Tag Archives: attitudes

Smiiffy’s 7 tips for coping with isolation

Josh, popularly known as “Smiiffy”, is a rapper from Birmingham who is looking to challenge attitudes and raise awareness of mental health and disability. He did an Instagram Stories takeover for Scope on Friday, where he shared “What I Need To Say” posts throughout the day, and even wrote a special verse.

I have anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder. I haven’t been in a good place in the past few months. My anxiety sometimes makes it difficult to be happy, even around my own family. It also means that it’s quite difficult to know what mood I’m going to be in for Christmas.

Josh sitting on a pub bench, looking into the camera

There are a lot of times I do feel isolated. I often find that I do it to myself because I prefer to be alone. I constantly feel alone in a crowd. Even if I’m surrounded by good friends, I feel alone. I sit alone for a while and think that I don’t fit in here. And I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere, which is really difficult sometimes.

Scope’s What I Want To Say campaign is important to me because I feel like Scope’s giving people the opportunity to have a voice and let me say what I genuinely need to say. Letting people know that they’re not alone, and that there are other people there who are wanting to listen to them is incredible.

As part of this campaign, I took over Scope’s Instagram on Friday 8 December, and am sharing my top tips for reducing isolation:

Smile

Whether it’s someone I know well, or a stranger in the street, one of my favourite things to do is just smile. I feel like if someone’s having the worst day, at least I’ve acknowledged them. Plus, it always makes me feel much better too!

A hug always helps

Hugs always make me feel good. Be it a friend, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a cousin, a family member or whoever, it helps you forget about the loneliness, depression and anxiety you might be feeling for a while.

Social Media

Josh taking a selfie in front of a mirrorI always thought that I’d be lonely and I posted that on social media. That was the first time that I accepted my own mental health. Telling people how you feel on social media can help things improve.

I use it positively, to raise awareness and let people know that there is help out there. You can also be anonymous on social media and that can make it easier to talk about the fact that you’re struggling.

Find someone to talk to

For people that are lonely, there are a few community clubs and centres out there that are open for people on Christmas day. If people are alone, that’s definitely one thing that could help.

If you’ve got family around you but you’re still struggling, just trying to talk to people can help. In most families, there’s at least one person that understands, so if you can speak to that one person, then things can get easier. Just expressing your needs to somebody else will help in the long run, because they will find a way to help you through it.

Speak to organisations that can help

Josh (Smiiffy) wearing a Scope T-shirt

Scope have helped me massively. They’ve helped a lot of friends too. I’ve never really told anyone that I have Bilateral Perthes’ disease but through working with Scope and seeing the work they do, it made me feel confident enough to tweet about it. I feel motivated by Scope to raise awareness of invisible impairments, like mental health.

Do something you love

I think that a hobby, something you’re good at or enjoy, can help. When I started music, I wanted money, fame, popularity but then I released a song about when I was struggling called “Air I Breathe”. When I realised how many people it had impacted, I knew that was my calling.

Music has been hard because I don’t like the attention but I fought off my fears. If you have a talent and use it to create good things for yourself and inspire thousands of others, it can be life changing. I also like giving back to charity because as well as music, charity saved my life.

Smiiffy, a young disabled man, smiles by a microphone

Help raise awareness

Over the years thousands of people have messaged me and said positive things like “I love your music, you’ve saved my life” or “you’ve made me open up about my own mental health” which is incredible.

I want people to let people know that, if they’re struggling to talk or feel like they’re not going to be heard, speaking out about what you’re going through can really help.

Too often disabled people struggle to access the right emotional support, advice and information. As a result they feel like no one truly understands, leaving them disconnected and isolated from those around them. This is particularly heart-breaking at Christmas.

Please help us this Christmas by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign. Share the message, tell us your stories, and donate to Scope so we can be there for people who have nowhere else to turn.

