Category Archives: Real life stories

People treated me differently when I became disabled

Hannah is a 26-year-old part time student and also enjoys fundraising when she is up to it. She became disabled at 14 and, in this blog, she talks about how her experiences changed when she started using a wheelchair.

I was healthy and fine until I was 14. Then I had an ankle injury and from that I developed complex regional pain syndrome. My mobility deteriorated. I went from walking with crutches to needing a wheelchair and about a year after my injury, I was totally bed-bound. I spent 4 years in hospital and 18 months in a neurological centre. I also have hyper-mobility syndrome, dystonia, arthritis in my hip, osteoporosis and a plated femur. I came home with a 24-hour nurse and carer. I still use a wheelchair and I have an accessible car which has been good. I have more independence again. I can get to specialists and do things in the community.

People’s attitudes changed when I became disabled

In June my old school was doing a TEDx conference and they asked me to tell my story. I spoke about raising money for Starlight Children’s Foundation because they granted my wish in 2013 to go on holiday – I wanted to help them to raise money to grant other children’s wishes. I also spoke about how people changed when I became disabled.

One of my closing comments was “Next time you speak to a disabled person, try to look beyond their disability, they are just like you”. I was basically talking about how people used to see me as ‘one of them’ but now, because I’m disabled, they see me differently. I’m still the same person. It’s just that my legs and a few other things don’t work.

Some people were unsure of how to act around me. I thought if I was walking in here you wouldn’t act differently, so why are you doing that now that I use a wheelchair? It’s strange to think that people treat me differently, just because I’ve gone from standing up to sitting in a wheelchair.

Hannah smiling in her wheelchair in front of her sofa at home
Hannah sitting in her living room

Some people speak to my mum instead of me

Often people do avoid talking to me. If I’m in a supermarket and ask someone “Can you tell me where this is?” they give the answer to my mum. I don’t understand that. If a non-wheelchair user asked a question, you wouldn’t give the answer to someone else.

Whilst I was with my mum at the checkout of the supermarket helping put the groceries into the bags, it came to paying. I retrieved my debit card out of my purse and put it in the machine. I requested cashback and then typed in my pin. I took my card out and awaited my cashback. Which the checkout assistant then gave to Mum with the receipt. I paid the bill and Mum got the cashback. I’m not sure how that works?

Once when I was out with my mum, someone asked her ‘Can she speak?’ – meaning me. My mum, a bit taken aback, quickly replied “Why don’t you ask her!” I think people are afraid of saying the wrong thing but saying something is better than saying nothing.

Hannah smiling in the garden holding her TED talks programme
Hannah in the garden

People treat me like I’m just a wheelchair

Once, at a craft exhibition, it was crowded so a lady just stepped across me and held on to my armrest just to support herself. She said “oh sorry” when she realised what she was doing and I thought “don’t say sorry – just don’t do it.” That happens quite a lot. At the same exhibition a lady put her shopping bags on my feet. Which was actually really painful. I’m not some sort of stand for you to put your bags on!

People often lean over you or stand in front of you, which they wouldn’t to anyone else. Some people even switch my wheelchair off and move my wheelchair too. That’s really annoying. I wouldn’t go and switch off your car.

I often get asked personal questions

We went to go see a house to see if it would be suitable for me and the Estate Agent said to me “So what do you think of the house?” then their next question was “So what’s wrong with you?” then “Will you ever walk again?” – I’d never met her before! That’s literally your first question to me?

It’s so damaging. It’s different if people volunteer the information or if you know someone really well. I get that they might be interested but it’s very personal information. Especially someone you’ve never met before. They can walk away and just carry on with their life with no extra thought about it and you are left feeling deflated, reminded of the reality you are living in.

You look well so you must be fine

There are times when people have said “Oh you look wonderful” and I’m like “Well we’ve been up since 7 am getting ready”. I like to look smart and presentable but sometimes it gives the wrong impression.

People say “You must be fine if you’ve managed to do all that.” It makes it harder for people to understand. But we shouldn’t have to change our lives to fit into someone’s idea of what a disabled person should look like.

Everyday equality

People should think of disabled people like any other human being. We’re the same, it’s just that we have extra difficulties to face in life. Talk to them like you would anyone else and don’t make assumptions about what they can and can’t do.

You can watch Hannah’s TED talk on YouTube.

