Tag Archives: independence

I’m just like any other mum – disability doesn’t change anything!

Marie and her husband Dan are the proud parents of Mark, who’s three years old. Marie has brittle bone disease and uses a wheelchair, so aspects of being a mum can be challenging. To mark Mother’s Day, Marie updates us on their past year –  Mark has been coming on in leaps and bounds, and there have been changes for Marie and Dan too.

Mark has my independent streak

Mark has stopped being a toddler and is most definitely now a fantastic, handsome and intelligent little boy. He has absorbed my fierce independent streak and most household tasks now echo with ‘No, Marky do it!’ in his own special little voice. His increased independence makes life easier physically – all the jobs I couldn’t do like picking him up are now in the past – but we have new challenges, how DO you discipline your toddler when he’s your own height? It’s a good job I can still shout and hold the purse strings!

One of his favourite things (at the moment!) is cooking, and this is where our fantastic adapted kitchen comes in; it means I can cook for the whole family and Mark can get involved too. He loves making gingerbread men! We designed the kitchen ourselves with a number of clever adaptations using standard materials to make it as cheap as possible – things like using wall units as low-level cupboards to give my chair room to fit underneath. It’s amazing how a few simple bits of lateral thinking make all the difference!

While the more sedate things are mummy jobs, the active things are daddy’s domain. Mark recently started swimming, something that he can do with Dan while I watch. I can swim (I’ve been known to flap about and propel myself up to 800 metres, although I won’t break any records!) but the idea of going in a bustling, busy public pool with Brittle Bones doesn’t sound too smart. I leave that one to the boys.

Marie and her 3 year old son Mark sat at table

Returning to work

And Mark definitely is a boy now, we registered him in our local preschool for 3 mornings a week starting back in January – the start of his funded time. He adores it! Whilst we’ve always had him out and about doing things (Start the Art, Mini Strikers, Rugby Tots to name but a few) since he was about 6 months old, he really has responded well to the structure of preschool. The loving and nurturing home we have created for him has worked, he’s ahead of his age targets across the board.

Mark now being at preschool has left a hole in my life, and I’m never one to sit still doing nothing. I’d get bored too fast. So, I decided to use my degree (First-class BSc in a number of subjects including Social Policy and Child Development) and my long experience in the health and social care field as both a recipient and worker to get a job where I can really make a difference. Such an opportunity arose and I’m proud to say I am now a college tutor, tutoring a wide range of courses. It’s brilliant! I get to bring a unique view to the table, helping students (e.g. care practitioners) see the wider issues at play beyond just learning the course. I hope they are learning a lot! Mark can also see me earning (as he puts it) ‘pennies for rides!’. I guess that returning to work as your child gets older is just another one of them milestones and I see myself as just like any other mum despite the 200+ broken bones, life-saving surgery as a teenager, the fact that I’m fully wheelchair dependent and have daily chronic aches and pains from years of physical trauma.

Dan has a new job too. Sadly he was made redundant following a very successful career in space research – he was one of the team who landed a spacecraft on a comet in late 2014. Google ‘Dan Andrews Rosetta’ if you want to read more! Sadly the end of the mission meant an end to the funding, and he lost his job. That was, naturally, a worrying time for us all. Not only was he job-hunting – he needed a company within a short commute distance to tie in with family, with normal office hours and that would recognise his transferable skills. He struck gold and is now working in the fascinating field of special missions aviation. Mark should have fun telling his school friends about what Daddy’s done for a living!

Marie holding a tray of gingerbread men while Mark sprinkles on flour

Remembering my own mum

So that’s it from us. A year of changes for us all and a lot of adventures! We like to think we’re giving Mark the best upbringing we possibly can. He’s always doing things and he most definitely doesn’t see me as anything other than ‘Mum’! It is still hard doing this without my own mum, there are countless times when I want to just call her and ask ‘What do I do if he…?’ or to share the latest milestone met. Readers who read my last blog will know that she passed away very suddenly in 2012 and this will be another emotional Mother’s Day for me. As well as all my other health conditions I am now also battling prolonged grief disorder but I am using my strength to ensure I am making each day count and living life to the full with my lovely little family. All I can say is that my upbringing from her definitely stuck, I wouldn’t be the fiercely independent working mum and wife that I am today without her teaching me that my disability needn’t stop anything!

