Tag Archives: Disabled

Why I believe in inclusive education – #100days100stories

Guest post from Mima from London, who took part in our First Impressions, First Experiences employment programme and is now aiming for university. Mima uses an electric wheelchair, and types on an iPad to communicate.

When Mima was in secondary school she spent some time at a special school. The lessons at the school were not at the right level for her, and she’s since developed a strong belief that disabled and non-disabled students should learn together whenever possible. Here, she shares her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

I’m hoping to go to university to study sociology and religious studies. I loved sociology when I did it at A-level – you can really look into society and see how it works. I’m especially interested in disabled people’s rights and education.

Inclusive education

I have a very strong belief in inclusive education. I went to a mainstream primary school, but then I went to a special school between the ages of 11 and 14.

It wasn’t right for me at all. I wanted to learn and do my exams, and we were singing ‘Ten Green Bottles!’ I wasn’t learning anything.

When I was 14, I moved to a mainstream school. It was much better – I could do my exams as normal, and I was much happier. I loved it even then, but now I appreciate it even more. My year group was a family unit to me – some of my best friends are from school.

I worked with the same personal assistant at school for seven years, and I did A-levels in psychology and sociology.

I tried university from January to July, but it didn’t work out. The atmosphere wasn’t a good place to learn, and to be honest I was quite lonely. There were people I thought were friends, but they weren’t.

After the summer holidays I decided not to go back. I felt depressed, my confidence was quite low. I was doubting myself quite a lot after uni. It was the biggest disappointment of my life.

First Impressions

Young disabled woman working at a desk
Mima at work at Scope’s offices

My career advisor told me about an employability course called First Impressions, First Experiences. I started in September 2014.

We learnt how to present ourselves; how to prepare for interviews. We did mock interviews, which were quite intimidating – I failed my first interview, but I passed my second! I feel much more confident for job interviews in the future.

The most important thing was making a great group of friends. They are my best mates. We still talk nearly every day on Facebook.

I learnt to be more self-confident. I feel more empowered as a young disabled woman, and it feels awesome!

As part of the course, I also went on placement. I went on a work placement at Scope for three weeks in their campaigns department. I learnt that there’s so much that goes into a campaign – so many little things – and that now it’s much quicker to get messages out there via social media. I designed my own campaign on inclusive education.

I’m volunteering at my old special school now. I want to work in special educational needs, as a teacher. I want to inspire the kids. I want them to know they can make the same journey as me.

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.

I had falls with my baby daughter in my arms. It was very scary – #100days100stories

Imagine being trapped in your home, alone, knowing you can’t safely care for your two small children. This was Soña’s experience last year, when her funding for a support worker was cut overnight. She has shared her story in an interview as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign.

Soña, who has cerebral palsy, was struggling to care for her small daughters, three-year-old Natalie and Mary, aged one.

Proud mum smiling at her three-year-old daughter
Soña with her three-year-old daughter Natalie

A support worker visited two hours each day to help her get out of the house, lift Mary, and take Natalie to nursery. It made a big difference, but it just wasn’t enough. Soña’s condition was getting worse and she was worried for the safety of her children.

“I cannot use my left hand at all, and my left leg is a few inches shorter than my right which makes walking difficult,” says Soña. “I’d get so tired just trying to walk from place to place, and I would lose my balance.

“I couldn’t go out with the children alone – I’d end up overturning their pushchair, and it would be dangerous.”

Devastating news

When Soña asked for extra support from her local authority, she was given shocking news. An official explained there had been a mistake with her case – she wasn’t entitled to any funding any more.

Couple in their thirties talking at a table
Soña and her husband, Adam

The family’s support was cut overnight. Soña’s husband Adam works 14-hour shifts as a delivery driver, so she was left at home alone with the children every day.

“I knew that this was not right,” says Soña. “Mary was only about nine months old, and I was starting to have major back problems and spasms.

“I was having constant accidents – I would fall several times a day and get slammed against the door or the wall. I dropped Mary a number of times, which was very scary.”

Struggling on alone

Soña tried again and again to explain why she needed support, but was repeatedly ignored. One professional suggested that if Soña couldn’t cope, Adam should give up work and become her unpaid carer.

“There was no compassion whatsoever. You’re made to feel like you’re making something up. Why would you make it up?

“I felt very vulnerable, here by myself. I was really upset and stressed. All I wanted was to be able to take my children outside, but I was basically trapped in my own house.”

After months of frustration, Soña called Scope’s helpline and spoke to one of our advisors. Realising it was a complex case, the advisor referred her to Karin, a regional response worker.

“I was quite desperate by then,” Soña says. “My situation was getting worse, and I felt like no one wanted to help me.”

