enable Forget canâ€™t - think can!
November / December 2016
ACCESS WINTER YOUR GUIDE TO A HEALTHIER, WARMER, AFFORDABLE, DISABILITY-FRIENDLY FESTIVE SEASON
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EMPLOYMENT 31/10/2016 21:02
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forget can’t – think can
PUBLISHER Denise Connelly email@example.com EDITOR Lindsay Cochrane firstname.lastname@example.org STAFF WRITER Kirsty McKenzie email@example.com EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS Rachael Fulton Tim Rushby-Smith Alisdair Suttie DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Gillian Smith SALES Dorothy Martin firstname.lastname@example.org Brian Beacham email@example.com
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Lisa McCabe firstname.lastname@example.org ENABLE MAGAZINE www.enablemagazine.co.uk DC Publishing Ltd, 200 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4HG
Hello, and welcome to the ﬁnal issue of Enable for 2016! We’ve had a brilliant year at Enable HQ, delving into the stories that really matter, speaking to some incredible people and sharing news and information that, we hope, has made a difference in your lives – and we think our November/December edition keeps up this trend. We’ve got loads going on this issue. Kicking things off, in the spirit of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we’ve been finding out what life’s like for disabled people both here in the UK and overseas, while charity CBM have been telling us about their work in developing countries – it’s an eyeopening read. Elsewhere, we’ve been catching up with some famous faces. Hollyoaks newcomer Amy Conachan told us all about her career so far, while fellow actor Will Mellor explains why he’s been supporting a campaign to get more disabled people out in the community and participating in sport. Speaking of being active, we’ve got the lowdown on accessible winter sports. From skiing to curling, there’s an activity for everyone. Check it out on page 31. If you’re after something a little more gentle for your spare time, what about a trip to the theatre? We’ve got a roundup of the best accessible performances taking place over the holidays on page 52. Don’t miss our special Access Winter section in the middle of the mag either, which has a really festive feel to it – we’ve been tackling the challenges that many face over the season ahead, and how to overcome them. From Christmas shopping to heating your home, managing your money to making the festivities autism-friendly, we’ve covered it all. And that’s us just scraping the surface – there’s plenty more for you to get into this issue! So turn the page to see what else is there, and get involved. I really hope you enjoy this issue of Enable, and that you have a happy, healthy holiday season. Until next year…
Tel: 0844 249 9007 Fax: 0141 353 0435
COVER PRICE £3.00
Lindsay Cochrane, Editor
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18 DISABILITY DRAG
55 MAINSTREAM V SEN
74 FIRST CLASS
We investigate the trend for non-disabled actors playing the part of disabled characters. Is it right that disabled actors are missing out?
Two mums share their family’s experiences of education, one in a mainstream setting and the other special education.
Recent graduate Laura Richter on the challenges and triumphs she faced at university – and her hopes for the future.
©DC Publishing Ltd 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any way without prior written permission from the publisher. The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of DC Publishing Ltd. The publisher takes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers within the publication. Every effort has been made to ensure that information is accurate; while dates and prices are correct at time of going to print, DC Publishing Ltd takes no responsibility for omissions and errors.
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18 DISABILITY DRAG
52 THEY’RE BEHIND YOU!
What do you make of nondisabled actors playing disabled characters on stage and screen?
From pantos to ballets, there’s an accessible performance for everyone this Christmas season. We’ve rounded up some of the best theatre offerings this winter.
Care and support 26 TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR CARE
82 END THE AWKWARD
Employing PAs is becoming an increasingly popular option for those who need support – so how do you do it? We found out.
14 Interviews 14 INTRODUCING AMY CONACHAN The Hollyoaks newcomer talks to Enable about her career so far.
21 TOGETHER WE WILL
Comedian Romina Puma on the hurdles she’s faced in dating.
55 MAINSTREAM V SEN Two mums open up about their children’s journeys in education – one in a special school and the other a mainstream setting.
51 DANCE MATTERS Dance school founder Naomi Wallen talks to Enable about her inclusive approach to the art.
Actor Will Mellor reveals why he’s backing a campaign to get more disabled people into sport.
10 DISABILITY AT HOME AND AWAY
Skiing, snowboarding, curling, biathlon – it’s all accessible! We take a look at how to get involved with different winter sports.
66 THE REVIEW This issue, we’ve taken the MINI five-door hatch out for a spin. How does it measure up?
Employment and education 73 HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS Disabled entrepreneur Shane Bratby shares his experiences in running his own company.
76 CREATING DISABILITY-SMART EMPLOYERS How the Business Disability Forum is helping recruiters up their game in terms of inclusion.
79 NEW YEAR, NEW CAREER Planning to switch things up once the festive season is over? We’ve got some expert advice to help you on the job hunt.
Two disabled people – one from England and the other Pakistan – share their life experiences ahead of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
PIC: © JONO SYM
31 HIT THE SLOPES
ACCESS winter The cold weather and pressures of Christmas means that winter can be a difficult time, physically, financially and socially. This issue, we’ve dedicated a section of the magazine to getting you through the season ahead. From money to transport, shopping to heating your home, we have it covered. It all kicks off on page 35.
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the latest CALL FOR HOSPITALS TO EXEMPT CARERS FROM PARKING CHARGES AN INVESTIGATION BY the Press Association has found that a third of NHS hospital trusts in England have increased parking charges at hospitals in the last year. The investigation follows on from Carers UK’s analysis of data released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre which showed the percentage of hospitals charging patients and visitors to park had doubled in the space of a decade. The charity’s Park the Charges campaign is working to make hospital parking free for carers in England. The campaign saw the Department of Health’s guidance on hospital parking including carers for the first time, recommending that they should receive concessions.
“This is a real issue for families of people who have long-term conditions or are severely disabled and need frequent or long hospital visits,” says Carers UK director of policy and public affairs Emily Holzhausen. “It’s absolutely essential that hospital trusts look at ensuring carers, in particular, are exempt from paying charges. Ideally, we would like all car parking fees to be scrapped and follow Wales and Scotland where hospital car parking is free of charge.” To find out if exemptions are available in your area, contact your local NHS trust to find out, and if not, point them in the direction of the Department of Health’s guidance document. Find out more about Carers UK’s campaign at www.carersuk.org.
8 IN 10 CHILDREN WITH AUTISM EXPERIENCE ANXIETY ABOUT ATTENDING SCHOOL
Accessible performances scheduled for captioning awareness week
yet it’s estimated that there are 11 million people in the UK who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. Performances scheduled for this year’s Awareness Week include Mary Poppins at Bradford Theatres, Cheltenham, on 16 November, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking on 17 November and Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre, London, on 19 November. To the see the full schedule of events, head to www.stagetext.org.
PIC: COURTESY OF STAGETEXT
THE SECOND EVER Captioning Awareness Week is taking place from 14 to 19 November, with a variety of events being held across the country. Organised by Stagetext, the leading captioning charity for the arts and cultural sectors, the week will raise awareness of how captioning and live subtitling can make theatre and live arts performances an option for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Last year, 25,000 people benefited from captioning and live subtitling,
A WORRYING 8 OUT OF 10 children with autism ﬁnd going to school so stressful that they experience feelings of anxiety, according to new research from Ambitious about Autism. The When Will We Learn? report also showed that 58% of children ﬁnd this anxiety so debilitating that they miss school, and that children with autism are four times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than any other child. Parents reported that getting their child’s needs assessed and getting the right support isn’t easy – over two thirds reported that their child had waited more than a year to get support, while 16% had waited more than three years. Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: “Our survey shows that the education system is still not working for many children and young people with autism. Education is the key to transforming the lives of children and people with autism and early intervention, education and support are critical if children and young people with autism are to lead fulﬁlling lives and make a positive contribution to society.” The charity’s new campaign aims to ensure that children with autism have their educational needs addressed shortly after diagnosis, and that the right mix of services and support are offered by schools. Sign up to support the campaign online at www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/ whenwillwelearn.
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the latest END TO BENEFIT REASSESSMENTS WORK AND PENSIONS secretary Damian Green MP has announced that reassessments for Employment Support Allowance will stop for some people with progressive conditions. More than 2 million people receive ESA, an out of work benefit which is worth up to £109 a week. Applicants have to undergo a work capability assessment, and are re-tested to make sure their condition hasn’t changed. For people with a progressive condition, however, these tests are almost always unnecessary, costing the government and putting recipients through undue stress. Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of the MS Society, said: “This is a victory for common sense. Frequent reassessments for people with progressive conditions like MS are too often a waste of time and money; they can leave people with uncertainty and fear of having their support taken away. “This is good news, but there’s still a lot more to do for people with MS – including improving the assessment for ESA and calling for inappropriate reassessments to stop for other vital benefits, like PIP.” Conditions such as severe Huntington’s, autism, MS or congenital heart conditions are likely to continue to qualify automatically, without reassessment. The final criteria will be drawn up by health professionals.
TESCO CRACKS DOWN ON DISABLED PARKING CHEATS SUPERMARKET GIANTS TESCO are rolling out a parking fine scheme to target people illegally parking in accessible parking spots. The scheme will see those without a blue badge being fined £40. It has already been trialled in 81 shops, and will be rolled out to over 200 stores in the coming months. Staff members can report misuse of spaces via a mobile app. Customers
using the accessible bays will receive a parking charge notice of £40 if paid within 14 days. “Many of our disabled customers rely on our disabled parking bays, so we’ve introduced our self-monitoring initiative to highlight the importance of using the bays properly, making it fairer and easier for everyone to find a parking space in Tesco,” said a spokesperson for the chain.
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OFFICIAL FUEL CONSUMPTION FIGURES FOR JEEP RENEGADE RANGE MPG (L/100KM): EXTRA URBAN 47.9 (5.9) – 70.6 (4.0), URBAN 32.5 (8.7) – 55.4 (5.1), COMBINED 40.9 (6.9) – 64.2 (4.4), CO 2 EMISSIONS: 160 – 115 G/KM. Fuel consumption and CO2 figures are obtained for comparative purposes in accordance with EC directives/regulations and may not be representative of real-life driving conditions. Factors such as driving style, weather and road conditions may also have a significant effect on fuel consumption. Vehicle shown is Jeep Renegade 1.6 E-TorQ EVO Sport available with NIL Advance Payment with Alpine White paint included. Advance Payments are correct at time of going to press and subject to orders being placed between 1st October to 31st December 2016. Not available in conjunction with any other offer. Terms & Conditions apply. Offer may be varied and withdrawn at any time. Jeep ® is a registered trademark of FCA US LLC.
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NICK, 43, HAS recently started working for the Citizens Advice Bureau as an administrator two days a week. He continues to volunteer at the Red Cross clothes shop in Cheltenham three days a week, having joined the team there five years ago.
“It’s great to have got the new job – they are a respected organisation that do important work and good training will be provided. “Finding work has always been really hard because of building accessibility. I am a wheelchair user and was born with spina bifida [a condition where the spine does not develop fully, leaving a gap].
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES 2016
DISABILITY AT HOME AND AWAY Leonard Cheshire Disability is a charity supporting disabled people in the UK and around the world to fulfil their potential and live the lives they choose. To mark the UN’s annual day promoting awareness of disability, two individuals Leonard Cheshire supports in the UK and Pakistan tell Enable about their lives
ACCESS “In the past, I have usually applied for jobs and then checked out the location if and when I hear I’ve been called for interview. I will
“I still think disabled people are a little way away from being seen as having equal rights as everyone else” visit the building in advance of the interview and if it’s not accessible, I will cancel the interview. This is because I don’t want to waste the employer’s time as much as anything. “At school, access was not an issue, but it was a ‘disability school’. Most classes were on the ground floor, and there was a lift for everything else. Since then I have seen access in general improve a little, but only slightly. “Partly, I think this is down to a lack of planning and knowledge, but also I still think disabled
Nick Howorth, Cheltenham, UK
people are a little way away from being seen as [having] equal [rights] as everyone else. It will never be completely equal. STATE SUPPORT “In terms of support from the state, I don’t think it’s got worse under the current government, it’s about the same as it’s always been. “The change from the Disability Living Allowance to PIP might even make things better. However, I do think they should be getting through all the assessment interviews quicker. Just so we know where we stand. “From what I’ve heard, the forms are also very long and complicated. People get confused and there’s a risk of then receiving less than we were before. AWARENESS “The Paralympic Games has again helped with raising awareness of disabled people within society. However, I still think it should be on the BBC like the Olympics, as more people watch the BBC. “I took part in the Parallel inclusive run on behalf of Leonard Cheshire this year [Nick is a resident at Leonard Cheshire’s Gloucester House service in Cheltenham] and it’s fantastic that there are now at last some sporting events where everyone can come together and take part. “Events like that have been one of the most positive legacies of the Paralympic Games, and one of the nicest improvements I’ve seen for disabled people in recent times.”
i Leonard Cheshire aims to support more than 100,000 people with disabilities across Africa and Asia into school and work in the five year period between 2015 and 2020. To find out more, and to support the charity’s work, head to www.leonardcheshire.org.
Zahoor Zahra, Sialkot, Pakistan Zahoor, 26, works as a teacher in a large city in eastern Pakistan, near the border with India. “I WAS BARELY 13 when I lost the use of my legs after a severe attack of typhoid, and it was two years before I was able to return to school. “My parents were very encouraging though, and I slowly learned to adjust to my new circumstances. AMBITION “I wanted to become a teacher and passed all my exams upon returning to school. Sadly during the course I took on to qualify as a teacher, my father lost his eyesight. “I had to give up my studies to help support my struggling family, as he was the sole breadwinner. “Luckily, I was eligible for free ‘Independent Living’ and ‘Business Management’ training provided by Leonard Cheshire at their local Livelihood Resource Centre. “With my newfound confidence and the support of my family I started a basic Tuition Centre at my home for young students. CHALLENGES “Income was initially low however. And the climate in Pakistan means expensive facilities are required
to tutor people in contrasting temperatures. “I wasn’t able to save enough money to equip my centre with chairs, electricity, a whiteboard, or a fan. This meant that during harsh summers and winters my students didn’t attend classes, and so my income dropped and their learning was disrupted.” “I therefore spoke to Leonard Cheshire again to discuss upgrading the facilities at my tuition centre. I was provided with funds to install an electric fan and a whiteboard. SUCCESS “The support I’ve received has improved both my skills and the services available at my centre, which has resulted in an increase in enrolment and a reduction in the number of seasonal drop outs. “I am optimistic that the number of my students will continue to grow, and one day I hope to convert my centre into an academy, with computers and other modern facilities. “I am thankful to Leonard Cheshire but I will never forget my mother’s support and encouragement too, because when I became disabled it was her that taught me not to lose confidence. She motivated me to accept the new reality and move on in life.”
