Tag Archives: accessibility

Designing content that puts disabled people and their families first

Scope wants to be the go-to organisation for disability information and support. We’re aiming to reach two million people a year, supporting disabled people and their families on the issues that matter most to them.

We want to make sure that people can access the information and advice they need easily – whether they are a customer of our services, are calling our helpline, or are looking for support and advice on our website.

This has meant re-thinking how we design and deliver our support and advice content. Our new approach has four central principles.

Content design

We design content to help people solve problems. Disabled people and their families are at the heart of our work. We ask them about their information needs and write content to meet those needs. Then we test the content with disabled people and their families and make improvements in response to what we find out.

Joining things up

Our policy team helps us plan content that supports our social change goals. Once the content is written, policy advisers join critique sessions to check and improve content before it’s published. We’ve built a great relationship with the policy team by working like this. And it means that the information and advice we give our customers is consistent with our public influencing work.

Evolution not revolution

We evolved our content design process during a ‘proof of concept’ project with a team of three. We’ve used what we learned to scale up to a team of nine, delivering advice and support content on a much more ambitious scale than Scope has done before. We use Kanban, a workflow management tool, to optimise the flow of work through the process. The Kanban ethos encourages us to carry on evolving and improving the way we work.

Open and transparent

Our processes and policies are written down and open to all. We have a clear content strategy and style guide. We use a shared Trello board to map the progress of each piece of content, which means we can easily spot if something is getting blocked and do something about it. If we see ways to improve how we work, we say so and agree what changes to make.

This is a summary of how we’re evolving the practice of content design to achieve our strategy, Everyday Equality. We’ll share more about how we work and what we’ve learned as our journey continues. Watch out for more posts from our content designers, user researchers and the people we work with.

Visit our employment section to see the first results of Scope’s new way of producing content.

“Education is said to be a ‘stepping stone’, but for disabled people it’s a slippery one”

Kasia talks about how the quality of access support varies greatly from university to university, and the impact this has on being able to live the life you choose. 

Education is said to be “a stepping stone” towards one’s career.  Unfortunately, to a disabled person, it often becomes more of a slippery stone.  There are a few university rankings that are widely available, with those from the Guardian and the Times being the most often quoted.  Sadly, there is no ranking system available that would rate quality of support available to student with access needs.  Far too often disabled students choose a university where it is guaranteed they will receive appropriate support rather than a university with better teaching that can also offer better chances of employment.  The quality of access support varies greatly from university to university.

I myself experienced different levels of support.  They varied from very poor to excellent.

The quality of support I received was very poor

A few years ago, I started a Postgraduate course at one of London’s universities.  I was still sighted at that time.  I then returned a year later as a student with a visual impairment having been diagnosed with a brain tumour too late to prevent my sight loss.

I had to cope with sight impairment while learning access technology and new ways of studying.  I used to rely heavily on my visual memory.  The quality of support I received was very poor.  It was limited to assigning me support workers.  I kept getting the same people despite expressing my dissatisfaction.  I was told by a Disability Support Officer (DSO) on one occasion that a support worker is my eyes and I should know how to use a search engine.  Later on, I was told that the DSO was making faces and rolled her eyes whilst talking to me.

In order to complete my studies, I had to submit a final dissertation.  My supervisor contacted the Disability Department and asked for someone to transcribe audio recordings.  I was assigned one person but when I asked for an additional transcriber, I was told that a meeting was required to establish my support needs, as unfortunately, they were not aware.  That was despite them being told directly by my supervisor what I required.

I ended up making a formal complaint against the DSO.  This improved the quality of her work slightly but unfortunately not for long.  The whole experience was very difficult and challenging.

I consider graduating from that university with a good grade to be the greatest achievement of my life.

