Tag Archives: Paralympic Games

He’s the Paralympic hopeful who’s taking the athletic world by storm – Souleyman

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Souleyman is a 16 year old runner. He’s visually impaired but that hasn’t held him back – it just means he needs to find a different way of doing things. He recently took part in the Junior Paralympics and won gold.

As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, he spoke to us about his love of running and competing, overcoming barriers and how he’s working towards the 2020 Paralympics.

Ever since I was young I really enjoyed competing. I always used to win races in primary school. I enjoyed sports day, I enjoyed all kinds of races at the park with my friends and it turned into a passion. In year 7 at high school my teacher said “you have a talent, you should join a club”. So I joined a club and started getting better.

The British Athletics Paralympics selected me to do the School Games, which is also known as the Junior Paralympics. This was in November last year and I won gold. I’ve competed for my club, Kingston, but to be at a major championship, it was a great experience. And Brazil itself was cool. The sun was out all day, it was warm, the people were amazing, and the vibe was so good.

I didn’t expect to be at that level so to actually come away being the world number one was a huge shock. I knew I was decent but I didn’t know I was that good. All my family and my friends were so buzzed, they were like “You’re going to be the next Usain Bolt”. Another door has opened, and it’s just a case of seeing where that can go.

Souleyman on the running track, smiling at the camera, hands on hips

Getting to the 2020 Paralympics

Competing at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo is my main goal. My coach and I sat down and made a plan of what we’re going to do, how we’re going to get there. Before then there are championships like the Europeans, Commonwealth and World Championships – all these other competitions that I can compete at.

Wherever you hear “Olympics” you also hear “Paralympics” so there’s been a huge shift. It’s being acknowledged in society and people are seeing that disabled people can do the same things that non-disabled people can do. They just need to do it in a different way.

Souleyman running on the track

Overcoming challenges and attitudes

The way my visual impairment works – I can’t see through one eye, and the other eye is tunnel vision, so I don’t see what’s around me in my peripheral vision. It makes it hard to stay in my lane and see who’s next to me and how fast I should be running. I can see straight ahead, which is good for the 100m. But you need to see who’s beside you to judge your pace. It is very difficult in all areas of life.

People’s attitudes are quite frustrating. For some reason they think because I have a visual impairment or a disability I’m not cognitively able to do things. I’m not stupid, I just can’t see! I’m a huge believer in whatever you can imagine for yourself, you can achieve it. It’s about finding what needs to be overcome. Especially with me, with my visual impairment, I’ve never thought there’s something I can’t do. I can do it, but I have to find an alternative way of doing it.

Souleyman laughing and pouring a bottle of water over his head

Inspiring others

In athletics I want to achieve as much as possible. Whether it’s winning gold, getting a world record or being a role model for other people. After I won at the School Games in Brazil, visually impaired people and disabled people contacted me and said “It’s amazing what you’ve achieved as a young disabled person and you’ve inspired me” which is something I never thought I’d hear. That just made me want to push harder.

Souleyman is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Read more from our #30toWatch on our website.

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

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

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

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

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

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

Being an accessibility consultant for Rio was an amazing experience

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

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

Emily under water, snorkelling

Writing an accessible travel guide with Lonely Planet

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

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

Researching for the guide was a real eye-opener

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

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

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

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

Why representation is so important

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

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

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

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

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

Emily is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

A year after the Paralympics, are disabled people still invisible?

BBC News have created a short video asking if attitudes towards disabled people have changed since the Paralympics:

“In London in the summer of 2012, disabled people were suddenly in the spotlight during the Paralympics. But a year on, have they gone back to being invisible?”

Watch the video on the BBC News website

The video features comedian Francesca Martinez, we spoke to Francesca last year about attitudes towards disabled people and how she uses comedy as a platform for change:

Behind the barriers of disability

The game changers

lee

Lee Adams is an activist and author of the blog, Touching Elephants.

Campaigns have the power to change the thoughts and feelings of individuals and nations alike but the subject of disability within them is, through no fault of its own, becoming a barrier to itself. My own personal challenge with disability is not unique but finding myself behind the barriers of disability is. There has been some fantastic work done to highlight the challenges of disability and more importantly the stigma that disabled people face, but there is much more to be done. Disability is becoming a buzzword without any real understanding attached to it and, in my experience, it is left to social media to provide a better understanding of it and a space in which individuals are considered, understood and valued.