PIC: © CBM/ARGUM/EINBERGER
PROVIDING SUPPORT OVERSEAS Since being founded in 1908 by German missionary pastor Ernst Christoffel, international disability charity CBM has gone from strength to strength. Now supporting people with disabilities in 60 of the world’s poorest countries, the charity delivers practical support while campaigning to improve policy and practice that will benefit those with disabilities. CBM UK communications manager Rosi Jack tells Enable more about the organisation’s work DISABILITY PRESENTS MANY challenges in day-to-day life. Physical access, attitudinal barriers – and things are even harder for those in developing countries, where legislation is miles behind countries like the UK. CBM UK, the British branch of the international disability charity, is working on projects around the world to help change this. “We recognise that people with disabilities in developing countries face huge and complex and multiple barriers, and it’s about breaking down all those barriers so people can access their rights and fulfil their potential,” says CBM UK’s Rosi Jack. “Part of what we do is about access to healthcare and preventing conditions, and treating conditions that can lead to disability.” SUCCESS One project that’s seeing huge success is a smartphone app that’s being rolled out to aid organisations worldwide, giving details of how best to support people with disabilities in the aftermath of natural disasters, such as earthquakes
and tsunamis. Dealing with these horrific events is hard enough, but if you have a disability with specific access, care and medical needs, it’s even more difficult – and aid workers aren’t always equipped to help. Rosie says: “The app is about taking some of that training and that expertise that we’re already passing on to people and making it available in an app, so that when emergency response workers are out there on the ground, it’s all there on their phone.” FANTASTIC WORK As well as working in disaster response, there’s a range of CBM projects globally doing fantastic work. From education projects in Africa making sure children with disabilities have equal learning opportunities to self-help groups in Cameroon, CBM’s workers are making a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people. In India, CBM is training local people with disabilities or their family members organic farming techniques, which are much cheaper to implement than other
methods. One of the participants, Rajesh, said: “I have always tried to help with the farming, but my abilities were not recognised in the family, or in the wider community… I now have a large, and growing, customer base. People like my produce because it looks good, tastes good, and is good for them… Before this they didn’t have much time for me. Now I have respect from them.” “It’s partly about changing global policy and practice, and getting a higher level of understanding about the problems being faced,” Rosi adds. “In the past, while there’s been great efforts to end extreme poverty, people with disabilities tend to be left behind. On a more grassroots level, it’s about investing in changing attitudes. Once the attitudes change, there’s much greater likelihood that the physical barriers will be addressed.”
i Find out more about CBM UK’s work at www.cbmuk.org.uk.
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Range of official fuel consumption figures for the Alfa Giulietta range: Urban 29.7 – 60.1 mpg (9.5 – 4.7 I/100km); Extra Urban 54.3 – 88.3 mpg (5.2 – 3.2 I/100km); Combined 41.5 –74.3 mpg (6.8 – 3.8 I/100km). CO2 emissions 157 – 99 g/km. Fuel consumption and CO2 figures are obtained for comparative purposes in accordance with EC directives/regulations and may not be representative of real-life driving conditions. Factors such as driving style, weather and road conditions may also have a significant effect on fuel consumption. Model shown: New Alfa Giulietta 1.4 TB 120hp at NIL Advance Payment. Advance Payments are correct at time of going to press and subject to orders being placed between 1st October and 31st December 2016. Not available in conjunction with any other offer. Terms & Conditions apply. Offer may be varied and withdrawn at any time.
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Actress Amy Conachan first rose to fame laughing off her disability in X-rated theatre comedy Wendy’s Hoose. Now having moved from stage to screen, the Hollyoaks newcomer is ready to tear up the script on disability all over again
“AS LONG AS it’s a challenge I’m happy.” That’s the mantra of 26-year-old actress Amy Conachan. Born with a condition that means her legs don’t function, Amy tried her hand at everything from dance to singing before she discovered her love of acting. “I have a twin sister and she did a lot of dance when we were younger but I didn’t really get that much out of it,” says Amy. “But once I started going to drama classes, something clicked. I immediately fell in love with it.” After acting at Paisley’s PACE Youth Theatre, famed for working with talented youngsters like James McAvoy and Paolo Nutini, Amy went on to graduate from Reid Kerr College with an HND in acting and performance. But her ultimate goal was always to attend the prestigious Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. RISK TAKER After five years of auditioning, Amy was finally offered a place on their acting
the truth behind the disappearance of her cousin Lockie. And her persistence has murderer Cameron, played by Cameron Moore, feeling worried.
“Once I started going to drama classes something clicked. I immediately fell in love with it” programme in 2012 – making her the first disabled student on her course. Not that she let that put her off. Amy admits she is always ready to take on new challenges – something that has come in very handy in her new role in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks. “In TV there is very little build up,” explains Amy. “In theatre you have the whole story leading you along. But in TV they say ‘action’ and you just have to be there – you might just need to start crying on the spot!” Amy is currently on our screens five nights a week in the popular soap, starring as science teacher Courtney Campbell — who is in town to uncover
BEHIND THE SCENES “From the onset, Cameron and Courtney have a really frosty relationship. There’s no warm and fuzziness,” laughs Amy. But she promises the tricky atmosphere disappears as soon as the director shouts cut. “There are lots of laughs on set,” she says. “Especially after we’ve just been really bad to each other in a scene, we get to turn round and say, ‘Sorry, I love you really!’” While Amy says she’d love to return to her theatre roots eventually, right now she is happily settled in her new job – and enjoying her new hometown. “I was so excited to move to Liverpool,” admits Amy. “I’d had some plays here before and all my family were super excited about it. It was a really cool feeling, it felt like a big step forward.” As for the future, Amy’s excited to see what new adventures it brings. “Maybe I’ll still be in Hollyoaks in five years’ time. Who knows?” says Amy. “As long as I’m still acting, that will be just a joy for me. As long as I keep progressing and trying new things, I’ll be delighted.”
i Catch Amy in Hollyoaks, weeknights at 6:30pm on Channel 4.
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In association with DM Orthotics
THE PARA-ATHLETE’S BEST-KEPT SECRET DM Orthotics share how their orthoses helped not one, but FIVE athletes on the road to gold at the Paralympic Games this summer THE NAME MAKING WAVES in elite parasport this year is DM Orthotics. The Cornish pioneer in dynamic fabric orthoses, which help manage symptoms for neurological and musculoskeletal conditions in children and adults, saw a remarkable eight athletes it works closely with head to Rio this summer – and five returned home with a gold medal around their neck. Among them is new sports superstar and double gold medallist Kadeena Cox, who is the first GB Paralympian to medal in two different sports – sprinting and cycling – in nearly 30 years. Fast becoming a trademark of the 25-yearold is her full arm-length DM Orthotics glove, which helps contain spasms in her right arm. It’s part of an essential range of kit in her armoury, including a DMO vest, shorts and socks.
MORE CONTROL “The reinforced glove and vest allow me to keep running towards the tail end of my race, which has had a great impact on my timings,” explains Kadeena, who has multiple sclerosis. “In cycling they mean I can lock onto the handlebars more easily
and have more control when I cross the finish line. I wear the socks to help keep my feet straight and the shorts to prevent my hips rotating inwards.” A big fan of the products and the results they produce, the physiotherapy student says: “It’s a very exciting area of development that has proven wonderfully beneficial for the mobility of children with cerebral palsy, which is something I’d like to specialise in when I graduate.” Clinically proven to provide help with a wide range of conditions, including cerebral palsy, stroke and scoliosis, as well as multiple sclerosis, the orthoses aren’t only used to enhance sporting performance. Thousands of people around the world wear them every day to improve strength, stability, movement and function. Crucial to DMOs’ effectiveness is its emphasis on bespoke design. “I turned to DMO when I developed a rib strain in my first season,” explains two-time paracanoe world champion and new Paralympic gold medallist Anne Dickins. “DMO took a series of measurements and assessed how I moved on land and in my kayak to create compression shorts to use in training
that specifically address my needs. I have not had any rib pain since and have been able to train more consistently.”
BIG BENEFITS Other DMO devotees who returned home champions are world recordbreaking archer Jessica Stretton, whose “shots are a lot more accurate” since wearing her DMO glove, and boccia star David Smith, whose DMO scoliosis suit is an essential part of his gym wear. “The results are phenomenal and we’re extremely proud to play a part in helping such an exceptional group of athletes reach their full potential,” says DM Orthotics managing director Martin Matthews, whose groundbreaking orthoses are supplied in more than 20 countries around the world. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with Team DMO to push boundaries and surpass new limits.”
i For more details on DM Orthotics visit www.dmorthotics.com.
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DISABILITY DRAG No, we’re not talking Priscilla Queen of the Desert-style glitz and glamour – but rather, non-disabled actors taking on the part of disabled characters in ﬁlm, television and theatre. Is it right that disabled actors are missing out on big parts? Or is it all about the best person for the job? Rachael Fulton investigates 18
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n preparation for his portrayal of Christy Brown, a paraplegic poet who wrote literature with his little toe, Daniel Day-Lewis spent eight weeks living in the Sandymount Clinic for the Disabled in Dublin. He was spoon fed by nurses, he taught himself how to paint with his foot and he spoke, on and off set, in his depiction of Christy’s distorted voice. Yet, when the actor went on to collect an Oscar for his performance in My Left Foot, he walked onstage. He spoke clearly. He returned to life as an able-bodied man, a privilege Christy Brown was never afforded. Similarly, after Daniel Radcliffe’s leading role in the West End in The Cripple of Inishmaan (the clue is in the title), he stood and bowed before his standing ovation. James McAvoy had a life of dancing ahead of him after leaving the set of Inside I’m Dancing, in which he played a paraplegic man. Dustin Hoffman: Rainman. Eddie Redmayne: The Theory of Everything. The list goes on; but if there are disabled roles in Hollywood – why aren’t disabled actors playing them?
STARTLING STATS The term ‘disability drag’ refers to the trend of abled-bodied actors playing disabled roles. In 2016, a white paper issued by the Ruderman Family Foundation examining the top US TV shows found that 95% of disabled characters were played by able-bodied actors. “There is a level of authenticity and truth that can only come from lived experience, and is simply not possible via research and observation,” says Christopher Shinn, a disabled playwright. “This by no way means an able-bodied actor can’t give a deep and moving performance as a disabled character – Eddie Redmayne is astonishing in The Theory of Everything. I think we need to start saying that performance is a mix of acting and being. It is ‘acting’ – but actors draw on their real life experiences and existing inner worlds.”
COMFORT Christopher, himself an amputee, believes that non-disabled audiences are provided a level of comfort knowing that the actor portraying a disabled role is able-bodied in real life. “I do think that the fantasies that are attached to able-bodied actors playing disabled characters are potent, and may not be overcome for a long time,” says Christopher. “Disability will always be feared by some able-bodied people, and the image of the able-bodied actor ‘touching’ disability in performance and emerging ‘unscathed’ will continue to have power for a long time.” Comparisons to disability drag are frequently drawn to the act of ‘blackingup’ white actors to play black characters in film and TV, an activity met with
“Disability will always be feared by some able-bodied people, and the image of the able-bodied actor ‘touching’ disability in performance and emerging ‘unscathed’ will continue to have power for a long time” severe criticism in modern day society – seen in the backlash faced by actress Zoe Saldana when she wore a prosthetic nose to play the lead in Nina Simone biopic Nina. Yet why, with such aversion to the denial of black roles to black actors, are we less incensed by the lack of representation of disabled actors? Many campaigners argue that it robs disabled actors of opportunities. There are, of course, exceptions to the disability drag trend. Peter Dinklage has bagged an Emmy for his incredible portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in global
ratings winner Game of Thrones. RJ Mitte, star of Breaking Bad, has cerebral palsy. There are disabled stars in popular soap Eastenders, CBBC’s The Dumping Ground and American Horror Story. Things are getting, albeit slowly, better. PLEDGES In July 2014, the BBC pledged to quadruple the number of disabled people within BBC programming by the year 2017, and Channel 4 followed hot on their heels in issuing a diversity charter, stating that at least one main character in every commissioned comedy and drama must be from a minority group, of which disabled people are included. The BBC went even bigger in 2016, boosting their commitment to inclusion across the board. A BBC spokesperson said: “In 2014 we made ambitious commitments to radically change the representation of disabled people on air, and to make the BBC a top employer for people with disabilities. We updated our plans in 2016 and remain committed to representing all of our audiences, whatever their background.” But will TV and film ever accurately portray the disabled population? Even by quadrupling their 2014 figure, the BBC will only show disabled people at 5% of society, which is 13% too few compared to real-life stats. Still, with year-on-year improvement, we may see fewer TV stars faking disability and more actors bringing their own lived experience of disability to the roles. Perhaps role models like Peter Dinklage, backed by Emmys and Golden Globes, will encourage more disabled people to approach acting as a career and thus increase visibility of disabled people onscreen. “I think we are in a moment in which subjectivity and authenticity are becoming more and more important,” says Christopher. “In time we’ll see more disabled actors working in prominent roles, where disability is both central as well as incidental.”
? Do you think representation of disabled people needs to improve in TV and film? What are your thoughts of non-disabled people playing disabled people? Tweet your opinion to @enablemagazine.
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TOGETHER WE WILL Following the death of his sister in 2013, Will Mellor was more determined than ever to make sure that people with disabilities, like Joanne, could be a part of their local community – which is why he’s thrown his weight behind a new initiative that seeks to do just that. The actor sat down with Enable to talk about his hopes for the campaign
ill Mellor has had an interesting year. The actor – known for roles in Hollyoaks, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and In the Club – has been hopping up and down the country visiting disability sports clubs and hosting activity days. The day we speak, he’s in London, where he’s been participating in a range of adapted sporting activities and games – with limited success! “It’s just fantastic, doing these sports. I’m usually the worst one at it – I’m rubbish,” he says with a laugh. “I’m just trying to spread the word and get it out there. Being a part of it is the best bit of it – getting down here, meeting everybody.”
