Tag Archives: campaigning

“This is why I fight to overcome barriers to employment for disabled people.”

Max, a writer and Disability Gamechanger, writes about the challenges he faces finding employment as a person with autism.

I choose to fight for the voices of others on the autistic spectrum. Through my own efforts to find work and my writing, I aim to show that those on the autistic spectrum can play an important role in the workplace and indeed, society.

As someone who has a deep passion for social issues and strongly believes in the concept of society, I want to contribute to society through employment. And yes, I do realise that means paying taxes!

All I need is a bit of patience

Along my personal journey, there have been many positive experiences as well as challenges and people who have believed in me. I recently undertook a placement at a very inclusive and welcoming PR marketing agency in Barry, Wales. Here I was given the patience and understanding to build my confidence and work at my own speed. I am also working part-time with an education technology start-up to help develop kids and adults digital skills.

The main barrier for me in the past, and one which I still sometime face has been interviews. I often struggle to express all my strengths in the pressurised situation that is a job interview, and as a result I feel that employers only see my anxiety.

Though I recognise that verbal communications skills are important in marketing and any other employment sector, I know that once I settle into an environment I can achieve anything I set my mind to! All I need is a bit of patience.

One of the biggest impacts that such barriers have had on me are feelings of isolation and loneliness. I am sure these are feelings which are shared by many others in the disabled community.

A young man smiles with his dog
Max at home with his dog

Everybody has value to add

To achieve progress, I believe there should be a greater focus from employers on what  disabled people can do, not what they may find difficult at first. Just as everyone has their own weaknesses, everybody has value they can add to a team.

Creating an environment where all abilities thrive, enabling a wide range of talent, is key. Similarly, creating interview processes which are flexible and allow this talent to shine, I believe can be a positive step forward.

Take those with autism, for example. We are creative, focused and have attention to detail. These are all positive traits which can be valuable within a team.

By creating more diverse teams, this means that more organisations will have the ability to represent their customers and society. Surely, this is something we can all agree is a good thing.

It is time that we focus on ability, not disability.

Half of disabled people feel excluded from society and many say prejudicial attitudes haven’t improved in decades.

We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, so 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 with 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.

People think there isn’t much prejudice towards disabled people, but this is my daily reality

Our new report, The Disability Perception Gap, reveals the extent of the negative attitudes that are held towards disabled people – and how many non-disabled people don’t realise the scale of the problem.

In this guest blog, Abbi, who has brittle bones, talks about her life as a young disabled woman – which is far from prejudice free – and why it’s vital that the public recognise this.

It’s May 2018, and my friends and I are on a university reunion weekend in Cambridge, dancing the night away in our favourite shabby student nightclub. As always, my being disabled is a practical consideration of the night – my friends are well-trained in lifting my wheelchair up steps, or dancing in a protective circle if the club is particularly crowded – but beyond that, I’m just part of the group.

Until suddenly, I’m not.

First, I notice a group of boys with a phone camera trained on me, laughing. The boy holding the phone turns the screen to his friend, who laughs too. In the centre of the screen is a video of me, dancing. I shrug it off.

Just as I’m beginning to forget the incident, a man leans down to my shoulder. If I were non-disabled, I might think he was going to offer me a drink, or warn me I’ve got my skirt tucked into my knickers, but as a young disabled woman in 2018, I know exactly what’s coming.

“I just want to say,” he shouts, “I think you’re really inspiring…”

Abbi, a young disabled woman, smiles as she sits in her wheechair

I live my life under the scrutiny of strangers

It’s been four years since Scope’s last report on public perceptions of disability, and I’ve been dancing in that Cambridge club for all of them. Perceptions have changed – but not enough. Disabled people continue to be stereotyped either scroungers, raking in benefits without contributing to society; or inspirations, overcoming all odds to bravely struggle to the shops (and maybe winning a few Paralympic medals along the way).

I’ve lost count of the number of times total strangers have unexpectedly started pushing my wheelchair along streets or across roads, apparently never considering how I would have appeared there in the first place, had I not been able to push myself. I’ve been ‘brave’ in supermarkets and ‘inspiring’ at bus stops; I’ve also been ‘faking it’ in a Blue Badge parking space, and ‘milking it’ at a train station.

I live my life under the near-constant scrutiny of strangers – yet, according to Scope’s recent study, only 22 per cent of non-disabled people still feel there is a lot of prejudice against disabled people, compared with 32 per cent of disabled people.