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

My advice to anyone with a hidden impairment

Alex has worked for West Yorkshire Police since 2006, where she first joined as a Police Community Support Officer. She was diagnosed with Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia in 2014. Alex is involved with the Positive Role Model Programme, a West Yorkshire Police initiative to encourage more people to be open about disability. The message is “It’s okay to be you” and in this blog, Alex shares her story.

Before joining the Police I had lots of ideas of what I wanted to do as a career, but I never seemed to be able to focus on any one single pathway.  I struggled at school in all things academic, especially Maths, but nothing was ever flagged up.

Hidden impairments were not really known about in mainstream schooling. I think it was partially due to excelling in my social abilities. My reports always said ‘Alex is a cheerful, chatty person, a delight to have in class, very sociable’, coupled with ‘but she could try a little harder, she needs to concentrate more’.

When I was diagnosed a massive weight was lifted

When I was diagnosed in 2014 with Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia a massive weight was lifted. I am not stupid, I do not need to concentrate more. I am already concentrating much more than most people on the simplest of tasks. I also realised I had to stay away from anything to do with numbers if I wanted a stress free life.

I once had a job as an Assistant Manager of a high street shop. Most of the time I was good at it until it came to cashing up the tills at night – nightmare! It was so stressful and I assumed I must be really stupid to get things wrong time after time. Thankfully, my personality has always kept me going even if sometimes I feel I am going to crack. Now that I know I have Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia I can give myself a bit of a break from being ultra-hard on myself and ultra-critical of my mistakes.

Alex laughing, with a park in the background

Fighting to succeed

In a way, not being diagnosed earlier made me the person I am today who works hard to achieve everything I want at work and at home. I am driven, confident and sorely honest with myself. My conditions do not disable me but they do challenge me and I am up for a challenge in any form. It is this drive to succeed at everything I do that keeps me fighting to stay at work.

In my 11 years in the Police, I’ve had several roles and I am currently in a dream position at the Regional Scientific Support Service, training to become a Fingerprint Identification Officer. This is my biggest challenge to date and my Dyspraxia is really putting up a fight with the capabilities required for the position. But I have had this battle before and it hasn’t stopped me succeeding!

We need to think about reasonable adjustments

The assessment did get me thinking: why make a person with Dyscalculia (someone with no natural ability with numbers) do a Maths based test? Is that not setting them up to potentially fail? I fully acknowledge the need to assess people’s skills and resilience – especially in jobs like the Police – but I feel the current methods of assessment do not match our modern day understanding of disability. I think assessments could be more reasonably adjusted – impairments are much more complex than requiring a bit of extra time.

I think the recruitment process has moved forward with the introduction of a presentation as it’s another means of demonstrating a specific skill. These are much more relevant than demonstrating you can work out percentages.

Woman smiling inside an office

My advice for anyone with a hidden impairment

Some people feel like they want to hide the fact they have an impairment but I almost want to shout it from the rooftops. It validates me, my quirks and my frustrations. It means that people know to give me that little extra time and patience and afford me the right to get things wrong more often than is considered ‘normal’.

I would say to anyone with a hidden impairment: be open, be honest, be confident, be adaptable! Life is challenging enough without a hidden impairment and in coping with both you already have one up on the rest of them.

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

Read more experiences of having a hidden impairment.

“I thought I’d broken my baby” – Scope’s helpline helped me see a future

Families up and down the country turn to Scope for support in times of need. The information and support we provide can make all the difference, you can help us be there for every family by fundraising with us. With your help, we can be there for every family who contacts us.

Jenny found out her son Harry had cerebral palsy and didn’t understand his condition or how to support him. Here she explains how calling the Scope Helpline was the moment everything changed and how vital your support will be to families like hers.

Two years ago, my son Harry – who was five years old at the time – was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

He’d been complaining of tiredness and pains in his legs. A physio told me he was a typical boy, being lazy. But I knew there was more to it.

Harry would also keep falling over, his feet turned inwards and there was other behaviour I couldn’t understand. Even the slightest change to his routine would result in a meltdown.

“I thought I’d broken my baby”

I had to fight to get an appointment with a consultant. When finally we saw him we talked for only a few minutes. He told us that Harry had cerebral palsy.

I asked, ‘what is it?’ and ‘how did it happen?’ He said I must have fallen during the pregnancy, which scarred Harry’s brain. That was that. We left without any leaflets or explanations.

