Tag Archives: attitudes

It’s time to re-open the debate on attitudes to disability

XIV Paralympic Games
One year on from the Paralympic Games – have attitudes changed?

This week the Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey published her plans for “further lasting change to attitudes and aspirations”.

In a couple of months we will be marking the one year anniversary of the Paralympics; a whole year since Lord Coe said we’d never look at disability the same again.

If we want to make this a better place for disabled people we have to start by improving public attitudes to disability.

Disabled people tell us that attitudes continue to be an issue

It’s all about visibility. Most non-disabled people don’t meet disabled people, so what gets broadcast is crucial in shaping attitudes.

The Minister told parliament she wants to “harnesses the inspirational power of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – aiming to deliver further lasting change to attitudes and aspirations”.

She is right that the Paralympics were a break-through moment. Disability has never been talked about so openly; disabled people have never been so visible. Positive portrayals of disabled people out-weighed the benefits scrounger rhetoric. Polling straight after the games showed an impact on the public’s view of disability.

You don’t change attitudes in a fortnight

Lord Coe recently told the Lords that you have to talk about legacy in terms of ten years. However one year on it is the right to time to start asking where things are at when it comes to attitudes to disability.

Jack Carroll came second in this year’s Britain’s Got Talent (Photo credit: University of Salford)

Over the last year, parts of the media have built on the legacy of visibility. We’ve seen mainstream films tackle disability and sex. We’ve seen channel four stick to its commitment to disability programming and pushing through disabled. We’ve seen a young man with cerebral palsy finish second in Britain’s Got Talent.

But elsewhere we’ve also seen a ramping up of the ‘benefit scrounger rhetoric’ and the on-going misuse of welfare stats. We’ve seen a councillor in Cornwall compare disabled children to deformed lambs, which should be put down. Glastonbury 2013 may have been the best yet, but recent research showed that festivals are less than committed when it comes to giving disabled people the chance to attend.

Scope wants to know what you think

Do you think attitudes to disability are a problem? Have you seen them get better or worse in the last year? Comment below, tweet us or let us know on Facebook.

An Annually Managed Expenditure (AME) cap could mean further cuts for disabled people

Nearly a week on from the Spending Round, there has been time to think about what a welfare cap might mean for disabled people.

In last week’s Spending Round, the government announced that – for the first time ever – there will be a cap in the UK’s welfare spending through changes to Annually Managed Expenditure (AME). This part of the budget responds to the needs of the economy, and the people within it. So if one year more people need benefits, pensions or tax credits – AME makes sure they get them.

But all of this is about to change. In 2015 the government will put a limit on how much it will pay out in social security.

And disabled people aren’t protected.

State pensions will be excluded from the cap, as will Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), but disability benefits, housing benefit, tax credits, and pensioner benefits will all be included.

How will the cap work?

It will be set as a limit each year at the time of the budget statement, starting in April 2015.

After that, if the government looks like it is about to spend beyond the cap, a public warning will be issued by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) .

Ministers will then be faced with a difficult decision; refuse to meet the needs of those in the worst situations in our society, or publicly breach the cap.

What does it mean for disabled people?

Disability benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments – which go towards covering the extra costs of being disabled – will be vulnerable to the cap. The amounts spent on Employment Support Allowance, too, will be subject to these limits. Universal Credit  will subject to the cap as well.

The Chancellor wants to exclude the “most counter-cyclical elements” from the cap – those which rise most sharply when the economy falters. But the need for Housing Benefit -which is included in the cap – increases during recession. If the economy takes a downward turn, the cap will pitch disability benefits against Housing Benefits in an innappropriate trade-off.

Disabled people are already set to lose over £28bn through welfare changes. The cap on AME comes as yet another blow to the their living standards.

Yesterday the Chancellor announced a £3.8 billion investment in social care –  the support disabled people get from their council to get up, get washed and dressed, and live independently. But by placing arbitrary limits on the amount spent on welfare, without the right safeguards, the government risks wasting these investments, and disempowering disabled people completely.