Until people acknowledge the persistence of prejudice, nothing will change

It’s true that, in theory at least, the UK is becoming more disability-friendly. Accessibility information is often clearly advertised on websites for theatres and events; job applications often reference the employer’s commitment to equality; high-profile court cases such as Doug Paulley’s case against FirstGroup suggest that disabled people can go anywhere, achieve anything.

In practice, even where buses and trains are accessible, wheelchair users continue to be refused access because the designated spaces are filled with luggage or pushchairs. Disabled people have to apply to an average of 60% more jobs than non-disabled people. People with invisible disabilities continue to be berated for using accessible services, or reported to fraud prevention hotlines (despite disability benefit fraud rates standing at under 1% – the lowest of any benefit). Even my own doctors are often surprised that my wheelchair is self-funded, wrongly assuming – like many non-disabled people – that the NHS provides appropriate wheelchairs for free.

It’s easy to see how non-disabled people might believe we live in a largely ‘disability-friendly’ country. The reality is starkly different – as disabled people, and their friends and families, know all too well. And until the non-disabled population recognises the persistence of prejudiced or unequal behaviours, attitudes and systems towards their disabled counterparts, it is impossible for the balance to change.

This report is the start of something, not the end. We will be working to better understand how negative attitudes impact on disabled people, and how these can best be tackled.

There’s no single fix for this problem, and as part of our campaign for everyday equality for disabled people, we’d like to hear about your experiences and what you would like to see change.

Will you support our campaign by telling us your experiences?

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.

“Yes I Can, If…” – campaigning for better disability access

Will Pike is a games developer from London whose parody of Channel 4’s Superhumans advert has gone viral with over half a million views. Tens of thousands of people have signed his petition to ask the two high-street chains which feature in the film for better access.

In this blog, he shares the story behind his campaign and talks about the changes he’d like to see as a result. A text description of the video is available at the end of this blog post.

In 2008 I went to India, on the way back home we had a stop over in Mumbai and the hotel I was staying in was attacked by terrorists. 168 people died, my spine was injured I am now paralysed below the waist.

I’ve been in a wheelchair for eight years now and in that time have been through ever emotion under the sun. I have days when I just can’t be arsed with the barriers and negative attitudes. I made this film because too many shops and restaurants are effectively off limits to wheelchair users like myself.

Inspired by the Paralympics

After the London Paralympics I was expecting there to be a big shift in places becoming more accessible but it just hasn’t happened. Two weeks before this year’s games started I approached my friend Heydon Prowse about the idea and he got a team of people together to produce the film. Errol Ettiene directed  it and did an incredible job, the team turned a good idea into a slick, professional-grade commercial.

It tops and tails with Paralympic references because I wanted to show how day to day life can feel like Paralympic event for a wheelchair user. But whilst the whole thing was inspired by the Paralympics, these issues still remain for disabled people now the games have ended. This is bigger then just me having a unique experience, this is a global issue indicative of a massive absence of consideration for disabled people. My experiences aren’t isolated and sharing them makes them more powerful and potent. It turns individual struggles into a social issue.

The film isn’t in any way a criticism of the Superhumans ad, but it could only ever do so much. Channel 4 started a relay race about disability awareness and they passed the baton on. They didn’t know who they were passing it on to, but it just so happened it was me. I’m leveraging the awareness their brilliant ad created to further the message. My film couldn’t exist without theirs and whatever success we get is their success too.

Will sat on a sofa against a brick wall

The petition

I’ve been asked why I chose to focus my petition on American Apparel and Caffè Nero and the honest answer is, it was just their lucky day. We were filming on Tottenham Court Road and it just so happened they were the shops that didn’t have wheelchair access. But it was also important that we didn’t pitch this campaign at one-off shops because whilst they have a responsibility, it’s the big chains that have a major responsibility and the ones who are neglecting their civic duty. It could also have a domino effect across all their stores.

It’s not that people are fundamentally thoughtless, it’s just that it’s simply not in the social conscience to be considering these things. It’s only when someone comes along and questions access that things will change.

The people I spoke to in the film felt bad and wanted to help but they are purely innocent in this whole thing. It’s the companies they work for who are responsible for disability access and inclusivity. It’s irresponsible to expect hapless shop assistants to have to deal with that situation. I hope American Apparel and Caffè Nero can see it from that perspective too, it will protect their staff from these embarrassing and awkward situations that they shouldn’t have to go through.