Find out more about Marie and her family – read her previous blogs. If you have a story you’d like to share, get in touch with the stories team.

“I want to have a job, get paid, go out, enjoy myself”

Nusrat is 27 years old and recently started a job as a Lab Aide at the Sainsbury’s Wellcome Centre, with help from Scope’s Future Ambitions employment service.

For Learning Disability Work Experience Week, Nusrat shares her journey in to work and her goals for the future.

When I was at school I was thinking –  I want to get paid, I want to earn my own money and that’s what I want to do for my future. I went to college, then when I finished college I went to Project Search which finished in July. Project Search gave me training to help me get a job. I also did First Impressions, First Experiences with Scope. I liked it. I made loads of friends there. We did mock interviews, learning more skills, that kind of thing. That has helped me.

Work experience helped me get a job

I was going to Newham’s employment service and a Workplace advisor told me and my mum about work experience through Project Search. I thought it sounded good, that’s why I wanted to do it.

The work experience was good. I liked working with my tutor and job coach from Project Search. I liked working in the kitchen, giving patients tea and coffee in the morning. I liked working in the canteen, emptying the bins and cleaning the tables. I learned new skills. I learned to give food to customers and how to make tea. I learned to use the till. I did that with a colleague. I worked as a host. I was learning to be a housekeeper. I didn’t like that, it made me feel sick. I was also in an office, typing, answering phones. I enjoyed it. I liked it. We finished at the end of July and had an awards ceremony. My mum came. She said she was very proud of me.

I learned about listening to colleagues and managers. I learned how to make tea. I learned about working with people. I also learned about interview skills. Doing the work experience helped me get my job.

Nusrat sat at a long table smiling, with a cup of tea

Support to do my job

Jodi from Scope told me about the job at the Wellcome Trust. I wanted to come here and work in the lab. I came here for an interview. I was brave, confident, and polite. I liked it. Jodi was there too. I love this job. I want to do it, I enjoy it and I like my colleagues.

I like Jodi because she’s really friendly and very helpful. She supports me so my mum knows it’s okay, she’ll look after me. Jodi comes in to visit me at work. It’s nice to see her and I like working with her. If she doesn’t visit, I can just give her a text. It’s nice to have someone to talk to.

It’s difficult for me to travel. A taxi comes to pick me up and takes me home, takes me to work. Jodi has sorted things out for me. If I didn’t have the taxi it would be difficult for me to do this job.

My hopes for the future

I’ve never experienced bad attitudes. I’ve worked with some good people. It was hard to find a job at first though. I don’t know why, I’m not sure. I was looking for jobs but they wouldn’t hire me. Employers need to change their attitudes and respect other people.

I work hard. Working with other people has improved my skills. In the future I’d like to be able to go out with my family, go shopping, help out at home. I have lots of friends and that makes me happy. I go to a friendship club to meet other friends and I enjoy it. I want to have a job, get paid, go out, enjoy myself. This is what I want to do for my future.

If you would like to share a story about work experience or employment, get in touch with the Stories team.

Recruiting personal assistants means I can live my life how I want to – Nadia

Nadia is 24 and lives in West Yorkshire. She’s a student and a campaigner with Scope for Change – Scope’s training programme for young disabled campaigners. Nadia employers her own personal assistants and last year, she won an Employer of the Year award.

She told us what this meant to her, what she looks for in her employees and how they support her to live a busy, independent life.

I’m profoundly deaf and I have cerebral palsy. To communicate, I use a communication aid called DynaVox. I can also sign British Sign Language but my body physically limits my signing. I’ve been employing personal assistants with the help of my family since I was eight years old. I started off with two or three and now manage a team of eight, as well as one volunteer and a communication support worker.