The chancellor promised that “those with the broadest shoulders [will] continue to make the biggest contribution to fiscal consolidation”. But in reality it is those most in need of support who will bear the burden once again.

Most of all, introducing a cap will radically change the meaning of social security. Without budgetary flexibility, which responds to the needs of the society, the government will risk punching yet more, deeper holes in the UK’s social safety net.

Will comedy be the next Paralympics?

Guest post from comedian Francesca Martinez

Congratulations to Jack Carroll, the very talented young comedian in the final of Britain’s Got Talent 2013. The audience loved him and so did the judges – David Walliams described him as the next Peter Kay. Jack is funny and likeable. He also happens to have cerebral palsy. He ended his set with a quip about donating to the disability charity Scope – then gave himself £20 to cut out the middle man!

I bet Jack’s jokes have also helped a few people think differently about what it means to be disabled. Like me, Jack uses humour to challenge attitudes to disability, much in the way that Britain’s Paralympians did with their amazing achievements last summer. A year on from the games, it’s got me thinking: could comedy be 2013’s Paralympics?

As a child growing up wobbly (I prefer the term to ‘cerebral palsy’), I used humour to disarm bullies and to deflect people’s pity. I thought that if I was cheeky or funny, people would respect me. I loved saying the things everybody thought but nobody dared to say.

Fifteen years later, when I discovered comedy, it was a revelation. I’d found something which let me stand in front of people and challenge their prejudices and stereotypes. So if the audience feels sorry for me when I walk out on stage because I’m wobbly, I use humour to question why. By the time I walk off, I want them to see the person behind the wobbles.

A lot of my material questions the lazy thinking behind what’s seen as different and as normal. I think disability is normal – it has always existed. It’s not abnormal because it’s part of life. Of course it brings struggles, but many of those struggles come from society’s inability to deal with difference.

Comedy lets us tackle ‘difficult’ subjects in a light-hearted way. It lets you by-pass the discomfort that bubbles up when people worry too much about what to say. I try to turn people’s fears into jokes, because I find that people are more receptive if you make them laugh. And, do you know what? Disability can be funny! Some people think I’m talking about an issue, but I just talk about my life, which is what every comic does.

It’s a difficult time for everyone right now, including disabled people. Attitudes towards disabled people and the ‘vulnerable’ have worsened. We need the power of comedy now, more than ever. If I can say things that need saying and change attitudes for the better, it gives a deeper meaning to the job I love.

It’s wonderful to see Jack Carroll doing so well and I hope he has a great future ahead of him. The more that difference is represented in the media, the more people will accept it as a natural and invigorating part of life. But Jack and I are not the only ones using laughter to change the way people think: there’s a host of great disabled comedians out there. My friends at Scope, who work to remove barriers so that disabled people can lead full and productive lives, have collected some clips .

Where is the Paralympics effect?

As visitors to the Scope website offer their thoughts in a new survey on attitudes to disabled people, one particular question is picking up momentum in the media. Have the Paralympics changed anything for disabled people?

Back in September the consensus was that “we would never look at disability in the same way again”.

For some, that feels like a long time ago.Last month disabled people took to the streets to protest against cuts. Report after report underlines the impact of spiralling living costs, stagnant incomes and the loss of national and local support on the lives of disabled people and their families.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson speaks out

It was Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who finally said what many people were thinking. In a comment piece last week she described a sports dinner.

“I had to use the back entrance, nothing much unusual or offensive in that. However, I could have got in the front (there was a ramp there albeit tucked away) but the organisers just had not thought about it. When I wanted to use the bathroom it took several minutes to find a ramp. I was also asked if I really needed to “go”. While I was in the bathroom the ramp was taken away, so I could not get back down the steps.”

Tanni asks where the evidence is of a change in attitudes.

A couple of days later she posed an even more challenging question, this time in the Times. Have the Paralympics made it easier for the Government to strip disabled people of vital support by presenting an unrealistic image of what disabled can achieve?