I’m a disabled person and I’ve contributed to the economy for 43 years – the Chancellor’s comments feel personal

Graham is Scope’s Engagement and Participation Manager. As a disabled person himself, with three disabled children, he had a strong reaction to Philip Hammond’s comments about productivity and disabled people. In this blog, “after a full day to calm down and sleep on it”, he responds and shares some other reactions.

It’s not based on any evidence

Firstly, as Scope colleagues and many others have said on social media, this statement hugely undermines the Government’s commitment to getting one million disabled people into work.

This wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark by Mr Hammond during an after-dinner speech – it was made in a formal Parliamentary committee meeting and broadcast to the world. So, apart from the slap in the face to working disabled people, he is contradicting Government policy.

His statement is not based on any evidence that anyone knows of. I’m extremely pleased that Scope has called out both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister on this slight.

I’ve contributed to the UK economy for over 43 years

Secondly, it feels quite personal. I’ve had my impairment since I was  a child and have worked continuously (apart from study breaks) since age 17 when I joined a press agency in London as a trainee journalist.

I’ve since worked as mental health support worker, probation officer, supported housing officer, bookseller, policy wonk and project manager. During this time I haven’t avoided paying my income tax and have contributed to the UK’s economy for over 43 years. So being labelled as a problem for  productivity would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious.

I worry for the next generation of disabled people, including my son

Thirdly, I worry for the next generation of disabled people. My youngest son is leaving university in a year or so, and my daughter has worked and has paid taxes for several years.

Despite my professional and personal campaigning on the inclusion of disabled people for 20 years or more, it is very clear we have a whole lot more to do if senior politicians still see us as drains on the economy and uninvestable. We need to be seen as active, empowered citizens.

And in addition to this novel stance – being seen as non-productive – the framing of disabled people as inherently “vulnerable” is another barrier that needs dismantling. I’m confident that Scope will continue to challenge received and dated ideas that diminish disabled people, and really promote everyday equality in all its senses.

It’s not just me who’s outraged, here’s what other people have told Scope

Laura via email:Laura walking with her guide dog

“I am disgusted that a man in his position could say such a thing. We have enough issues to face daily without comments like that.

Every day I make a contribution to society along with so many others. These were very hurtful comments to read as I was getting up, getting ready and travelling to work!

I am pleased to see disabled people and organisations have pulled together today.”

 

Liam via Twitter:

“I just felt disappointed and confused, to be honest.Liam wearing radio headset, smiling at the camera

Aside from being derogatory, it was also a bizarre statement to make when the disability employment gap remains stagnant.”

 

 

Shona via Twitter:

“It’s just reinforcing what we already know, this government thinks disabled people are a problem.Shona in her wheelchair in front of a fence and a park

What is even scarier is the government knows they can get away with saying things like that because they’ve created a society that sees disabled people as lesser.”

 

If you want to read more reactions to the Chancellor’s damaging and inaccurate comments, check out Scope’s Twitter moment. 

Scope storytellers also shared their views in the media:

Scope has written to the Prime Minister asking her to clarify her position and called on the Chancellor to withdraw his comments. We’ve also explained why his comments are damaging and inaccurate.

What are your thoughts on the Chancellor’s comments. Share what you think on Twitter or Facebook using the #EverydayEquality.

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.

Millions of disabled people feel lonely, including me – let’s change this

Shani is an events manager, disability campaigner and entrepreneur from Walsall. She features in Scope’s new What I Need To Say campaign which highlights the isolation that millions of disabled people face. In this blog, Shani shares her own experiences.

At certain times in our lives, we are all likely to experience loneliness. We often talk about loneliness in elderly people but, as Scope’s new research shows, loneliness affects so many disabled people.

This can be down to poor access to services, inaccessible transport and venues, and financial challenges. When you face so many extra costs related to disability, it can stop you from being able to go out and do things like everyone else. That’s why I launched the Diversability Card – a discount card for disabled people.

