Tag Archives: competition

Meet the only female climber competing with one arm – Sianagh, the paraclimber

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.


Sianagh Gallagher is a para-climber who climbs and competes for Great Britain. She was born without her left arm and shoulder but never let that hold her back. When she tried climbing, aged 10, she loved it and she’s gone on to win many national and international competitions.

As part of 30 Under 30, Sianagh shares her story and talks about attitudes, her passion for climbing and being inspired. We are also posting more photos of Sianagh in action on Instagram: @scopecharity.

I’ve been climbing for about 9 years now. When I was 10 my primary school started a climbing club. I said no at first because I thought climbing would be a bit out of my league, but they forced me to go, and I loved it.

At first it was quite daunting because climbing is such a unique sport and being a little kid – I was scared! But the first climb I did I got to the top, which was a huge achievement for me personally. I did it regularly after that. The high school I went to is attached to the gym where I climb, so I could get in for free every day after school.

I’ve had to develop my own style of climbing

For non-disabled people the rule is always have three points of contact on the wall, so obviously that doesn’t apply to me! It’s been quite good developing my own unique style. It’s taken a couple of years to really perfect it. At first I didn’t have a clue about climbing, I didn’t know the rules and regulations or how to climb as a good climber, but over the years I’ve developed my own technique and really got into it.

I’ve also learnt from climbing with friends. Then I’d look at people like Shauna Coxsey, who’s the world’s best boulderer, and she’s a huge inspiration. I’d look at other professional climbers to see how they climbed and when you climb with friends, you always compete to be better than them. It gets really fun!

Sianagh on the climbing wall, turning to smile at the camera

Negative attitudes just make me more determined

Once when I was in year 8 or 9, there were 6 of us climbing with an instructor. You’re only allowed 6 people at one time so when a seventh person came we were like “Sorry, it’s busy, you can’t come in now”. Then they turned to me and said “Well she’s not going to do anything. She’s only got one arm. She can’t climb.” That was kind of an eye opener for me because I thought “Well, actually I can and I’m going to prove you very wrong.” It made me more determined to carry on.

Some people can be quite negative and quite closed-minded but those people don’t come around often. And when they do you’ve kind of just got to feel sorry for them because if they’re going out of their way to put other people down, they’re living quite a sad life really.

Then there’s the subtle kind of people who don’t necessarily mean to be mean, but they just don’t think outside the box. They just assume that disabled people don’t really do much with their lives. Often people are like “Wow, I was so impressed, when I saw you walking here I didn’t think you’d be able to do it.” And I’m like “Oh, thanks.”

When you’re around someone with a negative attitude it makes you a bit depressed, but when you’re around someone with a positive attitude, you want to be more like them. You want to look at life with life with as little negativity as possible.

The first time I competed I came first

The first competition I ever went to was in 2010. It was the first competition for disabled people that was ever run in the UK. My teacher from secondary school took me and I came first, which was huge. I thought “Wow, I can really get serious about this.”

I’ve done so many competitions since then. As the years went on the competitions became more serious and we developed a team for Great Britain. You have to go to these British competitions and try out for the team. I was too young the first time I tried, then the second time I tried I made the team. I think that was one of my biggest ever achievements. It was so amazing. It means that now I’ve got the opportunity to go to international competitions. Two years ago, I did the World Championships and came third. That was incredible – the first World Championships I’d been to and I made the podium.

I’m good friends with all the international climbers and chat to them on Facebook. Even though they’re your competitors. Then you meet people who have the same disability as you and it’s a massive learning curve because they might be able to climb higher than you so you know where to set your own standards.

Sianagh scaling the indoor climbing wall

We’re waiting to find out if climbing will be in the Paralympics 2020

Paraclimbing isn’t a Paralympic sport yet but we find out in August if we’ve been accepted into the Paralympics 2020. For the public, I think it would be amazing for them to be able to watch climbing and for it to get a lot of publicity. It’s such a huge sport but the highest you can go is the World Championships. It would be great to give it a step up and allow athletes to really train for something huge and get recognised like the should be, for doing such an amazing sport.

I always watch the Paralympics when it’s on. It’s such a big thing for disabled people to prove themselves, even if they don’t feel they should have to. People do generally have low expectations of disabled people and don’t know what they’re capable of. So when they go out there and they’re as good as, or sometimes better than, non-disabled people, it’s really inspiring for everyone. I get really inspired by other disabled athletes. If I see other athletes that are just so motivated and upbeat about the sport it makes me want to try harder.

What I love about climbing

Climbing is so unique. When you go to a climbing wall there’s always something different try. There’s always different routes, there’s always harder stuff and there’s always area for improvement. You can never be at your best, you can always work on little things and improve to become the best you want to be.

