Tag Archives: Twenty years on

Twenty Years On: The Spastics Society to Scope – a celebration in Parliament

On Monday evening, Scope hosted a Parliamentary reception to recognise the twenty year anniversary of the name change from The Spastics Society. Twenty years ago, “The Spastics Society” wanted to challenge attitudes by saying something positive about disability.

To recognise the events of twenty years ago, we brought together several former Ministers for Disabled People from across the two decades for a group photograph. The reception also featured a curated display of items to reflect Scope’s work over the past two decades.

We were honoured to be joined by Rt. Hon William Hague MP – who was the Minister that launched Scope in 1994. William delivered a speech at the reception, the text of which can be found below:

Group photo

It’s a great pleasure to be marking this anniversary, twenty years on. I remember it very well – standing out there on the terrace of the House of Commons, watching the largest flag in the history of the country being unfurled on St Thomas’ Hospital.

Thank you for putting a photograph there of me with a lot more hair than I have today – you can really date it!

There are a few of us here who can remember that event twenty years ago. And it was the right thing to do – the name change. It symbolised what we all hoped was a change in attitudes, of opportunity, of expectations for disabled people at that time. And it was an exciting time to push those things along. It was also the year, as it happens, when we set out to pass the Disability Discrimination Act.

I became the Disability Minister that year in 1994. Like many ministers, I had not asked for or expected to be the Minister for Disabled People. One day I wasn’t, and the next day I was. That is how ministerial reshuffles work.

But it turned out to be one of the most rewarding and fascinating tasks that I’ve been given in politics. And there was intense pressure at the time to have a major landmark piece of legislation – and I pay tribute to everybody across parties – many in the Labour Party – who pressed for that at that time. There was intense pressure and campaigning, and the question was how to respond to that and what sort of legislation to create.

WIlliam Hague looking at photos from 1994

The first thing I did when I was appointed was I went back to my constituency and met disabled people there and talked to them about what would really help. Then I consulted many of the organisations including this one – and including Mencap – also represented here tonight – about the shape that legislation could take.

And then I went to the United States to study what they had just done. Because in 1991, the US passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was signed into law by President Bush but with the support of people across American politics. And I wanted a situation where across parties we would pass a piece of legislation that would have enthusiasm across the House of Commons. So starting with the US, as they had become world leaders in this field of disability legislation, we should learn about them.

I spent about a week in the US, and on the plane on the way back I sketched out the framework of what became the Disability Discrimination Act – with a lot of hard work by some very good officials, Parliamentary counsel and by people who draft legislation. And then it took shape in Parliament with huge pressure for such legislation from the Opposition, from the Labour Party, and with many uncertainties and debates that we had to have in the Government – just as a Minister of State trying to persuade the Cabinet we should do this.

But I had a secret weapon – the Prime Minister. And the Prime Minister was Sir John Major – and he was very much in favour of disability legislation. So every time I hit a problem, the little Minister of State – me – in only his second job in Government – was able to call on the Prime Minister to remove all the roadblocks, to persuade the rest of the Cabinet. And this, by the way, is how I recommend to all future ministers how you do this. As I have done for the last twenty years – I’ve done the same in all my ministerial jobs. Don’t waste time arguing with the others – get the Prime Minister to tell them that is what we are going to do!

And indeed it was what we were going to do. I’m not sure it took a lot of courage, but it did take a bit of cunning to get it through in the right form, to make it far-reaching enough and to create a piece of legislation that is a milestone. And it’s been added to successfully since then, including by the Government that followed.


So it is across Parties that we have worked on this over these twenty years. But its basic concepts and structure have stood the test of time. And I hope, created many more opportunities for tens of thousands of disabled people.

Before it had finally gone through the House of Lords and finished its passage through Parliament I had already moved on to another job that I didn’t expect or ask for – being Secretary of State for Wales.

In fact it tells you something about politics that, all the jobs I did in the 1990s that I didn’t expect or ask for, turned out to be fascinating and rewarding things to do.

And when I did something that I did ask for – being leader of the Opposition – it was an absolute nightmare! So just remember that when you’re asked to do something by the leader of your Party.

Alistair Burt took over and finished the progress of that legislation, and I hope since then that it is something indeed that we’ve been able to build on, which I’m absolutely convinced that it is. Greater enforcement of the legislation was added a few years later. Legislation is sometimes necessary to force change – to accelerate change. And it certainly was necessary in this case.

But the work of organisations like this one makes sure that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else – or that is what we’re trying to ensure by working together. Not just through the growing force of regulations, but through the permanent changing of attitudes and through practical assistance.

And you are concerned with making sure that people are valued for what they can achieve – not judged by what they can’t. And that is an extremely important objective. You say at Scope that aspirations should not be limited and that by recognising that a diverse workforce that helps individuals fulfil their real and full potential makes sense in every way – makes business sense as well as common sense – as well as being right in principle.

