Tag Archives: access

My job at Goldman Sachs is a holiday compared to the pressure of the Paralympics

Five-time gold medallist Sophie Christiansen is competing in her fourth Paralympic Games this summer. The equestrian won three of her gold medals at London 2012 with her horse Janeiro 6 so expectations for Rio are high.

In this guest blog post, Sophie, who has cerebral palsy, talks about witnessing first-hand the growth of the Paralympic movement and how she handles the pressures of competing at a top level.

My family isn’t at all horsey. I don’t think I would ever have ridden if I hadn’t been disabled.

I started riding when I was six with the Riding for the Disabled Association to improve my coordination. When I was about 13 I found out about dressage and I was hooked. When I’m on a horse I can forget about my disability and I can compete on a level playing field with other disabled people.

The riding school where I learnt dressage, South Bucks RDA, had a history of training Paralympians so they were looking out for talent from the start.

Being selected for Athens in 2004, aged 16, was incredible. I was ParalympicGB’s youngest athlete. I learnt such a lot from that first experience of the games.

To be selected for my fourth Paralympics this year is a huge honour. I’m only 28, but I’m seen as a Paralympic veteran!

Changing attitudes

The Games have changed so much since my first time in Athens. The standard is so high and there is a lot more interest.

We’d be used to competing in front of 200 people – that would be a big crowd – but then in London there were 10,000.

In Beijing there was a lot of interest from the public and we attracted a really big audience. But there was so little media coverage. I won my first Paralympic gold medals and it hardly got a mention.

I think attitudes have changed. There was a lot expected of London in terms of changing perceptions and I think it did achieve it, to a certain extent. It showed disabled people achieving some amazing things and I think people who aren’t disabled were inspired by what we could do.

But I know a lot of disabled people felt it did not represent them and I totally understand that. It’s why I make it my mission to talk about my life outside sport, about the barriers that still exist in society, whenever possible.

Road to Rio

I’m really looking forward to Rio and I hope people get behind us. It will be a shame if they don’t manage to sell tickets and the stadiums are empty. But as an athlete, you just have to get on with it and focus on your event.

It would be great to see more coverage of disability sports. At the moment there’s the Paralympics every four years and then nothing in between. I think it would help disabled athletes get more sponsorship and make disabled people more visible. If people can’t see disabled people, they just don’t exist.

Relaxing with maths

I work as an analyst at the investment bank Goldman Sachs in the technology department. This might sounds funny, but I see my job as like a holiday from the highly pressurised atmosphere of Paralympic sport.

I’ve always had a logical brain and I love maths.

They’ve created the perfect role for me, which fits around my impairment and my sport commitments. I know it’ll be hard for me to progress in my career while I’m doing dressage, which is frustrating. But everyone I work with is so understanding. It would help support a lot more disabled people into work if more employers were as creative and flexible with roles as mine.

When training in a Paralympic year, it’s about knowing how to balance training with fatigue. It’s difficult because I’m a workaholic, I’m always working. That’s my biggest challenge, knowing when to stop.

Pushing myself outside my comfort zone is how I’ve always lived my life. I never thought I’d have a job in London. I enjoy the independence it gives me and it enables me to pursue dressage.


We’ve published the findings of a new poll which asked disabled people whether the Paralympics can change attitudes to disability and asked what life is like if you’re disabled in 2016. Read more about our Parlympics survey

Visit the ParalympicsGB website for more information.

“Football clubs need to think about disabled people” Kelly, the football club owner

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.


Kelly Perks-Bevington is an entrepreneur and business owner from the West Midlands who has spinal muscular atrophy type 3 and uses an electric wheelchair. 

As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, she talks about getting into the world of work, her latest business venture and her aims of creating the most accessible football club in the country.

I wasn’t very studious at college so I was absolutely desperate to get straight into work. After loads of rejections, I got a job at a doctors surgery as a receptionist. It kind of lit a spark and made me think “I’ve got a path now”.

From there, I got a passion for being in the world of work. I applied to join a concierge company and I actually went on as an admin assistant there and worked my way up through the ranks until I had my own list of football clients.  This is where my lifestyle company, G5 Lifestyle, started.

Alongside my dad, I also run G5 Sports Consultancy LTD which we use as a vehicle for all of our crazy schemes. We have used it to consult into different football clubs on their practices and football business.

On the side of all this, I also run kellyperksbevington.com which is a portal for me to write blogs about things I’m passionate about. I really enjoy doing that and have had a lot of interest from big companies and media outlets recently, which is really exciting!

Kelly, a young woman, smiles while seated in a stand at a football stadium

Buying  a football club

My dad and I established the G5 business and then we went and bought Kidderminster Harriers Football Club.

It all kind of fell into place really nicely. My dad was in talks with the club for a while and the closer we got to it, the more we saw it as a viable business. My dad has been in the industry for 30 years and I’ve been in it for 10 so we’ve both got a pool of contacts that could be useful to the club.