I teach kids how to climb and I really enjoy doing that. I think it’s nice for them to have a disabled person teaching them. At first you kind of get the stare, and they don’t know whether to ask or not, and then they do and they’re like “Why are you born with one arm?” and I’m like “Why are you born with two?” and they go “Oh yeah” and then they leave it and just act normally.

In the future, if climbing gets into the Paralympics I’d like to compete in that. If not, I’d like to be first in the World Championships. I think that would be amazing.

Sianagh standing in front of the climbing wall smiling

 Paving the way for others

There are only a few para-climbers with only one arm, especially people like me who don’t have shoulders. A lot of people have stumps with they can use when they’re climbing. There’s a guy who’s the same as me, but no female climbers yet.

It’s still crazy thinking that people might be inspired by me. I just climb because I love it. When people look at you as an inspiration you think “What have I really done to deserve it?” but it’s a good feeling.

Sianagh is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We’ll be 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.

If you want to find out more about Sianagh and keep up to date with her climbing adventures, visit her Facebook page.

“The best way to challenge people’s attitudes by is getting out and doing things” – Gary Clarke

Britain’s Disabled Strongman competition returns this year and promises to be bigger and better than its successful launch in 2015. In this guest blog, organiser and strongman competitor Gary Clarke, who has cerebral palsy and is a support worker, talks about changing attitudes through action.

It’s a great year for disability sport. We’ve had the Invictus Games and the Rio Paralympics are later this summer. In the middle is Britain’s Disabled Strongman competition this Saturday (28 May).

In 2015, I fulfilled a long-time ambition of mine to set up a disabled strongman competition in the UK.  I’ve wanted to organise an event like this since taking part in my first competition back in 2011.

It’s a killer event that culminates with the atlas stone – lifting weights of up to 90kg between oil drums – which is a huge demonstration of strength and courage. I love that it all came from my determination to bring the games to the UK. That makes me very proud.

Disabled strongman preparing to lift the atlas stone
Competitor preparing to lift Atlas stone

Spirit of the Paralympics

I always look forward to watching the Paralympics. The strongman competition is very fresh and raw right now, but I think it’s on par with the Paralympics. The determination these guys have and the willpower to win – it’s the same spirit as the Paralympians. They’re doing it for the sheer enjoyment and thrill of winning.

Setting up the strongman competition is the best thing I’ve ever done to change attitudes and get people to think positively about disability.

People are going to take a step back and think wow; this guy is pulling a four tonne truck and lifting an atlas stone. How many people would think disabled people would be capable of doing that? The best way to challenge people attitudes is by getting out and doing things.

There are no limits, no excuses

I think some disabled people end up believing they can’t do things because that’s what they’ve been told. This competition proves that disabled people can do these very physical challenges and that events can be adapted.

The more people who tell me I can’t do something, the more determined I am to do it. Bringing disabled strongman to the UK was one of those things and I feel really privileged to have done it.

My inspiration is Arnar Már Jónsson, who started the disabled strongman movement in Iceland, where it has been running for 15 years. He was a pioneer and has made all subsequent events possible.

For this year’s competition on Saturday, we have double the number of competitors with 21 disabled athletes taking part in six events, and we’re expecting hundreds of spectators.  Last year we only had a seated class to include wheelchair users. We’ve added a standing class so that people with different impairments can compete on a more level playing field. We’re also lucky to be holding the event at the Strongman Sanctuary in Kent, where the whole team has been hugely supportive.

  • Britain’s Disabled Strongman competition is taking place at the Strongman Sanctuary in Kent on Saturday (23 May) from 10.30. Visit the event Facebook page for more information.


Christmas competition: your chance to win one of 13 books!

We’re getting very excited for Christmas! Over the past year we’ve been squirrelling away a great collection of books with disability at their heart. They either feature disabled characters, or are written and produced by disabled authors. 

As a big thank you for your support of Scope this year, we’ll be giving away a copy of each book in the run up to Christmas.

(Terms and conditions at the bottom of this page)

Toast: Autism in the Early Years

Two young boys smiling and holding a copy each of the book 'Toast'“Imagine the moment when your six year old child says his first word: “Toast”. Every parent remembers the joy of a child’s first word. Yet this key skill is so challenging for a person living with autism.”

Alice Boardman’s book attempts to answer all the questions that she had, when she first found out her two sons had autism. Win Toast. 

Good Kings Bad Kings

Illustrated front cover of Good Kings, Bad Kings - a man running around with a pair of scissors and attempting to chop off another character's thumbTold in alternating perspectives by a varied cast of characters, Good Kings, Bad Kings is a powerful and inspiring debut that invites us into the lives of a group of teenagers and staff who live at the ILLC.

