Tag Archives: role models

My physical limitations are often the least of my worries – other people’s attitudes are the problem

Our new report, The Disability Perception Gap, reveals the extent of the negative attitudes that are held towards disabled people – and how many non-disabled people don’t realise the scale of the problem.

Many people have responded to this, sharing their own experiences. In this guest blog, Chloe, who has cerebral palsy, talks about her life as a young disabled woman – and why she became a Scope Role Model to change attitudes.

I like to think that my impairment is a small part of me. In theory this is true, in practice it can be a very different story. Having cerebral palsy and a visual impairment does affect my life and always will do, yet the physical limitations are often the least of my worries. It is actually everything outside of what you would think that is the most limiting, with attitudes being at the forefront of it all.

Subtle prejudice is common, and can be just as frustrating

Negative attitudes towards disabled people are not always the more extreme things that may come to mind. It would be a lie to say disabled people are not faced with hate crimes and people being aggressive towards them. However, attitudes can be much subtler than this. From my own experiences it is so common for people to talk to the person I am with, even if it is about me!

The most recent example of this was when my PA was asked if I would like a copy of the menu in Braille, I was stood right next to her. I personally would not benefit from a Braille menu, but it is amazing the one was available. If the woman would have asked myself then the whole situation would have been perfect and incredibly accessible.

On the other hand, if they are talking to me it can come across as patronising or as if they know what is best for me. I fully appreciate that some people don’t know what to say, but why treat us like we are lower than you just because we have a disability?

Chloe standing in front of students, laughing
Chloe is changing attitudes through her work as a Scope Role Model

We’re seen as not capable of certain roles

I believe that current attitudes can also stem into the roles in society which we are able to play. Sure, we can be Paralympians, motivational speakers or disability activists. In fact I am extremely proud to hold of one these roles.

However, attitudes often limit us to these roles and society forgets we are capable of being their retail assistant, accountant or hairdresser. They forget we have dreams and aspirations just like them over the career we want. I understand that some impairments may limit roles we have to a certain extent but that’s for us to figure out – not to be told by members of the public.

Negative attitudes have made me doubt myself

These types of negative attitudes can have a significant impact. Despite attitudes being the opinions of others, it can make you feel incompetent and less worthy of certain opportunities.

On the other hand, at times it can be hard to justify your own achievements beyond ‘they only gave that to me because I’m disabled’. This is reinforced by the attitudes of other people. It is hard to overcome these views when you are faced with it every day and can be extremely damaging.

It can also lead to moments of doubt, even if this is completely out of character. I clearly remember struggling to walk up a school corridor because I had a cast on which was painful. Two girls, who were several years below me, walked past and for some reason I couldn’t help but be so disappointed in myself.

I’d just become Assistant Head Girl and I was so proud of this but couldn’t help thinking “How on earth are you good enough to be Assistant Head Girl, potentially having younger students look up to you, when you can’t even successfully walk down a corridor!”.

I have learnt that this internal monologue is not true at all, and yet I thought this because of the attitudes I am surrounded by. Fighting them away would have been near enough impossible if it wasn’t for my incredible support network.

Chloe smiles at the camera, with seated students behind her
89% of students felt less awkward about disability after attending a Scope Role Models session

I became a Scope Role Model to change attitudes

So, what is the next step? We cannot go on like this and something must change. In my opinion, improving attitudes can come about by challenging stereotypes which often are deep- seated within society.

We need to open our eyes to the reality of having a disability and that we are not as far forward as we believe. This includes the fact we can play a role within society, but also that having a disability can be hard and can be extremely challenging to live with at times.

Scope Role Model programme is working on normalising disability in schools around the country and I love being part of this. I don’t mind being asked questions by the students and I will be honest with them because this is the only way progress is going to be made. Not everyone has to share their story, but I choose to do so.

Why not see a disabled person as an individual who is just as unique as yourself? A person who is just as capable and who has needs that are just as important. Treat us the same as you would a family member, friend, work colleague or professional. With respect, humanity and belief.

Chloe is a student, writer, disability activist and Assistant Coordinator at CP Teens UK. You can read more of Chloe’s work on her award-winning blog.

Scope’s report is the start of something, not the end. We will be working to better understand how negative attitudes impact on disabled people, and how these can best be tackled.

There’s no single fix for this problem, and as part of our campaign for everyday equality for disabled people, we’d like to hear about your experiences and what you would like to see change.

Will you support our campaign by telling us your experiences?

Scope Role Models: we want to End the Awkward before it starts

Today (24 August) we’re launching Scope Role Models, our new education programme aimed at secondary school students aged 11 to 16. In hour-long workshops we’ll work with pupils to help them End the Awkward before it begins and to learn about disability in a friendly and engaging way. 

All of the sessions will be led by a disabled role model who’ll share their story and take part in an ‘Ask Me Anything’ question and answer session to help students tackle stereotypes and misconceptions. 

We’re launching Scope Role Models in response to research that shows that one in five young adults have actually avoided a disabled person and 67 per cent of the British public admit that they feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people.