Social attitudes are also a significant barrier. Many struggle to see the person beyond the impairment or condition and act awkwardly. One in four people have admitted to avoiding conversations with disabled people because they worry about causing offence or don’t know what to say. This really astonished me. Personally, I feel sorry for the non-disabled UK population who are missing out on interacting with 13 million of us fabulous people!

With so many barriers to contend with, imagine being a disabled person, experiencing the same life transitions as everyone else, but not being able to participate in the same way. No wonder disabled people feel lonely.

My own experiences of loneliness

Being part of the ‘What I Need To Say campaign’ by Scope made me really reflect about the times I have experienced loneliness or isolation, which has drifted in and out of my life over different periods.

As a young child, I attended a special needs school which made keeping in touch with friends very difficult as we lived miles away from each other. It also meant that I was sent to a separate school that my siblings, cousins, friends and neighbours attended. Whilst it was the best place for me because of the care I needed for my condition, it was hard to maintain friendships and any sort of social life.

Over the course of my childhood, I spent a lot of time in hospital with broken legs due to my condition Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bones). I would be in hospital for a minimum of three months at a time, missing school and home whilst only having adults to really talk to. I was very lucky that I always had lots of family coming to see me during the visiting time, but this is such a short amount of time in what used to seem very long days as a child.

I’ve also experienced loneliness as an adult, being excluded from social situations or activities due to my condition or people making assumptions about what I am able to do, or not. It’s really frustrating, especially as I’m a very independent person who will always find an alternative way of doing things.

Shani smiling, stood on a cobbled street

Ending loneliness

I feel that increasing the awareness of different conditions and dispelling misconceptions about disability are major steps in combatting the ‘silent epidemic’ of loneliness and isolation.

Also, if you are a friend or family member of a person with an impairment or condition, take a moment to consider how they might be feeling, especially around this festive time of year. It can be as easy as making a quick phone call or popping in for a cup of tea to brighten someone’s day.

Too often disabled people struggle to access the right emotional support, advice and information. As a result they feel like no one truly understands, leaving them disconnected and isolated from those around them. This is particularly heart-breaking at Christmas.

Please help us this Christmas by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign. Share the message, tell us your stories, and donate to Scope so we can be there for people who have nowhere else to turn.

As soon as I stopped ticking the ‘disabled’ box, I got interviews

Charlotte Jukes is a qualified teacher based in Wales. After graduating with a first-class honours degree in teaching, she started applying for jobs but wasn’t getting any interviews. She decided to stop disclosing that she was disabled, just to see what happened, and suddenly she was getting interviews.

She’s supporting our Work With Me campaign to ensure that disabled people can get and stay in work.

Charlotte in her graduation gown
Charlotte at her graduation

I injured my spine in 2002 and was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013. I’m in quite a lot of pain every day. I’ve had my conditions for quite some time and they have worsened over the years. I was a teacher up until March this year.

When I first graduated, with first-class honours, I thought it was going to be quite an easy process to get interviews. Especially given that my Local Authority have a policy where disabled people are guaranteed an interview if they meet the person specification.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Friends with fewer qualifications were getting interviews for the same jobs

I was very confused. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I found out that my friends who had 2:1s and 2:2s were being interviewed for jobs that I wasn’t.

I was the one people would come to for help with grammar, application forms, personal statements and CVs because English language is one of my specialist subjects, so I knew my applications couldn’t be bad.

I emailed the council to ask why I wasn’t being given interviews, as a disabled person who met all the requirements, but I didn’t receive a response. It just made me feel a bit hopeless. I felt like I was never going to be able to get a job.

As soon as I stopped ticking the ‘disabled’ box, I got interviews

My husband suggested that I applied for some jobs without marking the ‘disabled’ box, just to see what happened. I was a bit sceptical at first because surely if there is a policy in place, they wouldn’t be ignoring it? I was also worried. If I needed time off sick or I needed adjustments putting in place to make my role easier, what would happen then if I hadn’t declared that I was disabled?