From Yessenia, who dreams of her next boyfriend, to Teddy, a resident who dresses up daily in a full suit and tie, and Mia, who guards a terrifying secret, Nussbaum has crafted a multifaceted portrait of a way of life that challenges our definitions of what it means to be disabled. Win Good Kings Bad Kings. 


Mum Susanne sitting on the sofa with her daughter Mia“Sixteen years ago, I wished for a child. I prayed to the universe, and spirit answered me. Not with what I thought I wanted, but with exactly what I need. My daughter is my angel.” Susanne Crosby

This anthology of poems was created by parents and carers of disabled children from our Brighton parent befriending serviceWin Paperweights.

My Brother is an Astronaut

An illustration of two characters in astronaut's clothing, smiling“I know that there are lots of children – and adults! – in the world whose sensory experience and understanding of the world is a little “different”. It isn’t the exclusive domain of people with autism, so autism isn’t mentioned in the story. People with ADHD, ADD can have difficulties in this area too, as well as some children who are a bit “quirky” and don’t fit into any particular category. This book is written for them and for those they spend their days with, to try and help give an insight into their experience of the world.” Michelle Rundle. Win My Brother is an Astronaut.

Little Miss Jessica Goes to School

Cover of Little Miss Jessica Goes to School, showing an illustration of a little girl with one arm, smiling and walking with a backpack onJessica Smith is a former Paralympic swimmer who was born missing her left hand. She grew up with low self esteem and negative body image because she didn’t feel accepted within society due to her physical appearance.

Now, Jessica is sharing her journey through a series of children’s books to encourage young kids to realise that being different is okay! Little Miss Jessica Goes to School is the first in this series. Win Little Miss Jessica.

I Love You Natty

Front cover of the book - a yellow page with a family photo of Mia and Natty smiling“When my eldest daughter Mia was around six or seven years old, she was a very prolific note-writer. She would leave drawings and notes for us all around the house. One day I found a beautiful note for her sister Natty (who has Down’s syndrome), saying just how precious she was to Mia, and how her life wouldn’t be the same without her in it. It brought a lump to my throat and was a lightbulb moment for me. I realised here was the basis for the book. Mia’s words would form it’s core.” Hayley Goleniowska. Win I Love You Natty.

Jess the Goth Fairy

Illustration of Jess the Goth Fairy, holding a pile of books and smiling“Jess the Goth Fairy has learning and physical disabilities, just like the real Jess. Wings that don’t work very well, so flying is scary and landing is a nightmare! She looks different, doesn’t do pink or wear dresses. Having a normal life as a fairy is very challenging for her.

Jess just wants to be treated the same as everybody else. She wanted to put across her feelings about what happens to her, such as being stared at or not being able to do things that most people can. We hope people who will read the book will realise that it’s ok to be disabled and it’s ok to be different.” Jo, Jess’ mum. Win Jess the Goth Fairy. 

Heads up, Tim-Tron

An illustration of Tim-Tron, with a little dog“With Heads Up, Tim-Tron, we’ve tried to help parents of younger children broach this complex issue (of brain injury) in a colourful and interesting way. It’s a picture book about a little robot who bangs his head, an idea that came about after one of our clinicians compared the human brain to a cluster of tiny working circuits.

We know boys are disproportionately affected by traumatic brain injury, and a comparison with the circuits in a little robot’s brain seemed like a funny way to appeal to them (hopefully without excluding little girls!).” Ian Ray. Win Heads Up Tim Tron. 

My Big Brother Bobby

Front cover of My Big Brother Bobby, an illustration of a brother, sister and friendly-looking gremlinThis is a story about a little girl with a big imagination and an even bigger heart. She loves to play with her brother Bobby but sometimes when he gets angry, something larger than life appears.

My Big Brother Bobby is a fun, imaginative story that educates children on the importance of understanding and coping with anger in others in a warm and easy to understand way. Win My Big Brother Bobby.

The Story of Beautiful Girl

Image of the front cover of The Story of Beautiful Girl - a girl in a green dress holding out her hand and releasing a bird into the skyIt’s a stormy night in small-town America. A couple, Lynnie and Homan, have escaped from a brutal institution where disabled people are left to languish, ostracised from society. Desperate and soaked to the skin, they knock on a stranger’s door. When Martha, a retired schoolteacher, answers the door, their lives change completely. Win The Story of Beautiful Girl.

