October 2023

What I’ve learnt from my journey to independent living

Most people want to be independent, to have freedom and be able to make their own decisions, enabling them to live the life they want. But, being disabled can make gaining independence tricker, as Lucy Currier, who has cerebral palsy, has discovered. Here, she shares her tips and learnings from her ongoing journey to independence to help you gain your own. 

Hi, my name is Lucy and I was born with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Depending on which areas of the brain are affected, the condition can be so mild that it may not be visible, or so extreme that a person cannot move at all or has learning difficulties.

In my case, the area of my brain that controls movement was affected, meaning that I’m reliant on an electric/powered wheelchair to be mobile. I also require care support as I need assistance with personal care and all daily living tasks.

Lucy Currier outside in a sunhat

Moving out from our family home

I currently live two days a week in a flat of my own and the rest of the time with my family in Birmingham, a city that I have called home for all of my life.

I am the oldest of three siblings. At my parents’ house, it’s just me, my brother and our fourteen-year-old dog as my sister moved out a couple of years ago.

I was very lucky that my family were able to buy me a property when the council had no suitable options. I wanted to have a two-bedroom place so that my PA would have somewhere to sleep – not an uncommon or unreasonable ask. But the council refused to see a need for a second bedroom.

But the accommodation wasn’t all that I needed to consider. Leaving home when you’re reliant on others for assistance can be challenging and costly. So, I am only able to stay at my flat twice a week while I wait for more budget to pay staff full-time.

While I’m still not totally where I want to be, I have already learnt a lot along the way that I hope will make someone else’s journey a little bit easier.

Hurdles to being independent

For the majority of people, being able to afford somewhere to live is difficult enough. But, for me and many others like me, we face the additional question of how we’re going to find and afford to pay personal assistants as well? For me, the answer was Direct Payments.

Lucy Currier in her wheelchair in the woods

Direct Payments – be vocal and keep records

A Direct Payment is a sum of money given to an individual to pay the cost of employing personal assistants/carers to meet their needs. In order to get this, you first have to go through a painstakingly-detailed assessment, which I am sure many readers will have experienced for themselves.

I had my first proper assessment two years ago, which enabled me to move out part-time. But am now asking for a reassessment as I need more funds to have PA cover for a full week.

I have found this process extremely hard as it can sometimes feel like no one is listening. One thing I have learnt from all my triumphs and trials with Direct Payments is that you have to speak up!

To help tackle this, earlier in the year I attended a Direct Payments Conference, where I got to speak to some of the key people running Birmingham social services. Making yourself heard, in any way you can, is vital. I’m hopeful that my next assessment will now be more positive.

The second most important thing is getting everything in writing. A written record is your friend. I spent three months phoning social services every day asking for a social worker. But I have nothing to prove that I did this. However, if I had emailed daily, I would.

The more information you have the better. At the conference, I was able to provide dates of when I requested certain information through notes I’d kept. Without this, I doubt I would’ve been taken as seriously as I was.

Fight for what you need to live independently

Looking back, I have a habit of believing what people tell me when they are in an official role. This has, time and time again, stopped me from living my life the way I want to.

For example, when I left mainstream school I wanted to go to university. But I didn’t because I believed that having PA/care support away from home would be too restricting.

The disability officer at my prospective university offered to provide me with all the educational tools I needed. But when it came to personal care, I would have to specify the times I required assistance.

This caused me a great deal of anxiety, so instead of researching and fighting for the flexibility I needed, I stayed at home and completed a degree with The Open University.

I’m proud of this achievement – I got a 2:1 in health and social care and mental health subjects – but I wish I’d fought to live my life my way.

With finding accessible accommodation, I waited far too long on the word of the social services officer who said they could find me somewhere suitable. In the end, I had to take matters into my own hands.

Lucy in a supermarket with a shopping basket on her wheelchair

Find the right PA for you

Finding the right PA/s for you can be difficult. I’d ideally like more assistance with recruiting the right staff on the budget I have. But, so far, I have already learnt a lot.

The PA I have now is lovely, but I have had people apply who would want to control how I spend my day. At times, I have thought that I should be grateful for whatever help they give me.

It’s always nice to be thankful for the assistance you receive, but don’t be grateful to the point of putting your own wishes to one side.

I was once called ungrateful by a PA when I refused to eat the raw sausage she put in front of me. I felt guilty at the time. But it was only later when talking with family, seeing how shocked they were, that I realised how introverted I had become.

I’m a member of several disability groups and we seem to live in a society in which the care profession thinks we should gratefully receive whatever help we get, however inadequate.

Never settle for anything less than what makes you comfortable.

Hiring a carer/PA – top tips

To ensure I have a good working relationship with my PAs, here’s what I now do:

  • I write my own support plan so that people know what to expect. If there is any aspect of my support they are not happy with then it is not the job for them. I always send it out with my job application forms so that they know upfront.
  • Be polite but firm and clear. I now avoid some phrases, such as “I’m sorry but” or “when you have a minute…” because some people will take advantage and not do what’s been asked.
  • I now have a folder that lists all the main tasks that need completing each day and my general preferences.
  • I make sure that my payroll company has the contract of employment finalised and signed BEFORE anyone starts work. It takes longer this way, but it means both myself and my PA are protected. Likewise with DBS checks.

Some people reading the above list will be horrified that these things weren’t done from the beginning. But the reality of my situation is that there was no one to tell me these things.

I believe that the system needs to change so that everyone new to employing support workers/carers/PAs, whatever name you prefer, knows the basics. I’m still learning and progressing, but that’s true of everyone.

By Lucy Currier

To read more from Lucy, visit her blog, Inclusive Living Concepts.

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10 acts of kindness during the Covid-19 outbreak

While Covid-19 is an international crisis that has caused worldwide suffering and uncertainty, it has also bought out the very best in humanity. People have to come together and supported each other in ways not seen since World War II. Disabled writer Lucy Currier, who runs the blog Inclusive Living Concepts,  looks at 10 acts of kindness to brighten your day and warm your heart during this difficult time.

1. Community groups

While in lockdown, all over the country a whole host of community groups were set up. Some aimed to help people in need of essentials, others offered a listening ear and lots looked to entertain people and keep them smiling. Here are just a few examples…

Facebook group The Bunker was set up as a support group for disabled people to share information and practical tips on managing during the crisis.

Reviews app Access Rating is hosting weekly ‘virtual pup’ sessions to connect people together and lighten their mood virtual events, such as comedy nights.

DHorizons Tribe member Wendy Hurst started a ‘Sit To Fit With Wendy’ group to help the disabled community keep fit while staying at home.

These are just three of the thousands of groups that are helping people right now. To find a local group, visit the Covid Mutual Aid website.

You can also sign up to the DHorizons Tribe closed Facebook group to connect with other Disability Horizons readers, ask specific questions and get advice.

2. NHS Responder Service

An astonishing 750,000 people signed up to the NHS Responder Service during the first few days that it was launched.

It is an England-only service, provided by the NHS, set up to help those who can’t leave their homes. Each person that signed up to assist indicated which role(s) they would like to fulfil. They included:

  • running errands for people
  • taking people home from the hospital
  • helping people get to medical appointments
  • transferring NHS equipment
  • telephoning people in isolation in a bid to combat loneliness.

The service is open to anyone having to self-isolate and therefore includes NHS staff as well as the general public. Register as an NHS responder or as someone needing assistance via the dedicated NHS Responder Service website.

Woman with dark hair and a grey t-shirt smiling while on the phone

For more advice on how to get support while staying at home, read our guide to shielding and isolating.

3. Hand sanitiser production

Ever since lockdown, hand sanitiser has become like gold dust as demand for this much-needed product has soared.