As soon as I stopped ticking the disabled box, the interviews started coming in. I think I applied for eight or nine jobs then, and was given interviews for all of them.

I feel like there’s not much point in having a policy for guaranteeing interviews for disabled candidates who meet the criteria if they aren’t going to abide by that.

When I finally did get a job, I had all the support I needed

I was offered a job and the Head Teacher was excellent. When I first took the job, my conditions weren’t affecting me as much, but then the Fibromyalgia started to flare up. Things were worsening with my back and my arthritis as well.

When I told the Head Teacher that I was struggling, she referred me to occupational health. They made adaptations to make things easier. Things like a trolley for carrying books and special seats. That was great. I was very lucky there.

I loved everything about the job and I thought I was good at it. I loved the children and everything, it was brilliant! It was everything I’d ever wanted. I was even nominated for “The Pride of Wales” Award for “Teacher of the Year”, and I actually won that in 2016. Sadly, my contact was only for two years and I left in March this year.

Charlotte's "Teacher of the Year: Pride of Wales" Award
Charlotte’s Teacher of the Year: Pride of Wales Award

Now that I’m unemployed again, I’m worried I won’t get another job

I’ve started using a wheelchair and I feel that I have to tick the ‘disabled’ box now. If I didn’t and I just turned up in a wheelchair, I don’t know if the school will have access.

I’m worried about the future because I know it’s going to be very hard for me to get back into work. What will I do after all the years of work that I put in to train to be a teacher? It’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little girl, and to know that I won’t be given a chance just because I’m disabled is hard to accept.

I’m supporting Work With Me because I think that employers and policies need to improve. Just because I’m in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean that I can’t do the job as well as any other person.

Be part of making change happen. Find out more about Work With Me and share the campaign on your social media networks using #WorkWithMe.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people.

My message to employers: disability is not a weakness

Azar lives in London and wants to work in the financial markets as a currency trader. He’s well on his way, with a 2:1 in business management, but he feels that attitudes need to change if he’s going to be successful.

Past job interviews didn’t go well – employers would focus on his impairment which made him feel uncomfortable and lose confidence. He’s supporting our Work With Me campaign to ensure that employers see beyond disability and focus on his strengths.

I have cerebral palsy which affects my right side and movement. It’s not immediately noticeable but there are small things that could make a big difference for me in the workplace. For example, I can’t type, so I use software programmes where I speak and it automatically writes down what I’m saying.

I found it really hard looking for work. I always tried to hide my impairment but during interviews employers would ask “Do you have a disability? How will you be able to do the job?” which made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to answer it.

I felt like the odds were stacked against me

Getting rejected again and again, you feel like it’s because of your impairment and that made me want to give up. I couldn’t explain cerebral palsy confidently and it made me feel like it was more of a weakness than I strength. I had all the skills but I felt like I was being judged. It seemed like employers were thinking there will be other people who aren’t disabled who can do the job better.

Work With Me

There’s a lack of awareness and understanding. I feel like employers don’t know how to adapt to disabled people’s needs, they just don’t think about it. Companies should be open about starting conversations in a way that’s not off putting. Their attitude should be “If you have an impairment we’re going to provide you the support you need to prosper in this role.”

A million disabled people can and want to work, but they’re not being given the opportunities. I think campaigns like Work With Me can have an impact by helping more disabled people get in to work and show what they can do. Work With Me can also educate employers about what they can do to improve and show them that it’s not about disability, it’s about competency.

Scope storyteller, Azar, holds up a placard which says #WorkWithMe
Azar is supporting Scope and Virgin Media’s new employment campaign, Work With Me

My advice to others

Knowing that there’s a million disabled people who, like me, want to work but aren’t being given the chance, makes me feel so frustrated. It makes me more determined to prove to employers that disability isn’t a weakness. My advice to other disabled people looking for work is use your strengths and show employers that disability doesn’t define you – you can defy the odds.

