Tag Archives: End The Awkward

End the Awkward comes to an end: here are some highlights

With End the Awkward coming to an end for 2016. End the Awkward project manager, Neal Brown shares some of the top highlights.

Two thirds of people feeling awkward around disability, and some people feel so awkward that they’re avoiding disabled people altogether.

Considering 1 in 5 people are disabled, that’s a lot of time feeling pretty uncomfortable. We felt it was time to put a stop to it.

Over the last seven weeks we’ve been running our End the Awkward campaign, aiming to tackle the awkwardness that many people face around disability.

In this time our videos have been viewed more than 7.5 million times, and more than 71,000 people have visited our website looking for helpful tips.

Awkward moments

The reaction to the campaign has been fantastic. We’ve been inundated with people sharing their own awkward stories.

Jenny shared her experiences of awkward situations with her autistic child.

“As a parent of a little 4 year old who has autism and still learning to talk and has sensory issues yes people do react different and act awkward around my child… I’ve had people say there us something wrong with that boy. I’ve heard people say that we shouldn’t take our kids on buses. [The] End the Awkward campaign is doing an amazing job in raising everyday issues that people with disabilities face.”

While Adrianne shared this:

“Some guy asked what I had done when I came to the till in my wheelchair. But the awkward moment was when he kept prying after I said: ‘Oh, I’m just disabled’, and implied I must be injured and not sick.”

This year’s campaign saw us break new ground, partnering with UNILAD to create exciting new content. Have you ever used a guide dog as a sat nav? While we knew this was based on the real experiences of Emily, a Scope supporter, it’s a lot more common that you might think.

Gavin told us:

“In the 18 years of being a guide dog mobility instructor I heard stories like this on an amazingly regular basis.”

Ending the Awkward around the world

We’ve also inspired people across the world to start talking about these issues. In this video, RebelWheels NYC shares her thoughts on dating disabled people.

While our campaign is coming to a close for 2016, we know that there remains a lot of awkward situations around.

Help us to keep spreading the word by sharing our content with your friends, family and colleagues.

My tips for ending awkward dating moments

Guest post from Phil Lusted, a web and graphic designer from north Wales.

For End the Awkward, he talks about awkwardness when it comes to dating and sex and gives some tips for getting over it.

When I was born, I was diagnosed with a rare form of dwarfism called diastrophic dysplaysia which means my bones don’t grow like an average height person would. Being only 3ft in height, I have come across many awkward moments in my life, one of the most common is being mistaken for a child or spoken to like a child.

Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally. This includes those who have visible or invisible disabilities. We are still human, with feelings just like any other able-bodied person. Unfortunately, for disabled people, dating can involve uncertainty and more than a few awkward moments. Like the time a waitress asked my date if I needed a high chair before we got to our table. Needless to say, I did not.

My tips for dating

A first date can be nervous for any person, some thoughts that would typically run through my head would be: “What will she think of me and my height?” “Will she think I’m a weird shape?” “What if she feels embarrassed around me?”. It is perfectly normal for us to think like this, we all do it no matter what size or shape we are, it’s all part of being human and how our brain works when in a nervous or first time situation.

To help avoid awkward situations with your date, don’t be ashamed to educate them on your disability before actually going on the date. Tell them any needs you may have or any assistance you may need while on the date, this will put yourself and your date more at ease, you will both be pretty much on the same page with her or him knowing more about your disability and needs.

I knew my girlfriend three months prior to our first date which gave her plenty of time to learn about myself and my dwarfism, which resulted in our first date being comfortable for the both of us, that way we could enjoy our time together without any awkward situations taking place.

Phil and his girlfriend hugging and smiling, on a wooden bench with trees in the background

Sex and confidence

A lot of nervousness may also be from your own body confidence; I know this from my own experience. Because I was born with severe scoliosis, my back and chest are a funny shape which has in the past affected my confidence. Something as simple as taking my shirt off in a public swimming pool would never happen.

It’s important to be confident in yourself by not being ashamed of your appearance, at the end of the day, we all come in different shapes and sizes, it’s something we should embrace and be positive about. Life would be a little boring if we all looked the same. Also keep in mind that if your partner loves you unconditionally, then you have nothing to fear or feel awkward about when it comes to showing your body.

