Tag Archives: paralympics

“I want to connect people like me and show them that they’re not alone” – Ellie, the social entrepreneur

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30


Ellie was just 18 years old when she set up CP Teens as a way of reaching out to other young people who feel a bit lost and isolated. The response was fantastic and CP Teens has grown into a vibrant online community. Now, at 21, Ellie continues to pretty much single-handedly run this amazing organisation.

As part of 30 Under 30, she talks about why she set CP Teens up, their progress so far and how the 2012 Paralympics inspired her to make sport accessible to more disabled people.

When I was younger, people at school all wanted to be my friend because I’m a little bit different and children quite like that. But as I got older, by 14 or 15 they didn’t want to be with me anymore. At the time I didn’t really realise I’d become socially isolated because I was concentrating on my studies, but when I left school my friends all went off to university and forgot about me.

I felt like there was nothing out there for people like me, socially and I didn’t have the confidence to go out and get a job. So I decided to set up CP Teens. I wanted to connect other people who, like me, just felt a little bit lost and to tell them that they’re not the only people out there who feel isolated.

The response was amazing

At first I just set up a Twitter account because I was a bit bored! I thought it was going be something I would get tired of after a week and never log back on, but I woke up the next morning and people like Francesca Martinez and Sophie Christensen were followers!

Other young people were getting in touch saying “I’m a teenager too and I feel the same way, it’s so nice to find someone else.” I got so many emails like that I couldn’t believe it. So I just kept going. I set up a website and then a Facebook page and it just kind of grew.

I just thought it was me feeling that way so it was really nice to know I was helping other people through my own experiences. It made me feel less alone. I’ve met some really cool people too and I even hear from people overseas.

Ellie, a young disabled woman, smiling at the camera

Reaching more people

On CP Teens there’s an online service so people can connect and chat. We have social get-togethers and we do a ball every year. Teenagers and young people from across the UK come together. It’s really nice. We have a RaceRunning club which is really good and we also have a partnership with Accessible Derbyshire. They do loads of accessible activities – canoeing, climbing, you name it.

I get a lot of parents [contacting me] who have young children who’ve just been diagnosed so I’ve set up another part of CP Teens called CP Tinies and CP Tweens. It covers 0 – 13 years and children can get involved too. I want it to be for everybody.

In my gap year I got into Paralympic sport and it just changed my life so much. I started to wonder how many other young people like me think can’t do sports. So I decided to do a degree in Sport Development and Coaching. I’ve just finished my second year and I’m really enjoying it. Eventually I’d like to incorporate it into CP Teens and bring my two passions together.

Ellie, a young disabled woman, races on an adapted tricycle on a racing track

Hopes for the future

Ultimately, I want to do CP Teens full-time. I only do it very part-time at the minute because of university, but I think if I put in more hours I could make it so much better.

We already have over 2000 followers on Twitter and more than 1000 likes on Facebook. The website gets about 1000 visits a day which is pretty cool (and scary!) and I get about 25 emails a day too. It’s hard trying to fit it in around university but in the summer it does get easier.

We’re just about to get charity status so that will be really good. At the moment, because it’s not got a registered number, people can be a bit dismissive of it. We’ll also be able to apply for funding and have charity partners so we can do more things. I just want to see it grow and grow, and reach more people.

I get so many emails from people saying “because of CP Teens I’m much more confident and I’ve done this and that”. I can remember, before CP Teens, thinking I was the only person on the planet with cerebral palsy. I think it’s important to let people know that they’re not alone.

Ellie is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We’ll be 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.

To get involved with CP Teens and find out more about Ellie, visit the CP Teens website.

Invictus Games: getting ready for a summer of sport!

The Invictus Games start this Sunday, 8 to 12 May.

Prince Harry decided to create The Invictus Games after a visit to the Warrior Games in the USA in 2013. He saw how sport, competition and teamwork was a key driver in supporting injured service personnel to recover, physically and mentally from injuries. ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered’.

Prince Harry hugging an Invictus Games competitor

“These Games have shone a spotlight on the ‘unconquerable’ character of service men and women and their families and their ‘Invictus’ spirit. These Games have been about seeing guys sprinting for the finish line and then turning round to clap the last man in. They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together, not wanting to come second, but not wanting the other guys to either. These Games have shown the very best of the human spirit.” Prince Harry

The games are being hosted in Orlando, Florida this year, with a whole host of celebs and high profile people getting involved – including President and Michelle Obama.