In response to the shortage, a number of factories and businesses, who would have otherwise closed, have taken up the mantel and switched to produce hand sanitiser to supply key workers

Gin distilleries have been well-placed to start making the alcohol-based product. The Isle of Wight Distillery and 137 Gin Distillery are just two of them making FREE supplies for the NHS and care homes.

Similarly, rum giant Bacardi is now using its manufacturing sites in Puerto Rico do the same, and half a million of the hand sanitisers produced so far were donated to local communities.

A vital product at the moment, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking sanitiser!

You can buy 70% alcohol hand sanitiser on the Disability Horizons Shop.

4. Making PPE

Like hand sanitiser, personal protective equipment (PPE) has also been in short supply. This has seen individuals, companies and organisations across the UK making PPE for our health care workers.

The Devon Disability Collective, which normally makes wheelchair upholstery, is now concentrating its efforts on producing face masks and face shields. It made an amazing 3,000 masks in just over a month.

The company’s workforce mainly consists of people with disabilities, giving them a great way to contribute to the NHS.

Facebook group For the Love of Scrubs was set up by nurse Ashleigh Lindsel to empower anyone who likes sewing to make scrub hats and bags for NHS key workers. The group has more than 50,000 members and it is easy to join and get involved in.

The crowd-funded Hack the Pandemic, based in Bristol and Bath, has gone high tech using 3D printers to create PPE for keyworkers. It’s amazing what technology can do.

Hands putting white cloth through a sewing machine

Buy PPE on the Disability Horizons Shop and, if you’re not sure what you need, read our comprehensive guide PPE explained.

5. Free Meals

There are so many meal and food initiatives being organised around the country due to Covid-19. People are giving up their time to make sure that food is getting to the people that need it most, leaving the safety of their homes to do so.

These include food for key workers while they work to keep the rest of us safe. One example of this is the Nourish Our Nurses scheme in Surrey. It is currently serving 400 food parcels a week containing essentials thanks to donations to its Go Fund Me page.

Meal deliveries are also being made to people in the ‘clinically vulnerable’ groups. National organisation Fairshare is working across the UK redistributing surplus food to nearly 11,000 frontline charities and community groups.

There are also schemes to assist families whose children would normally receive free school meals, such as Square Food Foundation in Bristol. It is repurposing its kitchen produce to create more than 7,000 meals for up to 270 children and families a day.

If you need help with food because of isolating, visit our full guide to shopping safely during the Covid-19 outbreak.

6. Thanking the NHS

Eddie Lyn is an autistic 22-year-old from America who is saying thank you to key workers through the creation of balloon art.

He goes by the name Ausome Balloon Creator, a nod to both his autism and talent. Take a look at some of his creations below, and visit his Facebook page to see more of his amazing creations.

Closer to home, Emma Turner from Birmingham created the Knitted Angels Birmingham and Solihull Group, initially to show appreciation to her colleagues within the NHS. She now has knitters all over the country, including Torquey and Bradford.

When an NHS worker receives an angel, he/she nominates someone else to receive one, and so the project continues to expand with everyone wanting their own angel.

7. Supporting our mental wellbeing

There have been lots of discussions recently about how the Covid-19 crisis is affecting people’s mental health.

In response to this, charity Mind set up a fund to help people in need. Now totalling 5 million after generous donations, this money will be distributed to different charities and organisations across the UK.

As the pandemic continues, so does fundraising. The Mind website has a whole host of ideas for how you too can raise money virtually.

It also information on how and where you can get help and support if you or someone you know is struggling, Covid-19 related or not.

During the pandemic and beyond, discover these 7 ways to improve your mental health.

8. Feeding NHS workers

Also aiming to help feed the NHS is comedian Matt Lucas. If you haven’t heard the Baked Potato song, where have you been? It’s the brainchild of the comedian, who actually wrote the song 20 years ago for the TV show, Shooting Stars.

He changed the lyrics to help make it easier for young people, and let’s face it, adults, to follow the then-new lockdown rules.

After quickly realising it was a hit, he released it officially with all proceeds going to Feed The NHS, which provides hot meals to hospital staff around the country.

He’s also done a number of duets with a whole host of famous faces, including disabled comedian Lost Voice Guy – read our interview with him to find out more.

Mix of fruit in a bowl with yoghurt surrounded by fruit and muffins

9. Offering care support for disabled people

Charity Revitalise ordinarily offers respite holidays with 24-hour care for disabled people.

During the pandemic, it changed to offer short and long-term stays to disabled people who are finding it difficult to get their needs met under lockdown.

Thanks to grants and public donations, the cost of staying at one of its centres has been heavily discounted too.

While this is the case at two of its three centres, the other has been handed over to the NHS for use by patients who have been able to leave the hospital, but aren’t able to go home.

It has both freed up beds for the hospitals and given the patients a pleasant environment in which to continue their recovery.  

If you use carers or personal assistants, read our article on minimising the risks of Covid-19 when needing to get care.

10. Raising money

I couldn’t write this article without mentioning Captain Sir Thomas Moore, who captured the UK’s attention when his daughter, Hannah, set up a Go Fund Me page with a goal to raise £1,000 for NHS Charities Together.

He planned to achieve this by walking around his garden every day, doing one hundred laps by the time he turned 100 on 30th April 2020.

As most people know, he smashed that target and the total raised stands at more than £32,000,000! Not only is that a tremendous amount of money, but he also inspired the whole country to do their bit.

By Lucy Currier – follow her blog Inclusive Living Concepts

If you’re worried about people not keeping their distance when you’re out and about, try our social distancing lanyard and sash to help remind others about the importance of giving you space.

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18 virtual Christmas tours and experiences to get you in the festive mood

Christmas is normally a time to spend with family and friends – sharing food, traditions and experiences that give us that Christmassy feeling. Covid-19 means that Christmas 2020 will be very different. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get into the Christmas spirit.

Here, our writer Lucy Currier rounds up 18 Christmas-themed tours and experiences to put you and your loved ones in a festive mood, all from the comfort of your own home.

Virtual Christmas markets and city tours

1. Christmas Market at Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin, Germany

Set in the grounds of Charlottenburg Palace, this market in Germany normally has more than 250 stalls selling all things festive with enough Christmas lights to give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

This year, you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of it through the magic of a 360-degree tour of it (recorded pre-Covid, like many of the tours on this list). Those lucky enough to own virtual reality headsets will get even more out of the experience.

2. London at Christmas

This is only a short video, but it showcases London in all its glittery glory. The lights are sparkly, the Christmas trees are huge and there is even some cheesy Christmas music in the background.

3. Winter Wonderland London

If you would normally be visiting Hyde Park at this time of year for your Winter Wonderland fix, then this video of last year’s event should keep you going until next year, when Covid-19 will hopefully be a distant memory.

4. Vienna Der Kleine Eistraum – Little Ice Dream, Vienna

Christmas market stall filled with baubles and Santa statues

Ever thought of to going Vienna for Christmas? Well, now you can, from the comfort of your own home.

Settle in for this 16 minute YouTube tour that gives you glowing views of the market and surrounding scenery. However, you may want to mute the repetitive loop music and play your own Christmas tunes while watching.

5. Manchester Christmas market

If you’d prefer to interact with a Christmas market, then check out this Manchester Christmas offering, made available via Google Maps.

Use your mouse to look around and move through the market and left-click to view things up close. You can also use the arrow keys on your keyboard, which I found to be smoother than using the mouse.

6. New York City Christmas walk

Not as slick as some of the others, but still interesting, this tour was put together by someone holding a camera, probably on their smartphone, and walking around New York at Christmas.

