Tag Archives: Campaigns

Our new report shows disabled people still face negative attitudes

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.

The way other people act towards us can have a huge impact on how we view ourselves and our role in society. An occasional moment of rudeness or being ignored may be a minor inconvenience or annoyance. But the more it happens, the more the impact adds up.

For many disabled people, this will sound all too familiar. Whether it’s outright hostility, or seemingly minor incidents that add up to a hostile atmosphere, prejudice remains a common occurrence. Negative attitudes from others can be one of the biggest barrier to disabled people living life the way they want, and more needs to be done to tackle them.

The research in this report was carried out on behalf of Scope by the National Centre for Social Research as part of the annual British Social Attitudes Survey.

What is the Perception Gap

According to our new research released today, one in three disabled people still feel that there’s a lot of prejudice against disabled people. But only one in five non-disabled people think the same. This is what we’re calling the disability perception gap.

It may seem self-evident that disabled people face prejudice, but many non-disabled people do not understand the scale of the negative attitudes towards disability.

Some difference wouldn’t be surprising – disabled people have to live with this prejudice every day, whereas non-disabled people may only ever know about it second hand.

But this gap is growing. In 2000, there was only a slight difference between the views of disabled and non-disabled people when it came to disability prejudice. Over the last 20 years, however, the gap has trebled.

Illustration of the gap in perception between disabled and non-disabled people
“The gap between disabled and non-disabled people’s views of prejudice has trebled since 2000” – Disability Perception Gap

There is now a real danger that many non-disabled people think that disability prejudice has been tackled long before it has been, which could block further attempts to improve the situation. Instead of this complacency, we need to make sure that the experiences of disabled people are listened to and put at the heart of any programme designed to address negative and harmful attitudes.

Being close to disability can help

When it comes to improving understanding, it seems that nothing beats personal contact with a disabled person. Whether it’s a colleague, a friend or a family member, having a relationship with a disabled person makes a real difference to non-disabled people’s attitudes.

For example, 10 percent of people who claim not to know any disabled people think of disabled people as ‘getting in the way’ some of the time – an opinion held by only 3 percent of people with a disabled colleague.

However, a third of the population claim not to know a single disabled person. This means that their views on disability are far more likely to be based on stereotypes than any knowledge of what life is like for a disabled person.

Any attempt to improve attitudes will have to increase people’s understanding of what it means to be disabled, and the challenges that disabled people face on a daily basis.

Driving change

To do this requires a concerted effort across society to tackle prejudice and negative attitudes towards disabled people. This should include a variety of spaces; from the classroom to the boardroom, and all points in between.

This is why we are calling for efforts to get more disabled people into work to be amplified. With only 7 percent of people saying they have a disabled colleague, a million more disabled people in work could make a real difference to people’s views of disability and disabled people.

It’s why we’re calling on the media to do more to ensure that disabled people and their experiences are properly represented on screen. By supporting disabled talent, they can show what it means to be disabled in 2018.

Such efforts on their own will help, but they won’t be sufficient. We need a coherent approach to improving attitudes across all areas of life. Earlier this week the Government announced a new working group to look at the issues facing disabled people.

We’re calling on this group, and the rest of Government, to take prejudice seriously and launch a new cross-departmental disability strategy, focussed on improving attitudes and reducing prejudice towards disabled people.

What comes next?

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?

“I don’t want pity, I want you to do something about it” – my experience of disability hate crime

We’re pleased to see Changing Faces’ new campaign which aims to raise awareness of disability hate crime. The campaign tells the stories of people who have experienced abuse because of their appearance and gives advice on how to get help. In this blog, Gem shares her own experiences.

I’m really happy to see the new campaign by Changing Faces on disability hate crime. Hate crime happens to disabled people all the time. People think they can get away with it because it’s not taken seriously and even if you know how to report it, it gets tiring when nothing really changes.

I hope this campaign raises some much-needed awareness and gives people the confidence and the resources they need to report a hate crime.

My own experiences of hate crime

Recently, I was at work eating lunch in the cafeteria and I noticed three men looking at me. I’m used to stares so I fobbed it off, but then I noticed one of the men had his phone out and he was clearly taking photos of me and smirking at his friends. I started to feel a bit sick.