See how Prince Harry responded to their fighting talk:

We’re really looking forward to seeing how the Invictus Games get the general public excited about disabled people competing at a really high level in sport. We feel like this is the perfect warm up to an exciting summer of sport, culminating in the Paralympics in September. We can’t wait!

Check out the Invictus Games TV schedule on the BBC. We’d love to know what you think.

“In prison I started visualising a future. Now I’m aiming for the Paralympics”

Guest post from Craig Green. Craig turned his life around after a spell in prison, and is now a Paralympic cyclist with an eye on Rio 2016. His story is part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

I’m the manager of a YMCA gym in Peterborough that works specifically with disabled people.

We’re a community gym – disabled people can come here and know they’re not only going to get a good service, but that they’re going to meet like-minded people.

I’ve found that because I’m visibly disabled myself, people feel at ease the moment they come in. I’m missing the fingers on my right hand, and my right pectoral muscles – although no one really knows that when I’m wearing my clothes!

Craig in the gym

How life has changed

Five years ago my life was very different – I’m not proud of my past, but it’s certainly shaped me to be the person I am.

When I was at school, I was told I’d never be able to get into a trade – bricklayer, plumber, carpet fitter – because of my arm. It was what all my friends were doing and I was never really told about any other options.

I tried out for the army and the fire service. I was fit enough for it, but I failed the test because I was slower at things like climbing. They saw my disability and basically said, ‘Look, we can’t do anything for you’.

I went through some jobs in factories, and after that there was nothing really. I ended up going down the wrong path, and got involved with things I shouldn’t have.Craig in the gym

Time in prison

One Thursday morning in July 2010, I was arrested.  I was eventually sent to prison for four years for drugs offences. I left behind my girlfriend and 15-month old daughter.

The turning point for me was the moment I got arrested – it was the pivotal moment for me, and I’d never take that back. I did a lot of growing up, and started visualising a future. I got myself fit in my cell, and started volunteering at the prison gym.

After a year I was allowed to volunteer outside of the prison – that’s when I started volunteering at the YMCA gym, and met Julie, who is my boss now.  When I was released in 2012, I carried on volunteering there. In January 2013 the manager’s job came up, and that’s where I’ve been ever since.

Getting into cycling

In 2013 I did the London Marathon, and soon afterwards I stumbled across an event in Sheffield called Sportsfest, which showcases all the Paralympic sports and invites disabled people to try out.

I met some people from British Cycling, and they asked me to do a trial on a static bike. It was only six days after the marathon, so my legs were in bits. I’d lost almost every toenail!

But I had a go, and they basically said ‘Wow – where have you been all this time?’Craig with a medal after a race

My first ever race was the national championships in July 2013. I came twelfth and was not overly disappointed, but I knew I could do better. Two months later I did another race in Sunderland, and was the first disabled rider over the line.

Setting my sights on Rio

I was introduced to my coach, Adam Ellis, in March 2014. He got me on a training programme, and since I’ve been working with him, results have been getting better and better.

In July I went out to the cycling World Cup in Spain, and came 20th in the road race out of all the top disabled riders in the world. That’s a great result, but I’m still not happy.

I’ve started thinking of the bigger picture. I’m on British Cycling’s radar already, but I still have a lot to prove – and I want to make Team GB at the Paralympics in 2016.

Every rider who’s got aspirations to go to Rio needs to be picked by this September, so I’ve got eight months to make the grade. All my time, effort, blood, sweat and tears is geared to me making that cut.

Craig's medalIf it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. I run a gym, I’m a partner, I’m now a dad of two – and then I’m a cyclist on top of that. I’m not a robot who rides a bike.

But I know what I’m capable of, and I know with the right training, the right equipment, the right support network around me, that I can go all the way. Somebody’s got to, so why shouldn’t it be me?

Craig is taking part in the 2015 Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 for Scope this August. Follow him on Twitter for updates.

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories.

Why we share stories

“Before, I didn’t feel like I was part of the world. I was zoning out a lot because I found it hard to focus. Now everything’s changed. Now, I feel I can do anything. Not quite invincible, but not far off!”

Jamie Love shared his story recently. The young man who goes to Scope’s Craig y Parc school is an aspiring actor. Jamie recently landed his first TV role as an extra on BBC’s Call the Midwife.

Thirty-nine year-old Alice was drinking to cope with the challenge of bringing up her two autistic boys. Then she got involved with Scope’s befriending service.

She wanted to share what it’s like to have disabled children, but also the difference it can make being able to talk to someone that’s been there before.

