Disability and Media


Michael McEwan writes for the magazine Learning Disability Today and presents a weekly show on Able Radio, an online station created to give a voice to people with disabilities. The Able Academy are now also providing training for people with learning disabilities in presenting, producing and gaining ICT skills. Michael blogs for us today about the inclusion and visibility of people with disabilities in the media…

The media is such a big part our lives now it’s hard to get away from, whether it’s radio, TV, newspapers, magazines or online content and it can be a good way to raise the profile for disability issues. Back in 1992 disability campaigners were in the position where they had to protest en masse outside London Weekend Television studios, unhappy at the pitiful stereotypes of people with disabilities they were using in charity appeal films for the ITV telethon. The protests got huge media attention and the telethon was scrapped. The campaigners had made it clear that people with disabilities were sick of being portrayed that way. Media representation has certainly moved on since then and I would like to talk about some of the more positive examples that are out there.

In Summer 2012 Channel 4 was the home of the Paralympic coverage and they did a good job, filming more then 500 hours of all day every day coverage. The Paralympics did much to bring positive change to the way disability is perceived, and also gave an opportunity to see people with a disability in front of the camera presenting. Also at this time Channel 4 had a show call The Last Leg , featuring a mix of comedy, guests and Paralympics highlights. The show received strong reviews and regularly pulled in more then a million viewers. The host, Adam Hills, is a stand up comedian from Sydney who was born without a right foot and wears a prosthesis – a frequent source of comedy in his act.  Adam’s co-host Alex Brooker was born with hand and arm disabilities while the third member of the team, Josh Widdicombe, has no disability. It’s great to see positive role models on mainstream TV, achieving great things.

The same year Channel 4 created a pilot reality documentary called The Undateables. I wasn’t a fan of the title of the show as we can all have a romance or friendship if we wish. The programme follows people with a wide range of different disabilities through the highs and lows of finding love. The series was nominated for a BAFTA TV award in 2014 and the viewing figures were so good the show is still on. Some of the soaps have also included disability storylines over the past few years, with Eastenders and Emmerdale both featuring the birth of children with Down’s Syndrome.

While we have definitely moved on from the protests outside television studios in 1992, there is still plenty of work to be done and it will be interesting to see where media representation of disability goes in the future.

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IT Skills for Learning and Work

Picture of students listening

Iain Jenkins is a senior lecturer on the Skills for Learning and Work course at Glasgow Clyde College. This is a two year course that aims to prepare young people with learning disabilities for life after school. Iain’s blogging for us today about the benefits he’s seen technology bring the students he works with…  

The Skills for Learning and Work course aims to prepare young people with learning disabilities for life after school, assisting them in the transition from school to mainstream college courses or open employment. We do this by building skills that can be used in life and work that will enable students to approach the workplace and any further learning with confidence. The course aims to improve personal awareness, work preparation skills, job searching skills and independent travel – all things technology can support.

In their first year students attend college three and a half days a week, developing their skills and building their confidence to enter the workplace. In their second year, the students spend one day a week at work experience placements. At the end of their placement they create a PowerPoint presentation to deliver to first year students about their placement, to share their experiences of their time with employers – and to let the first year students see what they can achieve.

As well as thinking more analytically about their placement, the students develop skills in presenting and sharing information in a professional manner. This is an essential skill which can be helpful for future employment. It also provides first year students with the opportunity to see how successful their second year counterparts have actually been.

Using information technology as part of their course students gain experience in a supported environment – and this helps to builds their confidence. They learn how to use the resources to create professional and sophisticated outcomes and often the technologies are resources which they may well be expected to use in the world of work. While teaching the students to utilise the available technology, it is amazing how the student’s skills and confidence develop when they create published resources.

We assist students in learning how to use a number of technologies as part of the course, showing them how to use Microsoft Office and Publisher to create presentations and spreadsheets to help plan an event. Teaching good internet searching skills allows students to look for jobs online and plan travel routes, supporting their employment prospects and independent living skills.

A website we use a lot with students is the Pixton Comic Creator, an interactive site that is normally used to create comics. The medium of comics is very popular among our students and I use the site to get the students to produce a Visual CV. Firstly, the class draw a storyboard on paper, using each panel to illustrate their address, qualifications, skills, qualities, hobbies and ambitions. With their draft version on paper, the students log on to the website and select/design an avatar who will guide the reader through their illustrated CV. Selecting an avatar, and using the character to describe their personality and history can encourage the students who are on the autistic spectrum to get involved with their story providing them with a visual representation of their school/working life which they can refer to during the course. The illustrated CV also helps the students when they are preparing their proper CV to send to potential employers.