Perceptions of disability

Personally, I have really enjoyed the media coverage surrounding mental health and disability, but its objective is not demonstrated in everyday life. We use many terms and words associated with disability and partially due to the 2012 London Paralympics, we have seen a major shift in how society acknowledges disability and in particular mental health. I have started to see debates about depression and illness, about the term disability and about who is considered disabled. It has stopped being about the individual which for disabled people, charities, organisations and campaigns has become a huge barrier towards eradicating the stigma that such interpretation causes. Discussions on disability shouldn’t be focused on what we can’t do, but on what we can do as individuals. Campaigns that achieve this will ensure disabled people have a voice and deserved sense of belonging in society.

‘Live Aid’ for disability

We need to think carefully about our perception of disability and the words we use to describe it. The more we negate a true understanding of disability, the more challenges charities will face in their quest to reduce the stigma surrounding it. I remember watching ‘Live Aid’as a teenager. Looking back, we couldn’t have envisaged the longevity and success that such a campaign has had in increasing our awareness of the challenges and suffering that third world countries face. It is somewhat confusing then, that we are not able to apply this shift in attitudes towards other areas of society and in particular, towards disability. Stigma is a barrier that comes from a lack of understanding and is arguably more debilitating than disability itself. It isolates people and creates an unrealistic society with no appreciation for individuals.

Disability in the media

Areas of the media sometimes create or add to this stigma. We often find ourselves watching a programme featuring topics that rely on an impactful headline without giving any real substance to the story. This leaves the audience to come to their own conclusions and may lead to a misguided view of a very serious problem. Even with the availability of communication outlets such as TV, radio, written media and social media, campaigns and organisations still face a huge battle to communicate the awareness and acceptance of disability. The term disability should not be a buzz word; it is a term that represents a part of society. All it takes is some knowledge and understanding to remove these huge barriers and to make progress. Let’s embrace the motivation of campaigns and allow individuals to enjoy their lives without judgement or stigma.

Have a great campaign and above all have some fun!

Right now, we’re creating plans for an ambitious new campaign. It’s a game-changing long-term campaign that aims to influence the next government, raise living standards for disabled people in Britain and change attitudes. We need you to help us shape it.

Representing disability in the fashion industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Paralympics Day: join the legacy debate

Saturday is the first National Paralympics Day. It’s one more chance to relive the magic of London 2012.

The spotlight will again be on Queen Elizabeth Park. Here’s a plug from Paralympic Judo bronze medallist Ben Quilter:  “There are elite sport matches taking place at the Copper Box Arena, opportunities to meet Paralympic athletes, come-and-try sessions for people to get involved in, and the fantastic Liberty Festival to experience”.

The milestone is also another chance to ask if the Paralympics improved daily life for disabled people.

To mark National Paralympics Day we’re publishing exclusive new interviews with gold medal-winning Paralympian Sophie Christiansen – who’s going to be at Queen Elizabeth Park this weekend – and Tyler Saunders, who left his job last year to make it in wheelchair basketball.

Paralympian Sophie Christiansen asks ‘Did the Paralympics improve the lives of disabled people?’

Professional wheelchair basket player Tyler Saunders  says “Disabled sports have slipped back into the shadows.”

Here is an interview with Tyler reflecting on a what’s happened since London 2012, and here’s Tyler doing pull ups sat in his wheelchair!

And check out disabled entrepreneur (and good friend of Scope) Martyn Sibley. He’s setting off on an epic journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End in his electric wheelchair. Martyn hopes to raise awareness of the challenges disabled people face and how they can be overcome… even if you’re not a gold medal winning Paralympian.

For Scope it is really important that we ask disabled people about legacy.

The Government had big ambitions for how the Paralympics could change the lives of all disabled people (not just Paralympians), and although legacy is a long term project, a year on is a good time to ask how it’s going.

The legacy debate has been bubbling away for the last month.

In July the Government published independent research. Well known former Paralympians had their say. Scope has been asking disabled people, what they thought, and in August we published a summary of their views.

Overwhelming people said that 2012 was an incredible moment, but that one year on legacy is in danger of going off course as a result of hardening attitudes to welfare and a crisis in living standards for disabled people.

There’s still time to join the debate. We want to hear your hopes for Paralympics legacy and what needs to be done to achieve it. Tell us on Facebook or tweet using #paralympicseffect and #NPD13.

