Overcoming barriers by taking a positive attitude towards disability

having a positive attitude towards disability and a nueromuscular condition

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Overcoming barriers by taking a positive attitude towards disability

This new series of Our Voices starts with focusing on Clare, a woman who has taken a positive attitude towards disability. Clare was born with a neuromuscular condition which meant that she required a lot of support as a child. She was, however, born into a loving family who did not view her condition as simply being an inconvenience. 

A playful upbringing

Clare grew up with two brothers and a sister and the siblings had something of a playful relationship. 

“They used to hide me in the house. Fold me up into cupboards, or drawers, or wardrobes. And when my mum wasn’t looking, hide me, so my mum will go around the house looking for me and not be able to find me… it was all a game between us.”

Clare also describes how her siblings ensured that she was able to partake in fun, physical activities despite her neuromuscular condition.

 “They used to put me on a bobsleigh, and hold on to me so that I could be out in the snow like everybody else, or put me on a bouncy castle, because I can’t actually move myself. Everyone would bounce around me, so that I would bounce. They would always find innovative ways of actually making me part of what was going on.”

A positive attitude towards disability


The way that Clare’s siblings so completely involved her in their activities was no doubt influenced by the attitude of their mother. Even though Clare had a potentially life-limiting disability, Clare’s mother insisted that Clare was no different to anyone else and that she should be treated in the same way as her brothers and sister. This was Clare’s first exposure to a positive attitude towards disability.

One example of this equal treatment was that Clare was given chores to do around the house. She was also told from a young age that she was going to work. “She was always very determined. And I think that’s where I get my determination from as well.”

Low-expectations


Unfortunately, not everyone had a positive attitude toward disability. Right from when she was born, her neuromuscular condition was diagnosed as being life-limiting. In fact, Clare’s mother was told that her child would not live beyond 18 months. When Clare began to go to school, the attitudes towards her disability were particularly negative. 

Due to the lack of opportunities for disabled people at the time, it was deemed appropriate for her to focus only on arts and crafts. Clare reacted to this with inner derision. “ I was laughing, because I was thinking, I’m not gonna do that. I don’t know what she’s on about, she doesn’t know me.”

Deprived of a voice

But the negative attitudes toward disability continued to be expressed at school. In the mid-’80s, when Clare was 11 years old, a meeting was held between the headteacher and her parents. Clare was present but was not invited to speak. Clare’s parents were told that there was no point in their daughter pursuing any academic or vocational qualifications as there would be no space for her in the workplace. Instead, the headteacher said it would be better for Clare to be kept busy as a space was found for her in residential care.

In spite of not being invited to participate, Clare had strong feelings about what was being said. The meeting was taking place in the room which was used to deliver typing classes. 

As Clare looked around and saw all the typewriters surrounding her, she thought “I’d love to have a go at typing.” However, Clare was not given a single opportunity to express her perceptions or wishes regarding her own future.

An inspirational visit from persons with disabilities


Although Clare describes feeling “bleak” about the nature of the meeting, she knew she could always rely on the support of her mother. At the age of 13, she was also inspired by a school visit from a man and a woman who were in wheelchairs. 

They told the story of how they had both been placed in residential care. In care, they had met each other and fallen in love. They then decided that they wanted to set up a home by themselves and had had to fight the system in order to achieve this. They had won and were now living independently.

 “That just changed my life for me, because I actually thought there’s another alternative.”

Clare was at a Special Education School at the time and she was used to being spoken to by professionals and medical people. But very seldom would persons with disabilities be invited to speak. Seeing that these two people had been able to live independently gave Clare hope for her own future.

Entering the world of work

Rejecting the advice of her ex-headteacher, Clare went to college and did work experience at her local council. At the age of 18, she interviewed for a job at the local electricity board. The interview was scheduled to last 20 minutes. About 1 and a half hours later, Clare emerged from the building knowing that she would be offered the job. Sure enough, she was and she became one of the few disabled people to overcome the barriers to participation.

Clare describes how she is still in contact with a number of the people she worked with at the electricity board. They tell her how she has helped to create a positive attitude towards disability simply through her example. 

Working with the Shaw Trust


Clare now works at the Shaw Trust, a charitable organisation. They support people who have complex needs to get into the workplace. She began as a development officer before beginning to work on the Disability Power 100, a list which the Shaw Trust puts together to help foster a positive attitude towards disability.

Clare describes the list as “about profiling, and telling the stories, shining a light on disabled people that are influential in all different sectors. Through their successes, they are opening doors for other young disabled people. Especially those who are extremely talented, to be able to fulfil their ambitions and their aspirations for the future.”

Inspiring change

Clare has herself been described as an inspiration. She doesn’t like the low expectations that are often placed on people with disabilities. 

However “if you’re an inspiration to make people change, and to change their attitudes, to change their thoughts about disability…. I’m okay with that. Because it makes me feel that I’ve done good. I’ve done well for other people.”

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Laura is the mix engineer for the Our Voices podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Our Voices podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

 

Experience in Industry: 3

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I’m the community manager at Our Voices. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests from all around the world. What I love most about working for Our Voices is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

 

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

 

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Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

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I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Our Voices podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

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Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

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Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Our Voices’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  

 

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I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Our Voices podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.

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Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

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Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

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I am the host of Our Voices. I help to find the guests that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and many of these people had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Our Voices’ because I wanted to give these people a platform to share these stories with the world.

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Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

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Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.