Reasonable adjustments

The Equality Act states that all buildings and public places have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled people are not disadvantaged when accessing their services.

However, in terms of holding public places accountable, it’s actually down to the customers and patrons of that establishment to draw attention to their inadequacies. If that premises doesn’t then do something about their lack of access or facilities, that person is then responsible to bring them to court. Which basically means that all those people with disability – who may or may not have had their benefits cut, or are finding it difficult to gain employment, or even struggling to leave the house – are the ones who must embark on an inevitably time-consuming and costly legal case.

We really hope that this film, though aimed at Caffé Nero and American Apparel, is able to shine a light upon a flawed and, frankly, ridiculous system. It should not be the responsibility of each and every disabled person to flag up a high street chain; it should be the responsibility of the Government and Councils to assess disability access, educate businesses, and ensure funding is in place for reasonable adjustments.

People may think little things like step-free access won’t make a difference to the majority of the population, but it makes a massive difference for a selective few which in turn has a positive influence on the relationships we have with non-disabled people. In turn the whole community will be accessible and better for everyone. And that’s where the #AccessForEveryone hashtag came from.

Will in his wheelchair outside a restaurant where there's a step

What’s next?

We just have to wait and see! I haven’t been contacted by Caffè Nero or American Apparel, but I wonder whether someone is going to bring it to the big bosses. One way I’d like that conversation to go is that the big boss turns round and says: “Are you telling me we haven’t got step free access in our Tottenham Court Road branch?! Right, heads are gonna roll!” That’s far fetched but I am an optimist at heart.

Both brands have a real opportunity to turn this bad situation good by handling it well. If they acknowledge they were wrong and make changes they can come out of this smelling of roses and will get so much good publicity from this. I will be giving them every chance to handle this magnanimously, with humility, and with a real ownership. But if they don’t, we will do everything we can to highlight their ineptitude.

They really can lose a lot of business because of this. Some people have been commenting saying they will boycott these shops until they make a change and if that becomes the consensus, if that becomes the rallying cry, then together we can change a lot.

You can visit change.org to sign the petition or follow Will’s progress.

Will’s story is also a great example of disabled people being ‘bold and loud’ as consumers – something called for by the Extra Costs Commission. Led by Scope, this was an independent inquiry that looked at ways to drive down the additional costs faced by disabled people. Next month a report will be published reviewing progress with the Commission’s recommendations for tackling extra costs.

Video description: Paralympics billboard, zooms into the word “superhuman”. Alarm clock turns to 7.00am. Man laid in bed opens his eyes, sits up, and smiles. He spins around his bedroom in his wheelchair. Plays plastic toy trumpet. Dances into the bathroom. Sits in the show, miming the lyrics into the shower head. Puts a shirt on, grabs his hat with a reaching tool. Leaves his house, flipping hat onto his head. Wheels down the a busy high street. Tries to enter Caffè Nero, wheels crash into a step. Tries to enter Pizza Express and speaks to a waitress about accessible toilet facilities. Does a wheelie and dances down the street. Goes into American Apparel and talks to staff member. Wheels into a pub, stops himself at a flight of stairs. Then wheels down the ramp, sits with a friend both clinking their pint glasses. Text reads “Leaving the house can feel like a paralympic event for wheelchair users. change.org/accessforeveryone”.

I want people to have a say in the future of our country

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Alice is a keen campaigner and star of our Scope for Change training program.

As part of 30 Under 30, she shares her experiences of the program, how it has given her the confidence to run her own campaigns and why it is important that everyone uses their vote in the EU referendum.

I’ve been interested in activism ever since my dad introduced me to grassroots politics as a kid. He took me to my first demo when I was twelve years old and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I love the way direct action works, how it unapologetically demands our voices be heard. Change will never come about whilst we are unwilling to engage in the system, despite how broken it may be. Direct action gives us the opportunity to challenge and offer an alternative.

Alice, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera with her dad

Getting the tools I needed

I had never organised my own campaign until I joined Scope For Change. I applied to the program last year and I was over the moon when I found out I had been accepted. We are a group of twenty-two young disabled people all interested in activism.

In March we attended a ‘bootcamp’ where we had extensive training on how to run a successful campaign. We were taught a wide range of tactics from how to utilise social media to getting the support of politicians. This training not only gave me the tools I needed, but also the confidence!