They walk past 5th Avenue, the Rockefeller Center, and the Radio City Music Hall. There is a lot of traffic noise, as well as some bad language.

But, despite this, I was still impressed by the lights and shop fronts, making it an interesting way to spend half an hour. So why not mute it and add your own Christmas music and snacks for a great family-friendly activity?

7. Chatsworth House virtual market

This market has already been live since 13th November but runs until Christmas eve. The link takes you to a webpage that lists all the companies taking part in the virtual market and categorises them, according to what each sells. The categories include:

  • arts and crafts
  • home and garden
  • clothing and accessories
  • food and drink
  • pets,

Clicking on a link will take you to that company’s website where you can buy their merchandise. Lots of independent businesses and unique gifts can be found there, so it’s ideal of a bit of Xmas shopping as well as entertainment.

Christmas market at dusk covered in snow

Virtual Santa’s grottos and experiences

8. Google Santa tracker

If you wish every day was Christmas, then you’ll want to visit Google Santa tracker where are you can play games all year round.

View how many days it is until Christmas and, later, track the man himself on Christmas Eve as he delivers presents around the world. It’s a perfect way to keep your kids occupied.

9. Santa Television Youtube channel

A selection of videos following Santa, his elves and the all-important reindeer as they prepare for Christmas. Some videos are in English, others are in Spanish.

10. Live feed of Father Christmas’s village

Whether you know him as Father Christmas or Santa Clause, wouldn’t it be exciting to see where he lives in Lapland? If the answer is yes, then I completely agree with you!

When I looked, Father Christmas and his elves must have been sleeping, but it was still nice to see his neighbourhood.

11. Ride with Father Christmas!

Join Father Christmas in his sleigh pulled by reindeer in this immersive animated video! Fly through the skies and see the wonderful sights whilst listening to some festive music.

Father Christmas with Christmas lights in the background

12. Santa’s Virtual Grotto

Unfortunately, this year you cannot go to see Father Christmas in a grotto, sit on his knee and request a present. However, you can do so virtually.

Having joined forces with Autism Together, all proceeds from the experience go to the charity to help support people with Autism and their families. Prices range from £5 to £17.

The charity is also streaming a free Christmas concert on the 10th of December.

13. Virtual Santa

Costing £25.99, the proceeds from Virtual Santa, which includes a chat with Santa himself through zoom, will go to the South West Children’s Hospice.

Virtual Christmas sights and shows

14. Arctic Snow hotel and glass igloos, Finland

If you’ve ever wanted to tour an igloo or Father Christmas’s home town of Rovaniemi, now you can, thanks to Google Maps.

The images switch between the igloos, the beautiful Arctic Snow hotel and the surrounding countryside. You can also use your mouse to navigate around them. If the page is blank when it first loads, you may need to click the compass in the bottom right of your screen. Happy exploring!

15. Virtual dog sledging in Sweden

Race with dogs in a beautiful snow-covered wonderland! Through the wonder of technology, not only do you experience riding behind huskies while in the warm, but you can also use your keyboard arrows to get a good look at your surroundings.

The experience does take a bit of loading and does buffer a lot, but it’s worth it. I recommend loading the page and letting it sit for a least five minutes. Constantly press the arrow keys and you’ll feel like you’re racing along this amazing national park in the Artic.

View of four husky dogs sledding through the snow towards snow-covered trees

16. Cinderella interactive pantomime

This is something a little bit different as you can interact with the characters on the screen by pressing the interactive buttons.

Get the full experience of shouting “he’s behind you!” and “boo!” at the baddies as they come on screen. If you have kids or are a big kid yourself, this is an experience not to miss. It does cost though – £20.

17. Glastonbury street and musical comedy panto

Free pantomimes are being shown by the Glastonbury Street and Musical Comedy Society. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has already been shown, but you can catch up via the website and YouTube.

Jack and the Beanstalk and Goldilocks and the Three Bears will be shown later this month – visit their website at the link above for more details.

18. Carol services

Carol services are a major tradition for many families at Christmas. This year things will obviously look a little bit different, but luckily there are plenty of virtual carol services online. Clicking the link above will take you to a service with readings as well as all your favourite carols.

If you’re just looking for carols, The Alzheimer’s Society is hosting a carol service on the 17th of December 2020. Tickets are free, but the charity would welcome donations.

By Lucy Currier

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FREE online courses to up your skills and knowledge in 2021

2020 has been rubbish in so many ways, and it’s yet unclear how long restriction and the need to shield will continue. So why not take your life into your own hands for 2021 by brushing up on your skills and knowledge?

There is a huge variety of free online courses available, removing any accessibility issues – perfect for helping you to get back on track for the new year. Our writer Lucy Currier has picked 8 interesting websites offering FREE courses to whet your appetite.


Ted-Ed, the spin-off from Ted Talks, hosts thousands of video lessons for free. Topics range from art to mathematics and most subjects in-between.

Most of the lessons are animated and under 10 minutes long. I found this lesson on How The Food You Eat Affects Your Brain both informative and entertaining.

2. Future Learn

Alongside paid courses, Future Learn offers free online courses on a variety of subjects. This course on songwriting caught my eye, but there is lots more to discover.

Filter by topic to get more of a general idea of what’s on offer or simply search for your subject of interest using the search bar. Be aware that the paid courses will be shown to you as well.

3. Alison

If your focus in 2021 is your career, then look no further than Alison. It has a huge range of free courses on anything from project management and human recourse to mental health and nutrition. You can view all its courses by:

  • category – including health, marketing, science and IT
  • whether it is a certificated course, a diploma or ‘learning path’ (niche courses)
  • job/career so that you can find a course that will help you get into your chosen field.

There is also a section on careers advice and guidance based on what stage of life you’re at, for example, a graduate, wanting a career change or re-entering work.

4. Duolingo

This is a fun way to learn a language, either through the website or by downloading the app for your phone and tablet, which is available on both Google Play (for Android phones) and the Apple Store (for iPhones).

To make the learning fun and interactive, Duolingo uses a questionnaire format with pictures. I spent five minutes on my first Spanish lesson and was quite entertained.

Its lessons are always free, but there is a paid option should you wish to access more content.

Scrabble letters spelling out the word learn

5. Skill Share

Skill Share is all about creativity – learning new skills and deepening passions. So if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to draw a deer skeleton with ink, your dream can come true!

It also offers courses in writing, animation, lifestyle and business, should an anaemic deer not be to your liking.

You can search for free courses, or view all courses (including paid ones) by category or using the search bar at the top of the website.

The first session of the paid-for courses is free, and you can sign up for a free 14-day trial to access the rest and all other classes.

All lessons are in video format and you can download the Skill Share app for Android and iPhone.

6. iDEA

Brush up on your digital skills with free courses from iDEA. Through the platform, you can learn anything from how social media works to coding.

In order to see the courses available, you do need to sign up for a free account. You can also earn badges as you work through a course to keep track of your achievements and progress.

7. Open Learn

Open Learn is the free service run by The Open University. I’ve signed up for MSE’s Academy of Money course, hoping to improve my knowledge of all things financial.

But there is so much more available, all broken down into eight categories, including ‘health, sports and psychology’ and ‘society, politics and law’.

All courses give you a Statement of Participation at the end to prove you have completed the course, and some come with ‘digital badges’ too, which offer additional proof of the commitment to the course.

If you’re stuck at any time, there is a huge FAQs section to help answer any query you might have.

8. Open Culture

Study university courses for free with Open Culture. All courses are in video or audio format and are designed to be downloaded to your computer for study.

There are so many courses to choose from, but I found the art of storytelling by Pixar particularly interesting as I love animated films. The courses are free, but if you would like a certificate at the end, there is a fee.