With support from my team, I can enjoy a busy life

I volunteer at a college and I like to meet friends, go to concerts, festivals, weekends away, travel and go for cocktails. I also need support to go to conferences, events and college. My team help me to be independent. For example, I’m planning a backpacking trip around Europe. They also help with everyday life including personal care, showers, writing and communicating, feeding and dressing me. All of these responsibilities are done respecting my autonomy.

I like to recruit personal assistants myself

I find staff through advertising on the internet. I also use Facebook groups, Twitter, Gumtree, the deaf community and students learning sign language.

I’m often pre-judged so I feel it’s better to meet people myself. I like to meet face to face and assess their skills. Employing my team myself, as opposed to through an agency, means I can plan my life how I want. If I want to socialise until 2am, I can arrange it. If I plan something that others may think is impossible, I have a fantastic team that will work with me to make it possible.

I look for people with similar interests, open personalities and honesty. I welcome diversity. I like people with skills in deaf awareness, signing and good receptive body language. I also need people who understand my thoughts and how I process language, someone with a good sense of humour, who can think quickly if problems arise. My team have supported me at the best times, but also at some of my worst times.

Working together with my team, we get to know each other well. I support my team emotionally, with advice and through training. I also plan nights out which my team are welcome to join and this builds relationships.

Nadia on a night out with a group of female friends all smiling

I’ve had moments I will always remember

In 2015 I visited London. I was going to the Houses of Parliament to give a speech with Trailblazers. Afterwards, we were at St Pancras station and there was a man playing the piano. He was an old Italian man and he sang a song called ‘That’s Amore’. My personal assistant, Sam, signed and I danced with my electric wheelchair. We were in the middle of the train station. I felt so happy and free.

Then we went to King’s Cross Station and I saw what looked like a big birdcage lit up with different colours. We went to have a look and saw that it was a swing. I told Sam to go on it and she said “No, you get on it!”. I felt safe so I agreed. She got me on the swing and held me while pushing. I felt excited and it was so different. Every day I’m sat in my wheelchair. I felt air on my legs while I was swinging and I laughed so much. I will always remember that experience.

I was so proud to win an award

This year I was nominated for an award – “Best individual employer who employs their own care and support staff”. The event organisers were Skills for Care. On the night of the awards I had a headache, felt so sick and I wanted to go to bed. My clinical support worker persuaded me to stay for the results. When they announced that I had won, I was surprised, happy and proud.

If you have a story you would like to share, get in touch with Scope’s Stories team.

 

It took me 30 years to make myself heard – World Voice Day

For World Voice Day we’re reposting this guest blog by Mandy, from Hereford. For the first 30 years of Mandy’s life, staff caring for her thought she had no awareness of the outside world. When someone finally realised how much she understood, they helped her get a communication device and Mandy was finally able make her voice heard. 

I was born in Warwickshire in 1965. I have cerebral palsy and use a motorised wheelchair, as well as a communication device which I operate with the back of my hand.

I did not get this device until I was 30 years old. Until then, I had no way of communicating except with my eyes and facial expressions.

Mandy at home, with photos of friends and family on the wall behind her
Mandy at home, with photos of friends and family on the wall behind her

Decisions made for me

I went to boarding school and then to a residential college in Devon. This would not have been my first choice, but the decision was made by the teachers from the school. I would much rather have lived closer to my family, but I was not given this option.

Then I moved into a residential home in Essex, 150 miles from home. It was a big home with 30 people in it, and only five support workers.

I used to get very angry and frustrated, because no one ever asked me what I wanted.

The staff and other professionals did not realise how much I understood, so they did not spend any time with me and I was often not allowed to make my own decisions.

It left me wondering – why? I could see other people making their own decisions. Yet I could not, just because people didn’t take the time to get to know me and understand my needs and wishes.

Finally getting a voice

In the late 1980s I moved to Hereford to live in a shared house run by Scope. I had my own room, but shared the house with a number of other people whom I had not chosen to live with.

A support worker noticed how much I understood, and helped me get a communication device. I mastered its use quite quickly, and could communicate properly for what felt like the first time.

This is where I began to feel a turning point in my life. Imagine what it was like – having a voice after all those years.