Alice holding hands with her sons and husband
Alice and her family

Personal stories like those of Jamie and Alice have the power to motivate, educate and inspire.

In 2014 life can be tough if you’re disabled or have a disabled child. Often it’s to do with a lack of understanding – what you might call ‘innocent ignorance’.

So, it’s important to let the world know what life is like if you’re disabled. And it’s really important that disabled people and their families tell these stories themselves.

Two years ago we introduced a new way of telling stories, which we’re really proud of.

Our aim is to make sure everyone here that talks in any way about disability – whether it’s a fundraiser, a campaigner or a front-line social worker, has the chance to include a disabled person or their parent talking talk about the issue in their own words.

We have a stories team of two, plus a network of ‘story champions’ throughout Scope. We do in-depth interviews with a host of people on a range of topics; from mums like Alice and students like Jamie, to Scope staff, volunteers and people who simply inspire us. We transcribe the interviews, make films and get to know our storytellers before encouraging the organisation to work with them if they’re talking about disability.

Angela, David and Ema’s stories inspired thousands to back better local support for disabled people. The moving story of Brett who ran the Brighton marathon wheeling his son Luke dampened eyes across the country and showed not only what’s involved in training for an event, but how Scope makes a difference. A story during Anti-bullying week of a disabled school girl had an incredible online response, as did this blog from Hayley, about raising the funds to buy her three-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy the right wheelchair.

Today marks the start of National Storytelling Week – an annual event celebrating and encouraging storytelling. As Scope’s Stories Manager I’m incredibly privileged to be able to meet many amazing people and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce some of them to you.

This week we will meet a new mum Marie, who has just had a new baby through a surrogate. Marie has brittle bone disease, meaning her bones break very easily.

Emily Yates, a 22-year-old woman, will share her story of travelling the world in a wheelchair and why writing an accessible guide to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro means so much to her.

There will be an inspiring story from 19-year-old Michael, who has autism and recently started his dream career in public transport.

Sharing stories is fundamental to Scope achieving its vision of making this country a better place for disabled people, and I hope you enjoy the stories we will bring you this week.

I’ll leave you with the words of Rudyard Kipling: ‘If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.’

Don’t miss a single post – subscribe by email using the form on the right called “Follow blog via email”.

Attitudes meet actions: how does Britain feel about disability?

The game changers

joeJoe Hall is National Campaigns Manager at Scope

As part of developing our next campaign, we’re trying to build a clearer picture of what’s happening in Britain in 2013 and how it’s affecting disabled people’s lives. We’ve just completed two pieces of research to begin finding the answers to some big questions.

1. What are the public’s attitudes to disabled people in Britain today?

One of the main aims for our campaign is to shift negative attitudes. Disabled people have told us for a long time that this is a problem. Last year, around the time of the Paralympics, surveys pointed to an improvement in the way the public thought of disability. But you don’t change attitudes in a fortnight and a year on, disabled people and their families say we need to challenge ignorance, prejudice and especially the belief that many disabled people are ‘benefit scroungers’.

We recently worked with Opinium to run a survey of more than a thousand people, gauging their knowledge of and attitudes to disability. There’s some sobering reading in the early results.

  • Most people believe disabled people face some prejudice. It’s thought-provoking that there is awareness – and could be useful as a basis for getting the public behind campaigns for change.
  • Nearly half the respondents said that some or most of the time they have a negative view of disabled people – whether it’s feeling disabled people are ‘getting in the way’, ‘not as productive’ (linked to the idea of ‘benefit scroungers’) or feeling ‘discomfort and awkwardness’ around them. It’s striking as people often tend to give more positive answers in surveys – answering what they think they ‘should’ say, not being this blunt.
  • Dig a little deeper and people admitted to being especially uncomfortable around learning difficulties and mental health issues.

The results show that not everyone thinks the same, and this could tell us where we need to focus our efforts.

  • The initial findings indicate that if you’re younger, a man, better off and / or live in urban areas in the Midlands and South-East, you tend to have the most negative attitudes towards disabled people.
  • Conversely women, older people, those less well off, people in the North and Scotland, are all more likely to have more positive views of disabled people.

What shapes people’s attitudes?

It’s likely to be a mix of things that influence each person. But it’s revealing that the vast majority of people had little or very little knowledge of disability and many said they didn’t have a close relationship with a disabled person.

Hold this evidence about public attitudes in your head as you get the flipside.