It’s all part of Together We Will, a nationwide initiative that ran over the summer to encourage people with disabilities, along with their families and friends, to get out and about, participate in sport and be a part of their local community. Backed by the English Federation of Disability Sport and eight different national disability sports organisations, with support from Sport England, the campaign is all about inclusion and pushing yourself – a message which ambassador Will is keen to push. REAL MEANING For the 40-year-old actor, this isn’t a case of putting his name to a worthy cause – it has real meaning. His sister Joanne, who died in 2013, had Marfan syndrome,
which affected her physically as well as mentally – and Will has seen first hand just how positive being active, physically and socially, can be for people with disabilities. “I know how important it was growing up, keeping her active,” Will says. “She couldn’t move as fast as other people because of her disability – and she had a mental disability as well. It was important for us, my parents and my sister, to get her out. We’d get her out, cycling round the local estate, taking the bus to college, going to the pub with friends – she was never in the house. Everybody knew her in the community. That’s the way it should be.” Being so active, Jo was in the minority – research has shown that just 18% of disabled adults take part in sport or physical activity once a week for the recommneded 30 minutes of exercise, compared with 40% of nondisabled adults. The campaign is keen for more people to embrace sport and exercise – and the benefits aren’t just physical. While building strength, fitness and weight loss do matter, it’s also about being a part of something, making friends, growing in confidence and getting involved with different opportunities in your local area. Jo was at the very centre of the Mellor family – and her legacy lives on in Will’s charity work. He says that, had she still been here, she’d have been on the road with him visiting different projects and participating in activities. “It’s not just about being active – being active is so important, but so is being a part of the community, having a positive mental state and looking forward to something in the week,” Will says. “Whether that’s wheelchair football or the games I’ve been playing today, the different sports that cater for different disabilities. We’re saying you don’t have to be a Paralympian – go to the website, find what’s in your area, go and get involved and join in.” OPPORTUNITIES While the campaign has now drawn to a close, there is still plenty of information available on the EFDS website, including upcoming events and activities and the organisations who can help you to get
“We’re saying you don’t have to be a Paralympian – go to the website, find what’s in your area, go and get involved and join in”
active. Whether you’re a beginner or a former sporting enthusiast who lost their way, there are opportunities in various guises available nationwide. For Will’s family, keeping active was a vital part of their routine – whether it was Jo riding her bike round the estate or going on trips together, it helped her to be a part of the wider community, build her confidence, make friends and learn the vital skills to build her independence. And it taught the Mellors, and those around them, so much too. “Jo had the best kind of impact on me,” Will says. “It was difficult at times, for my mum and dad. You’re basically caring for a child forever. She had a mental age, at times, of an eight-year-old. But at other times, she’d have an adult’s mental age. So we tried to keep everything that she wanted on her terms. Everything she wanted, we never said, ‘You can’t do this.’ She wanted to end up living on her own, to be independent. It was important, because she didn’t realise she was different. She was older, and she was
thinking, ‘Everyone else has moved out. Why can’t I move out?’ She only moved round the corner from my mum’s house, but it meant so much.” By being a part of something – whether that’s a wheelchair basketball club or a running group – it’s a way of making disabled people more visible, fighting the stigma and helping to break down the barrier of misunderstanding that still exists today. “I’m blessed to have grown up with Jo and I’m blessed that my children got to meet her,” Will says. “They’re comfortable around disabled people, and I think that’s important. There’s a big thing that people don’t know how to behave around disabled people. That’s why we need to make sure there are opportunities in our communities for disabled people. We need to change that.”
i To find out more about Together We Will, head to www.efds.co.uk/together.
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ON 31 DECEMBER 2005, on the Thai island of Koh Samet, fireworks lit up the sky and New Year’s revellers partied on the beach. Nils Bergstrand was with his then-girlfriend on a restaurant terrace celebrating the turn of the new year. Inside the restaurant, a drunk customer began harassing other guests at the bar, causing a fight to break out and spill onto the terrace. A shot was fired. A bullet, intended for the disruptive guest, ricocheted from the terrace floor into Nils’ leg, ripping up 6cm into an artery in his calf.
LIFE SAVERS “I thought I’d been struck by a stray firework or something,” says Nils. “I began dying there on the terrace. My girlfriend at the time was a nurse, and the man next to me happened to be a doctor from Canada, who was with his medicallytrained girlfriend. They saved my life.”
THE SHOW MUST GO ON Nils Bergstrand refuses to let his amputation impede his success. The singer-songwriter tells Enable about his One Legged Man Show 24
Nils was losing blood at an alarming rate, stranded on a small island with limited medical facilities. It took a speedboat to the mainland and 10 hours of ambulance journeys through jungle to reach an appropriate hospital, where Nils underwent nine surgeries. Upon his return home, Nils’ survival was met with shock by the doctors who attended to him. “My leg had started to die and my kidneys were failing because they were full of toxins,” says Nils. “My doctor said, ‘How are you still alive? You must be very stubborn, and you’ll need to be from now on.’” Nils had his leg amputated to save his life and has undergone a total of 36 surgeries. A trained classical singer and producer before the incident, Nils’ self-belief was shattered after his amputation.
CONFIDENCE “I thought I would never be on stage again,” says Nils. “Who wants to watch a one-legged man perform? But sometimes you meet the right people at the right time, and things happen.” Nils built his confidence enough to go and train at the Royal Academy of Music in London, beginning a new career in musical theatre. He has since starred in Kristina, a production by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, and in BBC Radio drama Marathon Tales. He then began putting songs he’d written together to create a show about his experiences, the journey to meeting his new limb and the outlook it gave him on life, The One Legged Man Show. “I created the show as something I would have wanted to see when I was newly amputated, when I was depressed and had nothing to live for – I had to create a role model for myself,” says Nils. “I don’t want to live a life of bitterness. It would be easy to be angry at the man that shot me, but if I become bitter, I let the evil win.”
i To find out more about Nils and The One Legged Man Show, visit his website, www.nilsbergstrand.com.
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Care and support
AGENCY TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR CARE Getting help at home doesn’t have to mean going through your local authority, NHS trust or a care agency – you can hire staff yourself and become an individual employer. We find out more about the process
f you need extra support at home, you want to make sure that you’ve got the very best people on your side. People you get along with, who are good at their job and really know their stuff. And there’s a way of making sure you get all this – and more – which is becoming more and more popular with disabled and older people across the country. Becoming an individual employer, recruiting and managing your own PA or care team, can be a really liberating experience, giving people much more choice, control and flexibility in their care. “It enables people to live in a way that they want to,” says Carol Reeves, project manager at Skills for Care. “For people who want to stay in their own home and do the things that they want to do, in the way that they want to do them – it’s really empowering.”
LOCAL Y T I R O H T AU
EMPLOYER “A WATERFALL IN THE SAHARA” Andrew Walker from Oldham broke his neck in three places after a diving accident on holiday in Goa, and is now tetraplegic. He needs help to do a variety of tasks during his day, all while running his own business. Six years ago, he made the decision to hire a team of PAs following some bad experiences with a care agency. “I wanted to make sure I got the right match for me,” Andrew says. “I wanted to employ people that I wanted, people that were local, and get more of a pool of people.” Andrew contacted Skills for Care for advice on how to proceed. He already had some knowledge in the field – he runs a business which sees him delivering training to PAs, offering advice to individuals and local authorities on care and organising your
own support, as well as speaking at events – but needed the extra support to help him make sure he was doing everything by the book. “They’ve got a document which is about employing PAs, which is really helpful,” he explains. “In terms of recruitment, I selected a broker who helped me with recruitment, advice around employment issues, being a good employer, as well as the legal side of things and payroll – they’re
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Care and support
R called Instream Partnership, they’re fantastic.” Andrew now has seven PAs who work for him on a full-time basis, as well as three people who are able to step in and help out if his regular PAs aren’t available. “The way that I describe it, it’s been like going through the Sahara desert for so many years then all of a sudden, you find yourself in the most refreshing waterfall,” he says. “It had an immediate and significant impact on my life. My social life and my company has gone on exponentially. I can go on things like stag dos, I can take my godkids places. I know that people are going to turn up on Sunday and I know that if they don’t, people will step in. They’re the right kind of people with the right training.”
STARTING POINT Many people who hire a PA or team of PAs do this through direct payments from their local authority, or a personal health budget from their local clinical commissioning group (CCG). Others will fund it themselves. Once you’ve got an idea of how you’re going to pay for it, you can go forward and start recruiting. “The first thing you want to think about is how long you want somebody, and what kind of person you would want to work for you,” Carol advises. “Somebody working in your home, it’s a very personal relationship. You want someone you get on with, maybe someone with the same interests as yourself.” The next thing to consider is the job itself – what exactly do you want this person to help you with? Think about your daily routine and the tasks you might need help with. For some, it might be a matter of having someone to help you access the community, while others might need help with personal care, cooking, medical support, getting to and from work, as well as more complex tasks which may be delegated by a healthcare professional. The PA’s role is as individual as you are. With your person specification and your job description put together, you can advertise your post. There’s a number of ways in which to do this – some people will put a poster up in a nearby shop, in their local Jobcentre Plus, or online through sites like Gumtree or Indeed. Do what’s best for you and what’s suited to your budget. RESPONSIBILITIES Once you’ve interviewed your candidates and made your choice, there’s a few more legal processes you have to keep in mind. When you hire
a PA, you become an employer, and like any employer, you have certain legal responsibilities. You’ll firstly need to come up with a contract of employment which outlines any terms and conditions, such as holidays, sick pay, maternity leave, disciplinary procedures and what to do should things not work out. You also need to think about how you’ll pay them. “Some employers do that themselves and pay with the direct payment, or use their own money of course, and they would do their own payroll,” Carol explains. “Some people use a payroll service. For a fee, this helps with some of the processing of tax, pension and National Insurance Contributions and sorting out payslips, for example.” If you’d like to hire your own PA, there is lots of support out there to help you do it. The Skills for Care website has lots of information for individual employers, with useful guides to help you get started, as well as information on local organisations who can help. “At Skills for Care, we come across lots of people employing personal assistants in lots of different settings,” Carol adds. “Personal assistants help individuals and they’re delivering care, but they’re also assisting the person to do the things that they want to do. Even if it’s getting out in the community, going to gigs – it’s enabling them to do what anybody else would want to do. In some cases, it can give them their life back.”
i Skills for Care www.skillsforcare.org.uk/iepahub
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ENABLE HAS BEEN keeping disabled people and carers across the UK informed, entertained and inspired for over five years now. Each issue is packed with interviews, real life stories, employment and education advice, expert points of view and much more – it’s what makes us the country’s favourite disability lifestyle title. To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the excitement, what about subscribing to the magazine and getting each issue delivered straight to your door?
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November / December 2016
ON THE ROAD tim rushby-smith What is disabled access like in other countries? Enable columnist Tim Rushby-Smith shares his experiences from a recent family holiday
AS I WRITE THIS we are reaching the end of a five-week family odyssey. This has been our first visit back to the UK since we moved to Australia three years ago, and we also took the opportunity to explore Singapore on the way over. Travelling offers the opportunity to reflect on different cultural attitudes towards disability, and access offers a pretty good bell-weather. With disabled access, the vital first step is a culture shift from the medical model of disability to the social model. In other words, we go from the disabled person having something ‘wrong with them’ to the notion that a lack of universal access signifies something wrong with the culture or the built environment. In the UK, this step was taken some time ago, and while facilities are not always as
good as they should be, there is a general consensus that a lack of access is a fault in the facilities and not in the individual who is unable to access them.
PRICE TO PAY Having spent much of the last few weeks going up and down staircases on my backside, it is certainly apparent that the Victorians didn’t build according to the social model, but that’s the price I pay for staying with friends and family. When out and about, I have found decent facilities virtually everywhere, the exception being the visitor centre at a Roman site in Wales, where they thought it would be a good wheeze to make the bathroom resemble that which the Romans used, and encased the toilet in a wooden box that was too big for the bathroom. This made using the loo a bit ‘hit and miss’, shall we say. Thankfully, they had stopped short of providing a bucket with a sponge on a stick and had instead opted for modern toilet paper... By comparison, Singapore was a mixed picture, although there is little doubt that
the first step has been taken. On previous travels, I was warned that in Singaporean culture saying no is considered rude, and so unsuspecting wheelchair travellers would find themselves arriving at their ‘accessible’ hotel, only to find a long flight of stairs up to the front door.
MORE AGREEABLE Our experience this time was far more agreeable, although not necessarily perfect. There are ramps down to most pedestrian crossings, but some of them have been embellished with bollards set in ranks so close as to make wheelchair access completely impossible. The MRT train network is mostly accessible, but finding the lifts that provide access to each station provides hours of fun, with inaccurate signage and tantalising glimpses of lift doors visible from the top of a flight of stairs. All of which makes getting around more complicated than it should be, but the will is there. The most important first step in avoiding steps.
Looking Up by Tim Rushby-Smith is published by Virgin Books
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SNOWSPORTS ARE A fantastic way for anyone to build confidence and stay active – no matter what your abilities are. Although the idea of picking up an ice hockey stick or throwing yourself down a mountain might seem daunting, the feeling of being out amongst nature and enjoying a new sport is unlike any other. And with a white Christmas (hopefully!) right around the corner, there is no better time to get involved and get on the slopes.
ALPINE SKIING As one of the most popular winter sports ever, skiing has many variations to suit a range of disabilities. A mono-ski, or sitting ski, for instance, means anyone can get out on the slopes and develop balance, strength and stamina. The low level seat allows the skier to remain seated, with the lower half of the body tucked into a shell and attached to a single ski. Traditional poles are switched for ones that have small skis at the bottom, to help guide the mono-skier. On a mono-ski, disabled skiers can reach speeds of 70 mph – nearly as fast as the 80mph that world-class Olympic skiers aim for. Disability Snowsport UK works with six snow centres around Britain to make sure anyone with a disability can participate and enjoy snowsports, whether skiing, snowboarding or mono-skiing – head to www. disabilitysnowsport.org.uk for details.
