Tag Archives: awkward moments

I’m not a hipster, I’m epileptic! – End the Awkward

Bekki is 21 and an intern in Scope’s Campaigns team. She studied History at Oxford University, exploring disability and discrimination.

For End the Awkward, Bekki shares her own experiences of awkwardness and explains why there’s no need to hide from disability.

Awkwardness is a natural part of human interaction. However, when it comes to disability, awkward encounters often take on a slightly more negative tone.

Some conditions fall into a grey area between visible and invisible. Like mine, I have photosensitive epilepsy which you might not know just by looking at me. But I do have to use aids, such as specialised sunglasses, in order to go about my everyday life.

On top of this, there’s the stereotypical view that an epileptic seizure is always a convulsive seizure. In fact, there are over 40 different types of seizure which all look very different. This can be alarming and confusing if you aren’t familiar with them.

People often overreact when I have seizures

I have three different types of seizures; convulsive, prolonged partial and partial. Partial seizures happen most often and these are the ones I often encounter problems with.. They occur between ten and twenty times a day and can range from blank staring, to violent head shaking, or my eyes rolling back into my head.

During my more ‘alarming’ seizures, I’ve had people yell “WTF, are you the possessed or something?!” followed by that person rapidly removing themselves from my presence to avoiding assisting me because “I must have done something to deserve it”. I’ve even had religious officials telling me they’ll pray for me or making the sign of the cross at me, so I don’t go to hell.

Rebekka smiles at the camera

I’m not hungover, I’m epileptic!

The more typical responses I get are based on assumptions about why I’m wearing my sunglasses or using a Mac computer. They’re not what traditionally spring to mind when someone thinks of accessibility aids.

Because I wear my sunglasses on overcast days, during the winter months or inside, and can only use Mac computers (due to different pixel technology), I can no longer count the number of times I’ve had to say “I’m not a hipster or hungover, I’m epileptic”.

I’ve even had to avoid wearing hats because of the comments I get and the ease at which people can remove them from my head.

Avoidance really isn’t the answer

There is a reason why priority seating signs on transport and in bathrooms have been changing their disability signs. In the twenty first century we have begun to recognise that there are a range of different access needs and we shouldn’t make assumptions based on traditional representations of disability.

Some people may have never seen a seizure before, but street harassment and avoidance isn’t the answer. This only isolates disabled people further and makes everyone feel awkward about something that can’t be changed. It may look weird to you, but it’s part of my everyday life. And that’s okay. I came to terms with it a long time ago and often laugh about it with family and friends.

Engage with the awkwardness – it’s a fact of life, not a fact of disability. Maybe next time, talk to me instead of comparing me to a demonic entity?

 You can stay up to date with everything End the Awkward on Twitter and Facebook using #EndTheAwkward or visiting Scope’s End the Awkward webpage.

“My life is pretty damn awkward” – find out what is making Kelly cringe

Kelly has shared her embarrassing festival tales, is on a mission to make the UK’s most accessible football club and even let us film her when she tied the knot last year!

Now, as part of End the Awkward 2016, Kelly is back to share even more stories that will make you cringe and want to #EndtheAwkward.

Have you got an awkward story to tell? Tell us your story today.

As a generally average British girl, my life is pretty damn awkward anyway so having a disability and using a wheelchair often makes it even more so. The hilarious thing is, it’s often not me that’s feeling awkward.

So many times throughout my life, I’ve been avoided, talked down to and just plain ignored because of my disability. I can make light of it now but it’s actually a really serious and sad issue.

At all kinds of places (bars, hotel, airports, restaurants) people just plain ignore me! It’s the worst! They will do anything from talk to the person with me, blankly stare at me as if I’m speaking a different language and other times just pretend that I’m not there! This is definitely the worst kind of awkward interaction and it can really effect your confidence as a wheelchair user.

It’s hard enough to keep the confident facade going as a young adult as it is, so when throwing a wheelchair into the mix, it gets harder.

Kelly, a young disabled woman in an electric wheelchair, smiles at the camera with her friend

Avoiding the awkward

I’m ashamed to say there have definitely been times where I’ve avoided situations or asked someone else to do something for me to avoid awkward interactions (such as reaching card machines in shops, signing room check-in keys when the counter is literally higher than your head).

I’ve realised, this is simply the worst thing I could do.

I’m the kind of person who likes to challenge myself daily, to the point of painful fear and regret. You’re talking to the girl who auditioned for The Apprentice with no business plan when she was 18! Sometimes I just love being uncomfortable. However, the kind of uncomfortable that avoidance brings is a kind of deja vu uncomfortable that on bad days you just don’t want to deal with.

The good, the bad and the awkward

Sometimes, when I’m out, people will just not talk to me. They will literally avoid talking to me to talk to anyone who is with me, whether it’s my mom, my husband or a friend. They will talk to them rather than me.

