Out of the shadows

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This is an article from Unfold newsletter.

For most of her life, Paula was in the dark about being disabled. But when she discovered that she had cerebral palsy, you helped give her the support she needed.

“I always knew that I was different, but I never understood why.”

If you had met Paula several years ago, she could have told you all about how difficult her life was. She could have told you how her speech was slow, how her knees were constantly scarred from falling down, how her colleagues got frustrated with her because she needed more time to do things.

But Paula wouldn’t have been able to tell you why all this was happening. Her mother had just said that when she was born, she was put in an oxygen tank and a junior doctor made a ‘mistake’. That was all Paula knew. For 60 years, she was living a life in the shadows. Her difficulties were ignored, and her cerebral palsy had been kept hidden from her.

“Disability wasn’t talked about. But I eventually had a reason to ask for help.”

When Paula was 60, her sister prompted her to go to the doctor, saying that ‘there was something she should know’. That’s when she found out she had cerebral palsy. “Flipping heck!” was Paula’s first reaction. But soon her shock turned to confusion. “Why hadn’t my mother told me?” she wondered.

“It must have been because there was so much stigma around cerebral palsy,” she thought. “When I was born, people just didn’t talk about disability.” For most of her life, Paula had been forced to cope in silence. But at last, she found the words to ask for help. And when she did, you helped us be there for her.

Woman sitting at a laptop smiling

“At a time when I was lost, Scope lit up the way. They helped me see who I really am.”

Looking for answers, wanting to speak to someone who understood, Paula called the Scope helpline. Your gifts help fund this crucial service. With your support, we explained to Paula how cerebral palsy affects people, and we helped her access physio and speech therapy.

“Suddenly a lot of things fell into place,” says Paula. “Scope helped me understand myself. My cerebral palsy shouldn’t be hidden away. It’s part of who I am, but it doesn’t define all that I am. There’s so much that I can do. Now I’m making up for lost time.”

“I wouldn’t want another disabled child to have their condition brushed under the carpet”

Your support has helped Paula change her life for the better. Thanks to the understanding and encouragement she received through the Scope helpline, she now has the confidence to try new things, like swimming, Tai Chi and even bellringing. She’s also become a grandma.

“Having a grandchild has made me think about how I wouldn’t want any child to go through life as I did, not knowing about their impairment or not getting the right support,” Paula says.

Thankfully, there’s much less stigma around being disabled now. But even today, many disabled people are still misunderstood and excluded, forced to live their lives in the shadows. To help change this, we need you to continue your support.

An older woman sitting smiling indoors in a red jumper

“Scope sees disability differently. Your support is shining a light on these issues”

As Paula’s story shows, barriers towards disabled people aren’t just physical. It was people’s attitude towards cerebral palsy that prevented her from being diagnosed when she was a child, denying her the support she needed to overcome her difficulties.

It shows the importance of helping disabled people remove the barriers they face – because disability is caused by the way that society is organised, rather than a person’s impairment.

So with your support, we will keep on tackling the barriers that make people disabled, and bringing to light the challenges that they face.

You will also help us continue changing attitudes towards disabled people, so they’re no longer overlooked or misunderstood – and their potential is no longer hidden.

You’re the answer

By 2019, we aim to double the number of specially trained staff at the Scope helpline. We can only do this with your continued support. Thank you so much.

Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.

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