Making independence and inclusion a reality

Post from Scope’s Chair Alice Maynard.

The anniversary of the Paralympics has sparked a nationwide debate about being disabled in 2013. The Government’s hope that the games would improve attitudes to disability has rightly come under scrutiny in the media. I’m just one of a diverse bunch of activists, experts, writers and sportspeople who’ve been touring the studios warning that the divisive scrounger rhetoric undermines any positivity from 2012.

In this blog I wanted to pick up on something that hasn’t had quite the same air space over the last couple of days… the Government’s ambition to get more disabled people involved in sport and the community more widely.

The Government’s independent evaluation points to small increases in participation in sport and the community. But there’s a bigger picture here. As Tanni Grey-Thompson argued recently if you can’t get out of bed or get washed in the morning, you can’t take part in sport and you are not going to be involved in the community. In 2013 there is a crisis in living standards for disabled people. Nearly one in five (16%) disabled people say they cannot keep up with rising costs of living. Disabled people are three times more likely to take out high interest, high risk loans to pay the bills. Yet the Government has stripped away £28.3 billion of financial support for disabled people. Meanwhile 100,000 disabled people are being pushed out of the social care system, with many struggling to get support they need to get up, get dressed and get out of the house. That’s why our Britain cares campaign is calling on people across society to tell the Government they really are concerned – they care – about this issue.

It’s not just adults. At the same time parents across the country tell Scope that too often local services segregate rather than provide support for greater independence and inclusion. The Government must take the lead. And it has two big opportunities: the Care Bill and the Children and Families Bill (which has been the focus of our Keep Us Close campaign), both of which are being debated this autumn.

If the Government wants disabled adults and children better included in sport and the wider community, it needs to end the squeeze on local care and place duties on councils to make local services more inclusive. Scope is one of many organisations making the case for a tougher legislation. But legacy is not just a job for Government, though they have a crucial leadership role to play. We all have to play our part in helping to realise a world where stereotypes and attitudes don’t hold disabled people back, and where inclusion and opportunity is a reality for everyone. Our actions must speak at least as loudly as our words; not always something that comes naturally to charities.

People rightly ask what we’re doing on the ground to create a society where disabled children and adults are better included in their local community. We’re proud of some our new services that are doing just that. Scope is running a pilot where parents of disabled children are supported to pool personal budgets from the council to buy accessible activities within their communities. And we’ve just brought out a toolkit for teachers to support them to better include disabled children in mainstream education.

At the same time we are transforming the more traditional local services we run so that they promote greater independence and inclusion. For instance, we have changed or closed a number of residential care homes in the last few years. This is absolutely crucial, but it’s not something that can be done without a great deal of consideration as it is often hard for the disabled people, families and staff involved. So when we make changes like this, we do our best to do it sensitively and respectfully, supporting everyone affected to understand what the changes mean and what choices are available to them. Where it is no longer appropriate for us to provide support for people, we want to work with the relevant authorities to help ensure that those people’s needs can be properly met elsewhere. We know that many disabled people find the pace of change frustrating and we know that a number of groups will be making this point as part of the ‘Reclaiming our futures’ week of action from Monday. But for organisations like Scope, there’s a real balance to strike between taking the time to manage change properly whilst not using this as an excuse to change too slowly.

To bring it back to Paralympics legacy. Although attitudes underpin everything, I hope we can debate how we better include disabled people in the community. The Government has to take a lead. But charities like Scope can’t simply shout from the side-lines. We have to make sure that we develop our services to embody inclusive education and independent living, however difficult that may be. When we get challenged on this, we must welcome that challenge and use it to help us make progress.

Have the Paralympics improved the daily lives of disabled people?

To mark the anniversary of the Paralympics we wanted to know if disabled people thought London 2012 has improved their lives.

Lord Coe says legacy is a ten year task, but this is a useful point to ask how things are going.

In July the Government argued that the “Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”.

Two well-known former Paralympians – Ade Adepitan and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – have recently had their say.

But the views of ordinary disabled people are missing from the debate.

Over the last month we’ve been gathering their comments and opinions – through a poll of a thousand disabled people, through social media and also by looking at what they’ve been telling Scope recently about their lives in 2013.

We think this provides pretty compelling evidence that the Paralympics Legacy hangs in the balance.