Communication is important

One of the biggest issues caused by feeling awkward or embarrassed is a lack of communication. Despite sex being considered a “private” or “taboo” subject, all relationships require communication and dialog. I think being open with your partner is very important, especially as disabled people.

Talk with your partner about sex and discover what’s best for the both of you to avoid having close-minded expectations. Remember that not everything works with every partner, so it is important to be patient with one another.

The more you talk to one another the less chances you will feel uncomfortable and awkward when it comes to being intimate together.

You can read more about Phil’s awkward moments in his blog for last year’s End the Awkward campaign.

For more tips on sex and dating, check out the films and stories on our website.

I’m not avoiding you, I have face blindness! – End the Awkward

Carly is an Autism advocate, filmmaker and speaker. She wasn’t diagnosed with autism until she was 32, and now works to raise awareness of autism and girls.

For End the Awkward, Carly shares some of her own awkward experiences, especially those related to a lesser known aspect of autism – face blindness.

I was diagnosed with autism at 32. It’s typically seen as a male condition, but I have three daughters and two of them are autistic. Everyone I knew with autistic children had sons. There was nothing for girls. So I went on the internet and looked up everything I could about autism and girls. That’s when I first thought “I’m autistic too!”

Misconceptions about autism

When I was 14 my parents took me to see a psychiatrist because I was having difficulties. I couldn’t go to school, I was constantly anxious, I spent a lot of time in my room. He just said I was lazy. Then, after my girls were diagnosed and the penny dropped for me, I went to see a clinical psychologist. He made me do a test and, although I scored highly,  he asked about my hobbies. When I said I’ve always liked acting, he said “Well you can’t be autistic then because autistic people can’t act”.

He also asked if there was any chance I could be making this up because autism in girls is so rare it’s impossible to have two in one family. So I went to the National Autistic Society and I decided to make a film about getting a diagnosis. I ended up being diagnosed on film!

I think it’s important to teach parents and to show people that there shouldn’t be any stigma, it’s okay to be autistic and it’s okay to be a parent and be autistic.

Awkward moments with face blindness

Before my diagnosis, I had no idea that face blindness even existed. Now I realise I’ve been dealing with it all my life. If someone wasn’t where they should be, like if I saw my teacher in the supermarket, I didn’t recognise them. People must have thought I was rude.

Now that I know I have face blindness, it can be even more awkward, because if I think it might be someone I know I start hugging them! Sometimes it turns out to be a complete stranger. I have a friend who has distinctive dark hair, often wears a checked shirt, and spends a lot of time in a café that I also go to. So one day, I walked into the café, saw a man in a checked shirt, with similar hair and I kissed him on both cheeks. Then I realised his wife was looking at me like she was about to hit me. It was the wrong person!

Another time, at New Year’s Eve, the person I was with was wearing a shirt that was very popular at the time. Midnight comes and we had a kiss, as you do, and he tapped me on the back. I was kissing a completely different person! It didn’t go down well. If I’d had my diagnosis at the time I could have said “Sorry  – I’m face-blind”. What a good excuse!

Carly smiling at the camera on a wooden bench with a brick wall behind her

I get words mixed up a lot

Autism is a communication and language disability, which affects me in different ways. One is that I tend to just say what I’m thinking. It’s like being Jim Carrey in Liar Liar and I can’t stop it. Everyone says “Oh you’re such a funny person” but I don’t mean to be a funny person at all. I often take things too literally as well. Which can be really awkward.

I often get words mixed up. For example, the words necklace and knickers just sound the same to me. It’s very important that no-one ever asks me to take my necklace off! Another one is I often mix up how and who, which can be awkward as I often ask “Who are you?” rather than “How are you?” or if I’m being asked “How are you?” I may reply “Carly?” or if I’m asked “Who are you?” I may reply “A bit chilly actually”. As you can imagine, this, on top of not recognising people, makes the outside world rather daunting!

Ending the awkward

When you get diagnosed you get self-awareness. An understanding that this is how you see things and this is how other people see things differently to you. I spent 32 years of my life thinking I must be “stupid”, “crazy” or “unliked”. Now I know why life was, and still can be, awkward. I hope by sharing my experiences I can help people.