I hadn’t fallen whilst I was pregnant, I knew I hadn’t. But, even with this in my mind, I burst into tears. I thought I’d broken my baby.

Jenny talks on the phone in her kitchen
Jenny turned to Scope’s helpline for support

Finding the support that we needed

I’m so thankful I found Scope’s helpline number. Straight away, I realised I was talking to people who understood. I could finally see a future because they could help me understand Harry’s needs and how to give him the help that he needs.

Scope have been an amazing support ever since that first emotional phone call I made. They understand cerebral palsy and they understand Harry. That’s invaluable to me.

With Scope’s help, we’ve adapted to Harry’s needs and so has everyone in his life. Harry is doing really well at school and we are looking forward to what the future will bring.

It isn’t just Harry’s life that’s better, it’s the whole family’s.

Harry, a young boy, plays with a Superman toy set
Harry’s future seems much brighter now

You can help ensure that we can be there for every single family that contacts our helpline, find out more about fundraising with us or call on 020 7619 7270.

It’s time to shatter your perceptions of sport – #SportForAll

Souleyman is a Team GB Paralympic hopeful and World Junior 100m gold medalist. Having a visual impairment has never held him back in his sport and he is currently working towards competing at the 2020 Paralympics.

Here, he spoke to us about how he feels attitudes have changed since London 2012 and the challenges he faces in his own sport.

The attitude to disability in sport has definitely changed for the better in the past five years. London 2012 gave disability sport a focus, an exposure and a celebration it has never seen before and the world accepted this with huge interest and curiosity.

Since then, it has only improved with more people taking an interest in para-sport. There’s still work to be done such as giving para-sports more coverage and exposure on mainstream channels more frequently. At the moment, unless it’s the Paralympics or World Championships, people don’t get to see the amazing athletes that are competing all year round.

However, I think disability is finally being acknowledged in society and people are seeing that disabled people can do the same things that non-disabled people can do. They just need to do it in a different way.

Souleyman warms up before a race
Souleyman is World Junior 100m gold medalist

Sport challenges perceptions of disability

If you want to shatter your perception of what is possible, then you have to watch a para-sport competition at least once in your life. To see an athlete with no arms or legs complete lengths of a swimming pool or an athlete with one leg do the high jump is just something really extraordinary.

If you are disabled, I think it’s really important to get involved in para-sport at a level you feel comfortable with. It gives you a new purpose and challenges negative perceptions of disability. Your impairment isn’t something that holds you back.

Personally, my visual impairment has brought a number of challenges to my life. To go from being told that I wouldn’t be able to drive, read text or see the incredible sights of the world to now being able to train, compete on a world stage and inspire so many people at the same time is amazing. It’s given me a more positive definition to my visual impairment.

Souleyman pours a bottle of water over his head to cool down following a race
Souleyman cools down after a race

I’m a huge believer in whatever you can imagine for yourself, you can achieve it. It’s about finding what needs to be overcome – more often than not, it’s people’s attitudes.

As part of our mission for everyday equality, we are going to be 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. 

You can expect new research, blogs, videos and social media events. These will showcase some of the best athletes and storytellers involved in disability sport today.

Keep up to date with #SportForAll on our Twitter.

Read more Sport For All blogs.

A challenge that reminds us what equality is really all about

Because of her particular impairments, cycling was not an activity Emma had ever considered, until her “super-sporty” colleague and friend Paula proposed that they should ride together in their firm’s annual networking cycling event. In this blog they talk about preparing for the event and their experiences of the day.

Do you fancy coming on a bike ride – I’ll pedal!?

Paula: I enjoy being active.   I am curious to test my limits. I am not a great athlete by any stretch of the imagination – far from it. I do however wholeheartedly buy into the mind-set that anything is possible with committed training.  Over the years, I have cycled London 2 Paris in 24 hours, completed multiple Ironman Triathlons and taken part in Race Around Ireland.

The other great love of my life is friendship. I cherish my friends.  I find their company restorative, life-affirming and joyful.  Emma is my friend and my colleague. When this year’s Leigh Day (the law firm I work for) cycle ride was announced I saw an opportunity to invite my colleague Emma into what I assumed was an unexplored part of the world for her – and because I enjoy cycling so much I just assumed she would too!