They got up to leave and as they were walking by I shouted, “Excuse me”. The guy that was taking pictures ran off but his friends came over and I asked them “Was your friend taking pictures of me?” – they said no but I could tell that he had been.

I was really upset but I acted as if I wasn’t bothered. When I got back to work, I reported it because I would hate for it to happen to anyone else. My employer handled it really well and helped me report it as a hate crime.

They went through CCTV and tried to catch the people but they couldn’t find them. I don’t mind that they weren’t caught, the reaction of my employers was enough for me. I was grateful that they took it so seriously.

Gem smiling, in her wheelchair, with a handbag on th side

Changing Faces reports that on average there are 67,000 disability related hate crimes every year.

It’s likely to be much higher – their survey found that only 30% of  respondents who had experienced hate crime reported it to the police, and many people don’t even realise it’s a hate crime.

Hate crime really affects your life

Incidents like this might not seem like a big thing to some people but it had such an effect on me. I’m trying to get over it but I’m still nervous around people and I’m looking around me more vigilantly. It’s annoying, I’m not usually like that. It’s something I’m warier of now, especially with the rise of social media.

Someone taking photos of you is embarrassing and it’s intimidating. Those photos could have gone anywhere online. It just baffles me that people could do that to someone just because of your appearance.

There’s the classic attitude that ‘little people are funny’ and I don’t understand it. There’s not enough diverse representation in the media. If people only see little people doing comedy, it creates the attitude that it’s okay to laugh at disabled people.

People also shout at me all the time, on the street. They say, “Oi midget”, things like that, especially on nights out when people are drunk.

I’ve also had taxi drivers physically try to yank my wheelchair out of their taxi when I’ve already said to them “Please don’t touch me, please don’t touch my chair”. I’ve got brittle bones so I have to be careful. It had me in tears. He wouldn’t do that to someone not in a wheelchair. I can’t believe that people aren’t aware that things like that are a hate crime.

Gem smiles at the camera in her wheelchair in an office

I don’t want pity, I want you to do something about it

Even if people do know they’ve experienced a hate crime, they haven’t got enough support to report things. And when I reported my incident, I got sent loads of leaflets about hate crime – but it’s a bit late after it’s happened. It’s quite dangerous that it’s still happening and there’s no real acknowledgement in society that it’s wrong or a plan to tackle it.

Changing Faces’ research found that only 18% of people believed that the police would deal with a hate crime effectively if they reported it.

If I tell people about it and I’m upset, they’ll be like “Oh bless”, but I don’t want to be pitied, I want you to do something about it. People aren’t aware of how to deal with these complaints. The people we’re reporting to need educating on what it’s like and how to deal with it.

I’m not asking for special treatment, I just want to be treated like everyone else.

Read stories, support the campaign and share your own experiences on Twitter @FaceEquality.

If you’ve experienced hate crime, you can find out about reporting hate crime on Changing Faces’ website.

If you’re disabled, finding a job can be a difficult and disappointing experience – help us change that

Josh is 32 and lives in London. He is supporting Scope and Virgin Media‘s new campaign Work With Me, which aims to bring about real change, to ensure that disabled people who can and want to work, are given the same opportunities as everyone else. 

I graduated with a degree in Politics and International Relations in 2011, then I moved back to London and primarily looked for jobs in public administration. I’ve had a lot of voluntary opportunities but only two paid jobs.

I suppose, like many disabled people, I’ve found it difficult to go through the traditional channels. I’ve done countless interviews and applications but only had probably one or two interview opportunities from that. I think a lot of my work experience has been down to sheer perseverance.

I feel like the whole process of finding work and applying for jobs is so stressful for disabled people. There were days when it was terrible. You’re just sending loads and loads of messages but getting no response other than the standard email just sent by the system.

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. Also on average, disabled people apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people when searching for a job. For me, it’s been a really difficult and disappointing experience.

Barriers to work

Behind any possible opportunity that I might get, there are always considerations that non-disabled people don’t have to concern themselves with. I’m always looking for opportunities but those opportunities need to physically work for me and there don’t seem to be many of them. I felt really supported in my last job but one of the reasons I left was that the travel was just impossible.