2. How does this fit with disabled people’s experiences?

The other main aim of our campaign is to influence the next Government to improve disabled people’s standard of living. That means the things we all need and expect, like:

  • being supported when we’re young
  • having a decent education
  • having a good job
  • making our own decisions
  • having enough money to live and being able to save for our future.

If you’re disabled, too often you don’t get a fair shot at these.

Why do disabled people think this is happening?

We recently surveyed disabled people and family members on their experiences in major areas of life. What do they feel is holding them back?

What looks likely is that people’s attitudes are having a direct impact on disabled people having lower living standards. They aren’t two separate issues; they’re interrelated. Here are a couple of areas where it came out strongly.

  • In mainstreams schools, half of disabled pupils said the greatest barriers to their learning was feeling self-conscious about their disability and feeling there was nobody that they could talk to. Things like physical access were an issue too, but some of the greatest obstacles they faced were about the social environment: can their teachers and their peers relate to them? Is it ok to talk about disability at school?
  • In employment, the two changes disabled people most wanted in the workplace were modified working hours and modified duties to allow for their impairment. But only a minority of those who wanted these changes could get them from their employer. Could this be partly due to negative attitudes about what disabled people could achieve in the workplace and / or a lack of understanding about the support disabled people need? Are there parallels with what disabled people say about their experiences in schools: is it ok to talk about disability at work?

What this adds up to – and hope for change

It’s not surprising that there seems to be a link between society’s attitudes and disabled people’s experiences. Individuals make up institutions, whether it’s schools, companies or political parties. The attitudes of your teachers and colleagues affect your experiences of education and work. And broader public attitudes shape Government decides policy. It works the other way round too ‒ the institutions, systems and communities we’re part of shape our attitudes.

We don’t yet know enough to say how we can conquer these challenges. How can negative attitudes, discomfort and awkwardness be overcome? A few other initial findings from the survey of the general public give cause for hope.

  • The better you know a disabled person, the less likely you are to feel uncomfortable or awkward around disabled people in general. Finding ways to broker or strengthen personal relationships could be a powerful route to change if done in the right way.
  • The more people know about disability, the less likely they are to think negatively about disabled people.
  • People who value equality, freedom and independence tend to be more accepting and more comfortable around disabled people. Appealing to these values in what we do and say could shift deep attitudes.

These might not sound like earth-shattering insights, but it’s all too easy to overlook  that there are ways to break down barriers.

What do you think?

We feel there’s an important picture beginning to emerge from these findings. We have further to go to work out what it means for our campaign – and we’d love your views. Contribute to the thinking ‒ please leave a comment below.

Please note, this is just the summary of a rich study. We can’t share all the results at this stage as we want to keep some back for possible media work next year – as we said we’d have to do sometimes in the community guidelines. But we’d love your take on these initial findings.

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:

Will comedy be the next Paralympics?

Guest post from comedian Francesca Martinez

Congratulations to Jack Carroll, the very talented young comedian in the final of Britain’s Got Talent 2013. The audience loved him and so did the judges – David Walliams described him as the next Peter Kay. Jack is funny and likeable. He also happens to have cerebral palsy. He ended his set with a quip about donating to the disability charity Scope – then gave himself £20 to cut out the middle man!

I bet Jack’s jokes have also 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?

As a child growing up wobbly (I prefer the term to ‘cerebral palsy’), I used humour to disarm bullies and to deflect people’s pity. I thought that if I was cheeky or funny, people would respect me. I loved saying the things everybody thought but nobody dared to say.

Fifteen years later, when I discovered comedy, it was a revelation. I’d found something which let me stand in front of people and challenge their prejudices and stereotypes. So if the audience feels sorry for me when I walk out on stage because I’m wobbly, I use humour to question why. By the time I walk off, I want them to see the person behind the wobbles.

A lot of my material questions the lazy thinking behind what’s seen as different and as normal. 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.

It’s a difficult time for everyone right now, including disabled people. Attitudes towards disabled people and the ‘vulnerable’ have worsened. We need the power of comedy now, more than ever. If I can say things that need saying and change attitudes for the better, it gives a deeper meaning to the job I love.

It’s wonderful to see Jack Carroll doing so well and I hope he has a great future ahead of him. The more that difference is represented in the media, the more people will accept it as a natural and invigorating part of life. But Jack and I are not the only ones using laughter to change the way people think: there’s a host of great disabled comedians out there. My friends at Scope, who work to remove barriers so that disabled people can lead full and productive lives, have collected some clips .