I contacted social workers, and with the help of my family and key worker, I started to make my case for living in my own home.

I had to work very hard at making people realise that it would be possible – that I would be able to cope with a more independent lifestyle where I could be in charge of my own life.

Mandy in her garden in Hereford
Mandy in her garden in Hereford

My own home

I got involved with Hereford Services for Independent Living (SIL). With their help and that of my social worker, Maggie, I claimed the allowances I needed to help pay for rent and 24-hour care.

I was very fortunate to get a fully accessible bungalow, and in August 2001, I moved into my own home. Now I really began to feel my confidence grow, and I gained more strength to make my own decisions and speak out. I built up a team of personal assistants by advertising, recruiting and interviewing. SIL supports me to arrange my finances as an employer and helps me sort out relief cover.

My support workers work a 24-hour shift, sleeping in my spare room overnight. This means I can organise my day however I choose without having to work around shift changeovers.

I recently completed a college course, and have also taken a creative writing class and written poetry. I have an active social life and often visit friends.

At this stage of my life, I feel more confident, decisive and stronger than I ever have before.

“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?

Disability Innovations: Smart technology pioneering independent living

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

What’s the big idea?

Alcove is an all-in-one technology service to help elderly and disabled people to live independently in their own homes. It harnesses the wealth of technology already out there, from smart home sensors to wearable technologies, and combines them in one easy to use, comprehensive system. It is designed to enhance and improve delivery of existing care systems by helping all parties involved in care to be more connected and to use technology to enable independent living.

Alcove was created to address the major problems facing the adult care system in the UK. Existing solutions for the provision of care are not enough to respond to the growing problem in the supply of care. This, combined with increasing demand, shrinking budgets and changing legislation means that as it stands, today’s system is unable to deliver the type and standard of care we need and expect, now and in the future. Alcove’s approach is threefold: improve the system, reduce the costs, and promote increased independence, choice and control for their customers.

How does it work?

There are four parts to Alcove each with a range of functions which complement one another. They are: the Alcove Base Package, Alcove Wearable, Alcove Connection, and Alcove Carer Monitoring.

The Base Package part is the ‘smart home’ part of the pack. It is made up of a smart controller and a set of wireless sensors. These sensors detect motion, heat and light and can be used around the home, in rooms, on doors, on the fridge or the medicine cabinet. The technology in these sensors does not require any form of action or behaviour change by the user – they simply collect data on users’ key daily movements which they then report back to care workers or family members via a web-based app.

Mobile phone will alcove app on the screen

The app creates a ‘dashboard’ for each individual for use by family and professionals, which flags alerts and emergencies as well as listing alert history, behaviour summaries, and reminders. This can be used to detect and monitor and behavioural changes such as an increasing number of restless nights and can track if this is related to certain trigger events. It is also linked up to a care line monitoring centre for emergencies to enhance safeguarding and react to anything unusual or unexpected.

wireless box and keyfob, part of alcove wearableAlcove Wearable uses wearable technology in a watch to help the wearer remain connected to family and professionals. It’s a bit like a wearable mobile phone, but is designed to be as user-friendly and easy to use as possible. It can be used to make daily checks and give remote reminders, such as for appointments or medication, and can be used to make an emergency call or receive calls from approved numbers. The emergency alarm can be used 24/7 and connects the wearer with a monitoring centre.

Alcove Connection is a tablet which can be fixed in one place, and hooked up to a charger so that it is always on. It has a video and voice call functionality to help make communication with family and friends better and easier and reduce social isolation. Contacts can be personalised and important people or services, such as family members and support workers can be contacted at the touch of a button on screen. Like the watch, the tablet can be used to send reminders and for remote medication prompts, and can be used for visual checks via video link. It also can be used for telehealth remote consultations with care and healthcare professionals to help monitor long term conditions. It can also be used to monitor the quality of care, providers are delivering by gathering customer feedback on the care and treatment they receive from professionals during care visits and appointments. This can be particularly useful to monitor agency staff and flag any unsatisfactory performance against set objectives.