A classroom of schoolchildren
Richard and Rosemary from Scope’s Campaigns team talk to a busy classroom

We also found that over a quarter of people say that getting advice from disabled people would make them feel more confident talking to or interacting with a disabled person. So we’ve decided to give students an opportunity to do just that – by going into schools and introducing them to a disabled role model.

Role models in the classroom

Mary Russell Great Baddow High
One of our disabled role models, Mary Russell, presenting at a session at Great Baddow High School in Chelmsford

We’ve already been into schools across the country, presenting to over 500 students and have received great feedback from students who have participated in the workshops.

At Gresham’s School in Norfolk we delivered two days of workshops to Year 8 pupils. The pupils engaged positively with the sessions and importantly, it aligned with their curriculum. Many pupils told us that it was the first time they’d learnt about disability, stereotypes and the negative attitudes that sadly still exist.

Kim Quick, Special Projects and Outreach Coordinator at the school, told us:

“We make a point of including the topic of ‘role models’ in our PSHE curriculum and, generally speaking, our pupils are pretty astute at recognising, in theory, the qualities of a role model.

Often, they identify these role models in the media or those having celebrity status, so it was our privilege to welcome Rosemary and the Scope team to our school for the day.

Rosemary is, indeed, the embodiment of a Role Model and shared her infectious capacity to educate our pupils with her openness, sense of humour and set of values. Rosemary broke down the barriers with her honesty, likeability, and respect for our pupils’ initial reluctance to ask her questions.

By the end of the sessions, many of them were quite at ease and it was so wonderful seeing them ask questions that they might not otherwise have felt able to ask. While she was talking, I was watching the faces of our pupils; they were engaged, alert, and definitely in a place of learning.

The sessions we had were worth a thousand theoretical situations in the classroom and I am so grateful to her for coming to school and helping our pupils understand how her motivation for social change has far reaching benefits for the next generation’s attitudes.”

Thank You from Gresham's
Thank you messages from Year 8 pupils at Gresham’s

How you can get involved

We’re excited to get out to other schools across England and Wales and to continue sharing our work with students- but we need your help. If you are connected to a school that would be interested in booking a session, please complete our school bookings enquiry form and we’ll be in touch.

So far we have 10 trained Role Models ready and raring to get out there and be part of the sessions but we’re always on the lookout for more!

If you’re a disabled person and feel you would make an amazing role model for students then please complete this short role models enquiry form and we’ll be in touch.

“Really? Deaf people can dance?” – Chris Fonseca, the deaf dance teacher

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Chris Fonseca is a deaf dancer and dance teacher. He has performed internationally and recently featured in Smirnoff’s advert – We’re Open #deafdancers.

As part of 30 Under 30, he shares his story and talks about changing perspectives, becoming a dance teacher and why more deaf dance role models are needed.

I became deaf through meningitis when I was two years old. At first I tried hearing aids but unfortunately they didn’t work for me. The next step was for me to try a Cochlear implant which I had when I was about five. In school, I had speech therapy but I didn’t like it because I felt quite embarrassed and quite isolated. The deaf world is really small and I grew up going to mainstream schools which was quite difficult. Eventually, I started meeting deaf people and I realised “oh these people are the same as me”.

Developing a passion for dance

I started listening to music through friends. I could feel the beat through my Cochlear implant and I’d look up the lyrics to understand the words. Then my Aunty gave me a video called Breaking 1984. I was obsessed with it and I taught myself how to dance. Just through repetition and practising at first. Then I decided that I wanted to improve my skills but having no deaf role models made it really difficult. So I stopped, unfortunately, and I just carried on with my life.

Then, in my second year of university, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to get involved in a deaf dance group. Dance had been my dream for years, so I thought it would be amazing to get involved. It was fantastic because everyone was deaf and everyone had the same passion as me, and it was an opportunity to show both deaf and hearing communities that deaf people can dance. That nothing is impossible. We did a tour, then I left the group to focus on giving back to the deaf community.

What I love most about dance is the freedom and enjoyment. And it’s a stress release. It’s like when I’m dancing, I just kind of fall into my own world. Dance really is my best friend – it’s always there for me.

Chris dancing in front of a crowd
A still of Chris in the Smirnoff ad

Changing perceptions

I started going to hearing dance classes in 2009. It was my first class ever. I went to the class and looked at all the people there and just noticed that their level was incredibly high. It made my confidence drop because hearing dancers are very, very fast. It’s fast paced and it’s not very accessible for deaf people. So I just focused on my skills and not on my deafness. There were a lot of mistakes to begin with but the mistakes just proved that I was trying. I just kept persevering with it over time.

I went to these classes regularly and when I struggled, I’d go up to the teacher in the breaks and say “can you please give me a cue?”. The teacher was like “You what, sorry?” and I’d say “I’m deaf so I could use a cue” and they’d be like “What? You’re deaf?”. I’m trying to show that, by getting these cues, a deaf person can dance.