Synthesis: Weave

Front cover of Synthesis:Weave - a tree at the edge of a rocky cliff edge“Synthesis:Weave is science fiction. One of the things I dislike about the representation of disability in science fiction is the tendency to ‘gloss over’ it or ‘fix’ it.

My character was going to use his wheelchair. I know that many wheelchair users are more capable than others give them credit for and I wanted to portray that, but I didn’t want to make disability the focus of the book, so it’s just a fact – Aryx is a hero that happens to use a wheelchair.” Deane Saunders-Stowe. Win Synthesis: Weave.

The Cookbook for Children with Special Needs

Image showing what foods make up a healthy balanced diet, on a plateDeborah French is a cookery teacher and activity coordinator for disabled children and their families. She has a son on the autistic spectrum, a daughter with Down’s syndrome and young twins, and is the author of a new cookery book for disabled children.

“I wrote The Cookbook for Children with Special Needs to help children understand the origins of the food we eat, how the ingredients we use create our diet and how this affects our health and the way we feel. The opening story introduces the primary theme which is that we are all responsible for the choices we make about the foods that we eat.” Deborah French. Win The Cookbook for Children with Special Needs.

Oliver Hellowell, Wildlife & Landscape Photographer

Oliver holding a DSLR camera and smilingOliver is a young nature photographer, who happens to have Down’s syndrome.

“He takes pictures of things other people walk past because he notices the detail the rest of us miss. He sees beauty where we do not, and to a certain extent his having Down’s syndrome ‘releases’ him from the ‘rules’ and expecA close up photograph of a brown eagletations of what is perceived to be worthy of a picture, which the rest of us adhere to without even realising. Oliver makes weeds look brilliant!” Oliver’s mum

This is his first coffee table book showcasing some of his most exquisite photography. Win Oliver Hellowell’s Photography book. 

Feeling inspired? Check out our Pinterest list of books featuring disabled characters. We’d also love to hear about any other books you’d like to recommend. 

Terms and conditions

Look out for the book you’d like to win on our Twitter and Facebook throughout December. To enter this prize draw, comment/reply on the post for the book you’d like to win and tell us why you’d like to win it! Only one entry per person, per book will be counted. The prize draw closes on 18 December at 10am. The winners will be chosen at random after this date and notified via social media. Books can only be posted to addresses in the UK and no cash equivalent or alternative prizes will be offered. This prize draw is not associated with Facebook or Twitter.


Home insurance competition: DIY disasters, the highlights

In our second home insurance competition of the year. Offering yet another exciting chance to win £100 worth of John Lewis vouchers. We asked people what their biggest DIY disasters were.

We are pleased to announce the winner of this competition was, Nicola from Nottingham, congratulations Nicola!

We received quite a few disastrous stories from enthusiastic ‘DIYers’ involving issues like misplaced nails and over eager husbands which were funny, embarrassing and financially painful in equal measure. For your reading pleasure and lessons in what not to do we include some of the highlights below:

There were a few stories involving  issues with floors and nails, Sara telling the story of what happened when her husband had the ‘wise idea’ to secure a loose floorboard “which he was aware had a water pipe beneath it”, before the carpet fitters came in to do the hall.  See where this is going yet?  As she puts it: “He located the pipe and was very careful to put 4 nails around it, then he decided to stick one more, for luck, straight through the pipe! We found out that day just how expensive an emergency plumber is (not that he came particularly quickly, given that we had a water feature in the hall!).” Needless to say they’ve “managed to keep him away from most DIY jobs since then.”

Another nail-related disaster has Emily trying to “put a nail in wall to put a picture up” and “nailing through the electrics, oops!”

While Sarah’s husband also triggered a DIY disaster when in managing to do some “beautiful tiling in our kitchen” managed to, in the process, break four brand new plates “bought from Ikea that morning”. Her husband’s destructive enthusiasm is however something that Sarah has keen knowledge of having seen him before destroy her “BBQ and plastic greenhouse” when he demolished an “old dangerous shed in the garden”.

Alex meanwhile had his DIY disaster comedy moment when he hung a door and only found out it was upside down “when guests visited.”

Finally our winner Nicola’s story tells of how over- excited she gets when she has the enthusiasm to make something as she tires easily. As she relates: “I had bought an Ikea cupboard and when it had been dropped off. I was so excited I made it there and then in my front room, and was very proud of myself before I realised I couldn’t fit it upstairs in the room it needed to be in.” And it has been in her “front room out of place ever since as it won’t fit up my stairs and I don’t want to take it all down again!”

So if you’re ever feeling the need to do a spot of DIY just remember to think twice before hammering in those nails!

Our home insurance can cover disability equipment, as well as all other household items. We also receive a donation for every policy taken out. Find out more about our home insurance and receive a free quote.