The final element is Alcove Carer monitoring, which is a wireless box designed for care workers and other professionals to ‘check in’ and ‘out’ during each care visit using a pass or key fob. This is designed to improve safeguarding and security, and ensure accountability, by recording who is where, when and for how long!

What makes Alcove different?

Alcove works to make life easier and improve outcomes for everyone involved in care, from individuals themselves, and their families, to care professionals and commissioners. It works to improve planning and efficiency around care and is driven by data. The data collected on behaviour and movement patterns allows staff to be more efficient and move from reactive to proactive interventions and smarter deployment of manpower.

Alcove also helps reduce demand on care workers by alerting informal carers first, alerting the care line monitoring and responder service only if informal carers do not respond or are unable to help. Increased efficiency and better organisation for staff ultimately means better outcomes for users, and their families. Better coordination of care and use of smart technology for medication and other reminders has reduced the workload of staff and frees up more face-to-face time, meaning they can direct more of their time to meaningful interventions. As well as this, with a comprehensive system of support in place, Alcove helps individuals to be more independent by giving them the confidence they need, knowing someone is always at the end of a phone (or watch) and less reliant on constant 1 to 1 supervision.

Aside from being a comprehensive system with tangible benefits for everyone, one of the best bits about Alcove is the price: it works out at £13, or less than the equivalent of one hour of home care a week. By doing things more efficiently and doing simple tasks remotely, it can generate significant savings for care and support providers.

What’s does the future hold for Alcove?

Alcove is still being worked on and developed and is currently being tested by individuals, organisations and care providers. The system has been tested in disability and elderly care services alike and has seen impressive outcomes. One residential centre for disabled adults is using Alcove to support sleep-in night workers, so they are only woken up if sensors detect a resident leaving their room or moving around. Night workers are now able to respond in around a minute, and it is predicted that using Alcove will result in a saving of around £30,000 a year for the care and support provider. Outcomes for care workers have proved equally positive, with the data collected by Alcove being used to adapt systems and improve efficiency. By checking in at care visits, professionals are able to demonstrate the average time a visit takes, and adjust timetables and scheduling accordingly if the standard 15 minute visit is not enough.

One year on since they were founded, Alcove have come a long way, and Alcove’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Hellen Bowey was recently named Public Sector Innovator of the Year, 2015, in the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists (WCIT) Enterprise awards. Alcove will launch and be made available on the open market by this summer and you can sign up on Alcove’s website to be the first to hear about it when it does, and find out more about how Alcove can help you.

What we like about it

Too often we come across innovations which are solely focused on money and reducing costs for commissioners. Important as this is, for the care sector in particular, ultimately it’s about people. What’s great about Alcove is that it is a cost cutting approach, but not at the expense of customers or quality. In fact it also helps to manage demand for staff and improve outcomes and care for individuals. By providing greater choice and focusing on aspirations as well as needs, Alcove is designed to help older and disabled adults to lead fulfilling lives in their own homes. Alcove is a win-win idea as it offers families peace of mind, and benefits professionals and commissioners at the same time, improving everyone’s quality of life!

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

To tell us about a Disability Innovation, please email innovation@scope.org.uk.

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.

What makes me frustrated? People not listening to me – #100days100stories

John lives in a shared house in Hereford, with support from Scope staff. We first shared his story in December 2014, and we’re republishing it here as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign.

The night before John and I met, he hosted his 50th birthday party in a local social club. More than 100 people came, from all parts of his life – friends, people he’d met while volunteering, support workers, even his fitness instructor.John in a coffee shop near his home

John lives in a supported living house run by Scope in Hereford, and has chosen to share with two others rather than live alone. He has cerebral palsy, uses an electric wheelchair and has learning difficulties.

Becoming more independent

I met him, along with Lottie, who manages Scope’s service in Hereford, in the café of a theatre near his home. John arrives dead on time, unsupported and under his own steam. When we’re settled, Lottie reminds him that this wasn’t always the case.

“We worked together for about two years, learning how to go independently in and out of town. We’d go into town together – I used to sit in a coffee shop in the centre of town, and you used to go off and cross the road to the newsagents and then come back when you’d bought whatever you needed to buy”.

