I’ve been inspired this morning by Scope’s new “End the Awkward” campaign. It has resonated with me and put into words and pictures how I have felt as a disabled person.
Scope is publishing a new report today which shows that most people are uncomfortable speaking to a disabled person. Apparently, the report shows that young people, between the ages of 18-34, are the worst offenders and avoid talking to a disabled person because they’re not sure how to communicate with them.
The message, in a series of adverts fronted by Alex Brooker, suggests that people don’t mean to be awkward and are often trying too hard to avoid doing or saying the wrong thing. I certainly agree with this sentiment as the panic is often written all over people’s faces!
The other night I was in a restaurant, celebrating my birthday. After a few glasses of wine and due to the heat in the room my right leg refused to co-operate making it impossible to walk the short distance to the door. I was left, stranded, by our table unable to get out of there! People around me looked anywhere but at me and I could feel the rising panic in the room! My sister dispatched The Husband to fetch my brand new Travelscoot which was, luckily, stashed in the back of the car. As soon as I sat on it and began to “drive” towards the door people began falling over themselves to help. One man praised my “impressive bit of kit” and jumped up to help me negotiate the door. As I reached it I couldn’t resist turning round and saying, “thank you very much and good night” in the manner of Elvis exiting a stage show!
I think people felt uncomfortable because they wanted to help but didn’t know what to do. They could hardly have picked up a complete stranger and dragged her to the door could they! The wheels diffused the situation and turned it into another MS funny moment. I found it funny anyway!
On a serious note though Scope says that 4 in 10 disabled people have been denied a job because of an employers attitude to disability which isn’t on if the only reason is the employer feeling awkward! I’m put off going for job interviews as I feel awkward and prefer to find my own work with disability charities where I feel comfortable and don’t have to “compete” with able bodied colleagues. I recently had a job interview where they were brilliant. They asked what they could do as employers to facilitate my duties and tackling it head on like that was refreshing. I didn’t get the job as I didn’t have enough experience in that particular area of the criminal justice system and not because of my disability but I’m sure not everyone’s experience is as good.
The best reaction to my disability is being looked in the eye and asked if I need any help. I will always accept help if it’s offered and am the best person to judge what I need.
Well done for this inspiring campaign Scope!