It’s okay to say to people “This is how my disability affects me”. For example, if we arrange to meet, I ask if they can send me a photo of what they’re wearing that day. A lot of my autistic friends, we naturally do this with each other. So we’ll say I’m stood here, I’m wearing a blue coat and I have a red bag. It might seem weird to non-autistic people so we need make people aware, tell them how they can help. Decent human beings aren’t going to trip you up on it. I think anybody with a disability would prefer that people ask questions about what we need. We don’t mind. Not asking can break down any communication and that’s really sad.

When I saw End the Awkward I thought this is really good. Not everyone wants to listen to the serious side of things but boy there are some funny awkward stories! I think humour is the best way to get people to remember something. Information is really important but sometimes it can feel a bit like “Am I studying for this?” I think a joke helps bring people in.

To find out more about Carly’s work, visit her website.

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

“I hate it when people fake” – and other things you hear as a part time wheelchair user

Chloe is a student and blogger, creator of Life as a Cerebral Palsy student and an Ambassador for CP Teens. 

She has mild cerebral palsy, seizures and sometimes uses a wheelchair. For End the Awkward, she talks about some of the awkward moments this brings and how a balance of education and humour is the way to improve attitudes.

People often think I’m drunk

I’ve had various nights out where people thought I was completely wasted. I have cerebral palsy but I can walk unaided, with my stick. On a night out I don’t tend to wear my splints. I probably look ‘normal’ when I’m sat down and when I stand up people are shocked. People assume that, because I’m on a night out with friends, I’m drunk, when actually I can’t drink a lot with the medication I’m on anyway. At most, I might be a bit tipsy but bar staff will say “Oh you’ve had one too many”.

I tend to go one of two ways – I either make a joke, like “Oh yeah I guess I am… wonder why I’ve got this stick though” or I just say “Well actually I have cerebral palsy, I’m not drunk”. To which they’re usually like “oops”.

Misconceptions about wheelchair-users

Once, I was out clothes shopping with friends and I was in my wheelchair. My friends went one way to look at something and I was looking at a dress. It was on a higher hanger so I was leaning forward, not even standing up, just reaching and this woman looked at me and said “Ugh I hate it when people fake.” I was thinking “What?!” and obviously my friends weren’t there to back me up. I said “Excuse me?” and she said “Well you know, all these people pretending” and I said “Do you know what a part time wheelchair user is?” and she still didn’t believe me. I was just a bit speechless so I just went in the opposite direction.

Should we carry you down the stairs?

I’ve been at a restaurant where there were stairs to go down and the waiter came over like “We could carry you down the stairs?” so I said “I’ve got my stick, I can get down myself if that’s okay” and he just stared at me. I was like “I can walk. I may be exhausted by the time I get to the table but then I can sit down for the meal and I’ll be fine. And he was like “Oh… okay… so do you want me to carry your chair” and I said, “Well yes, that would be very helpful”. I’m amazed by how many people still think you either use a wheelchair all the time or you don’t, or you can either walk or you can’t.

Photo of Chloe in her wheelchair, wearing her leg splints

Fear of the unknown

Because I also have seizures I get avoided quite a bit – people don’t want you to go unconscious on them! It can happen anywhere, like in the middle of busy city centres! There can be warning signs but it varies. I have three different kinds of epilepsy. It can range from “Sit me down now, I’m about to pass out” to no warning whatsoever and I’ll just fall.

I definitely think it’s more a fear of the unknown that anything else. People aren’t sure what to do if it happens so they don’t want to be in that situation. There are so many different kinds of seizures. People think about the ‘typical seizure’ but a lot of mine aren’t like that. So they don’t really know what’s going on. Their instant reaction is to call an ambulance or stare at me, neither of which is helpful. I rarely need medical intervention.

There’s no need to avoid me though. Once I collapsed on one of my friends and she wasn’t sure what to do but I came round and it was fine. She knew that I had seizures but she’d never actually seen one until then. She just joked “A warning would have been nice!” and now she’s used to it.