There’s lots of ways to tackle the issue of legacy.

But we thought we’d take as our starting point, what the Government said it was hoping for: a change in attitudes and improvements participation in sport and community engagement.

We review these ambitions below and also on the Scope blog publish a collection of quotes and comments from the disabled people we spoke to.

Changing attitudes

Disabled people feel strongly that what’s said publicly is crucial in shaping attitudes. Behind this is the shocking fact that 90% of Britons have never had a disabled person in their house for a social occasion.

So it’s no surprise that disabled people, charities and the Government all saw the Paralympics as an opportunity improve hardening attitudes.

And – in the short term at least – most people think it did just that.

Surveys in the aftermath of the games pointed to an improvement in public attitudes. Lord Coe declared that ‘we’d never view disability in the same way’.

Scope’s new poll backs this up. Some 70% of disabled people think that the coverage of the Paralympic games had a positive effect on public perceptions.

Scope’s chair Alice Maynard describes the Paralympics as “a breakthrough moment”. She says: “Disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly”

But where are we one year on?

Recent Government figures show that over half of a sample of the public (regardless of whether they are disabled or not) said the Paralympics gave them a positive view of disability.

There have been moments when – like in 2012 – positive disabled role models have had a high profile in the media. Channel 4 brought back the Last Leg. Comedian Francesca Martinez hailed comedy as the new Paralympics following disabled comedian Jack Carroll star-turn on Britain’s Got Talent.

British double leg amputee and Paralympic Gold medalist, Richard Whitehead, is running a marathon a day this summer from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

But our new poll suggests that despite all this, disabled people remain concerned by public attitudes to disability.

81% of disabled people say that attitudes towards them haven’t improved in the last twelve months – with 22% saying that things have actually got worse.

Of the respondents who have experienced a decline in people’s attitudes over the past year, 84% think media coverage of benefit claims and the welfare system has had a negative effect on public attitudes.

That last point is crucial.

Despite welfare fraud being 0.7% of the benefits budget, the Government regularly contrasts the hard working person gets up early for work, to his benefits claiming neighbour’s whose blinds are pulled.

Cabinet members have had their wrists slipped for misusing welfare statistics. But people continue to think benefit fraud is worse than it is.

Tanni Grey-Thompson recently summed up the impact of the myth that most people who claim benefits are scroungers: “I’ve lost track of the number of letters from disabled people who have been spat at in the street…One letter I received described how a disabled person was in a bus queue and someone came up and started asking them how many thousands in benefits they were costing.”

The Government’s own analysis of 2012 legacy raises this as an issue. Against this back drop, it says: “How long the uplift in public attitudes will last is more questionable”.

That’s why Scope is using the anniversary to call on the Government to halt the scrounger rhetoric once and for all.

Participating in sport and engaging in the community

One important fact first: the 2012 had a huge impact on Paralympics sport. As the head of the British Paralympics Association recently underlined, its profile and its funding are both greatly improved. Paralympians go to Rio with huge confidence.

But for ordinary disabled people the jury’s out.

The Government says “Participation in sport and recreational activity by disabled people increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2012 from 2005/06”.

Sport England says 362,000 more disabled people now play sport than in 2005, but it is estimated that only 18% of disabled adults undertake physical activity for more than 30 minutes a week, and those with impairments are still around half as likely to be active than their able-bodied counterparts.

This is echoed in Scope’s poll, which reveals only 10% felt that the Paralympics had inspired them to take up a new sport or re-visit a sport they once did.

Meanwhile when it comes to volunteering, the Government says: “The Games also opened up a range of volunteering, cultural and sporting opportunities for disabled people that did not exist before. Participation in volunteering by disabled people increased year-on-year to 2012, compared to 2005/06, and 4% of Games Maker volunteers had a disability.

But Research by Disability Rights UK and Community Service Volunteers has found evidence that many people with disabilities are experiencing a surprising level of difficulty in finding volunteering roles.

As Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said recently: “If you can’t get out of bed or get washed in the morning, then you can’t change the way people think, you can’t take part in sport and you are not going to be involved in the community.”

Disabled people have three big challenges before they even get to the sports club or volunteering centre: getting the basic support from their council, getting about and paying the bills.

Getting the basic support

Disabled people rely on support from their councils to get up, get dressed, get washed and get out of the house.