“We did that for 12 months – you’d have different tasks to do, going into WH Smiths or the bank, and things like that.”

“[Now] I get it all by myself,” adds John.

“You do a lot of things yourself now. Whereas if you go back 10 years, you would have probably spent about an hour a day on your own, and that was only at home, never out. You’ve learnt these skills.”

John and Lottie have worked together for 20 years, and tJohn in a coffee shop near his homehey have a strong mutual understanding. Lottie encourages John in the conversation as talking is quite difficult for John, but he listens and often adds his own thoughts.

Leaving residential care

As a young man, John lived in a large care home for disabled people. It had more than 60 beds, and was out in the countryside miles from the nearest town. John had little control over his day-to-day life and most decisions were made for him, from what to eat to what time to go to bed.

“[It was] horrible. You couldn’t do nothing. There was no town to go into. You’d have to ask the staff to take us out in the van,” he says.

John lived there until his mid twenties, when he moved to a house run by Scope’s community support service. He later became a tenant in the house, which means he can change his care provider if he chooses without having to move out. He pays for his team of support workers out of his personal budget, signing the cheques himself.

“I like to choose”

He is involved in all kinds of activities – from gardening at a local college to wheelchair football, to a music club where he volunteers to collect members’ subscriptions and take the money to the bank. During our conversation, at least half a dozen people stop to say hello to him.

“[In the future I’d like to] do more, like I am now,” he says.

Towards the end of our talk, Lottie asks John what makes him frustrated. “People not listening to me,” he says. “I like to choose. My own food. Be treated normally.

“I do things by myself, but there’s someone there if I need them.”

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

Making the most of technology

Today is UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for this year is the ‘Promise of Technology’ so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about some of our favourite tech innovations and update you on our work around technology.

The digital revolution has already had a huge impact on our lives – ever stopped to think how you managed before you had that life-changing tech device, app or website? Despite the rapid changes we have seen over the last decade, many would argue that this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how technology will change the way we live. Our report looking at the future of care published earlier this year, featured robots, monitoring devices that can help you manage health and well-being, and apps that can manage a remote care network. They all have big implications for the way we manage care. Although there will always be some people who are a little behind the curve in adopting new technology, its potential to make the world more accessible, convenient and easier to navigate is undeniable.

The rapid pace of technology development can feel a bit overwhelming, but it also means that new products can be developed faster and more cost effectively than ever before. For example, we are excited by the growing range of home automation products that allow you to control household devices like lights, heating, appliances and potentially any household object using a smart phone or tablet. These have the potential to make it easier for disabled people to be independent at home and are a fraction of the costs of existing specialist domestic technology systems.

What are we doing?

Here at Scope we are particularly interested in how disabled people and their families can make the best possible use of the technology that’s out there to make day to day life easier and more affordable. We’ve commissioned some research looking at how disabled people currently use technology and how they would like to be able to use it in the future. We have also been looking into what support is currently available to disabled people to help them find, use and buy technology. We are particularly keen to explore how we might enable and encourage disabled people and technology experts to share their experiences and knowledge so more people can find out about useful technology products and get the most out of them.

One example of a product we’d love more people to know about is the Giraffe Reader. This is an innovative and low-cost adaptation for use with the iPhone which allows people with visual impairments to read paper documents using the Optical Character Recognition. It’s lightweight, easy to carry, is sold for £32 and can be used instead of a piece of specialist equipment that usually costs between £500 and £2000!

We’d love to hear from you…

We want more people to share their opinions on what tech products are being used and what is out there. What do you like/ hate/ how do you find out about new things and what is missing from the market at the moment? With this in mind, if you are a disabled person or you help support a disabled person, then we’d love to know about your experience. Visit our forum to talk about your favourite piece of technology (app, website, device…), and we can start to share your tech wisdom with others.

We will continue to update this blog with progress and information on more of our projects, as well as with our insights on all things innovation; ideas, ventures and trends that we find. We look forward to hearing from you as we go!