Taking control

Karin came to visit Soña at her home and they talked through what had happened. She drafted letters, contacted experts to ask for legal advice, and accompanied Soña to meetings with the authority.

Two women having a conversation on a sofa
Karin, a regional response worker from Scope, with Soña

“We worked together very closely. Karin was always there to help, or to find someone to help me. She constantly reassured me I was doing okay.

“It kept me going, basically. Everyone kept shutting me down, and I was feeling like: maybe I don’t deserve this. To know there is someone out there who actually does support you made a big difference.”

When Soña finally decided to take legal action, Karin helped her apply for legal aid. Soña found a solicitor to argue her case.

“It took six months, but the outcome was absolutely mind-boggling,” she says. “I ended up getting 30 hours’ worth of support a week, far more than before. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been told for so long that I didn’t need anything.

Sona and Mary with Dor, their support worker
Sona and Mary with Dor, their support worker

“Now my carer comes for six hours a day to help me get the girls ready for nursery. We can go out and do the shopping, or take Mary to an appointment. I don’t feel like I’m a prisoner in my own home.

“Without Karin, I would still be stuck at home by myself, struggling. You need support when you’re in this situation, you can’t do it alone.

“I was made to feel like getting social care was a privilege, but it’s not. I need it just so I can have a life.”

If you’ve had a similar experience with social care, you can make a difference by sharing your story as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign. Please contact us on  stories@scope.org.uk if you’d like to get involved.

Are you longing for an accessible summer?

We all know January can be a miserable time of year. So much so that Monday 19 January is supposed to be THE most depressing day of the year! It helps explain why a lot of people start booking their summer holidays around this time. Here we have a couple of brilliant home and away options for accessible holiday destinations, reviewed by disabled people…

Somewhere cheerful on my doorstep please

Perhaps The Beamsley Project in the Yorkshire Dales will be right up your alley!

Emily Yates is an accessibility consultant and accessible travel writer, who also has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She’s currently spending six months of her year in Rio de Janeiro, advising on transport accessibility for the upcoming 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Emily spent her 21st birthday weekend at The Beamsley Project, and recently went back to properly assess all of the accessible features that it offers for disabled visitors.Large stone house in the countryside, with people sitting on a picnic table in front of it

Emily says, “in terms of accessibility, there are automatic external doors leading to a small lounge area with a television and sofas on the ground floor.  In the kitchen,  on the ground floor, there are height adjustable sinks and hobs, low storage for equipment that needs to be accessed, and all surfaces have space underneath so that wheelchair users can get right up to the surface itself. Off the side of the kitchen, the dining room boasts plenty of chairs and tables for personal arrangement, height adjustable tables, and wider grip cutlery for those who may require it. There’s a laundry room with two washers and dryers, a fridge freezer, torches and various sizes and shapes of slings to use with the hoists provided.

“There are also six bedrooms, two shower rooms, two toilet rooms and one bathroom on the ground floor, allowing sixteen people to sleep on this floor. Out of the sixteen beds (there are two four-bed rooms and four two-bed rooms on the ground floor), there are two height adjustable beds, and all beds can have cot-sides fitted to them if necessary.  There are two further bedrooms on the first floor (accessible via lift) sleeping four in each. Both have en suites, one of which has a roll-in shower and several grab rails.

“Whether you consider yourself to have a disability or not, book a stay at the Beamsley Project.  I guarantee that with such a stunning location, more equipment than you could need, and a great welcome from a lovely couple, you will not be disappointed.”

I want out of the UK –  give me guaranteed sunshine!

Then head to Barcelona, and experience sun, Catalan culture and tapas.

Martyn Sibley, co-editor of Disability Horizons, has a physical condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy and uses an electric wheelchair. He visited Barcelona last summer to report on accessibility in the city.

It seems that Barcelona has really built on its Olympic and Paralympic legacy since hosting the games in 1992. Aside from the outstanding accessible accommodation available, there aYoung disabled man being supported into the basket of a hot air balloon re many other offerings which help to make Barcelona one of the most accessible cities in the world. Many experiences which disabled people are often completely excluded from, such as hot air balloon flights, lazy days swimming at the beach, and even visits to wine cellars can all be experienced here.

It’s not just physical impairments that have been taken into consideration either. There are a number of venues and sights that also cater for limited mobility and special needs, for example tactile and audio tours of Gaudi’s famous Temple of the Sagrada Familia, and tourist buses with audio guides and induction loops. Impressively, 80% of Barcelona’s metro system is accessible, and 100% of their buses.

Martyn says, “Barcelona is hands down, the most accessible European city that I’ve ever visited. With so much to see and do and so many facilities on offer to disabled people, I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m back to see some more of what Barcelona and Catalonia has to offer.”