Support from the Jobcentre doesn’t really work for disabled people because it’s a very standard process, they’re not offering bespoke support. Sometimes you go to these places and their advice is just to do things that you’re already doing. Most of the time I made my way there for a face-to-face appointment and they would just ask, “How is your job search going?”  – just the basic questions.

The disability advisor in one Jobcentre was so good but that support wasn’t available in every Jobcentre. It just seems to be luck whether you get one. Having someone who could look at things from my point of view really helped. Sometimes, it was just having somebody to actually talk to who understood.

Attitudes can be a barrier too. Scope’s new research found that 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.

Personally, I’ve felt quite intimidated bringing up my adjustment needs with potential employers because you just think “Well, if they find somebody who can do the typical 9-5, they’ll go for them.”

Work With Me

The latest Government figures show there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to work but are currently unemployed. I think that’s a real scandal and a real loss of potential.

That’s why I’m supporting Work With Me – a three-year initiative by Scope and Virgin Media which aims to understand and tackle the barriers disabled people face getting into and staying in work.

The campaign is inviting members of the public, employers and Government to work together to address these issues more quickly. So join me in supporting this campaign to ensure that disabled people who can and want to work aren’t denied the opportunity any longer.

Be part of making change happen, find out more on our website and share #WorkWithMe on your social media networks.

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 wish I could just ring up an insurance company and get a quote like everybody else!

Disabled people often struggle to access affordable insurance. Our research shows that 26 per cent of disabled adults feel they have been charged more for insurance or denied cover altogether because of their impairment or condition. Actress and disability campaigner Samantha Renke, who has brittle bones, shares her experiences.

Whenever I go abroad, travel insurance is always an issue. Given the nature of my impairment, and the high cost of wheelchairs, I wouldn’t dare go on holiday without it. Unfortunately, the lengthy process and the extortionate costs are something else.

Companies ask me the most intrusive questions

When I phone up to buy insurance, I have to go through a 30 to 40 minute interview. They’re not medical professionals at the end of the line but they probe into my health: Are you suicidal? Are you on medication? Have you had operations?

It’s such a lengthy process. You feel anxious. You feel interrogated. It really infuriates me because non-disabled people don’t have to disclose their mental state. Non-disabled people don’t have to disclose how much alcohol they’re going to consume. Why should disabled people be interrogated?

With brittle bones I get asked if I have scoliosis, a condition where the spine twists and curves to the side. My spine has been straightened and there is no issue, but this isn’t taken into consideration.

Black and white profile shot of Sam Renke smiling
Samantha is supporting our campaign for better access to insurance

My travel insurance is almost as much as my flights

Then the final quote I receive is through the roof. When I went to Mexico for two weeks the quote came out at nearly £500, which was nearly as much as my flights.

I’ve always been able to find a way to pay the extortionate cost for travel insurance, but I know a lot of people wouldn’t manage.  I wouldn’t go on holiday otherwise – I just wouldn’t risk it.

Ironically, I tend to be more vigilant on holiday

The irony is, with me having brittle bones, I’m not going to get on a jet ski! Disabled people on holiday are more likely to be hyper-vigilant because you’re not in your comfort zone.

I think attitudes towards seeing disabled people as ‘high risk’ needs to stop. Anyone can have accidents on holiday, anyone could die on holiday. What’s the justification for the high prices?

Hopefully things will change and disabled people will be able to ring up any old insurance company and get a quote like everybody else!

Join us in calling for better access to insurance for disabled people. Find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved.

We want to find out more about disabled people’s experiences of purchasing insurance. Please get in touch to share your story.

For National Storytelling Week – help us champion books that feature disability

Here at Scope, stories are central to everything we do. For National Storytelling Week we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate authentic stories and calling on publishers and authors to improve the representation of disability in literature. Read on to find out about all our activities so far and what we plan to do next.

Why tell stories?

Great stories have the power to connect us, to raise awareness, to make people feel and act. They’re at the heart of everything we do at Scope and they have a huge role to play in achieving social change. Few people are moved by statistics or facts, but when you hear someone’s personal story it can have a powerful impact.

Stories tell us things we didn’t know before; they show us other ways of living, other experiences, other views on the world. They can also make us feel less alone by showing us people like us and stories like ours – happy ending or not.

