There wasn’t acknowledgment of disability discrimination a few years ago, it was just the norm. Now people are aware it exists. There’s been a massive change. Seeing more disability sport, people on the telly, it’s becoming more accepted in mainstream culture now. People look at Jonny Peacock as a fabulous athlete first, and disabled second.

Outside of the Paralympics, things do get better but it’s like a tide. The water reaches further up the beach each time, but it does go back. What we need to do is create some blockages so the water doesn’t go back so far and we can push it further.

John, a disabled man with foreshortened arms paddles his kayak on the River Cam
John Willis practicing kayaking on the River Cam

Sport is for everyone, full stop

The camaraderie of sport is amazing, with fans of all sports all over the world. That common enthusiasm, I don’t think you quite get that anywhere else.

I set myself a goal last year to try all 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports. I had an absolute blast. I fell in love with far too many of them. There is a sport for everyone and Sport for All emphasises that for me. The work I do with children, once they’ve worked out a way to do something, they just think let’s get on with it and the see the person, not the disability. I want everybody to be able to play and to be able to compete. If you can create that exhilaration of pushing yourself, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at.

Sport is available to everyone full stop. It’s just a question of finding out what you like and finding out where you can do it. And find friends, not just disabled people, but friends who are passionate about that particular sport. Last year I ended up playing tennis which I never thought I’d do. The equipment is available and can be adapted, it just takes a bit of imagination. There’s no such thing as “can’t” – all there is, is working out how to do it. Just take a small step. It all starts with a small step.

Making sport more inclusive

This summer, the World ParaAthletics Championships and the five year anniversary of the London 2012 Paralympic Games gave us an opportunity to champion inclusive sport.

As part of our mission for Everyday equality, we ran a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport. Over the past few weeks we:

  • shared blogs from storytellers,
  • celebrated the incredible athletes involved in the ParaAthletics on social media,
  • showcased accessible challenge events,
  • did a Facebook Live with Richard Whitehead,
  • and shared some new research which showed that a quarter (28%) of disabled people did not feel the Paralympics delivered a positive legacy for disabled people.

Please help us continue the conversation by championing inclusive sport and challenging negative attitudes. Read more Sport For All blogs and catch up with all of our activity using #SportForAll on our Twitter.

Through The Eyes of Me – Writing a book for my autistic daughter

Jonathan Roberts has written a story book about his daughter, Kya, who was diagnosed with autism. After a great reaction to his book from Kya’s family and the professionals who work with her, Jon’s book has just been published by Graffeg.

Getting a diagnosis

We adopted Kya at 17 months old. We realised fairly soon that there were differences between Kya and other children of her age and we initially put this down to post adoption attachment issues. Kya’s Health Visitor raised her concerns and referred her for an assessment with regards to her development delays which resulted in a diagnosis of severe autism.

As Kya’s parents we’re blessed –  she is a lovely, placid happy child and I wanted to capture her lovely little quirks before we forgot them so I started to record them. I started writing things down and showed my wife Sarah. She liked them and we thought it might make a little book.

When Kya started mainstream school, the children in her class asked the teacher questions about her, like:

“Why is Kya allowed to run around?”

An illustrated page from Kya's book. The text reads: I am always on the move. I don't care for sitting still. I love running.

Kya has lot of energy and finds it difficult to sit still. It’s hard for us to keep up with her sometimes, particularly when we are out shopping and we forget her rucksack with reins. Luckily, we live near some long, sandy beaches and open spaces where Kya can run around in a relatively safe environment but we still have to keep our eye on her all the time! She doesn’t understand danger so she’s always climbing stairs, railings and on top of kitchen work tops. It can be very tiring!

“Why won’t Kya talk?”

She has difficulty concentrating and finds it hard to communicate. She has delays with her speech and often babbles but she is learning a few words now. When we read the book to her, she points and says, “Kya!” and looks at me for approval. She loves looking at the book but she has a tendency to rip things up, it is like her sign of approval, as if she is multiplying things as opposed to destroying them.

Picturing a book

And illustration of Kya and her Dad swinging her aroundI wanted to create a nice, pretty looking and simple to read book explaining her differences and beautiful quirks. I wanted the book to be illustrated simply yet beautifully.  We got in touch with Hannah Rounding, who was spot on with her pictures even though she had never met us!

We hope Through the Eyes of Me will help siblings, classmates and anyone who knows of someone on the autism spectrum.

Order the paperback and add ‘Scope’ as coupon code to get a 20% discount on the normal price of £6.99.

Check out our Pinterest board of kids books for siblings of disabled children.

“Inclusive sport shouldn’t be something we have to fight for”

Kris is the founder of Wheely Good Fitness, which offers exercise classes for both disabled and non-disabled people in Herefordshire.

On the weekend, he and a group of 32 people, headed to Dorney Lake in Berkshire to take part in the Superhero Triathlon – the first fully accessible triathlon of its kind.