I  searched the internet for adapted bikes and was heartened to see so many different varieties. It was clear to me that the means were available – all I had to do next was check whether the appetite was there. Interestingly this presented me with the most significant challenge: how to ask Emma if she fancied joining me on the ride. It sounds so daft now to read that but it is true. I had no idea if my idea would be well received, or come across as insensitive, neither  did I know if  my research into adapted bikes would be seen as patronising. The last thing I wanted to do was cause offence.

Emma wrote an excellent blog about disability and awkward conversations.  So reassured with what I knew Emma thought about starting the conversation, I decided to park my discomfort and simply asked “Do you fancy coming on a bike ride – I will pedal!?”

Paula and Emma on the bike from behind, with other cyclists on the route
Paula and Emma on a trike with cyclists on the road around them

Overcoming challenges

Emma: It actually took a while for me to take the idea seriously! The first challenge was practical – how to find a suitable bike. Leigh Day put us in touch with Wheels for Wellbeing, a fantastic charity which works to remove barriers to cycling for disabled people. On our visit to try out the bikes, the link between wheels and wellbeing was very apparent on the faces of the people riding around the hall. There were people with a variety of imapirments and on a variety of bikes. We opted for a side-by-side tricycle (think Two Fat Ladies, but without the motor). For me this had the advantage of proper seats, so no saddle to feel precarious on, and a design that allowed for only one person to pedal.

The second hurdle – increasingly challenging as the day approached – was to sit with my fear of the ride and not chicken out. A corollary of being disabled is that you have to consciously build whatever measure of independence you can achieve, constructing your comfort zone almost brick by brick. So the prospect of abandoning the freedom and safety of (in this case) my car to effectively get on someone else’s bike was daunting. This mostly manifested itself as fear of accident and catastrophic injury, not because I had any doubts about Paula’s skill as a cyclist (she recently cycle-raced round the entire coast of Ireland!) but because we would be at the mercy of other road users without any protective shell. And more fundamentally, as a passenger, I would not be in control.

Paula and Emma mid race on their adapted bike
Paula and Emma mid race on their adapted trike

I look back on it as a day like no other

The day of the ride was blessed by sunny skies and a refreshing breeze. We were joined by our friend and fellow employment lawyer Tom Brown, who took turns with Paula on the 55kg trike. As the rest of the cyclists took off on their longer routes, we turned off onto our tailor-made route, only to discover later that we had done the whole thing backwards. The beauty of the Warwickshire landscape was a revelation, as was the universally kind reaction of all the people we encountered during the ride including all the drivers that got stuck behind us (this has made me reflect on my own habitual impatience behind the wheel!).

Now, after the event and still in one piece, I look back on it as a day like no other – a day of adventure, laughter, camaraderie and experiencing the countryside in a new way (in a car you are never really ‘in’ nature). Most of all, it gave me a new sense of what real inclusion means. Because for me, the best thing about the day was that despite the lengths to which all the people involved had to go to make it possible – from sourcing the bike, planning our route, exerting unfamiliar muscle-groups, heaving the bike over turnstiles and foregoing participation in the main ride – I never felt that they were doing it to be nice to me. While my physical limitations framed the practicalities of the day, my disability didn’t feel anything more than incidental; I was encouraged and facilitated to join the event not as a disabled person but as Emma, and for me that is priceless.

As we return to our day job of representing people facing discrimination and other forms of mistreatment, we both feel that we will often return to the experience of that ride as a kind of touchstone of what equality is really all about.

Take a look at other accessible events like the Superhero triathlon and Parallel London.

Or you can tell us your story.

“Fix science fiction, not the disability!”

Deane Saunders-Stowe is a science fiction author whose debut novel, ‘Synthesis:Weave’, introduced a disabled main character.

In this blog, Deane talks about how science fiction often looks to ‘fix’ disability and how he wants to challenge the genre and bring something new to the table.

Alien worlds, sophisticated space stations, high powered laser weapons – but not a wheelchair, guide dog or hand-signing gesture in sight.

Science fiction has a problem with disability – it wants to fix it. With my partner, Kris, being a wheelchair user, I have a problem with that!

I believe fiction should provide role models and characters with which the reader can empathise rather than sympathise. If these characters are disabled, this should not be the focus. It should simply be an aspect of a character’s life, not their defining trait.