There have been times that I’ve been answering back and they’ve been sending their answers back to me via other people, like they are a spirit and I am using the person I am with as a vessel to communicate!

Now I know a lot of my disabled friends have experienced this and I think it’s one of the most common awkward and annoying moments that I experience.

But don’t get me wrong, using a wheelchair definitely also has it’s upsides!

A group of young disabled people in electric wheelchairs pose for the camera at a music festival. They are all wearing rain macs
Kelly and her group of friends at a music festival

As many of you know, I love festivals and I’ve been to most of them. I was recently at a music festival (I won’t say which as I don’t want anyone to get in trouble!) where myself and two others (both wheelchair users) literally just walked into the VIP area.

We weren’t asked if we had tickets or wristbands, we weren’t checked at all. So we spent most of the afternoon enjoying the hospitality that we hadn’t paid for. Thanks to the awkward security guard for not asking any questions!

As some of you may also know, I was an overly rebellious and not always well behaved teenager. At college myself and my friends were caught by the police doing something bad and teenager-like. The police proceeded to arrest all of my friends, except me, and took them to the station. At the time, this really annoyed me! Shouldn’t all police cars be able to transport electric wheelchairs? But now I look back on this and I guess it was a good thing as I got off scot-free!

A group of festival goers (some in electric wheelchairs) pose for the camera
A sunny selfie of Kelly and friends at a music festival

End the Awkward is returning and we want to change even more attitudes around disability.

Got a really awkward story? We’d love to hear about it! Has anyone ever tried to avoid you or acted totally awkwardly around you? Tell us your story today.

“You’re very well dressed for a blind person” Fashioneyesta, the fashion blogger

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Emily Davison, also known as Fashioneyesta, is a Master’s Degree Student, Journalist, Writer, YouTuber and Blogger. She also happens to be visually impaired and works with a Guide Dog. Emily’s goal is to change perceptions of disability with her writing and love for making videos.

At 4pm today, Emily is doing a Facebook Live video Q and A. She’ll be talking and answering questions about fashion and beauty, writing, vlogging, attitudes and more. Here’s a little preview.

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As a fashion blogger, I get a lot of comments about my appearance

People will say “you’re very well dressed for a blind person.” As if anyone with a visual impairment – simply because they lack sight – cannot have a conception of style, beauty or looking good, which is of course not true.

Style is a form of expression and it depends on passion and imagination and not on your level of vision. As a visually impaired person I appreciate clothes from the fabrics and embroidery used, to the outline of the garment and how it makes me feel when I wear it. I interact with style based on a number of different senses.

There are many different visually impaired people, who appreciate clothes for their shape, quality and attention to detail. After all, fashion is a creative outlet and is not exclusive to one set of individuals.

 Young woman hugging her guide dog

Emily also starred in our awkward moments film introduced by Warwick Davis

Every day I come across many misconceptions towards my disability and in turn I usually find myself in front of my camera or typing away at my laptop discussing these with my followers.

I was keen to take part in Scope’s End the Awkward campaign – to represent the sight loss community and to show that sight loss does not equate to ignorance, being unfashionable or being stereotyped.

Emily would love to hear from you. Tune in to our Facebook page at 4pm with your questions at the ready!

Emily is part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

“Sex can be awkward if you are hard of hearing” #100days100stories

Jennie Williams, director of disability charity Enhance the UK, shares her awkward sex and dating moments as part of our End the Awkward campaign. Two thirds of people who are not disabled feel awkward around disabled people. We want to put an end to this, break down barriers and maybe even fall in love.

Update: Jennie’s story has inspired Malteaser’s to create an advert based on her story. Watch the advert on Youtube.

Jennie Williams, founder of Enhance the UK
Jennie is the founder of charity Enhance the UK

I have degenerative hearing loss, which is believed to be linked to a heart condition I have called long QT, also known as sudden death syndrome.

For communicating, I wear two hearing aids which I rely on a lot. I am also an extremely good lip reader and use British Sign Language (BSL).

People tend to associate hard of hearing with old people, so people often say to me, “Oh, yeah, my Nan wears a hearing aid, we shout at her. I think she has selected hearing… Chuckle chuckle.” I would be a very rich woman if I had a pound for every time I heard that, and yep, I mean ‘heard that’ because I can still hear things.

Telling people about my disability

When I am at work, I tell people from the off that I am hard of hearing and for them to please look at me when they are speaking to me or keep their hands away from their mouths. When I am in a social situation, however, things can be very different for me.

I tend to just struggle on a lot of the time, laugh when everyone else is laughing, strain to keep up and, even worse still, I apologise. I guess I don’t want to embarrass people and make them feel like they are not including me.

Dating with a hearing impairment

There can be some real perks of dating someone with a hearing impairment – we can get you into the theatre for free or cheap – same with the train. A lot of us can lip-read conversations that you were never meant to know about and get all the gossip. Winning!