From my time researching this article, it’s clear that the subject areas available for free courses are as varied as your imagination. After what has been a tough year, I hope you’re inspired to learn something new for a fresh start in 2021.

By Lucy Currier

Read more of Lucy’s articles on her blog, Inclusive Living Concepts, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @LCinclusivity.

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10 daily solutions to make life easier if you’re disabled

Daily life always comes with a few annoyances, no matter what your situation. But when you’re disabled, it can throw up additional challenges, especially when you don’t have things set up the right way for you. Our writer and editor Lucy, who has cerebral palsy, details 10 ways she’s found to make her life that little bit simpler.

Being a disabled person often means doing things differently from able-bodied people. The most obvious one for me, as a wheelchair user, is that I use a wheelchair to move around rather than my legs.

But that’s just the most obvious – over the years I have developed and discovered lots of solutions, tips and tricks to make my life easier…

1. Tablet storage and pill boxes

I need to take tablets daily and I find that the boxes/bottles they come in are hard or just a faff to open. They also take up space, and I really don’t think it’s helpful to have my kitchen doubling up as a pharmacy!

I have now found the ideal solution – a cosmetics bag. It’s nothing fancy, in fact, I think it was £5 from Boots, but it works perfectly for me. I put a foil of each of my tablets in the bag so when I need to take them they are all in the same place.

White cosmetic bag with colourful silhouette of London in pinks, yellows and orange

I only take three tablets, so the bag is a workable solution for me, but if this increased I would definitely need a pillbox. Also, if you have trouble remembering doses or take lots of different types, then I highly recommend a pillbox.

The Disability Horizons Shop sells a few pill boxes, including a couple of stylish versions with leather cases to store them in. Just the organisational benefit itself would make it worthwhile.

Some tablet boxes can also remind you what to take and when out loud. Useful if you experience memory or sight problems, or just want one less thing to think about.

2. Smart lighting and heating controls

I have a system called Lightwave installed in my home that enables me to switch my lights on or off, either with the Lightwave app on my phone or my voice. I’ve always found it a stretch to reach light sockets, so I find this incredibly helpful.

It’s also useful when I remember that I’ve left a light on in another room, especially if I am not in my wheelchair, as I can turn it off without having to move.

I chose Lightwave as this system uses smart sockets as opposed to smart bulbs. As I have lots of different light fittings throughout my home that smart bulbs wouldn’t fit, it was cheaper for me this way.

When it comes to my heating, I can adjust it from my phone or with voice using Alexa. It means I use less electricity and am more comfortable. I chose the Tado system as there was a sale at the time. It works with Alexa (I use one that is also a speaker), the Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant.

All smart heating controls allow phone and voice control, so you can shop around. It is important to check the compatibility of your boiler with any smart system before purchasing one.

3. Ribbons on doors or anything out-of-reach

This may sound really simple, but it is a perfect example of how an object meant for one purpose can be used for another. For years I struggled with doors, especially ones you want to pull shut behind you.

Adding something long to the handle of doors means I can pull a door open or closed, assuming it isn’t fully shut. I use ribbon as I think it looks nice and comes in a range of colours.

Ribbon is readily available from craft shops and, as it’s not a disability aid, it’s cheap – a whole reel costs approximately £3, depending on what you want.

Long red ribbon tied to a door handle

Using ribbon, string or cord works on anything out of reach too. I know people that attach a cord to their manual wheelchairs so that they can pull the chair towards them from further away or get their assistance dog to do it!

If you have trouble actually opening doors because of grip or strength issues, try the Tru Grip door extender or the T-Pull Door Closer for wheelchair users. You might also want to try this folding grabber stick to help with picking up or getting to items far away.

4. Apps

Apart from Lightwave and Tado, I also have an app for smart plugs that I have lamps and my TVs plugged into it. It’s called Kasa and it works with Alexa, but it will also connect with the Samsung SmartThings and Google Home smart hubs.

I also couldn’t get from A-B without Apple Maps and Google Maps – I’m very bad at navigating! I use both as sometimes one works better than the other.

The Patient Access App enables me to book doctors appointments without having to ring my GP practice.

I’m also signed up with the prescription delivery service, Pharmacy2U, which is very convenient, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. It means I can order my repeat prescriptions with a couple of taps on the screen.

Lucy's phone with apps on the screen

5. Carrying aids

I find carrying things tricky as I have some arm weakness and grip issues. So when it comes to holding and transporting hot mugs, I use a five-fingered oven glove, like the one I have linked to.

Then I haven’t got to worry about only holding the handle. The glove also provides extra grip if you did want to use it to get dinner to the table too.

I also use a Trabasack lap tray when carrying items for extra stability. Pre-Covid-19, I always took it to restaurants and cafes to use when the tables were at the wrong height for me to eat at.

I have the Curve, seen below, but there are a few different versions of the Trabasack in a variety of sizes and colours. They also double up as a wheelchair bag.

Black leather Trabasack Curve wheelchair lap tray and bag stood on its end

6. Bath step instead of a transfer step

I’m short so I sometimes need a little extra height to be able to transfer into shower seats and beds when away from home. To help with this, I use a flat bath step that I got from Naidex about 15 years ago, similar to the one I have linked to here.

Official ‘transfer steps’ that are specifically marketed for disabled and elderly people can cost more than a standard step. But these are said to be the steadiest and therefore safest ones, so please make sure an alternative will be suitable for you before buying.

White plastic bath step next to a bath

7. Suction grab rail

If you have balance or mobility issues, grab rails are a godsend, especially when you’re away from your home. I use them to transfer from my chair, and they need to be in the right place.

I take a Mobeli Grab rail with me wherever I go. It has suction cups so can be placed on any smooth wall.

Grab rails can be very cheap or very expensive, depending on how much weight you will put on them and what you can hold. Mobeli grab rails are expensive, but I’ve found that the cheaper ones tend to fall off the wall! Better safe than sorry!

If you’re able to put weight through your legs, then the cheaper options may be enough. I’d recommend always having an able-bodied person test a grab rail before use, if possible.

Four different sizes of Mobeli grab rails stuck onto a wall with smooth blue tiles

8. Hairdryer stand and a hot brush

This is not something I use but a useful tip I got from a DHorizons Tribe member on our Facebook group.

She uses a hairdryer stand and a hot styling brush to do her hair, enabling her to be independent.

A hairdryer stand can be either freestanding or fixed to a wall and holds a hairdryer in place so that you don’t have to hold it – particularly useful if you have limited dexterity or strength.

Similarly, a hot brush is a hairbrush that gets warm. It is used as a styling tool, but is also a good alternative to drying your hair.

Babylis hot styling hairbrush

9. Smartwatches

Care alarms will always have their place and are a lifeline to independence for many. But, for some people, myself included, a smartwatch does the job just as well and for less money! I have the iPhone 11 and Apple Watch 6. I chose the cellular and GPS version so I would have the option of adding a cellular plan if the connection to my phone was unreliable. However, the Bluetooth connection works from a couple of rooms away so haven’t needed to pay extra for a watch plan. I wanted the latest tech available but any Apple Watch model can function this way. There are other makes available but this is the best set up for me.

Smartwatches can give reminders, act as a calendar, monitor blood pressure and even tell the time.

Most watches have a fall sensor and the Apple Watch now has a handwashing function in response to Coronavirus.

They won’t suit everyone. Some people need an external call centre and someone on the end of a phone. But for those of us who just want the reassurance of being able to call friends and family if we get into difficulty, a smartwatch may be a good option.

10. Velcro vet wrap Tape

Velcro is my go-to if I need things to stay in place. I’ve stuck Velcro to the back of my phone and iPad, even remote controls.