Telling authentic stories

At Scope, every story is told by the storyteller themselves – we’re just the ‘caretakers’, if you like. Although we interview people about their experiences, the stories we share are always in first person and completely in the storyteller’s own words. And they always have the final say – we never interview and run! We hope this builds trust and shows just how much we value them.

We work with storytellers to share their stories in lots of different ways. This could be anything from a policy report – using real experiences to bring our influencing to life, at events, in fundraising materials, in films and, very often, on Scope’s blog.

We’re really proud of the way we tell stories at Scope. Putting storytellers in charge means we only ever tell authentic stories. We give people a platform to share their diverse experiences and show a more accurate picture of disability. Often, opportunities for people to share their stories are lacking – disability isn’t a huge focus in the media and when it is, it’s often the negative side that you see. We want to make sure that people can tell the story that they want to tell.

Which brings us on to National Storytelling Week.

Dan, an author holding up his comic book, poses with his daughter Emily who uses a wheelchair
Dan and Emily White – creators of Department of Ability

People want to see better representation of disability in literature

In the stories team we’re privileged to hear about a range of experiences in our day to day work. Unfortunately, for most people, their chance to read stories about disability are limited. If you think back to the books you enjoyed as a child, or even as an adult, you’d be hard pushed to find many featuring a disabled person. As a result, lots of people either don’t know much about disability or they only know the limited (sometimes misleading) view that they’re presented with.

This contributes to poor attitudes and stereotypes which can affect disabled people’s lives in number of ways. Another downside is that disabled people don’t get to read about stories and characters they can relate to.

We ran a Twitter poll which showed that 3 in 4 people want to see more inclusion of disability in literature

So, for National Storytelling Week, we ran lots of activities to campaign for better representation of disability in literature, and celebrated some great work that we want to see more of. 

We ran a comic book workshop with Dan White, creator of Department of Ability. Dan was inspired to create the comic book when his 11-year-old daughter Emily wondered why there were no wheelchair users like her on TV. Dan then set out to create a comic book where Emily would lead a group of superheroes whose impairments, far from holding them back, are actually their superpowers. To watch a film about the comic book workshop, head to our YouTube channel.

Following the workshop, we posted each superhero creation on Facebook and ran  a competition – with the winner getting to see their superhero turned into a guest in the next Department of Ability comic book. Here’s a short film of the winner, Daisy, explaining her superhero design.

We also partnered with the Huffington Post to share a blog each day from different storytellers. Incase you missed some of the content you can catch up here:

“Books Hold A Special Place In My Heart – I Just Wish They’d Have A Place For Me” – Heather’s blog

“The World Needs More Disabled Superheroes” – Dan and Emily’s vlog

“I Don’t Want To Read Books That Treat Disability As A Tragedy” – Anne’s blog

“It’s Immensely Important For Disabled People To See Positive Portrayals Of Themselves In Literature” – Asim’s blog

“Hey JK, Why Wasn’t Harry Potter Disabled?” – Phil’s blog

Following that, we partnered with Books on the Underground to do a ‘book drop’ where we hid 30 copies of Quentin Blake’s ‘The Five of Us’ around accessible tube stations. We had lots of engagement on our social media channels and our campaign was featured on Books on the Underground and on Quentin Blake’s website which was an amazing way to share our message with new audiences.

Our next step is to reach out to publishers and authors to ask them to improve their representation of disability in future books. We will keep you updated once we hear more. – so stay tuned!

To find out more about stories at Scope, head to our Stories Hub and please get involved.

Disabled people and domestic abuse – we need to do better

Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse than non-disabled women, yet support services aren’t always accessible. Disabled people can also face unique challenges in recognising and reporting abuse. It’s an issue that isn’t often spoken about. This needs to change.

With this in mind, domestic abuse charity Safe Lives is doing a ‘spotlight’ throughout October and November, focusing on how professionals can better support disabled people experiencing abuse. They have been posting resources, webinars, blogs and podcasts and they are doing a live Twitter Q&A on Friday 2 December.

We spoke to Carly, an advocate for autism and girls, about why this is so important.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s at 32 which is a late diagnosis, but autism in girls wasn’t really understood. I have three daughters; two of them are autistic as well, which is how I found out that I was. I was looking up everything I could about autism and girls and thought “I’m autistic too” – I ended up being diagnosed on film!  The consequences of not being diagnosed can be severe, including being in unhealthy relationships.