Ending the Awkward

I think you have to use it as an opportunity to educate people but maybe with a slightly humorous twist. You don’t want to be too serious because I think they’ll just go “Right I’m avoiding doing that again ever in my life”  but if you laugh it off too much they might not realise that what they’ve done is bad. It’s about getting that balance right.

To hear more from Chloe, visit her blog. 

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

“My guide dog isn’t a sat nav!”

Guest blog by Emily Davison, otherwise known as Fashioneyesta. Emily is a Scope for Change campaigner and stars in our new End the Awkward film made with UNILAD.

My name’s Emily Davison, otherwise known as Fashioneyesta. I’m a university graduate, writer, fashion and beauty blogger and YouTuber. I also happen to be visually impaired and work with a Guide Dog.

Every day I come across many misconceptions towards my disability and in turn I usually find myself in front of my camera or typing away at my laptop discussing these with my followers.

I was keen to take part in Scope’s End the Awkward campaign – to represent the sight loss community and to show that sight loss does not equate to ignorance, being un-fashionable or being stereotyped.

You can’t give my guide dog directions!

In my new film, you see me in an awkward situation around one of the most outlandish myths surrounding my guide dog – which is the common belief that people can give her directions instead of myself, and that she can follow them like a GPS system!

But, of course there are plenty more awkward moments where that one came from…

‘You’re well dressed for a blind person’

As a fashion blogger, comments I hear a lot are to do with my appearance. People will say ‘you don’t look blind!’ or ‘you’re very well dressed for a blind person.’

As if anyone with a visual impairment – simply because they lack sight – cannot have a conception of style, beauty or looking good, which is of course not true.

‘She’s blind and she’s wearing high heels!’

Another one I encounter on a regular basis is ‘Oh my god! She’s blind and she’s wearing high heels, how ridiculous!’ My answer to this is what does sight loss have to do with the clothes I wear? In what context do those two things relate?

I chose to take an interest in fashion because I enjoy the shopping process, I enjoy looking and feeling good and I happen to love wearing high-heeled shoes.

Awkward speed dating

Another time I went speed dating, and after talking to the person opposite me for a few minutes I got onto the subject of being visually impaired.

When I told him about my vision he sat back, blinked and said ‘Oh…Well what do you expect me do say to that?’ And the conversation came to an abrupt, very awkward end.

Young woman sitting on steps near a beach

‘But you don’t look blind…’

On the bus one day I sat on one of the priority seats – those usually reserved for disabled people, elderly people or those with child.

But my guide dog was out of view and therefore to some I could appear to be a ‘normal person’ – a term I use very loosely.

An elderly gentlemen boarded the bus and said to me ‘Can you move please! These seats are for disabled people.’

It just so happened that my stop was next and so instead of staring a brawl I got up to expose my little four-legged friend, in all her guide dog splendour (neon harness).

There was a deadly silence…..He then responded ‘Oh god! No sit back down… it’s…it’s just…you don’t look blind!’

We all make mistakes

Awkwardness is something I experience in my everyday life, we all do, but disability shouldn’t be something to feel awkward about.

If you have ever felt awkward around disabled people – maybe you said something wrong or made someone feel embarrassed – the thing to do is simply apologise.

We all make mistakes in life and as long as we move forward and learn from them, this is what truly matters.

Follow Fashioneyesta

If you would like to keep up to date with my work you can find me on my blog, Twitter and YouTube. And don’t forget to share your awkward stories too as part of End the Awkward.

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.

Why Emma thinks laughter is the best way to End the Awkward

Emma Satyamurti is an employment lawyer and litigator, and a partner at law firm Leigh Day. She believes that humour can be a great tool in changing attitudes and talks about the way we’ve used a lighter angle with our latest End the Awkward ad.

Feeling awkward makes people do the strangest things. My own back-catalogue as an unwilling awkward-ee includes:

  • being offered money
  • being ignored
  • being singled out;
  • being chuckled at for no reason;
  • being asked if I am ok when I am not doing anything that could suggest otherwise (unless being out of bed counts);
  • being talked about as if I am not there (along the lines of “isn’t she super?”)
  • being laughed at (admittedly mostly by children, and not very often).

