My name is Ben Holt and I work at Exposure as a volunteer. I have epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and problems with my eyesight. The aim of this supplement is to promote equality by raising awareness and increasing understanding about living with physical disability. Itâ€™s also an opportunity for young people with a disability to have a voice, and to talk about their lives. To produce this supplement we worked with Scope, an organisation that drives changes to create equal opportunities for disabled people. And The Vale, a Haringey based school that works with special needs young people.
Travelling has always been an issue for disabled people. We can’t use the majority of underground stations, as most have stairs or escalators, which can be dangerous for someone like me. Only a few have lifts. In fact, the only stations in central London with disabled access are Kings Cross, Liverpool St and Bank, not the most interesting of places for young people! All London buses have disabled access, but it takes forever to get around London this way, and the limited space for wheelchairs has to be shared with pushchairs. The government seems to understand our difﬁculty in getting around, and offers disabled people free travel on all of London Transport services. Being disabled also entitles you to a Taxicard, which means you can get cheaper taxi fares around the capital. While the Taxicard is good, I can only call a cab from one number, and they don’t always have taxis available. Normal taxi ﬁrms usually wont accept me as a passenger with the subsidised rates. While London Black Cabs are accessible to wheelchairs, it’s a common problem for wheelchair users to be ignored by taxi drivers when trying to hail a cab on the street. Cab drivers say it’s difﬁcult to see wheelchair users.
Scope says: Every day millions of people use London’s transport system to get to work, visit friends or family, to attend healthcare, general appointments, or pursue leisure activities. But many disabled people will experience difﬁculties that make travelling on public transport difﬁcult or often impossible. Outside of London there is a lack of accessible taxis, and both taxi and bus drivers sometimes won’t stop for disabled people. Nearly two thirds of London’s tube network is inaccessible to disabled people. Many stations don’t have lifts, and if they do, there is often a large gap between the train and the platform, which can be impossible for a person in a wheelchair to negotiate. Having good access to public transport enables disabled people to play a full and active role in our society. To make friends, attend school or college, or to go out for a drink on a Saturday, typical things that everyone likes to do. The situation is improving slowly, and we can be optimistic about the future. However, it can be frustrating not being able to see a band or get into a pub because of a ﬂight of steps, or be unable to go to the loo because an accessible toilet is being used as a storage room. Under_Exp_Disability.indd 2
Charles, 11: I get a school bus. It’s different from London buses: it’s white and anyone with a disability can get on it. Tim, 12: I go on red buses around London. I’ve had experiences where my mum asks the driver to put the ramp down so I can get on with my wheelchair; the bus driver says he will, but then just drives off. Shannon, 14: I ﬁnd travel on London transport very demanding. I choose not to use it because it’s so difﬁcult for me. Ronak, 13: The Underground is more difﬁcult because I have to make sure that there is enough room on the train for my chair as well as me.
Canis, 15: The friends I have at school are important. They help me complete my work on time during lessons as I can’t write quickly. Shannon, 14: I ﬁnd it hard to make friends because communication is difﬁcult for me. The friends I do have make me feel happy, and I try to make them feel happy. Suleyman, 12: Outside of school it’s difﬁcult to make friends. I try to communicate with people, but sometimes they are unwilling to talk to me. Veysel, 13: It’s a bit difﬁcult. Some students and young people don’t understand that I do have a disability; it’s not easy to tell just to look at me.