I think a lot of hearing people are surprised because there’s a lot of stereotypes about deaf people and dance. They kind of look and go “Really? Deaf people can dance?” because a lot of hearing dancers connect to music through listening. But deaf people can dance in a different way. We feel the beat through vibrations and we look at the visual movement of dance. When I’m looking at choreography for example, I’m looking for visual movements and visual cues and then I feel the beat. And I guess that through telling hearing people that, you change their perception and they become more respectful.

I became a dance teacher to make dance accessible to deaf people

I started trying to get my friends to come to the hearing dance classes I was going to but they were like “no no no, it’s too scary, it’s not accessible”. I’d had the same experience so I encouraged them to just push through the barriers but they didn’t want to. I got home and thought what we really need here is a deaf dance teacher. So I decided to become one.

I went to an academy and learnt the skills and different methods of how to teach, how people’s learning processes work. Naturally, deaf and hearing people have different learning processes. Deaf people are reliant on counts, whereas for a hearing person most of it is sound. So I started teaching my class in 2013 and it’s still going now. It’s a huge passion of mine – teaching and dancing.

Chris performing a dance move next to the quote - dance is not an option it's who I am

Being involved in the Smirnoff advert is one of my proudest achievements

Since I left the dance group, I really just focused on improving my own skills and teaching. Trying to break in as a deaf dancer is hard and you just kind of get ignored, so I really had to push to sell myself and bother a lot of people to get my work recognised.

Then, one day, I got a random email. I read it and I was like “Is this spam or not?” so I emailed them and asked them to clarify the information. I read all the information about the project and I thought “wow, this is incredible”. It was an amazing opportunity to create a platform to celebrate deaf culture and also help to change hearing people’s perspective.

Since then, time has gone really fast. I auditioned, did the shooting day back in January, then we released the advert in March and there’s been lots of promotion through social media and billboards all around the UK. It’s been one of my proudest achievements. The advert helps to change hearing people’s perspective about deaf people and show that they can do anything except hear.

People have said that I’ve inspired them a lot and I’ve received a lot of positive messages which has been really lovely and heart-warming. My aim is to give something back to the deaf community and get more recognition of sign language. I want to show the importance of deaf culture and get hearing people interested.

We need more deaf dance role models

Teaching is my passion. I like sharing my knowledge and my passion with other dancer. I’ve noticed that lots of the younger generations are excited about getting involved with dance, they just need that little bit more encouragement.

When I gave up dancing, it was mainly because there were no deaf role models. Everybody has their dreams when they’re young but the first thing you need when you have that dream is a role model to give you that motivation, something to aim for. I went through a lot of struggles and barriers trying to learn in the hearing world, but now they don’t have to do that. I can pass what I’ve learnt on to them.

The deaf world is quite small and the deaf dance world is even smaller. Over time, I’ve tried to research and go out and perform in different places like Europe. One of my favourite things was when I went to perform at the Click Festival – a deaf film festival in France. It’s an opportunity for deaf people all over the world to come together at this one festival and I managed to meet some deaf international dancers there. It’s a great networking opportunity.

There’s obviously a lot of hearing role models for anyone who wants to be a dancer, but now, I think we need to have deaf dance role models too. My next step is to go on tour. I have more work to do to continue inspiring and breaking barriers. And I have lots of exciting projects to get involved in. All will be announced very soon!

Chris is sharing his 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 find out more about Chris and keep up to date with his work, visit Chris’ website.

Our top 5 films of people’s stories

It’s National Storytelling Week 2015 and we’ve just launched 100 Stories in 100 Days.

To celebrate, we’re sharing our five favourite Scope films in which disabled people tell their stories.

So without further delay, here they are:

    • Fighting all my life – how mixed martial arts helped me conquer my impairment – Jack’s story


      At just 17-years-old, with a weaker right side and no use of his right hand, Jack competes in mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting with non-disabled men, who are often much older and bigger than him.

 

 

    • The best future for my son – Dionne and Jayden’s story


      Dionne first rang the Scope helpline in 2010 to find out about physiotherapy regimes for her son Jayden. Since then, she has been working with response worker, Vasu, to get information about respite services, equipment and support groups.

 

    • Six years leading Scope – Alice’s story


      Alice Maynard was Chair of Scope for six years and stepped down in October 2014 after two terms. In this film, she talks about the changes she’s seen during that time, and what she thinks the future will be like for disabled people.

 

  • Behind the scenes of Scope’s work in the community – Ian’s story


    Follow Ian Jones, a regional response worker, and find out about the vital information and support he gives to over 80 families living with disability every year.

Coming in 2015

We’ve got some really exciting new stories coming up on our YouTube channel in 2015. If you’d like to be the first to see our videos as they are released, then please subscribe to us on YouTube.

About 100 Stories in 100 days

Every day from now until the general election we’re publishing a story from a disabled person or a family with a disabled child. We’re encouraging parliamentary hopefuls to read just one story – so they’ll better understand disability if elected.

Find out more about 100 Stories in 100 Days