Tag Archives: disability awareness

I get treated differently just because I’m disabled, I’m determined to change that

Michelle was born with cerebral palsy and growing up she never saw herself as different. Then she went to a mainstream college and everything changed. People treated her differently and it really knocked her confidence. Rather than let it beat her, it motivated her to change things and she’s been raising awareness ever since. For cerebral palsy awareness month, she shares her ‘dos and don’ts of disability’.

I grew up going to a specialist school so everyone around me was disabled from nursery up until I was 18. Then I went to a mainstream college and that was a big culture shock. I’d never seen myself as ‘different’ – I was just me – but college completely changed my outlook on everything. People treated me differently and it really knocked my confidence.

Until then I hadn’t realised that being disabled can make you so segregated – you could tell that certain people just didn’t want to talk to you, they didn’t want to get to know you. People would either make mean comments or be overly nice because they felt sorry for me and I felt like I was fighting a battle every day. I just wanted to be treated like everyone else.

Woman in a car smiling

I’ve never disliked anything about myself but going to college made me realise that not everyone is going to be accepting and you do need to work harder just to prove that you’re a ‘normal’ person.

I think a lot of the time it’s because people just don’t understand. If they have grown up around disability or known someone who’s disabled, it’s not surprising. Up until recently, you’ve never really seen disabled people in the media so, when someone sees someone who’s a bit different from them, they’re not going to know how to act or what to say.

A lot of the girls I went to college with said they’d never known someone who’s disabled. All they had was this made up idea that disabled people are all the same. They’ve got these preconceived ideas and then they’ve never met anyone who’s disabled to prove that idea wrong.

My experiences at college completely changed my outlook and made me determined to change things. People need to be educated, people need to see disabled people in the media more. Then being around disabled people won’t be a big deal, because it will just be what they’re used to seeing every day. It becomes the norm. In the meantime, here are a few of my dos and don’ts.

Man pushing woman in a wheelchair. Text says 'the dos and don'ts of disability'

Do talk to me

I’m perfectly capable of speaking for myself but people speak to the person I’m with instead of me – even doctors. I’m sitting right here, you should have enough respect to talk to me instead of talking about me. Then, when I answer, they still don’t speak to me and it’s so frustrating because I’ve just answered you, you can see that I’m perfectly capable of talking to you but you carry on ignoring me anyway.

Don’t talk down to me

People talk down to you or act like you’re stupid. You’ll be out somewhere and people will go “Aw are you okay?” like I’m a child. No. I’m 28. I don’t need you to speak to me like I’m stupid. When people are patronising and treating you like you’re stupid, that can be just as damaging on your self-esteem.

Do take my word for it if I say I don’t need help

People often go “Do you want help?” and I say, “No I’m alright thanks” and then they just take over and do it anyway, not listening to what I’ve said. Sometimes, they don’t even ask, they just do it.

And definitely don’t push my wheelchair without asking

Some people will just push my wheelchair. I’ll be out somewhere and someone will go “Oh I’ll push you” and I’m like “No I don’t need you to do that”. You’d never pick someone up and move them around.

Don’t assume we’re all the same

A lot of people think if they know someone with cerebral palsy, I’m going to be exactly the same. And some people are like “Well you can’t have cerebral palsy because you can do this or you don’t do that.” I know best. Not every form of cerebral palsy is the same.

Do see beyond disability

In the media, people either don’t show disabled people at all or when they do, it’s solely focused on that. Yes, I’m disabled, but I am more than that. I’m a person first. Cerebral palsy doesn’t come before me as a person.

We’re just ordinary people, we don’t want to be treated any differently.  We might do things differently or have to adapt, but we’re just human.

For more dos and don’ts, watch Michelle’s film.

Why Chris is re-creating some of the worst things he’s experienced

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Chris Amor is a 27-year-old university student, studying animation. Chris has dwarfism and experiences regular harassment, making him feel excluded and dehumanised.

As part of 30 Under 30 he talks to us about challenging attitudes and putting height discrimination on the same level as other forms of discrimination. Currently, he’s working on a short animated film which aims to do exactly that.

Attitudes can be a barrier

A lot of people still think it’s socially acceptable to mock and effectively dehumanise people with dwarfism. For me, the physical side doesn’t get me down, it’s the attitudes that other people have towards it. There’s still a big stigma around dwarfism and the way we’re portrayed as freaks.