“Don’t be fooled by what Paralympians can do. They are not typical of disabled people. They are remarkably good at the sport they do, but it is not a realistic view of disabled life, no more than Olympians represent anyone else.”

So is it time to write off the Paralympics effect?

Attitudes to disabled people

Disabled people tell Scope that greater visibility and public discussion of their lives makes a difference.

During the Games Ellie Simmonds, David Weir and Jonnie Peacock become national heroes. With Channel 4 leading the way, Disability was consistently, openly and widely talked about like never before. Three different polls taken straight after the games pointed to a change in public attitudes.

But it takes longer than a fortnight to change attitudes.

Times are undoubtedly tough for disabled people. But maybe rather than write the Paralympics effect off, we should be asking what we can do to build on it and keep it going.

What we can do increase disabled people’s visibility in the media, in politics, in the arts and above all in everyday life? (It’s certainly good news that Channel 4’s Last Leg is returning.)

How can use the Paralympics to make the point to the Government that the starting point for welfare should be what do disabled people need to live their lives – not what can we take away to save money?

As Tanni says we need to keep the fight going.

Take part in our attitudes survey

Scope wants to hear your views: take part in our new survey on attitudes to disabled people.

The paralympic legacy

Guest post from Matt O’Grady at Scope Cymru

The last few weeks have been a real festival of sport. It seems like an age ago that Team GB kicked off against New Zealand in the Women’s Football in Cardiff and no-one could have imagined how exciting both the Olympic games and Paralympic games have been.

What was even harder to imagine perhaps before the game is just how much support the disabled athletes of the Paralympic games would receive. It has been fantastic, with the public seeming to grasp the opportunity to watch the highs (and occasional lows) of those who truly excel at their events. I was lucky enough to be in the stadium the night David Weir won gold in the 5,000 metres and Oscar Pistorius was beaten by Alan Oliveira. The support for athletes in those competitions was as passionate and fierce as any other sporting event I’ve been to.

The impact of the Paralympics

Before the start of the games, Scope said that for the games to have an impact the general public had to engage with them. Polling showed before the games that an estimated 67% of people intended to watch the Paralympic games.

The Opening Ceremony gave Channel 4 its biggest audience for 10 years. For two weeks disabled people have been everywhere. The focus has been on sport, but disability has never been so widely talked about.

And the fact that these games were virtually a sell-out makes it clear that there really was great public engagement.

But what should the public take away from the Paralympics? There can be no doubt that the games were a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the country reconsidering disability.

Attitudes towards disabled people

Prior to the Games, disabled people told Scope that attitudes towards them have been getting worse. More than two-thirds say they have experienced name-calling, hostility or aggression and half say this has gotten worse in the last year.

When those we have spoken to are asked why they think this happened, many think that it is linked to the issue of benefits and a perception that disabled people are ‘scroungers’ and ‘faking it’. Given that the Westminster Government’s own figures show a fraud rate of only 0.5% with Disability Living Allowance, it is concerning that such negative rhetoric is able to take root.

Hopefully, the stories told at the Paralympic games will begin a shift in the public perception of disabled people away from this ‘scrounger’ image and towards a more positive vision. An image that focuses on what disabled people can achieve and doesn’t set limits on potential, regardless of the challenges.

Much was made about challenges in the Paralympic games. I heard so many people say how the achievements of disabled athletes were so impressive because of the challenges they had to overcome.

Barriers to disabled people still exist

There can be little doubt that these challenges and barriers do exist. Whether it is access to wheelchairs (opens a PDF report)railways (opens a PDF report) or even elections (opens a PDF report), there are still many access barriers around.

For the Paralympic games to have truly achieved a lasting legacy, the games need to have created a shift in attitudes that means these barriers are not seen as acceptable any more and begin to be broken down. We also need to ask what else we can do, so that disabled people are visible not just in sport, but in the media, in politics, and above all in everyday life.

This legacy is one that the Welsh Conservatives, along with other political parties in Wales and the Welsh Government, have a role to play. With legislation reforming both social care and special education needs on the agenda for the next 12 months, we have an ideal opportunities to ensure that every disabled person has fewer challenges to face in their ordinary lives.

