Tag Archives: Leisure

Unlimited Festival: celebrating the art, theatre and music of disabled people

This month sees the return of the Unlimited Festival to the Southbank Centre in London. Now in its fifth year, the festival celebrates the work of disabled artists from across the world and in many different genres. In this blog disabled comedian Lee, aka Lost Voice Guy, previews his shows to go see when the festival starts on 6 September. 

In 2012, the Unlimited Festival was one of the highlights of the Cultural Olympiad and has aimed to showcase work from disabled artists, helping them reach new audiences and shift perceptions of disabled people.

As a stand up comedian without a voice (which explains my stage name of Lost Voice Guy), it was a honour to be asked to perform my latest show at the festival. In fact, when I was asked if I wanted to be involved, I jumped at the chance. Not only it is a great festival, it’s also in a beautiful venue in a fantastic city.

A poster for Lost Voice Guy's show with a carton version of Lee depicted
A poster for Lost Voice Guy’s show

I’m really looking forward to bringing my show, which is called ‘Disability For Dunces’ to the festival on Wednesday 7 September. As I write this blog, I’m performing it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and I can’t wait to take it to other parts of the country as well.

Some awkward questions

Basically, my show shines a light on the general public’s view of disability and shatters some of the perceptions that they may have. For example, I often get asked if I’m as clever as Stephen Hawking, if I really need all that benefit money, if I really can’t talk at all and if I can have relationships. And that’s usually just minutes after I have met the person asking me!

I’m not sure why people get so awkward around disabled people but they definitely do! I’m often getting asked if I really can talk after my gigs, because obviously pretending to be disabled for the sake of entertainment is perfectly acceptable?!

Some people even ask if I can have sex…as an opening question! For the record, I definitely can.Lost_voice_guy_2_BLOG_SCOPE

All of these questions are embarrassing for both of us. When I was asked some of them for the first time I was speechless.

Many people just see disabled people as being stupid or as a burden to society. Believe it or not, we’re not all benefit cheats and, yes, we are allowed a sense of humour as well. It’s almost as if we’re normal human beings!

It is the people who portray this evil image of us and those who choose to believe it that are the problem. There may be a serious message behind it, but my show pokes fun at the awkwardness that exists and let’s everyone have a laugh about it.

What to see at Unlimited Festival

Comedian Lee on stage
Lost Voice Guy in action on stage

Of course, ‘Disability For Dunces’ is only one show out of many that you can see during the week long festival. There is something for everyone. But if you want my advice, I would definitely recommend you check out Jess Thom on Tuesday 6 September.

Jess has Tourette’s Syndrome, a condition that makes her say ‘biscuit’ 16,000 times a day. Her show, Stand Up, Sit Down, Roll Over, is a work in progress from a comedian whose unique neurology makes it impossible for her to stay on script.

Meanwhile, on Saturday 10 September, disabled activist, actor and comedian Liz Carr has chosen the spectacular world of musical theatre as the backdrop to exploring the complex and controversial subject of assisted suicide in her new show Assisted Suicide: The Musical.

If comedy isn’t your thing, why not go to ‘Superhuman or Simply Human’, which is also on Saturday 10 September. At this event, they will be discussing whether disabled people have become an integrated part of mainstream media. With a constant focus on integration and an increasing presence of disabled actors, presenters and public figures in mainstream media, does disability still need to be highlighted as ‘something special’?

During the festival, you’ll also get the chance to view things such as a series of public artworks by Cameron Morgan which celebrates learning disability culture. Cameron is fascinated by popular culture, especially television, films and music from past decades. Working with iconic TV imagery from the 1930s onwards, the artist spent six months in Project Ability’s studio creating nine paintings that honour the past nine decades of television history.

And if you don’t trust my recommendations at all, you can choose from over 40 events on the Unlimited Festival website.

Disability For Dunces is performed on Wednesday 7 September at 8pm. Tickets are available on Southbank Centre’s website.

#Attenborough90: Why nature should be accessible for all

Ellie is one of our Scope for Change young campaigners. Here she talks about how David Attenborough inspired her to fall in love with nature, and why she believes everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy it. Ellie standing in a corridor, wearing a blue jumper with a dog on it, and smiling

An inspiration

From a young age, I remember waiting in anticipation on a Sunday evening for the latest wildlife programme, narrated by the voice of the natural world, Sir David Attenborough. He’s ensured the BBC have covered a wide diversity of animals from dung beetles to red kites, to snow leopards over the years. This week he turned 90, and the nation has been celebrating by re-visiting many of his iconic TV highlights, such as when he was preened by mountain gorillas in 1979 for Life on Earth.