People can also be scared to talk to me because they think I’ll be easily offended. I’d just prefer people to talk to me like anyone else, not focus on my dwarfism, just treat me like a person. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me either. I just want people to not care about how tall someone is. It doesn’t define who you are, at all.

Dating is another big thing that gets to me. There’s still a big stigma about men being shorter than women or couples with extreme height difference. People tell me I should date another person with dwarfism. Again, it’s dehumanising. It’s putting body before personality. Of course I’d be happy to date a person with dwarfism, but I want to date someone for who they are not just how they look. Why should it matter if the woman is taller?

Chris sitting in front of a brick wall, with his arms folded
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

Experiencing harassment at work

I’ve worked at a local pub for a few years. At first, I mostly did night shifts and of course people are drinking, and I was specifically targeted. I’ve had people run up behind me and try to pick me up, people patting me on the head, talking to me randomly about really personal and inappropriate things. People even take photos or secretly film me, purely just to portray me as being different.

It got to a point where I had a breakdown and told my family and my managers at work about it. They were very understanding and agreed that I should do more day shifts instead. It’s a lot better. And it’s nice to be able to just get on with your job without constantly feeling paranoid.

The effect of endless harassment

Endless harassment can create paranoia. You just constantly feel paranoid if there’s someone behind you or if someone’s got their phone out, are they going to take a photo of me? And it’s the principle behind it – that they’re going to share it on social media as a joke.

Because I’ve being experiencing it for a long time it can be difficult when I’m in certain environments not to be too self-conscious. For some people, it can lead to depression and even suicide. Comments and insults can be more damaging that physical assault, certainly for me – it’s just that concept of feeling excluded from society. And it also affects my confidence when it comes to working and dating.

I’m making a film to raise awareness

A lot of films about disabled people and their lives are focused on the physical or mental restrictions that they have but my film is purely focused on the attitudes of others. Through animation, I’m re-creating some of the worst things that I’ve personally experienced and things that other people have told me, exactly from that person’s perspective. Some people might see these things as just a little joke and say you lack a sense of humour, but it’s not about that. I’m happy to have the piss taken out of me for how I am as a person, not because of how I was born.

I hope the film will raise awareness and change perceptions. I want to put heightism on the same grounds of unacceptance that racism is. And I want to challenge the dehumanising ideas about what you shouldn’t and shouldn’t do – like disabled people shouldn’t be in a relationship with a non-disabled person or you can’t do this job.

Chris arms folded, in front of a garden
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

How we can change attitudes

I think a lot of it’s to do with media representation. Peter Dinklage, from Game of Thrones, is one of the few actors with dwarfism who plays a role that’s not related to his height. Some of the earlier roles for people with dwarfism like Willow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they were picked for those roles because of how they look. It gives them a label and a separation in that sense. I’m not saying that actors with dwarfism can’t play those kinds of roles, but height shouldn’t limit what they can and can’t do.

I also think education is key to changing attitudes. When my film is finished, I want to send it to some film festivals and make sure it’s spread nationwide. It’s not about feeling sorry for someone. It’s about encouraging people to think “How would I feel if I was in that body and was being treated differently because of something I can’t help?”. One day I hope I can walk down the street and nobody cares about my height.

Chris is sharing his 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. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

 

“Being a consultant for Rio 2016 was an amazing experience” Emily, the accessibility consultant

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Emily Yates is an accessibility consultant, travel writer, presenter and freelance disability awareness trainer.

For 30 Under 30, we chatted to her about her involvement in making Rio 2016 more accessible for all, and her hopes for the legacy of the Games.

My passion for travel and accessibility started when I volunteered at the London 2012 Games as a Games Maker. I was invited to a press conference and Seb Coe happened to be sat next to me. I said that the Paralympics had “lifted the cloud of limitation for people with disabilities” and he re-quoted that in his closing ceremony speech. I thought to myself “Wow, if there’s ever been an opportunity this is it!”

So I called his office to ask if he could spare 15 minutes of his time and he very kindly said yes, and gave me so many contacts. I managed to get a meeting with the British Consulate in Rio, and with some Brazilian NGOs. This was back in November of 2013, and Rio was nowhere near ready for the Games at that point, but I so desperately wanted to work towards writing an accessible travel guide to 2016 and beyond.