Recognising and reporting abuse can be harder for disabled people

For us all in society, disabled or not, the very nature of what abuse is can be murky. All too often we see adverts of women with bruises as an image of domestic abuse. Abuse, however, takes many forms. It’s difficult enough to recognise and report abuse for anyone experiencing it, but for disabled people it can be even harder.

The choice for a disabled person to leave their abuser is not an equal choice to those who do not rely on their abuser for their daily care as well. And how can a person with a social and communication condition have the equality of access to leave, when they may not even realise that what they are experiencing is abuse?

A lot of autistic people are vulnerable because of our lack of social imagination which is about understanding “If I do this, what happens next?” – consequences. We’re very often so consumed in our own thoughts that we think other people have the same wants, needs and agendas as we do, which can lead to us being very vulnerable. Another thing is our theory of mind – we imagine that other people have similar thoughts to us. So if you knew you were experiencing abuse, you may not report it because you think that other people already know. Because you know, they must do too. It can lead to an autistic person being very angry and resentful because they think “Why aren’t you helping me?” – it’s because that person doesn’t know. You need to ask us direct questions, basically.

Carly sitting at the UN with a few people in the background
Carly, speaking at the UN about autism and girls

A “one size fits all” approach to domestic abuse doesn’t work

It’s only in recent times that coercive control has become a legal offence. For someone on the autistic spectrum who requires support with their routine, the control of their lifestyle, the control of their access to social events and family and control of their money, this could easily disguise an abusive relationship to an onlooker. Mix this with an autistic person’s fear of dramatic change, delay in emotional processing and the theory of mind differences described above, and you can see how someone may not seek help.

We need our safeguarding explained in a different way and support services need to be more accessible. The stuff that’s out there is really good but some little add ons would help. I’ve had a meeting with the NSPCC about their schools workshops and I’ve created a short online course on safeguarding for people with autism, which is free to do. Hopefully it will help people think differently.

Including disabled people in these important conversations

Safe Lives’ spotlight on this issue is vital. The protection of disabled people from abuse is a multi-layered complex matter that simply is not covered by standard safeguarding projects. The media also all too often leave our unique needs and experiences to one side in the vital adverts  and workshops on abuse – how to recognise it and how to seek help.

I think for many people, disabled adults are either viewed as not having relationships or sex and therefore void from these conversations, or seen as just being able to access the same sexual health and abuse information as everyone else. Of course, in reality, this is not the case. The most vulnerable in society are often the last to be supported. Disabled people aren’t asking for special treatment but we are asking for a fitting reflection of our experiences in society and to be part of the conversation, a seamless inclusion and not an afterthought.

If you have been affected by the content of this blog, you can contact the Samaritans or your local Refuge service for support.

You can find all Safe Lives’ content on their website and take part in the Twitter Q&A on Friday 2 December.

Disabled Survivors Unite is an organisation working to improve access to services for disabled survivors of abuse and sexual violence. Visit their website to find out more.

I used to hide my autism from employers, now I see it as a positive – End the Awkward

Felix took part in First Impressions, First Experiences, a pre-employment course for young disabled jobseekers. Since then he’s been working hard to reach his goals and he’s passionate about changing employers’ attitudes towards disability. 

For End the Awkward, Felix talks about how he learned to see disability in a positive light and why employers need to do the same.

Before I joined Scope’s pre-employment programme, I was working for a firm in East London. Unfortunately it didn’t go according to plan and I realised that, while my autism can’t be ignored, it isn’t something that I should be ashamed of.

Now I talk about disability in a positive light

In the past, I wouldn’t have disclosed my autism to potential employers, but Scope’s pre-employment programme taught me how to talk about it in a positive way. Now I do talk about autism and those who I’ve worked with have seen it in a positive light. Instead of just seeing autism as a negative, I’ve shown that there are many positives as well.

I think there are two ways to improve inclusiveness in the workplace. The first thing is for employers to be educated about disability, but another way is for potential candidates, who are disabled, to strike up the confidence to say “This is my condition, this is why I need support”. I’ve also learned to highlight the positives that I can bring to the workplace so that potential employers don’t feel the need to question my abilities.