We just wanted to get everything going in the right direction and make the club function more as a business. We also want to create ways to make money off the pitch as well as on the pitch to keep the club afloat. We’re trying a couple of different things like diversity projects, education projects, development on the ground and making the club more energy efficient.

The club is over 100 years old and we’re going to take it into a new era and get it functioning like a modern day football club should.

The fans have been really grateful as we put a significant amount of money in to secure the future of the club. We’ve had a lot of positive reactions which can’t always be expected as we’re making so many changes to something that people are used to. The response has been great from all the fans.

We’re starting a women’s football team, we had a diversity day with the Panjab FA and Jersey FA, and we’re planning to set up a whole events programme for next year and get the whole community involved!

Kelly, a young woman in an electric wheelchair, looks out over a football pitch

Making the club accessible

I’m a disabled person and the ground is not the best for me on a day-to-day basis. Upstairs we have our hospitality suite and our VIP boxes. I can’t gain access to any of that. Our boardroom where we have all of our board meetings is upstairs. Basically, all the good stuff is upstairs! There are also steps in the corridors of the offices at the club.

We’re putting ramps in where needed so we can take on more disabled staff and apprentices, other than myself and we’re going to put a lift in to the upper levels. Disabled fans will be able to enjoy the VIP areas as they should. They will be able to get access to all of the match day hospitality, as well as booking their private and corporate events upstairs with full accessibility.

We will also be adjusting our toilet facilities to make them better for every disabled person not just certain disabled people. The disabled  seating will also be changed. At the moment, it’s on the front row, so I want to move it around so people aren’t just in the firing line of the ball during matches. I’ve nearly been hit in the face many times watching a match!

I think it’s so important to make these changes. I need to practice what I preach. I get really annoyed when I go places and I want to have the VIP treatment but I can’t. I just need disabled people to have the exact same choices and experiences as everyone else. I want to make sure they can come to the club and enjoy the football without having to make special arrangements. I want it to be smooth sailing for everyone.

I think that football clubs need to think about disabled people. If we take away all the barriers so people can just enjoy things without having to worry, people are more likely to come and enjoy things and put their money into your pocket.

The future is looking bright. The club as a whole are united now.

Kelly, a young woman in an electric wheelchair, looks out over a football ground

Kelly is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Catch up on all the stories so far on our 30 under 30 page.

To find out more about stories and how they are at the heart of everything we do at Scope, visit our new Stories hub.

Relax, it’s War Horse!

On 20 September, the National Theatre will be staging a relaxed performance of the internationally acclaimed stage production of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, in association with The National Autistic Society (NAS).

The performance is designed for those who may enjoy a less formal environment, in particular people with autism, sensory or communication disorders or learning disabilities. Audience members will be free to come and go as they please throughout the performance, lighting and sound levels during the show will be adjusted to soften their impact, and there will be a relaxed attitude to noise and talking . The idea is to provide a more supportive environment for disabled people and their families, many of whom may otherwise feel a trip to the theatre would be out of the question.

Ros Hayes, Head of Access at the National Theatre, said: “We are keen to share our plays with a wider audience, and provide an opportunity for families to enjoy a visit to the theatre together.  We want to create a welcoming, stress-free environment and our directors, designers and technical teams have worked really hard to achieve that.”

The National Theatre held its first relaxed performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time three years ago, which was then repeated in the West End. Following the success of the show, the National Theatre put on three further relaxed performances  – Romeo and Juliet, Up Down Boy and The Elephantom.

Finding creative compromises

For resident director Andy Brunskill, this is the first relaxed performance he’s worked on for the National Theatre, and he says the biggest challenge has been keeping it true to the original show. “We wanted to find creative compromises, so that people would still experience War Horse, without noticing the tweaks,” he explained.

“So we’ve been  reducing the extremes really: toning down any bright flashing lights or loud noises. The technical team have been working on the bullet noises, for example, so they will still have the effect of a gun going off, but they won’t be so loud.

“I will be giving a preliminary talk at the beginning of the show explaining some of the devices we’ll be using so it’s not too much of a shock. This is a play about war, and you can’t have a story about war without guns and people dying, but it is also a story about hope and enduring friendship, so that balances it out.

“For the actors, this is an opportunity to perform to a different audience and that’s very exciting. I personally have learned a lot from this experience too – about how to tell a story to a different audience. People receive stories in different ways, and having to refresh how you tell a story is both challenging and stimulating.”

The National Theatre is producing a Visual Story for the relaxed performance of War Horse and this will be available to those attending, a week ahead of the show. This will give information about the play and the New London Theatre as well as lots of images to help prepare for people’s visit.

The relaxed performance of War Horse will take place at 2pm on Saturday 20 September. All seats are £25 each. Relaxed performance booking telephone line: 02074523961. For more information visit the National Theatre website.

Making the UK’s 999 system more accessible

Guest blog from Chris Channon, founder of Pegasus. On Monday Chris received an award from the Home Office for his work on Pegasus.

