Graduating from Scope for Change

Originally published on the Amy Walker Writes Medium blog on February 15th, 2019

Amy Walker is a neurodiverse, autistic, dyslexic and dyspraxic campaigner, who has been on the Scope for Change campaign training programme since 2018. In this article, she describes the programme’s graduation ceremony and the campaigns that were talked about during the event.

On the 14th of February, the #ScopeforChange campaigners graduated at an event at Portcullis House, part of the parliamentary estate 😳

It’s always been a dream of mine to visit the parliamentary estate — especially Portcullis House, with it’s atrium which can be viewed from the first floor, which is open to the public to attend committee meetings. This is where our graduation ceremony took place, in the Atlee Suite.

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Chilling with Tony Benn

Politics is one of my special interests, and so I soaked up all of the political art, including a portrait of Tony Benn in a refreshment area and a very subversive print by Grayson Perry. It was great to see this kind of work on show within the institutions of UK democracy.

I also spotted quite a few MPs and journalists going about their business in the atrium… It is aptly described as a cross between a zoo viewing platform, with a 360 degree view as you walk the corridors, and a medieval royal court, where the powerful people observe one another carefully and stroll around, projecting influence and building political alliances.

We also spotted the Queen in her motorcade as we left a greasy spoon to arrive at Portcullis House!

But enough about the location — the event was amazing!

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Hearing from Samantha Renke ❤

I had the opportunity to speak in front of Scope staff, fellow campaigners and the incredible campaigner Samantha Renke, as well as Stephen Timms MP.

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Scope CEO Mark Hodgkinson

Samantha talked us through her journey in campaigning, and how campaigning has opened up job opportunities for herself. She talked about how this could be described as selfish, but it’s clear what an awesome and hard working campaigner Sam is, and that disabled people everywhere are experiencing a huge employment gap. Campaigning is a satisfying way of building new skills and networks, whilst doing something useful for others.

Sam also spoke about the need for resilience when dealing with the trolling and discrimination you might face when you put yourself out there publicly. Hopefully, the more we do this, the less discrimination and stigma there will be for disabled people.

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We got some great advice for Stephen Timms MP, who encouraged us to annoy — ahem, influence, our MPs as much as possible! He spoke about how we are doing our MPs a favor when we take the time to raise an issue with them. We might think to ourselves that our MPs are too busy or important, but by speaking to them we help them to understand the concerns of their constituents. An MP can’t know everything about every policy issue, and your experience could be the thing that creates the political change that’s needed.

I was a little nervous for my turn to speak, but once Alfie — the first campaigner to speak — took the floor all I could do was smile. We have all achieved so much, I am so proud of us all!

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Alfie spoke about his campaign for an accessible toilet in his local York hospital. To the Dr’s surprise, there was in fact one there, but no one at the hospital were aware of it, because it has the wrong signage. The hospital’s promised to change the sign, and they are going to commence an engagement exercise with disability groups about access, and they are carrying out audits across three hospitals. Great work Alfie!

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I talked about the Neurodiversity Works campaign, the progress and achievements the campaign has made so far, and how it will develop in future as a hub for neurodiverse talent. I also spoke about the opportunities campaigning has opened up for my personally, going from an unemployed person suffering with mental health symptoms, to creating a new life for myself as a neurodiversity campaigner and consultant.

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Chloe met Sophie on the programme, and found out they both shared an idea in increasing accessibility of schools for those with mobility impairments. They collaborated to create the campaign Make the World Flat. They have launched a petition on the parliament website to legally require all schools to be accessible, as currently it’s far too easy for schools for them not to be. Check out the campaign on social and make sure you sign and share the petition!

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Weeks before she started her campaign, See the ABLE, Claudia was told that she would not be allowed to volunteer at the cricket grounds which she had volunteered at for years, because her crutches looked bad and her wheelchair got in the way. Amend the equality act to protect disabled volunteers from discrimination. She has also campaigned for disabled people’s inclusion in sports at her university, creating the first disability sports club there, and has been invited to sit on the equality and inclusion committee. She also talked about how the programme had changed her life, by hanging out with fellow disabled people, she now feels more comfortable with her conditions and doesn’t try to hide them publicly.

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Emily’s campaign #FailedByTheSystem, is about discrimination and inequality in the education system. She wants to challenge young special needs students or those with mental health being excluded from mainstream education and put into Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). She has launched a campaign, and found out sadly how many people have had a similar experiences. She has been very successful in influencing politicians, meeting the Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb and her MP Nigel Adams.

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Freya felt many people had tried to strip her of her disabled identity, as for the majority of her experience most of her conditions have been invisible or undiagnosed. This inspired her campaign, Invisibly Valid to help create a world where invisible disabilities are seen to be just as valid as physical disabilities, both within and outside of the disabled community. Since then she has written many blogs, is launching a zine and will be meeting with her MP to discuss these issues.

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Raisa’s campaign is called Right Words Right Mind is about promoting positive and supportive language for disabled people. Raisa is very interested in how language can affect us, especially as she studied creative writing at degree. She’s found that language really affects her, who she is and her over all mental health. She felt that disabled people’s mental health usually isn’t discussed. Positive language can help disabled people to do things and find unconventional ways to break down barriers. She has written a blog, and is creating a database of positive language, which allies can use to share their stories. Her slogan is positivity, possibilities, prosperity.

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Samantha’s campaign, Right to Diagnosis, is about access to correct advice and diagnosis for people with weight issues. Drs often see weight loss in someone who is overweight as a great thing, but for Samantha and many others it was a symptom that indicated she was seriously unwell. Because of this Dr not recognising the seriousness of the symptoms, it took her a year to get her correct diagnosis.

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Tasha’s campaign Educate Don’t Discriminate, raising awareness of social issues such as disability and challenge discrimination about people’s differences. She has been designing an app that uses quizzes to help children learn about disability — she hopes to campaign to get this included in the National Curriculum for all children to learn. Scope for Change had a really positive on herself personally — she no longer sees her disabilities as limitations, but instead for what they are: a reason to fight harder.

A huge thanks to everyone at Scope for hosting such an amazing day. 😁😁😁

You’ve truly changed my life with the Scope for Change programme — I wouldn’t have secured my role at GroupM as Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator without the help you’ve provided me with for the Neurodiversity Works campaign.

And a special thanks to the awesome campaigner Miriam Steiner, who supported us all personally, set up extra training over Skype, and gave so much invaluable advice.

I would recommend any young disabled budding campaigner to get involved with the next cohort! Go for it! #ScopeforChange

Published by Amy Walker

Neurodiversity Works blog features news, interviews and creative work relating to neurodiversity at work

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