More recently I tried to do a Human Resources course at a local college of further education.  The course has a CIPD (Charted Institute of Personnel and Development) accreditation.  The whole course consists of three levels with the most advanced being at a postgraduate level.  I did all that was required of me to be assigned to the right group.  I submitted a case study and filled in all the necessary forms.  It all took time and effort.  I was initially told by their DSO that I will be given access to electronic copies of books that I would require.  However, later on I was told something completely different.  On the top of that, the course leader informed me that she had never had a student that required learning materials electronically.  She had students with sight impairment who were able to access large print.  I certainly wasn’t made feel welcome.  Instead I felt discouraged and disheartened by the whole process and the attitude of the staff in the college.  Suffice to say, I decided not to go ahead with the course.

I will never willingly put myself in this situation again

A few years later I did another course at a different university.  It was a private university.  The experience couldn’t have been more different.  They were fantastic.  They just couldn’t do enough.  All that despite the fact that I wasn’t entitled to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) funding.  They had a designated librarian who I could contact for any book I required.  She would then write to a respective publisher in order to obtain electronic copies of books.  They organised orientation walks for me in the campus.  They were always there for me whenever I required any support.  They were absolutely brilliant!

At the end of September this year I’m starting a PG Diploma in Media, Campaigning and Social Change at the University of Westminster.  I attended an open day this Summer.  Everything has been made as accessible to me as possible.  This includes the application process.  The course leader put me in touch with a current student who also has a sight impairment.  The student couldn’t be happier with the level of support he received.

It is important to know what to expect.  During my first course after my eye sight had deteriorated, I didn’t know what support I was entitled to.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t know what to ask for.  It certainly helps to know what access technology is available out there.  You then know what to ask for. Events such as Sight Village  that are organised in a few major cities in the UK are worth visiting.  Attending various events is always beneficial if not to find out about access technology, then to learn about everything else.  You just never know.

Kasia looking at the camera, smiling, wearing access technology glasses

There is no doubt that there should be equal access to education for everyone.  Society can lose out on a lot of talent.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, with digital and assistive technology playing a huge part in this.  We all need to work together to change society for the better.

There’s something everyone can do to be a Disability Gamechanger so get involved in the campaign today to end this inequality.

Will you be a Disability Gamechanger?

Today, Scope launches a new campaign to tackle disability inequality head on. Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs, James Taylor, tells us why it’s an issue we all need to get behind.

“Negative attitudes, poor access to support or transport, limited opportunities for work.

Disabled people tell us that these things matter. They lead to discrimination, to prejudice and to being seen as an afterthought.”

“The things that people say to you never go away. There have been times where bad attitudes have made me ask, what’s the point?” – Marie

“People with invisible impairments still struggle for people to ‘believe’ their condition is real.

On buses, trains and planes we’re often denied equal service and equal treatment.

When we want to go on a night out, the disabled toilet is often an extra storage cupboard, because we’re not thought of as customers.

Hear from some of the storytellers in this film, highlighting the barriers disabled people face in their day-to-day lives.”

The scale of the issue

“Our latest research shows how many disabled people feel and experience this.

We spoke to disabled people right across Britain to find out about their day-to-day lives – what makes them happy, what angers or frustrates them and what they want to get out of life.

We wanted to understand what equality means to disabled people today, and we wanted to start from what disabled people think and feel, and how important independence is to them.

Overwhelmingly disabled people told us they want to be independent, to have confidence and to be connected through friends, family, colleagues and communities.

Yet for too many disabled people this isn’t the case.”

“I’ve been excluded from social situations or activities due to my condition. People make assumptions about what I am able to do. It’s really frustrating.” – Shani

“Earlier this year, Opinium polled 2,000 disabled adults for Scope and found:

  • 49 per cent of disabled people said they feel excluded by society
  • Just 23 per cent said they felt valued by society
  • On top of this, only 42 per cent of disabled people believe the   UK is a good place for disabled people

These statistics make it obvious that the fight for disability equality is far from over.

Throughout the last century we’ve seen action that has led to dramatic changes in our society, but our research demonstrates that there is still a way to go until all disabled people are able to live the lives they choose free from discrimination and low expectations.