Stands with key dates around the room

So this was an important time, twenty years ago, and at that time Scope played an important role – and it continues to do so today.

The work of Scope over the last twenty years – as we see along the room here, the major campaigns displayed on these panels – are testament to the range of work carried out to remove barriers, to encourage engagement in democracy, to improve the representation of disabled people in the arts and in society in general.

So I think we’ve come a long way in twenty years and I know that the work of Scope has changed a lot over the last twenty years. But we must make sure that over the next twenty years that the enormous change in attitudes and substantial change in opportunities is continued.

And I think you can be sure that the members of parliament here across all political parties are absolutely determined to work with you to make sure that is what indeed what happens.

So congratulations to Scope on these twenty years, and thank you very much indeed for having me back.

Twenty years on: Changing our name

Nigel Tuckett
Nigel Tuckett

Nigel Tuckett joined The Spastics Society on 4 January 1980 as a graphic designer. Previously Nigel had been working as the creative director in an advertising agency in Nigeria. He set up in a small office at the end of the corridor in the Society’s HQ in Park Crescent in London. It was the hot metal era of the mechanical typesetter, manual typewriter and Rotring pen – when cut and paste meant literally cut and paste! He headed the Creative Services department that brought in the new Scope brand in 1994.

Attitudes were changing

Public convenience poster
Public convenience poster

“Disabled people were starting to have more of a voice within the organisation, encouraged by the new chief executive Tim Yeo. The charity began to take a bolder stance in their advertising with a series of black-and-white posters that highlighted attitudes to disabled people. There was one showing a lift with a wheelchair user who couldn’t reach the top button. There was another which showed steps leading down to some ‘public conveniences’ which were neither public nor convenient to the wheelchair user pictured by them. The one that caused the most trouble portrayed the taxman as a bank robber with a stocking on his head and a sawn-off shotgun, stealing VAT from charities!

In the field of film, Nigel Evans was highlighting the shocking reality of long-stay ‘mental handicap’ hospitals where a boy was shown tied to a pillar in the middle of a ward.

Our name was holding us back

Despite the progressive advertising, what was holding The Spastics Society back was its name. It had become an embarrassment because of the derogatory use of the term. Companies who wanted to support us said they couldn’t because of our name. Also it was proving a difficult name to work with graphically – a three-word name plus an explanatory strap-line, “for People with Cerebral Palsy”!

Fundraisers reported feedback from potential supporters to the Executive Council. Alpha, a group of disabled people who acted as a sounding board for the organisation at that time, also told the charity that the name did not have confidence of most disabled people.

Most staff wanted the name to change but they had to stand at the back of the room, along with disabled people who also didn’t have the vote. The extraordinary general meeting voters were made up of local group representatives who were mostly parents.

It was nail-biting stuff. It was by no means certain that the local groups would vote for the change. The local groups (who were independent charities in their own right) were worried about the potential loss of income and of disappearing into obscurity.

What name?

After the vote, there was a small matter of the name. I was practically involved in meetings with branding consultants Interbrand. We produced a long list of names and then reduced them down to 15 and then just 5. We designed logos for the five alternatives and I presented them to Executive Council who then had to recommend a name to the membership. Cerebral Palsy Society was a front-runner, but there were concerns about people’s ability to say it. Capability was another possibility. Scope was just a word, wasn’t it?

There were quite a few sun motifs and also a few flags in the preliminary visuals. This was eventually echoed in the publicity stunt for the launch where the biggest flag in the world was unfurled by soldiers abseiling down the front of St Thomas’s Hospital in London, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Practical considerations

After the name Scope and its design were decided on, our in-house Creative Services department took on the task of implementing the new identity. A key element of this was developing the sub-branding where all our departments and services were united under our one main logo. We sent a questionnaire to departmental managers, fundraising shops and local groups to find out what print requirements they would have. This included letterheads, business cards, compliment slips, till receipts, swing tickets (price labels), collection boxes, posters, point-of-sale materials, information leaflets and stickers, exhibition stands and signage for our schools, skills centres and regional offices. It was an exciting time chivvying people to find out what was needed, managing multiple checklists and meeting tight production deadlines. Under the direction of the shops’ marketing manager, Chris Wallace, shop fronts were all changed overnight in 300 sites – quite a logistical feat!

In my 28 years with Scope, I wish we had been able to change attitudes more but the name change and our distinctive new branding system helped to unify the organisation and to express what we stand for more clearly.

Read our ebook on Scope’s name change.

Find out more about Scope’s history.

Twenty years on: Why I campaigned for The Spastics Society to change its name

Valerie Lang was the first disabled woman on the executive committee of Scope, then called The Spastics Society. She was heavily involved in the decision to change our name to Scope in 1994. Valerie is 74 years old and is still a member of the Scope Assembly. Here she talks about why Scope decided to change its name from The Spastics Society twenty years ago.

