Tag Archives: young campaigners

Setting up a disability community gave me a sense of belonging – Sam

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Sam is a student at Oxford and a Scope for Change campaigner. She is the current President of Oxford Students’ Disability Community and a founding member.

As part of 30 Under 30, Sam talks about the difficulties she faced when she started university, feeling isolated and how setting up a disability community changed things. 

For as long as I can recall, I’ve had a hearing loss. I remember my mum telling my teacher on the first day of school that I couldn’t hear well, and I got my first pair of hearing aids when I was 7. Despite my hearing loss I’ve always been in mainstream education, and coped pretty well. I never had any trouble with the work, made friends easily, and my hearing loss was largely an afterthought. This changed drastically when I left for university.

For the first time I began to think of myself as disabled

The switch from a small classroom environment was jarring, and I found I couldn’t hear at all in lectures. At school I’d been taught by the same teachers for years, but at university I had new tutors every term and not all of them understood my hearing loss. The majority of socialising took place in pubs, bars, or at dinner with the rest of my year group – I had a great group of friends, but spent most of our time together desperately trying to pick out their lost words from a solid wall of sound.

I didn’t know how to ask for help, and I felt like I was the only person struggling. At the same time my hearing began to deteriorate faster than it had ever done before, and at the end of my second year I found out I was now profoundly deaf. For the first time I began to think of myself as disabled.

I was becoming increasingly isolated

I’d never known anyone with a disability growing up. I’d met one other deaf person at university, but nobody in our social circle was disabled. I found myself becoming increasingly isolated – I couldn’t talk to my friends about losing my hearing as they had no experience of it themselves, and it was less upsetting to stay in on my own than to go out and struggle to hear the conversations. I was desperately unhappy.

Sam smiling, holding up a sign that says We Unite

Setting up the Oxford Students’ Disability Community

About a year and a half ago, one student at the university sent round a Facebook message inviting other students with disabilities out for a drink and a chat at a local bar. I didn’t know anyone, but I decided to go. About 20 other students turned up, and when we got talking and it was like a light had been switched on.

All of us were having a hard time, with tutors and peers not understanding our disabilities, and some of us had been experiencing discrimination because of this. Before, we’d all been convinced our troubles were individual, but it was now strikingly clear that this was a problem for many other disabled students at the university. We banded together, forming a working group of disabled students – the Oxford Students’ Disability Community (OSDC).

We began to spread the word, communicating with the university to improve support for disabled students, running social events, and starting a Facebook group where students with disabilities, mental health conditions and specific learning difficulties could ask each other for advice or support. We became the student union’s official disabled students campaign, and before long we found ourselves with a community of more than 400 people.

I no longer feel alone

For me, that sense of community is so important. So many of us had found ourselves isolated by our disabilities and the way others responded to them. I had never felt more alone than when my hearing began to decline, but once I began to meet other disabled students I realised I was anything but.

We have a wealth of shared experiences and whilst our disabilities are different, I’ve found we can relate to each other in ways no one else has done before. That understanding is so important in a culture that so frequently ignores and alienates the disabled, and I feel so grateful to have found it. OSDC has given me some of my closest friends, helped me find my voice as a disabled person, and fostered an overwhelming sense of belonging.

To find out more, visit the Oxford Students’ Disability Community’s website. 

Sam is sharing her story as part of 30 Under 30. 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.

If I became Mayor of London

Voting is in full swing as the people of London decide who will be the Mayor of their city. This time tomorrow, the decision will have been made and the new Mayor of London will be ready to make their first moves. We asked some of the Scope For Change campaigners what they would do if they became Mayor of London.

Becca

“I would endeavour to make all modes of transport accessible for wheelchair-users. I say endeavour, because I realise that this could be quite expensive, all things considered, and the term ‘disabled-friendly’ has a habit of being quite subjective. Therefore, a consultation for disabled people would be vital to get opinions on what needs changing. The fact that only 25% of tube stations on the Underground are accessible is a big issue that needs to be dealt with.

With more ramps and spaces for wheelchairs (which is also required in rail services), this will also benefit those with small children in buggies. ”

Becca, a young woman, smiles in a power chair

Jack

“I would establish a new free of charge emergency helpline for disabled people who are victims of disabilist attacks on the streets. I’d also ensure extra training is provided for police officers to effectively support those who are disabled or are vulnerable individuals generally.

A new Deputy Mayor will also be appointed with a specific portfolio in ‘Wellbeing and Inclusion’, incorporating the needs of disabled people and ensuring the emotional wellbeing of the population remains high on the agenda.

Lastly, I will work closely with TfL to make sure the process of fully accessible underground stations is accelerated, with the busiest stations taking priority.”

Jack, a young man, smiles at the camera

Becky

“I would  make sure that all of London’s transport system is accessible for everyone. The same with all of the attractions.”

Becky, a young woman in a power chair, smiles at the camera

Gabi

“As humans we are unique, we’ve travelled different paths and experienced different pain. I’d want to introduce methods to help people recognise difference positively; putting an end to stigma, discrimination, bullying and years worth of irreversible emotional damage.

Disability, ethnicity, sexuality, status, class, age, gender, religious and cultural beliefs will no longer be attacked or ridiculed. Having identified in my life as an openly disabled, gay, catholic, homeless woman, I feel best placed to head the ‘celebrating diversity’ campaign and hope to make this a citywide priority.

Challenge the stereotype, not the person!”

Gabi, a young woman, smiles at the camera

There’s still time to vote in today’s elections. Read our blog on voting to make sure you’re clued up on your rights and options. 

Scope for Change – get involved and change the country

Today we are opening applications for Scope’s new campaign training programme ‘Scope for Change’.

Between the ages of 18 and 25 and want to learn campaigning skills? Then find out more and apply for the new programme.

Young disabled people who we speak to say there are still too many barriers in society that prevent them from doing the day-to-day things that many people take for granted.

Much of this is down to the physical and attitudinal barriers people face along with the negative attitudes towards disability.

Thankfully we know that young disabled people from across the country are passionate about making a Britain a better place. We want to hear from these people who want to campaign for change, meet new friends and learn new skills.

Rebecca’s campaigning

Rebecca Bunce is a campaigner who’s learnt valuable campaigning skills with Scope and Campaign Bootcamp.

“Scope kindly gave me the opportunity to learn exciting and valuable campaigning skills – and now I’m campaigning with IC Change on the important of issue of stopping domestic violence against disabled women. Disabled people must be represented across all campaigns, as disabled people are represented across all of society.”

Scope is working with Campaign Bootcamp to provide this training opportunity of a 10 month course which includes on and offline training modules, including a four-day residential weekend where you’ll meet other campaigners and learn new skills. You’ll learn how to develop a winning campaign strategy as well as the best use of tactics including digital and social media, film and story-telling.

You don’t have to have run a campaign before. You just need to be committed, willing to give up some of your free time and possess a passion to bring about change in your community. 

Sulaiman’s campaigning

Sulaiman Khan is a passionate activist who has many years of experience campaigning on a wide range of issues from improving public transport to increasing the voice of disabled in Parliament. He argues that the key tools for any campaigner is tenacity and good people skills.

Sulaiman wearing a suit and tie in his wheelchair“The most important thing for me as a campaigner is to never give up. However many times you are told no, keep going. If the issue is important enough to you then you owe to yourself to keep going. I would also say to your young campaigners they need to build relationships. It’s vital in any successful campaign.”

If you would like to improve your campaigning skills to help bring about the changes you want to see in your community then please apply today.