At Scope we want to change this.

Whilst we might have protection in law, at Scope we know there is still a way to go until until all disabled people can enjoy equality.”

You can read more about the research in our report, ‘Independent, Confident, Connected’.

Be a Disability Gamechanger

“We have launched our new campaign calling on all those who want to work with us to show their support for disability equality. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bus driver, a politician, a teacher or an employer. You can all make a difference.”

We can’t do it alone. We know that we are stronger as a movement, as a community and as a force for change, when we work together.

If you, like us, want to end this inequality, join our campaign today.

Government outlines plans to make public transport more inclusive

Today the Government has published its new Inclusive Transport Strategy, outlining how they intend to make the transport network more accessible for disabled people. This includes over £300 million of funding to deliver the projects they’ve announced.

A positive commitment

The current transport system is set up in a way which deters – or even prevents – many disabled people from using it. The Inclusive Transport Strategy is a strong step in the right direction, dismantling some of the barriers disabled people face. This is not just about adjusting existing infrastructure to make it physically accessible, but tries to put the needs of all disabled passengers at the heart of designing our transport system.

Access for All

Our recent research found 40 per cent of disabled people have difficulty accessing train stations. The biggest announcement in the Strategy is that the Government is reviving the Access for All program, to provide funds to make railway stations more accessible. The £300 million which has been announced for the fund will go towards installing everything from lifts to tactile paving and automatic doors at more stations.

“I’ve lost out on great job opportunities because I arrived so late. There are no step-free stations near me so I have to drive everywhere, which takes so much longer” – Conrad

And this is on top of existing requirements for station operators to improve accessibility when they renovate their stations.

It’s not just railways that are getting an upgrade. The Strategy also announced that £2 million will be spent installing Changing Places facilities in motorway service stations, allowing more disabled people travelling by car to access a suitable toilet.

Attitudes

Disabled people frequently say that one of the biggest barriers to using public transport can be the attitudes of others. Whether it’s a non-disabled person refusing to offer a priority seat to someone who needs it, or a bus driver ignoring a wheelchair user at a bus stop, the attitudes of passengers and staff can make or break disabled people’s experiences of public transport.

“As I am young and have an invisible disability, I am often accused of not needing the accessible seats at the front of buses and…people rarely give up their seat to me when I ask” – Anonymous

The Inclusive Transport Strategy has recognised this, with a focus on both staff training and changing behaviours of non-disabled passengers. This will require bus and rail operators to provide disability awareness training to their staff, and the Government will spearhead a campaign to improve awareness of disability among all passengers.

The Rail Ombudsman

Even after the changes announced, things will still go wrong from time to time. While we want the Government and transport providers to work to eliminate these errors in the first place, it’s important that disabled people are able to complain and have action taken if things don’t go to plan with a journey.

The Strategy has announced a new Rail Ombudsman to help disabled people seek recourse. This body will have the power to rule on complaints relating to accessibility, and deliver binding judgements – meaning it can force train companies to act.

This will be accompanied by a new system for registering complaints about bus services, which will go to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency who can take action against bus companies that don’t meet their obligations.

What’s next?

It’s worth noting that the Inclusive Transport Strategy contains many more proposed changes beyond the ones we’ve discussed in this blog.

While we have welcomed the Strategy, there is still much more to be done to ensure all disabled people are able to access and use transport as they wish.

As well as making sure the proposals from today are implemented in full, we’ll keep pushing the Government to make sure the transport system really is one that is fully inclusive and accessible to all disabled people.

I’ve been left on trains and called ‘a wheelchair’ – train companies need to improve their treatment of disabled customers

This week, BBC Rip Off Britain highlights the experience of disabled passengers on trains. Far too often, inaccessible transport stops disabled people from enjoying the same opportunities as everyone else. In some cases, people have been through stressful and upsetting incidents – from train staff forgetting them to being treated like an object. In this blog, Steph shares her experiences. 