If like me, your disability means you’re prone to dropping things, then velcro is an inexpensive way of making sure items stay put.

Vet wrap tape is officially used as bandages for animals, but it’s grippy and sticks to itself, so it’s great for adding grip to smooth surfaces, such as remote controls and credit cards, to make them easier to pick up.

I have also used vet tape to wrap around my wheelchair armrests when they began to split. It’s almost invisible, black on black, not sticky and more hardwearing than packing tape. It’s softer too and there are a number of different colours available.

You could also try Cat Tongue Grip tape, which works in the same way as Velcro but is clear, so a good option if you want something more discreet. It’s also, non-abrasive, latex-free and made from recyclable material.

I haven’t tried it myself, but you can take a look at this review of the Cat Tongue grip tape to find out more.

By Lucy Currier

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6 ways assistive technology has improved during the Covid-19 pandemic

As we start to come out of lockdown and move towards our new ‘normal’, we’ve been reflecting on the last year and how it has affected disabled people.

One positive to come out of the Coronavirus pandemic is that the availability and growth of assistive technology has increased massively, and it has opened a lot of doors that were closed before.

Having spoken to our community, our writer and editor Lucy Currier rounds up 6 ways you can benefit from new and improved assistive technology.

1. Smartphones, tablets and computers

If you have dexterity issues, a visual or hearing impairment, and/or learning access needs and find it hard to use a standard computer and phone, there are a variety of options available.

Phones and tablets have a range of accessibility options, from changing the contrast and magnification to one-handed mode – read Scope’s comprehensive guide to mobile accessibility features for more details. They also include or enable you to download a whole host of apps to cater to your specific needs.

Read our articles on top apps for disabled people, apps for people with a visual impairment and activity apps and games.

Speech-to-text software has improved dramatically over the last year as more and more people have utilised it while working from home. Every operating system now has this and other accessibility features built-in.

If you need help to learn how to use this, or any other computing feature, then there are now free classes on computer basics.

If you want more than the built-in options, Dragon Dictate software has the most compatibility for your phone and computer, but it can be expensive.

You can read our writer Tom Housden’s review of some of the Dragon Dictate apps, but my top tip would be to try what your operating system offers first.

2. Internet Accessibility

Websites are becoming more and more accessible. Simple language is helpful if you have learning difficulties or if your first language is different from the one used on the website.

Font, size and contrast options are now built into most websites, including ours – just click the accessibility tools located on the left-hand side of the website.

Inclusive websites can be navigated with a keyboard or a mouse exclusively – the gov.UK website is a good example – and different versions and sizes of both are now easy to find online, purchase, and get delivered to your home.

Many article-based websites now include the ability to listen to the page you are viewing, just look for a play button or a headphones symbol. To do this on our website, simply click the button that says ‘listen’ just above the introduction.

Understanding and the use of alternative text, text that is used to describe images, is also becoming more common. These can be read by screen readers, software that reads your screen aloud to you.

Close up of a computer keyboard

3. Video calling

Video calling has become a way of life for everyone. Over the last year, our personal and business lives have been conducted through a screen and, thankfully, video calling software has become more inclusive, with new features having been added.

Live captions are vital if you have a hearing impairment – the technology displays text on the screen as somebody talks in real-time. It’s similar to what you see with subtitles, but live captions aren’t pre-programmed.

Some programs are better at this than others. Google Hangouts is one of the best platforms for live captions, but you need a Gmail account or someone with a Gmail account to invite you.

Zoom, one of the most popular platforms, doesn’t offer live captions at all, but it does allow you to pin someone to your screen, which is useful if you lip-read or use an interpreter.

Subtitles, also called closed captions, are available on most video platforms, but the quality and functionality vary from program to program.

Facebook Portal is an alternative to traditional video calling. As it is dedicated to video calling, once it is plugged in and set up, the device automatically tracks you around the room. This means there are no buttons to press or pages to navigate, which is useful if you find apps or computers difficult and want a simpler experience.

If you are visually impaired and use a screen reader to help you use your computer, you’ll need to use a program that supports it. Microsoft Teams is a good example. 

Some platforms also prompt users to add alt text to any images they show, making the call more inclusive if you struggle to see. Programs that allow access via a web browser can also be easier if you’re visually impaired because web browsers have accessibility controls built-in.

Speech to text, noise reduction, the option to blur backgrounds and censor swear words are other features that make video calling more accessible.

Some software is also good at integrating the built-in accessibility features of your device, such as keyboard shortcuts. This article from Big Hacks has a comprehensive list of accessibility features and is updated as more become available.

4. Online food shopping

Lots of disabled people used online shopping pre-Coronavirus, but the lockdown restrictions saw a surge in non-disabled people using these services.

Due to the increased demand, supermarkets have had to up their game. After a catalogue of initial teething problems, food shopping online is now easier than it has ever been.

When I asked disabled people what technology they use most commonly for food shopping online, one of the most popular answers was Amazon’s Alexa smart hub/speaker. That’s not surprising when it can not only remind you what to add to your shopping list, but also write it for you too!

Food delivery platform Deliveroo now delivers food of virtually every type you can get a craving for, from fast food to restaurant quality, as restaurant owners adapted to the new normal.

Our guide on shopping safely during the pandemic has tips on how to get food delivered, but keep in mind that we last updated it in July last year, so it’s worth double-checking with your preferred supermarket.

Uber Eats, Just Eat, Amazon and M&S (through Ocado) have also increased their delivery services and the food options available since the last lockdown.

Man in an orange t-shirt with the word delivery on it delivering a box filled with food

5. Home automation

We’re all spending more time at home so it isn’t surprising that technology within the home is very popular. Smart assistants/speakers Alexa, Google Home Mini and Apple’s HomePod can all remind us of essential tasks we need to complete, answer questions by searching online for us, and play music.

With the addition of smart sockets, you can even make ‘dumb’ gadgets smart, enabling you to turn things on/off from your tablet or phone. For example, you could use one to switch your kettle on first thing in the morning before you get out of bed? Or to turn the lights on from your chair?

Helpfully, you can also use smart sockets without a smart hub/assistant, so you don’t have to go to the expense of buying one and setting it up.

Smart heating can also be controlled by your phone or your voice – I use the Tado system in my home.  Plus, you can get smart locks that you can unlock from your phone, doorbells that allow you to see who is at the door, and robot vacuums to clean for you.

If you have a few smart appliances, a central RF/WIFI controller, like the BroadLink, means you can control every compatible gadget in your home.

These gadgets were created for convenience but can enable independence – read our article on 5 smart home technology for more ideas.

There are also systems that were created specifically for disabled people to control their home environments with a flick of a switch or a press of a button. DH2 Solutions is a good example of this – it will be exhibiting its products at Naidex in September.

6. Travelling and learning from home

This is one of the biggest positives to come from the Coronavirus pandemic. Whilst many of us were stuck at home, destinations across the world were opening their doors to the world through online tours.

Inaccessible buildings, hard-to-access beauty spots and endless tourist attractions can now be viewed online, enabling everyone to benefit.

I can visit thousands of places without worrying about getting to the airport on time, whether they’ll be accessible toilets or what my hotel room will be like. Similarly, online courses mean I can learn new skills without worrying about access.

Check out our articles on 18 places around the world to ‘travel’ to while in lockdown and FREE online courses to up your skills and knowledge in 2021.

With newfound inclusivity happening online, everything is more accessible for everyone in society than ever before. Let’s just hope it stays that way.

Assistive technology used to be a convenience for most and a lifeline for some in the disability community – now it is a necessity for all.

By Lucy Currier

We haven’t tried out all of these products first-hand, but have selected them based on feedback from our community. 