David Attenborough has inspired many people in this country and the world to stand up and take notice of the animals and plants we share the earth with. As a result, people are more actively involved with local and national wildlife charities, learning about conservation and many have been inspired to work in the industry.

Everyone has a right to enjoy nature

Only a couple of weeks ago, David Attenborough opened Woodberry Wetlands, a new nature reserve owned by the London Wildlife Trust, which is accessible to all. In an interview with BBC news, he talks about the importance of access reserves:

“We are part of it and if we lose contact with the natural world, you lose contact with a great source of pleasure and delight which is your birth right.”

Disappointing experiences

I regularly walk to my local community garden. It’s brimming with wildlife and it’s where I take many photos of toads, grasshoppers and buzzards. My favourite animals are insects, especially butterflies.

Last year I looked into volunteering with my local butterfly conservation charity, as I wanted to learn how to survey species and the different tools used to conserve them. I don’t drive because my cerebral palsy and learning difficulties effect my hand-eye coordination. So I tried to find alternative public transport to get me to the nature reserve, but because I live in such a large county, a lot of the transport isn’t very regular. You have to really plan in advance to make sure you can get home.

In the end, I decided not pursue the role because of the practicalities in getting there and back. It made me feel down because I knew in my heart it was something I really wanted to do, but due to circumstances it wasn’t realistic. It’s a shame there aren’t organisations working with the major environmental and wildlife charities to support more disabled people to get into conservation. I very much doubt I’m the only person with a disability who’s wanted to be involved in this area and been let down.

Getting my ideas together

Though not all has been lost! I’ve had really positive experiences with my local Wildlife Trust. I’ve been involved in various activities, such as getting teenagers interested in getting outside, and supporting primary school children to build insect hotels. At the beginning of this year I was invited along with four other volunteers to be part of Darwin’s Childhood Garden project. We were all asked to contribute something to the project, and I decided to run a workshop for children with disabilities from a local school. We’re now in the process of waiting for funding for it, but in the meantime, I’m wanting to create greater awareness about why nature should be accessible to all.

My campaign to make nature more accessible

‘All for nature and nature for all’ is the name of my campaign. I want to further educate those working in the conservation sector to make sites of natural interest as accessible as possible: providing ramps up to bird hides, having blue badge parking spaces, braille or audio information boards, allowing assistance dogs, and accessible toilets. I’d also love more exclusive workshops that allow disabled people to participate as much everyone else, and having resources such has easy-read, Makaton and BSL signers and accessible transport when needed. Opening up the senses in particular for those with profound and multiple disabilities is so important – and where better to do that than a national park?

I would like to see that nobody is left behind in my campaign. This week, wildlife presenter Chris Packham opened up about his life with Asperger’s. It really highlighted to me that we need to do more, so that many other disabled people feel they can be involved with the natural world.

Ellie would love to hear from disabled people about their experiences at nature and wildlife reserves – the good and bad! Whether you volunteer yourself at your local wildlife park, or have an experience to share from a trip to your local nature reserve, it will really help Ellie to build her campaign. Please leave a comment below. 

Accessible holidays: how I became a cruise-convert

Fiona Gosden is the Disability Specialist at DisabledHolidays.com and is a wheelchair user with Ollier’s Disease. Fiona has travelled extensively throughout Europe and is excited about going even further afield as her confidence grows.

She is keen to support others with disabilities or health conditions to enjoy independence, gain confidence, and create happy memories by encouraging people to go on holiday.

Before I had experienced an accessible holiday, I felt overwhelmed by the thought of travelling abroad because of my previous experiences of the barriers and challenges I had faced.

The thought of travelling highlighted my disability and I felt disadvantaged compared to my friends who were always planning to travel. I thought it was easier to accept that I would never explore the world like they could, but then I thought ‘how is that fair?’.