Every day across the UK 100s of disabled people are left stranded on train platforms. As a wheelchair user, I use trains frequently to go to work and to socialise. But, of course, the one thing that I’m constantly aware of when travelling is accessibility.

When it comes to train travel, both locally and nationally, train companies have issues with the way that they deal with disabled people.

If you’re disabled, you always have to plan ahead

I have to plan my journey before I go anywhere in ways that non-disabled people don’t need to, and I rely on the services of train companies to get me to my destination without a hitch but this isn’t always the reality.

There have been instances when a member of staff at my local station has been unable to put me on or take me off the train due to medical reasons. They said “Our staff will always do their best to assist customers, but there may be occasions when they do not have the physical ability to place ramps. In such circumstances, alternative transport will be arranged.”

While they do offer a taxi to take me to the next accessible station, this can take over an hour to arrive, or they ask me to phone them in advance to book travel, which isn’t always possible.

I feel panicked when assistance doesn’t show up

Sometimes, when you can book assistance, nobody shows up. There have been several times when I have booked assistance with a train company and a member of staff has failed to meet me at the station, leaving me panicked because I don’t know whether they will come and take me off before the train departs.

And it’s not just me. Ceri Smith, Policy Manager for the disability charity Scope, spoke on BBC Wiltshire in April and said that ‘1 in 5 disabled people who have booked assistance on a train only to find that there isn’t assistance to get off the train at their arrival station’.

This is a very simple part of the service I expect as a disabled person. But when this occurs, I am left questioning why I should book assistance in the first place if this need can’t be met.

Steph a disabled woman smiling, sitting in her wheelchair in front of a radiator and white wall

I can’t use some train stations, so journeys take a lot longer

Not being able to go to a station due to lack of physical access is also an issue. My local train company, has a policy in place to order a taxi to take me to the next available station. This sounds like a good idea in practice, but the reality I’ve found to be completely different.

I went to Port Sunlight on a trip to the theatre and I found out at Central Station that it wasn’t accessible. It really baffled me that this is the case as Port Sunlight is a prominent tourist attraction.

I needed to travel to the nearest accessible station and get a taxi from there. There weren’t any accessible taxis available, and so the suggestion was to get one from Liverpool which would take over an hour at least.

Things like this are a real inconvenience to me.

Things are improving, but there’s more to be done

Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t staff who do their jobs well and provide great service for disabled people because there are and that certainly has been the case for me.

There has been improvement. Under the Access for All programme, introduced in 2006, The Guardian stated that ‘150 stations have been upgraded to remove barriers to independent travel, including by installing signs, ramps and lifts. A further 68 are under construction or in development.’ But, at the same time, I feel that disabled people are still not being taken seriously across the board when it comes to train travel.

It would be fantastic to see train companies work with disabled people directly to ensure that the policies they offer, when it comes to an element of the journey not being accessible, are realistic. And if they aren’t, they need to find an alternative that really works.

Also, the attitudes and terminology staff use towards disabled people who travel by train are important too. I’m not an object, so don’t call me a ‘wheelchair’. Instead, use the term ‘wheelchair user’, it’s far more appropriate.

We want to feel empowered, respected and valued just like non- disabled people. There’s progress that is being made, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

Keep the conversation going on Twitter by sharing your experiences, tagging @Scope and using the hashtag #RipOffBritain.

Or join the discussion on our online community.

Local elections 2018: Make your vote count

Local elections will take place in England on 3 May 2018.  In this blog we talk about the importance of voting and how disabled voters can access their polling stations.

150 council seats across England will be up for election, including all seats in London’s 32 boroughs. There will also be direct elections for the Mayor of Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Watford and the Sheffield City region.  Find out if elections are taking place in your area.

It’s important that the voices of disabled people are heard in local elections. Local councils make decisions on a range of issues such as housing and planning, waste collection, road maintenance and local transport. Councils also provide a range of services in areas such as social care and health. Voting, as well as taking part in election events in your local area, gives you the chance to tell your local councillors what’s important to you and what you would like to see them do.