Winter is here, which means one thing for snow bunnies – time to hit the slopes! We line up the best winter sports for every age and ability
GIVE IT A GO Disability and lifestyle blogger Emma Muldoon (www.simplyemma.co.uk, @simplyemma2) tells us more about her ﬁrst time trying accessible skiing at Snow Factor in Glasgow. I like to think of myself as adventurous – someone who is always looking for fun and exciting things to try despite my disability. However, I was somewhat apprehensive when accessible skiing came up. The first thing I thought was: “How on earth can I try extreme sports as a wheelchair user when I have incredibly weak muscles, poor trunk control, am unable to walk, or even lift my arms to scratch my nose for that matter?” So when I discovered it was possible to try accessible skiing with the help of Disability Snowsport UK, I knew I had to try it. Booking my first ski lesson was straightforward and I was reassured my disability would not be an issue as the instructor would be in control and with me at all times. I felt surprisingly comfortable and extremely secure in the ski chair with the belts and straps holding me in place. During my one-hour ski lesson, we managed to go down the slopes four times. On the third and fourth go the instructor allowed me to control the turns while she was still attached to the chair. Even though I don’t have much movement or strength, it didn’t matter. The slightest head tilt was enough to control where I wanted to go. It felt amazing and exhilarating as I skied down the slopes. I never thought I’d ever be able to do anything like that in my life, but I did and I’m so glad I decided to try accessible skiing.
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Sport * BECOME A TEACHER Getting involved in snowsports doesn’t just have to be for fun – you can also volunteer and support disabled winter sports by becoming an instructor. If you’re interested in teaching people with disabilities how to ski, the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (www.basi.org.uk) runs 10-day courses in becoming an adaptive ski instructor. By passing this course you receive the highest qualification in adaptive skiing. Alternatively, you can volunteer as a helper and assist with Disability Snowsport UK on trips. Each year DSUK run Disability Awareness weekends for helpers in the UK and training weeks in Europe. For more information head to www.disabilitysnowsport.org.uk.
If you thought skiing sounded adventurous, prepare to be blown away by biathlon. This wild sport combines the thrill of sharpshooting with the skill of cross-country skiing and is open to those with either physical disabilities or visual impairment. Competitors require the technique and control to crosscountry ski for up to 20km all while holding their gun steady enough to hit tiny targets scattered throughout the course. There are special skis for those who can’t use regular skis, and custom rifles to allow amputees to load and hold a rifle. Those with visual impairments are assisted by electro-acoustic headphones, which make a different noise to indicate where they’re aiming. Move further away from the target, and the pitch of the sound goes down. For more information, head to www.britishbiathlon.com.
Winter sport doesn’t always require a mountain. Sledge hockey is a hugely popular sport and there’s not a ski lift in sight – perfect if you’re not altitude’s biggest fan. That’s not to say the sport is for softies – it’s fast, full contact and always actionpacked. The rules are very similar to ice hockey; five players, a goalie, same penalties, same rules. The only difference is that players are seated in a metal sledge with blades on the base, propelling themselves using twin hockey sticks, shooting pucks as they go. Contact the British Sledge Hockey Association (www. sledgehockey.co.uk) to find out more.
Wheelchair curling is a great way to meet people and keep active at the same time. It’s one of the few sports in which men and women can play together or against each other, making it the perfect social sport. It’s widely considered to be far more challenging than the able-bodied equivalent because wheelchair curlers are expected to make the perfect throw every time – there’s no sweepers in this game! If you think you are up for the challenge, contact British Curling (www.britishcurling. org.uk) for more info.
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ACCESS WINTER Your guide to an accessible, disability-friendly festive season
A WARMER WINTER
Heating your home for less this season
035_EN_ND16_2 AccessWinter cover.indd 35
HITTING THE HIGH STREET
Taking the hassle out of this yearâ€™s Christmas shopping
THE GIFT GUIDE
Present ideas with an accessible twist
Making your money go further ahead of the holidays
Protect your pipes Keep the water cycle running smoothly and be prepared in winter. Heat, insulate and protect your home. www.scottishwater.co.uk/winter
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With the weather taking a turn for the worse, it’s time to crank up the thermostat and cosy down for winter. But what if you don’t have the income to cover your gas and electricity bills? We offer some advice to help you manage your utilities payments for the season ahead
inter is all about afternoons cuddled up next to the radiator, hot chocolate in hand and enjoying the comfort and warmth of your home while a blizzard rages on outside. Or not, if you’re on a low income. Heating your home is a costly business, particularly as temperatures outside plummet. A medium-sized home in the UK spends an average of £1,066 on energy in the space of a year, according to comparison site UKPower.co.uk. In the winter, with your lights on earlier and your heating up higher, and for longer, your monthly spend increases. But for those with little income, or those reliant on benefits – and disabled people are statistically more likely to be in that position – this extra cost often can’t be met.
TIPS FOR A WARMER WINTER
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Changes to benefits and increasing fuel prices mean that more and more disabled people are having to make the choice between heating their home and feeding themselves and their families over the winter months. Given the choice, do you eat or heat? It’s a horrible position to be in – but support is out there to help disabled people and those on low incomes to heat their homes and stay warm and healthy during colder weather. So how do you access it?
supplier to see if you’re eligible. You may also qualify if you have a pay-asyou-go or pre-pay meter – your energy supplier will be able to tell you how to go about it. Find out more at www.gov. uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme. There’s also the Winter Fuel Payment (www.gov.uk/winter-fuelpayment), which is between £100 and £300. This is to help people born on or before 5 May 1953 to pay their heating bills over the winter. Most payments are made automatically between
EXTRA SUPPORT The first thing to do is make sure you’re getting all the benefits and support that you’re entitled to. Head to the Entitledto website (www.entitledto.co.uk) and input your details to see what you could be claiming – even if you’re in work, there may still be support available, depending on your circumstances and income. You might also be able to access a couple of special benefits which are available only in winter. The Warm Home Discount Scheme, for instance, could save you as much as £140 off your electricity bill. The money isn’t paid to you – it’s a one-off discount between October and April. You qualify for the discount if, on 10 July, your energy supplier was part of the scheme, you or your partner’s name was on the bill and you were getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit. If you’re not receiving the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, you might also qualify if you have a low income or you’re in receipt of certain benefits. Check with your energy
“A medium-sized home in the UK spends an average of £1,066 on energy in the space of a year” November and December – if you don’t receive it and think you should, you can call the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 03459 15 15 15. If the weather is particularly cold this winter, you might also be eligible for Cold Weather Payments, one-off payments which are issued when the temperature goes below zero degrees Celsius for seven consecutive days if you are receiving certain benefits. You’ll get £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March. You’ll automatically receive these payments – either tell your pension centre of Jobcentre Plus if you don’t get it.
GETTING ADVICE There are lots of different organisations who can give support too. The Energy Saving Trust in England (www. energysavingtrust.org.uk), Energy Saving Trust Scotland (www.energysavingtrust. org.uk/scotland) or Nest in Wales (www. nestwales.org.uk) can all offer lots of information on the different benefits that are available to you, including schemes which offer free or discounted insulation for cavity walls, lofts, pipes, tanks and floors, or help with the cost of energyefficient boilers. You can also get expert advice over the phone from the Energy Saving Trust on 0300 123 1234 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or 0808 808 2282 for people in Scotland. Citizens Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) and the Money Advice Service (www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk, 0800 138 7777) are also good sources of information, and completely impartial too. For financial support, look into charitable trusts – the British Gas Energy Trust (www.britishgasenergytrust.org. uk) is an independent charitable trust which awards grants to help individuals living in poverty, particularly fuel poverty, to clear their energy debts and buy white goods. You can search for different trusts and funding bodies through Turn2us at www.turn2us.org.uk. While heating your home might be a struggle this winter, you don’t have to go through it alone – there is help out there. Start making enquiries now to make sure you have a happy, healthy, warm winter.
SIMPLE CHANGES THAT WILL SAVE YOU CASH As well as accessing financial help, you can take some steps to save some money and make your home warmer.
1. Get rid of any draughts by sealing cracks and hanging heavy curtains.
3. Reduce your thermostat by one degree – it’ll cut your heating bills by 10%.
2. Use rugs to insulate rooms where you spend most of your time.
4. Use timers to ensure rooms are kept warm when they’re
occupied – not when the house is empty. 5. Invest in energy efficient lightbulbs. 6. Layer up rather than turning on the
heating – cosy jumpers, hot water bottles and extra blankets are more cost effective than having your heating on all night. And it’s better for the environment too!
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HIGH STREET Bustling crowds, a bit of Wham! being played across the sound system, festive knitwear as far as the eye can see – it’s got to be Christmas shopping time! To make the whole experience slightly less stressful, we’ve gathered some advice to guarantee a more relaxing start to the season of giving
hile it feels like last Christmas has only just been and gone, the season of spending is now well under way once again. Getting ready for Christmas is almost as much of a tradition as the day itself. The shopping, the days out at Christmas markets, watching festive films with a giant mug of hot chocolate – it’s a real treat. In total, the average Brit spends 37 hours getting ready for the big day, according to research from Doddle. While Christmas prep can be a lot of fun, it’s a source of stress for others – particularly people with disabilities. A survey conducted by charity Revitalise (www.revitalise.org.uk) in 2014 found that 70% of disabled people avoid Christmas shopping on the high street due to poor accessibility. So, as we gear up to join the crowds ahead of Christmas,
what can you do to beat the potential problems that the high street presents? ACCESS FIRST First of all, it’s sensible to do your homework. If you have certain access issues or mobility problems, consider calling ahead to see if the store has stepped entry or to check the layout. Some retailers will detail access on their website, including details such as whether or not they have lifts and hearing loops. Modern shopping centres tend to have much better access than high street stores – you’re more likely to get step-free access, smooth floors and elevators as opposed to contending with cobbled streets and stairways. Use sites like DisabledGo (www. disabledgo.com) and Euan’s Guide (www. euansguide.com), both of which have comprehensive access guides to various public places across the country.
TIME IT It’s also wise to time your shopping trip carefully. Saturday afternoons will be much busier, especially in the few weeks running up to Christmas, so try go for mid-week or first thing in the morning at the weekend to beat the crowds. Some shopping centres are now offering autism-friendly shopping experiences, or ‘quiet hours’, designed for those with autism spectrum conditions or sensory difficulties. The traditional shopping experience with bright lights, crowds and music blaring can be overwhelming for those on the spectrum, so more and more stores are setting aside time to make a trip to their stores more manageable. Staff will be given special training, music turned off and any flashing lights switched off to creating a quieter, calmer atmosphere – and everyone is there for
high street The idea of tackling a busy can be pretty on the run up to Christmas ver mind if you unappealing for anyone, ne the crowds, why have access needs. To avoid the comfort of not do your shopping from e tips to get your own home? We offer som line the most out of shopping on
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The beauty of shopping extra cash. On the can often save a little ny retailers have run up to Christmas, ma count days – sign special online-only dis m your favourite shops up for newsletters fro search sites like to stay in the know, or k before you www.vouchercodes.co.u if you can save make a purchase to see any extra money.
STAYING SAFE a , security is obviously the same reason, so you know there will be a greater understanding. Some branches of Asda have done it, Toys R Us have taken part and shopping centres like intu Braehead and the Fort in Glasgow, and Cheshire Oaks in Liverpool have also hosted quiet hours. EXTRA HELP To help disabled shoppers, the nationwide Shopmobility network lends out mobility equipment to make accessing the high street a little bit easier, for free or a small charge. Shopmobility gives individuals access to manual wheelchairs, scooters, rollators and even portable hearing loops, boosting independence, dignity and confidence. Anyone with a disability can use the scheme, whether long-term or
short-term, and you don’t have to be registered as disabled or have a blue badge to take advantage. Each scheme is different, so it’s important to contact the one you hope to use before you set off to get all the information you need and to pre-book anything if required. Most ask that you bring ID so you can get registered and then staff will help you find the right sort of aid. The whole process takes about 30 minutes, then you’re free to go. To find out more, head to the National Federation of Shopmobility website at www.nfsuk.org. With a bit of forward planning, the Christmas shopping experience doesn’t have to be a headache. Do your homework, don’t be afraid to ask for help, get out there and enjoy the festive fun!
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PIC: JEFF EDEN RBG KEW
AN ACCESSIBLE CHRISTMAS IN THE CAPITAL
Want to get into the festive spirit? London is the place to be! The capital is packed with accessible Christmassy days out and activities – and we’ve got our pick of the best LONDON AT CHRISTMAS is truly magical. It takes on the feel of a Richard Curtis film, with more fairy lights and festive cheer than you’d know what to do with – meaning it’s great for a visit. Whether you’re a local or coming from outside the city, there’s something for everyone to enjoy this Christmastime. If you’re in the mood for a (Marco Pierre) White Christmas, look no further than DoubleTree by Hilton LondonIslington (doubletree3.hilton.com). Marco and co will be serving up festive feasts at the hotel’s Steakhouse Bar and Grill, offering everything from afternoon tea to Christmas Day luncheons. You can also book accommodation in one of their six rooms fully adapted for wheelchair users, all with an adjacent connecting room. The hotel is just steps from a wide variety of shops, restaurant and bars, making it the ideal base for exploring London.
CHRISTMAS MAGIC Don’t forget to take a peek inside the neighbouring Enchanted Christmas House (www.enchantedhouse.net). From November 26 to December 24, Santa’s elves will open the doors to their magical home, welcoming visitors of all ages and abilities. Inside you’ll find the Garden of Winter Wonderland, Busy Elves Workshop, interactive games in Genie’s Christmas Cave and a musical theatre show – plus the chance to meet Father Christmas. Accessible toilets and wheelchair access are available across the venue and parents and carers are encouraged to join in all the festive fun with their loved ones. Also not to be missed is the chance to see London’s nature in a whole new light. This Christmas, London’s Kew Gardens (pictured above) are set to glow with magical illuminations, transforming Kew’s buildings, trails and plants. The mile-long trail leads guests past glittering Christmas trees, a scented garden and all kinds of nature-inspired lights. Disabled ticket holders are entitled to one free ticket for a carer and will be granted full access to the illuminated trail. The nearby Ferry Lane Carpark provides free parking for
blue badge holders – but book your spot in advance to avoid disappointment. For more information go to www.kew.org.