I feel more confident taking about my impairment now and what I need to prosper in a company. I feel more sure of myself and my skills. To all the employers who are put off by disability I want to say: don’t judge me by my impairment, judge me on my skills and my experience, look at my track record. Cerebral palsy is not a weakness and with the right adjustments I can succeed.

Be part of making change happen. Find out more about Work With Me and share the campaign on your social media networks using #WorkWithMe.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people.

I was told “We don’t have any jobs for people like you”

Marie is a college tutor from Milton Keynes. Although her current job is ideal, she’s experienced barriers and negative attitudes in the past, including the time she was told ‘not to bother’ working. She passionately believes that everyone should be given a chance and is supporting our Work With Me campaign to make that a reality.

I’ve got osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bones. It means my bones can break easily so I use wheelchair, I can’t stand or walk. The condition can make me very tired and there are nights when I can’t sleep at all so it would be difficult to do a typical 9 to 5 job.

My current employer is understanding of my needs and the job I have is so flexible. I’m able to work from home which suits me perfectly. If I can’t pick up work on a certain day, they’ll email it across or agree a different time for me to collect it. But it hasn’t always been so easy.

“We don’t have anything for people like you”

When I finished my degree in Health and Social Care in 2011 I didn’t have a lot of luck finding a job. I went to the Job Centre for support and their attitude was pretty much “Why do you want to work? We don’t have anything for people like you.” There was no help or aspiration.

Being told not to bother working it made me feel angry and upset. I’d spent so many years studying, I’d put everything into my degree, I’d worked in the past and I wanted to progress. It made me feel worthless, like I couldn’t contribute towards society like anyone else. It was frustrating.

I decided not to put that I was disabled on my CV because I felt like I wouldn’t get an interview. I often managed to get interviews but when I turned up I could tell by people’s reactions that I wasn’t going to get that job. I think it was largely because they didn’t understand my impairment and didn’t want to take the chance.

If you’re disabled, it can be difficult to progress in your career too. I’ve had many different jobs and at times I felt like I was being treated like a child because employers didn’t allow me to use my skills and knowledge. I ended up leaving one job. If people aren’t going to accept me for who I am and what I can do, why stay?

The things that people say to you never go away. There have been times where bad attitudes have made me feel like “What’s the point in working?” I just wanted to find an employer who would give me a chance, like anyone else would be given a chance.

A disabled woman, Marie, holds up a placard which says #WorkWithMe
Marie supports Scope and Virgin Media’s new employment campaign, Work With Me

Work With Me

Knowing that there’s a million disabled people out there who want to work but are being denied the opportunity, it makes me angry because everybody should be given an opportunity. We all want to contribute to society.

I think a lot of employers don’t want to hire a disabled person because they don’t understand disability and they just want the ‘perfect’ person. So, the way to change negative attitudes is for those of us who are disabled to prove them wrong. To show that we can do it, and it doesn’t matter if we use a wheelchair or we’re visually impaired – with the right support, it doesn’t affect your ability to work.

My advice to employers is just give someone a chance and think about what they can do, not what they can’t do. When I got my current job, the feedback was really positive. The interviewers said that I was confident, I clearly knew the subject and I had all the skills. Why can’t all employers be like this?

People shouldn’t be put into a box. Some people can’t work, but that’s not the reality for many disabled people. That’s why I’m supporting Work With Me. I think this campaign is going to open people’s eyes. Unless you see stories out there, people won’t know what’s possible.

Please join me and help change the future of employment for disabled people.

Be part of making change happen. Find out more about Work With Me and share the campaign on your social media networks using #WorkWithMe.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people.

Don’t focus on my impairment, ask me what I can bring to the role

After graduating from university, Lauren embarked on a long and difficult journey to find a job.  In support of our new campaign, Work With Me, she spoke to us about the barriers she faced and gives some advice to disabled people who are still searching for a job.