Access to polling stations

All polling stations should be wheelchair accessible and support disabled voters. If you need to use a disabled parking space, these should be clearly visible and monitored throughout the day.

There are lots of ways you can be supported to cast your vote inside a polling station:

  • If you cannot mark your ballot paper, members of staff called Presiding Officers may mark your ballot paper for you. You may also attend the polling station with someone who you would like to mark your ballot paper on your behalf.
  • Polling stations should provide tactile voting devices. The tactile voting device attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered flaps (the numbers are raised and are in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.
  • Polling stations should provide large print versions of ballot papers.

Polling stations should be accessible for everyone wishing to vote. If for whatever reason your local polling station isn’t accessible, Presiding Officers should provide you with a ballot paper and allow you to vote outside of the polling station. Find more information about getting assistance at polling stations. If you visit a polling station and find it inaccessible, you can complain to your local authority.

Voter ID pilots

The Government are trialling voter ID pilots in five different local authority areas. This means that if you are voting in Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford or Woking you will need to take ID with you to the polling station to vote in the local elections. Without it you won’t be able to vote.

The ID requirements are different in the different council areas. If you live in one of the five areas, you can find out what the ID requirements are where you live.

Make sure your voice is heard in the local elections on Thursday 3 May.

“A wheelchair is just a seat you’re sitting in.” – International Wheelchair Day

Today (1 March) is the ten year anniversary of the first International Wheelchair Day (IWD). To celebrate, we spoke to the event’s founder, Steve Wilkinson, who told us how he turned it into a global event and why it’s such an important date in the calendar.

I was born with Spina Bifida back in 1953. I had a wheelchair when I was a kid, but preferred to walk, which I could do thanks to the calliper I wore and the walking sticks I used right through until about six years ago.

In 1987 I was on holiday in Florida and went to the Disney theme parks and hired one of their chairs. The freedom it instantly gave me was huge. When I got home, I got my own wheelchair and it allowed me to go much further distances and more comfortably. I couldn’t get anywhere without it now, it’s my life.

I started to campaign about wheelchairs and disability in the 90s when I saw how difficult it was to get into places and the access issues wheelchair users faced.

I worked with a lot of organisations on accessibility issues and campaigns. It made me realise that I wanted to start my own business. I’ve learnt over the years that a lot of good ideas fail because they don’t get enough mass engagement. That’s the biggest thing you need to give an idea momentum.

International Wheelchair Day was born

In February 2008, I started researching International Wheelchair Day and was surprised to find that there wasn’t one. I’m quite an adventurous person so I thought let’s just do something and see what happens.

I chose 1 March in memory of my mother because when I was a child, she was everything to me. She pushed me, both physically in my wheelchair and also as a person to take on challenges and be a positive person. She was my inspiration.

So on 1 March 2008, I put a post out on the internet about it announcing ‘Today is International Wheelchair Day, I know this because I just invented it’. However, these were the days before Facebook and Twitter were big things and nothing happened.

A year later I put another post up and again nothing happened. The third year, I discovered that a disability group in Salisbury had recognised IWD and were having a meeting about wheelchair access. I thought, ‘get in, somebody’s found it!’

It was 2011 when things actually took off. Hannah Ensor, a wheelchair user and a talented cartoonist, got in touch to say she’d heard about IWD and that she’d designed a logo for it. So that was it, out of the blue we had a logo. For every year since, Hannah has designed the official logo and every year it’s slightly different.

That was important because someone else had recognised the day and made it feel official. From there it’s just grown year on year.

Going global

In 2012 I went to Australia and met with a disability group in Adelaide and Gail Miller, the author of a book about life in a wheelchair. They were keen to recognise IWD and we held an event attended by the South Australia Disability Minister and Kelly Vincent, a member of the South Australia parliament (who was also a wheelchair user). They also helped me get some interviews on the radio in Australia and it just really took off there.