Above all, fiction should not attempt to ‘fix’ disability. It’s all too tempting to do this in futuristic sci-fi, simply because it’s the way technology is progressing and it requires less imagination to deal with. Prosthetics will become like real limbs, many medical problems will be solved and genetic therapy will cure many debilitating conditions.

Fixing disability tells readers that it is a negative. Disabled readers can feel betrayed if characters they enjoy suddenly lose their disability.

Instead, fiction should show positive ways in which disability can be dealt with creatively, or give characters insights or ways of solving problems that their non-disabled counterparts may not have.

Time to redress the balance

Inspired by my partner, who has a degenerative knee condition, I set about writing a novel to redress the balance. In ‘Synthesis:Weave’ I introduce Aryx Trevarian, a double amputee wheelchair user.

Aryx doesn’t feel as though he has to adapt to fit in with society. Society should adapt to accommodate him – and quite right, too! There aren’t only humans in the story, but a variety of alien body shapes and capabilities, and certainly no excuse not to put ramps and elevators everywhere.

A man sits in a wheelchair with holographic prosthetic legs and an alien looking device sitting on his lap
A promo image of Aryx, the disabled character in Synthesis:Weave

Fiction is all about tension, conflict, and plot twists. Conflict can be internal or external, emotional or physical and arises from a character’s desires being at odds with the reality of what they can achieve. If a character achieves their goals easily, there’s no conflict. If they do it quickly, there’s no tension.

With Aryx as an amputee wheelchair user, I knew there would be plenty of conflict and challenges that he would face on his journey. He’s comfortable in his role as an engineer, but his desire to do more would collide with his capabilities when a greater burden is placed upon him. Even though his home environment is adapted to his needs, he is aware that if he wishes to go farther afield he must change himself. To this end, he develops a prosthetic backpack that has its own drawbacks.

If I fixed his disability, readers would no longer relate to him, nor be able to see him as a realistic inspiration for them to overcome their own challenges. So whilst he can use his prosthetics in certain circumstances, he still uses his wheelchair throughout the book.

Don’t make assumptions

If you’re a writer wishing to use disability in a story, rather than make assumptions about disabilities and their impact on daily life as many people do, it’s important to get feedback from people living with those conditions, ensuring you can push boundaries without being insensitive. Ask people how they may deal with certain situations – you may be surprised at the creative and interesting ways people adapt.

I discovered this myself whilst writing the short story Synthesis:Pioneer, in which I had to pay special attention to all of the sensory descriptions I could use.

Above all, write with respect, give strong role models and provide an experience that is enjoyable for everyone.

To find out more about the Synthesis series, follow Deane on Twitter or like his Facebook page. You can also head to Deane’s website to find out more about his books.

Deane is currently working on the sequel to ‘Synthesis:Weave’ which he hopes will be finished late 2017 to early 2018. In the meantime, you can read the short story, ‘Synthesis:Pioneer’, free on Amazon.

Changing the attitudes of the next generation

Meet Mary, one of Scope’s disabled role models. Mary goes into schools to talk to kids about her experience of school, bullying and disability.

Thanks to supporters like you, we plan to reach more school children this year with Scope Role Models, tackling bullying and changing the attitudes of the next generation. 

Bullying hurts

If you were unlucky enough to be bullied as a child, you’ll know how miserable it can make you feel. When everyone is laughing at you, you feel completely alone, and the pain stays with you – sometimes for the rest of your life.

That’s how it was for me. I went to a school with over a thousand students and I stood out – all 4 foot 1 inches of me. There was no place to hide and it was exhausting – emotionally and physically – dealing with so many people who regularly wanted to make fun of you.

Yes, I was the butt of every joke. The bullies thought it was okay to laugh at Mary because they thought, ‘Mary’s not like us. Mary doesn’t have feelings’. But I did.

I went through so much pain, heartache and loneliness. I don’t think I would have had depression as an adult if I hadn’t been bullied as a child.  That’s why I can’t live with the fact that disabled children are twice as likely to be bullied as their non-disabled classmates.

I don’t want another child to experience the constant hurt that I went through

Thanks to supporters like you, we can change the attitudes of the next generation with Scope Role Models. We work with children in schools, because that’s where bullying happens, and that’s where kids form opinions that last for life.

I don’t mind telling you it was daunting the first time I stepped back into a school. The painful memories came flooding back, but the children made it worthwhile. It’s exciting to see their attitudes change in front of you. I’ve found that children are like sponges – they soak up the new ideas I share with them about disabled people, then go out and deliver that message to family and friends.