Technology can be used to great effect with students with learning disabilities, giving them skills that can be used professionally and personally – and more often than not it’s also a fun and enjoyable way to learn!

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IT For All! Learning Disability Week and Digital Inclusion

Picture of a computer

As part of Learning Disability Week 2015’s ‘Equalities’ theme we are focusing today on digital participation and inclusion. Disability is a factor in the 1.3 million people in Scotland who are on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’, with the Scottish Household Survey Annual Report 2013 telling us that some 46% of people with long-term illness or disability do not use the internet. We know the research that’s out there tells us that increased digital participation can improve a person’s quality of life, whether that’s finding a cheaper deal online or using social media to get involved in a conversation. Today we will be promoting useful resources that can help make this happen under the hashtag #LDWeek2015 on Twitter. Please get in contact if you think there’s something we should mention!

Today we have launched a new easy read all about getting online – the benefits, how to do it, how to search for information and how to stay safe. We hope this resource will help people with learning disabilities who aren’t currently on the internet find out more and decide if it’s something they would like to try or not. It’s also got lots of good information for people who need a bit more confidence using online services. If you know someone who might find this useful please pass it on, you can download the easy read here…

We will also be putting up more blogs as the day goes on around the theme of digital participation. Iain Jenkins from Glasgow Clyde College will be blogging about the benefits he’s seen technology bring the students he works with and Michael McEwan who writes for Learning Disability Today will be looking at the inclusion of people with disabilities in the media…

We hope you enjoy finding out a bit more about including people with learning disabilities in the digital inclusion debate, please get in contact if there’s anything you think we should know about!

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Older People with Learning Disabilities – Falkirk Event

SCLD has been working with Falkirk Council and Forth Valley NHS. We are working together to help Falkirk Council plan how they will support people with learning disabilities as they get older.

falkirk 1

The first part of this was to organise an engagement event for older people with learning disabilities and their carers to come to. This was a chance for us to meet each other and get some ideas about what people want their lives to be like.

When we started to discuss our vision for the event we were being ambitious. We hoped to have lots of fun activities on throughout the day to encourage people to come along and relax and talk to SCLD staff.

We booked a very large venue, the auditorium in Falkirk Town Hall as we needed the space to be able to have activities and information stalls at the same time.

I have to admit that when I’d been spending lots of time phoning different organisations and community groups to ask if they would like to come and no one was answering the phone I thought that we were not going to be able to achieve anything close to the vision we had. I was worried that the big hall we had booked would be a big empty room. Things started to change though. Community groups and organisations were keen to come along, many admitted that they hadn’t to date had much, or any,  involvement with people who have learning disabilities but they were enthusiastic about the opportunity to come along to our event to encourage people to join them. I found this really heartening as often people don’t see the value that people with learning disabilities bring to their community.
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Learning Disability Week – Equalities


listen to me


Are you facing a problem in your life? Could you limit the cause of your problem to one specific personal characteristic? No?

Often when we face a problem, it’s the result of a culmination of factors. Your problem might be ‘unemployment’. But when you lack self-confidence, face racial discrimination from potential employers, can’t search for jobs because you don’t have an internet connection, and feel mounting pressure to pay bills, care for children and maintain your health condition – it can feel like a lot more than just one problem. So why should people with learning disabilities have to view the problems they face in life through the narrow lens of disability? People are complex – trying to define their problems for them can be unhelpful and discriminatory, and can discourage people from wanting to discuss what’s really happening to them.

SCLD is using Learning Disability Week 2015 as an opportunity to tackle a variety of important and rarely discussed issues, under the theme of ‘Equalities’.
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The World of Autism Practice

By Susan Forrest, SCLD Learning & Development Manager

It is very difficult to talk about autism without some quotes or clichés slipping into the conversation. One often heard is, “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism”. Well, it is a spectrum disorder, and everyone is an individual whether they have autism or not.

I always seem to end up telling delegates on any training course I deliver that I believe we all have autism-like characteristics. Think about the things you like to do, the routines you stick to, the subjects you like to talk about. And who really likes too much change, especially if it’s sudden and unplanned ?