Making friends at The Vale
In my experience disabled people can ﬁnd making friends with able-bodied people difﬁcult. It was tricky at school. I would get teased a lot. Once when changing for P.E. my classmates picked up my clothes, and threw them around so I couldn’t get dressed. Another time I was intentionally locked out of the changing rooms altogether. It didn’t happen to anyone else. The teasing didn’t stop until I spoke to my support worker and the head of year. There were times when I was in need – where my disability was being taken advantage of – that other students have come to my aid. They didn’t stop what was happening, but showed some care by asking if I was all right afterwards. It meant a lot that people were aware of the difﬁculties I was facing at the time. Disability can leave some people lacking in conﬁdence. Being disabled and going to areas that are unfamiliar can be daunting. People without disabilities might take their friends for granted, but for me friends are essential. I need to be able to trust my friends, as the epilepsy that comes with my cerebral palsy means I occasionally suffer from seizures. I would need help if I had a ﬁt. Scope says: Being a part of the community is important for everyone. However, for disabled people, meeting friends can be a complex and difﬁcult process. Imagine having to leave a party early because your carer is cooking your dinner before they ﬁnish for the day? Imagine being 35 and living with your parents? Sounds ridiculous, but it is reality for many disabled people. Fitting your life around care isn’t much fun. Disabled people rely on being able to build friendship networks outside of their family to promote and support self-esteem. While many disabled people enjoy strong friendships with fellow students, sometimes these bonds don’t go on past the school gate. This leaves many young disabled people feeling isolated from their peers. If you have disabled friends, don’t be put off by the fact that going places together might take a bit more time or that idiots might stare.
Special schools and colleges, set up for people with disabilities, exist all over the United Kingdom. I worked at one such school called The Vale (featured in this supplement) for six months. I helped the students with their studies, and made sure that they understood what they were studying. My secondary school was mainstream with a Special Educational Needs Department to help disabled students. I was given one-to-one support in all subjects. Some lessons, like science, required a lot of writing. I needed help getting all the information down. In design and technology I would need help using machines like the circular saw. My cerebral palsy sometimes makes my hands move involuntary. When I left school I decided to go to Hereward, a residential college that specialises in working with people with disability. I thought that going there would help me, but in fact I was left frustrated. The staff were over-the-top by not allowing me to leave the grounds. They were worried I might have a seizure when no one was around to help (despite managing to live for years with my disability just ﬁne!) In my ﬁrst year I spent the entire term time on the campus, not leaving once. The teaching was really good though. It was nice to have other people similar to me around all the time. After leaving education I found that despite having qualiﬁcations and experience I was, and continue to be, overlooked when applying for paid work. Am I destined for a life where I live on state beneﬁts that the country can ill afford? There’s a lot of good to come from doing voluntary work. However I should at least feel I have a chance of getting a paid job; it’s important for self worth and equality. Scope says: In education, the things that most people take for granted can often limit disabled people. Is there a teaching assistant available? Does the classroom have a hearing loop, or lift access? Has a teacher been able to provide information before the lesson begins so a student with learning difﬁculties is able to prepare properly? We want more disabled people to be educated in mainstream schools. We want them to beneﬁt from the same opportunities as everyone else. We don’t want them to feel separated from their community or their peers. Positive attitude of teachers and students towards people with a disability can make a big difference. It is often all that is needed in order to make a school accessible.
Suleyman 15: School is quite good. I’m left to work on my own which is good, but there is always support if I need it. The teachers know when to help, and when I can work alone. Tim, 12: My therapists, teachers and friends help me with everything I need, especially Francis, my best friend. We go out all over London, and hang out. Francis wrote an autobiography and included a bit about me, he said ‘I was cheerful and happy.’ I won a Cerebra Funny Bones award, and Francis’ words helped me win. His letter about me was read out when I was presented with my award. Ronak, 13: School is the same as other parts of my life; I get help and support from staff and teachers when I need it, and they help me write because sometimes I’m not fast enough.
One way to make new friends, and have the chance to bring about the changes you want to see in your local community is to join Scope’s campaigns network. I ask people to join in and speak up. The campaigns network exists to support you to campaign on the issues that matter the most – be that getting access to a local restaurant or inﬂuencing local decision makers. Whether you are a seasoned campaigner or are just starting out, our campaign resources make it simple so that everyone can take part and realise. Jamie Robertson, Scope campaigner
With thanks to Scope, the Wates Foundation and all those who provided information or participated in the production of this supplement.
From left to right: Project manager Ben
Holt Contributers Charles Raymon, Tim Choi, Shannon Morgan, Ronak Patel, Canis Ali, Suleyman Ganydagli & Veysel Er
www.scope.org.uk Under_Exp_Disability.indd 8