I just wish we could do more. And we need to do more, because bullying is still going on in schools around the country.

Scope is taking action thanks to your donations

As a Scope Role Model, I want children to understand the pain bullying causes. I want them to understand discrimination has its roots in ignorance. But I also want to share a positive message – and get them thinking about the friendships they miss out on with their disabled classmates.

I just wish there had been something like Scope Role Models when I was in school. It might have spared me a lot of pain, and even changed the course of my life. So I am determined to help get this life changing programme into every school.

Putting a stop to discrimination

Your support is helping disabled children who are dreading going to school because they can’t face another day of being picked on. And together we can change the future, because I’m sure, like me, you want disabled people to have equal opportunities in our society. But that won’t happen if disabled children are bullied in school, and if their non-disabled classmates follow the same path as previous generations. They’ll feel awkward around disabled people, they’ll avoid and exclude us – they’ll discriminate against us.

Thank you so much for your support, without you Scope wouldn’t be able to tackle bullying in such an effective way.

Our goal is to reach 2,500 young people through Scope Role Models this year – so if you can, please send an extra gift today to help change the attitudes of the next generation towards disabled people.

Being a parent – It’s kind of mind blowing to me

Phil Lusted is a web and graphic designer from north Wales who has most recently appeared in the BBC One documentary, ‘Big Love’.

Phil’s partner, Kathleen has a young daughter. For Father’s Day, Phil reflects on the things he is learning through being a parent with dwarfism and his hopes for the future.

Being a parent has opened my eyes to a lot of new things. I now have a child who looks up to me when she is in need of help or taking care of. I now have a responsibility to take care of our child when Kathleen is busy or needs assistance. It’s kind of mind blowing to me, in a good way. We are now officially a family and a team who strives to help, learn and care for each other through life.

I consider myself blessed to have met Kathleen’s daughter from her young age, as it’s beneficial we both learn to adapt together as she grows up. We have already learned so much from each other.

She often asks me for help when it comes to getting dressed, putting on her socks and shoes, jackets, and so on. During bed times she enjoys settling down with me as I read her a bedtime story, and we often have a giggle together before sleep time.

A man with dwarfism and his partner, a non-disabled woman, smile and laugh on a beach
Phil and his partner, Kathleen, are looking forward to raising their child together

Being a dwarf parent has its own challenges, as I do some things differently in comparison to an average height person and there are also situations where I cannot always manage. Often I can be hard on myself and feel down about the fact I wish I could do more in the way of being able to pick the baby up and carry her around when needed. I’m blessed to have Kathleen’s patience, as she reassures me that I am doing enough.

Below are just some of the things I’ve learnt as a parent so far.

Pull-ups instead of diapers

Diapers are a real struggle! Mostly because I find it fiddly to deal with my fingers (I was born with no knuckles), so pull-ups are a great alternative that myself and our child can manage without too much of a struggle.

Using a smaller/lighter stroller

Kathleen has an umbrella stroller in which I can easily manage to push around when it comes to getting out and about. It works a wonder for myself, the handles are low and the stroller is easy to push.

The safety harness

It’s not often the baby will try and outrun me, she’s very calm and will stay close, but using a harness on her to keep her close is always handy. That way, she is not needing to be carried and she also gets to walk around.

When I use a step

Keeping things out of reach from our child is important. I use steps to reach those particular things, or to do the dishes, brushing my teeth. Sometimes she will try and climb up on the step with me, so explaining to her that it’s not safe is important, we don’t want her falling and hurting herself!

A man with dwarfism and a non-disabled woman walk on a beach
Phil and his partner, Kathleen, on a photoshoot

I am excited about the journey of being a parent to this wonderful child as she gets older, learns, and grows. It is so nice and comforting to be able to form such a strong bond with her. I care so much for this child and her happiness.

Head to Scope’s website to read tips suggested by community members about pregnancy and parenthood for disabled people.

You can also join the discussion on Scope’s online community and speak to other disabled parents about their tips and experiences.

Why the fashion industry needs to include disabled people

Meghan is studying fashion at the University of South Wales. For her end of year show she designed a sportswear line which is specifically adapted for different impairments. In this blog she talks about the reasons behind it and her hopes for the future.