Employers shouldn’t hide from disability

I read an article about how 49 per cent of companies don’t want to hire someone who has learning difficulties and that affected me because I’m part of that demographic. And unfortunately, it said further on in the article that only 7% of people with learning difficulties are in employment which means that 93% have been forgotten about.

Workplaces can be more autism friendly by being patient when it comes to communication, reinforcing boundaries regarding employee relations, and if there is an incident where the individual is anxious then it would be best to find to out why. They should acknowledge that autistic people have skills and see how those skills could be best utilised by the organisation.

Felix laughing with a friend

Education is key

I discovered that two thirds of the public are still uncomfortable with people with disabilities, and that’s very clear in terms of employment and in terms of social life. There’s a long way to go to improve attitudes and awareness.

I feel like there’s a lack of diversity regarding the public image of disabled people. When people think of a disabled person they usually think of somebody who’s using a wheelchair. But it’s so much more.

People need to be educated about what cerebral palsy is, about what autism is, how they can make adaptations, and so on. Education is key so that employers know how to support that person’s needs. You could have a positive mindset but if the work environment isn’t supportive, it can go downhill from there.

Everybody brings something new to the table

I think that awareness campaigns like End the Awkward can have an impact on employers and on the wider public. Disability is a broad spectrum. Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t automatically mean they can’t do something.

You can’t compare yourself to everybody else. Can you imagine how bland and boring the world would be if everybody was the same? Everybody brings something new to the table. My achievements are a testament to how disability doesn’t have to be a barrier to having a good life. It’s time other people realised that.

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.

Dyspraxia and social anxiety: why I’m not hiding anymore – End the Awkward

Guest post by Rosie, who has dyspraxia, which affects her movement, balance and sensory processing. For End the Awkward, she talks about feeling different, her journey to acceptance and how she stopped hiding.

I’ve always been aware of how differently I learnt and how tasks which everyone else found really easy took me so much longer. At the age of 4 I was diagnosed with dyspraxia, an invisible difference which is still very misunderstood. Dyspraxia is thought to be caused by a disruption in the way messages from the brain are transmitted to the body. This affects my ability to perform movements in a coordinated way, balance, motor skills and sensory and emotional sensitivity.

Every person with dyspraxia is affected differently. Even though I’ve always been very determined, I was also very shy and self conscious. I hated being centre of attention and any fuss made feel uncomfortable. I really struggled making friends as everyone was very different to me.

People didn’t understand

The lack of understanding which surrounds dyspraxia didn’t help at all, a lot of people didn’t and still don’t know what it is. I was misunderstood, judged and negative assumptions were made about me. I was called clumsy, careless, stupid, lazy and told that I simply wasn’t trying hard enough.

If you had asked me to describe what dyspraxia was and how it affected me I would have avoided the subject completely. I just didn’t know how to talk about it and was scared that people would run a mile if I disclosed to them. Awful bullying and ignorance at work had left me too anxious to speak, struggling with social anxiety and in a dark place.

Feeling different

A common theme for many dyspraxics is feeling different and struggling to make and maintain friendships. Over the years I’ve beat myself up a lot and wondered why I couldn’t be as socially confident as others, which is an ongoing challenge. I struggle with managing my emotions and can be prone to panic attacks and sensory sensitivity, which means the environment around me can be very overwhelming.

I’ve also spent a lot of my life hiding. Hiding from situations or environments which either triggered my anxiety or where I’ve felt uncomfortable. I concealed my  dyspraxia and social anxiety which lead to me experiencing depression. For ages I thought it was just me being me.

Rosie dressed up for an event

Anxiety was taking over my life

Social anxiety made me feel in constant worry that I was going to embarrass or make an idiot out of myself. I worried that I would have a panic attack, experience sensory overload in public or say something that nobody “gets”and have everyone laugh at me.

Then there’s the constant worry that you’ve done something to upset someone and that people hate you and are simply putting up with you. When you’re anxious your whole body can tense up, you can start feeling sick and you can struggle to give eye contact, which is hard enough when you’re dyspraxic. It was easier to avoid doing anything or going anywhere.