Valerie with Mum
Valerie with her Mum

I am one of the people who pressurised The Spastics Society to think about a new name. For some years, I was banging on about the word “spastic”’ and the fact that it had come to be used as a noun. I felt people saw us as “spastics” and not people. “Spastic” was a school playground term of abuse. ‘Oh you stupid spastic’ was thrown towards anyone who was considered a bit different. I’m not surprised that “spastic” became a term of abuse. To a child, someone who looks like me looks odd. We move differently, we have very mobile faces and we can sound very odd. People have to listen properly before they know what I’m saying. Children pick up and laugh at people who are different, they are quite conformist. I find, on the whole, children aren’t frightened of me when they are under the age of two or three, but somewhere between the ages of two and four, they develop an idea or concept of what people should look like. They begin to recognise difference. The first reaction is usually fear and the second reaction is to laugh to cover the fear.

Valerie Lang graduation
Valerie graduating

I even heard public schoolboys in Dulwich College calling each other spastics. If Dulwich College can’t teach its students to think about words, who could?! I wrote to the headmaster and he said he couldn’t control what his boys said out of the classroom. I just felt it had become unacceptable. I thought it was damaging to us, as individuals. It was a well-known term of abuse and I thought disabled people had enough to cope with without that. I felt that anything that allowed people with cerebral palsy to be viewed as a condition or type, rather than as an individual, was to be got rid of. But back then, a lot of people didn’t want to change names. They liked The Spastics Society and they felt safe with it. I must have been banging on about this for 5 or 6 years before the vote to change our name. Other people were also spearheading the campaign, including Bill [Hargreaves, Scope’s first disabled trustee] who gave a fantastic speech at the charity’s Extraordinary General Meeting. ValerieThe name “Scope” was chosen because it is value and judgement free. It doesn’t stand for anything. It would be more difficult to turn it into a term of abuse. At the time of the name change, we did a huge amount of publicity saying we were still the same organisation. We had a strap-line saying “formerly The Spastics Society” for a year after the rebrand. I actually think this strap-line was dropped sooner than it might have been. I have to admit that people have not learned to recognise “Scope” in the way we hoped they would. I sincerely hope that it will be very many years before we have to change the name again! But from the point of view of choosing a name which is not a playground term of abuse, and which we felt would not lend itself to such use, I believe we had no choice.

Twenty years on: When I joined a newly named organisation called Scope

Writing this blog is going to make me feel very, very old.

Ben Elton with a Scope t-shirtIn 1994, I’d been out of work for 2 years on invalidity benefit (which then became incapacity benefit), but I wasn’t sure I wanted to work for The Spastics Society. It sounded old-fashioned and medical, and there were lots of spastic jokes from my childhood. (Even today if you Google Joey Deaconit will helpfully suggest “Joey Deacon jokes”.)

The promotion from ‘invalid’ to ‘incapable’ hadn’t satisfied me so I was still looking for work. When the Spastics Society became Scope, I decided to apply for its graduate scheme.

My first day was the Monday after Scope’s launch, which had been attended by up-and-coming comic Ben Elton and wispy-haired Minister of Disabled People William Hague.

Minister of Disabled People William Hague at 1994 launch of Scope
Minister of Disabled People William Hague at 1994 launch of Scope

Everyone was exhausted after two years of consultation and preparation for this major event.

The press attacked the charity for political correctness and throwing away a well-known brand. In some ways, it was just correctness. The Spastics Society was never just for people with spastic cerebral palsy, only one of three types of CP. When founding trustee Bill Hargreaves said, “I am a spastic”, it was medically inaccurate (as he well knew) as he had athetoid cerebral palsy.

“What does Scope mean?” asked the critics. The Oxford English Dictionary says, “The opportunity or possibility to do or deal with something”- it’s fair to say that this idea hasn’t gained as much traction as we might have liked. People still ask what does Scope stand for, thinking it’s an acronym. However, despite Matthew Parris’s assertion that people would call disabled people ‘Scopers’ (instead of ‘spastic’) as a term of abuse, I have never heard it.

Although it still used from time to time by high-profile Americans, ‘spastic’ as a term of abuse has become less popular in Britain. If for no other reason, less name-calling and abuse of disabled people justifies us changing to Scope. On top of which, more companies wanted to be associated with us and, more importantly, our name has become less of a barrier for disabled people and their families wanting to use our services.

If ‘spastic’ has become less used over 20 years, lots of new words have come into being. Scope began to use the word disablism in 2002 to describe discrimination against disabled people (a word coined by the disability rights movement many years before but still not discovered by Microsoft’s spellcheck).

Twenty years ago, these thoughts would not have been a blog (1997). You wouldn’t have been able to Facebook (2004) or tweet it (2006).

And there wouldn’t have been a 20-page Kindle (2007) e-book about the story of our name change either.

That’s enough new words – I must get back to twerk.