Running my own campaign

Currently I am running a campaign to encourage people in my neighbourhood to vote in the EU referendum. Engaging people in politics is something that I am passionate about. Too many people bury their heads in the sand and become ever increasingly apathetic. I can understand why this happens, I too have little faith in our current political system.

However, I believe referendums give the electorate a rare chance to participate in a form of direct democracy and we should be excited about this opportunity!

Our community is one which doesn’t have much of a voice in society. We live in social housing and the vast majority of us can’t find work because we are disabled. We are often judged and not listened to.

The aim of my campaign has not been to tell people how to vote but to empower them to go out and exercise their democratic right. I wanted people to know that not only does their opinion matter, but that it is significant and can make a difference.

A pile of leaflets relating to the EU referendum. They say "Should we stay or should we go?"

A unique opportunity to have a say in the future of our country

Over the last few weeks I have made hundreds of leaflets and posters explaining how to register to vote and why it is so important to do this. I have printed these in a large font and on coloured paper to make them as accessible as possible. Two of my lovely neighbours have been wonderful and helped me deliver these. I have assisted people to sign up who would have otherwise struggled to do this independently. Door knocking has also played a big part as some people are unable to read English, this has sparked conversations and it’s been interesting to hear how people are voting and why.

Throughout my campaign I have emphasised that we will not be voting to elect someone to represent us, but are being asked a direct question. Should we remain in the EU or should we leave? This is a unique opportunity to have a say in the future of our country and we should embrace this.

On 23 June, I have arranged a meeting place for local people to gather at various times throughout the day. We will be walking to the polling station and voting together. I believe this will encourage people, especially those who are unsure where the polling station is or are unfamiliar with the process. I know some of my disabled neighbours will really struggle to do this independently and my hope is that voting collectively will provide the support they need.

I have always been an activist, but Scope have given me the confidence I needed to run my own campaigns and I can’t thank them enough for this gift. I plan to run many more in the future which I hope will be as successful as this one promises to be!

Alice is sharing her story as part of 30 Under 30. We are sharing one story a day throughout June from disabled people who are doing something extraordinary. Visit our website to read the stories so far.

Are you voting in the EU referendum? We want disabled people to have a clear understanding of their voting rights and options. Read our blog about voting and elections for more information.

From Nike to Manchester United, brands are listening to disabled people

There have never been so many different ways to influence decision-making at all levels of society. Social media allows disabled consumers to have a direct conversation with brands and companies. They are taking notice.

Manchester United

Martin Emery is a life-long Manchester United fan and a father to three sons. Zac who is five years old, Ethan who is seven and Jordan who is now 18.

Jordan has a number of medical conditions, which means he has learning difficulties, has many seizures a day and uses a wheelchair.

Martin and two boys outside Old TraffordMartin was initially told by Manchester United that he couldn’t seat his family together, and Jordan could only have one carer with him.

Things then got worse before they got better.

A club official emailed Martin to say: “there are some clubs that would welcome you with open arms and possibly ask you to bring as many family members as possible, the downside is it wouldn’t be at Old Trafford, most probably Rochdale, Oldham or Stockport”.

Undeterred, he set up a campaign and website United Discriminates and kicked it off in a blog a year ago.

Read Martin’s blog on the campaign.

The good news is that by the end of last season United had constructed a new accessible seating area for disabled fans, families and friends.

Consumers speaking out

Iconic high-street brand M&S recently launched an online range of bodysuits, sleep suits and vests with poppers in additional larger sizes. That was on the back of a Rita Kutt, the grandmother of a three-year-old Caleb, who has cerebral palsy, contacting the retailer. Read the discussion Rita set up on Scope’s online community.

They had difficulty finding clothes to fit him, as he uses nappies and is fed through a tube in his stomach.

Caleb’s family then set up a Facebook page called M&S and Me: Special Needs Clothing for Children, which now has more than 4,500 members.

When M&S wanted to test their new designs we arranged for parents from our Scope community to trial some sample sizes with their children. Their feedback helped to shape the products.

The new range of clothes cost between £3 and £7, cheaper than similar items of clothing for disabled children currently available in the market.

The influence of social media is growing

Social media allows individual consumers to have a direct conversation with brands. Nike developed an easy grip trainer in response to an open letter from a 16 year-old boy with cerebral palsy.

Lego introduced disabled characters after they were contacted by Toy Like Me, a Facebook campaign run by a disabled mum, who realised that there weren’t enough toys representing disabled people and children.