Being an accessibility consultant for Rio was an amazing experience

Whilst out there, I was invited to a large meeting, run by the organising committee, to give a presentation on my experiences as a volunteer but also as a disabled person. There were members of staff there, volunteers, secretaries of state, ministers for people with disabilities; it was pretty nerve-wracking! A man called Vivaldo Rangel also attended to represent MetroRio – Rio’s equivalent to our Transport for London – and after my presentation he invited me to work as an accessibility consultant for them in the lead up to the Games.  He ended up changing my life and I have so much to thank him for.

I worked with MetroRio for nine months, advising on everything from installing and modernising elevators, to equipment for those with visual and hearing impairments, bilingual signage and step-free access for those with disabilities, parents with small children and the elderly. I worked with architects to plan the layout for the new metro stations leading to the Olympic Park, but I don’t know if they’ll be finished in time which is a real shame. Vivaldo and I also trained some of the MetroRio staff in disability awareness (in an interactive and bilingual session!).  It was really a truly wonderful job to have, and I have so many fond memories of my time there.

Emily under water, snorkelling

Writing an accessible travel guide with Lonely Planet

After my consultancy work I got in touch with Lonely Planet and asked if they’d thought about writing an accessible travel guide to the Rio 2016 Games. After some crazy email conversations with their accessibility manager, Martin Heng, I’ve just been out to Rio and written it, and it will be out in the next couple of months – how exciting! It’s what you’d expect from a ‘normal’ travel guide, but also has plenty of accessibility advice regarding places to eat, party and sleep, as well as the big tourist hotspots like Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf.  Fingers crossed it’s really useful to all who use it!

The guide is being distributed free of charge so anybody can download it as an e-book. The International Paralympic Committee have also endorsed it so we’re printing 2,500 copies for them to give to athletes and their families. My ultimate dream would be that it really changes things for disabled locals as well.

Researching for the guide was a real eye-opener

Writing the guide was a really good learning experience for me as both a writer and a wheelchair user, as I slowly felt myself experiencing Rio as a local, rather than a tourist.  At MetroRio, I’d got taxis or the underground to work, spent a lot of time in the office or advising in stations with Vivaldo, and then I’d gone to my apartment to sunbathe, go out with friends or sleep! Travel writing is an incredible job, and it was a very different experience to the one I’d had with MetroRio. 

Firstly, I was alone, and whilst I was reviewing some amazingly accessible attractions and museums, I was also spending so much time trying to navigate Rio’s layout and districts, some of which are so different to the pretty inclusive Zona Sul, or South Zone, that most tourists stay in and I knew so well. It did open my eyes to how difficult travel can be if you have a disability, especially if you are living in Rio and have to navigate similar things on a daily basis, rather than for a two week holiday.

What’s really special is that my time writing for Lonely Planet has really changed my own perceptions of my own limitations and capabilities.  When it comes to large curbs and flights of stairs, I’m pretty useless, but I’m now great at asking a local for help in Portuguese! I feel that I have a duty to make sure whatever I’m doing is always helping to change the perceptions of others, too. It’s really important that disability has positive representation wherever possible, especially as this may be the only experience of disability the new people I meet might have had!

Emily being pulled on a mat in the sea, on a sunny beach

Why representation is so important

The Olympics and the Paralympics are so well publicised on a global scale. The more positive stories and anecdotes about disability and access that surround major events like these, the more likely it is that other businesses and companies at home and abroad will take notice.

I hope that CEOs of businesses watch the Games and start thinking about how many disabled people they’re employing and whether their workplace is accessible.  This might be a ‘big ask’, but I’d also like to think that politicians will watch and remind themselves that what they need to be doing is ensuring that disabled people have enough support, equipment and resources to continue reaching their potential, be that in sports or other fields(!)

Advice for anyone with a disability going to Rio and the Games

First and foremost, remember that Rio is not the UK, and that patience will have to be exercised around accessibility, however annoying that may be.  Anyone going to the Games will find that Brazilian people are ridiculously warm and friendly; you’ll never be waiting for more than thirty seconds for a bit of assistance!

By reading the Lonely Planet guide, contacting people ‘in the know’ and doing a bit of planning and preparation, you’ll be able to have a really amazing time. Book any flights and accommodation now, as time is running out and prices are soaring!