If the 2012 Paralympic Games are able to leave a desire for social change as their legacy, they will be the most successful games of all time.

Originally posted on Your Voice in the Assembly.

Inspiration without condescension

Guest post from Nick who blogs as Marzipanman. You can also follow him on Twitter.

A week or so before the Paralympic Games started, comedian Laurence Clark wrote in The Guardian:

“I came to realise that the less fortunate you are perceived to be, the less you have to achieve before you’re labelled ‘inspiring’. It was a polite way of people telling me they thought I probably wouldn’t amount to much, but had somehow surpassed their low expectations.”

When I first read this I thought it made perfect sense. After all, what frame of reference do I have on which to base any kind of disagreement? I could see his argument – why should his achievements (or otherwise) be considered any more inspiring than anyone else’s, just because he happens to be disabled?

But then the Games started and something unexpected happened – I started to disagree with Laurence, for a very specific reason.

My daughter Robyn

Robyn was born two years ago, the younger of twins and eight weeks premature. Two days after she was born we were told that she had experienced a severe bleed in her brain before, during or after her birth and that this was likely to cause her permanent damage. We were told that the prognosis was not particularly good.

Happily, Robyn is developing well, far better than that early prognosis. She’s not walking yet and has limited mobility down her left side, but thanks to support from NHS professionals and an undoubted strength of character she is shuffling around on her bottom, developing her vocabulary and generally taking over the household!

That said, I worry about her. From the moment we were told Robyn would probably have some form of disability, most likely cerebral palsy, I pictured her in a wheelchair, maybe learning disabled, maybe unable to ever live independently. I didn’t want to read about the condition or its effects because I was scared about what lay in store for my daughter.

And you know what? I felt sorry for her. I know that’s not the right thing – but it’s how I felt. She’s my daughter, and I want the best for her – and with the best politically correct will in the world, being disabled doesn’t necessarily fit in with that.

The Paralympics

During the Paralympics I’ve been watching athletes, swimmers, footballers, rowers and other Paralympic competitors, and I’ve paid particular attention to those with cerebral palsy. And you know what? They’re sensational. And not just in a “hasn’t she done well for a disabled person?” way, they’re just sensational.

Hannah Cockcroft has cerebral palsy as a result of two cardiac arrests at birth. Her parents were told that she would never be able to walk, talk or do anything for herself or live past her teenage years. On 31 August she won GB’s first track and field gold medal of the 2012 Paralympic Games in the T34 100 metres race with a Paralympic record time of 18.05 seconds.

Hannah Cockcroft, Olivia Breen, Sophia Warner and others are inspirational to me, and no doubt to parents across the country, because they remind me to look beyond the disability and the struggles that our children will no doubt have, to the chance – no, the likelihood – that they will have lives where they can fulfil their ambitions, whether that’s to be a champion sportsperson, to have a successful career or a great education, to get married and have children or even be a stand-up comedian.

Changing attitudes

I think the London 2012 Paralympic Games has done more for the public perception of disability in this country than any number of well-meaning campaigns or training courses ever could – this is especially timely given the current government’s clear agenda to stigmatise disabled people as benefits scroungers or burdens on the economy.

And it’s also done something for me. It’s made me positive for Robyn’s future. I’ve always seen what a fighter, what a character, what a person she is (and what a pain in the arse she can be as well) but now I have far more confidence that other people will see the same things as well.

Inspirational? Oh, go on then.

Sorry, Laurence.

 

Channel 4 coverage of Paralympics

So I made it to the games and am now an official resident in the Paralympic Village. It’s amazing to walk round an enclosed campus, with heavy security, and to see so many disabled people in one place. There is an enormous food hall with every type of cuisine catered for, there is even a fully kitted out McDonalds! All the apartment blocks have been given team makeovers and it really is a sight to behold to see the flags and banners of all the nations living together united by sport.