When it was suggested that I should try cruising I imagined an over-crowded ship where I had to endlessly circle around looking for an available sunbed and feeling claustrophobic whilst away from land. I also imagined being restricted to staying on board because of excursions not being accessible – and what about if I couldn’t access all the areas of the ship?

I couldn’t have been more wrong!disability_cruise_SCOPE_blog2

“I’m now a cruise-convert”

I know others with a disability can experience the same anxieties about going on holiday, and I can completely relate to it, but I hope that this blog will reassure you that with a bit of planning and careful selection about which companies you book with, everyone can enjoy a wonderful accessible holiday. Despite my pre-conceptions about cruises, I am now a complete cruise convert – they are an absolutely fantastic option for an accessible holiday!

Here are some of the reasons I love cruises:

  • Accessible cabins – many ships have accessible cabins, and the newer ships in particular are excellent. They are larger than standard cabins, have wide doorways and a fully adapted wet-room with roll in shower. There are even companies that will allow you to hire equipment and deliver it to the cabin, including hoists and electric beds! It’s a wonderful feeling not having to worry about accommodation accessibility, especially if you have a balcony cabin to just sit and watch the world go by!
  • Visiting the world without having to fly, and only unpacking once! I have found long flights to be very uncomfortable and thought that there would be countries I could never visit, but cruising takes you to the locations you want to go – what can be better than having locations brought to the doorstep of your luxurious floating hotel!
  • Floating from city to city and island to island without having to consider the accessibility of buses, trains and ferries. Before cruising I often found it impossible to get to a bus stop let alone get on the bus, but when cruising adapted shuttle buses come to the ship so you can explore your destination without barriers.
  • Waking up to a new exciting place every morning and exploring a wide range of adapted excursions. The first time I cruised I didn’t realise that there were adapted excursions and I felt limited by barriers after I’d be dropped into a city on the adapted shuttle bus. I have now discovered adapted excursions which can be booked before your holiday to avoid stress and disappointment, and are a great way to see new countries and cities.
  • Relaxing on-board your floating hotel. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard that cruising was like being on a ‘floating hotel’. On board most cruise ships there is a huge choice of activities which are all accessible, including entertainment, shops, indoor and outdoor cinemas, swimming pools, a huge choice of restaurants and bars, outdoor activities and spas. The range of entertainment is genuinely staggering and the food in the restaurants is some of the best I’ve had; you could stay on the ship for days and still have more to do.

I have discovered that travelling with a disability is easier than I thought and it has helped me to discover who I am in a way that only a holiday adventure can bring. I haven’t felt like my disability is my identity since travelling and there are always stories and memories to share which means I can join in when my friends chat about their travelling experiences.

I am delighted to say I now work as Disability Specialist at DisabledHolidays.com (the UK’s largest travel company specialising in holidays for people with disabilities and mobility impairments), and I can use my experience to help even more people with a disability or health condition to experience a perfect holiday.

Working here has really opened my eyes; there’s so much more than I ever thought would be possible, not just in the UK but abroad too – from adapted cottages and caravans to villas and hotels (and even adapted skiing and safaris) – and , of course, cruises!

I want to enable others to experience the satisfaction I feel when I finish a trip and look back at everything I have been able to accomplish; a disability does not have to be a barrier to going on holiday. This satisfaction gives me the energy and motivation to plan future travels without feeling restricted.

Looking for more information on accessible holidays? Read our help and tips suggested by members of Scope’s community

Top tips for inclusive half term holiday fun

Half term doesn’t have to break the bank. Visit your local Scope shop and chose from lots of toys, DVDs and other fun activities to keep the kids entertained.
Find your local Scope shop

Wondering how to entertain the kids this half term? It’s never easy trying to juggle everyone’s needs, so we asked our online community for ideas. Here’s what they came up with:

Get out and about

Euan’s guide

Use the Euan’s guide website & app to check out access in places you want to go or for ideas of things to do in your area.  Better still, upload your own reviews to help others and expand the coverage of the website. Reviews include features such as accessible toilets, carers discount, disabled parking and dedicated seating etc.

Free copy of the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain

Download a free copy of the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain, which has got loads of great ideas for accessible family days out.AccessibleBritain_cover_2014

Free lunchtime concerts

Most big cities have free lunchtime concerts if you look out for them.  If you live in London, you’re spoilt for choice!