When I graduated with a good degree and lots of volunteering experience, I thought I would find a job pretty quickly. Instead, I applied for over 250 jobs in a variety of roles but I only got interviews about 5% of the time. I said that I was visually impaired on my applications and my CV. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and I wanted to be open from the start.

Scope’s new research found that when applying for jobs only 51% of disabled applications result in an interview compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants. So it’s not just me. When I did get interviews, they didn’t ask the questions I expected.  They were more focused on my impairment than what I could bring to the role. I feel like people underestimated what I could do because I was blind.

Again, Scope’s research shows that this feeling is shared by many disabled people. Over a third (37%) of respondents who don’t feel confident in getting a job believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition. Towards the end of my job hunt I wanted to give up. I just didn’t think I was ever going to get a job. I knew I could do it but by the end it I was like “Can I?”

Eventually I was given a chance, and my employer was supportive right from the start. I want to see that happen for more disabled people. Latest Government figures show there are one million disabled people in the UK who can and want to work but are currently unemployed. It’s really unfair.

Change is possible

Disabled people face barriers left, right and centre. I want to contribute just as much as anyone else – and I can.  Having the right equipment ensures that I can do my job as well as my sighted colleagues and that’s provided through Access to Work. It doesn’t cost my employer anything.

Attitudes need to change. Employers often focus on limitations rather than the unique advantages that disabled employees can bring. For example, we’re incredible problem solvers because we have to be. All we want is to be given a chance. That’s why I’m supporting Scope and Virgin Media’s new campaign – Work With Me. I hope you will join me.

Be part of making change happen. Find out more about Work With Me and share the campaign on your social media networks using #WorkWithMe.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people.

“It’s not just about sport, it’s about accepting people for who they are”

John Willis is the founder and Chief Executive of Power to Inspire, a charity all about inclusion through sport, based in Cambridge. He was born without fully formed arms and legs, and last year he took on a challenge to try all 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports.

In this blog he talks about changing attitudes and why sport for all is so important.

I was interested in sport from a very young age. Unfortunately, there weren’t many opportunities to get involved in sport at school.

A few years ago I was nagged by a friend into doing a Triathlon relay – I did the swim. We had a great time and it showed that disabled people and non-disabled people can do sport together, you just have to design it and think about it and adapt it.

John Willis, a disabled man with foreshortened arms and legs, waits on a diving board for the signal to dive into the pool, in front of an audience of adults and children
John waiting on a diving board for the signal to dive into the pool.

I did another challenge the following year – 50 1000 meter swims in 116 days – which was quite something and it took me all around the country. I spoke to well over 3000 children and adults about sport. I set up Power to Inspire to take this even further.

Changing attitudes at an early age

Through Power to Inspire, we go into schools and clubs and talk to kids about inclusive sport and we got our games going in schools last year. Everybody seems to have great fun – from mainstream kids learning about inclusive sport to running mixed games where we take mainstream kids into SEN schools.

At one session, we turned to the P.E. teachers and said “Everyone seems to be having a fantastic time, you must always be in and out of each other’s schools with being just down the road from each other” and they said “We’ve never been in each other’s schools before”. So we’re breaking down barriers.

Children trying out new sports like archery and goalball.
Children trying out new sports like VI football and floor lacrosse

It’s fantastic to see kids learning together. It’s not just about sport, it’s about accepting people for who they are. There’s a real demand for our games in schools. We want to keep doing more of it and spread the word. We’re also talking to various clubs about doing big accessible events.

2012 created a huge change in this country. There wasn’t acknowledgment of disability discrimination a few years ago, it was just the norm. Now people are aware it exists. There’s been a massive change. Seeing more disability sport, people on the telly, it’s becoming more accepted in mainstream culture now. People look at Jonny Peacock as a fabulous athlete first, and disabled second.