At school I was good at Product Design and Art, so I knew I wanted to go into a form of design. I wouldn’t really say I was a big fashion person in the typical sense which is why I wanted to do sportswear – it’s design for a purpose.

Discovering a gap in the market

I’m in my third year now and I have to do a final collection. I started looking into adapted clothing and I discovered a massive gap in the market. A lot of the people I spoke to said that the clothing that is out there is quite unfashionable or really expensive. There’s not enough choice for them in mainstream fashion.

I feel like the fashion industry does forget disabled people. When it comes to adaptive clothing, there are maternity sections in shops but disability is almost completely forgotten about. All the clothing is just t-shirts and trousers, there’s nothing stylish, which is what they want.

 

Molly posing on the catwalk

In some ways it sends a negative message to disabled people regarding sports and they might not feel confident enough taking part in sports or going to the gym, especially if they are wearing something they aren’t comfortable in themselves. But I think there has been a change in attitudes more recently because I have been seeing more representation, but I also don’t know if that’s because I’m involved in it, so I’m noticing it more.

Accessibility can be an issue too. The girl who I have as my visually impaired model, she’s got her own business helping websites and apps make their stuff more accessible for disabled people.

Kyron posing on the catwalk

Developing my sportswear line

After talking to various people, I decided to design pieces to suit four different impairments: visual impairments, dwarfism, amputees and down’s syndrome. I got in contact with a charity called “Follow your Dreams” which is for people with down’s syndrome and learning difficulties. I went to a few focus groups with them to meet people who have down’s syndrome and to get information about what they would want out of clothing and sportswear. I also spoke to Disability Sport Wales.

The Fashion Show

For the show, I had four outfits shown and I used the same models that I’ve worked with on my photo-shoots. I’ve got Tony, who is a world champion athlete, Kyron who is a Paralympian. Molly, who has ushers syndrome and runs her own company – Molly Watts Ltd – and finally, Emily who has down’s syndrome. The show was on 26 May and was a great success.

I really wanted to have all disabled models because otherwise it would completely take away the impact. I just hope that I raise more awareness from it and show people what’s possible.

If you have an experience you’d like to share, get in touch with the Stories team.

Photos by Michaela Harcegova.

Employing disabled people isn’t just about building ramps

Abbi was born with a genetic bone disease called osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as ‘OI’ or brittle bones. In this blog, she talks about some of her own experiences and what she thinks needs to be done to support disabled people in and out of work.

I was very lucky to get a job straight out of university. I work in a large advertising agency in London which can afford things like a wheelchair accessible office, ergonomic furniture and any software I might need. My physical access to my office is faultless, but employing disabled people isn’t just about building ramps.

Having the confidence to ask for what you need

When I started my job, I was never given the opportunity to explain what my impairments are and what effect they have on my life. As a junior employee, I didn’t feel comfortable asking for that conversation.

After a year of working 10 to 12 hours a day, five days a week, when I could no longer disguise my illnesses my employer didn’t know how to respond. I ended up having to take an entire month off work for reasons which could have been avoided had I felt comfortable explaining my conditions, and asking for a little flexibility, earlier on.

My agency is now working to make changes to my role but it’s been a real knock to my confidence in the workplace and has had a real effect on my mental health.

In my experience, many disabled people at the moment have a real fear of appearing as a financial burden to employers. That’s wrong, but it’s a position with which I can only empathise.

Abbi, a young disabled woman in a wheelchair, smiles and poses for a photograph

Everyday Equality by 2022

We live in an increasingly technological world, yet many employers consider employment to mean being physically present in a place of work, nine to five, five days a week. That’s something that for many disabled people is simply not possible. It’s something that I’m not going to be able to maintain forever and it’s not necessary to do a good job.

The key is flexibility. We need to create a culture in which disabled people feel confident asking employers and potential employers for what extra flexibility they need to do a good job. Whether that’s working four days a week, reduced hours, working from home or just taking a lie down once a day, a little flexibility can make all the difference for disabled people, especially those with fluctuating conditions.

Tell us what would help to improve your work opportunities

Scope is calling on the next government to improve disabled people’s work opportunities.

You can read more about Scope’s priorities for the next government and how you can register to vote in this election.

What would help to improve your work opportunities? Email the stories team and tell us your experience – stories@scope.org.uk 

You can also join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #EverydayEquality.