Emily 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. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

“It doesn’t need to control you” – Dystonia Awareness Week

James Sutliff is a Personal Trainer and Disability Specialist who has a rare neurological disorder known as dystonia. To mark Dystonia Awareness Week, James talks to us about coming to terms with dystonia and how fitness has helped him focus on moving forwards.

It happened in 2008, pretty much overnight. It was bank holiday Monday, I’d gone to bed as normal and woke up feeling unwell. I felt a bit sick, so I went back to bed and when I woke up my speech was slurred. It worried me but I left it for a bit. I didn’t go to hospital straight away.

When I did go to the hospital they admitted me straight away. Initially, they thought I might have had a stroke but that wasn’t the case. I was in hospital for quite a few days before they discharged me. They couldn’t really find anything, a cause or contributing factor. For a few months I was being seen by a specialist. Then my hands started deteriorating.

So they transferred me to specialists in London who were supposed to be the top guys in neurological conditions. So we went and I did lots of tests and they came to the diagnosis that I have a form of dystonia. We did some research, found out a bit about it.

All this took place over two years. It was very frustrating, there were no answers as to why I was suddenly this way and that meant no treatment. I thought it might just go away, and the doctors did, but that hasn’t been the case.

James, a young bodybuilder with dystonia, smiles at the camera

The condition hasn’t got any worse. It’s just not got any better. I think I manage it better now, but at the start I found it very difficult to come to terms with it.

It’s hard to comprehend because physically to look at me, my disability is quite silent. I don’t generally look like a ‘disabled person’. I’m not in a wheelchair; I don’t have a missing limb. So people are often shocked. They think I’m taking the piss.

Using fitness as a focus

I had always kept in shape through rugby. I really found a focus with fitness. That’s what keeps me healthy – mentally and physically strong. I still do find it hard sometimes. But fitness has helped me to come to terms with dystonia. If I look good and I feel good I forget that I have dystonia.

I’m really passionate about fitness and I came across a scheme called Instructability which is aimed at people with disabilities who’d like to work in the fitness industry and help to train and rehabilitate people who also have disabilities.

Because of the situation and what happened to me, I want to help people who have disabilities and help them through fitness. Fitness has helped me to fight against my condition. It makes me feel better, look better and with that, sometimes when I’m training I forget I have a disability.

James, a bodybuilder, lifts weights in a gym

Dystonia and the future

It doesn’t need to control you. You can manage it and it’s just about finding the way to do that. Don’t let it stop you from doing anything. I’m not going to lay there feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to do something.

Dystonia does have an impact on things and it does make life a little bit difficult but I won’t let it beat me. If you let it beat you, it makes it worse.

Visit James’ Facebook page for brilliant training, dieting and day to day living tips. Scope’s online community also has a number of tips around fitness. Visit our community today and get involved.

“Oliver sees details the rest of us miss” – a young photographer’s story

Oliver is a young nature photographer who happens to have Down’s syndrome. Here, Oliver and his mum tell us what photography means to him.  

Q&A with Oliver

Scope: When did you first start taking photos?

Oliver: I was little – I was about 10 years old.

Scope: What is it about nature that you find so interesting?

Oliver: I like wildlife, I like birds and I like the landscape and taking pictures of the trees. I like water and I like going for walks out into ‘the wild’ and the countryside.

Close up photo of an eagleScope: Do you have a favourite animal?

Oliver: I like birds of prey and I really like long tailed tits.

Scope: How did you feel when you sold your first photograph?

Oliver: We had an exhibition and lots of people came to see my pictures. I gave a speech and we sold lots of pictures and with the money I bought a Chinese takeaway for us on the Sunday night when we finished, and bought a holiday in a cottage in Wales in the middle of nowhere! I’m very proud when I have an exhibition.

Scope: If you weren’t taking photos in your spare time, what do you think you’d be doing?

Oliver: I play football and snooker, and I don’t do so much skateboarding so much anymore. I read my books and my magazines and I like to watch TV. I still do bird-watching and walking in the countryside even if I don’t take pictures with my camera.green forest and woodland

Scope: What would you say to other young disabled people who don’t have much confidence?

Oliver: Just do it. Just go out there and do what you want!

Scope: How have your followers on Facebook and the publicity around your photos made you feel?