But councils have been upping the bar for eligibility, with 83 per cent of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system. Support for those in the system is being squeezed. A Scope survey found almost 40 per cent of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs.

Angela from Luton talks about the impact this has on her.

The Government recently committed to investing £3.8bn in social care and its Care Bill reforms are introducing a cap on costs and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care.  But the Government has also said the plans will set as standard the higher level that most councils have moved to. According to the London School of Economics (LSE) this will leave 105,000 disabled people outside of the system.

Paying the bills

Life becomes more expensive if you’re disabled and you’re more likely to be on a low income if you are disabled. Living costs are spiraling and income is flatlining for everyone. But recent research showed just how tough things are for disabled people.

One in ten disabled people have used doorstep loans, compared to just 3% of the general population. Fifteen per cent of disabled people – over double the rate for the public (7%) – use loans to make ends meet.

Here’s Susan from Ealing talking about her financial predicament.

What’s the Government’s response to the financial crisis facing disabled people? It is taking away £28bn of financial support, sticking with both the broken system for deciding if disabled people are entitled to out-of-work support and the discredited Work Programme, which has spectacularly failed to support disabled people into work.

Accessibility

There was an ambition for the 2012 Games to be the ‘most accessible ever’ and TFL in particular took measures to improve accessibility. But in 2013 it remains a fact that 66 of the 270 Tube stations are step-free. ONS data shows that nearly half disabled people have had issues access leisure activities.

Scope polling suggests the real issue when it comes to accessibility people’s willingness to do something different or be flexible to accommodate a disabled person. Last summer 76% of disabled people told us they have experienced people refusing to make adjustments or do things differently. We regularly hear from disabled people who talk about this issue. Buses don’t stop. You’re not let into a club or bar because you ‘look drunk’.

As Scope’s Tom Hall recently told Marketing Week, disabled people and their families represent 20 million potential customers. Both local businesses and big brands should be doing so much more to tap into the £80bn purple pound.

Disabled people and their families debate the ‘Paralympics Effect’

What difference did the Paralympics make to the lives of disabled people? Did it change attitudes? Did it increase opportunities to play sport or volunteer?  Disabled people, their friends and family have their say on whether the Paralympics has made the country a better place for disabled people.

#ParalympicsEffect


Sophie Christiansen OBE
, London 2012 Paralympic Games triple gold medal-winning equestrian, said:
“During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Great Britain saw what disabled people could do. It was a turning point in perception. However, it was just the start. Just like not every able bodied person is not going to run as fast as Usain Bolt, not every disabled person is going to be a Paralympian. The challenge is now bridging the gap between the disabled community and Paralympians. The government’s initiative for role models is key to this to show that you can achieve in anything, whether it be in business, the arts, sport, academia, media, even if you have a disability.”

Richard Whitehead MBE, London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medal winner, said:
 “The 2012 Paralympics sent a powerful message that a disability shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals. We hopefully inspired disabled people. We hopefully made the public think differently about disability. For me it’s not about looking back. We need to look forward. You don’t have the Paralympics every day, so how else can we show the world what’s possible once you start living a life without limits?”

Martyn Sibley, co-founder of Disability Horizons, is travelling in his wheelchair from John o’Groats to Land’s End to celebrate the Paralympics effect. He said:
“I was spellbound by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it wasn’t just the sport… it was the electricity in the air, it was the collective community consciousness and for me it was about the big bright light put on disability never before witnessed in the four corners of the UK.”

Marie Andrews, 30, from Milton Keynes volunteers two days a week at a centre for integrated living where she gives advice to disabled people. She agrees that the Games changed the way people think:
“I’ve noticed a shift in attitudes since the Paralympics. People in the street are not staring as much, they’re not as judgmental. I think the Paralympics helped the public realise that just because someone is disabled, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve. They are seeing disability in a new light. Don’t get me wrong, I still get looks but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.

Alice Boardman from Lancashire is the mother of two boys with autism aged six and seven. She said:
“I feel frightened for the future with the budget pressure on all services.  It seems we are in a fast accelerating downward spiral with being able to care for disabled people. But the Paralympics has given me huge confidence that disability is slowly becoming more socially integrated and celebrated in a positive way.  It felt like the first event that truly combined the able and disabled worlds in joint appreciation of the talents of disabled sportsmen and women, and I hope this will continue to ripple in a positive way though other areas of society.”