After hitting a very low patch I realised I couldn’t  go on like this. Anxiety was slowly taking over my life, stopping me enjoying the things I loved and leaving me fearful, low and constantly on edge, unable to sleep and with zero confidence and self-esteem. The more anxious I became the more clumsier I was and the more mistakes I was making and the more I beat myself up. It was a vicious circle.

Meeting others helped me stop hiding

I got involved in Dyspraxia Foundation where for the first time I felt like I could be myself. Nobody judged me if I made any mistakes. I met others who were dyspraxic and I didn’t feel so alone. I began to learn about how dyspraxia affected me but also the strengths which dyspraxia can bring, which to me are being caring, creative, able to think outside of the box and I’m a very determined soul.

By spending so much time hiding I wasn’t showing the world all of Rosie and I was missing out on so much. With the support that’s out there, I’ve been able to achieve a degree and a masters degree. I’m also learning strategies to help me cope with day to day life and support my mental health.

Ending the Awkward

I’ve been able to help others by writing blogs and raising awareness, helping them feel less isolated and alone. It’s given me more empathy when supporting students in my job as a learning support assistant. I’m determined that nobody should go through or feel what I have. Learning to be kind to myself is something I’m still working on but I’m fighting my fears one little step at a time.

That’s why I’m getting involved in Scope’s End The Awkward campaign. Disability and difference is nothing to be scared of – we’re human beings with feelings. A little bit of patience, time, and kindness can go a long way. Nobody deserves to be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of being different. After all, wouldn’t the world be such a boring place if we all were the same? You never know what you might find out when you take the time to get to know someone.

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.

To read more from Rosie, visit Rosie’s blog.

The hidden sex lives of disabled people – End the Awkward

Alice is a disability rights activist and journalist. As part of our End the Awkward campaign, she shares her views on the media’s portrayal of sex and disability.

Content note: this blog references offensive disablist language and contains discussions about sex.

Disabled people don’t have sex, do they? It certainly seems that way as our sex lives are so rarely represented in the media, if at all.

Have you ever seen a disabled person having sex in a film, TV program, or a mainstream porno? Me neither.

We are a generation which loves to talk about sex, so why aren’t disabled people part of the conversation? Why are our sex lives are being hidden? And why are we being desexualised? We are consistently portrayed as people who never get our leg over and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

However, things have started to change with Maltesers recent ad campaign. The brand launched three disability-themed adverts which premiered on the opening night of the Paralympic Games, and one in-particular really stood out to me.

A text description of the advert is available at the end of this blog post.

Three women are sat around chatting about sex and one (who is a wheelchair user) talks about getting frisky with her boyfriend who didn’t complain when her hand started spasming! Funnily enough Storme Toolis who plays the part is thought to be the only disabled actor to ever have had a sex scene on UK TV.

It is hard to put into words just how happy I was to see this advert, it reminded me of the conversations I have had with friends leaving them in stitches when sharing my sex stories.

Disability in the bedroom

I have spasms and seizures, and I have them when I’m in bed. This can make sex both awkward and absolutely hilarious, not too different from non-disabled sex right?

In the past I’ve had to explain to a partner that my legs weren’t shaking because I’d had an orgasm – they were going into a spasm.

I’ve also come round from seizures before and not remembered who the person on top of me was. You can’t really get much more awkward then that, especially when you’re in a long term relationship!

Disability certainly keeps sex interesting and there are also some perks. Having so many seizures during sex forces me and my partner to have regular breaks which means it usually lasts much longer then it would without them. And telling people I’m disabled early on is also a great dickhead-filter, especially when online dating. You’d be amazed at how many people have stopped talking to me once they discovered I was disabled, but this has meant I’ve only ever met up with open minded people who I know I can trust to get into bed with.

Having barriers in the bedroom also means disabled people have to be more creative and our sex lives are often far from vanilla, trust me. Look at Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability if you want to find out more!

End the awkward

Maltesers are paving the way to end the awkwardness around sex and disability, but there is a long way to go yet. This is evident from some of the online comments left on the advert such as: “Retards who have sex are disgusting.” And: “I don’t really understand how disabled ‘people’ can be sexual beings without having souls.”

These attitudes need to be challenged, and the best way to do that is for more brands and broadcasters to follow in Maltesers footsteps. The more disabled people’s sex lives are accurately represented, the better perceptions will become. I hope one day I can turn on my TV and see disabled characters (played by disabled actors) having sex and for it not be out of the ordinary.