Though dating someone with hearing loss can be awkward at times. When you are getting down to things and having a good old snog, the last thing you want is your hearing aids whistling every time the hot man – in my mind he is always hot – puts his fingers through your hair.

And then your aids end up flying out of your ears, onto the floor and the dog runs in and eats one of them. That is a true story, killed the moment I can tell you.

My favourite awkward date

I was single, living in London and looking for a boyfriend, so I did what many people do – I joined a dating site. I was chatting to a guy who looked cute and we had a bit of banter by email.

We met on the South Bank and went onto one of the boats on the river and had a drink. We chatted about work as you do. I may or may not have been twisting my hair and trying to make my lips look all pouty and thinking, ‘I really fancy this guy.’

I went to get my lip gloss from my bag and out fell both of my hearing aid batteries. They are really small and the guy said, “what on earth do they power?” I explained my hearing loss and he replied, “why do deaf people do this?”

Cut to him waving his hands in the air, scrunching his face up with the tongue in his bottom lip making weird groaning sounds. I thought about throwing my drink in his face but that would have been childish, and a waste of a drink, so I explained about British Sign Language and the culture behind it.

I don’t think he got it at all but he was embarrassed. He didn’t know what to say, so he offered to take me for a ride on his massive motorbike – not a euphemism – around London and buy me dinner. I am very shallow.

My next favourite subject… sex

Sex is great. But it can be a little awkward if you are hard of hearing and someone is trying to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. You can mishear totally which results in jumping up, turning on the lights and saying, “you want to do what to me?!” Again, true story, and I won’t tell you what I thought he was saying.

When I was younger I was having a fling with someone who was deaf and we always had to have sex by the door in case his olds came in. Or we would put towels down against the door to try and block it from being opened, but always having one eye open just in case. Real romance.

Undressing disability

Jennie with her partner Jonno and a dog
Jennie and her partner Jonno

I started the campaign Undressing Disability three years ago.

It’s about challenging misconceptions around disability and ensuring that better access to sexual health, sexual awareness and sex education is granted to disabled people.

Most people I know and talk to want a loving relationship, to feel loved and to love. Any sense of intimacy between two people who care about one another is so important. Even if it’s a one night stand – let’s face it, most of us have not only slept with people we ‘love.’

We all want to be found attractive and sexual relationships are the most natural thing in the world. Sadly, Scope’s new research shows that that only five per cent of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out, or been on a date with, a disabled person.

Am I surprised by this? No, of course I am not. Am I motivated to keep pushing the campaign until these statistics change? You bet I am!

Help us End the Awkward this Valentine’s Day.

Find out how you can get involved in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign

Find out more about Enhance the UK on their website.

“So, did you walk into town? Oh! I meant ‘wheel into town’ – well, you know what I mean…”

Guest post from Zoe Lloyd, a disability awareness trainer with Enhance the UK.

Disability awareness trainer Zoe LloydWell, this is awkward. As a wheelchair user, I have been in this kind of situation many times. Personally I don’t find it awkward,
but I’m pretty sure the person who says it wants the ground to swallow them up.

When trying to talk to a disabled person, lots of people feel hyper-aware about the words they are using, and worry about saying the wrong thing.

It really doesn’t have to be this way – most disabled people I know don’t have a massive chip on their shoulder about language and terminology and can laugh about things. (Obviously offensive language and derogatory remarks are another matter).

I’ve also experienced the ‘does she take sugar?’ scenario. I had been going to the same hairdresser for years. But when I became a wheelchair user, suddenly one of the workers couldn’t look at me and had to ask my mum how I liked my tea!

To think she had known me before, yet the fact I was sitting in a wheelchair made her act differently towards me, was quite hard to understand.

No wonder, then, that some strangers in the street find it hard to meet your eyes.

I am a trainer for Enhance the UK, a charity which – among other things – delivers disability awareness training to schools and workplaces.  All of our trainers are disabled, and we are successful, fun, positive people.   We make our training fun and interactive – and as honest as possible. We can give candid answers from our own personal experience and help people challenge their fears, concerns and awkwardness around disability.

Most fear is a product of ignorance, and we hope our training helps people to look past their colleagues/pupils/clients’ disability and see them for who they are as a person.

Honest, open communication with disabled colleagues is far better than making assumptions. That way we can get over any awkwardness within minutes, rather than worry about it for months.

And stumbling over those everyday phrases usually makes things more awkward rather than less. For example, people have said to us that they’ve felt bad after saying things like ‘Do you see what I mean?’ to a blind person.

Maybe over time, you might end up avoiding such phrases automatically with your blind colleague – but if you forget, it’s fine!

The greater inclusion of disabled people on TV over the past few years has helped show people that disability isn’t something to be scared of. Channel 4’s The Last Leg is a perfect example. Barriers are being broken down, and long may that continue.

Now, I’m just going to take my dog for a wheel – sorry, a walk.