‘Could do better’

Alison Walsh, Channel 4 disability executive, said in response to what more the media should do:
“My answer is just do it. Less talk more action. Be prepared to take some risks with new talent – find people who are right and work hard to develop programmes that are right for them. The Paralympics gave Channel 4 a vehicle for disabled sports presenters but they can’t just be dusted off every four years, and they shouldn’t be confined to presenting disability subjects; they must be developed on as presenters who can work across different sports and all sorts of genres.

“Cast disabled actors in roles not written as disabled characters. Don’t forget to cast disabled contributors wherever you are featuring general public in reality or factual entertainment shows. Stop airbrushing us out! Behind the screen the same – take risks, make an effort to attract the talent. And disabled people – bash down our doors…”

Speaking on the link between comedy and attitudes, comedian Francesca Martinez said:
“I bet Jack Carroll’s jokes helped a few people think differently about what it means to be disabled. Like me, Jack uses humour to challenge attitudes to disability, much in the way that Britain’s Paralympians did with their amazing achievements last summer. A year on from the games, it’s got me thinking: could comedy be 2013’s Paralympics?

“I think disability is normal – it has always existed. It’s not abnormal because it’s part of life. Of course it brings struggles, but many of those struggles come from society’s inability to deal with difference.

“Comedy lets us tackle ‘difficult’ subjects in a light-hearted way. It lets you by-pass the discomfort that bubbles up when people worry too much about what to say. I try to turn people’s fears into jokes, because I find that people are more receptive if you make them laugh. And, do you know what? Disability can be funny! Some people think I’m talking about an issue, but I just talk about my life, which is what every comic does.”

Jane Jones from Cornwall, is the mother of a Jacob who is disabled:
“I feel that while the Paralympics gave families of disabled people hope and inspiration, since then the steady decline of funding and respect for disabled people from many places has made it harder to cope.”

Mandy (via Facebook): “I feel it did make a difference at the time but the attitude is swiftly changing back due to poor reporting making people with disabilities look like ‘scroungers’, or worse. Is this what the government wants?”

Pauline (via Facebook): “The attitudes of many have changed I think on a practical level access, facilities etc there has not been a lot of change and there needs to be more done”

Lizzy (via Facebook): “The Paralympic Games really excited my son he wants to compete but in our area there are no sports for disabled people let alone disabled children. Our local swimming pool is not very accommodating either.”

#ParalympicsFail

Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now:
“The thing about the Paralympics always was that they happened in this bubble of hyper reality. Real life for disabled people was never going to be like that again. So now here we are with people under threat of losing their social housing homes, others left stranded on a work programme which doesn’t work for them, people dreading the all-too-real eventuality of losing a disability benefit.”

Jenny (via Twitter): “Paralympics showed us great achievements but #ParalympicsFail as government and media give scrounger image”

Angela Murray is a disabled former volunteer of the year from Luton she said:
“There’s no middle ground in the way the media think about disabled people: we‘re either lazy benefit scroungers or people to be pitied. I don’t want the public thinking I’m sitting at home demanding benefits but neither do I want people to be sympathetic to the point of patronising.”

“I’ve had people look down on me and say stuff like ‘do you think you can’t work just because you use a wheelchair?’ But at the same time I’ve had people say ‘of course you can’t work, you’re in a wheelchair.’ Neither attitude is helpful.”

“I remember one interviewer being really impressed with me. He practically told me I’d got the job before the interview was over. But I saw his face change when I asked him to help me get out of the building because I couldn’t get through all the doors. That was it. I knew I had no chance.”

Pauline (via Facebook): “No decent member of society can possibly agree with what is happening. It is undoing all the good that the Paralympics did to change attitudes. Life is so difficult for everyone it should not be made even more so for some members of our society who need and have a right to financial help.”

Helen (via Facebook): “Any positive attitudes the games produced has disappeared because of how the Government and the media are portraying disabled people as benefit scroungers and workshy within their welfare reform hype.”

Rebecca (via Facebook): “Rubbish – and given the fact that many Paralympians will face losing their DLA over the coming years, their “opportunities” are likely to decrease, rather than increase. And as for public perceptions – seeing superhuman paralysed people or amputees running/swimming etc, just made many people say “well if HE can do that, why can’t you…?”