A growing number of businesses are taking action in response to the Extra Costs Commission, an independent inquiry that last year found daily life costs more on average for disabled people. In response to the report, ride-sharing app Uber launched UberAssist in the UK, a service that allows disabled passengers to call specially trained drivers.

Thinking about what disabled consumers need makes sound commercial sense

There are over 11 million disabled people in the UK and their spending power is over £200 billion a year.

In February, ticketing agent The Ticket Factory following complaints from disabled customers upgraded its booking system to allow disabled people to buy tickets.

Barclays Bank has launched a new portal on its website that supports businesses to make their services and products more accessible to disabled people.

What we need now is even more companies to listen to disabled consumers and recognise the power of the purple pound. Let us know in the comments below if you’ve come across any brands going the extra mile for their disabled customers. 

New year, new goals: what change will you make in 2016?

Have you given up already on all those New Year resolutions you made?  Here is one promise which we can help you fulfill: help change the world in 2016 by applying to our campaign network Scope for Change.  There is only a few days left before applications close so what are you waiting for?

We usually find ourselves searching for ways to lose weight and promise to get fit,  learn another language or finally get around to clearing out that store cupboard which makes us want to scream each time we open it to cram yet another unwanted household item inside.

Be realistic

My own  goal for 2016 is to try a new experience each month. I have to admit to taking the easy option at times so each of my new experiences don’t necessarily involve vigorous exercise!  It may be visiting a new place or learning a new skill without having to put too much pressure on myself. Whatever happens, 2016 won’t be dull.

You never know where campaigning will take you

Sulaiman posing for a photo with Baroness CampbellOne of the things I love most about my job in campaigning is the exciting challenges and opportunities I have to work on exciting in innovative campaigns such as Scope’s A-Z of sex and disability  which had me Tweeting all manner of content that I never thought I’d be doing.  This is the wonderful thing about campaigning, you  can never tell where it will take you.

Change your world in 2016

I love a challenge, and we are sure you do too.  This is why Scope is offering campaigners who are passionate about disability equality issues and aged between 18 and 25, the opportunity to learn new skills and improve your existing campaigning tactics.

Our Scope for Change campaigns network will offer you training on the best use of film, social media, story telling, Blogging, Vlogging, tactics, strategy and planning to make your campaigns stand out from the crowd.

You will also be supported throughout the course by expert campaigners and be supported by  Mentor who will offer support and advice throughout your campaigning journey.

2016 is the year to make that change in your world  so please apply to join us on this exciting adventure.  Who knows where it might lead? The applications close on 17 January, so what are you waiting for?  Who knows it might lead?

“Dignity is for everyone, everywhere, always”

It’s the summer holidays, so plenty of time for family trips! But what if you can’t go anywhere, because you won’t be able to use the loo?

Changing Places campaigns on behalf of disabled people who can’t use standard accessible toilets. They need changing places toilets which are publicly accessible with enough space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist. Here Sarah, a campaigner for Changing Places explains why it’s so important. 

I’ve been a Changing Places campaigner for four years. I became involved in the campaign after taking a young woman with profound and multiple learning disabilities I supported on a flight, only to realise that there was nowhere to change her once we arrived at the airport. I am a learning disability nurse and fighting the corner for people with a learning disability is something I do every day. I find no other campaign more worthy of my time.

Changing Places are fighting for the most basic of rights, the right to use the toilet. That’s right, there are many people out there, who daily, are being denied this right. Over 250,000 people in the UK need a changing place. A changing place differs from a standard disabled toilet as they are publicly accessible with enough space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist.

Two images, on showing a father with his disabled child lying on a mat on a toilet floor, and one with a mum helping her disabled child in a hoist in a much larger changing room
On the left, Alfie and his Dad having no choice but to use the toilet floor. On the right, Margaret and her daughter Julie use a changing place. Photos by Clos-o-mat. 

Karen says “it’s impossible to go out, because of the lack of changing places, my son is too heavy for me to lift even try changing him on a floor of a disabled toilet is impossible.”

Often without a changing place families and carers have no option but to change their loved ones wherever they can, and often this will be on a toilet floor.

Margaret, a Changing Places campaigner says, “It’s changed my daughter’s life and mine. She can’t stand or walk so can’t get onto a toilet. We had to lie her on wet, smelly, dirty toilet floors. At airports we had to change her on baby changing room floors, the immigration room floor and the prayer room floor. It was more than a mother could tolerate, so I made it my ambition to change things.”