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6 ways assistive technology has improved during the Covid-19 pandemic Read More »

Autism and dyslexia: using art to express myself and promote disability awareness

Mark asked me to write his story after I interviewed him so I’m including it here.

Mark Noble is a professional artist who has dyslexia and autism, which means he is very sensitive to light and colour. Describing himself as very observant, he tries to break down boundaries and raise awareness of disabilities through his art. Mark says, “Some of my art has centered around the struggle of being ignored and misunderstood.” This is his story.

Hello there! My name is Mark Noble and I’m a professional artist based in Somerset, specialising in romantic/impressionist-style landscapes and seascapes.

Fellow artists have given me the title ‘Turner of the 21st century.’ I call myself the ‘painter of light’. I’m currently producing and promoting environmentally-friendly art and raising awareness of dyslexia and autism.

I was born in Southampton and moved to Somerset in the early 70s. I love being by the sea and exploring the beautifully diverse landscape of the South West.

Mark Noble

Becoming and working as a disabled painter

While I found it hard to concentrate and learn through traditional teaching methods at school, with some assistance, I did manage to gain some good qualifications.

However, people noticed that I had a rare artistic gift. For the most part, I taught myself how to paint.

I paint with passion, use natural colours and try my best to capture the little details that are often overlooked.

My main motivation is seeing others react positively to my work: people have told me that my art has triggered an emotional response – they may spot something that reminds them of childhood, for example. This fills my heart with joy.

My techniques vary from painting to painting. Most of the time I use washes of warm colours and thick paints to build up paintings. I have many different tools at my disposal – paint brushes, pallet knives, etc.

Winter Fields

As a rule, I never use black or green straight from a can. Black kills the canvas and green paint is usually man-made. Instead, I prefer to mix natural colours to form green, it seems to work well!

My main medium is acrylic on canvas, but I’ve recently been experimenting with painting on all kinds of recyclable materials, including bark, tiles and tabletops.

When I can, I prefer to use a simple colour palette. In my opinion, the two most important things are to a) enjoy creating art and b) keep things as simple as possible.

Since finishing my studies, I’ve sold art to clients all over the globe, taught people of all ages how to paint and take part in many exciting exhibitions.

One of my biggest achievements was being selected by the government to display art at an exhibition in Westminster, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Disability Rights Act.

I’m also proud to say that I’ve raised money at several exhibitions/arts events for charities, such as Children’s World and SANE.

I continue to receive help and guidance from some close friends who help me to organise, catalogue and promote my art, update/maintain my website, social media and apply for funding.

My art during the Covid-19 pandemic

I’ve just finished painting a large mural – a sunset seascape – on a wall in my spare bedroom. I painted abstract paintings that expressed my feelings during the first lockdown. They were quite explosive!


The pandemic helped me to appreciate the important things in life. I revamped my studio, became more active on social media and showcased my creative art via online galleries. I also participated in online interviews and shared positive messages.

The pandemic has shown that ’the arts’ (painting, sculpture, music, literature etc) are more important than ever. We need to protect artists and the industry to ensure that everyone can express themselves freely.

Art plays an important role in today’s society, especially for the wellbeing of disabled people. Painting helped me get over alcoholism a few years ago.

In March 2021, I became an ambassador for ‘Outside In’. It is a British charity dedicated to assisting and promoting disabled artists. I’m very proud to be a part of the team.

Last month, I secured funding to paint with children at a school in Glastonbury with local artist Julie Lovelock. I am keeping my mind busy and doing my best to stay flexible and focused.

My family are always been a source of inspiration and motivation. I’m creating unique, beautiful art; working on new projects; meeting new artists and exhibiting in physical galleries once again!

Moving forward, I want to continue raising awareness of climate change and engage with a wider audience. I would also like to do more to expose discrimination against disabled people, whenever and wherever it occurs.
Round Mark Noble.jpeg

My advice to other disabled artists

My advice to people with a disability who want to paint would be to try to get as much support as possible. Research different charities, be inspired, be creative and most importantly, don’t let it get you down!

Technology helps too: text to speech services, audiobooks, etc. Many organisations are willing to provide funding if you can show that your work benefits others or it spreads a positive message.

The most important thing is to believe in yourself and your own creative ideas.

Take ideas/inspiration from other artists and visit as many galleries as you can. Travel the world if you are ever able to. Respect your fellow artists. Look beyond a canvas and ask yourself what an artist may have been thinking when they were producing their work.

My best technical tip is to keep your paintbrush clean with warm water. Seems simple, but many people forget. I use a large range of different tools and always encourage others to be inventive!

By Mark Noble

Find out more about Mark and his work by visiting Mark Noble’s website, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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Autism and dyslexia: using art to express myself and promote disability awareness Read More »

Grant Logan founder of Ability Today: equipping disabled people with information and skills

Grant Logan is a disabled entrepreneur whose goal is to connect disabled people and equip them with information and skills. Having become disabled after a bike accident, he discovered how scarce knowledge and advice was in the disability world and set about improving it.

He now runs Ability Today, a website with information and resources, and founded The Academy for Disabled Journalists to help the next generation of disabled writers and campaigners. Grant has also made the Power 100 list this year, a fantastic achievement. Here, our writer and editor Lucy, who is enrolled with the academy, speaks to him about his life and career.

Before your bike accident in 2003, were you aware of disability?

Not really. I hadn’t come into contact with anyone with a disability until Mom saw a notice in our local doctors for support workers to help a disabled child with physiotherapy.

It was interesting and eye-opening. That was my first understanding of what disability meant.

How does your disability affect you?

I am a full-time wheelchair user and paralysed from the chest down. This limits my physical activity, but I try not to let it limit my everyday life.

I had a tough first couple of years when I caught MRSA and had to have all my reconstructive surgery undone. I was in a dark place!Grant Logan sat at his desk with the Ability Today website on his computer screen

I remember when I came home from the hospital and lay down in my bed for the first time and thought that this was going to be my prison from now on.

It was thanks to disability organisations, such as Back Up Trust, which I discovered through the spinal cord injuries ward, that made me realise my life wasn’t over. 

I remember going on an activity course with them and realising I could still achieve my dreams.

You have a love of all things adventurous. Was it finding organisations to do activities that gave you the drive to arm the disabled community with information?

The first website/social media community I set up was The Wheel Life. This is what allowed me to get involved with all the adventures I’ve been on over the years.

The motivation for setting up Disability Today (as it was then known) was that I kept hearing on returning from these adventures, “Oh, I wish I’d known about that.” I realised that I might be able to help people.

I was disabled for four or five years before I even knew that the Disabled Water Ski and Wakeboard Association was twenty minutes down the road.

What is your favourite hobby?

Grant Logan travelling to Ben Nevis to raise money for Capability Scotland.The Photo shows Grant in an terrain manual wheelchair climbing Ben Nevis. Grant is wearing black ttrousers and a blue T-shirt with sunglasses on his face.
Grant Logan climbing Ben Nevis to raise money for Capability Scotland.

I’ve been lucky enough to do many things. Paragliding, abseiling, flying, rally driving, motorcycling, clay pigeon shooting, in addition to climbing Ben Nevis for Capability Scotland and the skiing and waterskiing already mentioned.

The Back Up Trust were the first organisation to introduce me to activities following my accident in the form of one of their multi-activity weeks.

Grant Logan Waterskiing

I lost my favourite hobby a few months ago when my dog died of old age. He was nearly 16. I got him the year after my accident, so he’d been with me on the long journey and was my wingman and best little buddy.

I enjoyed walking him every day using my trike. I loved getting out and about and away from the office for a couple of hours. I am sure I will get a new little buddy at some point. I’m just not ready yet.