WINTER WONDERLAND Lastly, no Christmas is complete without a visit to central London, where Hyde Park is transformed into a Winter Wonderland with 32 bars, 52 rides, a circus, giant funfair, Ferris wheel and the biggest outdoor ice rink in Britain. Organisers have tried to make the Wonderland as accessible as possible for visitors with disabilities, and wheelchairs are welcome on the ice rink, in the Circus Megadome, at the Winter Palace Theatre, on the Giant Wheel, in the Magical Ice Kingdom and Bar Ice. The nearby Green Park Station and Victoria offer the best step free access and you’ll find disabled parking, toilets and medical assistance on site. Find out more at www. hydeparkwinterwonderland.com With so much on offer this Christmas, London is definitely the place to be for an injection of festive fun. So what are you waiting for? Book your break now!
i Visit London www.visitlondon.com
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A VERY ACCESSIBLE CHRISTMAS After Christmas gifts with a disability twist? We round up some of our favourite buys on offer this season
BIBBLE PLUS WAISTCOAT DIGNITY BIB
Christmas isn’t Christmas without a good scrap over a board game. Make sure family members who read Braille aren’t left out with this accessible version of Scrabble. It comes complete with Braille and large print user guides – so there’s no excuses for cheating… GET IT: RNIB Shop, £29.95 exc VAT (shop.rnib.org.uk)
Bibble’s dignity bibs are a stylish option for adults – and this navy pinstripe waistcoat-style bib is a very upmarket solution to make Christmas dinner an altogether classier affair. GET IT: Bibble Plus, £13 exc VAT (www.bibbleplus.co.uk)
AUDIBLE SUBSCRIPTION The holidays are the ideal time for cosying down with a good book – but if print isn’t your thing, what about embracing audio books? Audible offer gift vouchers – you can go for three, six or 12-month subscriptions, comprising one audio book download a month. You can get everything from classics like Jane Eyre to the latest Bridget Jones book. GET IT: Audible, from £23.99 (www.audible.co.uk)
EMMA BRIDGEWATER BLUE BADGE COVER
We’re all used to seeing experience days at race tracks and outdoors centres being touted as the ideal Christmas gift – and iCan Experiences make it all a lot more accessible! Everything from skydiving to sports, pamper days to flying a plane, iCan offer gift vouchers for their array of accessible activities. GET IT: iCan Experiences, POA (www.icanexperiences.co.uk)
The Blue Badge Company has joined forces with quintessentially British ceramics and textiles designer Emma Bridgewater to launch a gorgeous range of key rings, toiletry bags, lap trays and more, all in pretty prints. We love the blue badge permit cover. Check out the range at Boots and Argos. GET IT: Blue Badge Company, £25 (www.bluebadgecompany.co.uk)
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PUBLIC TRANSPORT Winter weather can make the thought of going out for a walk vastly unappealing – so how can you avoid becoming housebound over the winter months? Enter public transport! We take a look at the accessibility features and discount schemes that are enabling people to continue to be a part of their local community – and access the high street for that all-important Christmas shopping – whatever the weather
BOARD A BUS Physical access on the nation’s buses is improving quickly, and major transport providers are committing to better access on their fleet. Stagecoach’s timetables (www.stagecoachbus.com) show when a low floor, easy access bus will be on offer, and also provide Journey Assistance cards which you can show to drivers to let them know what your access requirements are without having to get into a conversation about it. These include statements like, ‘please be patient, I am deaf’, ‘please tell me when we reach my stop’, and, ‘please count my change for me’. Local transport providers are also upping their game. In Edinburgh, all of Lothian Buses’ vehicles are easy access, with low entrances, boarding ramps, flat areas on the lower deck, high-vis handrails and a dedicated wheelchair space. Get more information at www. lothianbuses.co.uk. Brighton and Hove Buses offer a Helping Hand scheme, a discrete pocket-sized card with simple instructions for drivers, and all travel staff have had disability awareness training too – find out more at www. buses.co.uk/helpinghand. When planning a journey via bus, it’s always best to call ahead and make sure your access requirements are known and can be met.
TAKE THE TRAIN Access on the nation’s railways is also getting better. Most train providers – from Scotrail to Cross Country Trains to Virgin – will offer assistance at manned stations, including wheelchair ramps and guidance. Network Rail has rolled out a major improvement plan, implementing step-free routes at stations, from the entrance to the platform. On board, trains tend to have good access features, many offering dedicated wheelchair spaces, high visibility handrails and announcements made as you approach each stop, with some even offering text displays to let deaf passengers see what’s coming up. If you need assistance on your journey, you can pre-book it through National Rail’s Passenger Assist programme – go online to www.nationalrail.co.uk to find out more.
COLLECT A CONCESSION Local authorities offer travel passes for disabled and elderly people, allowing them to travel free of charge, or at a reduced price, on local bus routes. London’s trams offer free travel for older and disabled residents of the capital, and are free for wheelchair users whether they have a Freedom Pass or not – find out more at www.londoncouncils.gov. uk. The Freedom Pass can also be used on certain routes for buses, the Tube and on trains too – and even on some journeys outside of London. Make enquiries now. Non-Londoners should contact their local authority to find out about similar schemes and offers. The nationwide Disabled Person’s Railcard is a great scheme which allows discounted travel for disabled people and a carer on the nation’s railways. You’ll get a third off rail fares, and the card costs just £20 a year. Find out more at www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk.
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Festive Finance Fancy avoiding a hefty credit card bill in the new year? Check out our money saving tips to get you through the festive season
SET A BUDGET Take a look at your finances and set a realistic budget for Christmas spending. Whether you’ve been saving up throughout the year or you have to make do on the next couple of months’ income, be sensible about it. The average Christmas spend per household in the UK is £500 – but if that’s not realistic for you, don’t feel the pressure to overspend. Your friends and family will understand your position. MAKE A LIST – AND CHECK IT TWICE When it comes to Christmas, whether it’s gift buying or planning dinner, it’s best to make a list of what you need to buy, where and figure out how much it will all cost. Take your budget, divide it up amongst who you need to buy for, and look for gifts that match your spending capacity. HAVE A PLAN Before hitting the shops, get online and do some research. Decide where you need to go and stick to it – nipping into that shop for a quick look could take you off track and off budget.
OPERATE IN CASH When you’re out braving Christmas shopping, get yourself to an ATM or your local bank to take your pre-defined budget out in cash. This will help you avoid the temptation to stick your purchases on plastic. MONITOR YOUR SPENDING If you don’t have online banking, it’s time to sign up. This will let you log in daily and keep an eye on what you’re spending rather than waiting on your statement at the end of the month. No nasty surprises! BENEFIT CHECK Make sure you’re getting any financial support you’re entitled to. It could be that you could claim certain benefits you’ve never heard of, depending on your personal or financial situation. Check out Entitledto’s benefit checker at www.entitledto.co.uk – you could be eligible for something to help with daily living costs that’ll free up some of your income for Christmas spending.
GO HOME-MADE You don’t have to bow to the pressure of expensive gifts – why not start a new tradition and embrace your crafty side with some home-made presents? Decorated photo frames, hand-knitted scarves, a painting, Christmas cards with the kids’ input – there’s lots you can do, and the personal touch makes it all the more meaningful. THINK AHEAD If this Christmas is a bit of a squeeze on your finances? Learn from it, and start planning now for next year. Putting away £50 a month will get you £600 for the festivities – while it might impact on your month-to-month spending, it will take away the mad panic in December.
i If you’re worried about your finances, check out the Money Advice Service at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk, or call the helpline on 0800 138 7777.
I have to tell my son what gifts I have bought him as I buy them – that way he knows what he’s getting as he hates surprises, but it still excited for Christmas to get presents. Definitely works better than past Christmases.
Scheduled movie time - favourite film, hot chocolate and a blanket to reduce anxiety and keep them calm.
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PLANNING AN AUTISM-FRIENDLY CHRISTMAS If someone in your family has autism, you’ll know that the break from routine over the holidays can be a really stressful experience. With some help from the National Autistic Society, some families have shared their tips to help make the season run smoothly
on e routine ts set bedtim a ns presen e e v p a o h We it d no one e n k a , ta e v e E s kfast. W a re Christma b d a nt is have all h exciteme until we resents so p he has n e r e p v o e nd when in turn to a – m u self and minim kept to a move him re n a c e gh, h . had enou e’s ready k when h c a b come
Colour coded gift wrapping works well for us – that way our son has a better understanding of what he should and shouldn’t be opening, rather than diving in and ripping up every present he sees.
048-049_EN_ND16_Autism Xmas.indd 48
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i National Autistic Society www.autism.org.uk Autism helpline: 0808 800 4104
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From grand jetés in ballet class to moves that wouldn’t be out of place on MTV in street sessions, the world of dance is wide and varied – and a lot more disability-friendly than you’d think. Kirsty McKenzie spoke with Naomi Wallen, founder of Cambridgeshire dance company DanceMatters to find out more about the options that are out there NAOMI WALLEN HAS BEEN a dance teacher for 22 years, teaching at her own dance school, DanceMatters, for 11. But she’ll never forget the moment, all that time ago, when a five-year-old Johnnie Peacock came into her ballet class. “I remember him being very little; he had just lost his leg to meningitis,” says Naomi. “He came to ballet because his mum wanted him to increase his balance, which had been affected by the amputation. It struck me then how useful dancing can be and that it didn’t have to be different just because someone has a disability.
DANCE MATTERS “Twenty years later, that’s stayed with me. I want dancing to be all about inclusivity and finding strategies to help each individual person. You just have to want to make it possible for people.”
REFLECTION Today Naomi teaches around 50 pupils, between the ages of three and 80, all in her local town of Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire. “I describe us as a community dance school. Amongst the range of dancers we have, some have disabilities, but I don’t want us to be thought of as a special dance school,” explains Naomi. “I just want to reflect my community – and that includes people who have a range of disabilities. It isn’t special or different; it’s simply a reflection of my community.”
Along with her tap, ballet and line dancing classes, Naomi has also introduced dancing with sign language. Inspired by her friend Sarah, who has Down’s syndrome, Naomi began to study Makaton. “That’s why I created my preschool class, Dancing Hands. We use Makaton as a way of signing our way through songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” says Naomi. “Again, that class isn’t specifically for children with a disability but it does happen to have some disabled children in it.”
OPPORTUNITIES Sarah also assists with the Dancing Hands class. “She is such a positive role model for the children, but also for the parents. I think it’s great for them to see someone with a visible disability in a responsible role. The kids adore her.”
With Christmas fast approaching, Naomi is sure there will be lots of exciting opportunities around the corner. “I never know who is going to ring me up next – it could be a flash mob, it could be a charity, a new person wanting to join our tap class. I don’t know what’s in the future and that’s what makes it exciting. “Whether it’s a little munchkin or a 70-year-old, I always ask: what is it they want to gain? Dance is the opportunity for them to get fit and interact with people, older and younger. I’m all about the whole package of experience and opportunity – and dance is my tool, it’s what I carry everybody along with.”
i For more information on Naomi’s dance school head to www.dance-matters.co.uk.
U O Y ND
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B E R ’ EY
s there anything better than seeing the lights dazzle on stage as your favourite characters come to life? Add Christmas into the mix and you’re dancing. Or singing along. Or maybe even shouting ‘he’s behind you!’ gleefully from your front row seat. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Panto season is upon us. Done right, it’s the perfect introduction for theatre newbies and a chance to remind old school culture vultures how much fun lighthearted performances can be. And theatres nationwide are going the extra mile to ensure that audience members with disabilities can enjoy a festive theatre trip too.
TR EMPIRE THEA , LIVERPOOL SNOW WHITE RAPHY NDS PHOTOG © JONO SYMO
PIONEERING PERFORMANCES The Ambassador Theatre Group have a range of pioneering performances at their theatres this Christmas. The group has worked with Dr Chris Abbott and Widgit Software to create specialist symbol resources designed to make productions more accessible for children with learning difficulties. The flashcards help to make the experience interactive while ‘translating’ the story into easily understood images. Kids can follow the pictures along with the show, so they know exactly what to expect. ATG have adapted the production into a simple
L TH THE NATIONA PETER PAN, UET / © MARK DO
storyboard of symbols – colourful and bright, just like a panto should be. ATG also host relaxed performances at their theatres across the country, aimed at audience members with autism spectrum conditions and learning disabilities. “This will be the third consecutive year we have held a relaxed performance at panto,” says a spokeswoman from ATG. “It’s aimed at anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed environment including people with an autism spectrum condition, sensory and communication disorders or a learning disability. Features of the performance include dimmed lighting, reduced sound levels and a chill out area for anyone who wishes to take a break during the performance.” ACCESS FEATURES Theatres are really embracing access, with lots of different adaptations on offer nationwide. The spellbinding Sleeping Beauty will perform at ATG’s Sunderland Empire with a signed show on Thursday 29 December, while Snow White can be spotted at Liverpool Empire with an audio described performance on 20 December and a captioned show on the 29th. On the 21st, there will be signed and relaxed performances of this action-packed show too. Find out more about what’s on at www.atgtickets.com. It’s not just the Ambassador Group who are going the extra mile. Scottish Ballet’s Hansel and Gretel, choreographed by Christopher Hampson, returns with accessible shows for winter 2016/17. This fairy tale, which first wowed audiences in 2013, is filled with enchanting moments and
THE NUTCRACKER, THE PALACE THEATRE, ESSEX
more twists and turns than you can shake a magic wand at. In advance of the audio described performance, all visually impaired patrons are sent a CD that includes short musical extracts and a synopsis of the story and the characters. Before each performance, audience members are invited to a touch tour – a chance to get up close with the beautiful costumes and magical props. Hansel and Gretel will come to Festival Theatre, Edinburgh on 17 December, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, on 14 January and His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, on 2 January. Find out more at www. scottishballet.co.uk. Also in Scotland, Inverness’s Eden Court theatre will be showcasing an accessible performance of Dick Whittington on 6 January. Expect classic panto fun with wild jokes from Dame Sarah the Cook and dastardly deception from Tommy the Cat. Get your tickets at www.eden-court.co.uk. Peter Pan will be flying back to the stage in the National Theatre’s production of JM Barrie’s best loved classic (www.nationaltheatre.org.uk). Get into the festive spirit at the Olivier Theatre with this magical show – suitable for ages seven and up – with an audio described performance on 17 and 19 December. A captioned performance will be shown on the 28th, while audiences with dementia or autism will be treated to a relaxed performance on 21 January. For further fun with the family, what about some Roald Dahl magic on the stage? In London, Matilda the Musical will host a captioned performance on 11 December. The quirky show, composed by Tim Minchin, became the biggest
British musical since Billy Elliot after it opened to rave reviews in 2010. Check it out at uk.matildathemusical.com. FOR GROWN UPS If you’d rather have a more grown-up theatre experience, there’s plenty on this season. Mamma Mia bring their all singing, all dancing ABBA-inspired show to the Edinburgh Playhouse with a captioned performance on 8 December, an audio described show on 15 December and a sign language interpreted performance on 1 December. Chicago the Musical brings guns and filthy fun to the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, with a signed performance on 21 December. Get tickets for both from www.atgtickets.com. Last but not least is the most Christmassy production of them all. The Palace Theatre, Essex, brings you an enchanting performance of festive favourite, The Nutcracker. Follow the story of Clara and Fritz on their spellbinding Christmas Eve adventure and watch in awe as their favourite toys come to life. The Palace Theatre will be offering a relaxed performance, specially adapted for customers with learning difficulties, autism spectrum conditions or anyone who may benefit from a more flexible theatre experience, and their carers. Suitable for ages four and up, the setting will be less formal and individuals will be given the freedom to talk and move as they please. Some elements of the show will be adapted, with noise reduced to help make sure all the audience is as comfortable as possible. Find out more at www.southendtheatres.org.uk.