Oliver: It’s good. I like it. My fans say ‘that’s amazing!’ about my pictures and write messages to me. Yeah it’s good. I like it when we get more places to put on the map!

Wendy, Oliver’s mum

Oliver was born with Down’s syndrome, and severe cardiac issues requiring open heart surgery at three months old. During his early years he was also diagnosed with severe hypotonia (poor muscle tone) and verbal dyspraxia. I was told he wouldn’t be able to take part in sporting activities, and that his speech would probably never reach a point where he could be understood by an unfamiliar lA baby photograph of Oliver with blonde hairistener. However with belief, determination and input from myself and Oliver’s big sister Anna (who was eight when he was born)  by the time he was eight years old he was skateboarding as well as playing football, basketball and snooker, and at 10 years old was asking perfectly clearly for a Subaru Imprezza with a spoiler on the back and a Bugatti Veyron for his birthday!

Oliver is testament to the fact that anyone can achieve and prove negative predictions to be wrong, when they are surrounded by optimism, belief, determination and encouragement. My partner Mike has been best mate and stepfather all rolled into one for Oliver – they both love wildlife, the countryside, and bird-watching. Mike came into Oliver’s life when Oliver was nine. When Oliver was about 10 or 11 he started to want to take photos “like Mike”.

A close-up of some green ivy leavesMike’s targeted tuition and guidance has helped Oliver to use the world of photography as both a tool for him to record what he sees in the way he sees it, and as something which brings Oliver a great sense of pride and self-esteem. He takes pictures of everything and anything which ‘catches’ his eye and will spend as much time and effort on a torn and ragged leaf or some broken sticks as he will on a beautiful bloom. He loves the light catching anything and particularly water. He will spend ages capturing splashes at the bottom of a waterfall or in a rocky river. Birds are probably his greatest love and his knowledge and ability to identify any bird at a glance and even from a distance is astounding. Oliver 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 expectations 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!

He is a truly inspirational young man who loves life and loves what he does, and seeks to be a ‘professional’ earning a proper income from his talent. His achievements are changing and improving the expectations A robin standing on some grassof others, championing disability, and helping to banish outdated and negative stereotypes associated with Down’s syndrome. We receive so many heart-warming messages from parents of disabled children explaining the huge difference Oliver has made to their lives by restoring hopes, dreams and aspirations for their children. He illustrates just how important it is that we value and enjoy diversity in society, and spreads the news that ‘difference’ can be something to be truly celebrated.

Oliver was recently featured in a lovely film piece on the One Show, and on BBC news worldwide. He’s currently crowdfunding for his first coffee table book to be published – so get in quick and bag yourself a copy of the first edition. 

You can visit Oliver’s website to see and purchase his photographs as prints or greetings cards. You can also like Oliver’s Facebook page and get up to date news from his sightings in your newsfeed. Feeling inspired?

I had to vote in the car park as there was no wheelchair access! – #100days100stories

Rosemary Frazer is Campaigns Manager at Scope. In the final days leading up to the General Election, she shares her story of why it’s important disabled people are able to cast their vote as easily as everyone else, as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

Woman sitting in a wheelchair, with a grey carigan and short dark hair, smiling at the cameraI’ve been interested in politics for as long as I can remember. Friends and family tell me my interest borders on geekishness, but I grew up in Northern Ireland, where politics and politicians were a constant presence, so I suppose I could blame it on that!

I’ve always been a keen campaigner, mainly on disability issues as I am a wheelchair user. I had been supported by local politicians for various campaigns. I couldn’t wait to vote for the first time at 18. I remember going to the polling station, marking my ballot paper and folding it up before popping it in the box. I watched the election results come in late into the night (doesn’t everyone do that?). Unfortunately my favourite candidate didn’t get elected. First lesson of politics, you don’t always get to choose the winner!

What do you mean I can’t get in?

Ballot box with a hand posting a voteI moved to London in the late ’90s and in 2001 I was excited to be voting for the first time in London. I registered to vote, received my ballot paper and was all set. I got to the polling station and found that I couldn’t get into the building because it wasn’t accessible!

I couldn’t believe that they hadn’t sorted out proper access. It really did throw me! I was reminded of the time as a child I heard about the Suffragette Movement and thought ‘Why on earth would women not be allowed to vote?’ My thoughts were exactly the same about access at polling stations. ‘Why on earth would you not provide proper facilities for disabled people to vote?’