You launched Disability Today in 2017 and renamed Ability Today in 2019. How did your current company arise from your social media community, The Wheel Life?

The Wheel Life died off because it couldn’t compete with Facebook, but providing news became the next obvious step when so many people I knew didn’t know about the stuff going on around them.

It was simply trying to highlight some of the smaller organisations that are doing fantastic work and trying to make sure that people knew about them. Organisations don’t always have marketing budgets.

What is next for Ability Today, and what are your plans for the future?

We are in the middle of updating the website to make it more readable/accessible. Our priority has become the Academies for Disabled Journalists and growing that for the benefit of our community.

With our news and directory pages we’re just trying to make it even easier for these organisations reach a bigger audience and put relevant news in front of disabled people.

Having launched Ability Today, you then decided to launch the Academy for Disabled Journalists. How did this start, and how can it help disabled people?

 I had a team of volunteers helping me in the office (before Covid) who became my ‘roving reporters’. The video stories I started when I first climbed Ben Nevis.

We sent Steph to try out waterskiing at Access Adventures, Khaleel to Aerobility to try out flying, Heather scuba diving at the Scuba Trust and Khaleel simply travelling to London on trains and buses to see how he gets his ticket and gets on and off public transport.

I thought that there was something wider I could do here, so I got in touch with the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) to see how we could turn our reporters into proper journalists. The Academy for Disabled Journalists was born!

Grant Logan wearing a suit sat in his wheelchair outside Number 10 Downing Street

Has the Academy for Disabled Journalists increased awareness in the workplace, and what more do you think needs to be done for journalism to be inclusive?

The academy aims to train tomorrow’s disabled journalists today, giving a more inclusive pathway to employment. We are in talks with the BBC, Sky, ITV and Reach to see how we can collaborate with them in providing work experience for the next generation of journalists from the disabled community.

These organisations are currently putting schemes in place, such as the BBC’s 50:50 Equality Project, to ensure fair representation and I hope that the academy can play a part in creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Now at a great time – big organisations want to be seen to be inclusive and diverse. Ability Today and our academies want to provide the workforce for tomorrow.

You recently started offering a diploma in journalism to your students. What barriers, if any, had to be overcome for this to happen?

In October, we launched the diploma level in journalism. As with the Certificate in Foundation Journalism, we will be providing this as a complete online learning course and making it the most accessible diploma in journalism available. 

As one of our students recently said, “Often my body doesn’t allow me to leave the house, but there’s nothing wrong with my mind.” If physically going to college or university has been prohibitive before due to disability, we are lifting these barriers. To find out more, please contact me by emailing grant@abilitytoday.com, or visit the Ability Today website.

Hannah Deakin, our Ability Today volunteer and Academy for Disabled Journalists student, also made the Power 100 List in Digital and Media along with our Ambassador for Ability Today, Olivia Gallagher, making Judges Choice. This shows what people are capable of when given opportunities to learn and excel.

Academy of Disabled Journalists Class 2021

Do you see the academy progressing beyond the diploma?

The next phase of the academy’s growth is to offer new areas to train to work from home. Covid has provided everyone with the capability of working from home, and I want disabled people to thrive from this.

We currently have a short survey out on social media asking what people would like to learn to be able to work from home – you can take part in the survey now. We plan to launch the new academies this year.

Anything that you can do as an individual to be able to work from home, then let’s help train our communities to do it!

Interview by Lucy Currier

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Quaden Bayles: bullied boy with dwarfism bags role in new Mad Max film

Bullying is an unfortunate part of life that many people experience at some point, which can lead to extreme trauma. But for a boy with dwarfism – Quaden Bayles – who faced horrific bullying at school, landed himself in a blockbuster movie after a video of his distress went viral. 

Quaden Bayles’ heartbreaking viral video

Quaden Bayles, an Australian indigenous boy who lives with dwarfism was so badly bullied and inconsolable after a day at school in 2020 that his mother videoed his distress after apparently getting nowhere talking to the school.

In the video, his mother, Yarraka, informs viewers that her son (who was aged nine at the time) is picked on for his condition known as achondroplasia:

“I’ve just picked my son up from school, witnessed a bullying episode, rang the principal, and I want people to know — parents, educators, teachers — this is the effect that bullying has,” Yarraka said as Quaden cried.

“Every single… day, something happens. Another episode, another bullying, another taunt, another name-calling.”

She added: “So, can you please educate your children, your families, your friends because all it take is for one more incident and you wonder why kids are killing themselves.”

The video went viral and Quaden and his family have received huge support worldwide. He is now to star alongside Chris Hemsworth in the upcoming film, Furiosa.

What is dwarfism?

Dwarfism is poor bone growth that results in people being short. The bones don’t grow properly. Quaden lives with Achondroplasia, the most common type of dwarfism in people who have disproportionate short stature, (DSS.)

It is a rare genetic condition and most people who have the condition are born to average-sized parents, like Quaden.

Individuals living with Achondroplasia can expect to have a normal life expectancy and intelligence. There is no reason why someone with this condition cannot participate in most activities just like any able-bodied individual.

Image montage of Quaden Bayles
Credit: Yarraka Bayles

Achondroplasia characteristics

The average height of an adult male with achondroplasia is four feet, four inches, according to the National Institutes of Health.

People with Achondroplasia have a range of characteristics including:

  • A near-normal trunk length with shorter arms and legs
  • A large head with a prominent forehead and flattened bridge of the nose
  • An increased curvature of the lower spine (lumbar lordosis)
  • Bowing of the lower legs
  • Possible crowded teeth
  • Short, broad feet and hands with separation between middle and ring fingers (the ‘trident’ hand)
  • Exceptionally flexible joints
  • Babies with Achondroplasia may develop motor skills and mobility more slowly than normal because of the combination of a heavier head and shorter arms and legs, but ultimately development is within the expected normal range.

Quaden Bayles’ rugby and film stardom

Following the viral video, Quaden was shown support and asked by The National Rugby League’s Indigenous All Stars team to lead out the side for their match against the Maori All Stars in February 2020.

Quaden – who is passionate about rugby – held the hand of team captain Joel Thompson and led them out on to the pitch accompanied by roars from the crowd.

Quaden Bayles wearing headphones with rugby players
Credit: Getty Images

Oscar-winning Australian filmmaker George Miller, also saw the video posted by Quaden’s mother and invited Quaden to appear in his upcoming film Three Thousand Years of Longing.

According to Miller, Quaden did such a good job that he was asked to appear in Furiosa too.

It was good for us and it was good for him,” Miller told Good Weekend magazine.

Quaden Bayles bags role in Mad Max: Furiosa

Furiosa is the latest film to be announced in the Mad Max series. Mad Max is an Australian action series and media franchise created by George Miller and Byron Kennedy.

In the upcoming film Furiosa, prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road, the story will take place several years before the events of Fury Road and it will focus primarily on a character called Furiosa.

Furiosa is a war captain who answers to Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road. She is unhappy in her role and wants to leave his cruelty.

She starts out serving Joe but quickly turns against him to free The Five Wives, Joe’s female concubines.

Mad Max: Furiosa is said to include Queen Gambet star Anya Taylor-Joy as a young Furiosa, along with Chris Hemsworth, Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Nathan Jones and Tom Burke.

Now aged 11, Quaden’s role is unknown at this point. The film is expected to be released on 24th May 2024.

By Lucy Currier

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Quaden Bayles: bullied boy with dwarfism bags role in new Mad Max film Read More »

Strictly Come Dancing seek a wheelchair dancer for new series

The BBC show Strictly Come Dancing is reportedly looking for a celebrity wheelchair user to partner with one of the professionals this year.

Wheelchair users have successfully competed in international versions of the show. In Dancing with the Stars Holland, in which Bibian Mentel danced all the way to the final in 2019.