These are by no means unusual experiences for disabled people, and there are many other variations on this theme. As part of its End the Awkward campaign, Scope has made some fantastic videos of disabled people talking about people’s responses to meeting them, which are as hilarious as they are poignant.

I don’t want to be too hard on awkwardness

I don’t want to be too hard on awkwardness though. It is very definitely not the same thing as hostility, or arrogance, or bigotry or the other horrible things that many disabled people are subjected to, though there may of course sometimes be an overlap.

Ironically, while being on the receiving end of awkwardness can be very uncomfortable, my sense is that awkwardness (and its close relative, anxiety) often arises from impulses which, properly channelled, are benign and indeed positively good: kindness, concern, worry about causing offence, protectiveness, sympathy and so on.

The End the Awkward campaign navigates this skillfully. In its light-touch and witty exploration of the issue, it conveys not so much a finger-pointing rebuke at misguided non-disabled folk, but a gently mocking send-up which cuts awkwardness down to size and shows how unnecessary it is.

Shared laughter is like shared food – it can bring people together and dissolve defences, at least temporarily.  In the likely event that the ad makes us laugh (it’s very funny), I think we are all laughing at the same thing whether disabled or not.

What the ad makes fun of is the ridiculous panic of some of the non-disabled employees when a new and diminutive colleague is brought round to be introduced. It is this which the slapstick style of the film emphasises. We are encouraged to laugh not at the people themselves, but at what they do.

While disabled viewers may enjoy seeing a familiar scenario blown up into full-scale farce, non-disabled people may recognise a caricature of their own confusion in the office-workers diving for cover under their desks. But I would bet that any viewer will enjoy the comedy and cringe for the dapper new-joiner faced with such a woeful welcome.

It’s a fine line to be sure, and this is, I think, what makes the ad so clever. It packs a real punch but aimed at the issue, not at the inadequacy and vulnerability any of us can feel in an unfamiliar social situation. Awkwardness, embarrassment, ignorance, confusion; these are all states that thrive on silence. By bringing them loudly out into the open – diffusing, and at the same time defusing, them with humour – End the Awkward makes these things easier to recognise, talk about and change.

You can read the rest of our End the Awkward blogs, or get involved in the campaign by submitting your awkward story.

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”.

“He’s really fit but it’s a shame that he speaks like that” – End the Awkward

James Sutliff is a Personal Trainer. In 2008, he developed a rare neurological disorder known as dystonia. His speech became slurred and the feeling in his hands deteriorated.

As part of End the Awkward, James told us the awkward moments he’s found himself in and how he thinks we can avoid these cringe worthy situations.

Attitudes and awkwardness

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 p***.

I think a lot of people can be quite nervous, it can be embarrassing on either end, because the person who’s speaking to me wants to understand what I’m saying but can’t and I feel awkward so I don’t want to carry on talking. It happens quite a lot.

I don’t think it’s that people can’t be bothered to listen all the time. It’s just maybe a little bit of embarrassment on their part, feeling nervous around not knowing how to approach it.

Some people are great. I like it if people just say “sorry mate can you say that again?” But being polite, as people generally are, they’ll just nod their head or whatever.

James, a young disabled man, lifts weights in a gym

How people can be less awkward

I do get quite a bit of female attention, probably because I work out and stuff. When they approach me and talk to me, they soon realise that I have dystonia and there have been a few instances where people make comments that are not very nice.

I was in a nightclub with my wife and this woman approached me. She was obviously quite physically attracted to me and then I started talking. She quickly finished her conversation and rejoined her friend. She obviously cottoned on that my wife was with me in the club and said to her “He’s really fit but it’s a shame he speaks like that”. That was it, she was in trouble. My wife gave her a really bad telling off!

James, a young disabled man, lifts weights in a gym

What not to do

You do get people staring. I don’t think they realise that they’re doing it but sometimes when I clock them I feel like saying “Stop it! If you want to know what’s wrong, come and ask!”

Children are great though because they basically have no boundaries. They’ll say “Why do you speak like that?” and I love that because they’re so honest. They’re just curious. And we’ll say, “Well it’s because of this” and they just go “Oh, okay then”.

I think as a nation we’re overly polite. But what people don’t realise is they’re actually being ruder by sitting and staring or nudging and whispering with their friend next to them.