When I facilitate the Introduction to Autism courses for SCLD, I find that practitioners from all types of organisations are nervous about working with people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They tell me they don’t know anything about autism, or that they are scared of doing something wrong, or making a situation worse.

They seem to forget that many of the skills they use every day will have a positive impact on someone with ASD just as they do with an individual with a learning disability, sensory impairment or dementia.

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Celebrating World Poetry Day – Poems by Lindsay

LindsayI have been writing from the tender age of 8. My love for creative writing bloomed when I was 11 years old – so it took at least 3 years to find out what my talent was!

I have won 3 creative writing competitions, but I am not here to talk about creative writing. I’m here to talk about poetry… well, to write some really!

Here goes, and I hope you enjoy it.

Spring bloom Smiles


Spring blooms awaken.

New born lambs wobble as they walk.

The morning is brighter.

Winter goes to sleep.

Dark mornings start to shut down.

Brighter nights come in.

Again everyone smiles.

The mood in the air changes.

Creating new laughter.
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Person Centred Working with Mainstay Trust


Clare Mills, Learning and Development

I recently spent 3 days delivering Person Centred Planning training to managers and Senior Support Workers alongside SCLD’s Learning & Development Manager, Susan Forrest. The course ran over 3 days at Mainstay Trust in Glasgow, with space between each day to allow the staff team time to put their new skills into practice, and to share their experiences the next time they met.

The team hoped the training would help them to include the people who use Mainstay Trust in their planning process. This would result in support plans that reflect the independence, rights and personalities of service users. It would also help staff to build better relationships with the individuals they support.

The team also hoped the training would help to set up organisational structures and processes that took full account of their service user’s views and experiences and promoted choice and independence.

The training allowed the group time to explore their own values and to relate those to the values of inclusion. Everyone demonstrated a clear understanding of how to apply what they had learned, and developed their approaches throughout the course, promoting inclusive and respectful practice.

We spent 1 day focusing on the MAP process. The MAP process provides a platform to make plans where changes needs to happen, but where individuals (and their support teams) are unsure of what that change might be.  It demonstrates a way of helping individuals to understand their own gifts and talents and to think about their hopes and dreams. As well as the serious tools, we had fun along the way – learning how to use drawings on a large scale (graphic facilitation) to support person centred planning processes.

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Dates-n-mates interview on STV

This blog was written by Holly Millar from dates-n-mates Scotland. dates-n-mates is Scotland’s national dating and friendship agency, run by and for adults with learning difficulties. They have approximately 150 members across the country.

Dates-n-Mates new logo jpeg

On Friday 13th  Liz, John Paul and I went to the STV studios to be interviewed about dates-n-mates and what we do. When we arrived we were made to feel welcome and Liz and the person who works for STV news explained what to do.

Before we were interviewed, Liz explained what the news reader would ask us: how dates n mates got set up and why, how many members there are, how we got the idea in the first place, what the barriers to finding love and friendship are, and what is stopping people with learning disabilities having the same as everyone else. We did not have time to have our hair or make up done by the STV lady but I put some on myself!

The news reader came out and introduced himself to us and explained that the interview would be recorded as live TV but wouldn’t go out until 8.30pm and 10pm that night. This meant that we couldn’t stop the recording – we just had to answer the questions as best as we could!

The studios were smaller than I thought they would be when we were shown onto the set. We took our seats and a lady came and put a microphone on each of us. The news reader asked us about Dates-n-mates and about tonight’s event – our Masked Valentine’s Ball. After 5 minutes, the newsreader then cut to a film about dates-n-mates that they had recorded during the week.  Hughie, Liz, Nicola and Derek were interviewed. Hughie talked about finding love, and Liz talked about what we do – it was great! I felt nervous at first, but it was exciting and it was great to be in the STV studios.

You can watch the feature here:



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I’d like to teach the world to draw!

Clare Mills, our Learning and Development Co-ordinator, blogs about bringing graphic facilitation skills to teachers…

At the moment I’m working with Children in Scotland  to design a graphic facilitation course tailored just for teachers. It’s largely, but not exclusively, aimed at those who work with learners with additional needs. The course is about listening, thinking, organising information and drawing (yikes!) but mostly it’s about making our communication better.

What is graphic facilitation?

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