This was followed by Norway in 2020 with Birgit Skarstein who lasted eight weeks on the show and more recently, Aron Anderson in Sweden’s Let’s Dance came fourth.

The BBC One hit show has featured a variety of celebrities with different disabilities and impairments but as of yet, not a wheelchair user.

The last series saw wildlife cameraman and presenter Hamza Yassin – who has dyslexia – and his dance partner Jowita Pryzstal lift the glitterball trophy.

This comes after Rose Ayling-Ellis made history as the show’s first-ever deaf contestant, winning the 2021 series with Giovanni Pernice, while Paralympian Ellie Simmonds scored great success during her stint on the show last season with Nikita Kuzmin.

It’s positive that disabled people are being seen on Strictly and people get to see a more diverse and seemingly inclusive society.

A BBC source revealed: “This is an extremely challenging project but one that Strictly bosses think is worth it and believe it is going to be absolutely brilliant. There is so much excitement about this at the BBC right now.

It is yet another example of how progressive and inclusive the programme is. As well as creating some wonderful television moments, it will also give an amazing opportunity to someone in a wheelchair.

The original plan was that it would happen last year but the logistics are very difficult and to get a professional dancer trained and ready to take this on meant more work than was originally anticipated, so the most sensible thing to do was to put it off for a year.”

While it’s good that Strictly is wanting to include wheelchair users, it has been a long time coming.

Para Dance couple Strictly Wheels performing at Para Dance Sport World Championships

Professional dancers Paula Moulton, (a wheelchair user) and Gary Lyness of Strictly Wheels were invited by Strictly to consult on tips and tricks of wheelchair dancing. The pair have represented Team GB at World Para Dance competitions. They said:

We’ll be watching with a keen eye to find out if a wheelchair user makes it to the hallowed ballroom and no doubt will be sharing some tips and techniques along the way!”

Previous disabled Strictly contestants

Strictly Come Dancing has been on our TV screens since 2004 and although we have yet to see a wheelchair user on the show, disabled contestants have participated and been very popular.

Jonnie Peacock MBE

Jonnie Peacock MBE is a well-known, gold medal-winning Paralympian. He was Strictly’s first visibly disabled dancer. He was partnered with Oti Mabuse and together they gained high scores like 31/40 for his American Smooth in the Blackpool round.

Katie Piper

Katie Piper was a model in London when her life was turned upside down by a partner she met online who became abusive and ordered an accomplice to throw industrial-strength sulphuric acid over her face.

Katie has had over 400 operations to rebuild and heal her face in hope of repairing the devastating damage. Despite doctors’ best efforts, Katie has permanent damage and is blind in her left eye as a result.

She has become a role model for many with her Katie Piper Foundation, TV career and several documentaries about her life.

Katie and her Strictly partner Gorka Marquez left the show early on.

Lauren Steadman

Lauren Steadman is a gold-winning medallist, most recently in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. She has over 30 medals under her belt across Paralympics, World Championships and European Championships. Born without her right forearm, Lauren has competed in both swimming and triathlon events.

Lauren reached the semi-finals in 2018 and absolutely captivated audiences. In the opening week, Lauren and her partner AJ Pritchard scored 25 from the judges with her waltz.

Will Bayley

Will Bayley is a World and Paralympic table tennis champion who competed on Strictly in 2019. He has a condition called arthrogryposis, which affects all of his four limbs, but particularly his feet.

Sadly, partway through the series, Will had to leave the show due to sustaining a knee injury during rehearsals.

John James Chalmers

The 2020 series of Strictly Come Dancing showed boundaries being pushed even further with JJ Chalmers, who boogied his way to the quarter-finals with his amazing partner, Amy Dowden.

JJ served 11 years in the Royal Marines 42 Commando Unit, but during his final tour in 2011, he was injured in an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack in Afghanistan.

JJ sustained facial injuries, lost two fingers, had holes in both of his legs, had permanent shrapnel in his body, a disintegrated elbow and, sadly, lost two friends in the blast.

Rose Ayling-Ellis

Rose Ayling-Ellis on Strictly Come Dancing holding the glitterball trophy with her dance partner Giovanni

Rose Ayling-Ellis won the 2021 series of Strictly Come Dancing with her professional dance partner Giovanni Pernice. Rose fell in love with acting at an event led by the National Deaf Children’s Society. She was then found by director Ted Evans who cast her in his award-winning short film, The End.

Since then Rose has graced our screens in shows such as Casualty, Summer of Rockets and The One Show. She’s best known though for her amazing role as Frankie Lewis in EastEnders.

Ellie Simmonds OBE

Ellie Simmonds is a former Paralympic swimmer who took part in the 2022 series of the show. The World and Paralympic champion has achondroplasia, a genetic condition that is the most common type of dwarfism.

Ellie and her dance partner Nikita Kuzmin were eliminated in the seventh week and she compared her exit to “heartbreak”.

Hamza Yassin

Wildlife cameraman and presenter Hamza Yassin – who has dyslexia – was crowned Strictly champion alongside dance partner Jowita Pryzstal in the 2022 series.

He is best known for his role as Ranger Hamza on the children’s channel CBeebies and his work on shows such as Countryfile and Animal Park, as well as presenting programmes about Scottish wildlife.

Hamza reckons being dyslexic gave him a photographic memory, helping him remember the tricky steps during training sessions.

He said: “I think in 3D, I think in pictures, I have a photographic memory and that is all due to my dyslexia… …l truly believe my dyslexia is my gift and I am the man I am now because of it.”

George Webster

George Webster is a CBeebies presenter with Down’s syndrome who competed in the Christmas special of Strictly Come Dancing in December 2022 with professional dancer Amy Dowden.

After a glittering golden Charleston, Amy and George scored an incredible 38, including three perfect scores, with judges Anton Du Beke and Motsi Mabuse labelling him a “superstar”.

“I loved it,” George said after the dance, thanking Amy and sharing their duo name and handshake: “Wowden – bringing the wow factor!”

“I was really proud of that dance,” he added, as were viewers watching at home.

Strictly’s hunt for a wheelchair dancer provokes a negative response

In 2018, the professional dancers from Strictly performed a routine to David Bowie’s Life on Mars alongside the dance company Candoco, which is made up of disabled and non-disabled dancers.

Despite this, there has been a backlash of disgusting comments when the BBC’s plan was revealed. One person described the possible plans as, “beyond ridiculous”.

Another writes that dancers competing against non-disabled people “can’t work” and “isn’t fair on anyone.”

Another individual wrote:

“I’m sorry about anyone in a wheelchair, but if this is for real then sorry we stop watching. Then they will have dancing dogs or cats as partners. Include everything on gods earth. Why not?”

Disability charity Scope responded to the backlash, saying: “Barriers can be physical, like buildings not having accessible toilets. Or they can be caused by people’s attitudes to difference, like assuming disabled people can’t do certain things.”

The ignorant, hurtful comments above certainly prove that to be true. Let’s hope that despite the “challenges” and “logistics”, a wheelchair dancer does appear on Strictly in 2023 and, as a result, these hateful opinions change to the attitude that everybody can dance!

Potential celebrity wheelchair users to take to the Strictly dancefloor

Ade Adepitan sat in his wheelchair in a blue suit jacket and white trousers on a black background with a basketball on the floor next to him
Photographer Ian Wallman

There are many famous wheelchair users from the world of television, film and sport. These are a few celebrities who may compete for the glitterball trophy in 2023:

Which celebrity wheelchair user would you like to see on Strictly Come Dancing 2023? Let us know in the comments box or on Facebook and Twitter @Dhorizons.

By Lucy Currier

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