John (via Facebook): “My sons special needs school has lost its sports field don’t get me started in this subject, I only have to walk into Starbucks to find teenagers mocking my 13 year old son with regards to his disability.”

Paula (via Facebook): “No definitely no improvement. I was told by someone that being disabled I should look to the Paralympics to see what I could achieve if i tried. My husband can ride a bike but he’s no Chris Hoy…..”

Loretta (via Facebook): “No attitudes haven’t improved. Sport is still extremely exclusive. My son has no provision to play tennis competitively as he has cerebral palsy and autism. Advice from the LTA is to put him in a wheelchair so he can play wheelchair tennis as they don’t cater for other levels of physical impairment!”

Scope wants to know what you think. Leave a response below, let us know on Facebook or
tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

Have you been on the end of scrounger abuse?

It’s now almost a year since the Paralympics started and we’ve been asking disabled people and their families if they feel the games made a difference to their day-to-day lives.  
There’ll be a lot of discussion next week about legacy. Scope is going to be urging journalists and the Government to listen to disabled people’s views.

One issue that keeps coming up is “benefits scrounger rhetoric”, and how this leads to people being abused in the street and being trolled online.

We asked on Twitter and Facebook for people to share their own experiences:

Bullying and abuse

Some people responded with shocking stories of unprovoked verbal and physical abuse:

“Just the other night one twitter account dedicated to highlighting the abuse of blue badge bays has decided to shut down because of the abuse it gets. One of my friends is seeking a judicial review and they tried to use his twitter use against him. I have a specific troll who tells me I am just lazy, I could work if i tried and so on. Any time there is a documentary style TV programme featuring sick or disabled people it stirs up a lot of abuse and general ignorance.” – Ema via email

“I’m leaning on my crutches by the broccoli when a lady in her late 50s walks up behind me shoves me hard into the broccoli box – face first – and calls me a disability scrounging unrepeatable in front of my children. My most embarrassing moment.” – Tinna on Facebook

“Someone walked into the back of my wheelchair whilst in supermarket queue, which apparently is my fault as “your sort shouldn’t be cluttering up the shops”.” – Teddy on Facebook

And it’s not just from strangers:

“I’ve had ‘friends’ explain how I just have to accept and expect romantic rejection because disability is ugly.” – NQ videos on Twitter

“I was told by a ‘friend’ that I shouldn’t be allowed a mobility car for my wheelchair using son with CP.”  – Naomi on Twitter

Hidden disability

Many people spoke about the problem of impairments that aren’t immediately obvious:

“I was once accused of stealing a disabled persons bus pass. It had my name and my photo on.  I am partially sighted. You can’t see the damage I have to my optic nerves, nor how much I can really see….I’ve had someone tell me I shouldn’t be on DLA because there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t feel the need to broadcast every single medical problem I have.” – Sofie on Facebook

“People seem to think that ‘disability’ means a missing leg, or using a wheelchair/crutches; it can be, but sometimes a disability affects people more subtly and they still need assistance.” – Caitlin on Facebook

“I have epilepsy and hold a bus pass because of it – I’ve had some dirty looks off people for using it in the past.” – Kath on Facebook

Unashamed and fighting back

Some disabled people told us that they refuse to be ashamed of the money they receive and are fighting back at the bullies:

“I’m not ashamed of having claimed out of work benefits and I refuse to be ashamed of my DLA.” – Natalya on Facebook

“If anyone abuses me they get far worse back. I am sick and tired of being abused because of something that is no fault of my own. I will not be bullied or abused by people who believe the rhetoric” – Ian on Facebook

Parents told us that they didn’t care what people thought – the well-being of their children comes first:

“I have a two year old with CP. There would be no way I could take him to his physio without the extra help we get through DLA. If that makes me a beggar then so be it. I really don’t care as long as my son gets the best possible care and start in life !” – Darren on Facebook

“My daughter has CP. I listen to people going on about benefits and get fed up with listening to the constant moaning. I only want what is best for her and for those that do complain about disabled – stop and think – how would they feel if it was them?”  – Val on Facebook

Whilst some parents are taking more extreme measures!

“My son has severe CP. Rules we are working on when he is in his electric chair are

  1. If someone stares, smile at them – if they still stare, run them over.
  2. Three “excuse me”s from Mum and Dad and if they still wont shift – run them over.
  3. Three honks on his horn then …… yup, run them over” – Wag on Facebook