I had to vote in the car park

I kicked up quite a fuss and in the end a rather farcical situation ensued. The staff at the polling station physically carried a polling booth outside and I cast my vote in the car park. I remember feeling so angry and embarrassed as people arriving to vote were looking at me wondering what on earth was going on. I decided there and then I wouldn’t be going through that experience again!

Importance of voting and being seen to vote

Polling station signI had heard about Scope’s Polls Apart campaign to improve access to voting for disabled people and ended up getting involved with others in improving access, awareness and support in my constituency.

Access to voting hasn’t improved anything like as much as it should have done since my dreadful experience in 2001. At the 2010 General Election, Scope campaigners reported on 400 Parliamentary Constituencies and found that two-thirds (67%) of polling stations had at least one significant access barrier.

Participating and belonging

Young disabled woman votingPostal voting is a vital option for people who find it difficult to travel to their polling station. However postal ballots should not be an excuse for not providing good access and staff training. Indeed by not using accessible venues disabled people are further disadvantaged by not being able to volunteer at polling stations or counting centres.

It is really important for me to be seen to be participating in the same things that non-disabled people do. Taking part in the democratic process is a vital part of that.

My local polling station is now fully accessible with well trained staff. When I cast my vote on May 7th I will be able to do so just like everyone else. For me things have greatly improved but more work needs to be done and we need to keep pushing for better access and support.

I will still be staying up half the night to watch the results come in so perhaps I really am a geek!

Find out more about our 100 days, 100 stories campaign, and find out more about the lives of disabled people and their families.

A driver wouldn’t let me on the bus. When I complained, they offered me a job – #100days100stories

Guest post by Jean from London. Jean has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a painful condition which means she is prone to muscle tears and dislocated joints. She uses a wheelchair most of the time. Jean is an active campaigner for disability rights. She is sharing her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

At the beginning of 2013, I had to put a complaint in to a London bus company because a driver refused to deploy the ramp and let me on.

Instead of dismissing my complaint, the company actually asked me to go in and speak to the management about how disabled passengers should be treated.

Then they asked me to go in again and speak to the bus drivers – and after a couple of months they said, “How would you feel about us paying you for it?”

Jean holding the catBefore that, I hadn’t been able to work for seven years. Part of the time this was because I was unwell, but for a lot of the time it was because employers weren’t prepared to support my needs or make adaptations.

A couple of places I applied even offered to give me an interview, but then withdrew the offer because their offices weren’t wheelchair accessible. It was ridiculous.

Getting support

My new bosses have been really supportive, even offering to contribute towards a new reclining wheelchair, which I will need at work.

However, when I applied for funding from Access to Work for a support worker and a better wheelchair, I was rejected.

One of their reasons was that I wouldn’t be working enough hours, and would still need to claim benefits. But how am I supposed to build up my hours, and start to come off benefits, without the right level of support and equipment?

At the moment, my fiancé has to take me to work and act as my carer. It is difficult – we find it hard to balance his being my partner and being my employee. When he doesn’t do things how I want them, it feels very hard to tell him so.

Add in his own health issues, and wanting to pursue his own interests which have to constantly be put on a back burner, and it causes conflict in our private time.

I felt this was unfair so I appealed, and with the help of my MP I was successful in getting funding. I’m now in the process of finding a support worker, and Access to Work also paid towards the cost of the wheelchair and a small travel allowance.

My work

I’ve looked at how the company views and treats disabled passengers, and made some recommendations for improvements.

I’ve also run disability awareness training for bus drivers. We simulate various impairments – such as being blind or mobility impaired – and ask staff to try to move around inside the bus while it is in motion. It demonstrates how difficult travelling can be for disabled passengers.

I go to conferences and events, and we do a lot of work with mental health and learning disability charities.

One thing I’ve noticed is that disabled people will come and speak to me because they see me in a wheelchair. The fact that I have an understanding of what their situation might be seems to make a big difference.

My work is challenging, fun and rewarding, and it brings confidence and self-worth. I feel like I’m contributing something and making an improvement. Even though the majority of my income is still benefit-based, I am hoping that I can slowly build up my hours.

My employers saw something in me and built a new role around my abilities, and are investing quite heavily in me to ensure I have everything I need to fulfil my potential. I love it.

Read the rest of the stories in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.