I have cerebral palsy and have lived independently in the community for over 30 years. During this time I’ve needed to call 999 on several occasions, often to report anti-social behaviour, but my calls were not always dealt with properly because I’m speech-impaired. I either couldn’t say what I needed to say or I was mistaken for a nuisance caller.

When I asked what was available to assist me to make these calls, the only options were to use TypeTalk or Textphone services. Neither of these were of any use because of my dexterity problems. So I came up with my own solution to the problem – Pegasus.

The Pegasus database

People who, like me, find it difficult to give this information using spoken word in a time of crisis can register their details on the Pegasus database. This can include names, addresses and other information which could be useful in an emergency.

They are then issued with a Personal Identification Number (PIN). To use the system, a person has to say Pegasus (or something that sounds similar) and their PIN. The emergency call operator will then immediately have access to the individual’s information and can quickly get on with dealing with the situation. The Pegasus PIN can also be shown or told to a police officer or other emergency service personnel when help is needed person to person. Pegasus is available for use in this way by those who are unable to use a phone.

The information on the database is not used for any other purpose other than assisting the individual.

Pegasus in Nottinghamshire

I started working with Nottinghamshire Police in 2005 on Pegasus and the scheme went live in April 2008. We now have over 500 people registered in Nottinghamshire and the control room receives about 15 calls a month from people using Pegasus reporting crimes and incidents.

Users include people with learning and physical disabilities, deaf people – who use it via the textphone service, those with mental health issues and elderly people.

We conducted a survey of users and 80% reported that Pegasus improved their confidence in calling 999. They also shared their thoughts on the system:

“I was impressed with how quickly somebody arrived, I found it easy to contact and report my incident.”

“Since being a member of Pegasus I now feel someone is at my hand when I need help. I am in my late eighties, almost housebound; Pegasus is always there – thank you.”

Plans for the future

Pegasus is now in use by:

There are two other police forces looking at the possibility of adopting Pegasus in their areas.

If you wish to register with Pegasus that’s currently operating in your area, please contact – or get someone to do so on your behalf – your local police force.

If Pegasus is NOT running in your area, ask – or get someone to ask on your behalf – your local police force what they intend to do to make their 999 call system more accessible.

It has been without doubt the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life and it’s only now after almost 10 years of work that people are beginning to see its value.

Watch a report on ITV News about Pegasus.

The Access to Elected Office Fund – changing the world one political appointment at time

Today Minister for Women and Equalities Helen Grant announced that the fund will continue for another year, and be extended.

Helen nailed the central issue and reason it was created in the first place when she said: “Disabled candidates can often be faced with additional costs that make standing for election more difficult than their non-disabled counterparts.”

The fund also “creates the space for disabled people to play a key role in these decision-making processes, but can also lead to increased visibility in public life, and ultimately change attitudes towards disability” according to Scope chair Alice Maynard.

In the run up to the 2010 election the Conservative party manifesto committed to “introduce a £1 million fund to help disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials with the extra costs they face in running for office”.

The fund idea was then reflected in the coalition agreement after the election.

Since the fund was launched in July 2012 there have been over sixty applications to the fund, which will now also cover Parish and Town Council elections.

The Local Government Association Be a councilor campaign is also being expanded and will now help aspiring disabled candidates by providing coaching, mentoring and training, to help build their confidence, knowledge and skills.

Everyone involved deserves a huge amount of credit, for recognising the potential disabled people have, and the benefits they can bring to our communities and political life. Crucially that is being backed up with money, time and commitment, particularly at a time the public purse is under pressure.

Disabled people are still massively under-represented in public life, but here’s hoping that more people take the plunge and use to its full potential.

In you’re interested you can apply on the Access to Elected Office Fund website.

Access to places of worship

Guest post from Angela Dobson

Imagine not being able to visit the places that are important to you. Imagine the frustration of trying to go somewhere and finding that you can’t get in while other people can, where the people who work there have no interest in helping you and end up leaving you out in the cold.

That’s what happened to me when I went to visit St Paul’s Cathedral in December.

The wheelchair-accessible side entrance to St Paul’s is usually locked, which is frustrating for anyone wanting to come in that way. As I planned to visit, I called up and told the cathedral I was coming, once several days before and again when I was on my way so that they could make the entrance available. However, when I got there, it was locked. The pavement by the front entrance was blocked off and I had to go into the road to reach the dropped curve at the front of the cathedral. My support worker went up to speak to a member of staff and was informed that there was no room in the cathedral. She was then ignored when she asked why the accessible entrance is always locked.

This is not the first time I’ve been unable to go into St Paul’s, where some of the people who work there have been very unhelpful. It is frustrating and dispiriting not being able to access such an important building that ought to be open to everyone. I think it’s vital that places of worship are made to be accessible to everyone who wishes to visit them, and many places could do more to make their spaces accessible to disabled people.

I’d like to hear other people’s stories about access to places of worship. To support my campaign, email campaigns@scope.org.uk with your experiences.