Our request is simple. For larger businesses to join our cause and install a changing place. Often without a changing place families do not go somewhere simply because they cannot. Would you go out knowing the second you needed the toilet you would have to come back home?

A big bright clean changing places room with a hoist, changing bed, toilet and chairs
The changing places facilities at East Midlands airport. Photos by Clos-o-mat. 

Businesses are not just missing out on the quarter of a million people who need these facilities, but are also missing out on the support and custom of their families, friends and carers. As the Extra Costs Commission report recommends, businesses need to listen to and understand the needs of disabled consumers, and recognise the power of the purple pound. They might just find that they could reap the rewards.

I’ve been running the Facebook page behind Changing Places since 2011 voluntarily. We are a community of campaigners, families, carers and more importantly people who are in desperate need of these facilities themselves. We fight daily for dignity, accessibility, and equality, but I do wonder why in 2015 this is still a battle. Please join us in making the world a better place for the most vulnerable people in our society; dignity is for everyone, everywhere, always.

The UK has 750 changing places, and counting.

Have you had any similar experiences? Or have you used a changing place? How did you find it? 

Our kiss caused a car crash #EndTheAwkward

A kiss, a snog, a smooch, a smacker: whatever you call it, kissing really does make the world go round. But if you’re disabled, kissing can be seriously awkward.  

We talked to Marie about what happens when she puckers up in public with her husband Dan. Marie’s story is shared as part of Scope’s End the Awkward campaign

Marie and Dan smiling at the camera on their wedding day
Marie and Dan on their wedding day

So here’s the scene. Dan and I had just started dating. It was midnight and we were on the way home from the pub, holding hands. Dan’s into astronomy so we stopped to look at the stars. What could be more romantic on a beautiful evening? A kiss seemed like the natural thing to do. After a moment, I became aware that a police car was driving past very slowly.

The officer was staring out of the window – eyes on sticks – like we were committing some kind of crime. He was concentrating so hard on us that he ended up mounting the pavement and crashing into a street sign. We couldn’t believe it! A few seconds later we heard the wail of the sirens and he sped off, clearly embarrassed.

We have to laugh, we really do

We still laugh about that incident now. We have to laugh – if we took these things too seriously it could start to mess with our heads. I can’t tell you the number of times people have bumped into lampposts or tripped over on the street because they are too busy staring at me. I can only assume the stares are because they are weirded out by disabled people.

There’s this assumption that we should all be lumped together in some big institution and not let out in public. So when they see us, they can’t quite believe their eyes that a guy who isn’t disabled could have fallen in love with me.

Marie pushes her baby's pushchair along using her wheelchair and Dan walks alongside
A day out in the country with their baby, Mark

A couple of months ago, Dan and I were somewhere, I can’t remember where. We were minding our own business, when we overheard a lady in her 50s talking to her friend about us. She said, “That just isn’t right, she’s the size of a child”. It hit us quite hard, Dan especially. Being seen as a paedophile simply because you’re holding hands with your wife… well, it’s awful isn’t it?

We often hear people making noises when we’re affectionate, like “ugh, what are they doing?” It should be fairly obvious, right? People don’t blink an eyelid if they see any other couple kissing in the street but because I’m in a wheelchair and Dan’s not, we become an immediate target.

If Dan and I aren’t being affectionate, it’s a different story. Trying to convince people he’s my husband takes some doing. One time, a hospital consultant asked me if Dan was my dad! When I said no, she presumed he was my brother, then my uncle, and finally my carer. I let her go on and on before she petered out. It’s that absolute assumption that because I’m disabled I couldn’t possibly have a love interest.

Marie and Dan sit on their sofa, cuddling baby Mark
Family time at home

It is an interesting British prudishness, I think. On the continent no-one seems to give it a second thought. On a trip to Holland, we booked a disabled hotel room and got a complimentary bottle of wine and chocolates left on the bed. In the UK, we usually get two single beds in a disabled room, or a single bed and a pull-out bed for the ‘carer’.

If you’re reading this on International Kissing Day, I hope you get to kiss someone you love today. I’ll definitely be kissing my hubby. And I won’t care if people look because I’m in love and I’m happy.

Read more awkward storiesDo you have an awkward story to share? Submit your awkward stories, and we’ll publish our favourites on our blog and social media. 

Find out more about how Scope is ending the awkward this summer.