Despite my previous reservations I am happy to say that my uniform fitting went very well and everything fits! We have a few technical meetings and our Wheelchair Fencing competition begins on 4 September at 9.30am. We are currently in the training hall at Excel whilst the hall previously used for visual impaired Judo is converted to the Fencing Hall, we are hoping it will be ready on time.

Hopefully you may have been able to catch some of the TV coverage on Channel 4. For me it’s been a mixed bag with some good stuff and some pretty poor commentaries. In particular the Opening Ceremony was so depressing as virtually each team was introduced as being ‘war torn’ or ‘civil war’. I do personally have issues with the use of ‘superhumans’ to describe the athletes, but it seems C4’s angle is to promote the ‘journey’ and overcoming adversity – at least it’s on TV I suppose…

I was pleased to hear that the Post Office agreed to continue the theme from the Olympics by celebrating Gold Medal winners at the Paralympics with a commemorative postage stamp, however I would have preferred the irony of the stamp being second class, perhaps to reflect the attitudes still prevalent to disabled people?

London 2012 Paralympics fervour

I’ve just got back from the Olympic / Paralympic stadium. What a day….again! And I was there to see David Weir collect his gold medal!

Paralympics fervour has truly taken over nation GB! More competitors, more countries, more TV coverage, more spectators than ever before.

The Paralympics opening ceremony watched by 11.2 million viewers, has given broadcaster Channel 4 its largest audience in a decade. There are more competitors (around 4,200) from more countries (165, up 19 from Beijing four years ago) and the Paralympics are being broadcast to more countries than ever before (over 100). At the time of writing Team GB are 2nd in the medals tablewith 56 medals (17 Gold). The target is 103 medals (one medal every hour of competition) and in Beijing we won 102 (42 Gold). After three days of athletics there have already been 31 world records! It really is fantastic. Who would have believed that the euphoria from the Olympics could have been picked up again?

Amid all of these amazing statistics there are bound to be a few that are just too good to be true. Last week I came across some stats on twitter about pre-sales, quickly tweeted it on without confirming the numbers and they have since been questioned. Next time I’ll double check but the point is that ticket sales really have been amazing, with Paralympic record ticket sales of 2.4 million advanced sales, ensuring more Brits will get a chance to experience live Paralympic sports and raising the profile and appetite for Paralympic spectator sports. I can’t wait to be at the athletics this week.

Without doubt this is all creating a once in a generation opportunity to show Britain as a nation that celebrate Paralympians as sporting equals. The sport has been incredible – David Weir’s finish in the 5,000m was simply breathtaking. But above all more people than ever seem to be talking about disability and asking questions about disability and disabled people. This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise awareness and improve attitudes….and there’s still a week to go!

Enjoy the Paralympics and do tweet me or Scope with your thoughts.

My personal experiences of Cerebral Palsy

Melissa Parker is 20 and, as a result of a break from education due to surgery, is undertaking A-levels with hopes of earning a place on a law programme in 2013.

I first became interested in writing about my personal experiences of Cerebral Palsy when I read Andrea Dworkin’s article “Through the Pain Barrier” – it provided a forthright, fiercely earnest and human account of pain, disability and aging.

Being “normal”

It was also overwhelming because, having had Cerebral Palsy all of my life, it is difficult to remember that my experiences are not “normal.” They do not conform to other people’s experiences and perceptions. It was a moment of clarity, transparency, lucidity to remember certain times in my life that have been shaded, positively or negatively, by experiences such as these.

As a child I grew up with a mother who was determined that I would be “normal”, I did not in point of fact think there was anything out of the ordinary about myself until I was nine, and why would I? I had most of the customary childhood experiences: I played Mary and hit Joseph on the head, with a providentially, plastic baby Jesus. I would amuse myself by wearing toy high heels on my hands rather than on my feet, I would spend most of my early years as a quintessential tomboy complete with knee-length football shirt, which my mother had bought me as an Easter present, and quite naively as I then thought, assumed I would allow her to return it purely because it was too big. There were moments when my disability would affect existence, though I was apathetic about it, after all I knew and, as I realised when I read the aforementioned article now know no different. I had camouflage splints and a wheelchair which was yellow with red stripes. As I have grown those things have altered and as a consequence physically, emotionally and socially so have I.