Outside of the Paralympics, things do get better but it’s like a tide. The water reaches further up the beach each time, but it does go back. What we need to do is create some blockages so the water doesn’t go back so far and we can push it further.

John, a disabled man with foreshortened arms paddles his kayak on the River Cam
John Willis practicing kayaking on the River Cam

Sport is for everyone, full stop

The camaraderie of sport is amazing, with fans of all sports all over the world. That common enthusiasm, I don’t think you quite get that anywhere else.

I set myself a goal last year to try all 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports. I had an absolute blast. I fell in love with far too many of them. There is a sport for everyone and Sport for All emphasises that for me. The work I do with children, once they’ve worked out a way to do something, they just think let’s get on with it and the see the person, not the disability. I want everybody to be able to play and to be able to compete. If you can create that exhilaration of pushing yourself, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at.

Sport is available to everyone full stop. It’s just a question of finding out what you like and finding out where you can do it. And find friends, not just disabled people, but friends who are passionate about that particular sport. Last year I ended up playing tennis which I never thought I’d do. The equipment is available and can be adapted, it just takes a bit of imagination. There’s no such thing as “can’t” – all there is, is working out how to do it. Just take a small step. It all starts with a small step.

Making sport more inclusive

This summer, the World ParaAthletics Championships and the five year anniversary of the London 2012 Paralympic Games gave us an opportunity to champion inclusive sport.

As part of our mission for Everyday equality, we ran a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport. Over the past few weeks we:

  • shared blogs from storytellers,
  • celebrated the incredible athletes involved in the ParaAthletics on social media,
  • showcased accessible challenge events,
  • did a Facebook Live with Richard Whitehead,
  • and shared some new research which showed that a quarter (28%) of disabled people did not feel the Paralympics delivered a positive legacy for disabled people.

Please help us continue the conversation by championing inclusive sport and challenging negative attitudes. Read more Sport For All blogs and catch up with all of our activity using #SportForAll on our Twitter.

Can a sporting event change attitudes?

Following our #SportForAll activity this summer and as we head towards the fifth anniversary of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. We’ve discovered that, despite the success of the games themselves, there has been little change in the way disabled people feel they are treated by society and supported by the government.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games ran between 29 August and 9 September. At the time it was Lord Coe’s view that “we would never think of disability in the same way again.”

The Games themselves saw disability given an unprecedented platform, with Paralympics GB taking home 120 medals, and para-athletes like Sarah Storey and Ellie Simmonds becoming household names.

However, our new research reveals that a quarter (28%) of disabled people did not feel the Paralympics delivered a positive legacy for disabled people once the two weeks were over. Over a third (38%) think that attitudes have not improved or have got worse since 2012.

An unrealistic portrayal

People have told us that, although the games themselves were wonderful, all of the Paralympic athletes were unrealistically portrayed as ‘superheroes’. They suddenly became these people who could overcome and achieve anything. This just isn’t what daily life is like.

There are 13 million disabled people in the UK, but progress towards everyday equality has been slow. Disabled people tell us that they find it hard to access the care and support they need and the extra costs they face mean life can also be very expensive.

The expectations for a sporting event to change the world when it came to disability was an unrealistic ask.

Time to change attitudes

Our findings also show that three-quarters of disabled people have seen no change in the way that members of the public talk to them or the language that is used, which is really unsettling.

At Scope, we believe that attitudes need to be changed in order to achieve our vision of Everyday equality. This will all work towards the much-needed action on employment, financial security and social care support for disabled people.

Sport has the power to bring people together and break down barriers. However, we need to ensure that this change in attitudes continues indefinitely, not just once every four years.

Paralympic legend Richard Whitehead MBE will be joining us for a Facebook Live on 25 August at 2pm. Head to our Facebook channel and join the conversation.

Richard Whitehead smiles and holds up a Union Jack flag

Our mission is to drive social change so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Read our new strategy.

Read all of our #SportForAll blogs