Chloe has experienced negative attitudes her whole life because she is disabled. Now she volunteers as a Scope Role Model and is helping the next generation overcome ignorance and prejudice towards disability. Below she shares her story and explains how your donations are helping improve attitudes towards disability forever.
“If you don’t understand, ask.” If you’re anything like me, you’ll have heard that said – at school and at home – while you were growing up.
But as I’ve discovered, when it comes to disability, people don’t ask. It could be because they’re embarrassed, they feel awkward or they think they already know the answer. Whatever the reason, it has a huge effect on my life.
I know you wouldn’t do this, but people judge me the moment they set eyes on me.
My name is Chloe. I am a 20-year-old student who has gone away to university and is having fun with her friends.
I have mild cerebral palsy, epilepsy, chronic pain and a visual impairment. I use a wheelchair part-time or a stick.
You’ll notice that I mentioned the wheelchair and the stick last, but most people don’t see anything else. To them, I’m disabled and that’s what makes them act as they do.
I’ve been bullied because I’m disabled. Often, I’m completely ignored.
When I’m in my wheelchair, some people won’t look at me or talk to me –they only address the person I’m with. It’s like I don’t exist to them at all. Other people start speaking very slowly and clearly to me like I’m five years old rather than 20.
I used to think, ‘Why do they do that?’ It makes no sense. But of course disability awareness is like everything else. It needs to be learned – preferably in school before prejudices become set.
That’s why I became a Scope Role Model.
As soon as I heard about Scope Role Models, I wanted to be involved. I thought it was such a powerful idea – going into schools and talking to children at a time when their opinions are forming.
It’s only with support like yours that Scope Role Models exists, so thank you.
Each session lasts an hour and helps the class understand a disabled person is just like them. My first one was quite informal and relaxed. I was glad to see lots of hands go up with questions, because it showed me the children felt comfortable talking to a disabled person. That alone will be an important, positive change.
Right now, as many as two thirds of people in this country are concerned they will do or say the wrong thing when they talk to a disabled person.
They fall back on what they know – or what they think they know.
In my case, I regularly come across people who think my visual impairment means I see nothing at all. Other people see me in a wheelchair and assume I am not able to stand or walk. I even get people, who see me limping because of my cerebral palsy, and think I’m drunk!
Sometimes I try to make a joke of it, but prejudice isn’t funny. It stops people like me from living our lives.
Right now, I’m coming to the end of my university degree and I’m getting ready to look for work. But what chance do I stand if these are people’s first impressions of me? They’re always thinking about what I can’t do. They don’t see me – Chloe.
Going into schools gives me hope that the future will be different. During the sessions, the children really engage with what it means to be disabled. You hear their attitudes change. And you know they’ll take that knowledge with them into adult life – rather than a set of prejudices.
The only way to overcome ignorance and end stigma is to educate people. That’s what your gifts are helping to do. Together we are changing the attitudes of a whole generation.
So far 100 Role Models sessions have taken place across the country, but plans have been drawn up to expand the programme. Scope needs your help to reach 15,000 students with 500 sessions in 2018. Please will you make an extra donation today?
Thank you for your amazing support.