I think numerous people automatically assume that disabled children are naturally angelic and my mother has always told me she did not know what to expect of a child diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. However, what she got was, in all probability, the child most unlike the child she imagined, in terms of temperament, determined, stubborn and inquisitive. I would most often question all and make observations to an, in general, taken aback audience.

Side-effects of surgery

When I had the second surgery, I did have hallucinations I was an axe murderer, vivid dreams where, I admit, my wickedness took on an atmosphere akin to a Robert Louis Stevenson novel. This was as a result of potent painkillers and was a contributing factor in my decision to stop using them soon afterward. I refer to that period as my “Yellow Submarine” phase. Looking back I was a sixteen-year-old girl who had been pumped full of drugs it is no wonder they effected me so significantly furthermore it is also accurate to say that realism is difficult when your perceptions are so altered.

I remember a few things exceedingly, and sometimes dreadfully, distinctly so much is ambiguous and might not have happened, I remember most evidently the one split second of regaining consciousness, an overwhelming understanding that it was going to be arduous, laborious and exhausting nevertheless I was going to get on with it. This feeling occurred after both surgeries it was just, I believe, an innate knowledge that I had to.

I am fortunate to have had my mother as my supporter, the stoic woman I know, from the youngest of ages I wanted to emulate that strength, she has inspired me to fight regardless.

I was recently told that my disability made me determined to succeed I was initially offended by the remark it was so indifferent, listless. I can, after all imagine that any disability gives people determination, fortitude and resolve.

Botulinum toxin A

The one memory I will always retain, etched into my remembrance indelibly, is my experience of Botulinum toxin A, also known as Botox, anyone is considering trying it to treat Cerebral Palsy should not be put off by the following narrative, I am aware that it has helped many. However as I writing about my understanding of the events to inform others I believe it is important to give a sincere account of my experience. I was a young child when I had my first, and only, treatment with Botulinum toxin A, it was not effective however it was a distressing experience. I recall the first sharp pain, just as evidently as I do my Winnie the Pooh backpack, I remember being held down as the others were injected into my legs and I recall, most vividly, wondering why my mother and god-mother, who were both present, did not intervene. I have been asked since whether the fact that the treatment was not effective contributed to my antipathy toward the experience. I do not know. I do know, however, that I am pleased I tried it. One day there may be something which alleviates Cerebral Palsy and it is that knowledge that makes experiences such as these worth it.

The experiences which have built what I refer to as ‘character’ have been numerous and thus far I have been exceedingly fortunate that my physical world has been, comparatively, unaffected however there are instances when one is aware of physical barriers, mobility lessens when pain is enhanced is a truth as I have acknowledged

The one emotion I felt through the years, especially as a teenager, is frustration. It has motivated me immensely; I believe the teenage years are the most arduous phase emotionally, which has made me consider writing something that will be, I hope; an earnest and human account. I recently read Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms and was most conscious of the following quote: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” It sums up my views and beliefs about my own disability and experiences.

 

Trendsetters Blog by Bradley Roper aged 12

Guest post from Bradley Roper, aged 12.

The day after Kayne and I appeared in the BBC1 programme, Racing with the Hamiltons, I was a bit late for school so my Nan said, “Let’s catch the bus.”

The first Bus Driver wouldn’t let us on and wagged his finger at us. We are used to this and I had discussed my experience of bus drivers’ attitudes with Nic Hamilton on the TV programme the night before.

My Nan stormed away with steam coming out of her ears. Then a bus hooted behind and pulled up beside us. The bus was ‘out of service’ and the Bus Driver called out to us: “Where are you going?”

I said, “To school.”

He said, “OK, I’ll drop you off – I am going to change your opinion of bus drivers.”

Although the bus stop is near the school, he drove right down to literally outside the school gates – he had obviously seen the programme!!