We’d love to know any great accessible holiday destinations that you’ve experienced too. Please leave a comment if you have any recommendations.

Amanda’s story: Caring for a disabled child and supporting other parents

Guest post from Becky, who works in Scope’s fundraising department.

Being based in Scope’s office in London, it’s easy to become detached from the day-to-day reality of what life is like for disabled people and their families.

AmandaAmanda and her husband Neil found their lives changed forever when their daughter Livvy was diagnosed with autism and severe learning difficulties at 22 months. A freelance journalist at the time, Amanda had to change direction and, in her own words, she was given “a new path”.

Amanda now works part-time for Scope as the Coordinator for Face 2 Face in Brighton and Hove.

When we sit down in her living room and start chatting I am immediately struck by Amanda’s resilient character. As well as Livvy, now 13, Amanda has three other children aged three to 11, works for Scope and is a governor at two of her children’s schools.

But despite her obvious strength, I’ve no doubt that things must have been very difficult for Amanda at times.

Livvy developed epilepsy aged five and has tonic seizures every day which Amanda says are “really horrible”. This means that Amanda and Neil have to monitor Livvy during the night, taking turns to care for her.

Recently Livvy has had to spend more and more time in a wheelchair, and has lost some of her communication skills. But it is the spontaneity of Livvy’s seizures which seem to have the biggest effect on Amanda, and it is the only time during our meeting that I can sense any vulnerability in her.

Family holidays are out of the question as it would be too overwhelming for them to take Livvy away overnight. Amanda tells me that she would be really nervous about something happening, and so they use some of the time Livvy spends in their local hospice, Chestnut Tree House, as a safe holiday instead, with the family going along to stay with her.

Amanda says that getting support for Livvy from her local authority has not been difficult, because Livvy is so severely disabled. But this is not the case for a lot of the parents she meets – many of whom are struggling with the system, and have to fight for everything.

Amanda is a powerful spokeswoman for these parents – definitely someone I would want to have on my side if I was a parent of a newly-diagnosed disabled child.

When I leave the family’s house I feel uplifted by Amanda’s story. Her outlook on life and appetite to achieve positive change for disabled people reminds me why I chose to work for Scope.

Representing disability in the fashion industry

Guest post by Sarah Dawes from Bibble Plus who make bandana style adult bibs for drooling and dribbling difficulties.

Models on the catwalk
Models on the catwalk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The physical appearance of people with a disability has long been taboo, avoided in discussions at all costs. This is an attempt to escape the elephant in the room almost by pretending that disabled people don’t have an appearance at all.

We often hear people with disabilities talked of with sympathy, or with awe. As caring as these attitudes may be, they place an uncomfortable distance between those with disabilities and those without. They assume that a disabled body is something to be put up with, rather than embraced, not even exploring the notion that a disabled person might want to show off their body, not hiding the bits that are different.

It’s tiring to have to define people exclusively on a deep, emotional level, trying to find commendable characteristics to replace the physical ones that can’t be mentioned. Sometimes it really is about appreciating what’s on the outside. We spend so long dwelling on the significant differences between the lifestyles of the disabled and non-disabled that we forget all we have in common – those elements of being human that have nothing to do with disability.

One of these is fashion; whatever shape your body is, you probably take an interest in what you put on it. Portrayals of the human body within the fashion industry have long been a hot topic of debate, and the lack of representation of all kinds of groups, including different weights, ages and colours, has been focused on by the media. One group that is hardly ever considered when it comes to fashion, though, is people with disabilities.

The fashion industry’s almost exclusive use of men and women above a certain height, under a certain weight, and with everything in the “right place”, imagines that everyone can, or even aspires to, look this way. More than 11 million people live with a disability in Britain, and yet they are almost non-existent in the fashion and beauty industries.

There are some who have recognised beauty in figures that aren’t the conventional shape, though.  The campaigning group Models of Diversity have recently made a documentary, showing the work they do to get disabled models recognised. They meet with leaders in the industry to promote inclusivity within fashion.

One of the models interviewed, Kelly Knox, was born without a left hand. She was the winner of Britain’s Missing Top Model in 2008, has appeared on Gok Wan’s How to Look Good Naked, and opened Pakistan fashion week, as well as appearing in a number of fashion campaigns. She aims to challenge people’s ideas about what beauty means. Having been on the catwalk for big brand P&G, she wonders why other brands can’t also embrace models with disabilities.

Actor, model and trainer Jack Eyers was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, and had his leg amputated at 16. Involved in the Paralympic Games, he hoped there would be more disabled models in the media after the Games were over.

Demand for disabled models is slowly starting to pick up and, with the help of campaigners and ambitious disabled models, we can hope to see a wider variety of body shapes on the catwalks and in magazines in the coming years.