That year I also got an email from a woman in Nepal. They were having a parade of 80 wheelchair users in Kathmandu to celebrate International Wheelchair Day. For me, that’s become symbolic of what this day is. It’s all about engagement of people in a collective event. Last year they had 239 wheelchair users in their parade. They’re doing it again this year.

IWD2016 Nepal 5(Parade with close up banner)
International Wheelchair Day parade in Nepal 2016

What’s next?

Every year I wake up the day after IWD, go online and discover all these different events around the world where people are celebrating it. It’s really gone viral. If you google it now, there are thousands of mentions of it. It’s got a life of its own!

A girl got in touch with me recently and told me that she wasn’t able to get out of bed most of the time. However, the five minutes that she spent outside in her wheelchair on IWD was her celebration. I just think that’s a fantastic story.

The wonderful thing about IWD is that there’s no one way to recognise it. People celebrate it in very different ways.

There are big events happening across the world. People mark IWD here in the UK and in Australia, Nepal, Senegal, South Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the United States of America. There are probably events elsewhere that I’m unaware of. It’s fantastic!

This year is the 10th anniversary of the first International Wheelchair Day, I hope it continues to grow and more people can engage with it and feel a part of something.

 Find out more about International Wheelchair Day.

Why I’m determined to make the world a better place for my daughter

The start of 2017 was a dark time for Christie. Her daughter Elise had just been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and without any support or information, Christie felt really alone. A year later, with a new positive outlook, she is a force for change. In 2018 she’s determined to keep making the world a better place for her daughter. In this blog, she shares their journey.

My daughter Elise was born prematurely and it was the worst time of my life. The doctors didn’t think she was going to make it but she did. I remember the first time she opened her eyes. After a month of being in hospital, we got to take her home and I was so happy.

The doctors said there hadn’t been any brain injury but she wasn’t developing as expected. So, after lots of meetings and nine months of waiting, we finally got a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, just before Christmas 2016.

I felt really alone

It was really overwhelming. I didn’t have any experience of disability and I thought it meant her life was over before it had even begun. I thought she’d have no future. I tried to be cheerful for her but my heart was breaking.

I didn’t want people to come over because I didn’t want questions. The first time I took her out in her wheelchair, I cried. I felt like everybody was staring at her. I had days where I just wanted to give up and lock us both away from the world.

That’s when I found out about Scope.

Christie holding up Elise in front of their Christmas tree

I’d been missing all the positives

I wanted to do everything I could for Elise so I called Scope’s helpline because I didn’t know where to start. They gave me so much information. I found out about what was available to us and the different equipment we could use. All these things have helped make life easier. But most importantly, Scope gave me so much hope.

They completely changed my perception of disability. It’s been a whole new life to get used to and I was just focusing on the negatives. Scope helped me to focus on the positives. I’d been missing them all.

You’ve just got to change the goal posts. Elise waving was a massive thing for us and, with her physio, she’s really building her strength up. She’s just got her Peppa Pig wheelchair which she loves and it’s given her so much independence – maybe too much as I recently found out in Asda when she kept wheeling off!

Christie on the sofa with Elise on her lap

I’m determined to change the world for Elise

I still worry every day about Elise’s future. I worry about people’s attitudes, I worry that she’ll want to join in with things but she won’t be able to. The world puts up so many barriers and you don’t realise it until you’re in that world. And it is a different world.

I’ve been sharing our story this past year and I want to keep going.  I feel less alone knowing that there is a community out there and people who care, people who’ve been in this situation.

We’re in a much better place this Christmas but life is still much harder than it needs to be. There should be more support but there’s not and accessibility is a big problem. Just because you have this diagnosis, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a chance.

This year I want to keep changing attitudes about disability, I want to make things more accessible, I want to give Elise everything she needs – I’m determined that nothing’s going to stop her!