Accessible countryside for everyone

If the weather’s nice, head outdoors. Accessible Countryside for Everyone  lists wheelchair walks, buggy walks, easy walks, support organisations, disability sport info, camp site with disabled facilities and more. Visitwoods.org.uk also lists over 10,000 woods open to the public, and allows you to search for  features such as car parks and wheelchair access.

Children playing with toys

Toy libraries

Most Toy libraries have specialist toys for disabled children to borrow. Many projects also have stay and play opportunities. There may also be mobile home visiting services. Find out more at the National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries.

Just ask!

Most attractions offer disabled discounts, special access or carers-go-free solutions, but people don’t often think to ask. Do ask whenever you are visiting any facility, as it can save you a small fortune.

Free cinema tickets for carers

Apply for a Cinema Exhibitor’s Card, which allows disabled people to obtain one free ticket for a person accompanying them to the cinema. The card costs £6.00 and last for one year.

Get away from it all

Tourism for all

Disabled child surfboardingPlanning a short break? Check out Tourismforall.org.uk  which provides useful information on accessible holidays in the UK and abroad. Their website also has a directory of holiday venues.

Disability Holidays Guide

The Disability Holidays Guide lists specialist tour operators for wheelchair users. You can search the guide for accessible hotels, villas and cottages. You can also find travel insurance, hire accessible transport and pre-order mobility aids and equipment.

Accomable

Described as ‘Airbnb for disabled people’  – if it’s just accommodation you’re looking for, check out Accomable for listings of accessible places to stay in the UK and abroad.

Get creative

Child with painted face sewing

Treasure hunt

My kids love a treasure hunt. The other day we collected sticks to make a pretend camp fire. Other times the ‘treasure’ has been stones or daisies. It’s a good, inclusive activity disabled and non-disabled children all enjoy.

Cheerio necklace

Try threading cheerios with your child to make an edible necklace.

Smelly socks game

Use up some old small socks or go to a charity shop. Then scent some cotton wool balls with different smells like tea, coffee, lemon, apple or tomato ketchup. Try a variety of smells, taking care not to use anything to which your child may be allergic. When the cotton balls are dry and all the ingredients are placed in the socks, tie the socks up with a ribbon, and play a game of Guess the smell.

Wrapping paper’s not just for Christmas

If your child is visually impaired children or has a sensory impairment, sparkly Christmas wrapping paper is very good for catching and holding attention. Gold, in particular, or anything with a rainbow/prism effect seems to work well to stimulate those with visual impairment.

Pitch perfect

Play tents make great sensory spaces when kitted out with everyday items e.g. fairy lights, hanging old CD’s, tinsel, etc…

Get scribbling

Stick some blank paper on a wall somewhere and turn it into a ‘graffiti wall’. You can also paint a wall with blackboard paint or put up a big white board for graffiti fun.

Children's artwork

Star in your own film

Use your camcorder – or the video on your phone if you have one  –  to make a film  of a favourite book. We did The Tiger Who Came to Tea, using a toy stuffed tiger, shots of our table set up for tea, empty food packets, and a homemade cardboard claw peeking round the front door. You can do lots of voiceovers to explain what is happening, or do it documentary-style and interview the Mummy, the child, the cafe owner, Daddy, the Tiger etc.

Get gooey

Make home-made slime. Get a pack of cornflour, mix it with water so it’s gloopy but not runny and then add green food colouring.

Life-sized cardboard cut-outs

Use either a large piece of card or lining paper (joined together, if necessary). Draw around each other and cut up old clothes and cloths to dress your portraits up.

A real catch

A velcro ball and catch mitt set has been fantastic for my son, who is unable to catch a regular ball. Great for fun, cause and effect and coordination. Ours was under £5 from eBay – check out ‘Spordas No Miss’.

Cinema club

Turn your house into a cinema. Choose a DVD together (bought or borrowed from the local library) make tickets, posters etc. Invite friends if you’ve got the space and then make popcorn, close the curtains and enjoy.

Make a den

My daughter loves it if we put a sheet over the dining table and make a den. I bring some of her sensory lights in and we all sit underneath. Her brothers think it’s great too!

Home-made jigsaw puzzle

I’ve found a good cheap way to keep my daughter occupied is to get her to choose a picture from a magazine, then I cut it up, and she reassembles the picture, gluing it on to paper. You can use photos as well. You can make it as simple or complicated as you want. I use simple ones to help calm her down and more complicated ones when she needs a new distraction.