SCOTTISH BALLET’S HANSEL PIC ©AND AND GRET Y ROSS EL.
• • • • •
The National Theatre aims to be accessible and welcoming to all
Fully accessible foyers and auditoriums Captioned and Audio-Described performances Relaxed performances £16 tickets for disabled visitors Alternative formats
For more info visit
nationaltheatre.org.uk/access Access_EnableMag_200214.indd 1 54_Enable 7.indd 54
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Deciding what’s best for your child is a challenge parents face daily – but when it comes to education when your child has special needs, it’s even more complicated. Two mums share their families’ experiences
MAINSTREAM V SEN
Nancy Gedge is mum to Sam, 15, who has Down’s syndrome. Sam went to mainstream school until year six, before moving to SEN provision. Nancy talks about the challenges and triumphs they’ve faced
’m a teacher myself, and although I hadn’t been teaching for very long when Sam was born, I knew already that children come in all shapes and sizes, and that it doesn’t matter what their chromosomal makeup is – there are always other factors at play. Nothing about a child’s future is set in stone. When Sam was a baby, I resented the implication that his future was set in stone. Even if a child doesn’t have Down’s syndrome, they can fall out of a tree or off the garage roof, or develop a disease – the future is uncertain. For me, Sam going to mainstream school was a
symbolic act; it was an assertion that he had more in common with everyone else than he had differences. It started off hopeful. He would have three teaching assistants [TAs], two for the classroom and one at lunchtime. Things soon became less flexible; he had one TA all day and one at lunchtime. By the end he was only friends with his TA, because the school relied on them so heavily. People came round as families, so their younger children could play with my younger children, but Sam probably played at someone’s house twice the whole time he was at mainstream school. It’s difficult to have
a meaningful relationship with any other children with a TA in the way – you’re always with an adult. We already knew Sam would have a different kind of experience when it came to his education, but we didn’t realise the gap would be so enormous. The school wasn’t honest about the difficulties and they were beginning to struggle. There was an over-reliance on the TA. If you don’t invest in inclusive practices and train staff it’s difficult to integrate children into the classroom. We had options, as there was a mainstream school locally on-site with the special school. We decided to look at both. When we went to the SEN school, it was a no-brainer. It was smaller and there were no TAs. The kids in the playground were playing with bikes, balls and toys. There are two pathways
Sam now has real friends, goes to real birthday parties and goes bowling with his friends at the SEN school – GCSE pathway and life skills pathway. Sam is on the life skills pathway and so still gets to do his English and maths, but he gets to do more in relation to his needs. He didn’t like it that he was no longer the special one when he went to SEN! He was so put out. He got no more special treatment, so was sad at first but it was worth it. He now has real friends, goes to real birthday parties and goes bowling with his friends. He’s one of the lads! He’s also made so much academic progress. When he had a TA he had someone’s hand over his hand all the time when he was learning to read and write. He didn’t understand any of the assessments – now he’s in an environment that he does.
Nicki Rodriguez-Holmes lives in Essex with her two children Lydia, 14 and ﬁveyear-old Harry. Harry has autism, and is currently in year one at a mainstream school. Nicki, a charity champion for autism charity Anna Kennedy Online (www.annakennedyonline.com), shares their journey so far.
arry has autism, global development delay, sensory processing disorder and is currently being assessed for ADHD. He is a very bright, energetic little boy who is obsessed with dinosaurs and drawing them! He has a great sense of humour and, despite his difficulties, brings so much joy to my life and the journey we are embarking on together. Schooling was difficult where initially my ex-husband wanted an SEN school and I was in two minds. After viewing all mainstream schools in my area and also the SEN schools, I discussed it with Harry’s SEN teacher and keyworker. After a lot of mulling over, where Harry was now able to say words and show some slight understanding, we decided to go for mainstream to see how it suited him. Harry received an EHCP and due to his difficulties was awarded 32.5 hours full support, which was what his school needed in order for him to be taught. When it came to school selection, as soon as I walked into Harry’s school and saw how the headmistress conducted herself and was so inclusive about children with SEN, that did it for me. I could visualise my Harry going there and loved the feel of the environment.
The support Harry has is outstanding and his full-time LSA is absolutely superb. She has a fantastic bond with Harry and understands him as well as the difficulties he has. She knows his triggers, his capabilities and how to engage with him. The school and I are in daily contact as Harry has a daily Communication Book that details everything that Harry does, positive and negative, both at home and school. The school are accommodating on days where Harry has what I call ‘an autism day’ which involves lots of aggression, meltdowns and no inclination to do anything. Harry is then treated brilliantly by his LSA and other staff. The other point I have to raise is how understanding all of the parents and children in his class have been. They all learnt very early on that Harry was different and have all taken their own initiative to ask me questions or read up about the disorders Harry has. For parents considering what’s best for their child, my advice would be to look at both and as many as you can. You know when the right setting hits you. Already, despite Harry being where he is, my gut tells me that by the time he is nine, he won’t be able to attend mainstream juniors. Whatever decision you make, remember you can change your mind.
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In association with CareCo
Modern mobility scooters bring new levels of freedom Mobility scooters are now one of the biggest selling mobility aids. With breakthrough designs and new technology, thousands of people now enjoy new levels of freedom thanks to their mobility scooters – but where do you begin if you want to purchase one? We ﬁnd out
SCOOTERS TODAY COME in a huge range of sizes and power. In a price range from just a few hundred pounds to over £4,000, you can buy a scooter for every possible requirement. Some are lightweight and made for travel, some come with digital displays and reclining padded seats. You can buy mobility scooters with a special off-road chassis, order one made-to-measure or find one specially designed for long distance journeys. The choice is immense but this also brings problems, according to William Harrison, managing director of CareCo, Britain’s leading supplier of mobility products.
ADVICE AND INFORMATION William says that the sheer choice of mobility scooters now available means that people really do need advice and good information before choosing the best one for their needs. “Today you can find out lots
of information on the internet,” says William. “On our CareCo website alone, we have around 170 different types of mobility scooters available. But while you can do your research online, we do advise people either to visit one of our showrooms or talk to one of our special advisors before making their purchase. “Everyone’s needs are different, and with a little professional help you can often find a mobility scooter that can offer exactly the assistance and support you need, and sometimes save money as well.”
KNOW THE RULES The other point William mentions is familiarity with the scooter and the rules for its use. “Driving a mobility scooter is fairly straightforward, but nevertheless people should be given a full briefing,” he says. “Many people are unaware of the law with regard to
scooters. There is a maximum speed limit of 4mph for scooters using footpaths and in pedestrian areas. In a crowded area, some pedestrians have been known to tell 4mph mobility scooter users they should be on the road, but this is not the case. If your scooter has a maximum speed of 8mph, then it will be classed as a Class 3 invalid carriage to be used on the road, although it is not permitted to use a cycle only lane. It will need a rear view mirror and a horn.” William says that while it can seem a complex area, CareCo advisors can clearly and easily inform users of mobility scooters about all aspects of their new vehicles and ensure each customer obtains the scooter that is just right for them. “People mustn’t be put off,” says William. “Mobility scooters change lives. It is just important to obtain the right advice and information when you are buying.”
i CareCo offer an online mobility scooter buying guide at www.careco.co.uk, or a telephone service on 0800 111 4774.
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GIVING SOMETHING BACK Christmas is a time for giving – but you don’t have to wait until the festive season to get generous. And what’s more generous than donating your skills and time to those in your area? We find out more about the benefits of volunteering
“Volunteering can give you experience and boost your chances of getting a job”
IT’S NICE TO be able to say you’ve made a difference in someone’s life – and millions of people are doing that every day. A huge 14.2million Brits volunteered once a month in 2014/15, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). However, only 38% of people with a disability or long-term illness participate in formal volunteering, compared to 46% of those with no disability. This is quite a big gap – but there are lots of opportunities out there for disabled people to get involved.
Organisations are getting more inclusive, and there are even specialist programmes out there to help disabled people get involved with volunteering. Volunteering Matters, originally called Community Service Volunteers (CSV), has been in existence for 53 years, and working to help disabled people volunteer for the last 25.
SOCIAL ACTION “The main aim of the organisation is volunteering and social action, and how communities and individuals can
take control and make a difference through volunteering and social action,” says Volunteering Matters business development manager Jemma Mindham. “They can really affect change through it. We work with individuals and communities who perhaps wouldn’t consider social action and volunteering, or be considered for social action and volunteering.” This includes people with disabilities. The organisation has two programmes for disabled people – Active Volunteers, for adults, and Futures, for young
people. Both see the disabled volunteer paired with a mentor – a fellow volunteer – who will work with them to identify their strengths and interests and find a suitable volunteer position, then support them through their volunteering. Kobe HugginsDriver, 18, has been volunteering for the last six months in a local care home for elderly people through the Futures project in Norfolk, which is funded by The Big Lottery. Kobe has been supported throughout by his mentor Richard Dennis. “I would like to get a job as a hospital porter in the future,” says Kobe, who studies part-time at a local college. “I’m a behind the scenes kind of guy – I like the idea of helping the people that save lives. Volunteering can give you experience and boost your chances of getting a job.” And his role at the care home is helping to prepare Kobe for this. At the home, he helps out in the storeroom, helps to look after the pet canaries and has helped with some odd jobs around the home too, like painting fences. Kobe’s mentor Richard has got a lot of positives from his volunteer role too. “I retired in 2012 and I was looking for something to do,” explains Richard, who has worked with five different young people over the course of three years. “I’d been working full-time and I wasn’t looking for paid work but I fancied putting something back into the community. I had no idea what – I had a completely open mind. I enjoy it because it’s completely different from what I did in my working life. It’s changed me in many ways. It’s made me more tolerant of people. I think it’s taught me as much as it’s taught them.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE:
VOLUNTEERING IDEAS Keen to volunteer but no idea where to start? Here are a few options to consider.
1. Charity shop You could spend your time in a charity shop, stocking the shelves, ringing through purchases, organising displays and helping customers. You’ll grow in confidence, get to meet new people and brush up on skills like money handling, customer service and visual merchandising.
2. Youth group leader From community youth groups to the Scouts and Girl Guides, there are lots of organisations across the country who are keen to hear from those with a flair for working with young people. Great for those who want to develop their organisational skills, grow in confidence and have fun!
3. Hospital radio Fancy yourself as the next Chris Evans or Nick Grimshaw? Get in touch with your local hospital to see if they have a radio station and how you can help. Some look for archivists, producers, hosts and volunteers to hit the wards and get song requests!
4. Dog walker or cat cuddler If you feel an affinity with our fourlegged friends, contact your local cat and dog shelter and discover how you can get involved. Duties can include cleaning out cages, walking dogs, feeding the animals or simply keeping them company.
5. Event organiser If you can’t find a role that suits your needs or interests, why not organise a fundraising event for a charity close to your heart? You could arrange a Christmas fete in a community hall, organise a bingo night, set up a ball – there are no limits.
LEARNING Volunteering is a great learning experience for people from all walks of life – and, Jemma stresses, it’s not just about acquiring employability skills or doing it to gain something for your CV. “It’s about having a life and being able to do things that anyone else can,” Jemma says. “Volunteers build new skills and new networks that might not otherwise be open to them, or they might have to do through a specially tailored group or course. This way, you’re doing it just like anybody else would do it. You’re having a life, and a life that you choose. You’re affecting change.” Volunteering Matters volunteers are supported to carry out their role, but for the most part, they’re taking on placements in mainstream settings which tie in with their own wants and needs. It can be flexible too, fitting in around work or study commitments, and it won’t affect your benefits either. “I would recommend volunteering to individuals because not only is it fun, but you get to do the volunteering that you want,” says Jemma. “You meet people who you probably wouldn’t ever meet if you didn’t put yourself in that situation. I think it’s important to get out of your comfort zone, and particularly for disabled young people, it’s crucial that they move out of that safe environment and explore.”
i Volunteering Matters www.volunteeringmatters.org.uk Do-it www.do-it.org.uk NCVO www.ncvo.org.uk
Kidz to Adultz North Thursday 17th November 2016 EventCity, Barton Dock Road, Manchester, M17 8AS 9.30am – 4.30pm A FREE event for children & young adults up to 25 years with disabilities and additional needs, their families, carers and the professionals who support them.
Information on mobility, seating, bathing, transport, housing, education, employment, vehicles, communication, funding, The Care Act, legal matters and much more… Children Welcome!