Be open, have a sense of humour and don’t ignore me. Just talk to me and remember, I’m the same person I was before.

For more tips on sex and dating, check out the films and stories on our website.

You can also read the rest of our End the Awkward blogs, or get involved in the campaign by submitting your awkward story.

What End the Awkward means to our supporters

End the Awkward project manager Neal Brown, who has a hearing impairment, asks some of our disabled supporters what End the Awkward means to them and how it changes attitudes around disability. 

End the Awkward is just one of a number of behaviour change campaigns that have been run in the UK, tackling a range of social issues including racism, homophobia, and drink-driving.

These campaigns use different tactics for getting people’s attention. Stonewall’s ‘Some People Are Gay. Get over it.’ campaign was confrontational; NHS Stop Smoking adverts have used shock tactics with graphic imagery.

With End the Awkward, we’ve always taken a tongue-in-cheek approach, because we know that people don’t mean to be awkward, so we don’t want to point the finger.

We spoke to some of our supporters about what the End the Awkward campaign means to them, and have shared their responses in this post.

“Humour breaks the ice”

Carly smiling for a photograph
Carly

Carly Jones, an autism advocate, filmmaker and author, told us why she thinks humour is effective:

“Humour breaks the ice, it captures interest, it relaxes people and gives them permission to be human. In return they get to hear and really listen to what makes us human too.”

Behind the light-hearted tone, there is a serious message. We know from our research that two-thirds of people feel awkward around disability, and that over a third (34%) are actively avoiding disabled people because they are worried about being patronising.

Liam wearing radio headset, smiling at the camera
Liam

How did we get here? Liam O’Dell, a student, blogger and radio show host, shares his thoughts:

“For a long time, disability has always been seen as a mystery or a taboo. Everyone worries about slipping up or saying the wrong thing to a disabled person and everything becomes awkward when it doesn’t need to be. The lack of discussion involving disabled people is a long-term issue which has led to rude, embarrassing or laughable stereotypes being created.”

Real-life experiences

But End the Awkward wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t based on the real-life experiences of disabled people. I’ve had many awkward moments in my life where people assume that I’m being rude because my hearing impairment means I’m not engrossed in the conversation.

But I shouldn’t have to disclose my impairment when I go to the barber or the pub just to avoid being judged by strangers. When people find out about my impairment things do change. People start to feel embarrassed and become overly apologetic. I feel like I have to reassure them that it’s okay.

Layla posing for the camera
Layla

It’s not just me. Layla Harding, a Masters student, uses mobility aids and has experienced awkward situations as a result.

“End the Awkward is hugely important. When I use mobility aids I endure these awkward moments time and time again. Just yesterday I was encouraged to “get training for the 2020 Paralympics”, told that my having a disability was a “such a shame because you’re a pretty young thing”, and was congratulated for getting “out and about” on the tube.

During situations like these it’s extremely frustrating because there is so much you want to explain to people and teach them but it’s difficult to get it all across. That’s why I think End the Awkward is important because it hopefully makes people see disability in a different light.”

I don’t think that anyone wants to be awkward around disabled people, or that anyone chooses to be awkward. And disabled people can feel just as awkward as non-disabled people. End the Awkward helps by showing that we are not alone in our awkwardness, and that it doesn’t take a lot to be less awkward and make life better for all of us.

Over the last three years, End the Awkward has done more than challenge the awkwardness around disability. It has also played a role in empowering disabled people like business woman, Kelly Perks-Bevington, helping them to feel more confident and to achieve more.

Kelly, a young disabled woman in an electric wheelchair, smiles and waves at the camera
Kelly

“When I was first invited to do End the Awkward, I was skeptical. I never talked about my disability, as to me, it felt like it didn’t exist! And, although it still feels like that, I’m also proud to be disabled and I have a new confidence around the whole subject.

I think by working with Scope on End the Awkward I’ve really dealt with those confidence issues and embraced who I am! Wheelchair and all!”

People ask why we run End the Awkward when we could be lobbying government to directly improve the lives of disabled people. Well, we are still campaigning for disabled people alongside End the Awkward. But we will have more success campaigning if we have society on our side, and that starts with changing attitudes.

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