Dance competition

Put on the music and have a competition.

Sensory play

We use a plastic box and fill it with different things for sensory play. Sometimes dried beans, sand, shaving foam – we put different smells in like vanilla essence or curry powder to make it more interesting. Sometimes we squeeze toothpaste in which is good fun when you get it all over your hands because it dries quickly.

Word games

We’ve been using words on the back of paper-clipped paper fish with a magnetic fishing rod to make a game out of reading.

Rubbish instruments

Raid the recycling and make some musical instruments. Fill jars and plastic containers with rice to make shakers, elastic bands over a box can make a great guitar and balloons stretched over tubs for some bangin’ drums!

Glitter party

Poppy has very little fine motor skills and struggles with most art and craft activities. So I stuck some wrapping paper to the wall and we made hand prints on it. Then we cover it in glue and threw glitter at. Messy but great fun!

Sensory wall

We’ve created a ‘sensory wall’ by sticking old yoghurt pots on the wall – you can also put bubble wrap, biscuit packet insides, corrugated paper, sand paper ….

These tips were all contributed by parents of disabled children. Find more great tips like these, and share your own on Scope’s online community.

Disabled people aren’t delicate! Why we’re getting fit this #Steptember

Guest post from Kris Saunders-Stowe of Wheely Good Fitness, who runs exercise classes for both disabled and non-disabled people in Herefordshire. He’s helping us promote Steptember, the fun fitness challenge where you can raise money for Scope.DSC_0153

For some people exercise is a dirty word, conjuring up images of sweaty, unfriendly gyms, intimidating perfect physiques and lots of hard work, sweat and tears. This can be true! However, it’s just one side of the fitness world, and not at all reflective of what it’s all about.

Every movement we perform in daily life, from carrying shopping and lifting a wheelchair into the car to opening a door or cleaning our teeth, is exercise.

And the definition of success is different for every person – one person’s desire to lift a 40kg dumb-bell is just as valid as another person’s desire to lift and hold their cup of morning coffee.

Step away from the stereotyped image of exercise, and you see that it’s about looking after your body to ensure that it is healthy and able to support you in your daily life.

Disability and fitness

Disability and exercise aren’t usually seen as going hand in hand. Yet for disabled people, getting the right exercise is all-important – otherwise, you’ll lose strength and flexibility and become less and less active.Wheelchair fitness class taking place

Another reason for the negativity around exercise and disability is one forced upon us by society. Disabled people are delicate, we should be careful, we’re not allowed to do this and that. Health and safety!

We only have to look at Paralympics to see that that’s not true. But lots of disabled people can relate to being turned away from a gym. Or they’re only allowed to take part in an over-70s class or similar (which is silly in itself – older people resent being pigeon-holed by their years rather than their abilities!).

At Wheely Good Fitness, we like to challenge these preconceptions by running modern, proactive and high energy classes for people of varying abilities.

We do this because there’s a severe lack of suitable multi-ability classes out there – classes where disabled people actively take part with the group and have the same experience as the rest. There is a huge need for leisure facilities to start making disability fitness an integral part of their programmes.

Get involved

Whether you’re disabled or not, we’re all the same – our muscles need maintaining, our hearts need looking after, our minds need challenging and our weight managing. I want to encourage more people to take part in exercise on any level, and that’s why I and some of my clients are supporting Steptember.

Man lifting weights while sitting in a wheelchair, another man with a prosthetic leg behind him
Kris with disabled model Jack Eyres, who’s also supporting Steptember

This month of activity is about increasing the amount of physical activity you do, in whatever way you prefer, whilst also raising money for Scope. You might want to take 10,000 steps a day, or the equivalent using a wheelchair, but there are dozens of other activities that also count.

We’re also releasing our first ever Wheel-Fit home exercise DVD for Steptember, with £1 from every copy sold going to Scope.

Remember, we all have something we can do to get fit – and we can all improve our abilities, mood, energy levels and fitness through exercise. Whether you’re lifting dumbbells or tins of beans, doing a marathon or wheeling to your front door and back, it all makes a difference!

Sign up for Steptember to get fit this autumn – and raise money for Scope! You can do it alone or with friends or colleagues.