•Kidz to Adultz Middle 16th March 2017 Ricoh Arena, Coventry •Kidz to Adultz South 8th June 2017 Rivermead Leisure Complex, Reading
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•Kidz to Adultz Scotland 14th September 2017 Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh
Established in 1897, Disabled Living is a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales. Registered Charity number 224742
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The diary THROUGHOUT NOVEMBER •HFTEA PARTY Locations nationwide www.hft.org.uk National disability charity Hft is asking people across the country to host their own Hftea party this November to raise funds for their important work. Every penny raised goes towards supporting people with learning disabilities and empowering them to reach their full potential – so get the kettle on, round up your friends and get fundraising! You’ll get 10 packs of Hft Christmas cards to sell too, free of charge. Register online now. 17 NOVEMBER •KIDZ TO ADULTZ NORTH EventCity, Manchester www.disabledliving.co.uk/Kidz Kidz to Adultz events are some of the countrys’ biggest free exhibitions dedicated to children and young adults with disabilities and additional support needs, their families, carers and people who work with them. Head to EventCity for the northern edition, where exhibitors will be offering advice and information on everything from funding to transport. There’s a free CPD strand too for parents and professionals. Head online now to register for free tickets.
17 NOVEMBER-3 DECEMBER •DADAFEST
26 NOVEMBER •CHILDREN’S TRUST
Venues across Liverpool www.dadafest.co.uk DaDaFest is Liverpool’s own disability and deaf arts festival, with a huge array of performances on offer to challenge perceptions of disability, ignite debate and celebrate disability culture. Highlights include Liz Carr’s Assisted Suicide: The Musical and Burlesque from Biscuitland, a surreal cabaret show hosted by Jess Thom. Check out the full line up and purchase tickets online now.
The Children’s Trust, Tadworth, Surrey www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk If you’re in Surrey, head along to children’s brain injury charity The Children’s Trust’s fantastic Christmas fair to get in the festive spirit and raise funds for a brilliant organisation. Shop for presents, visit Santa in his grotto, go skating on the rink, indulge in some tasty treats and even get your face painted! Entry is £3 for adults and free for children.
NOVEMBER •THE23-24 OCCUPATIONAL
12 DECEMBER •CHRISTMAS CAROL CONCERT
NEC, Birmingham www.theotshow.com For occupational therapists, this two-day event is a must-attend. The only free national event for OTs, more than 4,500 professionals are expected to attend the two-day exhibition, meaning plenty of networking opportunities! With more than 85 conferences and seminars and 300 exhibitors on offer, this is a bustling event with lots to see, do and find out about – and it’s CPD certified. Book your place online now.
St Marylebone Parish Church, London www.lordstaverners.org Lord’s Taverners, the charity working to get young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with disabilities into sport, is hosting a fundraising carol service this December. With festive songs sung by the St Marylebone Parish Church Choir and festive readings from celebrity guests, including Sir Michael Parkinson and Lesley Garrett, this one’s not to be missed. Tickets are £20 per person, with under-16s going free.
WITH THE STARS
If you have any events coming up in January or February, email us at email@example.com with the details for inclusion in next issue’s diary.
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MINI 5-DOOR HATCh MINI has addressed the age-old problem of rear seat access with the five-door hatch model. It improves versatility, but does it still hold true to the company’s values of fun and driving ability? Alisdair Suttie puts it through its paces
EQUIPMENT There are the usual One, Cooper and Cooper S trim levels on offer with the five-door MINI. The One comes with air conditioning, digital radio, Bluetooth hands-free connection and an on-board computer. Choose the Cooper and you gain alloy wheels but little else, while the Cooper S comes with larger wheels, leather steering wheel and Sports front seats. There’s also the Seven version, which is offered as an addition to the Cooper models. It has leather sports seats and ‘malt brown’ trim details. As with all modern MINIs, there’s a plethora of options and the most popular are herded into packs that offer better value than choosing individual options. However, it means the MINI is not as well kitted out as standard compared to many rivals.
INSIDE Sit in the front of the five-door MINI and you could easily be in just about any car in the company’s range – it’s instantly familiar and stylishly laid out. There’s plenty of room for the driver and seat height adjustment helps find the right position. The large glass area offers good all-round vision, making the five-door easy to park too. Move to the rear seats and, if you break out the measuring tape, there’s 72mm more legroom and an extra 10mm of headspace. Doesn’t sound like much, but it makes all the difference compared to the three-door model. It turns this version into a much more usable and comfortable car, though the rear doors don’t open to reveal as large an aperture as some rivals. Still, quality and finish throughout are excellent, and the boot is 67 litres bigger than its three-door sibling at 278 litres.
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DRIVING If there’s one area where the MINI has excelled since the day the first was launched back in 2001, it’s driving fun. This five-door version is no exception and it feels very much like the three-door despite its extra length. The steering is electrically assisted but offers plenty of feel and is light when parking, and it loves to tackle corners. During spirited driving, there’s plenty of grip coupled to a decent ride, and ESP stability control to ward off any danger. As for motorway use, the MINI is reasonably refined, though a Volkswagen Golf is quieter. Most MINI buyers will head for the Cooper D model and we wouldn’t blame them as the 114bhp 1.5-litre turbodiesel is refined and punchy. It’s also very frugal and returns an impressive 78.5mpg combined economy and 95g/km carbon dioxide emissions. The 2.0-litre diesel is swift and makes a fine alternative to the 1.5 and 2.0-litre petrol units. However, don’t discount the three-cylinder 1.2 petrol in the One, as it’s a characterful and willing worker.
The MINI five-door hatch is available on Motability, from £99 Advance Payment plus your total weekly allowance. To find out more about the Motability Scheme, head to www.motability.co.uk.
SUMMARY The MINI has grown up in every way with the five-door hatch model. It offers more rear seat space, a larger boot and yet still retains the driving fun of other models.
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GET A SERVICE If your car is due a service, winter is a good time to book it in. It’ll help you avoid any breakdowns or further problems – and nobody wants to be stuck at the side of the road in the freezing cold! Ask the dealer to check the anti-freeze level in your battery while you’re there – this is quite often the cause of breakdowns in colder weather.
MAKE IT CLEAR Before you head off on a journey, make sure you can see where you’re going and clear any snow or ice from your windows, mirrors and lights, and ensure your screen wash is topped up. Poor visibility can lead to accidents, so don’t get caught out. Leave time before your departure to make sure your car is clear and the windows demisted.
WINTER DRIVING TIPS With the weather taking a turn for the worse, the roads are becoming more treacherous – but you’ve no reason to be caught short with our top tips to ensure you’re safe in your motor this winter
With your car roadworthy, make sure you’re ready for emergencies before you hit the road. Put together an emergency kit to pop in your boot, including warm clothes, non-perishable food items, a blanket and a shovel to dig your car out of snowdrifts. Make sure your mobile phone is charged before you head off, and consider investing in a portable charger device or an incar charger to top up your battery as you go. Check the weather and traffic reports before you head out too – if they’re advising against certain routes, take note and stay at home.
KEEP A LOOK OUT Be mindful that you’ll need to adapt how you drive to suit the weather. Slower speeds and gentle manoeuvres are required when it’s slippy to avoid skidding. Make sure you leave more time for braking and accelerating as well, and avoid winding back roads with poor lighting – these tend to be skipped by gritters.
GET BREAKDOWN COVER Finding yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold is no one’s idea of fun – so make sure you have the backup to rescue you! If you’ve got a Motability car, you’ll get full RAC breakdown assistance as part of your package. For those who aren’t part of the Scheme, it’s worth investing in this on your own. The RAC offers Blue Badge Breakdown Cover for Blue Badge holders from just £132.99 a year (www.rac.co.uk, 0844 891 3111), while The AA has a special disability helpline where disabled customers can register their requirements. The AA (www.theaa.com) also has its Onward Mobility Network of accessible vehicles, ensuring disabled customers will be comfortable if they need rescued at the roadside.
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product roundup ASPEN RISER RECLINER Winter’s coming – the perfect time to settle down in CareCo’s luxuriously comfortable Aspen riser recliner. A big buttoned handset will respond to the lightest touch to adjust the footrest and back rest, lift you smoothly and quietly to a standing position or lower you gently down to a seating position. This chair will look good in any living room and comes in terracotta, biscuit or mushroom fabric upholstery. GET IT: CareCo, £299 (www.careco. co.uk, 0800 111 4774)
BACKBOARD™ LIGHT POSTURE SUPPORT This simple adjustable lumbar support helps to improve posture and restore the natural curve of the spine when seated. Slide the Backboard™ into the back of your chair to support the natural inward curve. It’s easy to adjust and can be tailored to suit you and your seating position to improve your overall posture. GET IT: Designed2Enable, £39.99 (www.designed2enable.co.uk, 0800 772 3771)
GLASSOUSE For people who have difficulty using their hands or find using a mouse difficult, GlassOuse Assistive Technology is a fantastic device that gives individuals freedom to use technology. You can access your computer, tablet, phone or smart TV via a mouthpiece that measures head movement, working similarly to a mouse. GET IT: GlassOuse, £275 (www.glassouse.uk)
ENDEAVOUR ROLLATOR CareCo’s Endeavour rollator is the ideal solution to help you get out and about safely and with confidence. This cleverly designed walking aid incorporates a number of unique features and also folds up in seconds for easy transport or storage. CareCo has teamed up with national charity Breast Cancer Haven who receive a donation for every Endeavour rollator sold. GET IT: CareCo, £54.99 (www.careco.co.uk, 0800 111 4774)
Y-CAM INDOOR HDS CAMERA If you’re concerned about your own safety at home, or that of a loved one, it could be worth investing in a homecare system like the Y-Cam. This high definition indoor camera lets you see and hear what’s happening from a smartphone or tablet app, while the Motion Zone feature can be set up to capture movement in potentially dangerous areas. GET IT: Y-Cam, £125 (www.y-cam.com)
A NEW INNOVATION IN DISABILITY SCOOTER DESIGN The real beauty of the Electrokart Ranger is the ease with which you can take it apart. No other buggy folds away to be as neat and compact as the Ranger. It dismantles simply, in no time at all, to fit neatly into the boot of most saloons and all hatchbacks. This off road mobility scooter is rugged built quality, constructed from high quality steel tubing, phosphated and epoxy coated to give longer life and all weather protection. Adjustable steering column adjusts for comfort and easy, step-on access, with comfortable steel backed, foam filled and weatherproof bucket style seat as standard. With 2 x braked motors for safety.
RANGER with Lithium battery £2,600 HEAVY DUTY RANGER with a lithium battery £2,995
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Employment and education
Being a business owner can be a tough job, but Shane Bratby didn’t let his disability stand in the way of becoming an international success – and now he wants to help others do the same
AFTER LEAVING SCHOOL at 16 with no GCSEs, Shane Bratby found it difficult to hold down a job while managing his life threatening illness. Born with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system, Shane sank into depression in his early twenties and struggled with unemployment as his speech and mobility declined. Despite the challenges he faced, Shane was determined to take his future into his own hands. At just 24, he launched his own business, Mobility Buys, a shopping service that gave assistance to elderly people with mobility issues.
TAKEN SERIOUSLY Shane believes self-employment can be a great way to earn a living, but knows first hand that disabled business owners can experience prejudice and discrimination. When launching Mobility Buys in 2003, Shane says he found it difficult to get banks and investors to respect him as an entrepreneur. “I think it was harder getting people to take me seriously because I use a wheelchair,” he says. But he was determined to prove them wrong. Today he owns six businesses worldwide including Disabled Entrepreneurs, a website that provides help and inspiration for those who want to start their own business. Through the site, which offers PR and marketing advice to independent businesses, he hopes to help alleviate the problems he encountered as a young entrepreneur. The idea for the company first came to him after a chance encounter with another disabled business owner. “I went to a networking event and to my surprise there was someone else with a disability,” says Shane. “We were both thinking the same thing: where are all the other
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS disabled entrepreneurs? So we took it upon ourselves to find and inspire more people to start their own businesses.”
POSITIVES Shane admits that while the process of starting and running a company can be daunting, the positives far outweigh the negatives. “There are so many benefits to being a disabled entrepreneur,” explains Shane. “Owning your own business allows you to adapt your work to your lifestyle and keep your mind busy so it’s not always focused on disability.” Today, Shane’s company sees him travel far and wide to motivate and
inform others. Last year he was even invited out to Chile to host a talk and share his knowledge. But this, he says, is only just the beginning. “I have six companies and every day I get new business ideas,” says Shane. “Having a neurological condition that only gets worse taught me two valuable lessons – live life and don’t dream, act now.”
i If you have a business idea you are passionate about, check out www.disabledentrepreneurs.co.uk for tips and assistance on where to start.
Employment and education
FIRST CLASS Laura Richter, 22, recently graduated with a first class honours degree in fashion design from the University of Huddersfield – and now wants to put disability on the catwalk. She talks to Enable about career goals, diversity in fashion and what it’s like to study with a disability BEING DIAGNOSED WITH MUSCULAR dystrophy at age five and becoming a wheelchair user at 16 has never stopped Laura Richter from dreaming big. After studying art and design at college in West Yorkshire, Laura felt inspired to pursue a degree in fashion. Despite struggling with discrimination at school, Laura says her course at the University of Huddersfield provided her with the independence and acceptance she’d always wanted. “I like to be quite independent, and at university I felt like I had the opportunity,” says Laura. “Even though it was quite daunting on the first day, after meeting with disability services and knowing who to go to for support, I began to enjoy my new found freedom.”
BEST SERVICES Laura praises her university for providing “some of the best disability services in the country” and credits her classmates for always offering their support and understanding. As well as being given regular support assessments, Laura received deadline extensions and had a disability advisor
who she could speak to at any time if needed. But not everywhere was so accommodating. Before her final year, Laura was required to complete a placement in the fashion industry. When a large portion of the placements she applied for turned out not to be wheelchair accessible, Laura began to feel discouraged. “I applied for so many placements and attended numerous interviews but was never successful,” says Laura. “The only reason ever being that another candidate fit the role better. Although there is a lot of competition for employment in the fashion industry, I always felt at a disadvantage having a disability.”
KNOCKING DOWN BARRIERS Laura eventually found a role halfway across the world in Sydney, working with a Lebanese couture designer who adapted her workshop for Laura’s wheelchair. “Souraya had no problem with me being in a wheelchair and she even had her father-in-law build a ramp so I could get into the bathroom,” says Laura. “That’s the kind of employer I needed to work for; someone who helped me knock
down the barriers, not let them stay up.” On her return to the UK, Laura created a 12-piece collection for her final design module that included two unique outfits adapted for wheelchair users. “The adaptations I made then became the design influence for the rest of the collection,” explains Laura. “I wanted to show how a collection can be inclusive of disability instead of making it separate.” Laura says she can’t wait to find a job and continue to support movements that encourage change within the industry – but none of it would be possible without her university experience. “Going to university was priceless for me because I gained so much confidence,” says Laura. “If anyone is thinking of applying to higher education, I would say do it! You have nothing to lose.” Laura is a regional ambassador for MDUK Trailblazers. For more information, see www.musculardystrophyuk.org/trailblazers.
i For more information on applying to university, head to www.ucas.com.