I started a Facebook page called Elise Smashed It. I want everyone to see what an amazing little girl Elise is. I hope it raises awareness and changes perceptions about disability. I want to help other parents too and show them that there is hope. It might not be the life you were expecting, but it’s not the end – it’s just the start of a different life and you’re not alone.

These are my goals and that’s what I’m going to focus on this year. I hope you’ll join me.

Too often, disabled people and their families struggle to access the support and information they need. Attitudes towards disability can be a problem too.

Christie shares her story because she wants to change that. Please help by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign and following Christie and Elise’s journey on their page Elise Smashed It. 

Poor accessibility can lead to isolation, but this theatre company is changing that

Pippa works on Scope’s online community and is also an accessible theatre blogger. The festive season seems to be filled with activities but when they aren’t accessible, disabled people and families are often left out. This can be very isolating. For our What I Need to Say campaign, Pippa spoke to Erin, whose company DH Ensemble is leading the way in accessible theatre.  

Going to the theatre is an experience enjoyed and cherished by many families, especially during the festive season. However, like many other activities, theatres and shows often fail to be wholly inclusive of disabled people.

Although the accessibility of venues is improving, content isn’t always suitable for people with specific disabilities. However, one theatrical company with inclusivity at its heart is The DH Ensemble (previously called The Deaf & Hearing Ensemble). I talked to Erin Siobhan Hutchings about their new show.

Based on Erin’s own experiences of growing up with her deaf sister, ‘People of the Eye’ features Deaf and hearing cast members and uses stunning visuals to create an immersive experience for all.

Accessibility is a forethought, not an afterthought

Accessibility is built into the aesthetic, so deaf and hearing audiences can enjoy the show on an equal basis. For example, we use integrated sign-language as well as creative captioning, so whether you’re relying on that to access a performance or not, it brings so much more to your understanding of the world and the characters. I think that makes the work so much more interesting. It adds layers to the narrative and the way that you tell the story and connect with the audience.

Whilst the show was primarily designed with D/deaf and hearing audiences in mind, we also strive to ensure that venues where the show are performed are wheelchair-accessible. The production team also take precautions to ensure that audiences are aware of the visual effects beforehand, by sending out resources including descriptions of lighting effects and images of the projections used to those who request them.

Two women on a stage in front of the words '2 player mode'

Being excluded can be really isolating

The story is about myself and my sister growing up but it could easily be replaced with many other disabled people’s stories. The crux of the story is about families, relationships and isolation, and how important it is that we accept each other.

Deafness isn’t necessarily a disability that cuts you off physically or intellectually, but it’s isolation that can really affect people who have hearing loss. It’s that inability to communicate in a social situation that can be really isolating and that’s something that I noticed with my sister growing up.

We’ve tried to really show that in a way that puts the audience in that position, so some feedback we’ve had from audience members is that maybe a hearing person might not understand everything that happens in the play but that’s an important experience for them to have, they get some insight into that feeling of isolation themselves.

What I would really like people to take away is a little bit of empathy about the way that other people live their lives, and some idea about isolation and communication and how important that is. Then hopefully they’ll take that out with them into the world and influence the other spaces they go into.

Making theatre more accessible

It’s important that we’re all realistic about the diverse world that we live in. We’re a co-led deaf and hearing company and we strive to maintain that.

People understand that it may not be possible to make every single show accessible for everybody, but if you’re open to discovering what can make your work accessible, that’s a start. It’s better to ask people who really live the experience and get their feedback. I went to an interesting discussion with deaf and disabled artists recently where this was addressed.

Accessibility shouldn’t just be a tick-box exercise – put on a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted show and do one relaxed performance and that’s it. That’s not really exploring the depth of how we can make sure our theatrical environment and all aspects of our society are welcoming for everybody, and that people can feel equal to everybody else.

As accessible theatre continues to slowly improve, it is the innovative work of companies such as The DH Ensemble that are really making strides in helping to address isolation and ensure that theatre really is becoming more inclusive for all.