Here, Kris tells us about his experiences of the event, attitudes towards disability in sport and why sport for all is so important.

There is an assumption that just because someone is disabled they’re not going to want to do sport, which has an impact on the opportunities available.

Unless you live in a main city, there’s not really a lot going on. If we took away the need to segregate, everything would be accessible to everybody and we could all go to our local leisure centres and take part in whatever it is they are running. I run mixed ability classes and there is no need to segregate at all.

Health and safety is always used as an excuse. To me, health and safety is one of the most patronising things used to discriminate against disabled people. London Marathon, for example, only allow 12 places for standard wheelchair entries on the grounds of health and safety. It’s absolute nonsense. They can allow a guy to run in a tumble drier but people who use a wheelchair every day of their life are “not safe”.

Accessibility shouldn’t be something we have to fight for. Disability sport should be given the same amount of precedence as mainstream sport but you don’t see a lot of it and when you do, the coverage of it is very different. It’s not seen as being as serious or respected as other sports. It’s a shame. And if you haven’t got a huge demand [for specialist disability fitness equipment] you can’t reduce the production costs which makes it hard for people to get involved. It’s a vicious circle.

My clients like the social aspect of doing sport. Most of the groups become like a little family. They have a drink afterwards and a chat. Their confidence improves – not only from talking to other people, but they also feel they’re achieving things in the class, instead of their impairment being a negative thing.

Two people take part in the Superhero Tri
Two of the participants at Superhero Tri

Things are improving but it’s a slow process

I’ve been running my fitness classes for four years now. Things have improved in accessible sport but it’s an extremely slow process. There are more and more organisations out there organising accessible bikes and equipment hire. So you can tell attitudes are changing. I think disabled kids have an advantage now to grow up with a much more positive attitude towards themselves that people didn’t have 20 or 30 years ago.

We’re starting to see more inclusive events too. There’s Parallel London which is in its second year and that turned out to be really good event. I was really excited as soon as I heard about the Superhero Tri as were many of my clients. There is so much adaptation. The run can be done in a chair, walking or on crutches. The cycle can also be done in a chair, they allow people in power chairs as well. You can also have a buddy compete with you to help with direction, encouragement, support or balance, so everyone can take part.

The Superhero Tri was a great event

We had eight teams altogether and 21 team members. It was a fantastic opportunity for people of all abilities to compete. The event has an understanding of disability so you’re not having to fight to take part, you’re not having to get people to make allowances for you, you are welcomed for who you are and what you can do. They’re saying “you tell us what you need in order to take part” – that’s what’s so good about it.

A group of women in swimming gear pose and smile during the Superhero Tri
Participants in the Superhero Tri smile during warm up

I was excited to take part. The only thing I was apprehensive of was trying to get that many people together at the same time, without anyone dropping out. The majority of people were really excited, there are a few I could sense were apprehensive, but they really wanted to do it.

I tried to put teams together of people who work well together in my fitness classes, or socially, so they can encourage each other and feel good about their achievements. Whilst it is a competition and it’s timed, to me and many of the team, it’s really about enjoying it and doing the best you can and saying ‘I did it’.

Most of those taking part hadn’t done anything like this before. There’s a mixture of abilities – some are quite confident and some are new to my classes and actually this was a huge step for them to take. It’s a nice journey for everyone. It takes time to start believing in yourself and realising what you’re capable of.

It was a great day, the weather held for us and everyone managed to beat the nerves and turn up. Everyone did well giving everything they could to be the best they could be. The atmosphere was fantastic and everyone was high spirited and extremely supportive of one another.

We were asked by Channel 4 who were filming the event to demonstrate our Wheel-Fit aerobics class for their highlights programme due to air next weekend which was a nice surprise for everyone and, despite being between races, we managed to squeeze in 10 minutes between transitions to demonstrate what the class was about.

Kris and his team smile and pose at the Superhero Tri
Kris and his team were all smiles at the Superhero Tri

Supporting Scope

I’ve been involved with Scope ever since I started running fitness classes. If I’m doing anything for charity, I do it for Scope. Scope is a leading force in changing ideas and perceptions of disability and leading the way to a positive future for disabled people.

Sport is a powerful tool encouraging people to seek their true potential, capabilities and discover their strengths and weaknesses, whilst creating and expanding social lives for a more proactive and rewarding life. It’s not just for the elite, the super fast or the super fit, it’s something for everyone, that can benefit everyone through improved fitness, well being, confidence and social skills.

Sport can be empowering and character building and should be open to all. It’s time to remove the barriers and discrimination and open up the world of sport to everyone of all abilities and all backgrounds on an equal footing.

Get involved in a challenge event for Scope today. Whether it’s running, swimming, cycling or trekking, we have something for everyone.

As part of our mission for everyday equality, we are running a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport, as well as challenging attitudes towards disability. Find out how you can get involved with Sport For All. 

Read more Sport For All blogs