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Employment and education
If you thought finding a disability inclusive employer was an impossible task, look no further than the Business Disability Forum’s member list – a collection of companies committed to doing all they can to create a disabilitysmart working environment. We found out more about the Forum’s work
n the UK, disabled people are more likely to be out of work compared with non-disabled people. In 2013, 12% of disabled people were unemployed, but just 7.6% of nondisabled people weren’t working. This gap is too wide – and there are lots of factors which contribute to it. Some people simply can’t work, while others face prejudice, preconceptions and a lack of flexibility which prevents them from getting into and staying in work. And this can be off-putting for disabled people in search of work, going for promotion or looking to change career. If employers still don’t ‘get’ disability, how are you meant to succeed?
MAKING CHANGE Fortunately, there’s an organisation out there which is trying to change all this. By working with some of the country’s top employers, the Business Disability Forum is working to educate companies on the benefits of recruiting people
with disabilities and how best to ensure that their workplace is inclusive and supportive. “Business Disability Forum is a business membership organisation, working with particularly large employers and service providers from across the private and public sectors,” explains George Selvanera, director of strategy and external affairs at BDF. “Our work with them is around all aspects of building more disability-friendly, disability-competent organisations.” Founded in 1991 as the Employers Forum on Disability, these days, BDF has approximately 350 members, including 100 multinational organisations, small and medium sized companies and public sector employers. In total, their members employ about 18% of UK’s workforce – impressive, but by no means are the team happy to stop here.
BENEFITS The organisation offers training and
Employment and education
advice to its members to help them become disability-smart, inclusive employers, benefiting the organisation, the people who work for them and anyone using their services. There are two levels of membership – partners, which include companies like Nationwide, GlaxoSmithKline, Barclays and, most recently, the House of Commons, and members, including M&S, BP and Superdrug. “For an organisation to be good at disability, it needs to take a wholeorganisation approach,” explains George. “For example, a candidate or an employee who might have dyslexia – they may require some level of personalisation of their IT systems or some sort of
have,” George says. “That could literally cover anything – about a particular type of assistive technology that’s available, for instance. It might be about their recruitment process and how that can be made more accessible. It might be about how they can work with their suppliers and partners to ensure that they’re able to achieve better disability outcomes. It could be about an individual employee identifying or sharing that they have a particular health need or disability, and that employer wanting to know what they might do about it. That advice service can provide information and advice that’s bespoke to the individual requirements of the organisation, on any kind of aspect of disability.”
once they’re actually in that role,” George says. “Another area where we’ve seen some real innovation is around making products and services far more accessible for disabled customers and customers who have adjustment requirements more generally.” While fantastic progress is being made, particularly by BDF’s partners and members, George will admit that things are far from perfect – but it does show others what can and should be achieved. And this type of work isn’t just benefiting people with disabilities – candidates, employees and customers with a variety of needs will be better
Business Disability Forum
CREATING DISABILITY-SMART EMPLOYERS specialist software that will require the IT department’s involvement. That may also require the involvement of the procurement department, which will involve the line manager, which will require the recruiter’s involvement – for us, being able to enable cross-functional working actually requires leadership and a commitment across the organisation to make those sorts of improvements.” And BDF work with companies large and small to make this a reality. Offering training courses, consultancy services, a variety of resources and an advice service, companies have access to a number of services to help them update their policies, improve their process for making adjustments and deliver disability awareness training to their wider workforce. “We have an advice service too, which is able to provide bespoke information and advice in relation to any individual request an employer or service provider might
NO EXCUSE With the BDF in existence companies really don’t have an excuse today for not being clued up on best practice, from recruiting to hiring to keeping disabled employees on staff. And member organisations are proving this every day – from Lloyds Bank blazing the trail by trusting employees who ask for workplace adjustments rather than demanding a medical diagnosis, to EY’s Bridge the Gap to Success personal development programme for disabled employees, employers far and wide are implementing policies and support programmes to ensure that disabled people in their community can flourish. “Some of the best employers are literally changing their whole approach to recruitment and the way in which they work with recruitment suppliers and partners, so there is greater opportunity for people with disabilities to one, get through that process, and two, to succeed
catered for if companies approach their work with an inclusive focus. Adjustments put in place to help disabled members of staff might further benefit working parents, older members of staff, people with caring responsibilities and more. “It was put to me once by the chairman of BDF, Warren Buckley, that, ‘If we can make that door wide enough for a person with the most complex disability to get through, then we’ve made that door big enough for anybody to get through,’” George says. “I think that’s a really neat way of articulating what we do.”
i Find out more about Business Disability Forum’s work at www. businessdisabilityforum.org.uk.
Don’t worry.... be happy! “I feel like I’m sitting better than I normally would which is enabling me to do things more comfortably” “It was like my whole body had had a transformation really because the comfort is good.” “I’d forgotten what it felt like to sit somewhere comfortably... for the past three years I’ve literally either been in bed or in a wheelchair.” “It’s got to be down to the chair... It’s a strange feeling... because I’ve not experienced that (comfort) in such a long time (8-9 years).”
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Employment and education
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Employment and education
NEW YEAR, NEW CAREER For those who make resolutions, career often features highly – so if you’re gearing up to make a career move in January, where do you start? Employment specialists Remploy offer some insider tips to make the process smoother
hether you’re out of work, stuck in a job you hate or simply after a new challenge, the fresh start that January offers is the perfect opportunity to rethink your job options and hammer the job search – and now is a good time to start preparing for it. But once you’ve decided to go for a new job, what do you do next? Fortunately, looking for work doesn’t have to be a solitary activity, and there are lots of organisations and services out there that can help you if you have a disability or specialist support needs. From Jobcentre Plus to specialist recruitment organisations, there’s a range of companies out there who can offer advice, hints and tips to get you on the road to employment. If you’re out of work, your local Jobcentre Plus may have a disability employment advisor who will be able to point you in the direction of different support options and help you look for suitable vacancies in your area. Look into user-led organisations, charities that are perhaps linked to your disability or health condition, while nationwide services such as The Shaw Trust (www.shawtrust.org.uk) or Leonard Cheshire (www.
leonardcheshire.org) are also helpful, with lots of different support options and schemes available. Remploy support hundreds of people with disabilities who are out of work each month to overcome the barriers they face to employment. Advisors offer a tailored package of support for every individual who comes through their doors. “You sometimes have to start from the very bottom and build people back up,” says Ieuan Beynon, a recruitment advisor at Remploy’s Cardiff branch, of the process. “It can take a long time to build someone’s confidence to the point where they can go look for work and they are comfortable saying, ‘Yes I can go and do that.’”
STANDING OUT The key to grabbing a recruiter’s attention is your CV. It’s time to put yourself out there, blow your own trumpet and aim to be the best candidate on the list. “The secret to making your CV stand out is to make it personal,” says Ieuan. “What you want to avoid is your CV becoming generic and just being another CV in that ever-growing pile for every job. You need to look at a job description and tailor it for every job you apply for. The job description is the hints and tips on what’s
Avoid your CV becoming generic
“For two years, I was applying for job after job” Jeffrey Albiston, 30, from Chester, has fulﬁlled his ambition to return to work after six frustrating months of job hunting.
Jeff, who has Asperger syndrome, was referred to Remploy for help in securing a work placement with M&S through its Marks & Start initiative. He is now a full-time customer advisor for the M&S Retail customer services team which is based in Chester. “I wanted to gain experience with M&S, as I knew they were a reputable company who always seem to have happy, friendly staff working for them,”
said Jeff. “I wanted to be part of a brand that represents great values and could give me the opportunities to develop and expand my knowledge in a different area.” Marks & Start helps people who, like Jeff, face complex barriers to employment. Remploy is one of the organisation’s partners, and the initiative gives jobseekers the chance to develop their skills and
Employment and education
involved – it tells you what you’ll be doing in the job. You’ve got to work with your CV to sell yourself and say, ‘I’ve got experience in doing all of these things.’” As well as this, the general rule is to make sure your CV is only two pages, all the information is accurate and up to date and that everything is spelled correctly. Ask a friend or family member to have a read over it before you send it anywhere – or get in touch with an organisation like Remploy to give it the once over.
INTERVIEW PREP One thing which many people turn to Remploy for help with is preparing for interviews. Nerves can be a big barrier, so the organisation offers coaching and advice in group sessions and on a one-toone basis. “I can see people one-to-one and prep them with generic questions we know are going to be asked within that sector to help them prepare,” Ieuan explains. “For example, for customer service, I might ask, ‘Give me an example of a time you provided excellent levels of customer service.’ Then I’ll make sure they know how to answer that. It’s pointless saying, ‘Yes, I can give excellent levels of customer service,’ and no example. They have to tell that story, what skills they used.” Ieuan suggests using the STAR technique – standing for what the Situation was, what the Task at hand was, what Action was taken, and what was the Result. By using this framework, you’ll
gain experience over the course of a placement, and is designed to be the stepping-stone to employment with M&S or with other employers. “Before I joined the Marks & Start programme, I was going from agency job to agency job, which was incredibly frustrating as I didn’t know if I would be needed the following week,” says Jeff. “For two years I was applying for job after job – anything where I thought I might stand a chance. However I was not getting noticed, and the frustration of not hearing back from employers was, at
Use the STAR technique in interviews
be able to answer the interviewer’s question in full, and really demonstrate that you have the skills that they need. As well as practising questions, it’s helpful to know your CV inside out, get clued up on the organisation you’re interviewing for, and practise in front of a mirror so you’re ready for any scenario that might get thrown at you.
DISCLOSURE As well as the practicalities of applying for a job, one of the biggest perceived barriers for many is their disability itself – when to disclose, will it put the employer off, how to tackle it… It can be a minefield. Ieuan points out that choosing when to disclose is a really personal matter – some will disclose straight away while others never do. The employer legally can’t ask for details of your disability until after a job offer has been made unless it’s relating to access for interview. However, by disclosing your disability, it does ensure that adaptations and support can be put in place, enabling you to perform to the best of your ability. It’s illegal for an employer to refuse you a job because you have a disability. If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly as you look for a job, you can contact the
times, overwhelming.” Jeff was referred to Remploy for help with his job hunting. What followed was a package of intensive support, including rebuilding his confidence, tips on how to perform better in job interviews and guidance on working in the retail sector. With Remploy’s help, he applied for a sought-after Marks & Start placement and was delighted when he learned of his success. Lucy Simons, senior customer advisor and Plan A champion for M&S Retail Customer Services and the Executive
Equality Human Rights Commission for advice – give them a call on 0808 800 0082 or head to the website at www. equalityhumanrights. com. Remember too that there is support available to help you in the workplace – the Access to Work fund is there to help employers make adaptations to their workplace that would enable someone to do their job. The Access to Work scheme can also help with the interview process in some cases by providing access to an interpreter. So don’t automatically assume that organisations will overlook you because of the cost associated with assistive tech or specialist seating – you can even bring this up with the employer yourself once you’ve been offered the job. Find out more at www.gov.uk/ access-to-work. Job hunting can be daunting, whether you’re in or out of work – but be aware that there is help out there to get you through the process. If you go in with a positive attitude, you’re well prepared and ready to sing your own praises, the process can be a lot easier than you’d think. And who knows? This New Year could be the one where your professional life changes completely. Good luck.
Office, praised Jeff’s commitment and was not surprised to hear of his success. “During his placement, he was a wonderful addition to our team and his enthusiasm and confidence grew weekly. It’s been a very positive and enjoyable experience for us all, and we’re very excited to see how Jeff’s career will progress with M&S.”
i Find out more about Remploy at www.remploy.co.uk.
END THE AWKWARD
DATING IS TOUGH. Figuring out where to meet someone, going on dodgy dates, deciding whether or not you have a future together, having someone you actually like disappearing without a trace… The modern-day quest for love isn’t easy, as comedian Romina Puma knows all too well. “Dating is difficult for any person, whether you’re disabled or not,” says the 40-year-old Londoner. “But if you have a disability, it’s even worse. If you have a condition that’s pretty visible, you’re kind of disclaiming it straight away. In my case, you can’t tell unless I’m in my wheelchair – and that can put people off.”
DISAPPEARING ACT Romina usually walks with a stick, but uses her chair on days when she’s particularly tired. While in Edinburgh recently for the Festival, she met a man in a bar and it was looking promising. “We were having banter, it was going well – he bought me a drink,” she says. “We got our drinks and that’s when he realised I had the stick. When we moved away from the bar and we started chatting, he said, ‘Why do you have a stick?’ So I told him. It makes it safer for me to walk around – I have my
wheelchair in the entrance. We chatted for a bit, and then he said, ‘Can you excuse me, I have to go to the loo.’ And then he disappeared.” It’s not all been negative for Romina though – she’s met some interesting people along the way, and got some good
According to stats from disability charity Scope, around two thirds of Brits feel awkward around disabled people – and it’s something that Romina Puma, who has muscular dystsrophy, has witnessed herself, especially in her dating life. She tells us about her search for Mr Right
material for her comedy act too. “One guy, I dated for a bit – he wasn’t dating me because I was disabled, but for him it was a plus,” she says with a laugh. “He’d get access places cheaper, sometimes got good seats. “There’s such a stigma that’s still attached to disabled people though. I don’t know – do they feel ashamed to date a disabled person? Do they think that because you’re disabled their sex life will be different? I can’t get my head round it.”
DISCOMFORT Research carried out by Scope last year found that just under a quarter of disabled people feel that others can be awkward around them because of their disability or impairment. Scope are asking the public to overcome their discomfort and get to know disabled people as people, as part of their End the Awkward campaign. So what advice does Romina have to help others in their quest for love – and to overcome the negativity of others? “Be strong, and be confident,” she says. “Try to be social as much as you can. If we get out and about, venues will adjust for us, to be more accessible. Keep going, keep pushing, be confident and go out. If a date treats you badly? Just run them over with your wheelchair!”
i Find out more about Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, and share your awkward encounters, at www.scope.org.uk/end-the-awkward.
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