Beyond the bedroom

But this goes beyond sex, Scope’s 2016 Disability In The Media Study found that 80 percent of disabled people felt underrepresented by TV and the media on the whole.

It seems like this is only addressed for a few weeks every four years when the Paralympics comes around and this needs to change. We are the world’s largest minority group and we need representation every day of the year.

So decision makers, please don’t stop broadcasting about disability just because the games are over, let’s keep it on the box, and while you’re at it why not start representing disabled people’s sex lives too?

Read more End the Awkward blogs, or get involved in the campaign by submitting your awkward story.

Video description: Three women sat outside around a picnic bench. The person telling the story is a wheelchair user and she is holding a bag of Maltesers in her hand. As she tells the story she shakes the bag and chocolates spill over the table. Her friends looked shocked at first but then everyone laughs. Text reads: “Look on the light side”.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Francesca, the theatre star

Francesca Mills is a 20 year old actor who has achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism. She is currently on tour with a Ramps on the Moon production,of the Government Inspector where she plays Maria.

As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, she talks about inclusiveness in the industry and her top tips for breaking into the world of theatre.

Kids who are interested in performing arts and children who have gone to drama school are much more open-minded and much more accepting. They just love anything diverse. So this meant that breaking into the industry was never an issue for me. No-one has ever been like ‘you can’t do that because you’re disabled’, my family and friend are always 100% behind me.

Changing attitudes

I think roles in theatre for disabled people are very important in changing attitudes towards disability.

Audiences are very accepting without realising it. If you’re out on the street just living everyday life, you’ll get stares and people don’t quite understand but if you walk on stage playing a character, it’s different. Maybe in the first two minutes an audience member might be thinking ‘oh that’s a little person’, but then they’ve completely forgotten and they’re completely on board with what you’re doing.

It may also make them think ‘why do I over-think this? Disability really isn’t a big thing, it’s fine’.

It’s also really important for kids to see disabled actors represented in roles of authority. In the show I’m doing now we have a deaf judge, who’s also a woman, which is brilliant.

A group of disabled actors perform on stage. Fran, a young woman with dwarfism, smiles as a man with a cane kisses her hand.

How the industry has changed

I’m growing up in a time where people are starting to realise they should do projects that are inclusive. I’m lucky in a way that I’ve mainly seen the positive. People older than me have memories of a lot more prejudice. They’ve had a much more tough time which is good to know about because people can appreciate how it’s changed and how things are getting better.  It’s on the way up.

From my experience, a lot of casting directors are becoming more versatile and opening their gates to disabled actors for parts that aren’t specifically disabled parts. If they have a brief for a blonde haired girl with blue eyes, they might open it up to someone with an impairment and it’s not an issue.

I think we’ve still got a long way to go but it’s better than what it was.

Advice for others

If you really want to do it, just go for it, even if people question it. My motto is ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish’. If you want to get into acting think about how you’re going to do that.

Get involved in local amateur productions just to get some confidence, like I used to do. See if local theatres are auditioning. If you’ve got an appetite for it just go for it and everything else will fall into place.

Just have fun and enjoy it because it really is the best job in the world.

Top tips for breaking into the industry

Enjoy yourself

Have fun and let people know that you’re having fun, it’s really nice to see! I did Peter Pan in Wimbledon. I was playing Tinkerbell and there were kids playing the Lost Boys. Just seeing their faces when they were in the theatre and how excited they were was amazing. It’s just a really nice quality to have.

Go to the theatre

It’s important to go to actual shows and enjoy shows and see as many as you can.

Learn from everyone

Watch people and learn from them. With the amount of actors that you come across, make sure you ask questions. Watch their technique and etiquette. You can pick up a lot from people.

Never be late!

I’m ridiculous with how early I am. It makes you more relaxed when you get to the theatre and have plenty of time. Never leave anything until the last minute. Give yourself time to settle ahead of a brilliant day.

A large group of disabled actors perform on stage in a theatre. They are looking out to the audience with shocked faces.

Francesca is sharing her story as 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. Read more from our #30toWatch on our website.

Watch Francesca perform in one of our End The Awkward shorts from last year.