The DH Ensemble is led by Jennifer K. Bates, Stephen Collins, Sophie Stone and Erin Siobhan Hutching. You can see People of the Eye in 2018:

  • 23 March Harlow Playhouse
  • 26 March Arlington Arts Centre
  • 7 April Nottingham Playhouse

Find out more about DH Ensemble and People of the Eye and get involved with our What I Need to Say Campaign.

Meet the campaigners and storytellers making equality for disabled people a reality

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). The theme this year is “Transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society for all” and the UN agenda pledges to “leave no one behind”. But far too often, disabled people are left behind and it doesn’t feel like our society really is working for all.

Scope’s new strategy is focused on everyday equality but we can’t do it alone – it requires a collective effort of everyone working together. On IDPD, we’re highlighting some of the amazing campaigners and storytellers we’ve been working with this year.

Shani is tackling extra costs

From expensive equipment to higher energy bills, disabled people and their families pay more for everyday essentials. Support to meet these costs, such as Personal Independent Payments, often falls short. When you face so many extra costs, it can stop you from being able to go out and do things like everyone else.

Shani smiling, stood on a cobbled street

That’s why Shani launched the Diversability Card – a discount card for disabled people. As well as helping to alleviate some of the financial pressure, it also aims to be a catalyst for change by raising awareness of the value of disabled consumers. Find out more about extra costs and the Diversability Card on the website.

Will is campaigning to make public places accessible

Last year, Will made a short film to highlight the poor disabled access found up and down our high streets. As a wheelchair user,  he wanted to demonstrate how frustrating this is from his everyday perspective. He also wanted to draw attention to the fact that businesses are losing multiple paying customers.

The film went viral and thousands of people signed his petition. Alongside his job as a games developer, Will has continued campaign on accessibility – attending events in Parliament and speaking on TV. Read more about Will’s campaigning in this blog.

Christie is raising awareness to change negative attitudes

Christie’s daughter Elise is a happy, smiley two year old girl who has cerebral palsy. Elise has a bright future ahead of her because Christie is determined to overcome any barriers they face. Barriers like negative attitudes, expensive equipment and inaccessible playgrounds.

Christie is a Scope storyteller and local campaigner and she also shares their journey through her page ‘Elise Smashed It’. She hopes that by raising awareness she will educate people, create change and help other parents and children with cerebral palsy.  Find out more about Christie and Elise’s achievements on their Facebook page.

Dan and Emily are tackling the lack of disabled characters

When Dan’s daughter Emily asked why there weren’t any wheelchair users on TV, he knew that something had to change. A wheelchair user herself, Emily always wanted to find characters and people that she could relate to, but they were so hard to find.

Dan, an author holding up his comic book, poses with his daughter Emily who uses a wheelchair

Together, they created The Department of Ability comic book, featuring a cast of superheroes whose impairments are their greatest superpower – and Emily has a staring role! Read more about Dan and Emily’s adventures in their blog.

Carly is making sure autistic women and girls are safe and supported

Carly is an Autism advocate and speaker. She wasn’t diagnosed with autism until she was 32, after years without support, feeling “like a second class normal person” and being told that “autism only happens to boys”. When two of her daughters were diagnosed, she noticed a huge lack of understanding when it came to autism and girls, and she’s been working to change that ever since.

Carly wearing sunglasses and a top that says autistic girl power

From her own experiences, Carly knows that there are serious consequences to not being diagnosed and she has dedicated her life to making sure women and girls are protected and supported.

As well as speaking and networking, Carly has been to the UN to ensure the rights of autistic women and girls are protected and she created a free online safeguarding course. She’s also passionate about changing attitudes towards autism and runs  events for autistic children, where they can invite anyone they like. Find out more about Carly’s story on her website. You can also buy Carly’s book about autism and girls.

If you want to get involved in campaigns or storytelling, get in touch with the stories team. You can also find out more about our current campaigns on our website.